Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫 ‘Fan-Shaped Train Garage’ ~ must-go, must-see!

This place is really so gobsmackingly amazing, it’s definitely a MUST-GO, MUST-SEE (note the capitals) kind of destination!

And not just for train-lovers either.  For anyone.  And especially for anyone who has grown up with Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends.  Which is pretty much everyone today in the UK, either with the original Railway Series books (26 written by the Rev. Wilbert Awdry from 1945-72, and a further 16 written by his son, Christopher Awdry – 14 between 1983 and 1996, and 2 more in 2007 and 2011) or through the TV series, Thomas and Friends from 1984 onwards.  In the stories, the engines have their own roundhouse where all the engines live.  Well, Taiwan has its own real live version of the Thomas the Tank Engine Roundhouse ~ welcome to the Changhua Roundhouse in central Taiwan…

First you must check out this wonderful article about the Changhua Roundhouse on the very excellent Synapticism website – the author (Alexander Synaptic) has done a lot of homework, so you’ll find all the information there, and I quote:

‘One of the most unique attractions in Taiwan 台灣 is the historic Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫, originally built in 1922 during Japanese colonial rule and still in operation today. Although information is hard to come by it seems that it might be the only roundhouse still operating in Asia—and certainly one of the oldest still in regular use anywhere in the world. Every other roundhouse I researched for this article has been abandoned, demolished, repurposed, or converted into a museum, and those rare few that are still operational have been mighty hard to date. As such, the Changhua Roundhouse is a dream to visit for a railway enthusiast like myself, particularly since the ambiance hasn’t been ruined by the sort of tacky treatment you’ll often find at Taiwanese tourist attractions….. This roundhouse is one of six that were built in Taiwan 台灣 in Japanese times; others were once found in Taipei, Hsin­chu, and Chiayi 嘉義, with two more in Kao­hsiung. Like most of the others this roundhouse is semicircular – hence the name in Chinese, 扇形車庫, which translates to “fan-shaped train garage”.’

So I’ve known about the Changhua Roundhouse for years, after all, you pass it if you’re heading north out of Changhua on a train, but it’s gone from view in a flash, and I never knew it could be visited, nor that it was still being used.

On Saturday I had the chance to go to visit, along with hundreds of others. It is very very popular with families, groups, young couples, old people, everyone!

Entry is free, just sign in the visitors book. There’s even a 2-floor viewing tower.  And photo opportunities galore!

While we were there, a train was being driven in and out of its shed to be inspected.  The turntable was not used that day, but it’s clearly well-used.

There was plenty to see, including an old black steam train sitting on the left side….

And plenty of others, all orange!

Some getting inspected….

And others just taking it easy…..

Plus an empty shed or two….

Ah, yes, it’s a great place to visit – it’s real history still in action, and so much fun! Definitely Changhua’s most interesting destination, and so easy to get to.  And free!  Must-go, must-see as soon as possible!

A big thank you to my friend En-Yu, who lives nearby and who met me at the train station and took me there, along with her daughter.  Afterwards, the next place to visit is the nearby iced dou-hua stall (temps were in the 30’s, so iced anything was very welcome!), followed by all the local Changhua delicacies, all within walking distance!

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Advent Church Summer Camp 2017 降臨堂兒童喜樂營 ‘YES! You’re Extra-Special!’

And what a camp it was!  Two whole days of fun, laughter, games, water fights, action songs, drama, handicrafts, prayers and much more!

The theme was ‘You’re Extra-Special’ – the initials of which happen to spell ‘YES!’… and that logo was on our dark blue T-shirts too, the YES is written into the shape of Advent Church… here’s some of us in the T-shirts!

The summer camp happens every year at this time, with a large group of lovely students from our SJU Student Fellowship group who spend 2-3 days in training and preparation, followed by the actual camp, open to children aged from about 4-12. Once the children are too old to attend, then they can come along as helpers and attend the training too.  So this year we had over 30 student leaders, and 55-60 children.  The kids come from all over the local area, and some are children or relatives of our SJU faculty and staff and live further away.  Two very small children had come from Yilan with their aunt, who is our school nurse ~ she said it was their first time away from their parents, and several had even come back from overseas to visit grandparents, so it was all quite international.  Here we all are!

Until last year, the summer camp was held in Advent Church (left), but since we now have a wonderful new church centre (right), we used that ~ and just look at the weather!

The overall camp leader and organizer was our just-graduated and former chair of the student fellowship, who we call Pi-pi ~ and he did a really great job.  He is multi-talented in music (here he is on the right) and all things related to talking (ha ha!) ~ and has tons of personality, always making everyone laugh, as well as good at organizing everyone.  We’ll miss him now he’s graduated!

He was ably assisted by Hong-Wen, one of our former students, and both were under the general watchful eye of Yu-Ru, our person in charge of all the outreach and social services of Advent Church, who also happens to be married to our chaplain, Rev. Wu Shing-Shiang.  And all of the summer camp comes under Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, our rector.  The ladies of the church (plus a few men!) had an amazing ministry in providing breakfasts and dinners for the whole 5 days – they smiled and laughed continually throughout. All helpers and students were invited to a celebration thanksgiving banquet on Tuesday evening after the children had gone home.  Here’s some of the lovely ladies!

Here’s our student leaders ~ taken after singing in the Advent Church service on Sunday – in the summer camp T-shirts…. they’re all set for the off!

We had some special visitors too!  Number one VIP visitor gave us a huge and very wonderful surprise ~ Sheerah from West Malaysia!  In 2010, she and a group from the Diocese of West Malaysia (DWM) came to Advent Church to lead some training on ‘Kid’s Games’, an international program using sports and games to teach children spiritual truths and character education based around the Bible.  Sheerah oversees this program in DWM, and she happened to be in Taiwan this past week, so she came along for one afternoon.  Amazing!  She is full of life and energy and ideas of what we could do together in the future too!  Here she is….. with Rev. Lennon Chang (left) and Rev. Wu and Shu-Jing (right)….

When the DWM group came in 2010, we did not yet have any students from Malaysia, now we have lots.  In fact we had 6 students helping on the summer camp who come from Malaysia, and one had even attended Kid’s Games in her own home town, Ipoh, which happens to be Sheerah’s hometown too ~ ah, it’s a small world!  And they were all so happy to pose in a photo together!

Next set of VIP visitors were from Lao-Mei Village, Taiwan’s northern tip, and one of my favourite places, since I go to the school for English classes sometimes.  Ms. Cheng (back row, left of Rev. Lennon Chang) brought a group of very happy children, and we were delighted to see them ~ with Yu-Ru too (right)!

And so ~ a selection of randomly arranged photos of the summer camp!  We had 2 or 3 us taking photos, so the photo numbers are all mixed up.  Thousands of photos in total.  290 on our church facebook page, and you’ll be glad to know, less than 60 here!  But all mixed up just adds to the fun!

Thanks to everyone for all their hard work, and especially to Almighty God for his many blessings!

PS We had 2 sets of identical twins on the summer camp, each set dressed alike, and all girls ~ taking photos is even more of a challenge than usual, hope we got them all in ha ha!

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Yang-Ming Shan Mountains 陽明山 ~ before the storm….

It’s summer, well and truly summer!  Schools finished yesterday, the last day of June ~ so the summer holidays have officially started ~ and everyone is making the most of it!

Summer weather in Taipei this past week has meant fine and sunny weather every morning, up to the mid-30’s in temps, then soon after lunch, it clouds over and a storm comes rolling in, sometimes just torrential rain, sometimes with thunder and lightning too.  So today everyone was up early to the Yang-Ming Shan Mountains, just above Taipei, and back down again by early afternoon.  By 8:00 am I was already at Xiaoyoukeng, where the fumaroles were busy pouring forth their stinky sulphur.  The smell was incredible!  The noticeboard said 29°C, and that was before 8:00 am. It was gonna be a hot hot day!

Over Dragon Boat Weekend at the end of May, I was up in Yang-Ming Shan doing the ‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse’ over 2 days, the second day completely in the mist.  (Check out that blog post here). Parts of the eastern range were new to me, so I’ve been determined to go back and do the new sections in the sun.  So today was THE day!

Check out the flowers – the big purple flowers are Common Melastoma (Melastoma candidum) – which has a high tolerance of acidic, sulphurous and infertile soils.  Also some beautiful lichens…..

First to Qixingshan (Mt. Qixing or Mt. Cising), the highest peak, at 1120 m.  One of my lovely students, Calvin from Malaysia was up there a few days ago, with photo to prove it, and I always tell him I’ve gotta keep up with him, so this is in his honour!

The views of Mt. Datun were amazing…

And down to Taipei….

By 10:00 am, I was down the other side, in Lengshuikeng, drinking coffee and looking at the weather. It was already clouding over back where I’d come from, but ahead was clear – so on I went. First to check out the Milk Lake, which “turns white due to the sulfurous fumes vented from the lake bed which turns the water murky. After gradually precipitating, the sulfur forms whitish-yellow or pale grey layers on the lake bed. The temperature of the lake is around 40 °C.”

Then to Qingtiangang, “a lava terrace formed when the lava from Mt. Zhugao flowed north after its eruption. Because of its flat terrain, a ranch was established and the area was used as a pasture for grazing cattle during the Japanese occupation.” The smell there is no longer of sulphur.  It is very distinctly cow.  Very smelly.  Very stinky cows.  Never saw any, but there’s lots of evidence.  These are the grassy areas, completely different from the western end of Yang-Ming Shan….

This is one of the old ranch buildings, now a rest area….

And there’s lots of historic pillboxes, including one on Mt. Zhugao 竹篙山at 830 m, the highest pillbox, used for defence ….

This mountain has spectacular views of Qixingshan, where I’d just come from – though it was getting quite overcast over there…..

There’s an ancient historic trail, the Jinbaoli Trail that goes over the mountains from the sea at Jinshan to Shilin in Taipei and was used to transport fish, tea and sulphur right up to the 1950’s, this is one of the old gates….

Lots of people in the area today ~ it’s THE place where couples and families and friends all come for picnics, to brew tea, play Frisbee with the kids, and even take wedding photos!

And finally I ended up at the old home of Lin Yu-Tang 林語堂 (1895-1976) on the lower slopes of Yang-Ming Shan. He lived there for the last 10 years of his life and wrote lots of things, mostly in bed.  Not because he was confined to bed, but because he thought it was the best place to think and write and invent.  That’s what the notices around his house said anyway.  Am sure thousands would agree with him. Wikipedia describes him as “a Chinese writer, translator, linguist and inventor. His informal but polished style in both Chinese and English made him one of the most influential writers of his generation, and his compilations and translations of classic Chinese texts into English were bestsellers in the West.”  He is buried there in the garden, and his home is open to the public….

By then it was 2:30 pm and home I went, arriving back in Sanzhi just before the thunder started!  Yang-Ming Shan by then was looking very dark indeed, but for me the rain held off – yippee!

Thought you’d like to see one of the lovely signs, love the ‘desire path’….

Ah yes, I love Yang-Ming Shan, such a great range of mountains, and so close and so convenient for Taipei!

PS: It’s now nearly 7:00 pm and absolutely pouring down with rain here in Sanzhi!

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Queen Crape Myrtle in Flower at St. John’s University!

‘Just living is not enough, one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower’, so said the butterfly in the Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales…..

So today is a wonderful day to see the flowering Queen Crape Myrtle (紫薇花) otherwise known as Pride Of India, Banaba or Lagerstroemia Speciosa outside the multi-coloured Mechanical Engineering Building here at St. John’s University…

Beautiful flower, beautiful day!

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Tamsui Treasures!

Bright orange U-bikes have arrived in Tamsui, and not just down by the river, but up in northern Tamsui, by the sports centre and Carrefour ~ yippee!  So a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon is riding around on a u-bike, exploring some of the places in Tamsui that are more difficult to get to – and the sports center is a good place to start. Well, it is for me, cos it’s the nearest to Sanzhi!

First stop is the Cheng’s Old Residence, which is a traditional old Taiwanese house, around 3 sides of a courtyard, probably built around 1875 – and now fully restored and used for educational purposes. It happens to be right in the middle of the new high-rise buildings that are going up all over Tamsui New Town area, this is it!

In fact, the only way to really appreciate its location is to take a diagonal photo!

The next stop is Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf which is right at the mouth of the river – nearby are some more new high-rises ~ check these out!

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Fisherman’s Wharf was cloudy, and full of fishing boats, and the famous ‘Lover’s Bridge’ is covered in scaffolding…

Next stop is the Martyrs Shrine, up a steep hill, which is described as “Sitting on one of the battlefields of the Sino-French War, New Taipei City Martyrs’ Shrine tells the colonial and wartime history of Taiwan. During the Japanese Colonial Era, it was a Shinto shrine venerating Emperor Meiji. After the war, the shrine was sadly destroyed and later converted into a martyrs shrine that honors the fallen soldiers. The foundation and the size of the Shinto shrine has been retained, and the main body was rebuilt into a Chinese palace”…..

The Martyrs Shrine is up by the Hobe Fort, next to the golf club, but I was really heading to the Cloud Gate Theater, also in the same area, which has been open for over 2 years, but this was my first visit – it’s beautiful!  And it’s got sculptures by Taiwan’s most famous sculptor, Ju-Ming 朱銘, from his Living World series (for photos of my visit to his sculpture park, in Jinshan, see my blog post here) which really brighten the place up!

There’s plenty more to see, like the fort and museum and parks in the same area, but it was 31°C, so I’d had enough for one afternoon – it was hot!

A great place to visit – if you get a chance, do go – and by u-bike too!

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Happy Wedding Day Mr. You Bo-Min 游博閔弟兄 and Ms. Hsu Ying-Ping 徐穎蘋姊妹!

A beautifully sunny day at Advent Church for the wedding of our former student, Mr. You Bo-Min 游博閔 and his lovely wife, Ms. Hsu Ying-Ping 徐穎蘋 ~ congratulations to them both ~ and their families!  Here they for the group photo, titled ‘The Kiss’!

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Actually, Bo-Min has always been known to us as A-Bu-La 阿不辣, a good nickname for a fun guy, who loves to act and dress up and do imitations of people and pull faces and make everyone laugh – all the time, that how I remember him!  He’s now 28, and for the 4 years that he was a student here at St. John’s University, he kept us all well entertained, ah how we loved him! He was baptized here in Advent Church and became the leader of our student fellowship, and has continued on as a Christian. His wife Ying-Ping is a Christian too ~ they’re at the Torch Church at Taipei Main Station.

In the summer of 2009, Bo-Min was part of a student fellowship mission trip to Malaysia, led by our rector and chaplain, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang. Today a large group of about 30 former student fellowship members and those who went to Malaysia joined together to sing and play for the wedding.  Very meaningful!  They are such a great group, and today they helped with all the organizing and arranging too….

While Bo-Min was here at the university, we also did a lot of outreach in LaoMei, my favorite village on the northern tip of Taiwan, and 2 of the girls we got to know there came today. At the time, they were 12 years old, and they’re now 20!  Here they are with Hannah, our rector’s wife….

And so to the wedding ~ 9:00 am start!

Congratulations to Bo-Min and Ying-Ping, and best wishes and God’s blessings for their future together!

PS: I’ve been to lots of weddings at Advent Church and I think this is the first ever where we’ve had a whole group photo on the church steps with ‘The Kiss’!

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CMS Link Letter # 72!

Hot off the press comes my latest CMS (Church Mission Society) Link Letter, written on Saturday June 3, published yesterday…. check it out here:

Catherine Lee 72

And in case you’re wondering, we’re in the middle of another Plum Rain weekend – rain rain and more rain, and yes the termites are enjoying themselves still!

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