Tuesday, November 29, 2005

As far as bad English goes, this is pretty impressive.
A rare, red-nosed flying koi. I just managed to snap a photo of it before I went to work the other day. All my other friends think I'm mad, but hey, photos never lie...
I'm embarassed to my name with this guy. I'm getting all freaked out just looking at it. Yuck!
This is one of the coolest things I've bought in a while. I got it from a night market of course. It's a cow that shoots a nice large flame through its nostrils when you pull its horns back.
Nice hat, Grace.
There's something ironic about putting Hello Kitty stickers on a 1200cc BMW bike. And, yes, it's owned by a guy.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Here's another photo (the first one is in the archives about a year back) of the pagoda CKS built in memory of his mother. There's a huge bell at the top which you can bang, which is fun. Also the view at the top is spectacular. Well worth a visit.
Here's my good friend Isabelle through the mesh of a chair.
Our church home group went to visit Sun Moon Lake for a time of bonding. It was excellent exept for some guy singing random kareoke songs at 7am in the morning. Anyway, here's a spooky tree against a near full moon-lit sky. The bright spots are painted with a torch.
At the same place, I came across this strikingly plain grey wall with a plain silver water tank against a plain grey sky. I had to get a pic of it.
I've been really lucky with holidays recently. One week after I arrive back in Taiwan, I went with my company to a nice hotel in Taipei. On the way there, we stopped in a small town, the name of which I can't remember. Sorry! Anyway, here's a photo of a wall of prayer lamps in the town's main temple.
On my way back to Taiwan, I noticed that triple layer windows in airplanes give triple refections (obvious, I know). The food was great!
A terrible photo of Hong Kong at night, from the air. It looked much better than this photo!
This is brilliant. You order a noodle dish from Hong Kong International Airport's Cathay Pacific lounge and they give you this disk. When it flashes, your noodle snack is ready to collect.
I went for a walk near our hotel on one of Hong Kong's brilliant elevated walkways, and got this good view of a couple of guys playing basketball below.
One thing Hong Kong does have is plenty of water. For this reason people choose to live on boats in the harbour areas. In comparison to what I saw of Hong Kong apartment buildings, this lady has a really spacious home on the water.
A one day tour of the city took me and my parents to Hong Kong's oldest temple. There one can see hundreds of incense coils with prayers in the middle of them. This is quite different to a typical Taiwanese temple.
And after sunset. What an amazing lightshow that city is after dark. Seriously, Hong Kong is worth a visit.
Hong Kong skyline, just before sunset.
Looking down on Taibei from near the top of the world's ex-tallest builing, Taipei 101. This is the 89th floor. From the 5th to 89th floor, the elevator took an astounding 33 seconds.
Me, my dad and mom in front of CKS Memorial hall.
Here are some more photos of my recent trip around Taiwan and to Hong Kong. Here is the beautifully designed roof of one of the CKS memorial buildings in Taipei

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Entrance to the Martyrs' Shrine in Taibei. A precise ritualistic changing of the guard occurs every hour and every day. The boots of the guards have, over time, created 5 perfectly straight lines leading from the entrance to the main shrine building. The whole show is a bit overdone IMHO, but it's still worth a visit. Guard changes occur once every hour, on the half hour mark.
The top of most Taiwanese temples have statues of the principal deities worshipped inside (note, I might be wrong on this one). While walking in Taibei with my parents, we came across this elevated eye level view of the top of a roadside temple. 10 noddy badges to whoever can tell me the location in Taibei of this temple.
Sliced lotus root and black beans at an eatery in Puli.
Sun Moon Lake viewed from the 'Lalu' hotel. When you take into account the scenery, the architecture, and the service, it's probably one of the best hotels in the world. http://www.thelalu.com.tw/welcome.asp
Ever recieved 2 complimentary bath ducks from a hotel? Me neither.
This guy could play traditional Taiwanese tunes, vibrato and all, with a leaf. I was amazed.
One of the more intersting cultural phenomena in Taiwan, is the popularity that Traditional puppet theater enjoys. This is one of the characters (I think) in the the televised Puli Puppet Theater series. This one is about a meter high and is fantastically made. The reflection shows other excellent stores in the Tainan Cultural village we visited.
Hualien is a beautiful city.
Taroko Gorge.
Taroko Gorge, one of the wonders of the world, I'm convinced. Somehow though, my puny camera lense just doesn't do it justice (or maybe it's my bad technique). Whatever the case, the merits of a Digital SLR and a wide angle lens have dawned on me!
What's this? Take a guess and leave a comment.
My engine is bigger than yours.
A brief stop at Fuli, a small town I had never heard of.
Southbound on the Formosa Star, Taiwan's tourism train.
A typical Taiwanese temple with a not-so-typical visitor.
Too much academic work. Time for some pictures. This photo features me and my dad at the top of the very steep no. 3 walking trail in Dakeng. You'll have to click on the photo to see us at the top.

Learn Mandarin, Part 3.

So back to lesson 1.

How do you pronounce (and read)
'n.ee2 h.ow3' ?

Well it's a little like "knee how" except with the addition of tones. I've taken the 37 symbols of the Mandarin phonetic alphabet (sometimes called buhpuhmuhfuh) and given each one an 'English' alternative using one or more of the 26 letters of the alphabet we are used to.


And that is almost the total number of distinct sounds that are pronounced in Mandarin.
Between each sound, I put a period to avoid confusion when multiple vowels are combined together. For example, the Mandarin word for "me" or "I" is pronounced like "war". It's a combination of 2 sounds from the list above, 'oo' and 'aw'. I could therefore write them like this:


but that' could get confusing, so I'll write them like this



So back to lesson one (again!)

'n.ee2 h.ow3' (knee how) = "hello"

What's with the numbers? Well, these are to tell you what tones to use. 'n.ee' is pronounced with the rising second tone, and 'h.ow' is pronounced with the falling and rising third tone. For now though, you can just ignore those numbers.

Learn Mandarin, Part 2.

Explanations are in order...

My strange style of writing chinese words is due to the fact that Mandarin and English are rather different. For one, Mandarin has some sounds which are not in the English language at all, and secondly, Mandarin has 4 possible 'tones' for every sylable. That means that the word 'm.uh' can mean either

or a question, depending on the way that you say it.

Historically, 'English Chinese' (More correctly known as Romanisation, the process of writing Chinese Characters with an English alphabet) hasn't done a very good job.

As an example, lets take the capital city of this country.

Traditionally rendered as 'Taipei', it's actually pronounced 'Taibei'. The funny thing is that both Mandarin and English have distinct sounds for 'b' and 'p', so why they are confused is a mystery to me...

So to try and fix all this confusion and help 'normal' English speakers to pronounce Mandarin as accurately and easily as possible, I've developed my own system.

Learn Mandarin, Part 1.

Seeing there are over 1 billion people living in China, most of whom speak Mandarin, I figured that everyone should know a few basic phrases. So here we go.


'n.ee2 h.au3'

'n.ee2' means "you", and 'h.au3' means "good".

Back from holiday

I'm back after my fantastic 10 day hiatus. Taiwan is a beautiful country with probably the best people in the world and Hong Kong is something to behold!