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Saturday, May 24, 2008

I was in the Wedding!

Because I was born as a pig (in the Chinese 12 animal symbols) I had a chance to ride in the wedding cars today! The normal guy who drives and arranged the borrowed cars was born a mouse so according to today's date, it was not good for him to drive. Don't ask me why. One of the older uncles told me I could probably spend a lifetime trying to figure out all the Chinese customs and still not get it. Anyways, the new tradition is the groom's family sends a fleet of six fancy black cars to pick up the bride from her home. At first I though I was supposed to drive the car, but it turns out that each vehicle sent must have at least one passenger. So, that ended up being my job, the passenger. I hauled some luggage and held the driver's tea cause there were no cup-holders. It was fun - and just as well because I would be a little nervous driving that fancy new Mercedes Benz. Anyways, after passing time drinking tea and smoking cigarettes while waiting for the groom, we slowly drove across town among fireworks and photo ops to pick up the bride at her parents house. After arriving, we hauled some of the dowry into our car. After passing more time smoking, we then drove back to the Groom's house. The whole process took 2 hours and mostly consisted of a lot of standing and waiting in the hot afternoon. Now I'm just passing the down time before heading to the wedding banquet later this evening.

Groom gives the Thumbs up from the wedding car.

Engagement Ceremony

Saturday, May 17, 2008

We Go To Taipei

Truth is, I'm not such a great blogger. I don't write that often, and when I finally do sit down to type some thoughts in, they probably aren't even that interesting! Well, actually I normally just run out of time to do anything here. Between work, wife and Two Kids, by the time I get a few minutes of quiet time, I'm ready to hit the hay. I'm not even finding enough time to go out on photo safaris so much anymore... It's time to make time!

The other weekend, we went to Taipei on the Taiwan High Speed Railroad. If you haven't ridden on it and you live in Taiwan, I strongly suggest it! It is an experience in and of itself. I've been on the high-speed trains before in Europe and they feel more like regular trains and usually depart from regular looking stations. Leaving on the train from the Taichung station, it is just like going to the airport: the drive in, the parking garage and the departure terminal. I guess the main difference is the security and the automated ticket machines. Once you're on the train, it's like flying on the ground. At one point we were going almost 300 Kmph (200 mph) which is about 3x faster than driving. Add to that the time spent slowing down for the toll booths, potential traffic on the toll-way, and the certain traffic in Taipei city center, it is quite a time saver If you are going to Taipei.

I'm not much of a city-lover. I appreciate the cultural attractions, the grand scale of things, and the occasional crowds. However, I like to be able to get out of the city at a moments notice and with the minimum of hassle. Finally, my wife talked me into going up to Taipei for the weekend for a trip. We arrived on the Taiwan HSR to the main Taipei station in about 1 hour from Taichung and after a lunch in the new station mall, we proceeded to look for a hotel nearby. Of course it was hot and sweltering and looking for a hotel room with 2 kids and some luggage in tow was no picnic. We found a place near the Mitsukoshi department store and settled in. In the afternoon we first went to the CKS memorial hall area and then out to Danshui on the MRT. I was surprised how long it took to get out to Danshui - there were a lot of stops. Finally we arrived just before sunset and had a great time walking around. Crowded and fun.

The next day we went out to the Sun-Yat Sen hall and then walked over to the 101 building area. Another hot sweltering day, but at least we left the luggage at the hotel. We thought about going up to the top of the building, but at 400 per person and 300 per larger kid, we decided it was impressive enough just looking up at it and went back down for some shopping at the fancy shopping area nearby before heading back on the MRT to catch the train back to Taichung. Wonder what happened to the lunch box in the train? They never came by and we had to survive on cookies and apple juice! We were smart on the way back and had dinner first in the station.

A man cleans up the grounds outside CKS Memorial area.

DanShui Area

What's that fire? Ghost Money?
No, they're burning their chopsticks.

All for now - Joe

PS, if you want to check out some real bloggers that post often , take a look at David (Taiwan Guide), Michael - (View from Taiwan) or many of the other Taiwan Bloggers!