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.

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