A Travellerspoint blog

Always departing never arriving

sunny 6 °C
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Departing and never arriving We have been on the road now for about a week and always departing somewhere to find a new adventure, so we left Taipei imagining the sights and sounds of London and the greeting we would get from Kayleigh on our arrival. Never thinking that our last blog post would be the signal of ultimate disaster we climbed aboard our Asia Airways flight, first destination a quick stopover in Bangkok then to Amsterdam to change planes to KLM into London Heathrow. The flight was long and sleep (when it did come) was brief and uncomfortable, however with each time zone change we told ourselves we were closer to meeting family. Unbeknown to us, our itinerary which had gone before us, signalled an arrival on the 12th December, when in fact we actually left Taipei on the 12th and would arrive on the 13th, so an international search for us was underway on Facebook initiated by Kayleigh after her trip to the airport to greet us was thwarted. Working as Carmen Sandiago she was looking to see whether we had been arrested in the protests in Taipei, or had been whistled off as drug mules in Amsterdam. The Facebook stream was so entertaining to read that when we finally re-surfaced contributors were dissapointed the stream had to end. Anyway, don't expect Kayleigh to volunteer a pick up at Heathrow for anyone else after the dissappointment of our vanishing act.

We have since been on an enjoyable top deck double decker tour trip around London, visited Greenwich and a great dinner night with Brent Sarah, Freda and Ethan. We had an amazing italian meal and lots of laughs and fun with the kids. The walk home in the gentle rain saw us stagger home and colapse into bed. Kayleigh is now suggesting that chain saws are cutting down the rain forrest in her lounge...however we can't agree as we never hear anything :-).

We are currently returning from Margate where we had a 5 degree beach experience along with visiting the Turner Contemporary Gallery. We had spent the day prior with old acquaintances from Waikato Days Pat and Rae Mellsop who now live in Canterbury, so great shops to view and the architecture of Canterbury Cathedral just mind boggling. Dinner at a great old pub concluded our day. Cantabrians visit Cantabrians... after everything being a bit of a blur, the City of Canterbury was very relaxing...don't get me wrong London is amazing but it is a city on speed. The closer we got to Canterbury West the more relaxed we felt. The flat farmland was amazing to find and the gentle train just made you feel like your were being transported somewhere special. That we were. What a stunning place Canterbury is. Pat met us at the station and gave us the speed tour and then we were off to explore. Had lunch with Rae which was great. This little city (called so because they have a cathedral) was stunning and steeped in history. Canterbury tails, Charles Dickens writings, Beany, Beckett and who could forget the cathedral. The buildings made you feel like you had been transported into a Charles Dickens novel with cobbled roads and wonky buildings, and as the evening came with it's christmas lights it was just magical. Before we met the Mellsops at 5 we walked through the cathedral what an amazing place. Its history, it's archetechure, its angles and it's light were all amazing. Maned by staff and volunteers who were very welcoming and yet aware that people may need time to just contemplate. The spaces were great places to think Rae and Pat love living in this georeous place and were amazing hosts telling us all the history and showing us the things they love right down to the little shop with the crooked blue door and of course that amazing Cathedral which diminated the skyscape even more so at night. The evening was completed with bubbles and nibbles and a great night at thhe cutest wee pub callled The Parrot.

Thanks Pat and Rae for showing us such a great time at yours ...please remember you are always welcome at ours

Posted by claptonisgod 13:10 Archived in England Comments (0)

Knowing when it's time to move on

Thou dost protest too much

rain 9 °C
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This will be the last posting from Taipei as we wait on our flight to London (via a stop in Bangkok and a plane and carrier change in Amsterdam).

Our last walk about took us past the presidential palace where after mentioning the amount of strategically placed barbed wire we began to hear raised voices and saw waving flags of protest some 100m ahead. Soon uniformed guards were in a push and shove situation and by this time we were in the midst of it all. Again the only Europeans to be seen and being eyed by both parties with suspicion.

Over many years I have caught some great images with my camera, but today I knew was a time to be cautious, and the images will remain only in my memory.

Posted by claptonisgod 03:11 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

She said, he said

rain 14 °C
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She said "We should try the subway today"

He said "That'll challenge us"

And so the plan was hatched that they would head for the biggest mall in Taipei on the metro where they had seen a huge ferris wheel the day before when returning from the National Museum on their day trip.

Off they set to the subway station where with just a little help from a non-english speaking information person w bought our tickets and guided by much overhead signage traipsed the walk headed for platform 5. Of course platform 5 is indeed five levels below ground and Sharon was muchly impressed by the escalators, some of which were the longest we have ever seen. Naturally, the first decision about which side of the platform to be on is the only one that counts and we safely managed to get the right train and then make the interchange (which was to line 1 - which meant 4 levels of escalators to find the next train platform). Sharon had initially suggested that we get a 'city bike' and bike to the mall. After some gentle persuading that the mall was likely 20 miles away, and reminded of the traffic actiivities of the locals, the metro seemed a great option.

On arriving at the mall it was time to lunch (twas a late start), and we found ourselves again the only europeans in the food court. We had met some Americans on the metro, and they were young, loud and brash (not necessarily in that order - we were quick to learn they were from Seattle). Anyway we grazed the foodmall. She said "I'm going to be brave and order something from here", indicating a restaurant where hot plates were the norm, He said "I'm going to get something from there, indicating a restaurant where plates had a central rice ball". The food was soon ready (alerted to with an electronic beeper) and came with miso soup and cold tea. Both unexpected and mediocre. Sharon's food also soon appeared and was a sizzling plate of chicken, mushrooms and noodles with a side pot of cream pesto.

So feeding finished we hent in search of the ferris wheel. Going up 10 floors bore no fruit (you'd think that it'd be easy to find (even for a couple of kiwis), so down 10 floors and we found ourselves outside going around the building to get closer and make the job of getting on easier. Up another 4 or 5 escalators again to finally find the entrance and where to pay.

She said "This looks like a great way to see the city", he said "Why is the operator being selective of which car she gives us, is she waiting for one with a camera? Anyway the trip around was slow and outstanding for seeing the vastness of the city, the biggest golf driving range I've ever seen, the mall building next door called 'Food extravaganza' (bugger the huge food court w'd eaten in, this was 8 floors of restaurants and eateries).

He said "Shall I make it rock and make it roll?" (feeling the Dire Straits words on his lips and bubbling up in the back of his throat). She said "We're as high up as the planes taking off from the airport - don't you bloody dare!"

She said "I'm going to try something different to eat every day".

He said "I'm prepared to give it a go, but on a big proviso that it looks OK and doesn't smell funny".

And so at breakfast she had salted ducks eggs and chicken and he had cereal and toast. And so each was a winner. Today she didn't have the salted ducks egg or chicken, and he enjoyed the cereal and toast. She did try the figs.

And so today is our last day in Taipei until we are nearly home. It is grey today (and I fear most days) and is raining lightly. We are in a cafe where I have ordered an Americano and the piped music is playing european chistmas carols a la the Concert Programme (even had Trumpet Voluntary a few minutes ago). The mixing of cultures extraordinary.

She said "Stop writing and let's have some dumplings for lunch" He said "What?"

Posted by claptonisgod 20:45 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Lost In Taipei

21 degrees and 80% humidity

overcast 20 °C
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Well as I sit in our hotel room typing this blog every muscle in my body aches..we have just arrived home after getting lost in Taipei at night..but that is the end and we need to go back to the begining. Today we walked in the oppositte direction finding a peace bell and an area which had been a Japanese monestary...even though much of this was destroyed it was still a very restful house and had a great wee museum as part of the Taipei Archives. On our way back we found the sunnycafe it had the greatest white baby grand and the place was all retro...very nice. Some of you may have been here before but those of you who haven't let me describe the traffic...mostly organised traffic initiated by very courteous people who somehow survive their trip to work each day. Crossing said roads was something that took us a day to get used to. There are red and green men just like home...however the green men are walking and have above them the amount of seconds you have to cross the road. As the time runs out he starts to run. Makes you quite anxious until you get used to it. Then as you cross scooters and cars come directy at you and around you. I am pretty sure no one has heard that the pedestrian has the right of way here :-).
This afterrnoon we went on a tour of the city. Six of us all together. David wasn't at all worried by the driving but he may have been seen reaching for his seat belt. We visited the memorial hall in all it's grandure. We watched the changing of the guard as Chang Kai Chek watched on in all his splendor. We then went to the shine of the Martyars. Once again such grandure and space something which is so lacking for the 5 million people living in the city with their 2 million scooters.
We visited a wee souvenir place where I picked up my first christmas decoration ...as we wandered around the shop we were given refreshing tea...a nice touch. The old gentlemen showing us around tried to get me to buy a cabbage decoration but when finding out it was a symbol of fertility we decided it wasn't a good idea.
The national muesum was our last stop. This is one of the biggest museum collections in the world. We marveled at the green, white, red, and yellow jade as well as amazing ceramics. The chinese have been around for so much longer than anyone else it was amazing to see just a small amount of their history.
Today was interesting for many reasons. There were many times during the day where we were in a room where we were pretty sure we were the only ones who spoke english...a facinating experience.
On ariving home we decided to go and find the night market for tea. To be honest we walked the street not seeing anything we felt comfotable to have a try at so we decided to walk home...this is where we got lost. My human compass David even got lost...lucky this is a city where you feel safe in because we wandered aimlessly for quite a while. David came through in the end and we are now safe at home with very achy bodies ready for another day tomorrow.

Posted by claptonisgod 05:14 Archived in Taiwan Comments (1)

Off to Taipei to challenge ourselves

Close quarters, quality security checking and chanting that makes the cobbles rythmically shudder.

overcast 20 °C
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We are on the road. After what seems like forever planning the itinerary is now under way. The wedding in Pauanui was stunning, with sun, sand and with a cluster of old friends from Cambridge days also in attendance making the days a special treat, and first step on the path to OE (by firstly reinforcing our trend over the past many years to participate in NE (or nationwide experiences)). The ceremony on the beach was just right for Kerryn and BJ, family and friends added memories which will last forever, captured (as might be expected in a digital age through hundreds of images yet to find their way onto the pages of Facebook - because of embargoes).

After a weekend which also had 'catching up with family who might just miss our company at xmas' as an additional focus it was time to drop the rental car, give air to the passports and climb aboard the first flight on the dancing shoelaces adventure. Row 43 didn't give me cause for optimism, and 2nd row from the tail gave us a trek on a full flight, stopping off first in Sydney - our first experience of overseas security (after a special performance in the 'holding hands above head whilst digital recording is undertaken' in Auckland after not taking my stylish hat off for the angry security boss fast enough) and seemingly non - existent humour of the Australian uniformed goon squad who for some reason wanted to put all our cabin baggage through a security check when the passengers have had no chance to change the status of the bags since leaving Auckland. An exercise in futility and annoyance
for all involved. Still, another chance to wear the hat too long and be rebuked.

China Airways were great catering for every need and making sure our trip was fun. Sharon managed to get reseated to a window seat just before we landed at 5am and was stunned by the beautiful green/blue lights and speckled red/orange across the impressionist landscape. We cleared customs and crossed the entry hall to find a sign being waved with our names and were shuttled to our hotel as dawn broke. A room wasn't available and we found ourselves walking the streets with the homeless. Though this wasn't the first experience we'd prepared ourselves for, the next experience of visiting the Longsham Temple was memorable and uplifting. The rythmic
chanting was hypnotic and the voices pulse could be felt through the well worn cobbles of the temple floor. A pair of singing birds alighted at each end of the temple roofline and kept time with the singing. We were greeted with hand shakes and bows, wished luck and peace.

Sharon was highly amused by the flocks of scooters (sometimes numbering in the many dozen) which line up at the front of traffic lights awaiting the green, then 'go' and there's the sound of a disturbed bee hive as they careen off across the intersection.

The trip is off to a great start.

Posted by claptonisgod 23:58 Archived in Taiwan Comments (1)

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