Translate this page

Friday, November 19, 2010

Holiday in Taiwan

With eager anticipation the whole family waited for the pick up to arrive for our holiday in Taiwan.
It will be the first oversea holiday for the children. Proud with their newly issued passports impatiently waiting for the pick up to arrive, while we attempt to close “camp” temporarily for the next one week. With spare keys handed to the neighbour for access to the house in an emergency, electrical items unplugged, all travel documents in hand, plants watered to last the week hopefully and so forth.
Finally, the pick up arrives and our journey begins. Perceived problems started the moment we left home. Did we switch off the water heater? Was the kitchen door sufficiently locked? Did we water the plants at the back? Will the fish be fed? Is the gate closed? Is the neighbour’s cat locked inside the house? What about the dog? Hang on a minute, we don’t have a dog! That’s it .......... we are doomed, there will be no house left to come back to....! It took me a while to calm down and be rationale again.
The trip from our home to the airport took us about 5 hours, it appears the bus driver has no ambition to be a F1 driver. On arrival, as usual the low cost terminal at KLIA was bustling with people.
Our acompanying tourist guide who must have done this a thousand times herded us efficiently like cattle through the check in counters and we were in the departing gate waiting to board the plane.
We arrive in Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport on a cool windy afternoon and the tour started immediately. It was fortunate that the wife had insisted that we bring along some warm clothing against my view that Taipei’s weather at this time of the year with temperature hovering between 20⁰ to 22⁰ C, we would hardly need them and that our air condition rooms back home would be cooler, forgetting there is such a thing as wind chill factor.

The tour started with a visit to Tamsui Fisherman’s wharf supposedly to catch its beautiful sunset, unfortunately we arrive too late and it was already dark, at this time of the year in Taiwan the sun sets at around 5pm. It has floating piers and a park with a bridge in the shape of a boat. Delicious fried finger food is sold in the park.

The tour bus took us to Wulai the next morning. A town located north of Taiwan inhabited by aboriginal people of the Atayal tribe. The scenery is beautiful with its waterfall, running rivers, hot spring and cable cars. We attended a cultural show by the Atayal tribe and were dissapointed with its presentation. The show started with members of the Atayal tribe dancing to a popular western rock tune that is really out of place and inappropriate to say the least, so much for keeping its identity and culture intact, when the show ended we were not sure what culture the Atayal tribe really had.

Lunch was at the Five Dime restaurant with its unique sculpted wood decor resembling two female aboriginal dancers with flowing hair. The food in general as with most Tiawanese food, is a bit bland for our Malaysian taste which is more accustomed to food highly flavored and spicier.

After lunch, the township of Jiufen was our next stop. The literal translation of Jiufen means nine portions, legend has it that this town was inhabited by nine families and was inaccesible by road long ago and all materials need to be transported through the coastline by ships, whenever anything is needed, nine portions are always ordered and that is how the town derived its name. For local snack food and sovenirs, a visit to the Jiufen old street is a must. We particularly like the ones which offer free tasting of snack food being sold. Popular local snack food is rice cakes called moe chi with its many types of fillings.

Today we started with a visit to the Xuang Zang Temple enroute to Sun Moon Lake, reputedly holding the largest body of water in Taiwan. We took a boat tour of the lake where we make a stop at a small island in the center of the lake named Lalu. The National Palace museum was our next destination where we had the opportunity to look at some exquisite exhibits of jade carvings and other precious artifacts from the various Chinese dynasties. Since no camera was allowed in, no photo was taken.

The next day we visted the Martyrs' Shrine in Taipei where it was built to honour the 330,000 men who had sacrifice their lives during the Sino-Japanese war and the Chineses civil war prior establishing the Republic of China.
The ceremonial change of guards we witnessed is impressive.

The afternoon took us to Chung Tai Chan Monastery constructed with an unconventional design compared to traditional Chinese temples.

In the evening we were in the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, the granduer of the memorial hall was not amissed with its majestic structues and statues of Chiang Kai Shek in the main hall. There was also a Chinese opera being performed on the evening of our visit which adds further attractions to the place.

Yehliu Geopark was visited the following day, reknown for its sea-eroded landscape with eroded rock formation resembling a Queen’s head, Dragon head and other objects. Unfortunately, it was raining quite heavily on the day and we have to cut short our visit.

Of course, a visit to Taiwan would not be complete without going to 101 Taipei. It is currently the second tallest building in the world. It was filled with people to the brim during our visit and we did not have the chance to venture up this impressive building except to browse through the shopping mall, all selling high end branded name items.

On the last day before departing for home, we visited the former residence of Chiang Kai-shek. Walking along the well maintained garden with the sun shining and a cool breeze blowing was refreshing. I can imagine Chiang Kai-shek taking a very comfortable “secure” stroll through it as some of the old garrison buildings and guard post was still evident.

On the whole, it was a very enjoyable holiday for the family. The only part we could do without is the unplanned visits to commercial establishments like specialty tea house, cure all pearl powder and lingzhi health food shops, selling at highly inflated prices where we all know the tour guide and bus driver gets a commision on anything we buy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Unidentified Assassin Bugs

This are photos of Assassin bug that I just couldn’t seem to identify to which specific species it belongs to.
Basically, assassin bugs are members of the family Reduviidae in the order Hemiptera.
These small specimens in the photos show the many varieties of assassin bugs with different markings found in the Malaysian rain forest.

As previously described, assassin bugs has a short beak that sucks fluids from its victim after stabbing its prey with its proboscis and injecting a toxin that dissolves tissue. As such, handle them with utmost care their bites will be extremely painful.