Saturday, September 29, 2012


I might be the last person among my friends to visit Taiwan. (At least, among my immediate family). I have been watching Taiwanese shows since young, but there is never a strong urge to visit Taiwan as I always felt that I could visit Taiwan anytime.

Since I had some time before the start of my new job, I decided to visit Taiwan to understand this Asian Tiger. To my surprise, I found the living expenses to be quite affordable ( cheaper than Singapore).

A lot of things happened during the past few months, it was a good opportunity to be alone and think about my road ahead. So I embarked on this short trip alone.


On the second night of my trip, I realized that I lost my journal. I kept this journal for the past 2 years, and I was quite sad about the loss. A lot of things could be replaced, but the memories kept in my journal for the past 2 years could not be replaced easily. I told myself that it is another lesson of the Impermanence of Life, and I would certainly need to let go of my attachment, as losses is a natural part of life. Letting go is the antidote to the suffering caused by my attachment.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day 1 - Taipei

Star Hostel, Taipei

I really like this hostel, and would highly recommend it. It is 2-3min walk to the train station, the hostel is very clean, nice interior design, friendly staffs....  

I also like the queuing culture in Taiwan. In general, people are quite friendly, and honestly, Taiwan is the easiest country to travel for a Mandarin speaker like me. Good infrastructure & nice people.

I heard the train announcement in Hokkien (which is my dialect), perhaps, this is the only place I could hear Hokkien announcement in the world. 

Local Temple

Lanterns inside the temple

Street of Taiwan.
I like the Chinese sign boards. I felt so at home.

I have seen so much of Ximending on Taiwan variety shows. It is good to see it with my own eyes. It is a nice district for shopping and people watching. =)

It is definitely more vibrant that the famous Nanjing Donglu in Shanghai.

Nice Noodles

There are some pork stuffs which I put aside.
Otherwise, this noodle is perfect! It is quite cheap around 40NT (S$1.80, US$1.50)

I promised my little niece to get her something from Taiwan. The satisfaction of winning a soft toy for her is priceless. Now, this piggy is always accompanying her to sleep every night. =)

Night @ Ximending

Taiwan is also famous for its street food. 

MAC advertisement with an Asian flavour.

Linsanity Fever in Taiwan.

Met up my secondary school friends who are living in Taiwan. 
It is always good to meet friends in a foreign land, and I learnt so much about Taiwan from them (eg. Taiwanese & ex-Taiwanese).

Lottery ticket at the back of every receipt.
This is govt way of ensuring the merchants issue receipts to collect taxes.

Day 2 - Taipei

Convenient Stores are everywhere - FamilyMart, 7-eleven. It is literally everywhere. You can pay your bills, send & collect your mails or parcels, chill out at the convenient stores etc...  

This is a must visit Museum. All the national treasures of imperial China are kept here, thanks to the Kuomintang govt who brought all the treasures across the Straits.  

Even for someone like me, who do not know how to appreciate artifacts, I am really impressed by the intricate porcelains found in this museum. One of its kind in the world.

There were scrolls of beautiful Chinese Calligraphy. I felt proud that I am part of a rich Chinese heritage. There was a point I felt quite sad when I realized that I prefer to read the English description than the Chinese one.

Enjoying a warm street food with a friend in a cold night at Shilin Night market.
Very enjoyable. =)

Donating your receipts to charity.
You never know which of these receipts could win the govt lottery.

Really enjoyed eating the street food in the night market.

It was fun spending a full day exploring Taipei city.
But, it still does not beat the simple joy of reading a good Buddhist book in the evening.

Day 3 - Jiufen, Kenting

"Jiufen also became popular in 2001, when its downtown was used as a model in the anime movie Spirited Away."

It was a nice little town to slow and enjoy. Drinking a cup of warm tea in the cold weather.

Beautiful Street.
Really looks like a scene from the movie "Spirited Away".

An old house.

One of the benefits of traveling alone is meeting more local people. It was raining, and I was waiting alone at a bus stop for a bus to get back to Taipei. Then, there were a few local taxi drivers who sought shelter in the bus stop and we started chatting about army days and the life of a taxi driver etc... It was nice.

Sunset taken on the train.
I took a high-speed train (300km/h) from Taipei to Kaoshiung. It only took me 90mins to travel 400-500km. It is convenient.

After the train ride, I took a 2hour bus from Kaoshiung to Kenting (the southern most city in Taiwan). On the bus, I have a TV screen showing the local news - Ex-president who was convicted of corruption.

I have seen Christian and Catholic TV channels when I was traveling in other parts of the world, and this is my first time watching a Buddhist TV Channel.

Day 4 - Kenting

"Kenting National Park is a national park located in the Hengchun Peninsula of Pingtung CountyTaiwan, covering Hengchun,Checheng and Manzhou Townships. Established on January 1, 1984, it is Taiwan's oldest and southernmost national park, covering the southernmost area of the Taiwan island. Administered by the Executive Yuan's Ministry of the Interior, this national park is well known for its tropical climate and sunshine, scenic mountain and beach, the Spring Scream rock-band festival held in every March,[1] and has long been one of the most favorite resort places in Taiwan."

Took a surfing class in Kenting. 
The wave was gentle and warm.


Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling well. 
Otherwise, it would be great to swim in the sea.

Game Stall at night along the main street.


I met some travelers in the dormitary (a Taiwanese retail stock trader & a HK guy) and decided to explore the town together. It was a nice way to spend an evening. Through my fellow Taiwanese traveler, I also got to understand the problems facing Taiwan now - tough to find a job, low salary, low birth rate, gloomy economy....

Day 5 - Kaohsiung & Taichung

In the morning, I met a Taiwanese traveler, who was doing his round-the-island tour on his motorcycle. Coincidentally, he was a vegetarian too and he offered to bring me to a nice vegetarian place for breakfast. 

My Breakfast - Sandwich & Soya bean drink.
To my surprise, my new friend paid for everything. It was really nice of him - he gave me a ride & paid my breakfast. Taiwanese people are really nice. This one of those unexpected kindness I received while I was traveling. =)

My hostel arranged a car ride for me to go to Kaoshiung. As usual, it is a good opportunity to meet the locals. One of the passengers was a lady working in a hotel in Kenting, and she was on her way to Kaoshiung city to attend her college degree classes on weekends. She told me that it was tough to survive in Taiwan without a degree qualification, so she had to travel to the city (2hrs) every weekend to study. This is the typical hard working Taiwanese people.

I was told that job opportunity does not come easy in Taiwan. And there is a oversupply of degree holders (more than 80%) and the starting pay of a college fresh graduate is pathetic (NT 25000, S$1200, US$1000). There is a trend of young people trying to look for jobs in mainland China.

The other passenger is a young apparel stall owner in the night market in Taiwan. He told that the high speed train ticket from Kaoshiung back to Taipei (NT1,600, S$72, US$60) is too expensive, so he will take the bus. He would procure his apparel from a wholesale market and sell it in the night market. I felt that it is a tough business (low barrier to entry), but it shows me that Taiwanese are generally hardworking people.

Kaoshiung City

Fo Guang Shan佛光山

"Fo Guang Shan (Chinese佛光山literally "Buddha's Light Mountain") is an international Chinese Mahayana Buddhist monastic order based in the Republic of China (Taiwan), and one of the largest Buddhist organizations. The headquarters of Fo Guang Shan, located in Kaohsiung, is the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. The organization itself is also one of the largest charity organizations in Taiwan."

Bodhisattva Statues in the old temple

Grand and Beautiful.

These statues reminded me the importance of being compassionate.

The main hall in the old temple

Lord Buddha

The new temple (looks like a museum)

Buddha was starving himself and determined to find out the Truth of life for the benefits of all beings.
The temple uses new technology to share the life of Buddha. The background image changes according to the narration. 

 Beautiful Statue of Guanyin (Oriental version of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva )
My favourite Bodhisattva of Compassion - The literal meaning of Guanyin is "Observing the Sounds (or Cries) of the World"

For those who are wondering why Buddhist temples have so many images and statues. It is not idol worshiping. However, it is more symbolic and having a physical image helps the practitioners to contemplate the qualities of these enlightened beings like compassion, wisdom, loving-kindness, patience etc... And hopefully, it helps the practitioners to develop the same qualities.

Statue of the Master Hsing Yun that you can take photo with.
(Not sure why he would want to have a statue of himself in the temple)

Art Gallery (Aka Sales Gallery) in the temple.
Looks like a modern museum.

The cab driver who drove me to the temple. I asked if he had visited the temple, he said that he didn't visit for a long time and would love to spend some time exploring the new temple. So I decided to make a deal with him (to take his cab back to the city) so that he could spend time enjoying the temple. 

Huge complex. 
A very rich temple.

There was traffic jam from the temple back to the city. I was quite sure that I was going to miss my high-speed train to Taichung (where my friend was waiting for me at the train station).

But sometimes in life, you just gotta try even though it seems impossible. I thought I was going to miss my High-speed-Rail (HSR) train, but I insisted on running all the way (with my big backpack) from the normal train station to the MRT station and into the MRT train cabin (10sec before the door closes). when I reached my destination, I ran to the HSR ticket booth and cut queue to get my reserved ticket and ran to the HSR platform. I got into the HSR train 30secs before it departs ﹣other passengers were smiling at me as I made my way through 4 cabins to reach my seat. I was perspiring and tired, but happy. :)

Feng jia Night Market (逢甲 夜市) in Taichung
I like it more than the Shilin Night Market in Taipei.

Stall in the night market

Delicious Oyster Omelette (50NT, S$2.30, US$1.90)
It tastes better & cheaper than the one in Singapore.