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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Staying at the Yoho Bike Hotel

Just spent three days in Kenting, which is right in the far south of Taiwan.


We stayed at the Yoho Landis Beach Resort which is made up of three hotel section which cater to different groups. The regular hotel and two other areas, Yoho Kids and Yoho Bike Hotel, which we stayed at.

The rooms are all kitted out for bikers with bike racks in the rooms, a mechanic on site (with bike spa) and a shop to hire bikes and buy equipment. The staff speak English and more than happy to practice with me as I don’t think they get a huge amount of practice as the vast majority of people are Taiwanese while we were there, think I saw two other families with Western contingents.

There are two main pool complexes with a hot-tub area, flumes and kids water play area which has smaller slides. There is an indoor soft play area for when you have had enough water, as well as climbing equipment and games arcade.

I also use the fitness room which has a 5 bikes and one treadmill plus free weights and multi-gym. Nice and clean and easy to use, all the directions were in English as they were American machines.

The beach is made up of old coral reef which has long since died, but makes swimming on the hotel beach a no-no as you’ll cut yourself to ribbons. great for beach combing and catching small crabs with the kids though, and there are hammocks in the shade too.

Outside the Yoho hotel with the family


Breakfast was included but dinner was an extra $500 each, but is a buffet, so fill up. We took some noodles for lunch with us and had those for lunch as we usually didn’t need much after a big breakfast. There are no shops nearby and so you can buy on site (expensive) or bring your own. Things like noodles, crisps and drinks. Each room has a fridge which is there for you to use for what you want – no minibar.

Night Market

We went into Kenting for the night market which stretches along the street. It’s really not the best although busy. There are a number of bars here which are really catering for the many westerners US$ rather than Taiwanese. I have to say I found nothing here that would bring me back to the night market.


As we stayed in a bike hotel I had to go for a ride. There are two choices: Use the hotel bike hire with is a standard street bike and costs about $200 per hour. Otherwise go to the Giant shop on-site and hire from a range of high-spec road and mountain bikes. I picked up a Giant TCR Advanced which cost $500 for the first hour and then $200 for each hour after that. I went out at about 4pm for a short ride around and up GuangShan. There were a couple of inclines which in 33c is pretty hard (especially when you have no idea how far the climbed is) but the bike was superb.


Great holiday, something for everyone, especially with a family or you looking for a base to use for cycling around the area.

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Day in the hills, Taiwan

Back home

Been back almost a week now. Just getting back into the swing of things, sleeping, cleaning, shopping and working.

It takes a while, forgot all those passwords, what I do, how I do it.  Surprising how slow it is to remember some things yet cycling to work has been oddly easy.  Perhaps all the walking we did kept strength in my legs – it certainly didn’t do a lot for all the food I was eating.  So much of it and so nice.

Quite easily the most enjoyable time we have had in Taiwan.  May be it is having the kids grow up or just feeling more at home their or even understanding more Chinese than I used to, which is only thanks to my daughter who is totally fluent now with a great accent too.

A couple of days before we left I was chatting to a mummy in the park, she lived in Canada previously although born in Taiwan, where she had been working for the last two years. The opportunities she mentioned were quite eye opening.  She even offered to introduce me but I was leaving two days later and then she was off to China to work on a new business project.  Shocked I could earn more in Taiwan than here in the UK (and also get to learn Chinese which is one of my person goals.)

May be after a few weeks the dream will fade?

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.

first week back in taiwan

Phoebe playing with sparklerChinese new year is almost at an end. For the first week here I kept away from the computer, mainly because it is nice to get a rest from something that you use everyday – but also there is a lot going on here.

Although we have had our share of rain it hasn’t put a dampener on the fireworks that go well on into the night and again the next morning at 6am. One day we knew it was going to be quite bad we went to the cinema, something we haven’t done for ages and saw “Alvin and the Chipmunks” which I think I liked more than Phoebe who thought the whole, sitting in the dark stuff, was a bit odd, as well as the talking animals 6 feet high on the screen.

One thing we all really liked was an afternoon at some hot springs in the mountains. There is something nice about sitting in 40oC water while it is about 10oC out of the pool and raining. The view of the mountains also helped.

Other days we have mostly been going to temples to burn incense, in Longshan and Sansia temples, we also went to Fo Guang Shan temple where we were given ginger tea, sweets and dried cheese!

Oh and I also bought a new camera, Olympus FE-280, for taking snaps.

Time for breakfast now.

osaka, japan

right, let’s go back a couple of weeks to when we were in Japan. Nothing better when it is raining, dark and windy outside in deepest south london.

I have to say Japan was a surprise, was expecting neon lights, hoards of people and a constant parade of vending machines selling school girl knickers. Apparently that is Tokyo. Osaka is very different.

I was surprised at how friendly the people were, lots of people just started talking to me (always helps when you have a small child with you) either practising their English or just showing me that they could speak English, but always welcoming me (us) to Japan.

The food, I have to say, is a little monotonous. No matter where we ate, what the menu looked like the food always appeared to be the same. Something I never experienced in Taiwan. Don’t get me wrong the food is good quality. Actually the best food we had was a simple roast pork ramen in Dotonburi. Simple, tasty and rather large.

In may ways Osaka has more in common with a European city than Taiwan or Hong Kong say. People on bikes everywhere, cooler climate, less pollution and an understaning of the queue. Please make sure you wait on on the correct side of the elevator door.

Osaka’s train system is in a word, confusing. Especially when the only map in English I had was also in black and white – try it with the Underground. Added to that there a many private lines, underground and JR lines finding your way around can be quite frustrating. But again, asking for help was easy and we always got plenty of it.

One thing I wish we could bring back is a toilet seat. Warm and cleaning.. mmmm, lol.

Kyoto is still in the Kansai region but a million miles away interms of buildings and people. They are both more stuffy. Then again areas which attract large numbers of tourists often go like this as the inhabitants often feel either like goldfish or superior. Nice house, shame about the moody face.

Sorry gonna have to stop this buiders again.. grr.

passwords and my memory

The other night while still in Taiwan I woke up realising I couldn’t remember my Windows password.  Obviously my mind was thinking about coming home even though I wasn’t.

Not remembering my passwords is nothing new. Often though I leave a reminder for this is a place that I will see easily when I get home. Not this time though, with everything going on in the flat, passwords were not something I was thinking about – basically I wanted to get out of Dodge and away on my hols, asap.

So that morning (4am) I sat in bed a wrote out a list of words that I may have and have used in the past.  The second to last word was the correct one….how odd is that? Even though I was tired and decided I would be able to sleep it happened after I recovered the password.

OK, not the most thrilling thing to happen but the relief when I got home was fantastic and after trying all those other passwords.  The thought of re-building Windows and losing some data didn’t interest me at all. Especially as I probably have a 1000 emails to go through on Monday when I’m back at work.

At some point I will write about Japan but still to tired to bother.

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.

having some time alone (second time in two years)

Nice pyjamasPing and I had a day to ourselves today.

We went for a Thai massage this morning in Taoyuan, which lasted 2 hours – the time flew past. It was good value I think, only NT$999 each. I didn’t realise that they actually do walk on you.. thought that was just the movies. Anyway, I would go every month at this price and the setting was superb – they have done a great job on the interior design.

Afterwards we went for a meal at a (Taiwanese) Japanese restaurant. One thing that surprised me was the Japanese yam, looked and tasted just like a potato!

Little later we went to a spa where you can get a room with a big big whirlpool bath, steam-room, and shower, plus a massive tv screen should you need it. That was great for a couple of hours but it made me sleepy and getting the train home was the last thing I wanted to do.

A-Gong and PhoebeAnyway we had a great time and when we got back we found Phoebe was at the gym with a-ma. When she got back and saw us she did go a little crazy and ran in shouting ma-ma, ba-ba, which was really nice. Now she is fast asleep after having a second dinner. That girl can eat.

Not sure what is planned for tomorrow, may be get ready for Tuesday or get a few things from Taipei to take home.

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.

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