Off to the beach

Chinese new year is a time when Taipei is very quiet – most taiwanese go back to their families, around the Island, for a week. We decided to take the opportunity to get away, to try and find some sun. Since I had to get a new visa we decided to go to Thailand, and combine the trip to Bangkok with 4 days at the beach in Hua Hin – about 3 hours drive south west of BKK.

We stayed at the Sofitel hotel in Hua Hin. A fabulous old “Railway Inn” from the 20’s.

Here’s the pool villa that we stayed in. Thank heaven’s for “Points”.

A couple of shots of Tricia, working out!

Hard life eh?

Here’s a few pics of the gardens in the hotel.


2008 off and running

Happy New Year

Here we are now in 2008 and back in Taipei.
I was supposed to go to China now, for the new project, but that whole thing did not work out; so because the Taiwan project still has a few critical items left to finish the boss has asked me to remain there through Q1, at least.
Tricia and I returned to Europe at the end of November, with her staying at our house in Reading (prep for Christmas) and me zotting off to Stockholm for 2 weeks. My time in Stockholm was well spent clearing up things on the China project, to hand it over to someone else, and in winding down and getting in the Christmas mood. Mid December I rejoined Tricia and Christina arrived in the UK for the holidays, and we then spent 2 weeks together in Reading. Christina brought her boyfriend with her, and after ½ a week Tricia’s parents joined us for the holidays too. Towards new year we swapped Christina (went back to Canada) for Bernadette and her son David for the new year celebration, and had a good time with 6 of us still playing the usual silly games and champers/party-poppers into 2008. Tricia went back to Knott End, driving her dad’s car loaded up like a hippy caravan with 4 people buried under suitcases and carrier bags, on 5th January, while I headed off back to Taipei on the same day.
Such a busy time, and now it’s all over and I am back at work.
It’s great to be back to somewhere warm though; even if it is winter in Taiwan the 16 degrees there is a lot easier to cope with than the 2 degrees and damp/wet in the UK.
Finally, just a bit about the decision not to do the China project. I went to China 4 times between August and year end – 2×2 week trips and 2×1 weekers, and as a result of that decided that I did not want to spend the next 2 years in China. Basically Beijing is an awful place, devoid of any character and a hell of an ecological disaster with air quality probably equaling what London was like back in the 50’s (maybe worse); and the Chinese customer is a flat out bully and demands 24/7 attention, which I am just not up for at this point in my life. There is more to it than that really – somewhat to do with my Company’s HR policies as they are now practiced (total disrespect for employees); but that’s another story entirely that maybe I’ll write about here one day. Suffice it to say that the 2 things together forced me to re-evaluate my future somewhat. Thankfully the option to stay in Taiwan keeps us in Asia a while longer, and something more attractive may come up in the mean time.
So Happy New Year (again), and let’s see what 2008 brings eh?

Catching up – finally

I haven’t been here in a long time – almost seems like forever.

I guess what kept me away was being so busy, but that is always a lousy excuse.

However, having agreed back in August to take on the new project in China, while staying on in Taiwan until end Nov, and then trying to squeeze in (eventually) my 2 weeks in Japan as my 60th birthday treat, it sure has been a bit of a roller coaster.

Anyway, I have been to China 4 times now since August – 2×2 week trips and 2×1 weekers, and have finally decided that I do not want to spend the next 2 years in China. Simply put, Beijing is an awful place, devoid of any character and a hell of an ecological disaster with air quality probably equalling what London was like back in the 50’s; and the Chinese customer is a flat out bully and demands 24/7 attention, which I am just not up for at this point in my life.

So China is out; but luckily my boss has asked me to stay on in Taiwan and babysit that situation for another year, while perhaps something else will come up in the meantime, or maybe I will actually (I know – here it comes again) retire. I am quite content with that, as at least in Taiwan both my local team and the customer respect me and what I am trying to do, and Tricia is also pleased with the opportunity to stay in Asia (but to not have to go to China – her one visit there was also a disaster).

Presently though (mid Dec) I am in Stockholm, doing a hand over of the China project, and then I am off to the UK through Christmas and the year end. Christina will join us for 2 weeks through Christmas, and is bringing her boyfriend with her. We have not met him yet, so we are looking forward to that.

The Japan trip was fabulous. Our first real holiday as a family (all 3 of us) in a few years, and a chance to catch up with an old friend as mentioned in Tricia’s blog – here’s a picture of Jun and his daughter Misako. Even though I have been to Japan 3 times before it was terrific to spend some time actually getting to see more than just the surface stuff of Tokyo. Previously I had only been on business (sort of – my first trip was when I was in the RAF in the late 60’s), and had visited my friend, but only for a few hours, and then had “walked” the Ginza, which is about all I remember. I do remember falling in love with Mt Fuji in the 60’s though. I was with a C130 transport aircraft that was doing training and we flew round the top of Fuji and I have some pictures of that classical scene of the mountain with the snow on top. This time in Japan I was excited to be going to the base of Fuji, and then up some, to see it from the bottom. What a disappointment when Fuji decided to hide her face just before we got there. The tour guide called the base camp around 10 AM, while we were on our way, and confirmed that the top was clear, though with cloud on the way. By the time we arrived the top was indeed in cloud, and did not even peek out while we were there. I do have a lovely picture of the clouds though! Now I guess I have to dig out my 37 year old pictures and get them printed (they are slides – remember them?). Trcia has captured the holiday in her blog, so suffice it for me to repeat that I had a fabulous time (despite how expensive it was – a real drag for a Yorkie).

Now I’m looking forward to another Christmas in the UK, and thankful that we still have our house there to spend it in; even if it does need a fair bit of work now from having spent 3 ½ years empty. Still, that will give me something to do, and perhaps I can rope Christina’s boyfriend into helping me while I get to know him.
Merry Christmas to all our readers (good eh) – hopefully I can do better with my blogging next year.


The Taiwan Adventist Hospital

Tricia has written about the operation, and the circumstances behind it.

Suffice it for me to say that I have indeed been VERY lucky (as in fact Tricia was 2 years ago when they found her lung cancer). The Oncologist confirmed that they consider the removal 100% successful, with no need for ongoing treatment (no radio, no chemo, nothing). This was found so early that the operation was sufficient.

My 2 weeks in hospital eventually passed quickly, but was mostly REALLY boring while I was in there – there is so much garbage on cable TV – and repeated soooo often; yuk. All the things I meant to do: painting, writing letters, planning my retirement, never got done in the end though. Heaven knows where / how the time went.

One thing for sure though, all of the visitors, the emails, the cards, and the gifts of flowers, fruit and other things made the experience much more endurable.

Here’s a pic of the flowers (most of them – some had already gone home).

That and the nursing staff and my surgeon / doctor. They were great. Even if most of the nurses did not speak great English, they were all fabulous; and here’s a picture of the nursing staff (with the new, slimmer, me in the background).

The only downer was the food. It was AWFUL. Liquid diet for 11 days is no joke, not least when the liquids look only vaguely as if they have seen anything of substance (a carrot waved over the top of boiling water, perchance). As for rice congee, or rather the water that they thought about boiling the rice in, well the only salvation there was pouring fruit juice in it to flavour it! Enough of that though, as I did lose almost 14 lbs while in there (let’s see how long before that creeps back?).

So now it’s back to the routine, somewhat, at home. The first week I have been taking it easy with just a little work (to relieve the boredom, as I cannot do anything even remotely physically challenging yet). The best part about coming home was in fact the food – finally being able to eat something with flavour – even if all vegetarian and “soft foods” for a while.

Now let’s see what next week brings – other than MEAT (yeah!).


Last night dinner

Just before Paul and Joanne left we went up into the mountains close to our home for a last dinner together.

What a fabulous place.

An old Chinese country family house.
The kitchen was across the road.

Not a busy raod thanfully, so dinner arrived OK.

After lots of good food, and of course, planty of beer and wine, guess what . . .


Around Taipei as a tourist

These are some interesting pictures taken while being tourists around Taipei.

In one of the night market / tourist places called snake alley (‘cos they drain blood from live snakes for you to drink) there was an artist doing character work on fans and paintings. Who could resist (the fans – not the snakes blood)?

Then we went for a foot massage. Tricia and I have had these before in Bangkok, and it was great.
We were all in pain from this one, except Tricia. For some reason she got a relatively gently guy to do hers. They could only do 3 at a time, so Joanne sat and watched Paul and I screaming – and kept saying “oh shut up you guys – it’s not that bad”.
Then it was her turn.
He he.
it WAS that bad – just look at her!

Green Island with the Freers

We spent 3 days at Green Island, off the SE coast of TW in the Pacific, about 40 minute ferry ride from the port on TW Island.
Upon arrival at Green Island the first order of the day was, of course, drinky poo’s.

There were some interesting things around the small island, the rocks above are famous there as the pekinese dog and sleeping beauty – can you see it?
The water was fabulous with clarity better than I’v seen in years – 30 feet no problem. The issue was getting into the water as the whole island is one big volcanic burp so it’s lava rock everywhere, as you can see from below. The trick was to rent a pair of scuba shoes to walk over the rough stuff until out deep enough to swim.

Part of the package for the hotel room included the usual TW transportation of a motor scooter. That’s Joanne and Paul there doing the “hog” thing.

Taroko Gorge, Taiwan

We spent a long w/e in July at the Taroko Gorge.
It was fabulous.


Walking the . . . . what?

We came across a sight today.

An every day thing to see . .
someone out walking his animals.
But . . .
take a look at this.

. . yes, walking the pig,
and the chicken.

Lazy chicken eh?


Trains ‘n boats n’ . .

I did get to spend a day riding around on the steam train.

It was amazing.

We stopped at a few stations and there were hundreds of people at each one. Then all along the track loads of people were out to wave and smile for the train (or was it for me?). The reaction when the whistle blew was instantaneous – chers and bigger waves. It even brought people out who weren’t expecting that train, and of course, lots of surprised people at the level crossings and sundry other places.

It certainly gave me a feel for why the railway is so close to peoples hearts in countries that still get access to the tracks and use the train as an integral part of their life, as one would expect on a small island like this.
Terrific day – and I got VIP treatment from the railway into the bargain.

Good eh?

Then a couple of weeks later we were off to see the Dragon Boat races.

Several countries sent teams.

Also an interesting day out, even if it was boiling hot!