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Another Miaoli Page.


More about our time in Miaoli City, Taiwan...

KEEPING IT COUNTRY. Like most of the island, Miaoli Province is hilly. There are mountain streams and nice places to picnic less than an hour by scooter from the city, especially in an area called Da-Wu. There are hot springs here - though we've never been - and also freezing cold rivers. This was where we were in June, 2000, on a group picnic with about two dozen other expats who live in the area. There were lots of silvery things in the water - not fish, but about 60 tins of Taiwan Beer chilling in the stream! What a nice day it was. Hic.


Talking techie...

TECH ISSUES. Taiwan's prices are pretty unbeatable and we picked up a decent spec notebook PC for about 2/3 of what it would have cost anywhere else. At last we have our own computer again, rather than the one we'd been renting from the school for the last 18 months. It's meant that we've reduced to almost nothing the gob-smackingly tangled array of wires and cables that used to skulk under our computer table (a traditional Chinese mah-jang game table, actually). We generally found that using a laptop is a bit of a hassle typing-wise (well, actually LAETITIA is the one who complains) so we added a separate full-size keyboard to the whole shebang which makes things a lot easier. That's what she says, anyway. Isn't one of the achievements of living in a 'wired' world being able to get rid of the wires?


THE TUBE. We'd been renting loads of good films from the newly-opened 'Blockbuster Video' outlet a few blocks away. Miaoli doesn't have a decent cinema so we wait for the new releases to make it to video before we catch them. As we've hooked up our hi-fi VCR to our stereo system, we get GREAT sound. Pity about the piddly little 17-inch TV we watch things on, though. Even though Taiwan's got about 80 cable channels, most of them are useless to anyone who can't speak Chinese, so we stunned our local friends a few months ago by cancelling our cable TV subs. To the locals, this is something like selling your mother, because no-one here can even BEGIN to conceive of a TV-free existence. Very dodgy. Anyhow, we've recently watched 'U-571', 'SHANGHAI NOON', 'ORDINARY, DECENT CRIMINALS', Mel Gibson's 'THE PATRIOT' etc etc etc.



SCAT CAT. See the kitten? His name was Tiggy. We found him outside our school dodging taxis in the middle of the road during a rainstorm and made him a part of our household. Unfortunately, he did not take to life indoors, and we had to let him return to an 'independent' status a few months later by leaving him in a park outside a Buddhist temple renowned for looking after stray cats. So it was a case of "Hello and Goodbye Kitty!"  One remarkable thing about him, though: he was the only cat I've ever seen which would actually run to fetch a ball you've thrown, bring it back to you, and drop it into your hand for another go. Quite something.



L Goes Coastal

ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLES. While I spent the first fortnight of August in London visiting my brother Shelley (who was seriously ill in hospital there), Laetitia spent the week-long summer holiday still in Taiwan. She and 2 co-workers, Matthew and Jess, took a long drive down the East Coast of the country to see some new scenery. It worked - they ate the same food (but in a different part of the country), narrowly avoided the same road dangers (but in a different part of the country) and visited some fairly nice coastal spots when they could find them (they MUST have been in a different part of the country). One of the things worth doing was visiting one of what's apparently only two cold-water thermal springs in the world. This one's at Jiao Shi on the East Coast of the island. They spent some time in the Toroko Gorge, a wall- to- wall marbled chasm which should be one of the things that every visitor to Taiwan should see, and also checked out some waterfalls and stuff, all exotic-like.





The Big One

DID THE EARTH MOVE FOR YOU, TOO? The week after that, I came back from my fortnight in the UK to find that the weather had closed in again and that we were facing the biggest typhoon to hit this island in almost 20 years. Typhoon Billis left our city (Miaoli) almost untouched, unlike the 4.6 quake that occurred almost directly under the city a day or two later on August 26. Joy. At least it wasn't as bad as the one which knocked the crap out of the island on September 21st, 1999. More pictures of this disaster (that we lived through, obviously) - and of other quake stuff in Taiwan - are here. If you want to see the pictures of my two weeks with the family in London, check out the pics here.



We Escape The Aftershocks

AIR MALAYSIA CAN GO JUMP! We finally got our refund from our cancelled trip to Borneo. Here's what happened: we were due for a week off in August and had booked and paid for a few days in Borneo (through Air Malaysia) until I decided to go to London instead where my brother Shelley had been rushed to the intensive care unit with complications arising from treatment he was undergoing for his brain tumour. Since then, we'd been fighting with Air Malaysia for a refund and we have decided never to fly with them again if we can help it - the bastards simply ignored our correspondence. We got the good news about the refund while we were sitting at the local government hospital waiting for our new Health Check forms to clear - we've had to apply for new visas and work permits because we intended to stay a bit longer in Taiwan.

BRIDGING THE CULTURAL DIVIDE. It's a pic taken on a weekend trip to Lake Ming-De outside Miaoli. See this suspension bridge? People actually ride SCOOTERS on it!!! I bumped into a group of locals who started taking pictures of my haircut, so I got some of my own happy snaps in too. Here's mine. (note: it's a sure sign that one's been in Asia too long when one finds oneself flashing the V sign whenever one's photo's being taken). BRIDGING THE CULTURAL DIVIDE.


Blokes At Leisure...

XAx2 @ CKS. New colleague Steve and I spend a Saturday in Taipei, taking this ex-Umtata man for his first look at an Asian capital city. First stop was the rather imposing Chiang Kai-Shek memorial in central Taipei, after which we had lunch at another local landmark, HOOTERS, where they demonstrate how to make mountains out of molehills.

HAVING A HOOT. Here, Steve and I did the tourist thing and spent a pleasant few hours eating and drinking. You certainly pay for the view - beers were around US$5 each, just for the small bottles. Yikes. All the staff speak English and they bill themselves at Hooters as being 'delightfully tacky'. Too true - the waitresses did indeed look 'delightful' in their 'takkies'.



London Boys

Further afield, my youngest brother, Cade (who moved from the USA to London in August 2000), has started gigging with our brothers in London's band LUMIERE. He played his first recently, and is seen here with Ryan skulking in the background, Kim (the keyboardist from New Zealand) and the Aldgate Station sign.

Hair by direct current.

Colours by Revlon.

Home by 4am.




The Price Of Tradition

CLUBBING IN. We spent New Year's Eve 2000-2001 at a wedding banquet for a colleague, Laura, at a 5-star hotel in Taipei. This gave me the chance to dress decently for a change. Later, we spent until about 8 on New Year's morning at a subsequently shut-down dance club called 'Lightbug' which provided us with many hours of fun and entertainment - or did we provide that for everyone ELSE there. I forget. Just in case you're wondering, the hair is completely computer- generated. It makes up for the Mohawk...

PAYING THE PIPER. We spent part of the Festive weekend at a Christmas Eve dinner at the PIG & WHISTLE in Hsinchu city, an English pub run by the same guy who launched the first one in the 80s, back in Main Road, Rondebosch, in Cape Town. Xmas Eve 2000 was enjoyed in a traditional Xmas whirl, complete with carols and pipers etc, with a whole group of friends from Miaoli. It was fun (and very expensive) and the song-and-dance troupe who performed came from - wait for it - South Africa! They were a group of dancers from Sun City or something. Quite a surprise. If you look carefully, you can see us on the right of the picture. WHO'S PAYING THE PIPER?

Santa Pause

As things are, we're having a few days break for the Christmas weekend and the hubbub of noise that normally fills our days has been reduced as the schools fall silent. Xmas here is VERY expensive, the price of setting up a traditional-type festivity in a part of the world that's probably furthest away from where traditional Christmases are generally held. That was our new year 2000-2001. There was another one to come, as the Chinese celebrate their Lunar New Year a few months after the Western one.

Life continued into the new year and that's covered on our 2001 news page...


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