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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pagoda Closeup


A closeup of the tiger pagoda at Lotus Lake.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Upgrade!

Wow!  What a nice suprise I got from my hotel the other day.  Apparently, they have a policy that you get a room upgrade once you hit 100 days at the hotel.  I walked into my standard room on Friday and saw a bottle of wine, expensive chocolate, and various other gifts along with the notification that I now have "VIP" status.  Today, I moved into my new room and it was definitely an upgrade!  It was double the size and included a bar area when you first enter the room.  Of course, not being much of a drinker I don't know how much use I'll get out of this but it still looks nice!

With five weeks to go in this room, I am definitely a big fan of the hotel!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lotus Lake: How it got it's name





And so, you can now understand why they call the lake what they do, right?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dragon/Tiger Pagodas (Lotus Lake)

 
 
 
The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas at Lotus Lake were very interesting. According to custom, you should enter through the dragon and exit from the tiger. Terrible things might happen if you do otherwise. There was a great view from the top of the pagoda. This was a good way to start the day.


Lotus Lake (Kaohshiung)


 
 
 

Finally putting up the pictures from Kaohshiung.  This first one shows a temple in Lotus Lake, an amazing place to visit with beautiful views.  More coming later.
 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Chihkan Tower(2)




From the grounds of the tower, I wish I had had more time to understand the symbolism of these but we were in a rush to see as much as possible in the one day I had in Tainan.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Recent Travels

Well, I'm behind in posting pictures and still need to put up the rest of those from my Tainan trip.  After that, I need to start posting some from my most recent travels, Kaohsiung and Taipei.  I liked both of these cities even though they were very different from each other.  More information later . . .

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Annoying Habits!

There's an Asian country (NOT the one I'm currently living in) that is obsessed with the rest of the world's perception of it.  Historically, it has taken great pains to secure athletic events and promote its brand to the global community.  Despite these efforts and to its citizens' frustration, the perception of it has probably gotten worse over the years rather than better.  You see, the problem lies with this country using the wrong methodology for improving its image.  Rather than focus on highlighting grand achievements, it should focus on eliminating bad behavior.  This leads to what happened to me the other morning in my $200 a night hotel.

I entered the elevator at 0630 to head down for breakfast.  I was wearing a suit/tie and carrying a briefcase which should have indicated I was a person of some import whether true or not and immune to harrassment.  Anyway, the elevator went down one floor stopping to pick up a young married couple with two children.  Immediately (from their language), I knew they were from the country discussed above.  And immediately, they proceeded to do to me what so many others had done when I lived in said country.  They goaded their children into shouting at/mocking me while having a good laugh about it.  Now, you the reader might think I'm being too sensitive about such a minor incident and you might be right.  However, having experienced many such encounters in that country that often devolved into comments on my 'simian heritage,' I feel entitled to overreact a bit.  Actually, I chose to ignore them till we arrived at the breakfast area.  They seemed to take this personally and tried to catch my attention throughout breakfast.  As a result, I had to leave sooner than I wanted but not before I complained to the hotel staff.  The staff apologized and told me they often have difficulties with individuals from _______.

So, to the people of that country (and you know who you are), I suggest you change your behavior especially when traveling abroad that is, if you want more respect.  Some general rules to follow:

1.  When dealing with other cultures that you might not be familiar with, err on the side of caution.
2.  When unsure of a social situation, it's sometimes better to say nothing than to risk saying the
     wrong thing.
3.  Regardless of culture, most people don't like to be bullied, mocked, or otherwise have their
     serenity disrupted.

Following the above rules will do vastly more for your image than hosting the next 25 Olympic Games!

Manti Te'o



Not related to travel at all, just posting this awesome picture of Manti Te'o celebrating the overtime victory over Stanford last week.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Chihkan Tower




These photos show Chihkan Tower in Tainan, the old capital of Taiwan.  To be honest, I didn't have time to take in much information about any sites in Tainan because I was trying to see everything and rushed around a lot.  Below is the Wikpedia link for those you would like more details about this landmark:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chihkan_Tower

Friday, October 5, 2012

Different But Easy(2)

I had been postponing putting air in my tires because I thought it would be confusing what with the language barrier and the different equipment in Taiwan.  However, today I HAD to do it and jumped right in after filling up with gas.  It was amazingly easy as so many other things are here.  I really wish we had the same equipment for checking our tires in the US.  Anyway, all I had to do was select the pressure I wanted and then hold the hose to the valve until that pressure was reached.  The compressor even made a beeping sound so you wouldn't put more air in the tire than you intended.  Very efficient!  Next adventure, getting my car washed.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Preferred Prejudice

Interesting observation--I was eating lunch with a Taiwanese friend yesterday when he shared something with me.  He told me that Taiwanese people treat foreigners much better than their own people.  He claimed to have been noticing this all day while walking around with me.  I started noticing, too, after he had mentioned it.  Although this may seem unfair, I will take such a "prejudice" anytime over what happened to me in another Asian country which shall not be named.  In that one, I had to endure being mocked continuously almost anytime I went outside.  Nothing like that has every happened to me in Taiwan.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

On the Way to Tainan


 
 

I took a trip to Tainan a few weeks ago via the HSR (high speed rail).  I was apprehensive about this because I'd never used it on my own before and don't speak Chinese.  I had nothing to worry about though as the process was very simple.  I drove my car to the HSR and parked it in a 24-hour lot.  The lot transported me to the station via a van and dropped me off.  From there, it was easy.  All signs/notices were in English as well as Chinese and these allowed me to find everything I needed.  Various announcements guided me to the proper waiting area and updated me on departure information.  While sitting on the platform, I took these pictures of an arriving train and Taichung.

I returned to Taichung in the evening after touring Tainan all day.  Another van was waiting to take me back to the parking lot where I paid the equivalent of three dollars for about 12 hours of parking.  I then drove home.

Actual Tainan pictures will be posted in a few days.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Never Far From Home


It's always good to have a familiar site from home.  I discovered this Subway restaurant by accident while exploring the neighborhood around my hotel.  Since then, I've seen numerous McDonalds (of course), a TGI Fridays, and a Ponderosa Steak House.  Burger King doesn't seem to do very well in Asia so I haven't seen any of those.

Don't be confused by the Japanese writing next to the Subway.  Japanese businesses are everywhere in Taiwan.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tainan, Taiwan

I'll be posting photos of my most recent trip to Tainan later in the week.  I enjoyed the trip immensely and hope to return.  FYI, Tainan was the old capital of Taiwan for almost 200 years.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Xinshe Mushrooms


 
 
After touring the Summit Resort, we visited this facility which cultivates and sells mushrooms.  The facility is located in 'Xinshe,' a town not far from Taichung.  All tourists are allowed to pick mushrooms from the soil and purchase what they've picked at the counter.  You can also buy prepackaged mushrooms with an amazing variety from which to choose.  The best part for me was meeting the owner.  He seemed very interested in talking to me as there aren't many Americans who travel through these parts.  Anyway, he invited us for tea and gave us posters depicting different types of mushrooms before we left.  I promised to come back and visit soon!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Driving in Taiwan

I've been driving in Taiwan about a month and am starting to become acclimated to it.  The drivers aren't as bad as advertised, it's just there are too many cars (and motorbikes) for too small an area.  I have to admit, it was quite intimidating at first but I've learned the tendencies of the drivers--there are rules, you just have to know them. 

They say the first 10 combat missions for a fighter pilot are crucial and s/he will likely survive the war if they get through those.  I believe it's the same for foreign drivers during their first month of navigating the roads here.  At least, I hope so!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Summit Resort8


 
 
Another picture of the waterfall and an amazing spider web near the former.  Click on bottom picture to view it better.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Summit Resort7


I really like this photo--it turned out really well.  Please click on it so you can see the snails' shells up close.

Another New Experience

Yesterday, I got a haircut.  Now, this could have been traumatic what with the language barrier and not knowing the system here in Taiwan.  However, my hotel called around and found a place with some English speakers on staff so I felt I could control the situation somewhat. 

I showed up for the haircut at 1330 as previously scheduled, a reservation is required in Taiwan for all sessions.  I was welcomed appropriately without all the 'fanfare' that used to take place in another Asian country where I spent significant time in the past.  Anyway, I was immediately taken to a room where I was given a shampoo/scalp massage for approximately 30 minutes.  This was relaxing and I can guarantee my scalp was clean after all that!  The stylist then took charge and begin cutting while consulting with me every step of the way.  In the end, it was one of the best haircuts I've ever had.

And, of course, contrary to Taiwanese custom, I gave a tip.  For everything, I had to pay the equivalent of 30 dollars--a little more than I'd normally pay in the US for a basic haircut and a bad attitude.  I won't try to estimate what the equivalent service would cost back home because I don't think you could get the equivalent service there!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Different But Easy

I learned something new today.  Up until now, parking has been free for me in the three places to which I primarily drive.  I live in a hotel and can park in the basement below it for free.  I need only take the token I received from the parking booth and have it scanned by hotel staff.  At work, of course, parking is also free and very convenient.  Finally, I often go to Carrefour to stock up on food products and the parking is free as well--all you have to do is show your purchase receipt on the way out. 

So, what did I learn?  Well, I met a friend for lunch and had to park on the street in front of the restaurant.  When we exited, I saw a piece of paper on my windshield that looked like a parking ticket.  Before I could panic, my friend told me it was just a parking bill indicating how much I owed for the parking.  He told me I could take it to any 7-11 and pay it in person.  Apparently, they scan it and it's paid electronically after they've received the cash from you.  Different from the US but very easy.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Tipping in Taiwan

Long story short, it doesn't exist for the most part.  I visited TGI Friday's here in Taichung last weekend and was amazed by the diligence of the staff.  From the time I entered the restaurant, they were completely professional--probably the best service I've ever received in any establishment.  Although a service fee is included in the price, I left a tip anyway (which probably confused the waitress who saw it on the table).  Service like that deserves to be rewarded.

I wish staff in America had the same attitude as the aformentioned do.  I also wish the tip was included in the price.  Well, I guess it is at some of the better restaurants but the servers still expect a little extra from the customers regardless of the level of service.  If you don't ante up, you risk a confrontation in front of everyone.  I've had a few of those, not at restaurants, but in situations where I didn't realize a tip was required.  A bus service from the airport and the Best Buy employees who mounted my TV on the wall come to mind.  For the latter, I would have thought the $150 charge would cover everything but I guess I was wrong.

I wish anti-tipping clubs would form in the US.  Groups could go together to restaurants and other businesses and refuse to tip for bad service or when tipping should not be necessary.  They would have strength in numbers and be able to challenge the entitlement mentality there.

Summit Resort6


 
 
 
I wish the manor in the first picture had been more visible but the trees are nice, too.
 
This is odd.  Blogger won't upload pics directly from my computer but forces me to load them onto Picasa and then transfer them to this blog.  I wonder if that's intentional in order to get me to use their photo-sharing site?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Summit Resort5


 
 
So many fish!  They congregated where the people were throwing in the fish food.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summit Resort4


 
 
Bridge across the lake and waterfall--looked impressive in real life and not artificial at all.
 
 
 


Summit Resort3


 



Same location but these pics show the castle for which the resort is famous.  Actually, I enjoyed the lake much more and you'll see why in my next few posts.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Typhoon Tembin

The typhoon was supposed to hit today and did apparently.  However, I saw no effects of it in Taichung not even a drop of rain.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Summit Resort2














Here are some more pictures of the resort where my friend took me.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Blogger Malfunctioning

I had to upload the pictures to my Picasa account and then transfer them to blogger directly from that account rather than from my computer.  There always seems to be something.  Anyway, you can see them in the previous post.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summit Resort


Yesterday, I went with friends to a place called the "Summit Resort" near Taichung, Taiwan.  Really, I was quite surprised at how nice it was because I had never noticed the area before on my way to work.  Once I entered through the gates though, I saw numerous rock gardens, a lake, and even a castle!  I took numerous pictures but blogger doesn't seem to want to upload them at the moment.  I'll try again later.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Tale of Two Taxis

Taking the taxi to the San Antonio International Airport was the usual experience.  The driver couldn't drive nor could he speak English very well.  I counted myself lucky just to reach my destination.  At the other end (Taiwan), where I was much more tired and irritable, the taxi at the airport was a pleasant surprise.  First of all, the driver spoke excellent English even though he wasn't a native speaker.  Also, he informed me wifi was available in the vehicle in case I wanted to use it.  Finally, he asked me what kind of music I listened to and turned to a preset channel carrying that genre.  It really felt like first class service or, at least, what service in America used to be like.  I wish we could start importing competence and a stronger work ethic.

A Room With A View






I can't help but admire the view from my hotel room in Taiwan.  The first picture shows a park adjoining the hotel grounds.  The second shows the mountains at the edge of the city.  Taiwan has a spine running down it's center--can't wait to try some of the hiking in that area.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Arrival in Taiwan!

Actually, I arrived last Saturday but jetlag and work have conspired to keep me from posting.  I feel much better now and am starting to acclimate to my new surroundings.  My first observation is how hospitable my hosts have been.  Not only did they put me up in a great hotel and provide me with a rental car, but they also have done everything they can to explain the culture to me.  I will provide more information on this (and pictures) later today but the maid is knocking now!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Preparing for Taiwan

Five more days till departure!  This is the worst part, the anticipation and apprehension for the unknown.  Then, of course, there's the long trip resulting in horrific jetlag.  I'm sure once the first week is over though, I'll be right at home in my new environment.  I can't wait to explore a new country!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Adorable Kittens!



No, this was not a staged picture.  My mother sent this to me a few days ago and it represents a real situation with kittens playing in a flower pot.  They are very photogenic.

Still preparing for my departure to Taiwan.  This blog should really ramp up then.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Taiwan!

Fantastic news!  I just found out that I'm being sent to Taiwan for six months!  Finally, I can start adding new pictures to this blog.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Deer Sighting!



Kind of interesting, this deer was spotted below my mother's back yard on a river bank in West Virginia.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

NamSeoul University2



Continuing the theme below, this is the Administration building at NamSeoul University.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

NamSeoul University



Near the town of Seunghwan is NamSeoul University.  I worked there for a year but decided to leave before I became too comfortable. I was worried that having a job with up to five months of paid vacation a year might make me never want to leave!  In the end, it paid off as I acquired my current job in the US which offered me more of a future.  Still, I have good memories of this place.

This is a picture of the library building on the campus.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Seunghwan, South Korea



This is just a typical street in the downtown area of Seunghwan, a relatively small town located between Chonan and Pyeungtek.  I lived on the edge of this town while working at Namseoul University.  It's hard enough to find western conveniences in Seoul much less a town in the provinces but I wasn't too far way from the capital and was able to visit frequently.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

South Korea



I lived in South Korea for three years in the '90s and one year in the last decade.  Up to this point though, I haven't posted any pictures from my time there.  I guess that's because I've focused more on my recent travels since starting this blog back in '07.  Anyway, I'll start posting some Korean pics now (in no particular order) while trying to recall the circumstances of each one.  FYI, Korea was the first country I traveled to after finishing university.

The picture above is of my apartment building in a small town called Seunghwan which is about two hours south of the capital, Seoul.  I like this one because it shows a rice field sprawled out over a large part of the land.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hatfields and McCoys

I wonder how many people were aware of the details of this feud prior to the History Channel's presentation last week.  I also wonder how many Hatfields and/or McCoys around the country have been asked about their connection to it.  The truth of the matter is that a McCoy in California has about as much connection to the feud as someone living in Russia.  A "Real McCoy" is someone who grew up along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River, water that separated Kentucky and West Virginia.  It just so happens that I did grow up in this area and heard about the feud all my life.  The link at the bottom shows the territory where the fighting occurred.

Pretty impressive that this series set a cable viewership record each night during its showing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatfield-McCoy_feud

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Williamson Hospital



This may not be particularly interesting for viewers but it is very relevant for me.  My mother sent me this photo earlier today.  It's a shot of the hospital both her and I were born in many years ago.  The hospital is in Williamson, WV and is scheduled to be closed down in the near future.  As a McCoy, I was taking a risk being born in Hatfield country but I managed to survive!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Target Practice





I went to the range today and fired my Kimber 1911 Custom Target II (.45) for the third time.  I still have a tendency to fire left of the bullseye from 7 yards but seem to be getting better.  I hesitate to adjust the sights because the range officer fired it a few times and was right on target.  I think I just need to be more patient.

I've bought two handguns in the last six months.  Just preparing for the "Hunger Games."








Sunday, May 27, 2012

Last Pictures From Cambodia




The top picture is a sitting area along the street in Siem Reap.  The bottom one was my hotel, a converted colonial mansion.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Angkor Wat18



Still trying to post all of these Angkor Wat pictures.  Check out the face on the structure.