Monday, August 20, 2007

Taiwan Pictures

So, I downloaded 500 pictures, but I should have been more careful, because there were many movies and that is what took so long to download. I will probably have to delete them after it is downloaded. :(

taiwan pictures

Friday, July 20, 2007

Rain and the Taroko Gorge

As soon as Missionary Son got together with us he directed us to a convenience store and made us purchase rain gear. We got umbrellas and some plastic poncho-like things. He already had his missionary umbrella and gear. He had looked at the sky and said that was the first order of business, and sure enough as soon as we got our umbrellas, we got rained on.
The rain continued for several days, on and off. But after all, we were there during Monsoon Season. So we expected rain the whole time we were in Taiwan.
We were blessed the rest of the trip with not too much rain for monsoon season, but the humidity was nearly 100%. I had to buy a towel for my forehead. I didn't know I could turn into a waterfall. I don't deal with humidity that high, apparently.

The neatest rain I experienced was at theTaroko Gorgebetween Puli and Hualian.quoting from this link
"Taroko Gorge straddles the first 20km. of the Central Cross Island Highway in the Taroko National Park as it chisels and tunnels its unpredictable snake-like yellow centerline through the marbled mountains from Taroko to Tiansiang. Carved by the relentless erosion of the Liwu River, the gorge is thought by most visitors to be the most spectacular natural feature of the park. The journey takes visitors through rough-faced, moss and vine covered tunnels, and along roads that seem to hang precariously off the near vertical rock face.

Other natural features include many high mountains, some peaks towering above 3,000 meters, and numerous crystal-clear waterfalls plunging into deep pools or rock filled ravines.

Construction of the highway was inaugurated in July 1956 by the late President of the Republic of China, Chiang Ching-kuo and completed almost four years later in May 1960.

It's not hard to imagine how difficult and heroic its construction, during which 212 lives were sacrificed, and more than 780 injured. Many of these courageous workers were retired servicemen equipped with little more than basic hand-held digging implements.

Today, some of the original construction workers spend their time in the Chinging Veterans Farm adjacent to the western edge of the park.

Maintenance and repair is an ongoing project for park staff responsible for keeping open the winding stone caves, the 38 tunnels, and road surface exposed to landslides. Frequent heavy rain in the summer typhoon season brings its own challenges.

One side of the road closely edges a dramatic precipice and the U-shaped gorge; the other half of the road is in most places overhung by the disturbingly unsupported vertical cliff face rising hundreds of meters above one's head."

According to DL (our chauffeur and guide), they built it all by hand. No machinery, just dynamite and man power. It goes for miles and miles There was a spot along the way where a rock slide had occurred, and they bypassed this part by building a tunnel through the mountain. Here you could park your car and walk along the abandoned road and get a closer view of the rushing water below and the canyon. I wasn't quick enough, so I missed making a movie of the two thunder claps that occurred during our stop.
I was researching this Gorge on Google, trying to find more about it's history, so I could be more accurate. I came across someone else's blog. They experienced an earth quake while in this area in 2002. They realized why the large rocks were sitting in the highway.
They would just leave these huge rocks there and dynamite another tunnel further into the mountain. It was one of the most amazing roads and canyons I have ever seen.
The following link leads you to a blog someone else wrote about the Gorge. While looking for further enlightenment online, I noticed that many quoted this blog without giving him credit. I quote from his blog:
"The major attraction in the region is Toroko Gorge, a spectacular unique marble canyon. The few human constructions actually add to the place. There are the red suspension bridges, temples set in mountains and, most famously, the Eternal Spring Shrine. The Shrine is built over a waterfall and dedicated to the 450 people who died making the Cross-Island Highway that runs along the gorge. The Highway certainly gives a feeling of how hard it was to build here. The amazing route is precariously cut right into the side of the gorge. Everywhere I went, there were the gorge’s light blue waters, soaring marble walls and the sound of rushing water. . . Thankfully, attempts to mine the gorge got nowhere."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Night Market

Market is held every morning, each day of the week. Mostly food is sold during Morning Market. People set up booths and sell their goods.
Night market is much more fun. We went to the Night Markets in Kaohsiung and Pingtung.
We went through the one in Pingtung before the sun set and there wasn't as much, but people were busy setting up. When we came back after dusk, there were many people and every booth for 5 or 6 blocks had huge varieties of things from fresh fish, to wallets, all kinds of cooked foods, drinks and jewelery. The fresh meat had some interesting fly deterring gadgets. They worked like a ceiling fan with little motor devices that spin above the meat with two rods sticking out and a piece of frayed rope or plastic on the ends.
It was a fun place to pick up souvenirs. We particularly enjoyed trying out different kinds of foods and drinks.
click here to read more
There are many famous night markets(ChungHwa night market, Feng-Chia university night market, Tung-Hai university night market, Chung-Shiao night market) in Taichung, which can provide you different night life experience. You can enjoy delicious foods, drinks and buy cheap and interesting stuff in these night markets.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Monk and the Monastery

While in Puli, we went to see the largest Buddhist Monastery in all of South East Asia. It was the Chung Tai Chan Monastery.
We got there right at 5:00 pm, and the guard at the gates hurried us along so we could get inside. We ran up the hill and the huge doors were still open. The guard at the door kindly allowed us to go inside for just a minute. We hurried inside and our breath was taken away by the huge Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings. They stand 12 meters high, and there are four just alike, standing in the four corners. Each has four heads. It is really kind of scary. I hope God doesn't really look like this.
We hurried to all the rooms in this small part of this Monastery, then the guard came and waited while we reluctantly headed back outside into the harsh hot evening, and he closed the HUGE doors. The doors each weigh five tons, we learned later, and stand about 2 stories high. We stood by the stairs and wall overlooking a large valley and just took pictures outside the monastery. The view was amazing, and across the valley on another mountain was a HUGE Buddha

Pretty soon monks began to walk by. After a while, Missionary Son asked one of them what the difference was in their different colored clothing. This monk began to explain about the Monastery, the dress and their beliefs. DL and our Missionary son talked with him for about 5 minutes. Sailor and I watched in awe as they spoke a very foreign language that made no sense to us. Suddenly the two young men turned to us and in English explained we were going to the cafeteria, the Monk was going to feed us. This was a most unusual turn of events, something I never expected. By way of explanation, our son told us that the Chinese greeting was "Have you eaten?" rather than, "hello". Since their answer was "no", this monk took it upon himself to feed us.
We were ushered back behind walls and doors we never would have dared to explore, to a covered, but open to the outside air, cafeteria and sat us down at a table. There were two other monks sitting far across the room at another table. We were seated at a table, then the monk went inside.
Finally after about 10 minutes, the monk came back with what looked like five boxed lunches plus four bowls of soup, and utensils. We began to eat as the monk continued to talk to our two Chinese-speaking young men. The last box was fruit, for desert. We ate and talked to this monk for about an hour. We had rice, egg plant, deep fried sweet potato, bean sprouts and carrots, some green stuff that reminds me of asparagus, and a clear soup made with some kind of melon. It is not sweet, but spicy. It was delicious, but very different. Sailor didn't like it.
He told us the Monastery held 1000 monks and nuns. They each have their own room. They are given duties and rotate after several years. He told us of his daily routine. He arises at 3:30 in the morning and studies scripture and meditates until about 6:00. Then he eats breakfast. After breakfast, he does his assigned duty, which was cleaning the grounds. He does this until lunch. After lunch he takes classes until 5 pm. They then are fed supper, and are given 2 hours to do what they like. They then take classes until 9:30 at which time they go to bed.
So we happened to run into him during his rest time. When we had eaten every bite (they don't like anything to go to waste) he opened the 5th box and gave us fruit. We talked some more. He asked MS about his mission and told him that when he was looking for a religion, he had actually attended the Mormon church. He then told us how he loved the leader of this Monastery and his teachings. He said he admired the LDS Missionaries and hopes that some day the monks will be able to go out and proselyte. He would like to talk to people and hand out tracts like the Mormon missionaries do, and tell people about the Buddhist religion.
It was getting dark and he said it was time to walk around. He invited us along.

We got to this place on the grounds that had a huge bell. He explained that when the bell was rung, and resonated, the souls of the dammed would have a rest. He then read in Chinese the little explanation, or prayer, then rang the bell and waited for the resonating to stop. He did this two more times. Then he turned to each of us and told us we could ring the bell too. DL and MS both read the prayer in Chinese, but the Monk told us we didn't have to since he had just read it.
After we all rang the bell, it was time for him to go to classes, but first he walked us to our car. As we passed the gates, the guards and others looked on. The Sailor commented that he got the feeling that not everyone gets escorted to the car by the monks. DL said this was an opportunity for the Monk as well. The Monks name was Shi Jian Mai. I told him that this was a moment I would never forget. He said that he wouldn't forget it as well. He seemed to love being able to host the Americans. I felt very honored. It was amazing. Looking back, I think it is safe to say it was one of my most favorite moments in all of Taiwan.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Betel Nuts

While traveling across the island, we noticed an unusual amount of palm trees growing on mountain sides and other places where it looked like a more forest-type of a tree belonged. RM told us that these forests were actually farms and the palms were purposely planted there. They were Betel Nut farms. A Betel Nut is an addictive seed of the Betel Palm. To quote from Wikipedia: "The nut is either slivered or grated, often flavoured with spices according to local tradition, and usually wrapped in a betel leaf (note that betel leaf comes from the betel pepper plant Piper betle, which is not botanically related to the Betel Palm), along with some lime (calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide) to better extract the alkaloids. Some people also chew tobacco with betel nut. After about 20 minutes of chewing, the fibrous residue which remains of the nut is spat on the street, where it remains visible due to its characteristic bright red pigment." The red pigment also makes the inside of the chewer's mouth red as well. One person I met in Taiwan described it as a "nasty habit."

I guess what astounded me the most was that it is legal. It is sold in the Night Markets and along road side stands.
Again to quote from Wikipedia:
"In Taiwan, betel nuts are known as binlang. Bags of 20 to 40 betel nuts are purchased fresh daily by a large number of consumers. To meet the steady year-round demand, there exist two kinds of betel nut shops, each of which sells cigarettes and drinks including beer in addition to their primary purpose of supplying betel nuts. On one hand, there are small mom and pop shops that are often poorly maintained and often do not stand out from other stores nearby. On the other hand, the second provides a sight unique to Taiwan. Such a shop often consists of nothing more than a single free-standing room, or booth, elevated one meter above the street that measures less than 3 meters by 2 meters. Large picture windows comprise two or more of the walls, allowing those who pass by a complete view of the interior. The interior is often painted brightly. Within such a shop, a provocatively dressed young woman can be seen preparing betel nuts (see betel nut beauty) . Shops are often identified by multicolored (commonly green) fluorescent tubes or neon lights that frame the windows or that are arranged radially above a store. Customers stop on the side of the road and wait for the girls to bring their betel nut to their vehicles."
Once they were pointed out to us, I realized I had seen many of these all over the place. They usually have bright blinking lights to attract attention. They were in the country side, and in the middle of the city.
It was a curious phenomenon.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Pictures of Taiwan

The following link will take you to my Picasa Web album to view my first album. I will be adding more as I have time. Either copy and paste or just click on the title above.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The People

Probably the sweetest part of our whole trip was the people. To see the Latter-day Saint Church growing strong and functioning just as it does anywhere else in the world is so amazing. We got to meet two of Daniel’s converts, Freddy and Ray, which was the highlight of the whole trip. Meeting and mingling with the people in Taiwan was an incredible experience. We dealt with the people in all aspects of life for almost two weeks, and I cannot remember one bad experience.

There are 24 million people who live on this island, and they dwell in tiny houses that are packed side by side on every street. The dwellings are 3-5 story narrow houses that open to the street with a metal garage door. Many who live in the city hang a neon sign and make the sidewalk and garage into their business. They sell goods, or set up a sidewalk café. Then they live above their business. I asked someone if those houses in the middle of the city are more expensive than the country homes, and the answer was yes. The country ones are also several houses together like a condominium that house several families, surrounded by lots of fields.
While he served his mission, Daniel ate at these side walk cafes every day but Sunday and had a real talent to find the cheapest best tasting food. He was incensed if they charged more than 10 kuai for a drink. The proprietors of these restaurants usually were very gracious and eager to please. They seemed so thrilled if you complimented them on the food. The first word I learned in Chinese was Thank you, and once I learned that word, I heard it all over the island. Xie xie, pronounced “she shi” is how you say thank you.
The first person we met after we left the mission home was Ray. Most of the people we met have English names. Their Chinese names are hard to pronounce and remember. Most of the young people speak English and they pick out an English name that they use when they deal with English-speaking people.
Ray’s day off was Tuesday, so he took his whole day off and dedicated it to Daniel and his family. The mission home graciously allowed us to leave most of Daniel’s luggage in an upper room while we traveled around Taiwan. We rode a bus from the mission home to a train station where we met Ray. He picked us up in his car, and first took us to lunch and paid for it before we were aware of what had taken place. Then he took us to a Municipal Water Service building. There we got to see all his paintings that he had on display. Ray is a professional artist. He paints every day, and has since he was 5. He is now 35 years old. He is married with one baby. He also teaches painting 3 days a week and tunes piano. He has also taken painting lessons many times in his life.His paintings are very realistic. His predominant theme is water. He likes to paint lakes, streams, waterfalls, oceans and the like. But not just ordinary scenes, he likes to paint water when you look down into it, like a tidal pool. One of his most spectacular paintings is of a leaf with a huge droplet of water. When first observed, I thought it was a photograph. He also loves to paint clouds. Being an artist, I happen to know these are two of the most difficult subjects to paint.
Ray was found by Daniel and Elder Van Noy while knocking on doors. They knocked on their door, and the mother looked directly at them through the widow, and hid around the corner. The 18 month son, Tickle, called in English from the second floor. Hi, how are you? While Elder Van Noy knocked, Tickle and Daniel exchanged pleasantries, and from the third floor, Ray called down that “No one was home.” So the two elders moved on down the street. They were two houses down when Ray caught up with them and invited them to come back and talk to him. They still aren’t sure why Ray changed his mind, but they taught him during the last month of Daniel’s mission. We got word while still on the island that he passed his baptismal interview and would be baptized within the next two weeks.

The next person we met was Daniel Liu. This young man is a graduate student. He is a convert to the Church, and since his own conversion, he met and has baptized a beautiful girl named Erica. Both are working on their oral defense for their Master’s degree. Daniel Liu was talking to Elder Hahn one day, and EH invited DL to come along with us on our trip around Taiwan. It turned out that Daniel Liu agreed to plan our trip and then drive our rented car. He reserved all the hotels and carried out an itinerary that Elder Hahn had planned. EH purchased two tourist books and put post-it notes in every page of what he was interested in. DL looked up hotels and bed and breakfast places, then emailed the costs to me. He reserved them and the car rental with his credit card.
When we first met Daniel, I had converted enough money into Taiwan dollars to pay for all his expenses, and handed him the whole bundle of money to him. He took care of the bills for the hotels, and the car rental for us, so we had no worries. I made sure I paid for the food, his hotel room and gas. When we met Erica at the end of the trip, she told us how much Daniel loves us and thanked us for the generosity, so I think he had a good time.

Right after Daniel Liu picked us up from the Hotel Landis, we drove to Shen Gang, which is north of Taichung. We drove to a box factory, a small business that makes boxes where Freddy works. Freddy is in his late 30's, early 40's. He is married and has two sons, ages 9 & 10. We walked through the factory past the different machines that were punching perforations and holes in the various cardboard pieces getting ready to convert them from flat to 3-dimensional boxes. Toward the back of the building, was Freddy. He turned around, jumped off his station and threw his arms around E H.’s neck and hugged him. After meeting us, he hugged Dan again and exclaimed in English “I love your son! I love your son!” We realized it was close to lunch time, and everyone else in the factory had shut their machines down, so Freddy and EH decided to go to lunch. We followed Freddy to a place, then Freddy ordered a bunch of food. We sat at a round table with a lazy Susan in the center. We all got sticky rice and lots of bowls of vegetables and meats. Again we missed out on paying the bill. We told EH to make sure we got the bill, but as soon as Freddy heard this, he jumped up, left his unfinished dinner and headed to the check out with his credit card. He made a deal with EH that next time we were in town we would treat him, and sure enough, when we got back to Taichung two weeks later, we met up with Freddy and several other friends of theirs. This time we paid for the meal, but it turned out the nearest place was a street vendor, rather than a sit-down meal, and even with more people, we most likely didn’t equal the cost of what Freddy had paid.It is hard to ever keep up with these people’s generosity.

Our next experience was in Puli. This is a mountain town, which is very picturesque and beautiful. We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast for two nights. These wonderful proprieters greeted us at the door of their very beautiful house dubbed the water home. Their names are Hu Guai Huai, or Aunt Hu, and Chang Chung Lee, or Uncle Chang. Their relative had designed their house to stand alongside a rushing stream. The walls consist of screened in windows to allow the sounds of the rushing waterfalls to penetrate every part of that house. The house was built from a special wood. The floors, the bar, tables, bathroom, counter tops and stools were all made from this wood. Some pieces were large 2 inch thick slabs cut from the tree to make the various pieces. The floor was tongue and groove, made from the same wood.
Uncle Chang had made all the pottery in the place, and Aunt Hu did some amazing cooking. During the course of our two day stay, I was commenting on the tiny glasses made from pottery, and how hard they are to make, being an artist, I know this. The two Daniel’s relayed to Aunt Hu my appreciation for the fine art of the pottery, and the next thing I knew, she had presented me with two tiny cups. I was so surprised at this sweet gesture that I began to cry. She hurried to the other room and brought back a kleenex and was comforting me, and ended up giving me a tiny pitcher to go with them. They are such a perfect couple to host a bed and breakfast. Their house looks like it was made with this in mind, and it is such a perfect setting. Their yard is large, maybe an acre. They raise their own fruits and vegetables, and preserve them as well. She is a very fine cook, and the presentations of the food was beautiful enough to inspire a cookbook picture. Our breakfast the first day was not your typical cereal or eggs. We had Jaio by chu, which is a cat-tail like plant that is cooked. You peel the leaves off and eat the heart. Then we had mantau, which is a steamed roll. The next day, she served ruobao, which is also a soft steamed roll but with chopped meat and cabbage inside. The first night, the Uncle Chang was sitting on a tiny stool by a box of leaves. He was picking the leaves off the branch, then he was stripping the vein off the leaves. He was saving the leaves. The next morning, they served this leaf cooked as a topping on the tofu, It was called xiang chung. It had a caramel colored topping that tasted like soy sauce. We were served a warm soy milk in tiny glasses. The pitcher was a piece of pottery that I would have loved to buy and take home. Hanging all over the house from hooks were tiny bananas
about the size and length of a man’s fingers. Both days we were there, these bananas were brought after breakfast was over, like a desert. She would bring a whole bunch.
Above the table in the vaulted ceiling lived a tiny gecko. Once in a while I would hear him chatter. Finally before we left, I spotted him and got a picture.
By the time we checked out of this peaceful place, we had fallen in love with these sweet people. I wanted to leave something to remember me by, so I gave them a crocheted doily that I had made.

Freddy was the highlight of the whole trip. When asked by someone at that last dinner if Elder Hahn was given the chance to give up two more years of his life and come back to Taiwan, would he do it? His answer was, If he could find another person like Freddy, he would do it in a heart beat.