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Happy New Year

posted by Martin Rubli at 16:13

新竹快樂

For those of you who live in the Western hemisphere, coming Monday the Chinese New Year starts, which means all kinds of different things:

  • We'll have a week of vacation.

  • We'll be eating a lot.

  • We'll give or receive red envelopes with money in them. (I don't quite understand yet who gives them to whom but as a foreigner I'm allowed a few mistakes here.)

Then there are a few things that the New Year means just to me:

  • It's the year of the Ox (牛), which means that I'll be eating even more 牛肉麵 (Beef Noodle Soup). Last year was the year of the Mouse but I was unable to draw any culinary inspiration from that. Contrary to popular belief not all animals are eaten in Taiwan. Something that cannot be said for other countries, by the way.

  • I was extremely happy for the first 11.5 months of the last year. This year I'm gonna try going all the way, so if my company doesn't announce another layoff plan - How could they? There's no one left. - I'm confident I might just succeed.

  • I want to work harder on my Chinese. It's been almost two years since I've been here and my Chinese still - how do I put this? - well, it sucks. If you come visit me I'm able to be your food and tea guide without any problems but if you asked me to book a hotel room or get directions I'd do about as well as the aforementioned ox would.

I guess those would be my New Year's resolutions. I was going to put "blog more often" on the list but let's be realistic here. I don't want to be proven a failure before March. :-)

Happy New Year to everybody!


Tainan

posted by Martin Rubli at 15:21

We extended last weekend by a day and took the High Speed Rail to Tainan, about 222 km or 1:09 train hours south from here. Tainan has much to offer: Good weather (it gets pretty cold these days in Hsinchu; around 23 °C at night!), lots of culture, and, most of all, good food and big night markets!

Our means of transportation was a scooter, without a doubt the most convenient way of getting around. We even brought our own helmets cause riding at 50 km/h with a 100 TWD helmet (about the price of two bowls of noodles), the kind that scooter rental places offer, is just half the fun.

The thing that personally impressed me the most was a Buddhist ceremony we saw at the beach. (It goes by the name of 海之祭 or, in full, 安平海祭淨安祈福消災冥陽法會. The translation is left to the reader - and the writer - as an exercise.) The preparations were huge since the whole beach was decorated not only with traditional items such as paper ships, statues, flags, swags, and fruit, but also with modern elements like fireworks, a laser show, and an ear-shattering loudspeaker system. The ceremony itself consisted of dance, praying, music, and an abundance of fire. All of this was to honor the gods, pray for luck, and hope the people who died in the ocean can find the way to heaven. Truly an impressive spectacle.

Apart from that there were different parks, temples, flowers, and nature. (I just noticed I forgot to take pictures of food again. Maybe I'll remember next time ...)

Check out my Tainan album for all the pictures!


Alert! Taipei is being attacked by giant monster spiders!

posted by Martin Rubli at 14:48

This and some other interesting night shots were taken during one of our walks to 象山 (Xiang shan; Elephant mountain). Check out the Xiang shan by night album for some nice photos of Taipei and 101.


Third typhoon this month!

posted by Martin Rubli at 14:41

This weekend Taiwan is being hit by the third typhoon this month. While this is probably bad news for certain people (reportedly they snuck through just when the bridges were about to be closed), it's good news for many Taiwanese (and a handful of foreigners) with Monday syndrome: Tomorrow is a day off.

For me typhoons are tremendously more interesting than the Swiss autumn storms I'm used to. I enjoy going out to see which tea stores and restaurants remain open (quite a few) and take some pictures here and there. I'm still waiting for a flying cow but the following is an impressive start:

(I apologize for the lousy image quality. One of these days I'm going to get a new, waterproof camera that takes good pictures at night.)

More pictures in my gallery ...


Okinawa pictures

posted by Martin Rubli at 14:51

It's a long time ago and the memory of my last vacation has already faded, let alone the feeling of relaxation, but some three weeks after returning from Okinawa the photos are finally ready.

Okinawa is a relatively small island in the south of Japan and inhabited by a little more than 1.3 million people. Actually, the whole prefecture includes hundreds of little islands, the Ryukyu Islands, but we only visited the main one. We spent two days in Naha, the prefecture's capital, and southern area before heading up to the center and eastern part.

Some of the views are breathtaking and so is driving on the left side for the first time in your life. Apart from the occasional struggle with the GPS (strictly Japanese and only workable with the handbrake pulled - learn the hard way!) it went fine, though, and we enjoyed five relaxing days in the sun.

The pictures, complete with GPS coordinates, thanks to my trusted and always present "Easy Showily" GPS logger:

Okinawa (Days 1 and 2)
Okinawa (Days 3 to 5)


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