July 5 Taipei History

I was craving a good hamburger because it was the 4th of July weekend. As we have only McDonalds and Mos Burger restaurant chains near us in Neihu, we went looking for a good hamburger in the Shilin section of Taipei. We ended up at the ATT for Fun mall next to Taipei 101 in a restaurant called The Diner. They had very good hamburgers!


Ann is enjoying a good hamburger at The Diner restaurant

It is really hot in Taipei in July. It is 92-99 degrees F every day, with a heat index reading at 102-118 degrees Fahrenheit. We tried to walk around after lunch, but I was too hot, so we went into the convention center next to Taipei 101 to cool off in the air conditioning. There was a Korea Information Fair taking place in the convention center.


Korean Information Fair in the Taipei 101 convention center

It was really crowded, and since we had been to South Korea less than a year ago, we did not need to get any travel information. So we left and went to the Taipei City Hall building to cool down in their air conditioning. The Taipei City Hall building is enormous, large both inside and outside!


Inside on the first floor of the Taipei City Hall building

The Discovery Center of Taipei is an educational center located inside of the Taipei City Hall. The center was established in December 2002 to help residents and visitors understand the history of Taipei City. The center has exhibit halls on four floors, but two of them, the special exhibit hall on the second floor and the Taipei Impression hall on the third floor were closed when we visited. The first floor City Discovery Hall had some kind of activity for students was taking place.


Students doing an activity on the first floor of the Taipei City Hall

This large interior space still felt quite warm, even with the air conditioning.running.


Looking up the inside wall with the elevators at Taipei City Hall


Flowers in a planter on the first floor of the Taipei City Hall

We went up to the fourth floor, to the Taipei history exhibit hall.

Three hundred years ago, there was a small lake in the area that is now Taipei city. The Kedagalan people lived there, fishing and hunting. In the 18th century, the Ming and Yue people came to the Taipei Basin and developed Sanshi Street along the Danshui River. They built Taipei City in 1875.


A model of a gate and wall that surrounded Taipei city in the past

Taipei city was surrounded by a wall with five gates. The five gates were the biggest in Taiwan. The walls and the gates have been taken down as the city expanded. There is only one original gate remaining from the former Taipei city wall.


Painting of items being transported by boats on the Danshui river

Every great city is formed alongside a river. The Dahan, Xindian, and Keelung Rivers converge to form the Danshui (also now spelled Tamsui) River, which is the big river of Taipei.  As a result of river transportation, commercial ports such as Mengjia and Dadaocheng were established here. Products such as rice, cane sugar, tea and camphor have been delivered to the rest of the world via the Danshui river.


Display of some of the items from that were traded in Taipei in the past

The past prosperity of Mengjia is still seen in the Longshan Temple in Taipei.


Model of Longshan Temple

Taipei is a city of multiple immigrants including the Dutch, the Han Chinese, the Japanese and other nationalities. Taipei has integrated many different groups and cultures during its history.


Model of houses along an old street in Taipei with a historic photo of the old street on the wall behind it

The Taipei Discovery Center inside of Taipei City hall building was a good place to spend an hour and cool off. But with most of the exhibit floors closed, and not enough signs in English, I did not learn much about the history of Taipei City.



June 22 Qingtiangang

We decided to go hiking up in Yangmingshan at Qingtiangang hoping it would be cooler. It was supposed to get very hot during the day in Taipei, 38 degrees Celsius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with the humidity index meaning it would feel like 115-120 degrees Fahrenheit.


View of Mt. Zhugao from the Qingtiangang visitor center

We picked the Qingtiangang grassy meadows area as the place to go hiking because there were several trails up there that we had not taken, and it is about the highest elevation in Yangmingshan that you can drive up to in a car or bus.


Old stone monument with the Chinese characters for Qingtiangang near the trailhead

Qingtiangang is a lava terrace formed when the lava from Mt. Zhugao flowed north after its eruption. It is mostly covered with native silver grass and carpet grass planted by the Japanese. Because these higher mountain areas are exposed to a lot of typhoon winds, many trees are not able to grow and thrive here.  But grasses do very well.  We hiked around the Qingtiangang loop path first.


Ann is standing next to the start of the Qingtiangang loop trail

There is a Tudigong (Earth God) shrine near the beginning of the Qingtiangang loop trail..This Tudigong Shrine was originally located at Lingtounie near Mt. Zhuzi. It was moved from Mt. Zhuzi to its current spot over 200 years ago. On the shrine’s door is the engraved couplet, “Linggao is a blessed place, there are gods wherever one’s head is raised”.


Tudigong shrine at the beginning of the Qingtiangang loop trail

Because of its grassy terrain, in 1934 the Japanese established  the Daling Ranch here. They planted carpet grass and the area was used as a pasture for grazing cattle. In 1952 the Republic of China Government set up Yangmingshan Ranch here after the Japanese had left.


Cattle grazing on grass alongside of the Qingtiangang loop trail

Now the ranch is managed by the Taipei Farmer’s Association. The cattle grazing there belong to farmers from the Beitou, Shilin and Jinshan areas and grazing fees are required. The ranch is open from April to November of each year and closed from December to the following March due to the harsh winter weather.


Baby calf alongside of the Qingtiangang loop trail

There are also old army lookout towers located alongside the Qingtiangang loop trail.


Old army lookout tower alongside of the Qingtiangang loop trail

As we hiked around the loop path, some clouds blew in. Although this makes it impossible to get nice photos of the surrounding mountain peaks, it also drops the temperature a bit when the hot subtropical sun is blocked by clouds.  So when we had circled back to the Qingtiangang visitor center, the thermometer was indicating that the temperature was a more moderate 27 degrees Celsius or about 80 degrees Fahrenheit.


Jeff is trying to take video of the surrounding mountain peaks in the clouds

Then we decided to walk down the trail to Juansi Falls. As it was almost all downhill, we hoped that we would not get as hot hiking downhill in the hot weather.


Jeff is standing on the Juansi Falls trail

There were lots of tall bamboo groves and trees alongside of this trail. So it was shady and cool, but slippery from all of the moss and lichen growing on the stone path.


Jeff is shaded by a bamboo grove on the Juansi Falls trail

Juansi waterfall is on one of the tributaries upstream from Neishuang Creek. Water falls from a 20 meter (about 60 feet) high rock cliff in a white, silk-like waterfall. Juansi translated from Chinese means spun silk.


Juansi waterfall in Yangmingshan National Park

It was a nice waterfall, but nothing extraordinary.


Jeff is standing on the trail with Juansi waterfall behind him


Close up of the Juansi waterfall

Even though the waterfall is not spectacular, this is a good trail because you can begin it at the high point and hike down, and it is also very shady and cool. But it would likely be too slippery in rainy wet weather, so it is the perfect summer trail hike!


Water in the creek downhill from Juansi waterfall







June 21 Taipei Story House

We were looking for a place to go that would be cool and air conditioned, so we decided to visit two museums in Taipei that we had not yet seen. The first museum that we visited was the Taipei Story House.


Ann is sitting inside of a really large suitcase full of clothes in the Taipei Museum of Fine Arts

The Taipei Story House, formerly known as the Yuanshan Mansion, is a historic house in Taipei Expo Park that has been turned into a museum. Taipei Story House is the only Tudor style heritage building in Taiwan. It was built in 1913 on the Yuanshan section of the Keelung River by a Taipei tea merchant named Chen Chao-chun for the purpose of entertaining clients.


Taipei Story House Museum

It had a beautiful, English style formal garden. The ground floor was built using brick and the upper floors were built of wood with English Tudor-style beams. The entrance portico is in the classical style with Corinthian columns. Its architectural style seems a bit out-of-place in Taipei!


Formal flower garden in front of the Taipei Story House museum

In 1998, the Taipei City Government designated this building a heritage site.Taipei Story House has used since 2003 for exhibits that introduce visitors to life and culture in Taiwan over the past century.


A downstairs fireplace in Taipei Story House museum. This fireplace was only for show; it was never needed to heat the house.

The Taipei Story House museum had  an exhibit on fortune telling when we were there. This exhibit explored the popular forms of fortune-telling practised in Taiwan, both in the past and also still used in the present time to explain the mysteries of life.


Jeff is trying to use the various types of Taiwanese fortune telling to predict our futures

Fortune-telling has been the traditional way for people in Taiwan to find answers during different stages of their lives. Starting from the destiny of a child foretold through his date and time of birth, onto the fate of romantic relationships, feng-shui for creating a happy and lucky home, and financial success or failure, fortune telling was thought to provide the answers for the best path through life. In Taiwan, fortune tellers had to be both good psychologists, and good with numbers and calculations. In the past, many Taiwanese would frequently visit fortune tellers, so it was a large and profitable type of commerce.


Tarot cards on exhibit in the Taipei Story House

The Taipei Fine Arts Museum is next to the Taipei Story House Museum in Taipei Expo Park. The Taipei Fine Arts Museum first opened in August 1983 at the former site of the United States Taiwan Defense Command, dissolved in 1979. The building has a very modern architecture, adapted from the Japanese Metabolist Movement style. It did not look like a museum to me. I thought it looked like a military building that had been converted into a museum! But it was actually built in this modern style to host modern and contemporary art exhibitions in Taiwan. .


Ann is standing in front of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

There was a bamboo sculpture on the side of the museum. It looked just like the bamboo scaffolding on constructions sites in China and Taiwan. But it actually was an interactive sculpture that we could enter and climb. This was exciting for me, as I have always wondered what it is like to be working inside of these bamboo scaffoldings!


Landscape of the Boundary bamboo scaffolding interactive sculpture next to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

I decided the best way to write about this was to copy the explanation directly from the Taipei Fine Arts Museum website and brochure.

Landscape of the Boundary by C.J.S. Architecture -Art Studio

Artists: Chen Xuan-Cheng, Jen Tah-Sien, Su Fu-Yuan Architecture Firm
Production Team: Chen Guanfan, Wang Guoxin, Wu Weihong, Guo Zhenquan, Zhu Tingxuan, Zhong Mengying, Xu Minci, and the Chung Yuan Christian University Architecture Department


Jeff is walking up bamboo stairs inside of the bamboo exhibit

The Taipei Fine Arts Museum is holding the first instance of its landscape installation project Program X- site in 2014, an annual program that will blend architectural installation and contemporary art. The program will run every spring in the public plaza by the museum’s main entrance and present three-month-long landscape installations. Every year, the public can anticipate a completely new look for the museum plaza.

Installations will echo the current global focus on environmentally oriented construction practices related to sustainability, low carbon, re-purposing, and reduction. Projects are also chosen for innovative construction methods and exploration of the notion of public space in urban environments. Thirdly, artwork will respond to the government projects Cultural Capital of the Yuanshan District and Taipei City Museum, which are focused on areas where the Taipei Fine Arts Museum is located. Organizers at the museum anticipate the program, by presenting the creativity of participating artists, will stimulate wider and more imaginative thinking about architecture and promote architecture as an important urban art form. For this year’s inaugural iteration of the program, 29 applications were received, which produced ten groups of finalists and one winning team.


Jeff is taking video as he walks through the bamboo exhibit

 The presentation concept for the winning submission Landscape of the Boundary by C.J.S. Architecture-Art Studio refers to bamboo scaffolding. For their installation, the group transformed the repeating grid composition seen in bamboo structures originally used in Taiwan for temporary scaffolding at construction sites, supports for billboards, or underwater racks supporting commercial oyster beds, into an architectural system of bodily sensations. The installation comprises a gridded bamboo forest, paths surrounding the plaza and metal handrails to delineate a field of perceptions and manifest a larger than life atmosphere that suggests a scaffold city.


Bamboo scaffolding structure outside of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

The scaffold structure is attached to the museum building, constructed in the same dimensions as the museum lobby, and realized with a great quantity of moso and makino bamboo, two varieties which are indigenous to Taiwan. The unique resilience of bamboo immediately transfers any force that is applied to the structure as visitors walk through this experiential world, which creates the dreamlike sensation of being situated between the real and subconscious. The quality of the bamboo will change over time; its color gradually fading from deep green to light tan, and the entire installation, which suggests a natural landscape, will record the temporal sequence of the topography at the site.


View from the “tree top” level of the bamboo scaffolding structure

I had a lot of fun climbing around in the bamboo scaffolding structure! It was also nice to go inside the air conditioned museum afterwards. Much of the Taipei Fine arts Museum was taken up by an exhibit dedicated to one artist, Dean E. Mei


Entrance sign to the Dean E. Mei exhibit in the Taiepi Fine Arts Museum

I did not know anything about Dean E. Mei before I saw this exhibit. I was very impressed by this artist. He works with all kinds of different mediums; prints, yard sale finds, sculpture, light, mirrors, and situational juxtapositions.  His art work made me stop and think. Usually, I walk rather quickly through art galleries, especially modern art galleries, but I spent a long time looking at this exhibit.


A display of “found objects” (yard sale items) by Dean E. Mei in the entrance lobby of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

.From the Taipei Fine Arts Museum website:

Born in Taipei in 1954, Dean-E Mei is a highly respected and representative figure in Taiwan’s avant-garde art community. Mei graduated from the Department of Fine Arts at Chinese Culture University in 1977, and received his Master’s of Fine Arts Degree from Pratt Institute in New York in 1985. He avoided traditional representational painting, opting instead for the rebellious spirit of Dadaism and its ready-made format. Relying on the rules of paradox and the notion of “seemingly so, but not so,” Mei created his visual language and artistic style. Mei also collects and transforms common objects, which he then uses in his long-term concern with identity and political ideology. While this may seem like weighty subject matter, Mei’s works are also full of humor and wit.


Tank track, which is meant to create a very long print

The exhibition includes several hundred works in media ranging from oils, watercolors, prints, and giclée prints to ready-mades and large scale installations. Work in the exhibition spans from 1976 to the present and can be divided into several phases: his explorations before going abroad in 1983; his ten years of multicultural experience and creative awakening while living in New York; development and deepening in his works after returning to Taiwan in 1992; and his most recent explorations combining computer technology and images of old objects. This retrospective features Dean-E Mei’s unique and multifaceted style throughout his career.


An old Taiwan military photo superimposed on top of an old photo of the Legislative House of Taiwan

The Artist’s Statement

My work attempts to combine historicism, the fetish of commodities and political semantics. I have no intention of answering politically correct questions, or raising any unresolved issues of art itself. I am only interested in finding a channel of expression between history, reality and the public.


The Japanese Room. Jeff understood the significance of the placement of the objects in this room better than I did

In short, my work is the crystallization of my own complex character. All perceptions derived through ideas can be seen as a style in the development of my character. Everything related to experience can have artistic associations. My creations are esoteric in meaning and the result of endless developments.


Confucius’s beard comes alive!

This was definitely art that challenged the mind and made me think! I took a lot of photos in this exhibit.


An old fashioned scale with a statue of Buddha balancing against many wooden crosses

The other exhibits in the museum were less interesting. Another exhibit, titled Cloud of Unknowing: A City with Seven Streets was organized by the museum in conjunction with the city government’s celebration of the 130th Anniversary of Taipei’s Founding in 2014.


An exhibit in the Cloud of Unknowing urban space exhibit

This was the first time the museum presented an exhibition on the subject of urban spaces and the issues pertaining to city spaces.


Bamboo village structure as part of the urban space exhibit

Neither of us spent that much time in this exhibit.


Bamboo furniture as part of the urban spaces exhibit in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

There was an enormous bamboo woven sculpture hanging from the ceiling in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum lobby. I am not sure if it is there all the time, or if it was part of the urban spaces exhibit.


Bamboo woven sculpture hanging from the ceiling in the lobby of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

The only fun part of this exhibit was the giant suit case!


Jeff is sitting on the edge of a giant suitcase filled with clothes in an exhibit in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

We ended up spending hours in the museum! As we were getting ready to leave, we discovered the Taipei Excellence Pavillion.The Taiwan Excellence Pavillion was unveiled on Dec. 26, 2010 as the country’s first building dedicated to the Taiwan Excellence Awards-winning products.


Ann is looking at products on display in the Taiwan Excellence Pavillion

With a ground-floor entrance facing the Taipei Expo Park, the pavilion has permanent exhibits on the second floor, in three categories; IT and telecom, sports and leisure, and cultural and creative products.


A golf club made from bamboo on display in the Taiwan Excellence Pavillion

The pavillion building was created by Taiwanese architect Chien Hsueh-yi for the 2010 Taipei International Flora Expo.


Jeff is standing next to the golf club display in the Taiwan Excellence Pavillion

The pavilion explores the research, design, and marketing behind the most innovative products from Taiwan, and  the pavilion is itself a showcase of eco-friendly building methods, with the liberal use of glass walls, allowing natural light to stream into every corner.


Bamboo and carbon fiber golf club on display in the Taiwan Excellence Pavillion

We could have spent more time here, looking at all of the interesting products on display, but it was getting to be closing time for the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and Taipei Excellence Pavillion. Next time, I will know that these museums are so interesting that we can spend an entire day in them!


Ann is looking at a toy on display in the Taiwan Excellence Pavillion



June 20 Yilan Glass House Restaurant

Dell hosts a summer outing for their employees in Taiwan, as I remember Dell also did for their US employees in Austin. When Jeff worked for Dell in Austin, the summer outing was hosted in one of the large parks there, with food and activities provided for everyone. In Taiwan, instead of just one large gathering of all employees, there were three different outings offered every Friday for four weeks. Employees just signed up for the outing that they wanted to attend, and then they got that Friday off from work to go have fun with the other employees and their families who were going on that outing.


Ann and Jeff are standing in the garden outside of the Glass House Restaurant in Yilan

Jeff signed us up for a trip to Yilan to have lunch at a well known restaurant there called  The Glass House on Friday, June 20. When we arrived at the building where he works, there were already buses parked and waiting to take employees and their families on the outing.  (Notice the Ubikes parked in their kiosks on the sidewalk next to the buses!)


Buses waiting to take Dell employees and their families on the summer outing

It takes about an hour to drive on a bus from Taipei to Yilan, a city on the east coast of Taiwan. It used to take much longer, as you had to circle around the mountains, but now there is a tunnel through the mountains. This makes it a lot faster and easier to go from Taipei to Yilan.  Our first stop in Yilan was at a shoe factory.


Shoe factory in Yilan

With changing times and industries, many local factories in Taiwan have, with assistance from the government, transformed into protected manufacturing businesses and converted their facilities into “tourism factories.” The place that we visited in Yilan was one of these “tourism factories”.


Wooden sign near the entrance of the Yilan Shoe Factory

 Each tourism factory has a unique theme or product, and has facilities and buildings that have been upgraded, improved, and landscaped. The factories offer tours introducing their production processes, with exhibitions of their products and history,  and DIY (do it yourself) facilities. This way, tourism factories preserve a wealth of industrial knowledge and culture, while creating new tourist destinations for both learning and recreation.


A man in the shoe factory is demonstrating how they make the wooden clog shoes

In this Yilan tourism factory, they made wooden shoes, or clogs. These used to be worn by many people in Taiwan. We got to watch men in the factory demonstrating how they make the shoes, with carved wooden bottoms and leather straps nailed across the top of the shoes.


A man is demonstrating how to decorate the leather that will be a strap on the top of a wooden shoe

There were many different styles of wooden shoes on display.


Wooden shoes on display in the Yilan shoe factory

They also had pairs that we could try on. They were not very comfortable, in my opinion!


Jeff is trying on a pair of wooden shoes in the shoe factory

And there were lots of shoes for sale, some of them very elaborate and beautiful!


Shoes for sale in the Yilan shoe factory

They had some benches inside the factory building that were shaped like the wooden bottoms of very large shoes!


Ann is sitting on a “wooden shoe” bench inside of the Yilan shoe factory

I was utterly confused by these wooden clogs that were on display, and for sale, at the factory. Then Jeff explained that they were supposed to be worn by couples during their wedding. Then the double-sided clogs made some sense.


Double sided wooden shoes made for couples to wear during their weddings at the Yilan shoe factory

After we had toured the factory, we went into the building next door to DIY, and make a small wooden keychain shoe. Actually, the small wooden bottom was already made, we were just punching and dyeing the small leather strap that would be nailed on top of our wooden shoe bottom. This was very frustrating for me, as the woman who was in charge of assisting us spoke no English, so she just ended up doing most of mine for me.


Ann is using a leather punch to decorate a small piece of leather for a wooden bottom of shoe key chain

We got back on the bus and drove from the shoe factory to the Glass House Restaurant for lunch. This restaurant is famous for having no menu; the chef just decides what to cook according to what is in season at the time.


The Glass House Restaurant in Yilan

The Glass House restaurant was indeed made mostly from glass, and surrounded by beautiful gardens. The food that we were served for lunch was delicious, and had a very artistic presentation.


Sashimi and vegetable course served during our lunch at the Glass House restaurant in Yilan

There was also way too much of it! There were many (at least 10) different course served to us during a lunch that lasted for about two hours. Many people at our table stopped eating before the lunch was over, and wandered off to walk around the gardens


Mango, kiwi, and vanilla milk pudding appetizer

Jeff and I managed to stay and continue eating until the fish course at the very end of the lunch. This is easier for me to do, as there are always dishes served with shellfish that I cannot eat. So I don’t get as full as everyone else.


Ann is sitting at a table with the final fish course that was served for lunch at the Glass House Restaurant

After eating such a big meal, we needed to go and hike some of it off! Our next stop on this day trip to Yilan turned out to be a hike to the waterfalls on the Linmei Shih Ren trail in Yilan. Jeff and I had actually hiked on this trail during a trip to Yilan four years ago. But we never made it far enough along the trail to see the waterfalls, as it was getting dark so we had to turn back.


Ann is standing next to a sign at the start of the Linmei Shih Ren trail in Yilan

We figured this out as we were walking along the trail, and it seemed very familiar. One clue that we had hiked on it before was the netting over the beginning of the trail. The trail runs next to a well known and popular golf course in Yilan, so there is netting over the trail to prevent hikers from getting hit by stray golf balls. I did not see any golf balls in the netting above the trail this time, but I do remember seeing a few the last time we walked up this section of the trail. Maybe the golfers are improving?


Jeff is standing under the protective netting over the beginning of the Linmei Shih Ren trail

It was raining during the first part of our hike. This is very common in Yilan, as it is well known for getting more rain than any other place in Taiwan. This is because it is on the eastern side of the island, and there is a large mountain range to the west of it. So when storms blow in from the Pacific ocean, the clouds have to drop some of their moisture on Yilan so they can blow over the mountains to the west side of the island.


Ann is trying to take a photo of a lake alongside the trail in the rain

It stopped raining before we got to the waterfalls, making it easier to take photos!


Jeff is taking photos along the trail

Lumbering used to be done in this area of Taiwan. This log display alongside of the trail demonstrates how they used to tie the logs to a wooden sled, and then drag them out on wooden rails. They are no longer logging here.


Logging display alongside of the trail demonstrating how they would pull the cut trees out of the forest

Linmei Shih Ren is a loop trail, and the waterfalls are located at about the furthest point of the loop from the beginning. So it took us about an hour of walking to get to the waterfalls.


A waterfall on the Linmei Shih Ren trail

There were many waterfalls, as this river travels down through a gorge. They were all very pretty.


Jeff is standing on an observation deck next to one of the waterfalls on the trail

Our group was the only group of people hiking along the trail this Friday afternoon, so it felt very uncrowded. Everyone was hiking at their own pace, and so we were spread out by the time people started to arrive at the waterfalls. So there were never any crowds on the observation platforms near the waterfalls.


Waterfall along the Linmei Shih Ren trail in Yilan

I have my umbrella up in the photo below because all of the tree branches were dripping water on me. It was still very wet, even if it had stopped raining.


Ann is looking at a waterfall along the Linmei Shih Ren trail

The mountains surrounding this trail were very green and beautiful.


View of the mountains surrounding the Linmei Shih Ren trail

It was a wonderful outing!


Jeff is taking video along the Linmei Shih ren trail in Yilan






June 15 Guo Ziyi House

We were walking with Harmony along one of the main  roads  in Neihu near the Wende subway stop when we discovered another piece of Neihu history.


Jeff is standing in front of Guo Ziyi house in Neihu

I have walked past this curious gate on the road across from the Neihu high school and not given it a second glance


Gate above the stairs going up a hill from the roadside to the Guo Ziyi House

There was a sign next to the gate saying that it was the entrance to the Guo Ziyi House, which was open to the public for tours. We decided to check it out, since we had some time before dinner. It was a steep climb up the hill, with a lot of stairs. You cannot see the house from the road, as it is that far up the hill above the road!


Harmony on the stairs going up the hill to the Guo Ziyi House

The Guo Ziyi House was interesting, as its architecture was more in an European than Asian style. It was built in 1917. It is a two-story Western-style red-brick house. The  T-shaped house is decorated with colored tiles imported from Japan, and Baroque-style embellishments.


Harmony is standing inside of a first floor room in the Guo Ziyi House

There was a traditional family ancestor shrine in one of the rooms downstairs.


Shrine of the Guo Ziyi ancestors in a room downstairs in the Guo Ziyi House

Guo Ziyi (697-781) was a Tang Dynasty statesman, known for his impressive feats 1,250 years ago. He is the ancestor of the world’s Guo (often spelled “Kuo” in Taiwan) clan. He earned his fame for ending the An Shi Rebellion in 755, and served under four Tang emperors. In 762, Guo was made Prince of Fenyang for his achievements.


Close up view of the family shrine

This room was formerly the dining room of the house. A variety of historical documents were on display,


Jeff is standing in the former dining room of the Guo Ziyi House

The Guo Ziyi House was the home of the first Neihu Village mayor Kuo Hua-jang during the Japanese colonial era, and it was designated as a municipal historical heritage site by the Taipei City Government in 1999.


A bust of Mayor Kuo Hua-jang on display inside of the house

This room was the library. It had many interesting historical displays. Unfortunately (for me), everything on display only had signs in Chinese. And the tour guide was explaining everything in Chinese. So most of what I am writing about is what Jeff translated for me.


Photo of the library in the Guo Ziyi House

There were stairs going to second floor in a hallway on the back of the house. The red bricks used in the Guo Ziyi House are larger (about 4 inches) and denser than those used today.


Stairs going up to the second floor in the Guo Ziyi House

Here is a view looking out of a first floor window to the yard in the back of the house.


Photo of the view looking out of the downstairs back window

Despite being designated as a historical site, the house continued to be neglected for more than a decade


Second floor hallway in the Guo Ziyi House

Thanks to the efforts of the World Guo Clan’s Association President Kuo Shih-chi, starting in October, 2010, the house was given a year-long facelift. This effort was lead by Guo Ching-po, another member of the Guo clan and a master craftsman who specializes in restoration work of historical structures.


View looking out of a second floor window of the Guo Ziyi House

It must be nice to have such expertise in your extended family when you need to restore your ancestral home! Even so, the total renovation cost was approximately $50 million NT ($1.6  million US dollars). The World Guo Clan Association donated more than $30 million NT of these funds and the Taipei City Government provided the rest of the money needed to complete the restoration.


Second floor room in the Guo Ziyi House

The photo below shows how the house looked before its restoration.


Photo of the Guo Ziyi House before its restoration

The photo below was taken after the restoration of the Guo Ziyi House. World Guo Clan family members came from all over the world to visit the house. There are more than 500 of them in the photo below!


Photo of a photo of the World Guo Clan family members gathered in front of the restored Guo Ziyi House in Neihu





June 14 Nanhuzuo’an River Hike

We went to Donghu to eat breakfast and explore the area, and we ended up hiking on a new trail This one runs along the Nanhuzuo’an River, which is a tributary of the Keeling River. Not only was it an interesting hike, but we learned a lot about the Neihu area. Fresh air, exercise, history, and exploration is an unbeatable combination!


Jeff is standing on the path along the Nahuzuo’an river in Donghu

There are many, many different places to get breakfast in Taipei. We have already tried all of the places near our apartment in Neihu, so Jeff wanted to try some of the places in Donghu, This breakfast place was okay, but so far, I still think all of the best breakfast places are near us in Neihu.


Ann is eating breakfast at a place in Donghu

We walked by an elementary school. It always seems like there are a lot of children in our neighborhood. Maybe there are a lot of families with children living in this part of Taipei, as Jeff has been told that parents here consider Neihu to have some of the best schools in  Taipei. This is another reason why it is expensive to buy, and even rent, in  this area.


Cute sculpture on the wall outside of an elementary school

Taipei now has bikes, called Ubikes, that you can rent at many of the subway stations and along busy streets. Jeff even has a Ubike kiosk in front of the building where he works. I had been meaning to register so that I could rent a Ubike.  So when we walked past this kiosk in Donghu, I registered at Ubike.  I can now rent Ubikes in Taipei. I have not done this yet, because it is summer, and very hot here. It helps to walk around with an umbrella (sun parasol) for shade. And there is no way that I could ride a bike and hold an umbrella at the same time!


Ann is registering to rent Ubikes in Taipei

The beginning of this trail alongside of the river was not very attractive. It had a nicely paved walkway, but the river itself was almost dry, and there were no trees alongside of it.

Neihu has an interesting relationship with its many rivers, mountains, and lakes. In the past, it was a very flood-prone region. On July 1, 1968, Neihu Township of Taipei County was placed under the jurisdiction of Taipei City and became Neihu District of Taipei City. Construction was prohibited in the entire district until 1974.  In February 1976, the city government announced a development plan for the Dahu Park area. Neihu has experienced huge growth ever since then, with the construction of the Neihu Technology Park.


Ann is standing on the path alongside of the Nanhuzuo’an tiver in Donghu

The extension of the Taipei MRT (subway) to Neihu in the 1990s and early 2000s also boosted its residential and commercial growth. But they were still figuring out how to do flood control on this area’s many rivers during that period. Hopefully, all of the rivers are now “well-managed.” In fact, they were dredging this river channel as we were walking along the path.


Dredging the Nanhuzuo’an river

At this point, the river path was not very inviting. It was hot (no trees for shade) loud (because of the dredging) and there was no sign of birds or any other wildlife. But then, it got more interesting.


Jeff is pointing to a plaque on the wall explaining some of the history of this area

The next section of the path had plaques on the wall explaining some of the history of the area. The explanations were all in Chinese characters (no English) so Jeff interpreted them for me. This area near Taipei was settled way back in the 1600s because of all of the bamboo growing in the mountains. Bamboo is a very versatile plant that can be eaten, woven into hats and baskets, made into furniture, etc., so a bamboo industry developed here.


Man weaving bamboo on a plaque alongside of the river trail

Next, they discovered all of the coal in the mountains, so the Neihu area became a mining center. I already knew that, due to the signs along the mining trail that we hike in the mountains. But I did not know that was the reason for all of the Tudigong shrines in this area.


A plaque on the wall alongside of the river showing an early map of the area

Tudigong is worshipped as the spirit or god of the earth. When you are mining, you are taking something out of the earth. So your entire livelihood depends on the earth. So you would want the earth spirit or god to be generous with you, and keep you safe while you work. Because this area had so much mining in the past, it has the highest concentration of Tudigong shrines anywhere in Taiwan. Whereas Matsu or Confucius might be more important in other areas of Taiwan, Tudigong was the most important god here because of the mining industry. The Neihu area also had a lot of farming in earlier times.


Tile mosaic in the wall alongside of the river showing a man plowing with a buffalo

After the history lessons, the wall art switched over to tiles with the many different local species of birds painted on them.


Tile with a local bird species painted on it on the wall alongside of the river path

There were also birds depicted on the cement walls, as a painted upraised sculpture in the cement.


Bird art on the cement walls alongside the river path

I even saw a few real birds at this point in our hike. I think that this guy is the same as the bird sculpted on the cement wall!


Bird sitting on a railing on the path alongside of the river

Further up the river path, we began to see more trees and greenery


View from the river path

Then there were flowers in a nice garden alongside of the path.


Flower garden growing alongside of the river path

And statues, too!


Statue alongside of the river path

There was even a teddy bear carefully tied to a perch up in a tree. I am sure there is an interesting story there.


Teddy bear tied to a perch in a tree in the flower garden section of the path alongside of the river

All along this river, there were high walls made of cement or stone. The small stream inside the walls was very tiny, so the walls were likely for flood control, and the parks alongside were added afterwards.


High stone walls built up alongside of this river

Then, the scenery along the banks of the river path changed again. Now there were small farm plots alongside of the path, growing many different types of vegetables.


Farm plot growing vegetables on the side of the river path

This small farm plot was growing laundry along with its vegetables!


Farm plot with clothes hanging to dry above the vegetables along the river path

This last photo was taken earlier in the week, when we had dinner with Jeff’s cousins Cary and Julie from Tamsui. We ran into them when we went out for dinner to the food court at Miramar in Neihu. A totally unplanned encounter, and a wonderful dinner !


Ann is sitting in a restaurant in the MIramar food court with Cary and Julie Yen, Jeff’s cousins from Tamsui





June 7 Fulong Beach Sand Sculptures

Fulong Beach is not far from Taipei. It hosts a sand sculpture competition every year. We both like sand sculptures, so we headed out to Fulong Beach to see the sand sculptures.

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Giant panda sand sculpture at the Fulong Beach 2014 Sand Sculpture Competition

Jeff and I took the train to Fulong Beach. It takes about an hour to get to Fulong from Taipei if you take the express train. But we took the local train, so it took much longer, as the train stopped at every little town between Taipei and Fulong. Fortunately, we were not in a hurry to get there, so we relaxed and enjoyed the slow pace of the train ride.

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Ann is standing next to a wall in the Fulong train station

Fulong is famous for its boxed lunches, called biandang in Chinese. The original Fulong biandang is sold in a shop just outside the train station, and there was a long line of people waiting to buy them when we walked out of the station. I do not much care for boxed lunches, so instead I bought a beach hat. There were many of them for sale in a shop next to the one selling the biandang.

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Ann is standing in front of a shop sell beach hats in Fulong

Fulong Beach is located adjacent to Fulong Village at the mouth of the Shuang River.  It is frequently visited by Taipei residents during the summer due to its easy access from the city, Fulong is one of the more popular beach destinations in northern Taiwan, but we had never been there.

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Ann is standing under the giant fish net sculpture in front of the Fulong visitor center

The Fulong visitor center had a giant sculpture shaped like a fish net in font of it. Inside the Fulong visitor center, there was a wonderful exhibit  of carved driftwood.

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Craved driftwood exhibit inside of the Fulong visitor center

During one of Taiwan’s recent typhoons, a lot of driftwood was left on the beach, some of it very large. After it was picked up off the beach, it was given to local artists to carve.

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Driftwood carving in the exhibit inside of the Fulong visitor center

These carved driftwood sculptures were interesting and beautiful. Some were done in a traditional style, and some were more modern. I would have likely stayed and spent more time looking at them, but we had come to see a different kind of sculpture.

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Driftwood carving in the exhibit inside of the Fulong visitor center

The Shuang River divides the beach into two distinct areas connected by a bridge. The outer area is essentially an island whose size varies according to the flow of the river and the tide.

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Jeff is standing on the bridge that connects the “island” section of Fulong beach with the mainland section of Fulong beach

The sand on Fulong beach is golden in color, a rarity for Taiwan, and has a higher percentage of clay in it than white beach sand. This makes it perfect for making  sand sculptures! We had a good view of the sand sculptures from the bridge.

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Sand sculptures on Fulong beach

The Fulong International Sand Sculpture Festival was held for the first time in 2008 to promote sand sculpture art in Taiwan. The festival has had a growing number of visitors every year since it started, and they were expecting over 500,000 people to come in 2014 to see the sand sculptures. It runs for almost two months, from May 3-June 30, so all those visitors are spread out over an eight week period. It was not too crowded on the day that we went, because it was overcast and cloudy, with a chance of rain the in the afternoon.

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Ann is standing in front of the Fulong Beach Sand Sculpture sign on the beach

The competitors who made the sand sculptures were from all over the world.

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Sand sculpture of Marco Polo

There was no theme, so the sand sculptors could choose to do whatever they wanted. But the silk road in China was a popular choice, as there were three different sand sculpture with this theme.

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Jeff is standing in front of a sand sculpture depicting the silk road of China

Most of the sand sculptures were carved on all sides, so you needed to walk around the sculpture to see all of it.

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This sand sculpture was titled “Bandu’s dream”

Most of the sand sculptures were in great shape, considering that they had been carved almost a month ago. There was only one sand sculpture that was damaged. It was titled “Not true wealth” and featured unhappy people sitting on stacks of money. It was obvious that people had gone over the rope barrier and climbed onto the sculpture to have their photo taken sitting or standing on stacks of money (made from sand.) I wonder if the Irish artist who made this sand sculpture would have appreciated the irony!

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Ann is standing in front of a sand sculpture of money, titled “Not true wealth”

After we were finished looking at all of the sand sculptures, we decided to rent bikes so we could bike through the old Caoling tunnel.

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Jeff is standing with a rental bike alongside the river road leading to the old Caoling tunnel

The old Caoling tunnel was one of the most important railroad tunnels that connected the eastern and western sides of the island at the beginning of the 20th century. It was constructed by the Japanese in 1924, and its total length is 2,165 meters. At the time of its construction, it was the longest tunnel in Taiwan. The Caoling tunnel was closed in 1979, when another train tunnel was built through the mountain. It reopened in August 2008, as a bike path, with pavement replacing the train tracks.

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Ann is sitting on a bike near the entrance to the old Caoling tunnel bike path

The journey through the tunnel seems endless. You keep moving and always expect to see a light at the end — but there is none. It takes a long time to bike through this tunnel!

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Inside the old Caoling bike tunnel

The Caoling railroad tunnel is said to have inspired the creation of the famous Taiwanese folk song Diudiudang. The song was about a train running through the tunnel in its early days. The term Diudiudang was created by the song lyricist to describe the sound of the dripping water that could be heard while traveling through the tunnel.

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Ann is standing on the bike path on the other side of the old Caoling bike tunnel

You can see the mountain that the tunnel goes through in the background of the above photo. There is a beautiful view of the rocky seacoast on the other side of the tunnel.

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Jeff is standing on a platform taking photos of the seacoast on the other side of the Caoling bike tunnel

The bike path continues alongside of the coast and eventually loops back into Fulong. But we decided not to continue biking along the path, as we were worried about the weather. So we just biked back through the tunnel again to return back to Fulong. We arrived back in town just in time, as it was starting to rain when we returned our rental bikes and got on the train back to Taipei.

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Jeff is standing on top of a stone observation tower on the Fulong old Caoling bike path

.It was fun biking through that long tunnel! I would like to come back and do it again sometime. We had a wonderful time at Fulong!