You Are Richest When You Smile

笑,是你最富有的时刻。

首次游访高雄,在高铁站旁,远远的看到了这对卖手工香皂的残疾人士。因为是午饭时间,男的喂着女的吃泡面,一口接一口,虽然他的右手残扭,但还是贴心的挣扎着把面递到伴侣的唇前。女的两手弯残,提不起东西。

目睹了感人的这一段感人的《喂饭录》,喜与泪在我怀中交加,万分感动。于是我走向前要求拍下他们的合照,把他们俩互顾互维,残而不废的精神记下来。

我把手机举起,他们立即就对着镜头展露了笑颜。一般的人身其他们的处境,往往很难拥有笑的理由。但这对伴笑得非常豪爽,灿烂。

拍完照后,我买了两块香皂,虽然不便宜(小小一块大概要新币S$5.00)不过这是我为他们打气的小心意,感谢他们给了我真诚的笑容。

简单的一笑却是我收到的一份珍贵礼物。我每次看到这张照片,总是觉得很温心、安慰、快乐。他们不自觉的给了我很多。

During my first visit to Kaohsiung, by the side of the city’s High Speed Rail station, I saw this disabled pair who were selling handmade sopas from afar. As it was lunch time, the man was feeding instant noodles to the woman. Mouthful by mouthful he fed her, struggling with getting the stringy noodles onto a spoon with his left hand as his right was deformed. Both the woman’s hand were crippled.

Witnessing this touching display of one handicap taking care of another, my heart cried and smiled at the same time. I wanted to capture how touched they made me felt and their indomitable spirit so I went up to them to request for a portrait shot.

When I raised my mobile phone, they broke into a smile immediately. Most people in their situation would probably have very little reasons to smile. But they smiled freely and brilliantly.

After taking their photo, I bought two pieces of soap. Costing about S$5.00 for each small piece, they weren’t exactly cheap but it was my little way of showing them support. To thank them for their generous smiles.

A simple smile became a precious gift I received on this trip. Each time I look at this photo, my heart is filled with warmth, comfort and joy. They may not have a lot going for them, but unbeknownst to them, they had given me a lot.

Fake Happiness VS. Real Joy

假开心与真快乐。

某天游台北时,闲步来到了西门町。商杂区内有许多优秀的音乐达人与表演者。毫无目地的逛着,耳边在众多的旋律中,熟悉了一首陈芬兰的《月亮代表我的心》。于是便跟着歌声来到了Watsons 店旁,遇上了这位献声的视障街艺。

他的歌声算不上是能出耳油的那一种,但带有一股真实的诚恳。看他演唱时常会露出笑容,自我陶醉,似乎很快乐。

顿时我视觉到了他背后的橱窗海报。漂亮的女郎笑得很开心灿烂,虽然发自内心,但难免虚假。

相比之下,拥有一切的美女与欠福的盲人;反而少了一点的,却多了一份真心的快乐。

一笑能化少为多。

While on a vacay in Taipei, my aimless footsteps brought me to Ximending with record-grade musicians and excellent street performers entertaining shoppers. As I wandered through the labyrinth of sounds, shops and smells, my ears picked up a familiar Chen Fen Lan tune “The Moon Represents My Heart”.  The vocals brought me to the side of a Watsons shop where I met this blind singer.

His voice wasn’t spectacular but there’s a timbre of vulnerable honesty. I was rooted to his performance not so much by the music, but by the smiles be broke into while singing. He seemed genuinely lost in the enjoyment of what he was doing.

At some point, I became aware of the window poster behind him. The pretty girl has a brilliant smile, it seems to come from her heart, but nevertheless faked for her job as a model.

In comparison between the girl who has everything going with the unfortunate blind, I felt that although he had ‘less’, he experienced ‘more’ of the simplicity in being joyful.

A grateful smile bridges us from ‘what little’ to ‘how much’ we have 🙂

Same Road, Different Load

同样的路,不同样的苦。

某次游高雄市旗津岛时,在路上遇见了这一幕。看着足败的中年残疾推着轮椅苦步,重行车、货车、摩托车、脚踏车则从身旁匆匆奔过,不经想起了在人生的旅途,大家都处同一条路上,但速度却不同。要到达的目的地不同,承担的苦也不同。

工作的苦、念书的苦 、疾病的苦,我们多为责任,欲望与希望受苦。那如果哪里都不去,什么都不做,那就不苦了吗?但,一场毫无成就与贡献的空白人生,何尝不是一种精神上的折磨 ?

人活着,总需要觉得有意义。了解了这一点,其实苦不再是苦,而是自我肯定和伸展的挑战。因此,哪怕路再难行,负担再重,步伐比人家慢,推着轮椅,我们也会往前走。

加油,志昂的轮椅先生!

While visiting Qijin, an island off Taiwan’s Kaohsiung city, I came across this scene of a man with infirmities pushing his wheelchair. Next to him, trucks, vans, motorcycles and bicycles whizzed by. This scene got me thinking about life’s journey… our road is shared but our speeds and destinations are different. Hence, the load we carry is also different.

Work load, academic pursuits, struggles with diseases, we suffer for our responsibilities, ambitions and the hope that things will get better. So what if we don’t aspire to get anywhere or do anything, won’t life be that much easier? However, isn’t an existence empty of personal achievements and contributions a mental torture?

Being alive, there needs to be a sense of self-worth and purpose. Realising this need for self-actualisation, suffering ceases to be a pain, but a rite of affirmation for one’s abilities and growth. There is no need to fear a tough road ahead, or a heavy load, or if our pace is much slower than others, even when being bounded by a wheelchair, we’ll get where we want to be so long as we keep going.

Ganbatte, Mr Willpower! 🙂

Time-Lapse Photography of Taichung Sunset

Following my first attempt at time-lapse photography of a sunrise over Mount Kinabalu, I tried the technique again but with a sunset this time.

A click of the camera’s remote control every 10 seconds for 2 hours resulted in this…



While compiling the over 400 shots into the above video, I noticed flickering caused by certain photos being brighter than the rest in the series. As I shot in Aperture-priority (Av) mode to tackle the vastly changing lighting conditions, the camera automatically adjusts exposure length and flickering occurred when some photos got a longer exposure time that caused them to be brighter.

While there are a couple of ways to minimize time-lapse flicker when shooting a sunset such as using a specialized post-processing software or playing a game of guess-the-settings with manual shooting mode, I find it easier to just remove the ‘offending’ photos during compilation. I simply deleted the bright photos that seemed odd in the sequence.

Time-lapse purists may condemn me for cheating but this method is much easier and the gaps in the time-lapse left by the missing photos are hardly noticeable!

Here are my camera settings to shoot this time-lapse sunset over Taichung (shot on location at Rollin Leisure Farm 若茵休闲农场):

– Camera lens in Manual Focus (MF) and set to infinity

– Shoot in Aperture-priority (Av) at F13

– ISO at 200

– Turn on camera’s remote control mode (or use a cable release)

Perched 1,100m above sea level on the face of a mountain, Rollin Leisure Farm offers a spectacular aerial view of Taichung city and is the best spot to catch a bewitching sunset. Between fall and winter (September – February), a blanket of fog hangs over the valley basin to create the magical natural wonder known as the sea of clouds. Instant heaven!

I hope this sharing of experience gave you a simple and quick alternative method to solve time-lapse flicker. Happy shooting!

Day 239 : See You Again, Taiwan!

From the smoky mountains of Alishan in Chiayi to the Southwestern fishing coast of Taiwan to the picturesque isles of Penghu, it has been an awesome 9 days of basking in the nation’s abundance of natural wonders and beauty. This experience wouldn’t have been possible if not for the hardworking team at Bysan Marketing Ltd (百昇传播事业有限公司) and Yusan Guide Public Relations Consultant Ltd (羽晟加得公关顾问有限公司).

Due to the unexpected turmoil caused by Typhoon Tembin, our original itinerary went through a few rounds of changes with some parts being fixed while on the go. After an exhausting day of sightseeing, the team had meetings late into the night to ensure things ran smoothly the next day. But above their professionalism under the pressure of a foreboding natural disaster, they kept their cool and remained unfazed while  ensuring that we are well taken care of and having a good time.

The people behind Bysan and Yusan. They are like an extended family in my wanderings of the world. I’m am very grateful for their hospitality and really touched by their friendliness.

What I really enjoyed was their enthusiasm in the activities. It felt like they were enjoying themselves and invited me to join the party. It didn’t feel like they were working and that dissolved the barrier of us being invited blogger guests and they being our nannies. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel with Bysan and Yusan and some of the top bloggers in the region and becoming friends over the nine days. I was in the company of giants!

Heart you peeps! Thanks for a lovely time and adding your bit of personality to make this trip so memorable for me.

The full length of the hosted trip was 10D9N but I couldn’t get more unpaid leave so I had to depart today with Haruka while the rest stayed one more night at Penghu. Damn. I need a job with more leave days! LOL. As we’re all in different parts of the world, hopefully we’ll get to catch up again.

My heartfelt apprecaition also goes out to the Southwest Coast National Scenic Area Administration (雲嘉南滨海国家风景区管理处), Penghu National Scenic Area Administration (澎湖国家风景区管理处), the hoteliers, shopowners, sponsors, tour guides, drivers and service staff who made this blog-cation such a bliss and for expanding my mind. Thanks for showing me what Taiwan is all about on a personal level. Many thanks for a great experience!

Boarding Uni Air from Penghu to Taipei Song Shan Airport. 还真舍不得离开…

Leaving the vast greenery of Alishan and relaxing island life of Penghu behind, I rejoined urbanisation. With time to spare, I decided to explore whatever slice of Taipei time permitted before heading home. I wanted to go to Ximen which I visited the last time but decided to check out something new instead.

I didn’t plan or research the excursion or know I’m in for. I just got off at the Taipei Main Train Station and walked around. And here’s what I found…

Taipei Main Train Station is colossal! I walked for about 15 minutes before getting out of the massive central station.

Advertisement street opposite the Taipei Main Station.

This unusual portrait of a smiling Jesus brought a smile to my face. I’ve not seen Jesus depicted without his long-suffering expression.

I was very hungry upon arrival at Song Shan Airport but I held on and searched for my last authentic taste of Taiwan before going back. I found it at a shop along Gong Yuan Road opposite the station selling Taiwan’s definite mee sua with oysters and pork intestines. Yums!

Futher down Gong Yuan Road is the National Taiwan Museum. due to time constrain, I didn’t check out the interior.

Around the museum is the 228 Peace Park (二二八和平纪念公园). A very delightful accidental discovery.

Apart from a conglomerate of fountains featuring different architectural styles, the park houses some rather unusual wildlife.

After baking under the Taipei summer heat at 228 Peace Park, I stink till cows also don’t wanna come home. So I dropped by the Smell Library, a boutique perfumery retailer at the underground mall of Taipei Main Train Station to freshen myself. So cheapo hor? Got a gift here too and the perfumes definitely don’t come cheap!

Goodbye Taiwan! A last photo with a gong zai (公仔) in traditional religious embroidery. Here’s wishing one and all auspiciousness in every undertaking! Gosh… my eyes are all red from being sad to leave. Haha…

My initiation to Taiwan as a travel destination only started this year and even though I ‘ve been here twice, I felt there’s still so much more to see, do and feel. It has just become one of my favourite places to come to for a vacation. Think I’ll plan a trip here again next year 🙂

Day 238 : A Day at Jibei Island

The great thing about visiting Penghu is that the surrounding islands possess unique characteristics and attractions so there are always things to see and explore. The highlight of today was a trip to Jibei Island (吉贝岛) and spending the night there in an immaculate postage stamp sized hotel.

But before leaving the main island, we paid a visit to Penghu’s Reclamation Hall and the old village where two of Taiwan’s most beloved singers, Zhang Yu Sheng and Pan An Bang, grew up in…

Entrance to Penghu Recalamation Hall, a bungalow built during a period of Japanese occuption of the island.

Retro voguing… Adopting a yester-year pose to fit the environment.

I would make a very bad Japanese because my legs fell asleep sitting like this for less than 5 minutes. The Reclamation Hall has a very strong Sino-Jap flavour.

Hometown of Taiwan’s respected muscial talent Tom Zhang Yu Sheng (张雨生) and the man introduced Penghu Wan to the world, Pan An Bang (潘安邦).

Zhang Yu Sheng’s family kitchen.

Sculpture in front of Pan An Bang’s house depicting his maternal grandmother looking at him while he played by Penghu bay. A scene that inspired his evergreen hit, 外婆的澎湖湾 (Granther’s Bay).

At about 4pm, we took a boat from Penghu main island to Jibei Island.

The bumpy boat ride took about 15 minutes.

Woohoo! Haven’t rode a scooter in a long time. Jibei island is very small and the best mode of transport would be by renting a scooter.

MY FIRST TIME DRIVING A SCOOTER that is not in an arcade. Love the feeling!

Our accomodation at Jibei Island – Down Home, a pop-up residence that stood alone on the face of a gentle hill. A really relaxing and great place to stay!

The biggest draw on the island is the seemingly endless stretch of coral beach called Jibei Shawei (吉贝沙尾).

We had the very, very rare opportunity of having the beach all to ourselves. Usually the place would be crawling with beach-goers and holidaymakers. The beach was deserted because of the typhoon threat looming over Taiwan.

The tip of Shawei beach. The beach and water are pristine clean.

Cheers! A BBQ dinner with high-energy karaoke wrapped up a super fun trip to Chiayi, Alishan and Penghu. And this marked the end of the trip as I’ll be heading home tomorrow…

 

Day 237 : A Generous Taste of Penghu

The surprises continue today at Penghu with a visit to the island’s city centre and heritage old street (澎湖老街) where we got in touch with our creativity and sampled some pretty wacky snacks only found here.

Penghu’s main island’s city centre is pretty compact and consists of just a few streets.

Tucked within the city centre is the old street that kept the heritage of Penghu alive where old trades still flourish, abett only as tourist attractions.

The 3 words read as Mo Ru Cha, which translates as ‘Caress Breast Tea’. I thought it meant tea with milk but no, the origin behind its name is an anecdote I found most amusing!

Got milk? Olden days streets were very narrow and barely accomodated 2 persons. So when 2 people cross each other in the alleyway, they’ll have to pass through by facing each other, thereby causing their breasts / chest to rub against each other. Kinky isn’t it?!

One of the best souvenir to bring home is one made ourselves. Here at Ah Fu’s Shop (阿福的店), we can exercise our creativity and tailor-make a personalised memorabilia of Penghu.

Angry owls? To the Taiwanese, owls are a symbol of good luck and protection from dark forces. These were made from pebbles found at Penghu.

Near Ah Fu’s Shop is the legendary four-eyed well (四眼井). There are a few reasons why this originally single well was split into four. Will share the wisdom over at Explore Life Lah!.

Next to the four-eyed well is the famous medicinal egg. I was told everybody in Penghu knows this store. Tried the egg and tofu… very flavourful indeed!

One of the must-trys at Penghu are these chocolates. What’s so special about them you may ask. Well, they are made from powdered seashells! The texture is somewhat different.

If you have a passion for love letters (egg rolls), getting a bite of Li Yang (丽洋) Handmade Confectionery is a must. The shop makes these gigantic love letters that are big on taste and stretches your jaw to the max! Here’s Anja, Producer of Yahoo Taiwan, showing us her hidden talent.

For a comprehensive shop to get local snacks as gifts, we came to Xin Tai Peng Hai Can where the tastiest tidbits are all gathered in one place. And the lady boss is quite a dish herself too! Heh heh. So shy taking photo with a pretty gal…

This cat was such a high strung pussy. Was wandering the old streets and came to an interesting guarded by this sulky feline. As I got close, it sat expectantly for me to open the doors so it can slip out. When I just stood outside and took its photos, the cat gave me a ‘smelly face’!

Penghu is rich in volcanic deposits, one of which is the mind-blowing Wen Shi (文石). The best place to admire these rocks is at Shih Yuen, a family-owned museum and gallery showcasing the wonder of these natural phenomenon.

Wen Shi are sedimentary rocks coloured by mineral deposits over thousands of years. The concentric circles look artificial but they are really natural formations. Amazing!

Fate. It’s such an abstract yet convenient concept to explain the randomness of life. Was given this peddle with the word ‘Fate’ engraved on it by the creator of this roadside stone gallery. I like this word.

Day 236 : That Childhood Song of Penghu

阳光 ,沙滩,海浪,仙人掌。。。 I was introduced to Penghu at a young age through 潘安邦’s (Pan An Bang) jovial remembrance of his grandmother in his hit song 外婆的澎湖湾 (Maternal Grandma’s Penghu Bay). Being young and innocent, I’ve always thought that Penghu is a figment of the singer’s imagination, a non-existent place beaming with sunshine, beaches, ocean waves, and cactus.

That was until I visited Taiwan recently and went to the place the song talked about… and oh boy, what a fascinating group of islands Penghu has! Here’s a glimpse of the places I went to today…

Stayed at the beautiful 5-star Yentai Hotel (元泰大飯店), a 15-minutes walk from Penghu city centre.

元泰大飯店, Yentai Hotel, Penghu

The rooms are generous in size and service was excellent! I left a bottle of perfume behind and the hotel kept it for me till I went back to collect.

Yentai Hotel’s Presidential Suite gets a nod for style, space and substance.

A group photo with the Director of Penghu’s tourism board.

Behind me is a mural of the popular Shawei (沙尾) beach at Jibei Island (吉贝岛). Jibei Island is one of Penghu’s collection of about 100 islets.

This mural of Penghu’s Old Street at Penghu Visitor Centre provided a perfect backdrop to start getting acquainted with the island’s colourful heritage.

This photo taken at the Penghu DFS shop is very meaningful for me because today is Qi Xi Jie (七夕节), also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day! And Penghu is famous for its double heart stone weir (双心石沪), which was the design inspiration for the blue LED hearts above us.

My version of Arc de Triomphe at the entrance of Penghu’s Kua Hai Da Qiao (澎湖跨海大桥).

One of the best ways to explore Penghu is through cycling. We didn’t get to cycle lah, just posing with a bike at Er Kan (二坎), a living museum that preserved the architecture and lifestyle of early Penghu.

Do you notice anything interesting in this photo? Hint : Look at the lower left wall. Still can’t see it? Mouseover the photo for the answer.

Eken, my trip coordinator from Yusan PR, striking a dashing pose on the picturesque old street of Er Kan.

Er Kan Village kept olden days’ design and elements in tact for visitors to immerse themselves in a different world.

Old days new ways… Took this photo because of the contrast between the historical bench and the modern technology in Haruka’s hands.

Penghu has a colourful military history and various old forts have been converted into attractions on the island. Behind me is an upcoming fort attraction slated to be completed by early 2013. We got to preview it first before its public opening.

This is just a brief browse of a few sights and attractions. It is only the tip of the iceberg. More details and info will be posted in Explore Life Lah!. Penghu is definitely as beautiful and poetic as Pan An Bang’s song makes it out to be!

Day 235 : From Quiet Ponds to Vibrant Waves

When I received the email invitation from Bysan Public Relations and Marketing (百昇传播事业有限公司) to come on this all-expenses-paid experience of Taiwan, my initial response was not one of excitement, but frustration and anguish.

That’s because I’ve already exhausted my 14-day annual leave entitlement! To ensure I get the best airfare deals, I usually plan my trips months ahead, sometimes even up to one year in advance. So when I received the invite, my balls were held between my teeth. It’s a hard to come by opportunity, but going meant I had to take unpaid leave.

The dilemma was, what if the trip turned out to be a flop and not worth sacrificing my week’s salary for? I was on the verge of turning it down with gratitude but I couldn’t silence that tiny voice telling me to go.

I’m glad I listened to it. I truly had a great time despite travelling in the shadow of Typhoon Tembin. The journey went smoothly and the hospitality shown by Bysan’s staff, the local tourism prefectures and sponsors were genuinely warm. It’s the kind of experience beyond the reach of money!

溪南春休閒渡假村

With Diego, my roommate for 4 nights. Orange suits him because Winnie the Pooh and this guy share the same traits. His enthusiasm and earnesty in helping me understand more about Taiwan were much appreciated. And because he didn’t complain about my snoring! Hahaha

溪南春休閒渡假村

My cap and camwhoring kaki, Xiao Zhu. Her youthful exuberance livened up the journey and special care accorded to me will not be forgotten. It’s a pity she and Diego couldn’t join us for the next leg of our trip and departed after lunch today. Hopefully we’ll get to meet again.

溪南春休閒渡假村

A quiet rearing pond brought the sky to earth with its calm, mirrored surface. This view was a few steps from the chalet I stayed in.

Our last station in Taiwan before flying over to Penghu was Xi Nan Chun Leisure Fishing Village (溪南春休閒渡假村), a rustic resort surrounded by fishing ponds. The owner is an avid collector of antiques, giving the place the quirky feel of a walk-in museum.

溪南春休閒渡假村

Every corner a work of heritage art awaits.

溪南春休閒渡假村

The resort houses a private collection of authentic antique furnitures as well as knick knacks collected over many years. It’s a time capsule at an unlikely location!

溪南春休閒渡假村

溪南春休閒渡假村

Captivating gaze of an albino wolf dog with gorgeous glassy blue eyes. I can’t believe it was a stray dog before being adopted into the fish farm. The farm has many, many dogs. No prizes for guessing why cats are not welcomed here.

溪南春休閒渡假村

Went on an early morning excursion to a huge pond nearby to learn more about catching and binding crabs.

溪南春休閒渡假村

I’ll leave crab catching to the fishermen. I’m happy just tucking into this dish of crabmeat stir-fried with asparagus. Best thing is, the crab is de-shelled!

溪南春休閒渡假村

Fortune Fish that unfortunately ended up in my tummy. Super fresh and cooked just right.

溪南春休閒渡假村

Herbal chicken soup that was mlidly fragrant and not overpowering. The floating layer of fowl fat doesn’t quite please the eyes though.

After lunch, we bidded Diego, Xiao Zhu and Tainan goodbye as we reached Kaohsiung Domestic Airport to catch a flight to one of the nation’s most famous island, Penghu. From the mountains, we descended to the coastal towns… from serene fishing ponds, we now head towards lively beaches.

In two worlds… Haruka dreaming of sakura while Sharmaine worked on her digital ketupat.

Kaohsiung Airport

Hai long wang… bo bi our trip safe and sound hor!

Took Uni Air to Penghu. The airline operates several flights to the island daily.

After a 45-minutes flight, we arrived at Penghu Magong Airport… Arrows point the way to a burgeoning waterfront city where new adventures await discovery!

Penghu Magong Airport

Boon Ho and I spread our wings, all ready to fly the salty winds in search of fresh seafood, scenic landscapes and cultural hives of Penghu! And no, the birds weren’t reacting to our underarm B.O.!

Day 234 : 悠咸走访台南盐海区

七股盐山

昨天身居阿里山享受与世隔绝的爽朗,今天就来到了台南的沿海地区悠闲参访当地的自然生态环境及雲嘉南特有盐田。

行程中包括了靠海的渔村和老街坊,它们披着夕阳的金黄衣裳在我镜头前不断的绚丽着古朴味,色诱我多拍几张相片,多穿梭几条窄巷,与当地居民一同写意人生。

Qing Kun Shen Fishing Village, Tainan

艳阳高照是摄影的绝棒好天气!南鯤鯓青山渔港的日落一定很漂亮。

Qing Kun Shen Fishing Village, Tainan

哇哇哇!鲜美巨蟹向我招手啦!Obasan 的脸部表情也很 inviting 哦。

Qing Kun Shen Fishing Village

井仔脚瓦盤盐田, Salt Farm, Jing Zai Jiao Wa Pan Yan Tian

盐的故乡。。。井仔脚瓦盤盐田。

人工造盐是把海水的咸度调至到一定浓度后再经阳光暴晒,蒸水生盐。

挑盐可真是要 Superman 附体才行!盐农挑盐的一次重量是 60公斤,我可是要减轻许多才拿得起。很失败。。

渔村部落和盐田虽然具有特色,但它们只不过是压轴好戏的开胃菜,因为让人叹为观止的超赞景观还在后头。。。那就是七股盐山 (Chigu Salt Mountain)!

我本来以为到这里赏一座白色小山丘没什么看头,可我错了。到这盐山的顶端可以看到四周的地貌,而在这里看日落也别有一番风情。

七股盐山白茫茫的,仿佛是一座热带雪山!So cool!

‘S’ is for ‘Salt’. Superman conquers Qi Gu Salt Mountain… Up, up and away!

咸冰棒, Salt Ice Cream

甜的雪糕吃多了,咸的你吃过吗?在七股盐山有得品尝哦。我第一口咬下去的时候觉得有点怪怪的,但再舔几次后却觉得味道还不错!

好啦,这里就简单的记载了今天的部份景点。详细的游程与照片将投稿至 Explore Life Lah!。空‘咸’的话就点击到那儿与我环游世界吧!

Day 233 : In the Mood for Wood

Alishan, 阿里山

Earlier this year in February, Alishan welcomed me for the first time with the blush of early spring where the rogue of cherry blossoms awakening from a wintry slumber coloured the highland terrains.

Slightly over six months later, I’m back again and this time, an air of mystery hung thick as playful autumn fog veiled the mountain’s beauty while dissipitating at times for a game of peek-a-boo with the scenery.

阿里山, Alishan

雾中体验不一样的阿里山。。。

Wet, wet, wet… Even in the rain, Alishan remains generous with its good looks.

Rainfall was plentiful during my 2D1N stay due to the approaching Typhoon Tembin. Coming from a tiny island devoid of any natural disaster, I was actually kinda excited about the prospect of experiencing a typhoon.

Thankfully though, it didn’t happen and I got to observe first-hand how closely the Taiwanese watch their weather, something we Singaporeans take for granted.

Alishan, Long Yun Ju, 龙云居

Stayed at 龙云居 (Long Yun Ju, which translates as home of the dragon clouds), a cosy mountainside hotel with the toothed spine of Alishan at its doorstep and towering woods as its backyard.

The typhoon alert and unpredictable precipitation dampened this visit a little but the sense of danger heightened the adventure as we tried to stay one step ahead of the weather.

But it is still very safe as the roads of Alishan would be closed off and not passable to traffic if bad weather is anticipated to ensure the safety of tourists and locals.

Highland weather can be very unpredictable. Although it was rainy the previous day, the sun was out the next.

During this visit, we were brought to the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area which I came to as well during my last trip. The difference this time round was that we were in the company of a tour guide brimming with geological, botanical and cultural knowledge of the mountain and sights.

I learnt nothing about Alishan the last trip but brought home a deeper appreciation this time round. A good guide really made a big difference.

Alishan, 阿里山

Under the canopy of wild cypresses, I watched the ancient race of these tress towards the sky.

Alishan, Heart Tree, 阿里山, 阿里山神木, Alishan National Forest Recreation Area

This tree forming the shape of a heart is just one of the many atonishing living sculptures crafted by nature. It will be so special to get one’s wedding portraits taken here.

One of the main highlights on this trip was a visit to the Tsou tribe’s cultural village. The very well-kept theme park invites visitors into the lives of the tribespeople and get under the skin of their folklores and history as well as to feel the pulse of their tribal heartbeat.

Seeing Alishan through their eyes takes one into another realm of relishing this green majesty!

Alishan, Yuyupas Village, 阿里山, 邹族文化部落, 优游吧斯

The Tsou people have a greeting pronounced as “YuYuPas”, and it is adopted as a name for the theme park as well. Will share what it means in my travel blog Explore Life Lah!.

A Tsou warrior exploding with vigour as he performed an ancestral battle dance.

Alishan, Yuyupas

I have in my hands, the source of the warrior’s gallantry! Muahahahaha… got to try the Warrior’s Bento at the cultural village.

We are travel tribe 我们是旅游族! From left to right : Diego, Kitty, Xiao Yu, Xiao Zhu, Boon Ho, Yuca, Shu Juan, Haruka, and Sharmaine.

More info and details about visiting Alishan and YuYuPas Cultural Village will be posted soon in Explore Life Lah!.

Day 232 : Orient Luxury Villa Motel

Orient Luxury Villa Motel, Feng Hua Motel, 风华汽车旅馆, Villa Motel

I can’t believe this is a MOTEL! Eating off Hollywood’s motel menu of murders, sex, drugs and sleaze, I’ve always imagined these drive-in lodgings to be squalid and stuff of nightmares (remember Bates Motel from the movie Psycho?).

So when I was told our first night’s stay in Taiwan was to be in a motel, I thought the organisers were kidding. They assured us that the motel is 5-star… it’s like telling a kid an injection isn’t painful.

Then the door to my room opened… True to their words, the motel was simply, for the lack of a better word, AWESOME! The room is huge and the bathroom is a wonderland! Definitely great for a romantic escapade with a loved one to spice things up between the sheets.

Too bad I enjoyed it alone…

Orient Luxury Villa Motel, Feng Hua Motel, Taiwan, Taichung

Huge room with a lot of space to romp. Each room is different in theme and design and comes with an attached garage below.

Orient Luxury Villa Motel, Feng Hua Motel, Yun Lin, Taiwan, Taichung

Facade of the motel at night.

Luxurious motels are unique to Taiwan where they are no longer just a convenient, budget rest-stop and Orient Luxury Villa Motel (风华汽车旅馆) is the cream of the crop. I was told it is the best-of-its-class in Taiwan.

Although I’ve never stayed in any motels before to evaluate that praise, but I think it would be hard for any of them to measure up. The stay was such an interesting start to the Taiwan trip!

Day 231 : Hello Taiwan!

Taoyuan Airport Terminal 2, 桃园机场, 台北

Thanks to an invitation by the Penghu prefecture of the Taiwan Tourism Board(交通部观光局澎湖风景区), I am on my way to explore the famous Alishan as well as the unspoilt island beauty of Penghu from today till 26 Aug 2012!

Together with 4 other bloggers from the region (Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, and Kaoshiung), we will journey deep into the mountains and across the ocean to suckle the green thumb of Taiwan and experience the spellbinding allure of these geo-ecological and cultural gems.

I hope I will be able to capture the full flavour of this trip on photos and videos to share here and on Explore Life Lah! where detailed info about the attractions and travel tips will be painstakingly documented.

A new world of adventures in Taiwan awaits… 🙂

Taoyuan Airport

Took the 7:20am flight from Singapore to Taipei and arrived at 12:10pm but had to wait for our Malaysian blogger friends who will be arriving from Beijing.

Taoyuan HSR Station

Hui Min and her husband, Boon Ho, arrived at about 7pm. After waiting for half a day, I was so glad to see them! They are such a nice and lovely couple. Finally, our Taiwan escapade begins with a ride from Taoyuan High Speed Rail (HSR) to Chiayi, the home of Alishan. Woohoo!

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