Thursday, October 5, 2017

Taiwan's Cat Village | 猴硐貓村

猴硐貓村 - Taiwan Cat Village

Mine Cart Tour
In Northern Taiwan between Pingxi and Jiufen is a old coal mining village, now known as "Houtong Cat Village." It was once a thriving village, however in 1990 the coal mining industry died, leaving not much to do in a town way out in the mountains. In 2008, one of the locals named Peggy Chien, began caring for abandoned cats in the area, posting photos online to create awareness. As time went on, the cat population grew and more are more tourists traveled there to see the cats.

Looking out the window of his tea shop.

Many Taiwanese and foreigners have actually never heard of this little gem. I personally stumbled upon it accidentally, while doing research about Japan's cat village. It is well worth the visit! The day we went was a bit rainy, so I'm not sure how many tourists there are on a day to day basis, but the Friday that we went was not too crowded with plenty of cats to go around.

Lonely dog looking for some attention and food in a cat dominated world.

Kitty sleeping in the museum blocking interesting info
The main thing to do in Houtong is basically just walk around and to pet and play with the cats who are very friendly and are used to the attention. There are numerous shops that sell treats and toys to make the experience more fun for you and the cats. There are also several shops that sell all kinds of cat related gifts. If you get thirsty, stop in at one of the cute cat cafes located throughout the town and get a cup of tea. If you are interested in more then just cats, there is a short coal mine train ride for $150 NTD (about $4.50 USD), a small museum (see left picture), and some other coal-mining related attractions.

There was plenty of little shops with lots of cat related things to buy. To top off the atmosphere almost every store was playing the same music, which was cats meowing to Christmas music.

Kim, Nikki, and Anne Marie petty the few cats brave enough to go out in the rain.

Cat Fight
They day we went rained all day on and off, however this still didn't completely prevent some cats from coming out to visit. It was surprising how friendly all the cats were, they would sit there allowing you to pet them, and pick them up. They clearly are very used to being around strangers. Though, while petting one of the cats (seen in photo above), another cat seemed to be jealous and came over to start hissing at the cat we were petting (see in photo to left). After some yelling at each other the nasty cat left, and we rewarded our brave soldier with more pets.

In Taiwan I am often nervous about the conditions that animals might be living in, however most of these cats seemed vary clean and healthy. And boy, did these cats eat well! There were bowls of kibble set out everywhere and we saw them being fed wet food or sardines on numerous occasions. Some cats seem to be owned by the village, but it also appeared that some cats belonged to various villagers who had businesses there.

Wifey and I posing around town.

If you're planning a trip to Pingxi or Jiufen, I'd recommend stopping here on the way. You don't have to spend a lot of time here, but it's definitely worth it to stop by. Then again, if you love cats you could spend hours here in cat heaven.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Largest Typhoon of 2016 hits Taiwan - 颱風莫蘭蒂

Typhoon Meranti Kaohsiung Port Ship Wrecks

Its been a year since we moved to Taiwan. A Typhoon greeted us last year just as we were settling in and this year, another one arrived the first week of school to welcome us back to Kaohsiung. 

Typhoon Meranti was the most powerful storm we've seen since living here.

Typhoon Meranti Kaohsiung Port Ship Wrecks

Because its located on the coast, there was a lot of damage near our school, National Sun Yat-Sen University. This afternoon, one day after Meranti hit, we drove there to take some pictures of the ships that washed up. When we got there, we could smell the fumes coming from the wreckage. The photo above is of a boat trying to manage the oil leaking from the boats.

Typhoon Meranti Kaohsiung Port Ship Wrecks

Below is an aerial shot we found online of the wreckage.

We also found this video of the typhoon destroying  Kaohsiung Harbor's shipping yard.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Skating with Andrew Chang in Taichung

Skating with one of my favorite skaters in Taiwan, Andrew Chang. I use to skate with him almost every week when I lived in Taichung, Taiwan between 2011 and 2012. Since coming back to Taiwan, when we go skate together, we spend half our time skating and the other half just talking to each other about our passions, families, careers, etc.

(below video edited by Andrew)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Maolin, Taiwan - 茂林國家風景區

Maolin Valley (茂林國家風景區) is one of the most beautiful places in Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties. It's about a two hour drive from Kaohsiung City and has many scenic locations on the way as well.
On our trip we decided to drive our scooters. The first hour we pretty much just drove north towards Tainan then started to head east. I read on another blog about mud volcanoes (燕巢烏山頂泥火山) but it wasn't clearly marked. Once you get onto the mountain there are signs marking the way.  

When we arrived the visitors center required our passport numbers, addresses, and names.  As we walked towards the mud volcanoes we could hear the mud bubbles popping extremely loudly. It was sometimes hard to tell where the sound was coming from, as sometimes the sound was coming from under our feet.  

There were some mud volcanoes that you could easily look down into and watch as the mud bubbled up and splashed over the rim. The mud wasn't hot at all; we didn't do this, but apparently you're able to light the mud volcanoes on fire.

大津瀑布 Dajin Falls - Maolin, Taiwan
After seeing the mud volcanoes, we headed towards Maolin (茂林). After about another hour we finally arrived. The first waterfall I wanted to check out had the road closed off. So we headed towards the next one (大津瀑布).

This is definitely one of the coolest waterfalls I've been to. It was very tall, had a shallow pool and had tons of butterflies and leaves falling down from above. It definitely felt like something out of a movie. I wanted to swim in it but  I didn't want to disrupt the Taiwanese meditating at the waterfall and live the American stereotype. However once we saw a few other Taiwanese take a dip, swimming was free game. (This actually isn't a great swimming spot because of how small and shallow the pool is.)

After our dip, we drove deeper into the mountains of Maolin Valley. Our main stop was a high suspension bridge going between two mountains. The roads wind back and forth as you slowly navigate through the valley, often getting stuck behind slow tour buses that can't turn easily around the many bends in the road. Once we arrived, however, the view was spectacular and well worth the time it took to drive there.

佛光山 - Fo Guan Buddhist Monastery

On the way home, because one of our friends hasn't gone yet, we stopped at Fo Guang Buddhist Monastery (Click here for my post on Fo Guang Shan).

Mud Volcano Wiki

Saturday, April 16, 2016

佛光山 - Buddha's Light Mountain

佛光山 - Fo Guan Buddhist Monastery

Fo Guang Shan (佛光山) is the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. The name literally means "Buddha's Light Mountain." The monastery's webpage says that they have 25,000 visitors daily, with people from all over Asia travelling to visit. It's only about a forty five minute scooter drive from Kaohsiung City.

The first building, pictured above, is mostly filled with souvenir shops as well as restaurants. They even have a Starbucks.  

The main building, with the Buddha on top, feels like Disney World but with Buddha. Inside are different corridors to walk down to learn about the religion, Buddhist history, a museum for old artifacts, and many fancy places for worship. Unfortunately those areas were off limits for photography. Everything is decorated with bright lights and beautiful displays. Many people will buy incense sticks or other items to present before the idols in the different rooms used for worship. It may have a theme park feel to it, but this is a real place where people take worship very seriously, so they do ask you to be respectful.  Some places we weren't even able to observe. The caretakers wanted us to enter and be apart of worship or leave that specific area.

On top of the main building are four pagodas. Inside of each one is a golden Buddha. There is a monk inside each pagoda assisting guests with worship or in our case, answering questions. We had one monk offer to help us make a wish (after she asked if Anne Marie was French) but after declining, we were able to talk to her a little bit about our beliefs. Situations like these always push us to study harder so that we can have more meaningful conversations in Chinese.  

Their Official Webpage

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Pintung Tropical Agriculture Expo

Pingtung Tropical Agriculture Expo

We had a fun trip out to the Pingtung Tropical Agriculture Expo. The whole thing was free, unless walking one block is too far for you, you could always pay for parking. It features many beautiful and perfectly placed flowers.

The main path you will walk down is a man made tunnel that has many different vegetables forced to grow around the tunnel and hang down over your head. This tunnel was way longer then I expected but I enjoyed the whole thing, even though that was so bare spots that didn't grow very well. All around the tunnel was plenty of food and other activities for children to enjoy.
Pingtung Tropical Agriculture Expo

One of the coolest pieces on display was a field of four differently colored rice plants that were strategically placed to form this beautiful picture. The picture is sponsored by a company called Pili that is famous for their traditional puppet TV shows which the rice is designed to resemble.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Going to the Hospital in Taiwan

Anne Marie's had a cough for the past two weeks. We've been avoiding going to the doctor because we don't have Taiwan healthcare until June and we were hoping it would just go away. This past week it began to get worse, to the point were she wasn't feeling up to going to school. We finally decided to make the trip. When we got to the hospital we weren't sure if we were in the right place but a lady helped us find the right department and get registered.

Within fifteen minutes we were already in the doctors office having Anne Marie evaluated. It turned out that she had bronchitis due to the air pollution here. There are many factories here as well as so many scooters that cause the air quality to be very poor. Anne Marie and I usually wear surgical masks anytime we go out. The doctor told us that the pollution in China is a problem too because the wind carries it over here to Taiwan. When Anne Marie asked what she needed to do so that it wouldn't continue to be a health problem, he told her, "Just get used to it like the rest of us!"

After the doctor wrote Anne Marie's prescription, we went back to the front desk to pay our bill. We weren't sure how much it would be. The total cost of the hospital visit which included registration, seeing the doctor, and the prescriptions, was $28USD! Within the next ten minutes we had our prescriptions in hand. In all, the entire process took us only about forty-five minutes.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas in Taiwan

Celebrating Christmas in Taiwan felt a little more festive then Thanksgiving. Some department stores and parks decorated with lights and Christmasy things. It was still difficult to be away from family in the States during the holiday season.

Thanks to Yu Fen for this awesome photo collage
Luckily, we have lots of good friends in Taiwan. The same girls who celebrated Thanksgiving (click to see blog post) with us also celebrated Christmas with us by treating us to a Mexican themed restaurant. We exchanged gifts, chatted for hours, and enjoyed having a Bible study.

The following week, we invited our classmates over for a Christmas party at our house. We did a gift exchange, talked about different Christmas traditions from each other's countries, and played some other games.

Because Christmas isn't widely celebrated here, on Christmas Day we still had class. We agreed not to study after school and just enjoy most of the afternoon relaxing. Christmas evening we were invited to KTV, which is what Taiwanese call karaoke, by one of our Korean classmates and his Taiwanese girlfriend. At Taiwanese KTV's you rent a private room for just you and your friends to sing for 3-8 hours. Generally they also have an all you can eat buffet.

We joined the KTV group from 7pm-12am while others stayed even later. We were able to sing one Taiwanese song that we learned previously and a few American songs. However, we mostly sat and watched everyone sing. KTV is a big part of Taiwanese life that is hard for us Westerners to understand, but it is certainly enjoyable to watch! 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Taiwan Collared Scops-Owl

Taiwan Collared Scops-Owl
Click on the Photo to Enlarge the Image

While walking home from our University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I heard a bird making lots of noise in the bush like trees alone the sidewalk. I was curious to what was making all the noise. So I looked in and I spotted a tiny bird chirping like crazy. I soon realized that he was making a fuss because of the Owl that decided to take a nap in his low tree.

Lucky I bring my camera almost everywhere with me just in case there is something interesting going on.

His eyes were closed and he was clearly resting however with all the chirping that tiny bird was doing and with my trying to move in closer to get a clearer shot without brush blocking my view his eyes began to open really wide like in the photo above.

I am no bird expert but I believe this is a Collared Scops-Owl.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Anne Marie Sings at Taiwanese Concert

At the end of November, our school held a concert to commemorate a new sculpture on campus. Anne Marie was asked to perform the Taiwanese song she learned for the Foreigner Chinese/Taiwanese Singing Contest, as well as two other English songs. This became an awesome opportunity for her because she sang two praise and worship songs. Before she performed, she was asked on the spot to explain the songs and she was able to share about our Faith. The whole thing was translated in Chinese so the whole crowd could understand.