Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nikon D90 video of 5-Peak Flag Waterfall (五峰旗瀑布)

Grace's new Nikon D90 is the first DSLR camera that provides video capability.  Of course, it was followed immediately by Canon 5D Mark II.  However, 5D Mark II costs three times more and is a camera in a totally different category.  Anyway, it will not be available to consumer till next month.  It was quite fun to use it.  The regular video folks may not think of it as anything new.  But for photographers, it represents a major trend of merger between still photography and video.  It is already happening in the professional photography market.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In search of Great Auntie (大嬸婆) and Third Brother (阿三哥)

Neiwan (內灣) is the home of comic strip "Great Auntie & Third Brother" (大嬸婆和阿三哥). Everyone of our age from Taiwan read this comic strip when we were young. We learned from TV that it will be the Wild Ginger Festival at Neiwan on October 18th. we thought we would visit the village on October 12th to avoid the crowd. We did not succeed in avoiding the crowd (it is always crowded) and we also did not see much wild ginger flower either. The village was quite interesting. From the wooden sign and store front, we could see the county government's effort of making it old and elegant . On the other hand, the merchants have completely taken it over with much more colorful signs and stands. It became a very crowded and very active market. The people is Hakkas. They are famous for hard working. From historical prospective, they are often considered as real Han people. They have migrated from the central part of China to the South due to the war many hundreds of years ago. They speak distinct dialect and have its own special cuisine and culture.

The village has a market street, a working train station, an old theater and a hanging bridge. We had the feeling of seeing Great Aunti and Third Brother everywhere on the market street. The people were very kind and we took a lot of pictures of people going about their business (市井小民). The lady in the photograph with Grace, sells preserved vegetable, which she has a mountain of it. She recommended us to go to an Hakka restaurant and told us to ask for special home cooking and leave it to the chef. We had a great meal for NT500 (US$15).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dan-Tsu-Mien (擔仔麵), Rou-tzau-fan (肉燥飯) and Twin River (雙溪)

Due to the double-10 national holiday of last Friday, last weekend was a long weekend in Taiwan.  Grace and I were too busy to plan for any long trip.  Grace had to visit her office on Saturday morning for the IND submission to FDA.  I picked her up for lunch.  We went to"好記擔仔麵".  Dan-Tsu-Mien (擔仔麵) is as Taiwanese dish as the Lu-rou-fan (魯肉飯).  It is a simple noodle dish served in a very small bowl.  It has a shrimp, a piece of pork, bean sprouts and chives served in a clear broth.  As the beef noodle, every restaurant has slightly different way of preparing it and slightly different taste.  好記 uses clear soup cooked with shrimp skin as the broth for the noodle.  Dan-Tsu Mien is supposed to originate from Tainan (台南), a very old city in the Southern part of Taiwan.  It used to be served by roadside stands with very low and small chairs and tables.  Now it is moved into formal restaurants, many of them still set up this type of stands inside the restaurants in order to retain its authenticity.  The "Tainan Dan-Tsu Mien" (台南擔仔麵) is a restaurant started in 1958 in the red-light district of Taipei.  It went upscale sometime ago and made a big splash of using English bone china to serve Dan-Tsu-Mien.  The other famous one is 台南度小月擔仔麵.  It is originated from Tainan and opened a branch in Taipei. Not long ago, it opened a new branch at YongKang Street (永康街).  I went with my sister during her last visit.  Of course, all these restaurants also serve Lu-rou-fan (魯肉販).  My sister and I also had soy sauce cooked pig feet.  They used the same sauce from the pig feet for the Lu-rou-fan.  It was good and tasted exactly like what I had many years ago in Tainan when I was in the military service.  For the pig feet, 富霸王 at 四平街 is even better, or the one cooked by my Philippines maid is the best.  This way of using the sauce from pig feet for the Lu-rou-fan also makes it less distinctive as compared to the Lu-rou-fan from 金峰 outside of the South Gate Market (南門市場) or 好記.  好記 even insisted on their Lu-rou-fan be called Rou-tzau-fan (肉燥飯).  

After lunch, we went to Twin River (雙溪).  It is not the same Twin-River village on Route 2c.  It is a small stream on the side of Yangmingshan (陽明山).  A road of the same name running along the stream up to its origin.  It passes the famous National Palace Museum, which houses the world best collection of Chinese antiques.  They were originally from the Palace in Beijing. It also passes the Wellesley Girl High School, where Grace went for her junior high.  It is a prestigeous private school.  They said the girls from this school are more elegant than those from the public schools.  It is certainly true for Grace.  She tried her new Nikon D90 this time. We also used a ND filter to slow down the shutter speed in order to get the effect for the stream.  However, we only had a monopod with us, even with the VR lens, we should really use a tripod.  Here are some of our photographs.

Taipei Cityscape

In the morning of Saturday, October 4th, Grace had a facial appointment. After droping her off, I took the camera and had a walk on DunHua South Road (敦化南路). Together with RenAi Road (仁愛路), they are considered to be the two most beautiful boulevards in Taipei. When I look at the photographs, I even wonder whether they were taken in Taipei. DunHa South Road is a six-lane boulevard lined with high-rise buildings on both sides  and with two central islands filled with trees. The central islands are almost park-like. It was flowering season for the trees. I was curious of what kind of the trees they were. They are Flamegold tree (台灣欒樹). The scientific name is Koelreuteria elegans formosana (Hyata). It is a native species of Taiwan. In Taiwan, the often used scientific name is Koelreuteria henryi Dummer. The Englishman, A. Henry collected the specimen then Dummer named the tree in 1912. Koelreuteria formosana Hyata was named by Japanese in 1913, thus the Dummer's name should take precedent. It is also called four-color tree in Taiwan; because it has green leaves in the summer, the flowers in October are yellow, the fruits are red and the seeds are brown.

The Flamegold tree forms a small ecosystem of itself. The flower and the fruit attract Red Cotton Bug (赤星椿象, Dysdercus cingulatus). You can actually see the bugs flying around the flowers at the tree top in one of my pictures. The bugs then attract the Striated Swallows (赤腰燕, Hirundo striolata), that eat them.

Route 2c (台二丙)

Route 2c is originally designed as a bypass road from Taipei to Ilan (宜蘭). The Snow Mountain Tunnel connecting Taipei to Ilan was very difficult to build. The rock was so hard that the first tunneling machine broke down at the first day of use. The tunneling than hit an underground water stream causing several deaths of workers. No insurance company would cover the construction after the accident. The tunnel was considered not constructable at the time. It eventually took over 10 more years to finish. In the meantime, the only way to Ilan at the east of Taipei is through the coastal road and through a very winding road over the mountain. Route 2c started from ShihFeng (十分) down to the Northeast coast. It can be used as an alternative road to Ilan. The road to ShihFeng from Taipei is a well paved scenic road. ShihFeng and all the other villages along the road were coal mining villages from the Japanese occupation era. They were connected by a narrow-track railroad, which is still running today. ShihFeng has the largest waterfall of Taiwan. We have taken many pictures of it in the Spring.

However, the construction of Route 2c was half-hearted and took a long time. Now even the Snow Mountain Tunnel is completed, what happen to Route 2c? I was surprised to be told by two sources that the road is passable now. On Sunday, October 5th, Grace and I packed our gear and made the trip. To my great surprise that the road is almost completely finished and it is one of the most beautiful road with bike pass on the side of highway. It gently slopes down from ShihFeng to the coast. We can stop now and then to soak our feet in the mountain stream. We passed a very nice village call ShuangXi (雙溪) or Twin-river village. Like ShihFeng, it can be reached by railroad. At GongHe village (共和村) or Republic Village, there is a brand new beautiful red bridge called GongHeDaQiao (共和大橋) "Republic Big Bridge" , with a bicycle sign painted on the road surface indicating that it is bicycle friendly. I had the image of Iraqi Republican Guard rushing out from the bridge on bicycles!! It was a good place to practice how to use wide-angle lens. Apparently the road is also used by heavy motorcyclists, who can not use the Snow Mountain Tunnel. We passed by a service station for the heavy motorcycle. A rarity in Taiwan. The day was a beautiful fall day.

Route 2c connects to Route 120 and ends at Fulong (福隆). Fulong has a beautiful sand beach. Because it is reachable by railroad, our family used to sea bathing here when we were young. It is also famous for the lunch box, which vendors sell directly to the passengers on the train. We did not have the Fulong lunch box but had a lobster lunch in a restaurant not far from the 4th nuclear power station, which is still under construction. I assumed that the lobster was non-radioactive. On the way back we again took a lot of photographs of the coast. There are pictures of Grace photographing me, and of me photographing rocks at the same time. The last two pictures are the ruins of Taiwan's one and only gold mine.


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