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2014/11/28 Kayaking in Moss Landing's Elkorn's Slough with Jennifer's Mom, and a bit of time in Monterey
π 2014-11-28 01:01 in Family
Jennifer's mom was visiting, so we went to Moss Landing for a kayak tour the day after thanksgiving:




seals sunbathing
seals sunbathing

so cute :)
so cute :)

sea lions
sea lions


sea otter
sea otter


Another seal resting
Another seal resting


nap time
nap time

sand dollar
sand dollar

Nice birds
Nice birds




this bird is getting its butt poked :)
this bird is getting its butt poked :)


cormorants
cormorants


bird of prey
bird of prey



Jennifer and her mom
Jennifer and her mom

eventually they called AAA and got a tow :)
eventually they called AAA and got a tow :)

After the tour, we walked around the beach:




From there, we went to Monterey to see an old church from the mexican era, and some museums:







left over from the indians
left over from the indians














After sunset, we finished in downtown Monterey:






We finished with a nice French Restaurant:





2014/11/23 Late Season Day with CFRA at Sears Point/Infineon/Sonoma Raceway
π 2014-11-23 01:01 in Cars
I went to join a few (ex-)coworkers/buddies at Sears thanks to being accepted as a guest by CFRA and being able to grab their last spot for sunday.

I don't know Sears Point well, I tend to avoid it in my own cars since I think it's a somewhat dangerous track compared to the other options around here, but I went once in my miata, once in my F430 (apparently only got down to a 2:04 which is lame), ran 2 session in my 12C (1:56 which was better).

While I did drive formula 3 cars there, the experience is so different that it doesn't really transfer that much to regular cars (I was running 1:43 with that car and the instructor did 1:38).

Anyway, I was super rusty on driving Sears, so after a couple of sessions, Shane nicely agreed to ride with me and give me some tips. He quickly identified what I needed to fix, and I got down to a best lap of 1:58 with him to 1:55 in sessions 4 and 5 (there were also fewer people on the track, so I got cleaner laps there).

For personal notes, here are my laps:
Session 3: 2:00, 2:01, 1:59, 1:57, 1:59, 1:58, 1:59, 1:58, 1:59, 2:00
Session 4: 2:00, 1:58, 1:58, 1:59, 2:01, 1:56, 1:58, 1:55, 2:02, 2:00, 2:02, 2:00
Session 5: 1:59, 2:00, 1:56, 1:57, 2:02, 2:03, 2:02, 1:57, 1:57, 1:55, 1:55, 1:56

CFRA is a great group, they have X on the back of cars that don't want to be passed without a pointby, that way you don't have to guess and no one gets mad :) but generally both in the A/B group and the Race group (I ran in both), drivers were courteous and aware of cars around them. I also got to point a few of them by with track cars and great drivers that were hauling ass :)

Good time was had, I definitely improved during that day, so it was perfect :)

My best 2 laps are below (1:55 back to back):

And here are some pictures:





less weight, more speed :)
less weight, more speed :)

for all your automotive needs, mancave autowerks :)
for all your automotive needs, mancave autowerks :)

thanks Shane!
thanks Shane!


my car's bigger brother :)
my car's bigger brother :)

I love the blue inside, very nice match
I love the blue inside, very nice match

Unfortunately even on a dry day, there was some carnage, including a GTR that lost a wheel on track :(



reflecting on a good day's work
reflecting on a good day's work

A big thanks to Oleg for inspiring me to come that day, it was well worth it.

2014/11/16 Jennifer's Early Birthday
π 2014-11-16 01:01 in Family
First, I have to state that Jennifer, who despite turning the 2nd digit is still a spring chicken :)
I took her a few days early to see Cirque du Soleil in San Francisco, and we then walked to a nearby nice French Restaurant before heading home.


don't miss the little lady in the round belly :)
don't miss the little lady in the round belly :)


oui! :)
oui! :)

2014/11/15 USS Hornet Flashlight Tour
π 2014-11-15 01:01 in Flying
Daniel came with us to the USS Hornet for a flashlight tour (parts of the aircraft carrier not open to the general public). It was quite nice to be able to see the underbelly of the ship, the steam engines, and special rooms like the dentist room, or hairdresser:



plane arresting cables
plane arresting cables


catapult
catapult



we got down in the bowels of the ship
we got down in the bowels of the ship










burners were diesel is injected via nozzles and burnt to create steam pressure
burners were diesel is injected via nozzles and burnt to create steam pressure


Random other parts of the underground city:

dentist office
dentist office


bakery
bakery

hairdresser
hairdresser

laundry
laundry

huge washers and dryers
huge washers and dryers



CIC (command and control center):






crypto room
crypto room





Deck:









I'll also have to learn more about knots :)


Later pictures from another visit:




first plane to land on a boat, in 1913!
first plane to land on a boat, in 1913!



Thanks a bunch to Daniel for driving us there and back when neither Jennifer or I were much up to it that day (lack of sleep, and cold).
See more images for USS Hornet Flashlight Tour
2014/11/11 Taiwan Trip Wrapup
π 2014-11-11 00:00 in Taiwan2014, Trips

Some thoughts after this 17 day trip through Taiwan. First, huge kudos to Jennifer who spent a huge amount of time preparing the trip for us. Many things are a bit backwards once you live Taipei: finding information on places was hard and time consuming, either on the phone, or Emails which take a long time for Jennifer to write (she can write, but not fast), getting a hiking permit was ridiculous: it took days of work and included providing a local contact in Taiwan to vouch for us (for a hike which quite frankly wasn't dangerous), and booking places was mostly on the phone, spelling address and Email letter by letter over bad phone connections. Even reserving a train ticket was a big mess.

Originally our trip was meant to be before our trip in Indonesia and we had to postpone it due to a Typhoon that went through Taiwan just before we were about to fly there. Jennifer ended up having to cancel and re-book everything: plane flights, trains, hotels, and hiking permit. Thankfully the delay allowed us to have better weather, and we got 2 extra days out of it on our new itinerary, so we didn't have to run as fast :)

Random impressions/thoughts I got out of this trip:

  • As a tourist, I found Taiwan more like Japan than China (and I mean that as a compliment ;) ). People are not as extreme in respecting rules as the Japanese are, but still reasonably close. They're also much more helpful and nice than the Chinese are to tourists overall (sorry if you're Chinese :) ) even if not to the extreme than the Japanese are (who will run after you to return the wallet you just dropped, or come back after you if they realized they just gave you bad directions after you've already left). With only a couple of exceptions, everyone was very helpful and nice to us (there is some idiot in an SUV who decided I should not be able to pass him on a long winding road and actually swerved to block me twice when I tried to pass, but this could have been a stupid tourist).
  • Of course, Taiwan is a democracy and China is a dictatorship where it's unfortunately ok for a portion of the population to screw anyone for a buck (we're talking poisoned toys, killing villages slowly by poisoning their water to make cell phone magnets, and arresting reporters who try to let the world know about it, or name brand wine bottles that are re-filled with unsafe wine and sold as new). This is why I've so far avoided setting foot in China and I should add that Jennifer who went to visit China when she was younger was taken advantage of in bad ways, and hasn't exactly forgotten either. Thankfully Taiwan was great, it was safe, the government looked like things were run well (outside of missing rules for the road, see below).
  • Things I liked:

  • I learned more on this trip about the struggle of Taiwan to become and stay a nation (republic of china) when the so called "people's republic of china" (*cough*bullshit*cough*) tried to crush them several times and I admire how they fought and stood their ground even if their plan to retake China and liberate the rest of its people (a mere billion+ today) obviously isn't exactly going to happen.
  • Everything was cheap for us. Entrance to most attractions/museums was 1 or 5 dollars.
  • Food was super cheap too. You could get a decent pack lunch for $1. Jennifer was in heaven :)
  • I loved the ice cream music coming out of the trash trucks driving around. It was even more fun when multiple trucks were doing their own route at the same time and you could hear slightly different music from each, at the same time. It's only around the last days that I figured out that people could not leave their trash bags in the streets and they weren't any big trash containers outside you could leave your trash in for the trucks to pick up: instead you have to be home, hear the music, and hurry outside with your trash back to throw it in the truck as it is driving by slowly. Reminds me of running after a water truck at burning man to get a shower :) That said, it's a bit backward though, if you're working when the truck goes by, I'm not sure how you dispose of your trash (likely you have to drive it somewhere).
  • There is a lot of nature worth seeing in Taiwan, but a lot is not super accessible. We saw some of the highlights I think, but California has just as many as nice or nicer ones much closer to home for us :) The Hoodoos in Yeliu were likely the one very nice thing we don't have in California.
  • Their temples were plentiful and colorful. Honestly, I was quite impressed.
  • Things I didn't like as much:

  • Once outside of Taipei, it's not Japan. Getting around without a car in an efficient manner isn't really possible (mind you, that's true of many countries).
  • Taiwan doesn't have too many cars in most of the towns we went to which is good, but in turn you get thousands of noisy polluting scooters everywhere (fun fact, they usually pollute more than a car per distance driven). Also I'm not scared to drive in cities without lanes and traffic in all direction, but the scooters cutting around you left and right at all times and always having to worry about not swiping a few when you make a turn in any direction, was annoying. In the end, I only got around by saying "fuck it, if they are dumb and try to pass me on the right between the sidewalk and light poles while I turn, they'll end up hurting more than I will".
  • I wish Taiwan were using more bikes, especially electric bikes. We saw a few electric scooters, but due to their weight they had poor range (30-40km at best?) and you're screwed if the battery dies. Electric bikes in Kyoto were sooo much more practical and didn't make smog worse (smog wasn't good in bigger cities and I'm sure the scooters play a big part). Then again, I'd rather have electric scooters everywhere than gasoline ones.
  • Taiwan doesn't seem to have laws against having bright flashing LEDs to blind you from all directions and distract you from the road. Worse, you can totally put flashing red and blue lights on your car or truck, and even worse, some people did that. Good thing that no cop tried to pull me over because I'd have ignored all lights. To be honest, this makes Taiwan look bad and a bit third-worldy, I hope they get a grip and fix this at least.
  • Another interesting thing: if you park in some cities some city block parking enforcer comes and puts a ticket like looking stub on your car. That's normal, you're supposed to then go find a 7/11 (no kidding) and pay your parking fee there (it's not a fine, just the way you pay the street parking fee). Urgh, this is questionable at best.
  • And speaking of unsafe driving still, it's 100% legal to have a TV in car dashboard for the driver. Hell, even a cab driver was watching a soap opera while driving us around :-
  • The food. Jennifer was in heaven eating random animal parts that I didn't grow up thinking of as food, even if French people do eat more animal parts than Americans do :) For me, it was a bit tough to find things that felt safe at times, or just lean protein. We once took Jennifer's family to a steakhouse and all the steak cuts we got were pretty horrible. Let's just say that I loved eating just about everything in Japan, but not as much in Taiwan. That doesn't mean the food was bad like in Indonesia (sorry if you're Indonesian, but food there is just not the country's main forte outside of Bali), just not what I liked most about Taiwan :)
  • Here are a few interesting pictures that I have left over:

    driving a cab is less boring if you can watch TV at the same time
    driving a cab is less boring if you can watch TV at the same time

    hello kitty air terminal, cute :)
    hello kitty air terminal, cute :)

    hiking is boring, how's facebook doing?
    hiking is boring, how's facebook doing?

    those selfie poles were everywhere. People were filming themselves walking a hiking trail with that. Lame...
    those selfie poles were everywhere. People were filming themselves walking a hiking trail with that. Lame...

    In Japan, I had a collection of funny signs, so here are a few from Taiwan:

    In Paris, it's a bunny that gets its hands caught :)
    In Paris, it's a bunny that gets its hands caught :)

    Argh, less fun, this tells you that it's safe for ladies to use the bathrooms, they were checked for voyeur cameras :(
    Argh, less fun, this tells you that it's safe for ladies to use the bathrooms, they were checked for voyeur cameras :(

    Escalators bite :)
    Escalators bite :)

    Oh, I almost forgot to say we came during election time. OMG, they were signs everywhere, way way too many:


    Vote for the winning team, vote #10!
    Vote for the winning team, vote #10!

    7 different voting signs in this intersection
    7 different voting signs in this intersection

    I'll put a few last words on what I learned about religion in Taiwan. The real main religion in Taiwan is Folk Religion. Due to history, it's a combination of Buddhism, Taoism, and many variants, including characters in ancient legend. The last bit was what confused me a bit, seeing many statues of existing people who were being revered like gods, prayed to, and given offerings. There is nothing wrong with that mind you, it just took a bit to get used to.
    Please refer to my Taiwan Day 08: Tainan and Anping post which shows how the beautiful temples look like, the many kinds of deities, how people leave all kinds of foods (all the way to pig hearts), and big stacks of yellow paper god money you buy and burn to hopefully grant wishes.
    Thanks to Hung-Te Lin, a coworker from the Taiwan office, I now understand a bit better how the religion works, including how the food offerings can be taken back by people who left them, or given to the poor, or sometimes taken home by the temple staff. I also learned that the rooms filled with little yellow lights can be effectively rented for a period of time (maybe a year) for a special blessing and you get your name on them.

    Huge thanks again to Jennifer for organizing the trip and her family who hosted us for a couple of days.

    See more images for Taiwan Trip Wrapup
    2014/11/10 Taiwan Day 17: Finish Taiwan with Wulai and Sanxia
    π 2014-11-10 01:01 in Taiwan2014, Trips

    We didn't head out very early on our last day since Jennifer took some time to spend with her uncle to share stories, memories, and pictures:


    Eventually we arrived at Wulai which isn't exactly a top attraction but a nearby-ish nature area with some attractions that Jennifer had heard about. It must have been a really nice place when it was first built, but it looked a bit sad and badly maintained when we arrived (out of season). Still, we managed to have a little fun there with what was left :)











    We found some amusement like archery which Jennifer never had done, and me only once some 30 years ago:

    she didn't quite know how bows worked :)
    she didn't quite know how bows worked :)

    better
    better

    I did reasonably well with my wild pig
    I did reasonably well with my wild pig

    Jennifer's pig survived happily, but the nearby deer had a scare :)
    Jennifer's pig survived happily, but the nearby deer had a scare :)

    OMG, that's a lot of koi fish, they looked hungy :)
    OMG, that's a lot of koi fish, they looked hungy :)



    We then did part of their badly maintained, slippery obstacle course (due to moss):





    We then stopped by a place Jennifer used to go to play during her childhoold:



    Last, we went to Sanxia, another interesting town with a nice old shopping street and temples, but lots of things were closed by the time we arrived (18:00):













    And this was the end of our trip, time to go back to the airport for our night flight to SFO.

    .

    2014/11/09 Taiwan Day 16: Jiufen and Jinguashi
    π 2014-11-09 01:01 in Taiwan2014, Trips

    After our night in Keelung, we went to check a fort that used to be there to defend the city from invadors like the French (that didn't really work out, the French did get in there):


    getting our car back from the elevator to head out
    getting our car back from the elevator to head out


    map from the french
    map from the french

    there isn't much left of the fort, a few stones and cannons
    there isn't much left of the fort, a few stones and cannons


    From there, we had a few nice views:


    nice temple
    nice temple


    We then drove to Juifen, an old mining town with a well known shopping street:



    by the time we got there, the weather had turned to fantastic :)
    by the time we got there, the weather had turned to fantastic :)

    thankfully the shopping street was covered
    thankfully the shopping street was covered

    After doing the shopping street in Jiufen, we went to check out a small gold mining museum where a nice lady gave us a private tour in English explaining how mining was done there (different from the US due to different kinds of rock and Aure):


    Jennifer, training to be a miner :)
    Jennifer, training to be a miner :)

    You need a bigger nail :)
    You need a bigger nail :)

    The guide showed us carbide lamps they used as lights in the tunnels. You put calcium carbide in them (a solid), mixed it with water. The reaction gave off acetylene gas which in turn comes out the lamp and you set on fire to create light.



    Our guide then showed us how the ore was processed and finally turned into gold by hand. It's quite an involved process from grinding with a wheel, and multiple levels of separation, using weight, than mercury, evaporating the mercury, then silver, removing the silver with nitric acid, and finally getting gold in the end.





    traces of gold on top of the sand, due to gravity
    traces of gold on top of the sand, due to gravity

    the mercury/gold mix is heated up and the mercury condensed back in water to be reused
    the mercury/gold mix is heated up and the mercury condensed back in water to be reused

    copper
    copper

    silver
    silver


    From there, we went to nearby Jioufen which had a Gold Ecological Park showing more about mining. By the time we got there, it was pouring rain:





    the tunnel was very wet and growing all kinds of fungus
    the tunnel was very wet and growing all kinds of fungus






    7 million dollars' worth of gold
    7 million dollars' worth of gold



    The town had a Japanese Shinto gate from the colonial period. There are few left over. We hiked up to check it out, or what was left of the temple:





    at least the view from up there wasn't bad since the rain had subsided
    at least the view from up there wasn't bad since the rain had subsided

    From there, we went to check out big statue we could see from a distance:








    With that over, I drove in 90mn of bad traffic (rain + sunday night) to get to Jennifer's uncle's house as early as possible so that we could go out for dinner:



    .

    2014/11/08 Taiwan Day 15: Yangmingshan and Yeliu
    π 2014-11-08 01:01 in Taiwan2014, Trips

    We started by enjoying breakfast in our room, our hotel was a bit like a Japanese ryokan, we headed out for a guided tour of Chiang Kai Shek's private residence in the mountains.












    Map of the area in French for when the French wanted to take over
    Map of the area in French for when the French wanted to take over


    We then drove around the Yangmingshan area some more, but outside of some volcanic activity that was interesting, but the rest was unremarkable and crowded because of the weekend visitors from Taipei:






    Next, we went to the east coast towards Yeliu to see the geopark filled with Hoodoos and other interesting rock formations due to erosion:










    After seeing the rock formations, we quickly checked out a nearby temple, as well as some restaurants on the street and noticed one of them had big manta shrimps (bigger than we had ever seen), and since we had never eaten one, we stopped there for dinner:








    I then finished the drive to Keelung where our hotel was. Traffic is interesting there, and parking non existent, but Jennifer found a hotel with parking which ended up being an elevator for cars in which I had to carefully manoeuvre because it was not automated. We then went out to see the local night market, which was a total madhouse:








    .

    2014/11/07 Taiwan Day 14: Tamsui and Yangmingshan
    π 2014-11-07 01:01 in Taiwan2014, Trips

    We started with Fort Santo Domingo in Tamsui to learn the history of all the countries that had been been to Taiwan through this area, built forts, and ran it until 1980 when it was finally given back to Taiwan:







    a canadian imigrant who built schools and spread knowledge
    a canadian imigrant who built schools and spread knowledge


    Our last temple was hidden in the middle of a shopping street:







    Once done with Tamsui, and almost 1H in a rental car branch to sign the paperwork to get our car (that was sad, and they had 2 people helping us), we drove towards Yangmingshan, a volcanic Mountain with fumerols, and hot springs (yellowstone like, but in the mountain):


    I'm not sure I'd bring my bride at this rotten egg stinky place :)
    I'm not sure I'd bring my bride at this rotten egg stinky place :)


    We then reached the Chung-Shan building, featured on the $100 Taiwanese bill. We arrived too late for the last tour due to a timing screwup, but they were nice enough to let us in and gave us a private volunteer guide who gave us a full tour.
    The building was built as a assembly headquarters back when Chiang Kai-Shek and was used by the state for various official meetings and banquets until 2005. It is now open to the public for visits:









    To finish the day, we hiked up a trail to get a view of Taipei in the distance and got a bonus sunset:








    The hotel we stayed at private onsens in each room, so we enjoyed a hot bath in volcanic water before a very good dinner there:



    .

    2014/11/06 Taiwan Day 13: Beitou and Tamsui near Taipei
    π 2014-11-06 01:01 in Taiwan2014, Trips

    That morning, we took the train to Xinebeitou, a nearby semi volcanic town with hot springs. When the Japanese invaded taiwan, they built onsens then (public baths using hot springs water), which are now enjoyed by the Taiwanese too.


    police scooters, cute :)
    police scooters, cute :)




    how to use an onsen
    how to use an onsen


    After the onsen museum, we went through one of the many onsens there, and we got a foot bath there:








    big ants moving a spider
    big ants moving a spider

    people could also get a free foot bath in the river
    people could also get a free foot bath in the river

    Once done with Beitou, we went back to Tamsui where we were staying. Tamsui is a port that belonged to several countries over the years due to old treaties and was only given back to Taiwan in 1980. As a result, there are several forts from the wars over time (Spanish, Dutch, French, Japanese) as well as foreign influence.






    After we were done with the local sights, we went to the harbour to see a very nice reverse sunset:








    After that, I was able to find a yummy restaurant which probably wasn't Taiwanese, but had yummy food which I enjoyed without being worried :)



    We finished our evening by walking down the main street and checking out a nice temple there:





    We then went back to our room for the evening.

    .

    2014/11/05 Taiwan Day 12: Kinmen Island and Taipei
    π 2014-11-05 01:01 in Taiwan2014, Trips

    We started our last day in Kinmen Island by visiting a family shop that made lots of knifes out of the artillery shells the chinese shot at them:


    and after 50 years, they still have much supply of material
    and after 50 years, they still have much supply of material


    this is how they do it
    this is how they do it


    They gave us a demo of how they do their knifes:





    this piece of shell metal is turned into a crude knife first, and then into a nice one
    this piece of shell metal is turned into a crude knife first, and then into a nice one



    Obviously my opinion of the repressive dictatorship of china (which calls itself a people's republic) is well known, but seeing who much damage they did to their own civilians who happened to live on those islands just because of how much they wanted to prevent a real democratic china (now Taiwan) from existing, sure didn't improve my opinion of China. The displays I saw claimed China launched about 1 million shells on those 2 islands to destroy and kill as much as they could, until the US started getting more involved and they eventually stopped.

    Next, we went to the military cemetary, which was also the start of a hike to the top of the island which houses a very nice temple (thankfully it was high enough not to have been damaged by the war):


















    That island also had a big tunnel built in sheer rock to allow resupply ships to arrive under cover of falling shells and be unloaded inside the cave package before being sent back:





    resupply barges looked like this
    resupply barges looked like this

    We also went to see more villages:








    On our way back to the airport, we saw a temple only accessible via a path you can walk at low tide, and a park with aviation pieces:






    And this was it for KinMen Island. We took a plane to fly back to Taipei. We went directly to Taipei 101 and to visit the Google Office there, from which we took a few pictures:








    After Google, we had dim sums at the famous Xiao Long Bao in Taipei 101, and its marketplace:

    thankfully we got in before the line got crazy long
    thankfully we got in before the line got crazy long





    .

    2014/11/05 Quick Visit of the Google Taipei Office
    π 2014-11-05 01:01 in Google
    As par of our visit of Taiwan, we flew back from Kinmen Island to Taipei, and went from the airport to Taipei 101 to visit the Google Office before heading out ot our next destination (I love seeing our offices around the world for their local decors, layout, comparing microkitchens and so forth).

    Here are a few pictures:


    nice view from the top of Taipei 101
    nice view from the top of Taipei 101

    very cool logo
    very cool logo

    interesting drinks :)
    interesting drinks :)




    Yeah, halloween made it to Taiwan too somehow :)
    Yeah, halloween made it to Taiwan too somehow :)


    2014/11/04 Taiwan Day 11: Kinmen Island
    π 2014-11-04 01:01 in Taiwan2014, Trips

    This day, we spent all our time visiting Kinmen Island. We first went hunting for breakfast:


    noodles
    noodles


    We started with a local village that was facing towards China, so they had underground tunnels to get around without being killed by shells.



    old phone switch
    old phone switch


    the tunnel wasn't lost on all
    the tunnel wasn't lost on all




    We continued around the island:

    bunker view
    bunker view


    the lovely chinese come there with huge boats to illegally take all the sand
    the lovely chinese come there with huge boats to illegally take all the sand

    more long underground tunnels to avoid artillery
    more long underground tunnels to avoid artillery

    We then went to checkout another traditional village built by a single family:





    Next was a big underground complex with huge tunnels and artillery to fire back at the Chinese. The park rangers did a mock up firing presentation for us, quite entertaining :)








    This museum did a good job explaining what the battles over these insignificant islands were all about, as in the end, they were just another front of the cold war. The US while not fighting directly gave a lot of help to Taiwan with equipment to stop the spread of communism. In turn, the Taiwanese fought bravely against a superior attacker. The worst part is that MAo Zedong apparently started these attacks against the ROC (Taiwan) to distract its own people trying to create a revolution. Sigh...


    to allow safer resupply, they built many tunnels and used amphibious vehicles to hide in the rocks to unload supplies
    to allow safer resupply, they built many tunnels and used amphibious vehicles to hide in the rocks to unload supplies

    this is what the Chinese did to anything reachable above ground
    this is what the Chinese did to anything reachable above ground

    they had huge loudspeakers to disuade the chinese from further attacks against mostly their own
    they had huge loudspeakers to disuade the chinese from further attacks against mostly their own

    the chinese shot so many shells at the ROC that the locals started making knifes with the metal
    the chinese shot so many shells at the ROC that the locals started making knifes with the metal





    Turns out the Chinese even tried to debark on the island like Normandie, except did it badly and encountered Taiwanese tanks (from the US) and defense weaponry that allowed the Taiwanese to stop the attack (battle of Guningtou). This is why the Chinese then just started shooting shells at them by the hundreds of thousands instead of trying to invade the island again. Turns out neither worked:


    the people and building casulaties were heavy though
    the people and building casulaties were heavy though


    We also saw some nice parks and birds during the day:










    By sunset time, we went to a beach to enjoy the view:


    sunset over tanks, romantic :)
    sunset over tanks, romantic :)

    China in the background
    China in the background


    And finished the day by doing a night tour of downtown:






    .

    See more images for Taiwan Day 11: Kinmen Island
    2014/11/03 Taiwan Day 10: Lieyu and Kinmen Islands
    π 2014-11-03 01:01 in Taiwan2014, Trips

    We left Jennifer's family in PinTung and flew to Kinmen Island, which is literally a stone's throw across China's coast. Somehow the republic of China (aka Taiwan) managed when they retreated from mainland China to keep this island and keep it ever since. They actually had multiple battles with China 60 years ago over this small island, but I guess China didn't try too hard and gave up on it in the end as it not being worth the trouble. On the flipside, Taiwan spent a lot of effort keeping bunkers, cannons and other armament on the island to defend against possible Chinese invasions.

    Basically my understanding is that the nationalists who created the Republic of China (aka Taiwan) unfortunately lost battles in mainland china, had to retreat and eventually ended up in those two Islands and Taiwan. China actually went tried to take over the islands and after failing just bombarded them with hundreds of thousands of artillery shells, but thankfully Taiwan got enough external help to defend themselves and hold their position (through much personal bravery and sacrifice)


    fat airlines :)
    fat airlines :)

    1h flight to Kinmen
    1h flight to Kinmen


    Lieyu is the small island on the left
    Lieyu is the small island on the left

    this is how close the 2 islands are from China
    this is how close the 2 islands are from China

    We got our rental car and drove directly to the Ferry to get to Lieyu. There, we rented an electric scooter that was kind of fun, and gave us about 25km of travel for two before its battery started getting somewhat low. We drove around the small island and visited some old bunkers that had been fixed up a bit to allow for visits



    our electric scooter looked like this
    our electric scooter looked like this

    We drove around the island, went to see some bunkers, nature, and temples:


    millet
    millet


    you could swim to China if you really wanted
    you could swim to China if you really wanted





    the chocolate bird as Jennifer calls it :) (michoko)
    the chocolate bird as Jennifer calls it :) (michoko)





    looks just like Gi Joe :)
    looks just like Gi Joe :)












    We finished by visiting a tunnel that goes from one corner of the island to the other to reposition boats and troops:



    this tunnel didn't look like it was fun to drill mostly by hand
    this tunnel didn't look like it was fun to drill mostly by hand

    By 17:00, we were done with Lieyu Island and went back to its grandsister Island, Kinmen and saw a few sights before ending the day:


    they collected shells thrown at them by the Chinese
    they collected shells thrown at them by the Chinese






    We barely managed to get dinner that night since most restaurants were closed by 19:30 already.

    .

    2014/11/02 National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in PingTung, Taiwan
    π 2014-11-02 01:01 in Aquariums
    While in Taiwan, Jennifer's family drove us to the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in PingTung, south of Taiwan. Nice place:





    the aquarium used to have a whale shark, but released it because their tank was too small and it was deemed inhumane
    the aquarium used to have a whale shark, but released it because their tank was too small and it was deemed inhumane


    mud skippers are awesome
    mud skippers are awesome











    2014/11/02 Taiwan Day 09: PingTung and Kenting
    π 2014-11-02 01:01 in Taiwan2014, Trips

    Jennifer had grand plans for what we'd be doing on this day, but her cold turned for the worse, a likely bacterial infection (I was almost over mine by then), and she was just exhausting with a fast fading voice. At the same time, her family obviously not getting to see her more than once every 10 years or so, wanted to spend time with her, and chat.
    They ended up offering to drive us to the Aquarium down south we had planned to go to, and we visited that.





    the aquarium used to have a whale shark, but released it because their tank was too small and it was deemed inhumane
    the aquarium used to have a whale shark, but released it because their tank was too small and it was deemed inhumane


    mud skippers are awesome
    mud skippers are awesome










    After the aquarium, Jennifer was just queasy with the anti coughing medication she got, and needed the right food we she wasn't able to find in the aquarium. While we could have gone to some of the other points she marked for that day, like the Kenting national park and southmost point of Taiwan, we just went for an early dinner, which seemed to be more what she needed ;)






    By then, we were running a bit late for sunset, but we drove to a high up temple and got the tail end of it:






    .

    2014/11/01 Taiwan Day 08: Tainan and Anping
    π 2014-11-01 01:01 in Taiwan2014, Trips

    Tainan used to be the capital of Taiwan a long time ago, so it has lots of old temples, as well as a remnant of a Dutch fort before the Chinese booted the Dutch out. We stayed at the Ta Lee Hotel which was being renovated, so we got a very nice room, good breakfast, free parking and loaner bikes for an unbeatable price.

    good breakfast makes for a happy Jennifer, even had steamed buns :)
    good breakfast makes for a happy Jennifer, even had steamed buns :)

    The loaner bikes turned out to be handy since driving and parking around Tainan for short distances just isn't worth it, but the distances were just a bit too long for walking.

    We started with Chihkan Tower, which is more a house built on top of an old Dutch fort which was taken over by the Chinese when they were booting the Dutch out:


    what it used to look like, obvious Dutch looking houses inside a fort, cute :)
    what it used to look like, obvious Dutch looking houses inside a fort, cute :)

    Next, we went to see a lot of different temples, which Tainan is full of since it was the former capital. Many are old and some not very well maintained (I didn't take pictures of them), but they are all an important part of the history:





    Buddhism is well spread in China, but the Chinese also have a lot of idol good like people they revere in temples and bring food to. In some temple, we saw over 30 of them, with a little kid giving some of his candy to each and every one of them. It must be expensive to be religious there :)




    this kid had to give some of his candy to each idol
    this kid had to give some of his candy to each idol

    pig hearts, chicken, yummy looking shrimp, and more
    pig hearts, chicken, yummy looking shrimp, and more

    some shrines had idols you made offerings to for love
    some shrines had idols you made offerings to for love

    Each little light (used to be candle, now LED), assigned to someone who paid to make a wish and has their name on it (I assume you pay for an amount of time and their your slot get recycled):




    But you don't only buy your wishes and prayers with small lights, and various food offerings, you also buy paper money (yellow and red) in huge stacks and burn them to get your wishes to come true:


    big wishes cost more money to burn :)
    big wishes cost more money to burn :)


    I should get into the paper selling business, it's good money :)
    I should get into the paper selling business, it's good money :)

    I just need to undercut the existing wishing paper money sellers ;)
    I just need to undercut the existing wishing paper money sellers ;)

    did I say that big wishes cost more wishing money? :)
    did I say that big wishes cost more wishing money? :)


    and then your burn it
    and then your burn it

    big furnace to burn your wish money
    big furnace to burn your wish money


    And if you want to be really safe, you buy a light, offer paper money, and food, just to cover all the bases :)


    You then finish your prayer with incense sticks and bowing to the idols:


    We also went to check out the city's south wall:



    The city also has a temple in Koxinga's honor, for booting the Dutch out of Taiwan. His son, the last of his dynasty that was losing against Ming Dynasty, eventually committed suicide when it was clear that his dynasty had lost and his reign was over. His 5 concubine also killed themselves to respect him, and the five concubine temple is there to honor that:


    the 5 concubines
    the 5 concubines

    Koxinga
    Koxinga



    More temples, more idols:












    After Tainan, we drove towards Anping by the coast, which is where the Dutch first arrived and built a fort of which there isn't much left but a few unearthed foundations. We started with a later fort built by the Golden Castle, a fort built later to protect against the Japanese:



    Next, we went north a bit to see Matsu Temple:







    Just next to it was Anping Fort aka Fort Zeelandia back when the Dutch built it:





    not much left of the original fort
    not much left of the original fort

    From there, we drove to PingTung to see Jennifer's family still in Taiwan and had dinner in a Japanese restaurant which was much more Chinese than Japanese, but tasty nonetheless:






    .

    See more images for Taiwan Day 08: Tainan and Anping

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