Saturday 30 March 2019

Beautiful Putrajaya

We left Taiwan yesterday and arrived in Malaysia last night. We are booked in to one of our favourite cities - Putrajaya.
We were up early today for the 7.30am start of the local parkrun. It was very hot and humid and I struggled around, but Daz was on fire!
He was on target for a third place finish and a personal best before tragedy struck!! With less than than 100 metres to go to the finishing line he missed the turning and carried straight on. By the time he realised and back tracked he wasted a load of time and came in in sixth. Still a good result.

Fast forward to this evening and a walk around the city centre. Putrajaya is the administrative capital of Malaysia and was built from scratch starting about twenty years ago. Every time we visit Malaysia we try to spend a few days here and we have seen it grow and get much busier.
It is full of fantastic modern buildings and really wide boulevards. The only problem is that it is lacking in public transport, but I suppose that no where is perfect! The taxis are very reasonable though and the drivers friendly.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Yangmingshan National Park

We made some major mistakes at this Park! First of all there was very little written in English on the Internet, and Google maps just seemed to show a big green blank.
Everything that we could read said that it was good place to visit and a Russian lady at our hostel went yesterday and showed us some lovely photos from her hike.
We got there easily on the bus and most people ran straight to catch another bus into the Park, but we didn't because we couldn't read any of the writing and didn't know thenname of where we wanted to go.
Instead we followed signs straight up hill for nearly a kilometre to the Visitor Centre. Once up there the helper spent ages with the people in front of us so instead of waiting we decided to head towards the Menghuan Pond. We had acquired a little bit of knowledge from the Internet and thought that we needed to get to a pond to see thousands of calla lilies, and that was the only pond that we could see, therefore it must be the right one.
We set off again, straight up hundreds if not thousands of steps.
By the time we reached the pond we were extremely tired and extremely disappointed to see that it was just a boring old bit of water.

We had a look around and decided that the only option was to go back down to the Visitor Centre, and this time four helpers were free at once. We found out that we had gone completely the wrong way and that we needed to go to the Bamboo Pond. It was only a couple of kilometres away and although uphill, the gradient was much less. Quite fed up, but putting pretend cheerful faces on, we set off again.
We found the calla lilies, but instead of my mental image of huge drifts of them disappearing off into the distance, they were instead all contained in paddy fields.

Lots of people were having a lovely time picking their own blooms. The prices were very reasonable, and callas are one of my favourite flowers, but we are leaving the country soon so couldn't take any with us.
There was little paths and streams around that reminded me a bit of Madeira and the levadas.

We looked around for a while and then stomped back down the hill and caught the bus back to Taipei! What a day, not likely to be repeated.

Tuesday 26 March 2019


We have arrived in Taipei after a couple of days of quite heavy rain, but all back to normal now.
Taipei is a big city and it seems spacious and well laid out, although complicated. There is a whole underground world of shopping centres and subway stations that appear to go everywhere under our hotel area.
Unfortunately we haven't managed to find the same way twice and pop up randomly in different streets all over the place. Maybe we should buy a large ball of string and trail it behind us.

We are staying near to the enormous and magnificent memorial to Chiang Kai-shek. He was the ruler of China for many years, but then came to live and eventually die in Taiwan.

We then carried on walking and soon could see Taipei 101 in the distance. It used to be the tallest building in the world until Dubai took away the title.

There it is, a long way away.

Getting closer......

Got there.
We climbed Elephant Mountain to get the best views though.

Saturday 23 March 2019

Taichung Earthquake Museum

We have moved from the bottom of Taiwan to the centre, left hand side. The city is called Taichung and the guidebooks say that there is little here to catch the eye. I have to agree that this is true, but it would have been a shame not to see more of the country, so here we are.
In 1999 a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit this area and a faultline that was 100 kilometres long opened up.
We caught a bus to the museum to find out more about it. The museum is centred around a school that straddled the faultline.

They have built a roof over the original school buildings which all just completely collapsed and folded in on itself. Fortunately the earthquake happened in the middle of the night so the school was empty.
The most amazing thing was that when the fault cracked open it pushed the earth up over two metres on one side at area around the school, but up to ten metres higher further down the faultline.
It went along a stream, straight across the school running track, under the school and then the town.

It's a bit difficult to see in this picture, but that used to be a flat running track. The fault also ran through tea plantations where the straight lines of the bushes turned into wavy lines, and the same thing happened to railway lines. It caused a 100 km line of devastation and killed over 2,000 people.
We went into a simulation room and sat down on the padded floor while they recreated the 40 second earthquake. It was terrifying and amazing that anyone survived.
Afterwards we found a place called the Dali Art Plaza which we thought might be about Salvador Dali, but I think not. We never did find out anything about the background  but it had some good and rather large exhibits.

Ps, found the first Christmas tree of 2019! Actually I think that it is there permanently .

Thursday 21 March 2019

Heart of Love River and Lotus Pond

Beautiful sunny day today and we borrowed bikes from our hotel to cycle along the river Love. What an excellent name, and we cycled to the Heart area.

I had a little break on the way, relaxing on a brick settee in a surprising all brick living room scene. I don't know how they made it, but I would love to have one in my garden at home.

Our destination was the Lotus Pond, which turned out to be more of a lake. We cycled around it and on then to three incredible temples, all surrounded by lotus flowers.
I know nothing about the background to the temples, why you walk in through the dragon's or tiger's mouth, through it's body and then out by the tail. There were no signs, no entrance fee and no staff around, and only a few other tourists.
Completely amazing place.

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Fun in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

We arrived in Taiwan, got off the plane from Japan and were pleased to be able to kick off our boots and coats, get out the sandals and teeshirts and start a new adventure.
We had never heard of Kaohsiung, but it is right at the bottom of Taiwan, and we have ten days to get to Taipei which is at the top of the country, and catch our flight out.
That makes it sound a bit like a military manoeuvre, but it is actually going to be a happy dawdle around with a few train and bicycle rides thrown in.

We started our day with a walk around the old port area and disused train sidings.

It has all been turned into a open air sculpture park and in the evenings the tracks light up.
Next we caught the ten minute ferry to an island across the bay, and found that they hired out electric bikes. Daz was a bit of a crazy driver, but we made it to the lighthouse, Fort, cave and lots of interesting sculptures along the seafront.

Back on the mainland we were a bit hot and tired, but after a stop for the local speciality, a giant shaved ice, condensed milk, chocolate and fruit desert, we were raring to go again.

Monday 18 March 2019

Last blog from Japan

We arrived over five weeks ago speaking only three words of Japanese. I quickly dropped 'sayonara' which I thought was goodbye but nobody seemed to recognise, and just stuck with hello and thank you. Those remaining two words saw us through some interesting and exciting times.
The weather has mostly been kind with a great final sunny day today. We first saw this strange giant green Teddy bear in Osaka in the rain yesterday, and you can see how much happier he is today.

There is a great building behind him in the second photo where we went to the top, and there is a huge open hole where the information leaflet seemed to imply that a spaceship could Dock, or even just float away.
Yesterday I posed in an Easter themed photo booth, and both of these things give an idea of how weird Japan can be.

Tonight we went out to a little Japanese restaurant where we had to queue outside before eventually getting a seat. It was teppanyaki style and they cooked our food on a hot plate in front of us and we even tried the beef, although I am not sure if it was the real Kobe thing.
Finally, Daz has put together a map of our travels and you can see that we have just about covered the whole of the country, only missing the top of Hokkaido because it was covered in snow.


Excellent day out in Kobe today. In 1995 it was completely devastated by an earthquake, but it has been rebuilt and is a lovely place.
We went to the 24th floor of the City Hall for the first of some great city views.

Then we explored the Waterfront area and it's views of the city skyline.

Kobe is famous for it's beef, but also sake, and there are lots of distilleries just outside of the city.
We found the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery and Museum where we found out all about how sake is made from fermented rice, had time for a bit of dressing up and then got to sample some of the tasty products.