Blob

I gained 5 pounds in Taiwan. I don’t know how that happened; usually I lose weight because I don’t eat that much food. I think my metabolism is decreasing due to lack of regular exercise. Sigh. Guess I should start running/working out again.

In other random news, I’m not working in Redwood Shores anymore. My recruiter from Oracle called me yesterday and told me Oracle was going through some “restructuring” and a lot of new hires are being transferred to the PeopleSoft division, which is based in Pleasanton, CA. New group, new location, but same compensation. Thank God that I still have a job and didn’t lose my offer in this “restructuring.” I’m pretty sure my parents would’ve given me a hard time about not applying to grad school in that situation, even though by now I should’ve already sent in my responses.

The update was kind of a shock since it came out of nowhere, but the more I think about it, the better this might be for me. Pleasanton is closer to East Bay Church, and closer to where Ann and Will live. Housing is also probably cheaper, and my family actually owns a house there, and if the current tenants do not want to renew their lease in September and/or I can’t find housing for whatever reason, I at least have that option (though I’d rather not have to maintain an entire house). The commute would be simple which would save gas money, and the office is located literally across the street from the BART station so I don’t have to worry about the bay bridge everyday. The only downside is that Pleasanton is somewhat remote, but it’s pretty similar to Plainsboro where I live now and where I grew up, so I don’t think that will bother me much. It’s generally a quieter and more suburban town, which actually suits my preferences and personality more than the city. I just hope I can maintain a semi-social life and find some buddies nearby, especially tennis buddies. Otherwise, Pleasanton might get really boring…so if you live near Pleasanton let me know!

Anyhow, trying to prepare for EWR. Been rereading Psalm 119 and it’s been great stuff. I feel like it’s becoming a reminder to myself and I hope it stays that way. If I start feeling temptation or angry and impatient or something, I’ll think in my head, “Psalm 119, Psalm 119″ and remember how David desires the word of God, how he clings to it for salvation, and how because he does, he doesn’t have to be ashamed of anything. One thing I’m stuck on for EWR is inspiration for a topic related to the theme of “Family.” I’m supposed to come up with a Bible passage that I would like to base my writing on, but only generic things come to mind. Need to pray about it – God inspires in His time.

Pictures Posted!

I took over 1200 pictures (after going through all of them and deleting a few hundred). I don’t know how I’m going to do further filtering and retouching…it’s going to take too much time to sort through all that, but I do want to pick a select “few” to feature in a smaller-sized gallery that doesn’t require 1000+ clicks to view all the pictures.

Anyways, it’s summer so chances are you have some time (at home or office haha) to browse through photos.

First week: http://leehsueh.shutterfly.com/photos/6485

Second week: http://leehsueh.shutterfly.com/photos/7324

Have a couple days to rest up before heading out to Calgary for EWR! Need to look at info on the national parks in that area and finalize a tour package for afterwards…in addition to preparing some possible topics to write about…

Pictures and that Cornell video will have to be put on hold until mid July.

Taiwan Summer 2009: Days 13-16

So I missed a few days. That’s because I was either too tired at night or we got back to my dad’s apartment too late, and in a state of wanting to do nothing except shower, brush my teeth, and sleep.

Anyways, day 13 (thursday I believe) we our third and final day in Hua Lien with Hain-Sing and 2nd aunt + her husband (how do you refer to your aunt’s husband in english?). We went to Farglory Ocean Park, which is 5 minutes from our hotel (they are affiliated). It’s basically like Sea World with some small roller coasters and water rides and a Disney World-like castle. Since it wasn’t summer vacation yet for students in Taiwan, the place was essentially empty except for families with young children and foreign tour groups from China. All in all it was a pretty good park with nice dolphin and sea lion shows, a decent aquarium, and colorful design/architecture. It was painfully hot though. We were only there for a couple hours before we had to go back to catch our train back to Hsinchu.

On Friday, our Da Jiu Jiu (oldest uncle) took me and Hain-Sing to Taipei. We went to an astronomy museum which was actually quite good, considering it only costs 40 NT to look at the exhibits (there was a new meteorite exhibit too). The only bad thing was that though they had English titles for all the explanations, there were no English explanations, which was a shame because I was actually interested in reading them and learning stuff. There was also this indoor “space ride” that simulated a fantastical journey through the universe (fortunately there was an english narration option available). I took a video of it. We visited the solar system in this little pod with a computer screen console and a large windshield. At one point we got caught in a black hole which turned out to be a wormhole, and ended up in some alien territory which was about to explode because of an impending supernova, so the aliens kindly modded our ship for transport/evactuation through various star gates. When we arrived at the docking station orbiting earth, an alien was detected outside our ship so we had to be “decontaminated.” Haha, creative I guess.

We also watched a film on earth from space in the country’s largest IMAX dome theatre. I fell asleep though, probably still tired from all that sun the previous day.

After finishing the museum, we did some light shopping around Taipei in Shilin and the Taipei station underground mall. We found this store that sold glass/plastic containers of all shapes and sizes (for things like perfume, jam, candy, chemistry lab containers, etc). I wanted to get some to display some of the rocks and pebbles I’ve been accumulating.

On Saturday we went to church in Guan Dong Chao (a small town in Hsinchu). We walked there and it was really hot. Even inside with AC, I was still sweating and sticky (wearing pants). I was awake for the morning sermon (an analysis of Cain’s sacrifice vs. Abel’s), but couldn’t really focus in the afternoon. In Taiwan the churches have lunch rest breaks from like 11:30 till 2pm. During this break I ate lunch and listened to some brothers practice singing some hymns in the chapel. They are really quite good and I recorded some of their singing. I also practiced my mandarin conversational skills with some members (an RE teacher asked me to guess her age and I overshot by 7 years…oops). I still find it interesting how people in Taiwan have English names, but I don’t. They all think it’s weird too.

After church, Hain-Sing, my dad, and I went to Taipei to meet up with more cousins and an aunt for dinner, which was pretty nice. I forgot most of their names but was able to pick up most of them during the dinner conversation. Also there were two nieces and a nephew (children of my cousins). It’s really weird how some of my cousins have children that are closer to my age than my cousins. I remember visiting them when I was younger, and boy have they grown. Not the little babies I used to play with.

Sunday, back in Hsinchu, we went hiking with one of my dad’s coworker in the morning. It was hot and sweaty, no surprise. Then I met up with Florence at 1pm at TsingHua to eat lunch and catch up a little (she’s a high school friend of mine and her dad works at TsingHua). We ate noodle soup together, which was kind of a poor decision on my part because I started sweating even inside with the AC. Then she took me to get bubble tea, which is SUPER cheap compared to Old Tea House at Cornell (<$1 vs. >$3.25).

We browsed a 10 NT store (even better than dollar stores in the US, since 10 NT = 30 cents or so). I bought this ridiculous sign/sticker that in Chinese said “Kuai Le Chu Men, Ping An Hui Jia” (Leave joyfully and return home peacefully). The English “translation” on the bottom in large letters proclaimed “DON’T KISS ME.” I would post a picture but I’m on my dad’s computer and haven’t uploaded pictures from the past few days yet.

Afterwards we met back up with both our dads and Hain-Sing to chat in a cafe in TsingHua. There were some kittens that were really cute, but I got a teensy scratch when one got off my lap and climbed down my leg. Oh wells. They were cute.

In the afternoon we went to visit Grandma’s house (which is also our oldest uncle’s house). We took them all out to a department store to eat dinner at a restaurant there with 2nd aunt+her husband, and some other cousins and nephews that didn’t make it to the Taipei dinner. Afterwards we went to one of my cousin’s house because her husband was a professional massage doctor/therapist (he’s now a pastor who sells tea leaves on the side). Hain-Sing likes to get massages. The pastor can detect any “crookedness” in your spine and “correct” it. Feels pretty good. I think most people probably have minor bends in their spine without knowing it, because American posture is pretty casual and sloppy (aka sitting and leaning to one side, folding always one leg over the other which causes your bones to be twisted and one leg longer than the other, etc). Anyways, everyone should just try to sit straight and in a balanced manner if possible! Good for long term back/spine maintainence!

And that brings us to today, our last day in Taiwan. Currently Hain-Sing and I are waiting in my dad’s apartment with our stuff all packed and ready to go. Our flight is in 4 hours and is a nonstop flight from Taipei to Newark (wow!). I had to partition my rocks into Hain-Sing’s luggage because it made mine too heavy.

Oh, and recently I read Psalm 119 to somewhat prepare for EWR (English Writer’s Retreat). What a great and humbling and admirable chapter. I really need to desire the word of God more in my life. I really need to be able to say that I hung onto it no matter what I encountered in life. I really need to study and read it frequently so it can be in my heart when I need it. So important, yet so undervalued and neglected by so many Christians.

Well, I just wanted to express my thanks to my dad (Happy Father’s Day!), my oldest uncles and their respective spouses on both sides of my family, my 2nd aunt + her husband, and all my cousins who took us out to eat and stuff. Without all of their planning and effort, these tw weeks would’ve been pretty long and boring.

Taiwan Summer 2009: Day 12

Well turns out our rooms in the hotel don’t actually face the direction of sunrise, AND we didn’t get a morning call like we were supposed to in order to watch the sun rise. Thankfully, we got a refund for the extra charge for these “sunrise views” and hopefully we will actually get a morning call so we can go outside and watch the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean!

Today was tiring. Since I need to wake up early I’ll keep this short. We went to Taroga National Park for most of the day, which is a mountainous area with gorges (like Ithaca, but MUCH bigger). The area in Hua Lien is famous for being a source of marble, and for beautiful mountain scenery. The sun was pretty strong so often I was reluctant to get out of the car (oh yeah, we had a taxi driver for the day, introduced by a church member in Hua Lien). But just like yesterday, the mountains were against awesome cloud formations and a blue sky. Wow, the clouds. Lots of driving and stopping and walking, and unfortunately the aunt + her husband were somewhat annoyingly calling us to take pictures every 2 minutes (they both have their own cameras too). I’m glad my cheapo sunglasses are no-see-through because then I only have to fake smile with my mouth while my eyes are still half shut from exhaustion and some annoyance. Don’t get me wrong; my aunt and her husband are really awesome and chill, but MAN, I’d like to walk around without interruption for more than a few minutes.

Another nice thing was that we visited yet ANOTHER True Jesus Church that was on the way. Our taxi driver knows where a bunch of them are because he drives around the area a lot. It’s kind of cool how True Jesus Church is relatively well known in Taiwan that way. A neat statistic: this one we visited is the first one that was established of all the mountain area churches in Taiwan. We weren’t expecting anyone to be there because we hadn’t planned on visiting and it was a weekday, but thank God, a sister was there just cleaning! We talked a little bit, took a few pictures, and said goodbye. Short but sweet.

The last place we visited was in my opinion better than walking around in Taroga National Park; it was a beach! Wow, this beach was awesome. First of all, the scenery is simply amazing. Mountains in the background with AWESOME clouds, and the coastline with rocks and sand in the foreground. The ocean water was quite blue and refreshing looking, as was the sky. AND, being the rock fanatic that I am (I used to collect rocks as a kid and wanted to be a geologist), the rocks on the beach were stunning. The beach was covered in rocks, maybe more rocks than sand. All the rocks are super smooth and have interesting patterns from the water pounding. Many are sedimentary rocks with white stripes, some have concentric circle patterns on them, different spotted patterns of dots and stripes, different colors, some looked and felt like smooth gems, wow I wish we were there the whole day. I think I picked up 10 pounds of rocks to bring away (I think it’s allowed) and I still kept looking at the ground. Even the sand was beautiful. You know those tiny little bottles with sand/pebbles that they sell in gift shops and nightmarkets? Well, this must be where they come from. I collected a soda can of sand/tiny pebbles for kicks :p

Okay, so not that short of a post, but no pictures. I need to sleep now.

And no, I didn’t pee in the ocean this time. And fortunately, I didn’t see as many wannabe model photoshoots. Dang, that beach was awesome. That beach must be one of the reasons why wide angle lenses were invented. I wish I had one.

Taiwan Summer 2009: Day 11

Wow, the past two days went by kinda fast, and were pretty tiring. And today is the first of two nights in Hua Lien, which by the way, is super duper awesome. In Batman Beyond terms, it’s “way schway” and “slammin’ “. I’ll get to that later though.

First, Sunday. Apparently my cousin’s husband’s (which I will refer to as “brother-in-law” for simplicity) family runs a fish farm a little bit north of Tainan, so we decided to visit it for kicks. On the way we stopped by various landmarks. We passed through some wetlands under environmental protection and came across the research center for black-faced spoon-billed birds. Many of them migrate from the north (around the border of North Korea and South Korea, a military zone which basically means no human inhabitants) and fly either down along the coast of China to Taiwan or pass by Japan and then to Taiwan to these wetlands in Tainan and a couple of other spots. They had already started their journey back up north around this time, but we looked around the research center and it was pretty interesting. We got a personal tour from this short asian dood who was really friendly and jovial. After leaving that place, we also stopped at “Salt Mountain”, which is in an area where salt and fresh water meet. Basically it’s a place where salt is “harvested” and featured there was literally this huge mountain of raw salt that people could climb up stairs (made of packed salt) to the top. Here’s a picture:

mound of raw ocean salt

mound of raw ocean salt

After the salt mountain, we finally got to our original destination of the fish farm, which wasn’t as epic but interesting nonetheless. The fish are organized into regions by size/age, and the largest ones are kept in the little pond outside whereas the smaller ones in large tanks inside this barn thing. It’s funny because when we went to see the small fish, if you wiggle your fingers in the water, most of the fish just flock to the area because they think  you’re feeding them. Here’s a youtube video I just uploaded:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFsvNcyoJvI

Monday we headed back to northern Taiwan, Hsinchu to be exact. We took the high speed rail where our Da Jiu Jiu picked us up. Lunch was at  Mos Burger where I basically had rice with sliced beef in the shape of a hamburger. We then went to Sogo (a department store chain) and browsed around for a bit. After that, we visited grandma.

Grandma is an amazing person. Thank God that she is still doing very well and seems very healthy. She can get out of bed herself and walk around the house just fine. When we visited her, she recently got this new “musical instrument” from 2nd aunt, which can play an octave of notes with wooden pipe thingies that are hung from a frame. I asked her to demonstrate it by playing something, and she started to shake the pipe thingies to form a melody. At first I wasn’t really paying attention to the melody itself, but soon I realized she was playing “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” When she was done I complimented her – she’s actually quite musically inclined. She also began to play other familiar hymns like “At the Cross”, “Jesus Loves Me” (the little kids version), and “When The Roll is Called Up Yonder.” Later she cut us some fruit to eat and I tried to talk with her (it’s kind of hard/awkward because my mandarin is pretty lame and I can’t speak any Taiwanese). I asked her what she usually did everyday and she said, “Watch TV, read the Bible, and play music with various instruments.” She said she really liked musical instruments, and went to get her harmonica from her room. She came back happily and played the harmonica for us, and indeed she is quite good at it. Again, she played familiar hymns, even some fast upbeat ones that as you can imagine are difficult to do on a harmonica, especially with chords in between the notes in the main melody, which she added on her own.

Regardless, I was really touched. With all the innate musical talent that my grandma has, she only cares to make music that glorifies God. These are the only types of songs that she sings and that get stuck in her head. How different that is from the youth of this generation. If you think about it, the kind of music that gets stuck in your head can be an indication of just how much you think about God, and how much you’re really focused on Him and His Word. Sadly, for me, I need to focus much more.

Grandma is truly an amazing person. She’s a model Christian who has been spiritual even through her old age. I wonder if she ever gets bored of her simple lifestyle, but even if she does, I think she’s very content and happy the way it is. She’s not living a fancy retirement with luxury and endless pleasure – she simply gets up at 5 am, watches some TV, reads and studies the Bible, and plays hymns, occasionally going out during the day. She can get up and walk around and do everything herself just fine. She is simple and content, even though grandpa passed away several years ago. She is amazing. She is 90.

Finally, we come to today. Took a train to Hua Lien at 7:30 am. Definitely worth waking up early for. When we got there (me, Hain-Sing, my 2nd aunt, and her husband), we visited the churches (yes, plural) there. I had no idea we had True Jesus Church in Hua Lien, but I think that’s so awesome. Hua Lien is a resort area and a large tourist attraction. And we have two churches there! And TJC has been established in Hua Lien since before the 1930’s!!! Amazing grace indeed. Anyways, I THINK the first one we visited branched off from the original first one. It was a new building/new chapel, and it is nice. Bathrooms on every floor (4 stories), sleeping quarters have awesome space efficiency with compartments in the slightly elevated floor, its own parking garage, etc. Thank God that they had offerings to fund this new building (TJC I believe thrives sheerly out of freewill offerings from its members). There were posters/photographs on the walls, which is how I learned of the early establishment of the church in Hua Lien – there were photos of the members dating back to the 1930’s, obviously in black and white. The members were pictured in front of an older chapel building, which we visited next. Really amazing, in a spiritual sense, how the work of God has grown and prospered in this city, in Taiwan, and internationally. It’s really something. I’m so blessed to be in True Jesus Church, and to be able to visit all these different churches outside of my local one in Hillsborough, NJ.

Anyways, next we looked at scenery. Mountains with some mist and fog, a lake that is shaped like a fish when viewed aerially, green grass, and WOW, the clouds above the horizon of the ocean from our hotel. Just really breathtaking and beautiful. I took a million pictures and videos but couldn’t feel satisfied with any of them. It looks slightly better on my camcorder because my camcorder has a somewhat wide angle lense, but my digital camera is stuck with standard aspect ratio. My aunt has a digital camera which uses a wide angle lense, and it is pretty sweet I gotta say. The use of a wide angle lense is a must for this kind of scenery. Did I mention how awesome the clouds were? Yeah, they were just superbly and epicly and mind bogglingly and majestically awesome. Well, I guess I should show a picture, so here’s one of many that certainly does not do the scenery justice at all.

Beautiful clouds above the Pacific.

Beautiful clouds above the Pacific.

And to finish off this long post, I do have an anecdote related to the bathroom, but don’t worry, it’s not TMI. While we were at the lake that was shaped like a fish, I went to the bathroom. After peeing, I washed my hands, and I saw this nasty mosquito on the vein where you get a needle stuck in if you donate blood. I brushed it off quickly and washed it off with water, hoping it would null the mosquito bite, if it had bitten me. Unfortunately, this is what the spot looked like after literally 2 minutes:

stupid mosquito that got me in the bathroom

stupid mosquito that got me in the bathroom

On the unrelated plus side, there was this super awesome bathroom next to a garden at the hotel/resort we’re staying at. The outside looks like this huge rock/boulder. Inside was a supremely clean and pleasant smelling bathroom. It smelled so fresh, I did not need to hold my breath like I usually do in public restrooms (the one in the lake was just AWFULLY TERRIBLY SMELLY, even though the facility itself was decent). I didn’t even catch a whiff of urine WHILE I was peeing. Now THAT’s saying something about how good this bathroom smelled. This hotel is so baller.

Ok, time to sleep so I can wake up super early to watch the sunrise over the ocean :)

Taiwan Summer 2009: Day 8

Today my dad and Hain-Sing and I went to TJC in Kaohsiung for the morning service. The speaker spoke in Taiwanese, and the interpreter spoke really fast mandarin, so I ended up understanding maybe 10% in fragments throughout the whole thing. Rather unfortunate, but I met some fake relatives of mine there. By “fake” I mean that I met an “uncle” who is really my mom’s cousin but related by marriage, as well as an “auntie-in-law” who is my fake uncle’s brother’s wife. I guess the simplest way to put it is that my great grandma is also my fake uncle’s grandma, but we’re not blood related because my great grandma remarried after her first husband (my great grandpa) passed away. Anyways, this is only interesting to me because I finally made the connection with how I’m related to fake cousins in Dallas, TX. My fake uncle is my fake cousins’ real uncle. Yeah, okay enough of that.

Had Thai food for lunch, and then went to Tainan because Hain-Sing had a dental appointment with my dentist cousin. On the way we visited my dad’s old home, which is where his parents still lived before they passed away. It was quite a reflective moment for me (and I imagine much moreso for my dad) because I remember visiting my grandparents there every time we went back to Taiwan, up until they passed away some years ago. I wasn’t exactly close to them because we rarely saw them and because of language barrier, but I remember my grandma’s eyes staring into mine with sincerity and tenderness, and my grandpa taking us out to buy toys and such. The “house” is pretty dirty and run down by American standards, and it’s hard to believe my dad was raised there. His shelf of old books is still there, and it has ancient textbooks on physics, circuits, math, microprogramming, FORTRAN, etc. I even saw a really old “University Physics” textbook, but I don’t know if its the old version of the series I used in my physics courses at Cornell. Anyways, it was hard to imagine life in such a decrepit and grimy place. It really is a testament to my dad’s hard work to see how far he’s come and the kind of standard of living I enjoy now because of it.

Right now my dad’s youngest sister still lives there, but the bottom room/garage is rented out to some scooter salesmen, and has been for 20 some years. The business makes it a more lively place, because neighbors will often have tea together there on a regular basis, and just chit chat all day. Otherwise, it’d be a very lonely and quiet place. Apparently my dad’s youngest sister’s husband is literally a bum. He just sits at home and does nothing, occasionally gets drunk, eats, and sleeps. My dad said he’s has some sort of slight mental problem, as does my aunt as well. It’s really quite sad and depressing I guess, and makes me realize how much I take for granted and how fortunate I am.

Oddly enough, I can sort of understand why my dad still lives relatively simply. His apartment is modestly furnished with no television. He just recently got a washing machine and before that would handwash his clothes. His computer doesn’t have a sound card, probably has less than 256 MB of ram, and a maybe a few GB of hard drive space. You’d never guess that he has a PhD in electrical engineering, except for his books. It kind of makes me want to live a simple life too, when I start to settle down. I think there is a certain pride in living a simple life, plus the fact that everything is simply, simpler.

Well, the last couple weeks I’ve had random mental digressions on getting old and what it must be like, etc, mainly because of recent encounters with old people that have been involved in my life since I was a child. It’s kind of depressing but a warm feeling at the same time, but maybe I’ll save it for another post.

Switching gears, we had dinner back at Kaohsiung and went shopping at a nightmarket. We bought these 100NT belts that have “auto-locking” adjustment, so the belts don’t have holes in them but grooves on the back. Pretty cool! I also bought a lighter haha. Oh yeah! Before the night market, we stopped at this stationary store, which is probably the most baller stationary store I’ve seen. I think this is where the girly side of me gets revealed – I like shopping for pens and pencils and stuff, and the selection in Asian countries just blows American selection out of the water. Asian stationary is so awesome, and often much cheaper and better. I got mechanical sketch pencils, mechanical pencils that have pen caps, and my all time favorite technica-X mechanical pencils, which I have been using to take exams with since high school. I always lose them :( so I have to keep telling my dad to buy them and bring them home, although he always forgets what they look like and brings home the wrong kind :*(.

Anyways, that was what we did today. I don’t have an interesting story concerning bowel movements, unfortunately. So I guess that’s all for now.

Taiwan Summer 2009: Day 7

So I missed a couple days. I’m sure at most 2 people noticed :p

Day 5 was a rest day. I stayed at my uncle’s place enjoying the AC and started that video I’ve been meaning to make using footage I shot with my camcorder. Nothing fancy; just a collage of memories with various entertaining bits.

Random aside. Spam is getting pretty fancy these days. Akismet caught a spam comment for money making by posting Google links. I saw a facebook ad for an online news article that talked about the same method for making money at home by posting links, also using Google. I clicked through like any naieve internet user and the news site looked pretty legit:

http://www.tribunenewsfirst.com/college-drop-out-makes-10000-a-month-from-home-ca/

And then, I checked just http://tribunenewsfirst.com, and yeah. An entire news site dedicated to this one article with a “Mike Steadman’s” life-changing story. Plus the fact that it says “Kaohsiung” at the top of the article page, which happens to be the city I am currently residing at the moment. I also clicked through the spam comment I got and it links to http://mikesmoneysite.com, which tells the story of “Mike Smithson” and how he was laid off from a major manufacturing company (just like Mike Steadman! Coincidence? Yeah right), and how he was able to get income from posting links. And the picture shows some indian dood with his “wife and kids.” And he’s from Kaohsiung, where I happen to be right now. YEAH RIGHT.

Anyways, back to Taiwan. Yesterday and today, my brother-in-law took us to Ah Li Shan. When we got there, it was foggy and rainy and we couldn’t see any of the beautiful scenery. That was kind of a bummer. Also, the resort we stayed at had run out of a lot of the food we wanted for dinner, which is pretty bad considering how picky my brother and I are when it comes to Chinese food. We still walked around in the rain in the forest just for kicks, which was okay but not great, as you can imagine. In the evening we ended up watching HBO haha.

Fortunately, I woke up early in the morning again (6am) and looked out the window to see if conditions had improved. Lo and behold, I could see sunny blue skies. I was thinking about just going out on my own to walk around and take pictures, since we were going to leave at 8 am to go to another touristy place (Ri Yue Tan – Sun Moon Lake). I decided against it in case other people woke up and got worried I was missing or something. Lucky me, my brother-in-law also woke up, and seeing it was sunny out, decided to go out for a walk too. So we went together. Hooray. It was kind of rushed, but better than nothing.

When we left for Sun Moon Lake, our route was blocked off because a rock had fallen from some cliff onto the road. What resulted was a ridiculous detour (since obviously there aren’t that many alternative roads on a mountain) that took half the day, along with some of the most illegal driving I have ever witnessed firsthand.

[begin rant on driving in Taiwan]

Everyone who’s been to some Asian country knows that the driving is pretty reckless. There’s no yielding to pedestrians, which means you cross the street at your own risk. Drivers of cars and motorcycles do whatever they want as they see fit. Driving rules and regulations are just suggestions. Lane lines? More like lane guides. Light just turned red? Still have a few seconds to cross the intersection. Missed a turn? Just stop in the middle of the road, take your time and pause for a few minutes to look at maps and signs (and drive up really close to them too while you’re at it), and then make a U-turn if necessary. Slow cars or trucks in front of you, but the lane lines are solid? Oh, I’m sorry, what lane lines? Looking for parking? Park anywhere as long as it doesn’t outright block traffic (even easier if you have a motorcycle; you can park on the sidewalk!). Need to take a shortcut? Drive right through the narrow alley night market with swarms of people!

Anyways, I’m actually very grateful for my brother-in-law, who drove us around the entire time. The whole driving culture in Taiwan is messed up so it’s not like I’m only talking about him. It’s funny because dangerous driving is so much part of the norm that cars won’t even honk at you if you stop in the middle of the road to make a U-turn, provided that you don’t do it abruptly with cars right behind you. My mom would fit right into this driving culture haha. It’s a wonder (and grace of God) that we’re alive. We almost got hit by a truck while making an illegal U-turn in the middle of the street. We also almost got hit by an incoming car coming out of a winding turn on the mountain (the incoming car was not driving in its lane).

But yeah, we FINALLY got to Sun Moon lake. It’s like the Taiwanese equivalent of the US’s Crater lake, except it’s not a crater. The general geography is pretty similar though; a large lake surrounded by forest-covered mountains. The weather was good for walking around, but not the best for photography (quite cloudy, so no reflections in the water). We went on a boat and made some stops at various landmarks. There’s an island in the middle of the lake which was tiny because most of it sunk under water after an earthquake. It’s pretty interesting because you could see stairs leading to the top of the “hill”, and the stairs just go down under water. My uncle had seen this island in its original size and form before, so that must’ve been interesting for him.

Then it rained again. We drove back to Kaohsiung and I slept pretty much the whole time. I dunno. Something about transportation that just makes me sleepy.

I’ve been ending these posts with TMI so to continue with that trend:

While driving on that ridiculous detour, we stopped at this vantage point to rest. No bathrooms around so my uncle and Hain-Sing go off to the side and pee. It was kind of funny cause Hain-Sing followed my uncle, not realizing what he was about to do. And then when he realized, he walked a little distance away and followed suit. Okay, I guess that’s not that exciting, so here’s a picture of it (from a distance away behind them, obviously).

no bathroom? no problem!

no bathroom? no problem!