Friday, February 27, 2009

Taiwanese Aborigines

Taiwanese Aborigines represent about 2% of Taiwan's population.  Traditionally most of them lived in the mountainous region of Taiwan.  The recent linguistic studies suggest that Taiwan is the original homeland of Austronesian language family of islands of Southeast Asia and Pacific. Ami is the largest aboriginal tribe and lives mostly at the eastern part of Taiwan.  The school children of the local Ami tribe did a dancing performance for the hotel guests when we stayed at Jhihben during our trip around Taiwan last weekend.  

The Ami has facial features different from Chinese, more Western and has very beautiful voice. One of our most popular Pop singer is from the Ami tribe, and one of our senator, who was singer, movie star and tribal affair activist.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

SkyWatch Friday 3: Southern Cross-Island Highway

Last weekend, we made a 34 hours whirlwind trip circulating Taiwan (more precisely 3/4 of it, 930 km). We did not plan for the trip.  We left home in Taipei, on impulse, at 11:30 AM, Saturday, driving along the rugged east coast of Taiwan toward south, crossing the Tropic of Cancer at 5:30 PM into Southern Taiwan. We arrived at Jhihben (知本), a hot spring spa resort at 7 pm, driving almost 390 km. We spent the night in a nice hotel.  The next day, we drove up the Route 20, The Southern Cross-Island Highway, toward west.

This highway is really only a road that is wide enough for two car to pass each other. The construction of the road started in 1968 and finished in 1972 with the loss of 116 lives. Whenever there is a Typhoon or earthquake, which happens very often in Taiwan, the road is broken. It took 3 million USD yearly just to maintain it. The first photo was taken when we were just on our way toward west. Looking at the skyline and I was joking with Grace that we were going to drive pass the highest mountain range at the upper left hand corner. But indeed, the road took us there, the mountain pass, Yakuo, is at 2722 m above sea level.

This photo was taken after we cross the moutain pass and started to descend. You can see the road along the mountain at right hand cornor. The length of this highway is just over 200 km and took us about 7 hours to cross. We then took the Highway 3 toward north, a nice and easy drive of 340 km to Taipei. We arrived back home at 9:30 PM Sunday. It was an adventurous journey, but the scenery was worth the trip.

See more entries of SkyWatch Friday here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ABC Wednesday: F is for Festival

Taiwan's numerous local religious temples are mostly "Tao" religion.  Tao is very similar to Greek paganism, worships all kinds of deities in the mythology.  Their annual Festivals, usually the special day, such as the birthday of the deity that they worshiped are huge popular and colorful events.  There are parades and dancings led by several familiar figures.  The above figure is one of them called "the 13th Prince".  It weighs 10s kg and needs a lot of physical strength and endurance to carry it and dancing around.  

No, she is not one of the typical figure in the Temple Parade.  She was an announcer in the National Center for Traditional Arts where we photographed "the 13th Prince".  She was announcing a theatrical event of  the "Wedding of Garden Insects" on the street.  Guess what she dressed as? A Fire-Fly.

See more entries of ABC Wednesday here.

Sansia VII: Fixed-Point Spinning Top Game

There were two kids playing Spinning Top in front of a Temple at the old street of Sansia. What they were playing is a highly skilled game.

They threw the Top out and it had to land on the bottom of an up-side-down Coke bottle placing on top of a stick about 10 meters away.

They succeeded about 50% of the time.  Here is a Top that was landed precisely inside of a wreath and kept on spinning.

Sansia VI:Spinning Top (陀螺)

Other than the noodle bowl at the top of this sign, what is that brown wooden structure in the middle of the sign?  It is a model of Spinning Top.  

Here is another sign, now the model has a string attach to it.

This is a Spinning Top in action.  This is a game we all played when we were kids.  We wrapped the Top with a string.  When we threw the Top, we pulled the string at the same time.  The top spun when it landed on the ground.  If you are good at it, you can whip the top with the string and keep on spinning it.

Sansia V: Wooden Sandals

Traditionally, espically in Taiwan due to the tradition from the period of Japanese occupation, people wore wooden sandals.  We all wore them around the house when we were kids.  The practice is much less now.  On the old street of Sansia, there are several stores custom make wooden sandals for the customers.  They are no longer a piece of wood with a plastic top to hold the feet.  They are much more sophisticated with colorful design.  Here was a pair that was signed by our current President, which the store owner proudly desplayed.

Of course, there are also plastic walking sandals, copies from the popular American design.

A similar pair in pink color is also shown on the Taipei metro warning sign.  It warns wearers of possible accident in wearning this type of shoes on the escalator.

Sansia IV: Lantern

We just passed Lantern Festival not too long ago.  Thus, there were still quite a few shops on the Sansia Old Street selling lanterns for the children.  They are very different from the lantern when we were kids.  They are folded from printed color paper.  Obviously, this year is the Year of Ox.  Here is a cow lantern.

Taipei just received two pandas from China.  Thus panda is also a popular choice for the lantern.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sansia III: What they sell

This photo was taken from a high-end store on the old street of Sansia.  I was chased out from the store by the owner.  No photo please.

Grace got her shot by standing outside of the shop using her 200 mm lens.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Yellow Butterfly

This Thursday, I met this little butterfly at the small hill behind our condo.  It behaved extremely well, danced around the wild flowers and stayed put every now and then just long enough for me to photograph.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sky Watch Friday 2

Mountain cherry blossom at outskirt of Taipei.  

Where is the sky?!  Sorry, it was obscured by the mountain cloud/fog.  You can see more of my pictures of Taiwan's mountain cherry blossom here.

See more entries of Skywatch Friday here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ABC Wednesday: E is for Eyelashes

Chinese usually does not have very long eyelashes.  The most fashionable makeup accessaries in Taiwan for the moment are those 1/2 inch long fake eyelashes.  Our daughter married a very nice young gentleman from India.  Our granddaughter although has all the features of a typical Chinese girl from her mother,  she has the most beautiful long eyelashes inherited from her father.  Grace took this picture last summer during their visit to our home on Cape Cod.  She will be soon 2 years old this summer.  Click on the picture to get a closer look.

Visit more entries of ABC Wednesday here.

Sansia II: Store signs

The old street of Sansia is very much like all the old town/village tourist attractions in Taiwan.  They are just shopping streets end to end packed with stores selling delicacies and handcrafts.

This store at street no. 99 says "Sansia Old Street Stomach-full area"  

This stores sells a really local Taiwanese delicacy.  It is a cake made of pig blood and sticky rice.  A lot of people love it!!!

Now, this bread is really famous Taiwan-wide.  It is shaped like croissant but not as fluffy and is  smaller.  The original store claims to be the one at no. 63 of the old street.  Of course, now there are so many copy-cats all over the place.  This is one of them, but got a nice colorful sign.

Sansia I: Introduction

Sansia(三峽) is a village not far from Taipei and belongs to Taipei county.  Not too long ago, I overheard on the metro that two ladies were talking about taking the metro to the old street of Sansia for sightseeing.  It picked my interest.  That was what we did on Sunday February 15.  Indeed, the metro was just elongated to reach the next town.  After arriving at the terminal station, we still have to take a 20 minutes taxi ride to reach the old street of Sansia.  

Sansia is at the junction of three rivers.  The name is a variation of its Japanese name SanKyuo. In 1895, when Ching Dynastey of China ceded Taiwan to Japan, there were several battles fought between the locals and the incoming Japanese occupation forces around the region.  The old village was burned.  In 1916, under the Japanese colonial government, the street was rebuilt.  The houses were styled after European street designs which were fashionable at the time.  The basic structures of the houses had a lot character and were preserved.  In 2007, the renovation of the street won Second Gold Medal in FIABCI Prix d'Excellence Award at Barcelona, Spain.  The street is 248 meteer long, 8 meter wide with 102 storefronts.

The major industry at the turn of the 20th century for Sansia is Indigo Dyeing.  After dyeing, the cloth was washed in the river (talking about enviromental friendly) then dried on the riverbank.  Sansia supplied indigo dyed cloth all over Southeast China.  Many of the stores on the street were formal dyeing factory.  As you can see on this street sign, the Chinese character means "Dye".  Now the village trys to keep the tradition going by offering DIY workshop at the local youth organization.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

ABC Wednesday: D is for Darkness

That was what we were doing in the afternoon of Sunday, February 8th, waiting for the Darkness to fall.  The Darkness brought us the brilliant color of Lantern Festival. February 9th was January 15th of Chinese calendar, the first full-moon after the New Year.  It was traditional celebrated by the Lantern Festival.

How a festival in the Year of Ox can do without a "Rock 'N' Roll Band of Cow".  You can see more pictures of Lantern Festival here.

Daily Flower 7: Poinsett (聖誕紅), tagged 6th Picture

We are new to this game.  Carol from Photophase tagged us to post my 6th photo from my 6th file.  I blindly choosed our 6th photo-file of 2009. The 6th picture in the file is a close-up shot of poinsett.  Not a bad choice for my Daily Flower also.

Visit Carol at

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Daily Flower 6: Apricot Blossom (杏花)

Apricot trees are cultivated throughout Southern China for thousands of years.  It has beens associted with ancient Chinese literatures and paintings.  Early February, or just after Chinese New Year is the Apricot blossom season.  

There is a small farm called Apricot Tree Forest (杏花林) at outskirt of Taipei cultivates over a thousad apricot trees.  We took a short ride to the farm on Saturday, February 7th.  The flower comes in two colors, pink and white.  Actually the plum flower, peach flower and apricot flower all look very similar.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sky Watch Friday 1

Kite flying at Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial in front of the Taipei 101.

See more entries of Skywatch.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fishing vessels

This a follow up on our blog of our trip to Jinshan on Saturday, January 31. The port was packed with colorful fishing vessels both large ocean going ships and small dingys.

Taiwan is surrounded by sea. On the Western side, it is the Taiwan strait. The coast is formed by many flood plans. A lot of fish and shell fish farming on this side of the coast. At the east, it is the Pacific ocean and the coast is very rugged. Kuroshio current flow through the east coast at speed of 100 cm/s and is about 100 km wide.

Thus fishing is an important industry for Taiwan. Locally, we mostly eat small fish from the coastal water. We prepare them whole, never filet them. In the meantime, our deep sea fishing vessels are part of the culprits for the overfishing in the world ocean.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

ABC Wednesday: C is for "La Coupole"

La Coupole is the largest brassery established in 1927 on Boulevard Montparnasse in Paris. It was frequented by many famous people, such as Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso, and others .  Bradley started to go there more than 20 years ago when he lived around that area.  I, Grace dined at this restaurant almost every time when I am in Paris.  I like their simple but consistent comfort French food in a yesteryear decor.  

The restaurant was sold to Jean-Paul Bucher of Groupe Flo recently.  Last November, I was pleasantly surprised by their renovation including a huge round painting on their dome.  Here you can see the artwork from where I sat.  

The canvas was a joint effort from four internationally renowned artists: Carole Benzaken (French), Fouad Bellamine (Moroccan), Ricardo Mosner (Argentinian) and Xio Fan (Chinese). Here are their large black and white photographs on the back wall of the restaurant. 

The other part of the unique decor comes from 32 pillars, many of which were created by struggling painters in exchange of their free meals many years ago.  Aren't they fabulous? 

See more entries of ABC Wednesday here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fishing Floats

On Saturday, January 31, the last weekend of our Chinese New Year holiday.  We drove to the sea coast village, Jinshan (金山).  It is almost at the nothern tip of Taiwan.  The literal translation of Jinshan is Gold Mountain.  Normally, we only drive through the village either using the by-pass or the central passway.  Did not think much of it.  It is famous for the hot spring spa, which is one of the the very few in the world that comes from undersea.  On this day, we saw the sign of alternative route and took it.  It took us to a harbor that we have never been.  It is actually a twin-harbor on either side of a small peninsula.  We had a marvelous lunch of fresh crabs, fish and clams by the harbor .  They were all alive and kicking from the water tank.  

At one of the harbors, Grace took the pictures of these colorful fishing floats hanging on the wall. We also photographed many fishing vessels in the harbor, which we will show next time.

Daily Flower 5: Rapeseed Flower (油菜花)

Taroko (太魯閣) National Park has the most dramatic scenery in Taiwan.  Its gorge, a small version of Grand Canyon, is world famous.  Liwu River (立霧溪) cuts through the mountain that is formed by pure marble to form the gorge.  It is part of Central Cross-island Highway, which cut accross the central mountainous region of Taiwan.  The highway is now not passable due to the earthquake of 1999.  On January 28, the third day of Chinese New Year, we reached the area from the north using Rt 7A from Yilan (宜蘭) through Lishan (梨山) and Dayuling (大禹嶺).  We have tried to go through this highway for six years and finally made it this time.

On the way to Lishan, we pass by this rapeseed flower field at Nanshan (南山), a tribal village up in the mountain.  By the time we reached Tiansian (天祥) at the Taroko Gorge, it was 5 o'clock in the afternoon.  We planned to be home in Taipei at 9 to have dinner.  We did not arrive till 1 AM due to the Chinese New Year traffic, both deep in the mountain and in the Snow Mountain Tunnel.


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