Talking about life and travels in Taiwan, hoping to help people who want to visit Taiwan, and encourage those who haven't came yet to pay a visit.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Surfing: Honeymoon Bay (蜜月灣)

I've always wanted to learn to surf, and have been nagging my friends for months to go together. Finally we picked Honeymoon Bay in Yilan County, one of the most popular surfing locations in northern Taiwan. One of the advantages of surfing in a popular location is that you can rent a surf board instead of actually buying one. All of us were beginners, so that's what we did.

Besides of surfing, this trip also carries an important task: a blind date between a friend in university, and a friend of a friend. None of them knew this was a blind date, because we didn't want to give them too much pressure, and we thought we could introduce them to meet, and they feel okay with each know.

But my purpose was merely to learn to surf. Honeymoon bay was probably the best place for beginners, because the waves were so small, however I could never stand up. The place we rent the surf boards also provided free coaching, the coach did his best to help me practice, but I just couldn't, now I'm really thinking I might have some problem in balancing. But still, I burnt lots of calories and had a great time, though get stung by jellyfishes.

Watch out of jellyfish, my stings weren't serious, but my friends got some great stings, one even got a sting on the eye. The good news is that they have a simple first aid stand, so basic stings should be okay.

After a very tiring morning, we drove to a seafood restaurant to have some good seafood. Don't expect seafood to be cheap, but besides of that, we were pretty satisfied with the meal.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cingtiangang,Yangmingshan (Yangming mountain) National Park 擎天岡,陽明山

On a lovely July weekend, I decided that I haven't been exercising enough, so I called my friend F and invited her to do a short hike. There are too many hiking trials in Taipei, so we randomly picked Cingtiangang. I have been there once, but the weather wasn't clear that time, so I decided to go again, to see the beautiful view people have been telling me.

The easiest way to go is to take the bus "xiao 15 (小15)" from Shilin MRT or Chientan MRT to the last stop. It was those kind of mini bus, crammed with people, all longing to breath some fresh air during the weekend. Often being car sick, it wasn't such a pleasent ride, but it's worth it. By the way, for a long ride like that took only 15 nt, cheap cheap cheap.

We misjudged the weather. It was TOO SUNNY. It was a total grass mountain, beautiful though, but too hot and no trees to get away from the sun. The hike itself was pretty easy, but we were beaten by the poisonous sun, and didn't finish the whole thing.

But anyways, it was a nice day to remember, and I still strongly recommend the place for an easy hike.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Go to Penghu (澎湖) before it's too late

I've just read the paper about some super hotel coporation buying a piece of land in Penghu, and planning to build another super hotel there. I'm not against massive villas being built on beach resorts, but the reason this one is coming is because our brilliant government is planning to turn beautiful Penghu into some gambling destination. This controversial policy caused a lot of disputes:

1. Gambling is not legal in this nation yet.
Of course, this can be solved.
2. Yes, gambling is going to bring in much more money. Is it?
WHO would be going there to gamble, the Taiwanese? That would still be a small crowd, international tourists would probably go to Macau or somewhere else.
3. Why does it have to be Penghu? Anyone that have been there should be aware of the natural beauty of the Penghu islands, the fresh fish and cactuses, and the extraordinary sea stones. And we haven't mentioned the wildlife yet. Can't people go somewhere else to gamble, like the most poluted Taipei, or the most corrupt Taiyuan. Of course, they want to keep the gambling activity outside the main island. Or they think the gambling industry can help the tourism of Penghu. Come on! If the government knew how to use the natural resources to promote tourism, Penghu would be jam packed with tourists (In fact for some times of the year, it already is).

My point is, go to the Penghu islands, it really is a nice place. My personal recommendation is chimei (picture below), it's at the very south of the Penghu islands. It's the best to go during the summer time with the nice hot sun, and it rarely rains there. All kind of beach activities such as scuba-diving are available, and the islands really gives me a feeling of being young.

Other information:
Penghu government English website
Penghu National Scenic Area English website
Penghu tour English website

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Waterfall in Taipei: Wulai 烏來

Wulai was always a place I wanted to explore, it's in the south peak of Taipei County, a nice refreshing place not far from the city.

Lynn and I met near National Taiwan University and rode our own motorbikes there. We rode down Roosevelt Rd. and them follow signs, it wasn't difficult to get there. It took probably less than half an hour.

The waterfall was refreshing, I believe there are a few trails to walk , but we didn't have much time. The outter part was the so called "old street", in my opinion it was a bit touristy there. I also learned that this is a place where you can find aborigines, I thought they were all in the east or down south, didn't know some of the tribes live in Taipei. Wulai is also famous of it's hot springs, maybe I'll try it some day.

The next time I want to get away from city life, I'll know there's Wulai.

Wulai English Website

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Tax Refund

I have just sent my friend to the airport and got to know how our tax refund works.

Foreign travellers to Taiwan can get a 5% tax refund if you spend over 3000 NT in the same day same store that have the "TRS(Tax Return Shopping)" mark on it, and carry the product out of Taiwan within 30 days. You have to fill in a tax refund form during the purchase, and bring those documents to the airport counter. They will return cash to you.

There is a list of TRS shops but unfortunately it's all in Chinese. This is the list, you might want to ask a friend that understands Chinese if you don't, or ask me.

June 30 Revise:
Find the English guidelines and shop lists of VAT refunds here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Chinese Music Rocks

Dear people interested in traditional Chinese music, you can’t miss the two concerts on June 1st ! The two main Chinese orchestras in Taiwan: National Chinese Orchestra (NCO)( and Taipei Chinese Orchestra (TCO)( are holding two concerts that are both so brilliant that makes me difficult to decide which to go to!

Double Concussion–En Shao and Yiu-kwong Chung, Shanghai Chinese Orchestra and Taipei Chinese Orchestra
2007/6/1 Taipei Zhongcheng Auditorium, Zhongshan Hall 19:30
Prices: 300 500 800 1000 1200
TCO’s concert “Double Concussion” is truly an all-star concert, they invited the ShangHai Chinese Orchestra, which is one of the three main Chinese orchestras in China, and perform masterpieces, such as the erhu concerto “The Great Wall”. This concerto is one of the most important concertos in Chinese music, it is very powerful and strong with feelings, the erhu instrument tells stories and emotions surrounding the Great Wall. TCO invited Master Min to perform the piece, since she was the first musician to perform this great concerto. Ironically, the conductor of that historical first performance was Mr. Chu Chun-chuen, who is now the conductor of NCO.

NCO Concert -Silk Road Fantasy
2007/6/1 National Concert Hall 19:30
Prices: 300,400,500,600,800
While TCO sweeps the audience by their strong cast, Mr. Chu leads NCO performing an exotic concert. The highlight would be “Silk Road Fantasy”, which is a daring piece challenging tradition. Though NCO is not as rich as TCO, being able to invite a whole group of stars from China, their music is usually considered more completed than TCO. Their skills are the same as TCO, but their passion in music is considered stronger than TCO. They don’t have money to advertise their concert, so last weekend the musicians, who mostly have a great position in the industry, decorated their own cars into a “Silk Road” theme, and drove around the city, to introduce their music to everyone.

Personally I would probably go to the NCO concert, I have seen Master Min with NCO a few years ago, and I’m satisfied with that. I believe lots of people would go see TCO’s performance, so I decide to support the people who have real passion and professional attitudes, but if it’s your first time for traditional Chinese music, TCO would also be a good choice.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


The weather is a good reason for hating Taiwan. This island rains too much and is often very humid, clothes seem to never dry after hanging it up after washing. And Taipei is the worse of the worse, while it's always sunny down south, I, living in Taipei, always feel like celebrating when we get a glance of the sun here.

People here don't seem to mind though, especially the girls. Girls always have their umbrella's with them, for blocking rain when it's raining, and blocking the sun when it actually comes out. The trend here is "White is beauty, don't get tanned". Crazy.

If you plan to travel in Taiwan, be sure that there isn't a typhoon coming over.The whold island would be swallowed by the storm, and you might spend your whole vacation indoor, trying the get away from heavy rains and winds. The typhoon could get so bad that sometimes the government announces a day off, that's why people would rather have a fierce typhoon than a gentle one, if we have to have one.

And we have earthquakes. Most of them don't do any harm, so it should be fun to have an earthquake experience.

Weather conditions could be checked from the Central Weather Bureau.

Monday, March 26, 2007


I'm on my own vacation, in Switzerland. Will start posting again when i get back in April.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Lunar New Year: Running around

During my 26 years of life, I spent 23 Lunar New Years on this little island, and never been to Dihua Street (Taipei) until last year. Not until Dihua Street did I discover how vivid the Lunar New Year could be.

My family is the kind of family that we MUST go back to grandma's house every year. According to the tradition, we go to the dad's parents' house on New Year Eve, stay there until we go back to mom's parents' house on the second day of New Year. What's going on the streets? No one cares. We always try to go somewhere during these travelings, like downtown of my dad's mom's city, or a cow farm between the three homes, but unfortunately, it's always packed with people, which are doing the same thing as we are.

During the New Year Eve dinner, mom brought up a question: Watching the news during Lunar New Year, we always see reports about how China Town celebrate New Year, and they always have those lion or dragon dance. But we don't have those kind of things on New Year day, why is that? I thought about the question, and came up to an answer, we usuallly spent time at home practicing the traditions and traveling to grandparents' houses, then go out on outings on the once-a-year long holiday. People aren't interested in seeing lion dances at this time. But on the 5th day of New Year, shops and markets open again, people put out fireworks to celebrate the first day making money, that's when we see the lion and drangon dance, because the dances are supposed to bring luck and fortune.

Unless you have a Taiwanese friend that can let you join their family reunion, it really isn't a good idea to visit Taiwan between New Year's Eve and the 4th day of Lunar New Year. On the first few days everything would be closed (I remember there was one year we decided to come to Taipei for New Year, because that's the only time the city would be empty!), and after the 2nd day of New Year, there would be trafic jams on every tourist spot. You could come after the 5th day of New Year, and stay until the 15th, which is the Lantern Festival. Or else you could visit before New Year, take a look at the New Year markets like Dihua Street.

Dihua Street provides a variaty of new year goods, from dishs for Near Year's Eve, to candies for guests during New Year's time. I squeeze into the crowd, experience the place using my eyes, ears, nose and tongue. This is a place of scent, all kinds of amazing smells occupy the street. Sellers are proude of their products, they beg us to try them, and they seem to be always happy, even if we're not going to buy it. They are extremely friendly to foriegners. I remember there was a family who own a tea farm in Chiayi(which is way down south), and they just rent a space in the New Year market, carry all their beautiful tea to Taipei, and give it a shot.

Thanks to my friend Tomoko again for the photo.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Lunar New Year: Atmosphere

Finally this year's Lunar New Year have ended. There was a special thing about this year's New Year: it was particularly late. Usually it comes in late January or early February, regarding the solar calendar, so the students' first semester ends arround January 20th, and the second semester starts at mid February after the 3 week winter break.

Now look at this year: Lunar New year is on February 18th. And there's an at-least-5-day-holiday following it. From half a year ago, governors and the education circles were scraching their heads out to figure out how to make the school schedules fit the New Year holiday. People are used to prepare for Lunar New Year right after the solar New Year, and now it takes one more month, as the days go by, the anticipation and excitment gradualy turns into impatience. "Why is the fxxking New Year so late, when is it going to end?" I wonder.

I can feel people being a bit more tired this year. Besides of the merry cheery smile on the face of merchants in the New Year market, I can easily find the tireness of facing such a huge amount shoppers everyday. Just like most moms, my mom usually hates Lunar New Year, because there are dozens of things to prepare, lots of tradions to follow, and all the women do the work. But this year she doesn't care, not even my grandma cares. Usually shops play traditional chinese new year music all day long, and they play the same few songs every year, people get so sick about it and can't help complaining. This year, my mother said to me in a sad look, "I think I don't hear those stupid New Year songs that often this year...", I said "You hate it all the time, but now you can't live without it, huh?" She agreed and said it's just not like New Year.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Towns and villiages: Sansia(三峽)

Last week my friend Tomoko and I visited Sansia. It was the second time to be there, and the experience was as well as the first time.

Sansia is an old town located in Taipei county, centries ago,it was once a prosperous town producing dyed cloth. I'm not going to go on with the whole history, people could check out the Sansia township website, it has some brief introdution about the town, in English too.

I remember my last time here, it was "zhong yuan jie"(中元節), the festival in the middle of the ghost month. There were ceremonies arround the temples, we could see some really fun stuff going on, like people worshiping the gods, and preparing food for the ghosts' visit. But the main streets were still under construction, we didn't have the chance to have a glance of the old ages. This time, the construction was done, the houses showed their faces, what I call "Japanese-Baroque" style.

But this time we didn't spend a lot of time in the most renowned place in Sansia: The Sansia Qingshui Zushi Temple. I heard about artworks and music compositions about this great temple, all the carvings and paintings inside the temple has a story behind, I remember reading a book about the temple, and it was just writing out what stories the crafts are talking about. It is a beautiful temple, definitely worthwhile for someone that is interested in it, but probably not easy for others to understand. But that's ok, there's no reason not to visit a beautiful temple.

Walking down the Sansia old street, it's hard to not notice the people playing the whirling top. Obviously this kind of traditional sport is quite popular here, people play in magnificent skills, they could make the top to spin on Coke bottles, strings, very small surfaces, and all sorts of stuff. I can't even make it spin. People seem to play for fun, they don't have a jar to throw coins in or something to earn money, maybe they think it's just cool to show-off in front of tourists.

Of course there was plenty of eating (Come on, we're in Taiwan...), also some traditional shops to see, I even saw some old fashion grocery stores, which I haven't seen for a long time. As I grew up, 7-11 gradually took place, and most grocery stores disappeared before I noticed. It was an interesting day to see everything so old fashioned, and Tomoko told me Sansia was her favorite place we went together.

Thanks for the pictures from Tomoko.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Clubs and pubs in Taipei

Taipei has a selection of clubs and pubs, some are not bad at all.

Personally I enjoy pubs with live music, Zee(主婦之店) is where you go out and enjoy the typical old cheesy Mandarin love songs, mostly it's full of older people, but that doesn't mean the music doesn't appeal to youngsters. They have 3 shows everynight starting from 9.45 pm, and goes on to 0.30 am. The singers have a good interaction with the audience, and most of them take song requests.

Riverside(河岸留言) is my favorite, all the best independance bands you can count of have once played here. Monday night is the "Open Jam" Night, whoever wants to preform on stage can go up and give it a try. Perhaps because of it's location, which is just next to the National Taiwan University, the place is often filled up with students and shares a young atmosphere.

When I feel like having a Jazzy night, there's always Brown Sugar, though it's often jam packed on friday night, and I would have to either make a reservation or stand through the night.

With Riverside being packed, I've been to Oldie Goodie twice on Saturday night, it's like an old friend, they might not specialize in a certain type, sometimes old English folk songs, sometimes Latin music, mixed with some Taiwanese pop songs, sometimes songs writen by themselves.

Then it's a personal secret, friday night 9 pm, Outdoor Cafe at YungHe, the young singer 蕭煌奇 sings there. He's a talented young man, being physically blind does not block the vision of his heart, nor does it stop his passion on music. I would go there, find a seat and have a coffee (which is really cheap), listen and take requests, and go over have a chat with him after the show ends. He could only sing songs that he have memorized before, but he sings the funniest happy birthday song if you ask him to. He also sings his own work.

I don't know a lot about dance clubs, the only one I've been to in Taipei is 9% and besides the all-you-can-drink, it doesn't really impress me. If party animals would like to join me, I'd like to explore Luxy, Room 18, MOS....these are the famous places where everyone knows.

Carnegies is popular among the foriegn society among Taipei, I don't really get what's so special about it, maybe it's because I was never there on weekends.

I watched my world cups at Brass Monkey, it's a cool sports bar and also the place to see football (so called soccer) which is usually not that popular in Taiwan. Otherwise Tavern is the place to go when I want to watch certain sports, they have more than 40 satelite TVs and lots of channels, I love their onion rings.

Picture from Tomoko, at Riverside, with the band 四分衛.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Blog refine

Wanted to modify the blog to make it easier to use, and was working a lot on htmls and tags. After some study, I found that after some hard work, it is possible to refine my blog into the way I want. I would like to work on that, since I'll soon have a week of holiday to do that. But then I found the maintainence would also be hard work. So I decide to leave the blog how the way it is for now, stop changing the codes, and do some more investigation before I use my own code.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Taiwan in other languages

Besides of English, you could find paragraphs and websites about Taiwan. I'll try to collect the ones I know and put it in this post, some are just from friends' blogs. If you have any website that is not in Engish nor in Chinese and you'd like to recommend it, please leave a comment and I'll add it to the list.

Deutsch (German):
Reisecast (podcast)
Deutsches Institut Taipei
Deutsche Kulturzentrum Taipei
Leben im roten Bereich

Nederlands (Dutch):
Liefde en eenzaamheid in Taiwan

Français (French):

Saturday, January 27, 2007


I grew up in Taichung and still can't clame I know it well. Until I left I didn't know how unique this place is. It has a calm weather, people are nice. Taichungers live a confortable life style, a bit slow tone, aren't as urbanized as people in Taipei, nor as enthusiastic as the southern Taiwanese. The phrase "Taichung" actually means "the middle of Taiwan", which and geographically true, and also shows the city character.

Taichung is a great place to live in, but probably not to exciting for travellers. "Where to go to in Taichung?" That's a difficult one. Taichung has two fantastic night markets that are famous island wide, Taiwanese could come to Taichung just for night markets. But unless you're a true night market fan, the night market in other cities should be enough. We have the Taiwan art museum here. We have the Taiwan natural science museum here. All the mountains and resorts are near. Maybe that's all.

Bubble tea (Pearl Milk Tea) came from Taichung. I think they still have the best here, so if you come to Taichung, don't forget to check it out! Chun-Shui-Tang(春水堂) is my favorite place to go, their website has very little english but at least you have the phone numbers there.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Podcast: What's up in Taiwan

Despite of the beautiness, Taiwan does not do a good job in promoting tourism. I've heard people telling me that they didn't know there were so much to see here, or else they would probably make a longer travel plan here.

This is a great Podcast talking about Taiwan. Henry and Julian travel around the island, looking for foriegners from all around the world, to talk about what Taiwan is to them. The show itself is also fun, no matter you're Taiwanese or not, been to Taiwan or not, it's worth listening, and a great way to know this tiny island.

What's up in Taiwan

If you use iTunes, you could click on this link.

If you don't....well, the shows are also able to be downloaded through it's website, in mp3 format. But iTunes is easiler, just subscribe the show for free, and it would be automatically downloaded everytime you open up iTunes.

Monday, January 1, 2007

New Year at Taipei 101

I went alone. I guess all my friends got scared by the experience for the 2000 count down, so none of them were willing to come out since then. This is my second time to go out since 2000, it is still extremely crowded, but the city has learned how to handle that much people now.
Mobile communication was still busy, too many phones were trying to call, and the cells got packed. But it is much better than 2000. And the MRT learned to control the amount of people trying to take the tube, now the flow was smoother, and I got home before 1 am, pretty quick.
The fireworks were great, too bad no one to share with.