Karl Roche

family, cycling and communications



Chinese new year in London

Just a quick post with a video from the weekend in London.

Chinese new year celebrations in London get bigger every year. I remember back when you could quite easily walk around and actually get into a restaurant the same day to eat. As it was we went to an Malaysian/Indonesian place in Soho instead.

It’s year of the Dragon which is my wife’s birth sign.



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.

We’re in the Sutton Scene

Ping went to a friends house the other day and saw a copy of our local free magazine, Sutton Scene… we are on the cover!  The picture was taken at this years Move it at the manor event.

It is a shame about Phoebe, she is usually really happy but for whatever reason the photographer managed to take the most miserable picture of her I have ever seen.

There is a larger version of this.. if you dare.

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London Freewheel cycling fun

From l to r: Phoebe, me, Ping

Sunday saw the largest gathering of cyclists on the streets of London in the Hovis Freewheel event.

The weather was great and the crowds came out, about 36,000 – and that was the people that registered. Apart from the many “crossing points” to allow lead footed pedestrians to get to and from Buck’ Palace the route was a lovely ride around London, Phoebe especially liked the loud zone under the bridges, screaming her head off.

The event was supposed to get non-cyclists out and about London but on the whole it looked like mostly regular cyclists had turned up even though just about every rental bike in London had been taken for the day.  I think it showed just how many people do ride already.

The day started in Carshalton where we met with others from the area and were led to the hub on Clapham Common by the London Cycle Campaign marshall, who was probably knocking on 70 years old – he could move.

When we got to Clapham the scene was quite amazing – a field full of people on all sorts of bikes with one or sporting angle wings or wizard costumes. At first they were letting people go 2 at a time every 30 seconds, this proved to be just crazy as the crowd got larger and larger with huge convoys of people arriving from all over.  I wouldn’t be surprised in Clapham was the busiest hub.

The trip down to the central car-free route was quite slow, the sheer weight of numbers around the traffic light congested north side of Clapham was making hard work.  Many car drivers were clearly getting upset.

Once in to town and after many bemused people looking at this stream of cyclists we got on to the main route and headed straight for our free sandwiches (thanks Hovis) and apples (cheers Cape) and then on for the ride.  Now I have riden this route before and sometimes it is quite terrifying along the Embankment opposite South Bank.  Cars whizz through the dual carriageway – today the only worry was from little kids not being able to go in a straight line.

We stopped by the London Eye at one of the free photo spots to have our picture taken and downloaded it today from the site.

I have to say it was a really lovely day, the weather held and the smiles of peoples faces made it all the better.  The cycle home was in stark contrast through busy streets and the usual London madness until we picked up the Wandle Way near Morden.

Looking forward to next year and also Critical Mass.

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Is the Hovis Freewheel just one of Ken’s stunts?

OK I’ve signed up for the Hovis Freewheel in London on 23rd Sept.  But I have seen plenty of people saying why?  Just give us bike lanes.

Could there be a reason for this event other than to inflate Ken’s already large ego?

A national study by the Transport Research Laboratory indicates that 38% of non-cyclists worry that friends would laugh at them for cycling (TRL 2001). Many people see cycling as eccentric, heroic, socially unacceptable or of limited relevance.

Of course cyclists don’t tend to think this way, but some also see that cycling has a low social status (between you and me the better off you are the more likely you are to cycle.. strange, but true) so what is the answer?  Turn everyone into a cyclist.

Cycling Action Plan (.pdf)

Unless you convince more people and everyone sees more people cycling then there will not be the business case to build huge numbers of dedicated cycle lanes.

Events like Freewheel look to get people into cycling in a fun way – in fact the event really isn’t aimed at the committed cyclist, it’s all you people with a bike in the shed that needs a bit of WD40 and a good ride into town.

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Fame at last – and sustainable transport

I haven’t seen it yet but Phoebe, my wife and I are in the Croyden Advertiser, that staple read of every home.. yeah right.

We were at the “Move it at the Manor” festival, last weekend when a photographer from the council asked to take a few snaps as I was carrying the cycle helmets on my bag.

The event is part of the 3 year, £3 million project, Smarter Travel Sutton, a pilot scheme in London, supported by Mayor of London and Transport for London, to help people reduce car usage and increase use public transport and cycling. The central part of the scheme is a visit by travel advisers to each and every house in the borough to ask them how they travel and provide information such as bus timetables and cycle routes.

If successful it will expand to the rest of London.

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Mass cycle on London: Hovis Freewheel

Having just bought a couple of bikes after a few years of inactivity on two wheels I’ve been keen to find out what is going on (cycling-wise) in London even though I sometimes think I should have bought a jetski, considering the weather recently.

Today I signed up for the Hovis London Freewheel festival when the streets of London are handed over to those on cycles for a day. The sign-up procedure was easy and sometime in the future I will get a pack with a bib woohoo…

Anyway, looks like a great idea – I need to get some training in just to get up to the Clapham hub

The event is on 23rd Sept.. I imagine it will be 32oC, bright sunshine and not a cloud to be seen (he say’s looking out the window on gales and driving rain in the middle of July.)

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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.

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.

2006 korean festival in kingston-upon-thames, uk

12th August is the 9th Annual Korean Festival in Kingston.

Korean dancers

Korean dancers from 2005
If we didn’t know so many Koreans in Sutton we probably would never have known about this one. It’s a nice little do, with loads of food stalls selling traditional Korean dishes.

Korean BBQ

It smells great! Unless you are veggie – opps
The festival takes place in a park, with the edges made up of food stalls and you can have a picnic in the middle. There is load of space for kids and it’s certainly not as crazy as Chinese new year. There are dancers and demos of traditional arts through-out the day.Why here? Well there are 35,000+ Koreans that live in and around Kingston.

If you want to try the food at home, there are loads of Korean shops and several supermarkets in and around New Malden. People there are nice and always willing to help. You can also get the meat for your bbq pre-marinaded, so you just slap it on the bbq when you get home.

Bulgogi is one of my favs and the non-spicy food lovers will like this – it’s a great place to start enjoying Korean food.
Lovely lunch!!!

Amy’s 1st birthday party

In February the daughter of a Korean friend of ours had their 1st birthday party, she is 3 days older (or younger, I forget) than Phoebe. They had the party at their family restaurant and I have never seen food like it. There are more photos on my flickr.

Now I’m just making myself hungry. Good night.

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