Weekend Trips To Taiwan

I took two weekend trips to Taiwan in 2007. It was my first time to go there so I visited all the tourist spots – Yang Ming Shan, museums and in my second trip, Taroko Gorge.

A restaurant in Yang Ming Shan

Yang Ming Shan is very popular among the locals. Apart from being a hill, it also has hot springs. With hot springs, you can expect to see some hotels there too. Unfortunately, it was springtime when I went there which meant ‘fog’. It was so foggy that the public tour minibus that I took crashed with another car when we went uphill. It wasn’t a serious one – a collision, a big ‘bang’ and a dent in the car (not in the public minibus). That was it. Not a big deal. But it gave all the passengers on board a shock.

The public tour minibus went around the hill and had a few stops at some small, shallow hot pools (apparently, they were for feet), some attractions and hotels.  Of course, the hot pools in the hotels would be big. It was too luxurious for me so I didn’t stay in any of the hotels there.

My friend who used to work as an English teacher in Taiwan told me she used to live in Yang Ming Shan.  Seriously? ‘I want to work as an English teacher there too!!’ 😀 But she said, ‘no, it’s not as posh as you think.’ Ok, got it. 😀

A very famous landmark in Taipei. The four Chinese characters on the plaque meant integrity.  According to some sources, these four characters were actually taken from the name of Chiang Kai Shek. However, the previous leader of Taiwan, Chen Shui Bian, changed the name of this plaque to ‘Freedom Square’. Now, when you go there, you will see four different characters. I am glad that I went there before the name was changed and documented history in my camera.

Speaking of Chinese characters, recently (in 2020) one of my students told me she decided not to learn to write Chinese. I think her plan is to use Siri or voice control to help her learn the Chinese characters. While it is a good idea (it’s free), she will miss the essence of Chinese characters. As opposed to English letters, each Chinese character has a meaning. When these Chinese characters combine together and form one character, it means something different. Take the Chinese word ‘listen’ for example, you can find six characters ‘ears’, ‘king’, ‘ten eyes’ and ‘one heart’ within that one character. That means, when you listen, your ears are the king. Apart from using your ears, you need to use your eyes (hence, ten eyes) and your heart. That’s actually very beautiful. When I first learnt it, I was amazed! I felt a bit disappointed when my student told me about her plan. But that’s her choice.

Dumplings again!!!  😀 These ones were different from the ones you saw in my Beijing blog. Instead of having soup inside the dumplings, these dumplings are dry inside and you need to put them in the bowls of soup (as you can see in the photo) and eat them with the soup. This restaurant is a very famous dumpling restaurant originally from Taiwan, but it now has shops in Hong Kong and Singapore as far as I know.  As a loyal fan of dumplings, I went there.

The Chinese cabbage is usually the first thing that visitors go to see when they visit this museum, just like Mona Lisa in Le Louvre.  The other item that will catch your attention is a jade roast pork.   Needless to describe, the craftsman made good use of the natural colour of the jade again and created a piece of roast meat. When you look at it, the first thing you have in mind is to eat it (well, at least, that’s what I had in mind) because you can clearly see the different layers of the roast meat, including the fatty bit. It was just amazing.

National Palace Museum. This museum is a must-go place.  It exhibits loads of antiquities from various previous Chinese dynasties. The most famous item is a jadeite Chinese cabbage. The reasons why it is so famous are because of the workmanship, the design and the colour of the cabbage. Chinese cabbage is green at the top where the leaves are and white at the bottom where the stem is. This is exactly what the jadeite cabbage is like. The craftsman manipulated the natural colour of a tiny piece of jadeite and adroitly created this piece of art. Not only did the craftsman create the cabbage, he also added a camouflaged insect on the cabbage. Cabbage is just an everyday object but this intricately made art piece makes it look so extraordinary.

In August, I went to Taiwan again. This time, I only had time to go to Taroko Gorge, the marble gorge. It was apparently another quick trip. It was so rush that I booked a local tour online to the Gorge from Taipei, by plane. What a luxury!

That wasn’t the only time I realised that money could buy time.

Actually, no. Money is just a tool to get me to a destination faster. Ultimately, time is the ‘destination’, without a form, without a shape.

Time is definitely more important than money.

Entrance of Taroko Gorge
A bridge in Taroko Gorge. We were supposed to cross this bridge but because of the typhoon that came the week before, the stairs to the bridge was broken (see the bottom left of this photo) so we didn’t get the chance try this bridge. It would be a very nice experience if we could.  🙂  
Waterfall?  Nope. It’s just the pattern of the marble.
Another waterfall like marble
Gazing at the Pacific Ocean. It is such a huge ocean that I was looking at it from another side of the world in 2012. (I will write about Galápagos later.)
The Chinese restaurant inside this hotel is a famous restaurant. I particularly like one dessert served in that Chinese restaurant – cake with red bean paste (and red beans?) inside. It has to be served hot. It was Mrs. Chiang’s (wife of Chiang Kai Shek) favourite and it becomes my favourite now. 🙂   If you don’t have time to dine at the Chinese restaurant, you can buy that cake at the hotel lobby. This time, I bought one back home.  Oh! I miss it so much! If you go to Taipei, please remember to bring one piece for me. 😀 One piece of that cake will be enough for me. I am not that greedy.  😛

In 2018, I went to Taiwan again. But I had a mission that time – I did my first solo paragliding flight there! And 8 more solo flights afterwards. My coach said I could get a P1 licence but I was so scared of flying that I decided not to get the licence yet. He asked me why. Well, the more I flew, the more I was frightened. The more I learnt about the sport, the more I knew that I was not good enough. The study of the clouds, weather conditions, wind directions, plus the skills needed to control the glider, all these were too much for me. I did have trouble multi-tasking and making good judgment. To be good at this sport (actually, to be good at anything), you need to practise a lot but this sport is weather dependent. It’s not like running or swimming which can be done indoors or outdoors, almost everyday. Also, I was pressured to buy the gear. The pressure wasn’t from the coach but from the peers. Sometimes to the extent that they ‘bullied’ or even ‘attacked’ me. I wasn’t sure if I would or could continue because I was so scared in the air. After taking 10 solo flights, I still couldn’t decide. The full gear is expensive. It’s an investment, just like cameras. The peer pressure really put me off. It may sound ridiculous but if you hear those words every other day, you just don’t want to interact with those people anymore. But when we practiced, it had to be done in groups. Sometimes the coach got affected by the students too and he’d also ask me to buy the full gear. In fact, I have discussed with other paragliding pilots from other countries. One told me it was too early for me to buy the full gear. When I met him, I had only done 6 flights. So you can imagine when my peers started urging me to purchase mine – basically, after my maiden flight.

All these added together… and now I am sitting here with a record of 10 solo flights only.

I still enjoy flying but as a passenger. 😀

That’s why I did tandem paragliding in Turkey in 2018. 😀 You can also find a story about one terrifying episode in Taiwan in 2018 in my blog here.

Ready to take off. This was my second or third solo flight.
Check out the minor accidents that one of my paragliding mates had here. She’s one of the few people that I admire in my paragliding group.

15-18 March, 31 August – 2 September 2007, 2018

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