• Taiwan 2018 Day 06 – Sun Moon Lake

    May 17, 2018

    Continuing my Taiwan 2018 Trip Blog Series for Monday April 30!

    After resting from a long weekend of family-related matters, we took a car to Sun Moon Lake, one of Taiwan’s most famous and scenic resort areas up in the mountains. I had never been there as an adult, and this was the first time our family had gone on any kind of sight-seeing trip together that didn’t involve some Presbyterian Church-related business (that I can remember, anyway).

    Visitor Center After about an hour’s drive from Taichung, we arrived at this first Visitor Center overlooking the lake. It was a rather striking piece of architecture, with gift shops and a small cafe where we decided to get lunch. I took a picture of the map for later reference.

    Map of the LakeMenu3 Cup Chicken

    I decided to have the Three Cup Chicken, which is one of those “Taiwanese” dishes that I had actually never had since my mom had never made it before; she grew up in a more Taiwanese-Japanese cooking tradition, whereas a lot of foods that Taiwan is known for now are actually more Chinese in origin or were invented later. Ordering this dish at a visitor center cafe didn’t seem like the best idea, but I was pleasantly surprised…it was actually quite well prepared with care. SCORE!

    Also notable was the coffee. Taiwan’s coffee culture has been rapidly expanding in the past few years, and the “Hui-Sun” coffee is apparently grown right in these mountains surrounding the lake. I was curious what Taiwan-grown beans would be like. Both my sister and I liked it. I’m not enough of a coffee snob to know how well they rank against the best, though, but it pleased me to know Taiwan was taking on the challenge! GO TAIWAN!

    Judgmental Dog! I noticed while I was eating, this dog was silently judging me. We later saw this dog several times during the day on the boat ferry and around the town. It’s possible that this is a common breed of dog in Taiwan, though. It looks a bit like a Shiba Inu, a dog breed from Japan. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a lot of them in Taiwan due to Japanese colonial occupation in the early 1900s.

    Shuishe PierXuanguang PierView from Temple area

    After eating we went to the Shuishe pier, where we could get a boat ferry to two other piers. The first stop was Xuanguang Temple pier. You can walk up a flight of stone stairs to see see the temple. There were some aboriginal people (the Thao) doing some kind of musical presentation; I’ll post these pictures in my Flickr Album when I get a chance. In the view you can see Lalu Island still poking up out of the lake.

    Ita Thao pierIta Thao townIta Thao street

    Still killing time, around noon we got on the ferry again and hit the third pier, Ita Thao Village. It’s a small town with a large visitor center. We walked around a bit, taking in the sights while looking for a place to eat.

    Some kind of roast bird of unknown provenanceFamous for Something?Sidewalk eatery

    An interesting phenomenon I noticed in Taiwan was the use of celebrity endorsement for various street food places. I’m not sure what this place was selling (above, middle) but apparently it’s known for something. I’m assuming they are some kind of snack; Taiwan has an enormous and constantly-evolving snack culture, and the entire island is a grazer’s paradise.

    Poached Salted ChickenBetel Nut Stems?Shrimp

    We finally settled on a place that looked relatively affordable and more importantly was air conditioned. A-bun ordered a few dishes; the ones that stood out were this poached chicken (I just like this kind of chicken dish), betel nut stems (above, middle), and this plate of fried shrimp (which I didn’t eat). Shrimp of various sizes is available EVERYWHERE in Taiwan. Shrimp makes me feel ill, though, so this is not something particularly alluring to me :D

    The Lalu Hotel Lobby At 3PM it was finally time to check-in to the hotel for one night. We stayed at the nicest hotel in the area, the Lalu Hotel which was really quite noteworthy for many reasons. I’ll talk about it in the next update on Monday!

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  • Taiwan 2018 Day 05 – Paying Respects

    May 14, 2018

    Continuing my Taiwan 2018 Trip Blog Series for April 29!

    Exhausted from Saturday’s events, Sunday was decreed to be a day of rest followed by a visit to the family tomb to pay our respects. I believe the plot is located in a place called Ta-tu, in a relatively-new cemetery that Dad says is about 20-30 years old. The ashes of our ancestors in Taiwan, including my mother and my dad’s parents, are interred in the family plot. Interestingly, this is a Christian-style part of the cemetery, eschewing the traditional rounded shapes you see in other Taiwanese/Chinese tombs but keeping the overall layout. It’s quite different than what you see in the United States.

    Path between tombsTombsInscription

    The inscription on the family tomb (above, right), Dad explained, was taken from Ecclesiastes Chapter 3:10-11:

    10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

    This passage has particular meaning for him and my mother, but that is not my story to share.

    Starbucks InteriorStarbucks SpecialsStarbucks Pork Sandwich

    Afterwards we had to kill some time before meeting with Uncle and Auntie for dinner at yet another buffet restaurant, so we stopped by Starbucks for coffee. I think the reason we went was because A-bun wanted to try it, or perhaps he thought being American’s we’d like it. The interior (above, left) looked pretty standard Starbucks. I had a cold-brew coffee that was acceptable (I don’t really like Starbucks coffee, though I like hanging out there when I’m at home). I did enjoy seeing some of the localized food choices they had, like the Starbucks Pork and Egg Sandwich, Longan Walnut Bread, and this Sweet Potato and Nuts Sandwich leftover. I suppose this might have been the least popular sandwich because it was the only one left.

    Afterwards, we went to dinner with Uncle and Aunt at one of those super buffets in the area. I didn’t take any pictures, having been there before. Then, it was time for a good night’s sleep before heading to SUN MOON LAKE the next day!

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  • 2018 Goals Review 03: Stress to Overcome, Resistances to Beat

    May 6, 2018

    Taroko Gorge Hard Hat Sorry that today’s monthly review of my Groundhog Day Resolutions progress is late! The quick summary is that I’ve been preparing for traveling and am still traveling, so not a lot of progress has been made. However, the travel itself has given rise to new insights on work-life balance and renewed assurance that I am still on the right path. However, I’m also aware just how easily disrupted my movement toward these goals are. Strap on your HARD HATS…we’re going in! (more…)

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  • Taiwan 2018 Days 02 to 04

    May 6, 2018

    ADVENTURES IN TAIWAN continue. This entry picks-up on April 27-28.

    On Friday, we left our temporary lodging at Uncle’s house in Sha-Lu so my sister could get her teeth checked. Uncle is a highly-experienced dentist, and determined that she needed to have some work done immediately that afternoon. So we went to the Japanese restaurant across the street, which I’d visited many times before on previous visits and wasn’t too excited about. This time was a bit different, though:

    Onion SaladPotato Salad Hand RollBeef...Salad?

    First, I had this amazing onion salad (above, left) that was very similar to the kind of Japanese appetizer salads we get here in the USA right down to the sweet ginger dressing, but the onion itself was a marvel. I wasn’t even sure it was onion at first because it was so mild and refreshing. Then came a handroll with potato salad and salmon in it, which is something I actually do like from this restaurant. My main entree was a beef salad which cooked slowly in a bed of lettuce in a foil bowl perched atop a small flame. The lettuce wilted into a kind of broth. It was interesting but not great. I’m not sure what kind of Japanese food this was, but it was actually OK because it’s a bit different every time we go there. My meal set actually included some other things like ice cream, some Japanese fried rice in a triangle shape, and coffee, but you’ll have to see the full Taiwan 2018 Flickr Gallery when that’s done.

    Dedication Ceremony

    After lunch we spent some time with family while waiting for the dental procedure to finish, then it was back to Sha-Lu to rest up for the coming major family events on Saturday: the House Dedication ceremony and my dad’s 90th Birthday Celebration. A lot of relatives were in-town to participate at the service, which was a kind of family dedication to the memory of my dad’s father and his extended family. Uncle had built a memorial on the second floor of the Sha-Lu house (above).

    Then, it was time for Dad’s birthday celebration dinner, which was on the 7th floor of a hotel called The Lin in one of the newer parts of Taichung. The venue itself was quite beautiful, as was the food. However, the hotel staff training was rather lackluster. My dad even commented on it afterwards, noting the lack of professional hospitality in directing people to the area. My impression of the hotel itself, from this and previous visits, is that it’s staffed like a mid-range department store with everyone assigned to a zone to do their ONE TASK OR ELSE SOMEONE WILL PAY DEARLY. I much prefer hotels that are staffed by people to feel they are empowered to make you feel welcome.

    The event itself, though, was pretty great. Dad looked strong and happy, smiling and engaged with people. He was overall quite pleased.

    "Banquet Hall"

    But you all really want to know about the food, right? The menu (below, left) was provided with the appetizer course (not shown) in English as well as Chinese, so we could actually see what was coming! Our cousin June too could translate and give us color commentary on the food, along with our cousin’s husband Philip who is an international salesperson of some kind.

    MenuLong Life Pig KnucklesAmerican-Style Lobster

    The appetizer course was wonderful, full of things I liked. The rest of the menu was largely seafood, which I don’t like very much at all. However, one of the first entrees was Pig Knuckles and Noodles, a dish that is traditionally served representing long life and prosperity. I’m not usually a big fan of pig knuckles because they are huge, but these ones were trimmed down to only the best parts and were quite good. A dish that I really wanted to eat but couldn’t was the “American Style Lobster”, served split-open and drizzled with some delicious-looking sauces and spices. I tried to eat a claw but the very smell of lobster makes my stomach turn, so I had to settle for taking a picture.

    Fish FilletsAbaloneSteamed Glutinous Rice

    I didn’t include pictures of all the other dishes, but here are a few more. These Fish Fillets were yummy. These Abalone were said to be delicious but I didn’t dare eat them. I did try this glutinous rice wrapped in some kind of leaf (bamboo leaves?), which is similar to Jungdz (rice bundles) I had had in the past. There were some specialty deserts too as well as a lot of toasting. Overall, it was an excellent day!

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  • Taiwan 2018 Day 1 – Arrival!

    May 4, 2018

    Taoyuan Airport It’s already the end of DAY 10 of this trip, and it’s the first time I’ve had a chance to write a blog post about the trip! Amazingly I only have gotten through 1 day of it; will try to catch up over the next few days! (more…)

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