Taiwan Visit (21st -29th January 2023)

I have always wanted to visit Taiwan. This desire increased after I watched the Taiwanese drama “A Thousand Goodnights” during the pandemic. The beautiful and slow-moving story showcased Taiwan’s natural beauty and its interesting culture captured my attention.

I was happy to say yes when my god-daughter Adelene and Yip, her husband, invited and gifted my wife and I with a vacation in Taiwan. We were very moved and felt blessed by the Lord, who knew my heart’s desires. My wife had been there before for her sister’s wedding but this was my first time to Taiwan. 

I was excited as the day of the red-eye flight drew near. We landed in Taipei in the early Saturday morning of 21st of January 2023, Lunar New Year’s Eve, and Mr Huang, the driver-guide was there at the airport with his Volkswagon MPV, and our tour began immediately. 

We would visit cities and places near Taipei, then down along the western part of Taiwan: Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung and be driven all the way back to Taipei. We had a lovely, pleasant, enjoyable vacation with delicious food, good hotels, interesting places and things to do, and great and easygoing company.

Let me summarise some of the highlights of this trip:

Most Meaningful Activity

We picked strawberries, visited a museum and two art and cultural centers, and rode on the Old Mountain Line Railbike in Miaoli county (north of Taichung). 

But for me the most meaningful activity was the release of lighted lanterns to the sky. Shifen is in the mountainous Pingxi area east of Taipei. It is a railway station and on both sides of the tracks are lanes and alleys, homes and food and souvenir shops, and there are those selling the experience of writing your wishes on huge lanterns and releasing them into the sky. We wrote wishes and verses onto the lantern before lighting and releasing the lantern into the sky. 

Most Delicious Meal

Several of our dinners were night market snacks and food that were bought, shared, and eaten while standing or walking. The idea was to try many types but share the food so each of us gets to try a great variety – usually seven choices each night. 

However, my favorite meal was the Hakka set meal at Meinong Hakka Folk Village. The dishes served were deliciously simple and simply delicious!

Most Interesting Place

The Jingzaijiao Tile-paved salt Fields of Tainan was for me the most interesting place. Too much salt is bad for the body but is good for tourism. Thankfully it was not overcrowded and I loved walking around the salt fields taking photos and walking by the windy shore. It was so relaxing and refreshing. 

Best Hotel and Scenery

All the hotels we stayed in were very good but the best of the lot was the five-star Grand Li Lai Hotel in Kaohsiung. They gave us an upgrade and the view of the pier, harbour and Kaohsiung Music Centre was simply gorgeous at sunrise, sunset and at night. In the lobby of the hotel was a section which boasted the photographs of famous people who stayed in the hotel including the late Michael Jackson.

Most Instagramable Place

One is the MRT station (I forgot the name) at Kaohsiung. Although the art piece takes up a comparatively small area in the station, it makes such a big online footprint and impression. 

However, the Flower Home, a lovely and sprawling botanical flower garden in Miaoli County, where we stayed a night is a great place to capture portraits with exquisitely designed and manicured flower gardens in the background. For me this colorful place takes the prize for being Instagram worthy.

Best Memorial Sites

We went to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall at Liberty Square but all the buildings and museums were closed because of the Lunar New Year. All we could do was walk around the huge square and take photos. What I preferred was the National Dr Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, where we managed to witness the impressive change of guard hourly routines and learn more about this hero admired by countries on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. 

Best Night Activity

Without a doubt, visiting the various night markets in all the cities we were in was a treat. It’s about more of the same thing but I somehow did not get tired of “night markets”. Maybe it’s the food, or the festive feeling or family vibes. I tried my hand at night photography handheld and found it challenging but fun anyway. Always learning new things about photography. By the way, photos in this post are not all mine but also Adelene’s.

Most Horrible Experience

We were brought to the Taiwan Glass Temple and Glass Gallery in an industrial area in Changhua county, near Taichung. We saw some pictures of this place on the internet and it looked impressive. But those were pictures taken at night. In daytime the Mazu Temple looked awful, an ugly and badly maintained glass paneled structure that had seen better days. I walked out as quickly as I walked in. A big disappointment. I did not even want to take pictures of it.

Final Thoughts

Of all the countries I would not mind visiting again, Taiwan would certainly be up there together with Japan. Taiwan is forty times bigger than Singapore and I love the space and can now understand why Stephanie Sun and JJ Lin can live and work there for many years without complaints. The people are gentle and polite and very helpful. My only regret is that I do not know Mandarin and wish I had a reasonable command of the language. I would have loved Taiwan much more. Nevertheless, God willing, I will be back for another visit.

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Japan Travel Free and Easy

I gathered together these strands of blogposts of one of the most enjoyable travel experiences I had. They were all over the place in my blog. I had intended to put them together in one blogpost but never did because I was too occupied with pastoral work. Now that I have retired, I remembered that intention and wanted to remember and re-experience that lovely vacation during this pandemic when we are all stuck here in tiny and humid Singapore.

I hope you will enjoy reading some of the blogposts below and it motivates you to look at some of your old travel photos. Remembering and re-experiencing events is one of the beautiful aspects of our God-given human nature. We were made in the image of God, and memory and imagination are parts of this beautiful package. We should treasure, use and celebrate them as part of our humanity and spirituality.










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Osaka-Kyoto Free and Easy: Comfort for the Pandemic Fatigued

It has been over a year since Covid-19 disrupted normal life. Travel has been impossible. What we used to enjoy regularly and took for granted is now so uncertain. Even if travel restrictions are eased, what would it look like, and where would we go, and how much would it cost? One way to mitigate this pain and loss is to go back to old photos and videos of past travels. Images – still photos or videos – can stir memories of sights, feelings, tastes, and scents. Our imagination fills up the blanks in our attempt to remember the details.

I was looking at the analytics to see what people have been reading in my blog. One of them is the Osaka-Kyoto vacation in April 2018. I went there with one of the cell groups in the east: the Marine Parade cell led by Jasmine Chan. When I looked at my blogposts about this vacation, memories of cold, wet and grey came to mind and delicious smells of grilled eels and beef, and being wedged into a crowded Starbucks cafe because of the drizzle outside. Memories: the good, the bad and sad stuff surfaces at random. Nevertheless, it is nostalgic to re-visit and conjure the experiences of this vacation. It is like comfort food for the pandemic fatigued.

Have a look at these posts, and then go take a soak in some of your old travel photos. Don’t do it hurriedly, but give time for memories to conjure the magical moments, feelings both pleasant and unpleasant.

Osaka & Kyoto (part 1)

Osaka & Kyoto (part 2)

Osaka & Kyoto (part 3)

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Canal Boat Cruise of Riley Green

I am now in Bolton in my wife’s sister’s home. I am feeling blessed and well cared for. I have returned from a well planned day trip to near Blackburn. It was a boat cruise along a stretch of the Liverpool to Leeds waterway – a gift from the Blyths. My wife and I enjoyed it thoroughly and we felt blessed for what was a misty, gloomy morning suddenly became a bright, sunny day as we drove 30 minutes along the highway!

Getting ready to board the “Romance”

Jenny all excited to get in

The canal used to be the transport arteries for coal, agricultural and industrial products but are now more for leisure and pleasure trips.

The front view of the boat

Ready for lunch

The  slow cruise took three hours and included a tasty three course meal – starters, main meal, and dessert. The service was good, and so was the food and of course the company.

My choice of starters: melon and strawberry

My choice of mains: mushroom pie


My choice of dessert: apple pie with custard cream

Alternative starters: shrimp salad

Alternative mains: beef

Alternate dessert: strawberry with sherry custard and cream

Sides: potatoes, carrots, green peas

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Extended Bangkok stay and self-discovery

Fun places and activities

After the church camp my wife and I, her brothers -Simeon and Kenneth, and Kenneth’s wife Maggie. extended our stay in Bangkok by eight days. We stayed with Jack and Baby Lee in Bangna, about fifteen minutes’ drive from the airport. We did lots:

  • We went to the Amphawa Floating Market and took a boat ride.
  • We went to Khao Yai National Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site twice the size of Singapore, where we visited Palio Khao Yai, a Tuscan themed shopping village, the little Italy of Thailand.
  • We visited the UNESCO World Heritage site called Ayuthaya, the ruins of the capital of an ancient kingdom called Sukhothai.
  • We went to a local beach area south west of Bangkok on the way towards Pattaya. It is called Bansaen beach and is frequented by locals.
  • We went to a few large shopping malls around Bangna.
  • I had time for lunch fellowship with Leslie, the camp preacher, as he resides in Bangkok.

Whatever is charming

I reflected on the activities and it dawned on me that I enjoyed most those times when there were interesting, beautiful or unique things to see and take pictures of. That was why I enjoyed being in Palio Khao Yai, that Italian themed village in Khao Yai National Park. It was like a part of Italy landed north east of Bangkok. There were many pretty and charming spots.

One of the many charming corners of the Tuscan themed village

There were a few interesting stores selling local and Italian stuff

Even a clock tower to complete the atmosphere

Whatever is unusual

Another place was the floating market with its vibrant colour, the crowds of people, the intense humidity, and continuous rows of stalls selling food, clothes, fruits, snacks, footwear, amulets, containers, toys, beverages, stationery, bags and cutlery -anything you would need to wear, eat and drink, or use at home. There were lots of interesting scenes to video as well as take pictures of. I liked it. I love taking pics with my mobile.

Having our noodles lunch in a store as hot as an oven

On a boat ride along a tributary of the Chao Phraya

Baby invited Tiffany and Steven to join us

Paid my respect to Elvis Presley at a cafe dedicated to him

Whatever is interesting

A surprise unplanned visit to the ruins of Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Sukhothai kingdom was a thumbs up for me. I could not stop taking videos and pictures and found the red and orange and brown and black of the ruins absolutely stunning . Why did this ancient city become ruins? What happened? My curiosity was piqued and I did some research afterward: Looks like a Myanmese kingdom invaded and destroyed the city.

Fallen, fallen is the great Ayuthaya

Do as the king says!

In the shade, a cool breeze, a good rest

Whatever is beautiful

And the apartment that we were staying in had all kinds of interesting household and decorative items that fascinated me. I took many photos of them. They were beautiful; they were unusual, exotic, and most were made locally and bought from local markets or given by Baby’s friends. I enjoyed photographing those items.

This arrangement in itself a work of art

Eye-catching display

Sir, to clean the sole of your shoes, the hedgehog will assist you

Capture them in pictures or buy them!

In fact, of late I noticed I have been attracted to beautiful objects like crystal cross (which I bought at half price for church use), a charming wooden botonee cross which I bought from a thrift shop for $8, and a ceramic set which could be used for Holy Communion for $15. The idea of buying beautiful items, useful or purely decorative, at a bargain price is growing on me. This is a new facet of myself I never knew. I feel like this could be another hobby! Should I be worried it grows into an obsession? Yes! Therefore, I must not get carried away. Moderation. Moderation.

Beautiful Trinitarian botonee cross commonly used by the Russian Orthodox Church

Interesting ceramic set that can be used for holy communion in small groups


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