Karl Roche

family, cycling and communications



Taiwan in 8 minutes

Just a few clips thrown together thanks to the FlipShare software that covers a few of our trips around Taiwan this year.

We went right down south to Kenting National Park, into the middle of the country to a few spas, including one in an area that was hit by the 1999 earthquake that wrecked so much of the island. There are trips to night markets and around the streets and buildings of Taipei – including one to a chocolate exhibition.

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what’s been happening this week in taiwan?

Sun Yet Sun

Quick round up of things we have done this week, not much detail as I can’t really be that bothered at the moment.

After the Pingsi Latern festival where we saw the deputy President launch a huge lantern after much struggling on the tiny trains that take you up the mountain. We got to the transfer station and found massive lines of people trying to get train tickets and then on to the platform, but the gate was locked shut and some guy from the train service was whacking it with a spade to try and open it – in typical Taiwanese fashion everyone thought this was a great photo opportunity and grewas taking pictures of the growing crowd and a deranged guy waving a spade around.

When the train finally arrived (40mins late) the rush to get on the train was crushing and we then spent to next 40 mins standing in a over heating carriage as more people attempted to get on the train at the subsequent stops. Was a relief to get to our destination and tuck into some lovely noodles.

Pingsi lantern festival crowdsThe festival was the usual mixture of mild danger and great spectacle as huge clouds of lanterns took of into the sky and fireworks went off all around us. This is unsurprisingly the busiest time of the year for the Taiwanese fire service. Anywa, we got our lantern and wrote our wildest wishes and prayers on it before letting it go into the night sky with thousands of others.

The rest of the week was somewhat quieter. Trips to Sun-Yat Sen memorial hall for the lantern show there – these are the colourful kind of lanterns that stay firmly routed to the ground but depict scenes and made by students, some of which are truly amazing.

Lights at Sun Yat SenThat night we also went to Raohe Street night market for a feast of street food. Then the following day to Yingee to look at the ceramics and then back to Longsha6n Temple for a lovely foot massage ($400nts for 40 mins – about 7 pounds UK).

Also this week we went for a lovely sunday lunch at a seafood place that Ping’s sister took us to. We have sashimi, crab, more crab, some fried fish, miso soup and prawns. Was incredibly nice and fresh, in fact all the fish is live as with most seafood resturants in Taiwan, you just select which ones you want to eat from the glass tanks outside.

Today (Wednesday) we are to get a 3D scan on the baby at the hospital where Ping’s sister works but that isn’t until 6pm so we may go to Dansui earlier as it is on the same MRT line. A-ma has just taken Phoebe out to the park with Ling-Ling and Ping has gone for a little walk around the market, so I’m off to read a book for a while.

ice monsterBefore I do though, here is a lovely picture of our Ice Monster dessert from the other night. The thumbnail opens up to a larger picture.

sun is shining

It really is!

After a week of rain the sun was out this morning and there has hardly been a cloud in the sky all day, so much so that all the juice vendors have got out their oranges and started squeezing – a bit like us brits and shorts when the sun comes out.

Yesterday we went up on the Maokong Gondola which has had over 3 million visitors in 7 months. Since the write up David gave it the thing has become more popular – thankfully it wasn’t hot yesterday so the cabs were ok, but it felt odd not looking down on snow and having my snowboard while going up the mountain.  When you get to the top you can see across Taipei and visit one of the many tea houses. We stopped for some noodles, had a walk and visited the tea promotion centre by one of the pink buses you can take at the top.  As usual anywhere you find lots of people eating there are dogs – wish they would do something about that.  Anyway, it was a great day and any problems that David on Formosa may have witnessed seem to be sorted now and it was a very smooth operation.

We arrived in time to take lunch at the top but when we got to the bottom – around 4ish, the crowds were getting big. Not sure how long the wait was but if you do want to go avoid the weekends and evenings (as with most things in Taiwan) if you don’t want to wait in a queue.

For dinner we had dumpling – Dai Tai Fung for xioa long boa. We always go here once while in Taiwan, the little dumplings are just amazing, delicate and juicy.  If you see a huge number of Japanese tourists outside, don’t wait behind them, go up to one of the girls standing on the door and take an order form and (English) menu and wait for your number to come up on the digital display.  Every night at about 5 o’clock, a truck load of Japanese will turn up and devour most of the food in site, thankfully they go one table at a time so many wait their turn outside. Highly recommended.

Next round the corner it is time for a bit of Ice Monster, shaved ice and fruit – kiwi and strawberries for us.  Again, another of the must have’s. Yes it is a bit more expensive than some places but it is always fantastic. No mango until March though.  Certainly worth eating if you have room after dinner.

Tonight we are off to Pingsi for the latern festival and of course more food.  Goodness, I need to do some cycling to remove some of this weight Iseem to be putting on.  Although the walking is helping, it isn’t enough.

I should upload some of my own photos when I have more time later.

Sunday dinner at friends

Yes – it has been quiet here, work has been busy as usual but still fun.

Anyway, this sunday we went round to have Sunday Roast at a friends house in Worcester Park, Ginger and Steve.

Below is Phoebe with James, the son of some more friends that were there, Jonathan and Anfan. Ping made a swiss role like cake and a chocolate pie – Phoebe and James were both off the walls by the end of the day. Phoebe fell asleep as her head hit the pillow tonight.

Phoebe and James at Gingers Sunday dinner

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London Tea company needs more than organics

london tea companyAlways on the look out for something interesting in the way of tea and being a bit green I came across this from the London Tea Company (or as the packet says LTco) in my local Tesco. I love a cup of chai and this organic one looks great but the taste isn’t there.

I’ve had plenty of spiced tea from Indian friends to know what it should taste like and there are plenty of them out on the market. I’m not expecting a homemade sensation but a little something would be nice.. come on guys.

They say this is 100% organic, minimal and recyclable packaging (no glue), carbon neutral. Fantastic, but if I’m not getting the taste I want, no matter how long I brew it for I’m not going to shell out £2.40 for 25 bags again.

I might be tempted to try another one of the range but I won’t get this one again.

It’s a real shame as this is also a fair trade product – so it is about as Guardian pleasing as they come – but still tasteless.

10th Korean Festival in Kingston (30th June)

10th Annual Korean Festival in KingstonThis years festival is quite a bit earlier than it has been in the past.  Hopefully if you are in the area you will pop by and check-out the dancing, singing, music and most importantly the food… I hope it doesn’t rain.

The full programme is available on the Korean Residents Society web site.

You can see some pictures from last years festival here.

shabu-shabu and off to japan

The pot
Didn’t get round to the computer yesterday, went to bed at 9pm as I was so tired. Showered Phoebe and put her to bed, next thing I know it is morning.

Last night we had shabu-shabu for dinner, which is a pot of stock on top of a gas ring that you put on the table. Then you add various things to it as you want them, cooking as you eat. We had oysters, squid, prawns, pork and a load of fish based things.. not sure what they are but they are fishy (in a nice way) plus a load of sweet corn.

Today it is raining in Taipei as the end of a typhoon is washing over the area. It is now a tropical storm but that still means a fair amount of water.

Later we will be off to the airport to fly to Japan for 4 and a bit days. We will be staying in Osaka and surrounding area called the Kansai region which includes Kobe and Kyoto.

Chances are that I won’t be online again while we are there so this will be my last post for a little while.

It rained cats and ducks today in Taiwan

Some bird on the corner.

Originally uploaded by Karl Roche.

But only for a short while. Saw this as we were heading into Jounghe. Ducks hanging in a shop front.

You do some crazy things (for a westerner) in the streets and it is just worthwhile wondering around seeing what you can snap. However, I’m finding that having been here a few times now that I don’t instantly get a lot of these things as I’m getting more used to them.

Tomorrow Ping’s parents may have Phoebe for a few hours so Ping and I can spend a few hours alone and get out. We were looking at having a massage and then some food and a movie – haven’t been films since my mum looked after Phoebe months ago.

Then we will be off to Japan on Tuesday night.

Taipei Zoo

P-p-p-p-p-p-pick up a penguinMonday we all went to the zoo and this time too Chin-Chin.

Last year we went twice as the second time we met up with some people from England who were on hols at the same time.  Then the zoo was in the middle of some improvement works, thankfully that is all done now and the place looks great.  It is also the zoo’s 20th anniversary.

As you do, after buying your bento box outside for lunch we got the train to the top and sat outside the reptile house under  a palm tree.  It’s a little cooler up there but not much.

Took some photos of the two kids with some concrete penguins which were probably there last time but I don’t remember.  Thought this one looked quite cool – moody.

You can see a sign in the background which says no climbing, of course all the kids, with parents encouragement climb up the slope and have pictures taken with the penguins at the top.  Obviously the ones lower down are not good enough.

Hippo bites back

So we saw elephants, bison, macaques,  zebra and some bronze hippos in the concrete which were great fun for the kids, more so than most of the real animals which go on with sleeping.

Oh we did see a wolf, a couple of red pandas and a lynx, all of which was fantastic as we didn’t last time.  Got a good photo of one red panda with the zoo keeper.

As usual there are a few more photos on flickr about this.

Dinner was at Ding Tai Fung, in Xinyi, the most famous and best steamed dumplings in Taiwan.  People come from all over to eat here.  Many Japanese come here and many of the staff can speak English.  The menu is also in English.  We actually came here last time too, well once you have been you have to go again.  We had pork dumplings and prawn & pork dumplings, with steamed chicken soup and noodles.

If you stay for a few days in Taipei you must go to this place! But, it gets busy every night – after 6pm you could be waiting on the street with a number for a while.  To avoid the crush go just before dinner 4:30-5 should be fine.

Afterwards it was round the corner to Ice Monster and a giant ice mountain with mixed fruit and red beans.  Yummy way to finish the day off.

But I’m hungry

But I’m hungry – National Center for Traditional Arts

Originally uploaded by Karl Roche.

some light relief – a wedding

Yesterday a two good friends, Eddie and Paula got married.

It was nice to do something that was fun for a change although the party went on quite late (we left at 11pm) we had a great time and the people and food was fantastic.

Take a look at the photos.

It was held at the Phoenix Palace off the Marylebone Road in London. There were 12 courses and it is safe to say I wasn’t that hungry when I woke up this morning.

mela this weekend in london

I forgot about this!

Mela 2005

If you really like it hot and spicy, on Sunday 13th, head over to Gunnersbury Park, south Ealing for the annual London Mela, gathering of the Indian community. This is about 10 times bigger than the Korean festival on Saturday and a curry lovers dream. There are bands, dancing, rides, food, stalls selling anything and everything. This is a FREE event although if you park on site they do charge £5 I think, from what I can remember last year – if you park outside you may get clamped.

Nearest tube is Gunnersbury Park or Acton Town.

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