10/31/10 โ€“ 11/1/10 (luzhou)

Luzhou - Los Angeles

It was time to make the rounds and say good-bye to our Taiwanese friends. We stopped by Diamond Boss’s place where the usual crowd gathered. Jon had a few beers with the boys and we even signed Two Horse’s shirt as a souvenir for him to remember us by. It was hard to believe we had been in Taiwan for a month. For dinner Ryan (aka Red Bean) wanted to take us out to dinner but we thought it would be more fun to do something low key at home where we could hang out with friends. We had a barbecue on the roof deck and invited Johnson, Patty, Ryan, and Arvin. Arnold is a master at the grill and cooked our favorites including tempura, green beans, corn, fish, and sweet potato using his secret sauce. I still consider it one of the best meals I have had in Taiwan. We reminisced about our time in Taiwan and everyone was impressed at how much Jon’s Mandarin had improved since the first day. No one wanted to leave but it was a workday the next day. Our new friends made us promise that we wouldn’t forget about them and to come back as often as we can.

Our good-bye tour wouldn’t have been complete without a stop at the breakfast club. We met them during our first day in Taiwan and so it was only fitting that we see them again on our last day in town. I am thankful to these women who have become my sister’s ya-ya sisterhood. After brunch my sister and I went to the hair salon for an extensive hair treatment, which included a very relaxing head massage. Getting my hair washed is one of the things I will most about Taiwan.

Before we knew it it was time to head to the airport. It is amazing how much we had accumulated over our time in Taiwan. We were going home with one large suitcase, two carry-on suitcases, two backpacks, one tripod case, and one conical hat we had to hand carry so it didn’t get crushed. We had a lot of luggage but luckily we didn’t go over the weight limit. My mom is one of those people you see at airports with their suitcases open taking out things because they have exceeded the weight limit. As we checked in the ticket counter representative informed us that we overstayed our visa by one day and needed to rectify it with immigration services before we would be issued our tickets. I couldn’t believe this was happening. We asked the Jetstar representative in Malaysia twice if there was a limit on the visa when we purchased our outbound ticket from Taiwan. Of course we hadn’t bothered to look at the stamp on the passport indicating a 30-day visa and it was our 31st day. We marched over to immigration services and explained our situation. There was a loop whole to the whole situation. Since our visa expired on a Sunday there was no way we could extend it if we wanted to so we could leave the next day without a penalty. Imagine our luck! I was armed and ready for a battle with immigration services and the airline company but there was no need.  

We finally got our boarding passes. We grabbed a quick supper at one of the restaurants airport. Then it was finally time to say good-bye to Grace and Arnold. Both Grace and I tried to hold back our tears but it was just too much for us. I just hope it won’t be another five years before I see her again. We boarded our flight and were on our way home. It was going to be a 12.5 hour flight, enough time to watch four movies.

This is our last daily detail and though at times we dragged our feet writing them I am glad we did. It was a great way for us to capture the spirit of our adventure and we hoped you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading!


10/29/10 โ€“ 10/30/10 (luzhou)


With just a few days left in Taiwan it was time to buy souvenirs and Christmas presents for our family. Due to limited luggage space we hadn’t purchased much along our travels for ourselves or anyone else. Grace took us to a few main shopping areas where we bought Taiwanese snacks and small gifts for people. We quickly realized that we weren’t going to fit everything in our two carry-on suitcases and needed to purchase an additional luggage. Luckily the airlines don’t charge for luggage on international flights. Grace knew a lady who owned a jewelry shop near the train depot where we were shopping. That lady knew another lady who owned a suitcase shop where we could get a deal. It is amazing the connections my sister has and it is no wonder she relies on her friends rather than the internet for discounts.

On Saturday we were triple booked. We made lunch plans with my aunt and uncle who are in their eighties and live in Taipei. Then for dinner we met with Monsignor Paul who also grew up in Alpena. After dinner we hung out with my cousins at a live music bar called EZ 5. It was an ambitious schedule.

For lunch my aunt and uncle decided to take us to a vegetarian buffet restaurant, one of the best in Taipei. My uncle has been a vegetarian for a number of years and even to this day swims and does sit-ups every morning. The restaurant is popular among the monks and Jon commented he had never seen so many in one place. The food was absolutely delicious. We were amazed at the selection of dishes and never realized how many different things you can make just cooking vegetarian. Over lunch we caught up with my relatives on what we had been up to since it had been over ten years since I had seen them. They still refer to me by my childhood name, Little Chuan, with Chuan being the last character in my name. I am the youngest of all my cousins and there is a huge age gap, so much so that my cousin’s daughter is the same age as me. It was wonderful seeing them and reminds me that I need to make it a point to come back more often.

We had a few hours before our dinner meeting so Jon and I decided to scout out a present for his dad. We took a taxi to an area that is supposed to sell Chinese calligraphy scrolls. We visited several stores and found out that very few people now sell ready made calligraphy scrolls but produce them when they are commissioned. Luckily we stumbled upon a shop that was willing to write one for us on the spot. Because we were novices at such things we called my sister for advice and after much deliberation the shopkeeper and my sister decided on a proverb that suited Jon’s dad based on his Chinese astrological sign. The shopkeeper wrote the proverb in different styles and after spending more than an hour with him we finally decided on a scroll that we liked. The scroll was carefully stored in a tube so it wouldn’t be crushed during the flight.

We were then off to Monsignor Paul’s house for dinner. Long story short…Jon’s mom, Mary, was chatting with her friends, The Fitzpatricks, and she comes to find out that they have a cousin, Monsignor Paul, who is in charge of what is equivalent to an embassy for the Vatican in Taipei. Mary suggested that Monsignor Paul would be an interesting person for us to meet since he has traveled extensively around the world. We were fortunate that Monsignor Paul had a free evening and he invited us over for dinner. We met him at his home that also serves as the official office for the Vatican. He is an incredibly warm person who welcomed all sorts of questions we had about Catholicism and things we were just curious about such as how he prepares for a sermon. He visits Alpena frequently since his mom still lives there and we hope to see him over the holidays.

We had such a great time with Monsignor Paul that we were an hour late to meet my cousins, which we felt terrible about. Jon makes fun of me that I call everyone cousins even though he questions whether or not they are really my cousins. I think you would call Louisa and Shen-Anh my second cousins since they are my cousin’s daughters. Louisa is the same age as me and based on Taiwanese customs she would have to call me aunt but I just refer to her as my cousin to simply things. We went to a bar called EZ 5 that featured up and coming artists. They sang English and Taiwanese songs. In between acts we reminisced about our childhood days and how much fun we had. 

By the time we left it was just after midnight and we were exhausted. It was a day of reacquainting with family members and meeting a new friend.  


10/26/10 โ€“ 10/28/10 (luzhou)

Luzhou – Taitung – Luzhou

This was our last full week in Taiwan and we were excited to cap it off with a visit to Orchid Island. Orchid Island is one of two small islands off the eastern coast of Taiwan in the Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who live on Orchid Island are called Yami and we met some of them at the Independence Day parade who raved about the beauty of their home. To get to the island you can either take a two-hour boat ride or a twenty-minute airplane ride from Taitung, a city that is an hour plane ride from Taipei.

It was hard getting a flight to Taitung and the only one available was a 9am flight. We woke up eager and were ready to go. The flight to Taitung was short but bumpy. When we arrived in Taitung we found out that all the morning flights to Orchid and Green Island had been canceled due to gusty wind conditions. The plane seats only ten people so any bad weather conditions could prevent the plane from taking off. The boats also weren’t going to the islands. They couldn’t confirm whether or not the afternoon flights would be canceled until the time of the flight. We were devastated. This was our final hoorah before returning to the states. After consulting with my sister we decided to wait at the airport till our 1pm flight to see what happens. If the flights are canceled we would stay in town to see if the flights took off for the next day. 1pm came around and it was still a no-go. We decided to stay the night in town and booked a flight to the island for the following day.

Taitung is a small town known for its surfing and custard apple fruit. We found a cheap hotel in the town center and settled in. After dinner we walked around checking out the shops. To my surprise I found a few shoe shops that had shoes my size. I was in luck! I wear a size five and it is extremely hard to find shoes that fit me. I went crazy and bought three pairs of shoes. I wished we could’ve made it to Orchid Island but I was also happy to have new shoes.

The next day we woke up early to call the airline to see if the flights were taking off but to our disappointment the morning ones had been canceled. It seemed the island was telling us to come back another time. We booked a flight back to Taipei for the following day and visited the sights in Taitung. We were hoping to rent a motorbike to drive around but then learned that we needed a Taiwanese license. We figured since the town wasn’t very big and we could rent bikes or just walk. We heard there were bikes for rent at Taitung Forest Park so we took a taxi there. Since it was mid-week there were hardly anyone at the park. We walked around enjoying the peace and quiet. We walked over to the bike rental shop and found out that we could only ride the bike around the park. It seemed we kept striking out. It didn’t seem far to the Taitung Seashore Park so we leisurely strolled to the next park. By the time we reached the park the wind was starting to pick up. The park was right at the beach facing the Pacific Ocean. If we squinted our eyes we could see San Francisco. We grabbed lunch at one of the few restaurants along the shore, which happened to be the restaurant that someone at the hotel recommended.

For dinner we decided to check out a Japanese restaurant, which turned out to be an all-you-can eat. They only had menus in Mandarin but the waitress was kind enough to read the entire menu to me. It has been a little hard on my ego to have to tell people that I can’t read Mandarin even though I speak it perfectly. I often get puzzled looks from them when I tell them in Mandarin that I can’t read the menu. Sometimes I go through the process of explaining that I was born in Taiwan but grew up in the states and have been able to keep up my speaking abilities because we always spoke Mandarin at home. We were really full from our meal and decided to walk around. We stopped in one of the shops to see if they had any souvenirs. We started talking to the shopkeepers who recommended that we check out a bar owned by an American. We didn’t want to go back to the hotel yet so walked over to the bar. The bar called Kasa was down a dark alley among residential buildings. It was a rustic looking place with a nice ambience. We quickly discovered that every Westerner visiting and living in Taitung was at the bar. We had seen a Westerner at the airport chatting up some girls who turned out to the owner of the bar. Earlier in the day we saw another Westerner at 7-Eleven who was also at the bar. Both are from America. It is a small world. The guy we saw at 7-Eleven is Dave, a former Mormon. He came to Taitung a few years ago as a missionary and decided to start his four-month traveling adventure here. We didn’t realize he was a post-Mormon when we offered him a beer. It was his first beer in his life! After a few more beers we called it a night.

We boarded our flight to Taipei and were back home by mid-afternoon. Because there was a second typhoon lurking on the horizon the temperature had dropped a few degrees. It was cold enough to warrant a jacket, which was a nice change from the humidity we had been experiencing. We were disappointed we didn’t get to visit the island but it will give us an excuse to visit to Taiwan.


10/24/10 - 10/25/10 (luzhou)

Luzhou - Bali - Luzhou

Sunday turned out to be a quite day. We spent some time gearing up for the Luzhou temple festival. In the afternoon we visited Bali, a neighboring city of Luzhou. Bali is a sister city to Danshui and on the opposite side of the river bank. This shoreline is a popular family recreational area. Many people rent bikes and ride along the bank. Sunday night was a busy night and we enjoyed many local snacks and vibrant people watching. After our visit to Bali, we returned home to watch the film Red Cliff. Red Cliff is about a famous battle in Chinese history and the leaders of the battle are now modern day Chinese deities. Con Ming, known for his wisdom was a military strategist and a star of the film. Con Ming had become an important figure for me during our time in Taiwan because it was the temple dedicated to him that we visited at Sun Moon Lake. I asked two questions to Con Ming using the traditional Chinese methods and had received some profound answers. As always, it was nice to get the story to better understand the context and history.

Monday was Luzhou temple celebration. These annual festivals were very common in Taiwanese history but are beginning to die out. We were fortunate to be visiting Luzhou during this event and I woke up early to get a jump on the action. Annie’s sister had researched the schedule and the best locations for me to see the action. The festival officially started at 10am. The highlight of the festival are the ten-foot deity costumes that dance in the streets. Many of the surrounding temples will join in on the festivities and bring their deities. This is also election time in Taiwan and it is a great time for politicians to grab some free publicity. The streets were engulfed with people as the procession began. Fire crackers snapped along the pavement. People pushed to grab a fortune paper handed out by the temple floats. The parade lasted one hour with a steady stream of floats, politicians, and colorful deities. I was able to capture some great footage of the event. The parade went on all day as they visited many of Luzhou’s major streets and we could hear the drums and commotion in the distance. 

Later that night we visited one of the few western oriented restaurants in Luzhou. I was on a roll, two western meals in three days. We returned home and watched the second part of Red Cliff and packed for our big trip to Orchid Island. Annie and I had many near miss festivals during our travels and it was nice to finally be able to participate in one before heading home. 


10/23/10 (luzhou)

Luzhou - Taipei - Luzhou

Last October Annie and I attended a wedding in San Francisco. It was located at city hall and we were the lone witnesses. The couple of the day was Annie’s cousin May and her fiance Herry. Annie and May had grown up together in Taiwan and had remained in contact after Annie moved to America. May had won an annual Taiwanese green card lottery that allowed her to come work in America and she had recently moved to Sacramento. Herry lives in Taiwan and comes to America on regular basis and the four of us had become fast friends. May and Herry decided to get married in the United States and asked us to be in their wedding. 

Fast forward a year and this was our day to get together with Herry in Taiwan. Herry is a tour guide in Japan and Annie and I were about to get a first hand sample of his organizational abilities. Herry had planned out an ambitious day for us that started with lunch at the 101 building. He took us to Diamond Tony’s, an Italian restaurant because he thought I could probably use some western food. At lunch Herry called May and we got a chance to get caught up from our eight months of travel. After lunch we went to a nearby cinema to watch the movie Red. From the cinema, our next stop was Elephant Mountain. To get to Elephant mountain we climbed several hundred stairs to ascend to the peak. The view from the top provided a spectacular city scape view of Taipei and the star of the show is the 101 building. I shot a few time lapses and we cooled down from our big climb. We then descended back down to the city and after a quick snack Herry wanted to wrap up the day at one of his favorite hot springs. This is no ordinary hot spring, it was a super secret hot spring only select locals knew about. You could only visit this hot spring at night because it was illegal to visit and you had to sneak in or risk some pretty heavy fines. 

The hot spring turned out to be an awesome adventure. The path to the spring is long and follows a fresh water river that eventually meets with the hot spring source. The water combines into large natural pools that are at the perfect temperature to relax the body. In order to get to the spring you need to cross the river and this is done traditionally via a small bridge but with the recent typhoon the bridge had been wiped out. This is where things got exciting as the three of us crossed the cool water river while the heavy rapids tugged at us from below. The only light was from the full moon. The water was waist deep and the river was lined with jagged rocks. It was quite dangerous and yet exhilarating at the same time. When we passed the river the narrow path ascended for roughly half a mile until we reached the hot spring. Upon arrival it felt like we were entering a secret society as the huge plumes of steam rose from the water where hot and cold met. The steam was illuminated by small battery powered lightbulbs. There were several different pools varying in temperatures, some natural and some man made. We were preceded by a handful of people who allowed us access as we entered into the secluded valley. We spent the next few hours exploring these many pools. It was much more rugged than your average hot spring as the pool floors were lined with sharp rocks and our feet took a beating but it was all worth it because of the forbiden sense of adventure we got from the experience. 

After our hot springs visit, Herry escorted us back to Luzhou and we said goodbye. We will see him in a few weeks in Northern California as we visit May, who is currently eight months pregnant. It was a good to see Herry again and he did an amazing job planning our day together. One of our final adventures but one of our most memorable. Thanks Herry, see you soon.


10/20/10 - 10/22/10 (luzhou)

Luzhou – Sun Moon Lake – Taichung – Luzhou

With the typhoon passing through it seemed the only place least affected by it was central Taiwan so we decided to take a road trip to Sun Moon Lake, another popular destination among the tourists. Arnold was able to get a few days off work and navigated the three and a half hour drive down south.

Before we reached Sun Moon Lake we stopped at a temple that worshipped Con Ming. Grace and Arnold have been coming to this temple for over ten years and are avid believers in Con Ming. This is the only temple in Taiwan that is dedicated to worshipping Con Ming. He is known for his cleverness and intellect and was a key strategist in many battles during the dynasty era. Whenever Grace and Arnold are faced with a serious dilemma they will make the drive down to the temple to seek Con Ming’s advice. Jon decided it wouldn’t hurt to ask Con Ming for some career advice. First Jon had to write his name, contact information, and question on a sheet of paper. Then he stated his question at an altar to a Con Ming statue and placed the paper over some incense three times clockwise. Then he burned the paper, which symbolized him sending the question to Con Ming. We waited five minutes before Jon approached the altar again and shook a can filled with wooden sticks, each with a number. He picked a stick and dropped a pair of crescent shaped wooden blocks on the floor. He had to get one block facing up and one facing down three times in a row. If he did so then that meant the number on the stick was Con Ming’s answer. If he got both blocks facing up or down then he had to shake the can and select another stick and repeat the process. Jon went through the process several times before he received an answer. By this time he had drawn quite a crowd since there aren’t many foreigners who visit the temple, let alone ask Con Ming questions. The answer was a bit puzzling and we learned that there is a certain way we are supposed to phrase the question so Jon decided to ask another question. This time he received an answer rather quickly. By this time we had spent a couple of hours at the temple so we decided to head to the lake allowing Jon to ponder the answers he received.

We grabbed dinner at a nearby restaurant before checking into a hotel. Then we visited a matchmaker temple where we distracted Jon with filming opportunities while I secretly asked if Jon was a good partner. Luckily the answer came out to Jon’s favor. It was getting late so we headed back to the hotel. Earlier in the day we stopped at a convenience store and bought the game, Uno. Grace and Arnold had never played it before. We spent the next few hours having a great time playing Uno and Jon learned how to say red, green, blue, and yellow in Mandarin.

We woke up early the next day to head to the Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village featuring all fourteen Taiwanese tribes. The village also included a small amusement park with water and roller coaster rides. To get to the village we took a boat crossing the lake and then a gondola over a mountain. The ride provided a beautiful view of the lake. By the time we arrived at the park it was drizzling so there wasn’t much opportunity for photos. The upper portion of the park was divided into different areas each featuring a tribe with artifacts and life size manikins illustrating tribal life. We were able to catch two shows featuring tribal music and dancing. We have been introduced to various aboriginal tribes throughout Southeast Asia and have noticed that many, if not all, use bright colors and similar patterns on their clothing. In the afternoon the sun peeked out for a little and Jon and I relived our teenager days by riding on a few roller coasters. Our last ride was the Mayan roller coaster, which included some corkscrew and upside down turns. We both left the ride with headaches and feeling nauseated. I remember those rides being fun but not anymore.

We were planning on staying at the lake for two nights but after a day we felt that we had explored the area. The constant cloudy weather and rain wasn’t helping Jon’s filming so we decided to visit my aunt and spend the night at her house in Taichung, which was on the way home. I hadn’t seen my aunt in several years and it took her a minute to recognize me. She, on the other hand, hadn’t changed a bit and looked great. She is my mother’s sister and an exact older version of my mom. While we were catching up she brought out a 30-year old bottle of wine made from grapes for Arnold and Jon to taste. The wine is clear and very strong. The grapes came from her orchard and she has been aging it in her closet for the last 30 years.

The next day she insisted on cooking an early lunch for us before we headed over to my other aunt’s house. For someone who just turned eighty she certainly hasn’t lost her cooking skills. We decided since it was still early in the day we would take a short drive with my cousin to check out their orchard. My aunt has been a farmer ever since I can remember. They used to grow grapes and oranges and now persimmons. Grace remembers playing in the orchard as a little girl. As we were leaving our aunt’s house she gave Arnold the bottle of wine, which was very sentimental since it was her last bottle.

We tried contacting our other aunt but she wasn’t home. It was a last minute decision to visit my aunts so they didn’t know we were coming. We decided to head home and called her in the evening to catch up. It was wonderful seeing my extended family and makes me want to return home more often.


10/17/10 - 10/19/10 (luzhou)


We were supposed to go to Green Island this week but rescheduled for Orchid Island for next week due to the typhoon. Both islands are supposed to be pretty spectacular. Green Island is one of three places in the world to have a hot spring in the ocean. Apparently you are able to sit in the hot spring near the shore watching the sunset. Orchid Island has become a popular destination over the last few years though it still remains unspoiled. The indigenous people of Orchid Island are called Yami and have their own language. Grace has a good friend who built a guesthouse a few years ago, which is where we will be staying. From the bedroom you can see the sun setting.

After a few weeks in Taiwan Jon decided he needed a Taiwanese name to complete his transformation in becoming a local. Grace consulted many friends on an appropriate name that suited Jon’s personality. To no surprise the name was formed during a drinking feast one night on the rooftop. The literal translation of his Taiwanese name is “Golden Dragon.” Everyone agreed it was a fitting name and carried prestige. Grace taught Jon how to write his name and after a few times Jon wrote his name perfectly. We thought about getting a tattoo on his arm to formalize the name but decided a stamp would hurt less. Everyone in Taiwan has a stamp with his/her name on it for documentation purposes. Grace took us to a shop where Jon selected a wooden block to have his name carved. It was official. People have started calling him by his Taiwanese name.

On another day we visited Diamond Boss’ second business. Diamond Boss purchased a patent on a reusable lint roller, which he has been selling in Taiwan and now is trying to see if he can market it in the US. The lint roller comes in all sizes and you just have to wash it with water to remove the lint. It is environmentally friendly since you aren’t throwing away sheets of lint paper. He wanted Jon to take photos of the product to use in promotional materials. Without much direction Jon scraped together a makeshift photo shoot.


10/14/10 - 10/16/10 (luzhou)

Luzhou - Alishan - Luzhou

One of our favorite detours from big city life in Asia is to seek out mountain towns. The weather is considerably cooler and the scenery often more spectacular. Alishan Forest Recreation Area is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Taiwan and was just the mountain town we were seeking after several weeks in the big city of Taipei. Grace and Arnold purchased train tickets the day prior and helped us plan the logistics for our five hour trip. The first leg consisted of a three hour train ride to the southern city of Chiayi. From there we caught a two hour local bus that snaked up the mountains to Alishan. Alishan has a unique culture that is completely built around the sunrise. The whole town is geared toward 5:20am when the local train departs from Chaoping station and ascends to Chushan summit. Upon arrival the passengers jockey for position on the large concrete viewing deck. The locals aggressively compete with megaphones to lure the many tourists into their hawker stalls while providing some historical context of the area. Depending on the weather and a little luck, around 6:20am the sun makes its first appearance along the distant mountain peaked horizon. It is something straight out of the Patagonia logo

We originally planned to stay for three nights, but upon arrival to the town center many of the locals were surprised we would be there longer than a night. The town center was very small and had a similar feel to that of a ski resort village. Two primary staircases cut through the hillside and each was lined with many accommodations and restaurants.  We easily covered the highlights in 20 minutes. The hub of the town turned out to be the local Seven Eleven where you could buy everything from bus tickets to noodle soup. At the top of the staircase was the Chaoping train station that ran several lines throughout the day to many local attractions. Twice a day at the Chaoping station, a local Taiwanese aboriginal tribe puts on a show that highlights traditional dance and customs. Annie was inducted into the tribe by being paddled several times with tall grass as the tribe chanted in their native tongue. 

We took the train two times to view the sunrise with the first day as a dry run. The sunrise was cloud covered but it did allow me to find the perfect position for an epic second day. The locals said it was the best of the week. Feeling satisfied with a solid time lapse, we decided to leave a day early and caught the local bus back to the train and made our way back to Taipei. 

Alishan was a beautiful detour but I must admit that the sleepy town made us miss our new Taiwanese friends and big city lifestyle.


10/11/10 - 10/13/10 (luzhou)


After a full day’s work on Independence Day we earned ourselves a day of R&R. The day was filled with naps and reading, not to mention more eating. While we have been here we have not felt hungry. There is constant eating and snacking since there are so many things to try. Along with eating, the Taiwanese love to shop and get their hair washed. It is common for ladies to get their hair washed a few times a week since it is very inexpensive, ranging from $3-4USD. The experience often includes a full head massage and blow dry so it is a great deal. It makes for a great sister bonding time for Grace and me.

In between our eating feast we also managed to squeeze in a few more sights. One late afternoon we visited Danshui, which resembles San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. One of the friends we met on the night of the fireworks, Garcia, recommended Danshui for photography and video. We arrived just in time for Jon to capture a time lapse of the sunset. Even after the sunset it illuminated rays of sunlight, something I had never seen. While Jon was shooting he mentioned to my sister that he would like to buy a conical hat that the street cleaners use. Reflective material covers the conical hat so oncoming traffic are aware of the cleaners. It looks as if they are wearing traffic cones on their head. After sneaking investigation by Grace, she was able to obtain one from one of the cleaners free of charge. We later found out that they are only available from the cleaning companies and you can’t purchase them anywhere. Grace has a way of making things happen…ask and you shall receive. After Danshui Grace and Arnold decided to take us to a temple only the locals visit called the 18 Lords Temple in northern Taiwan. The temple is the busiest between the hours of 2am – 5am as most of the people coming to visit the temple work at bars and clubs. When we got home the usual crew came over for a late night drinking party, which included Johnson and Jeff. Arnold mentioned that there is a temple that has a Guanyin statue with one thousand arms. He claimed once when he was younger that he counted them one by one. No one believed him.

The next day he took us to the Guanyin temple and indeed it did look like there were one thousand arms. The statue was barricaded so we couldn’t get close enough to count them but after seeing it we all believed Arnold. In the evening we grabbed a beer with my friend, Dylan, who I worked with at Nova in Japan. It was one of the few times Jon and I ventured on our own while in Taiwan without my sister. We weren't sure where to go so we went to Shingminting, an area close to where I grew up. After asking around we were directed to an area filled with bars. I hadn't realized they were all gay bars until Dylan and Jon pointed it out to me. It was good to know that there is a vibrant gay community in Taipei. It was fun catching up with Dylan who I hadn't seen since I left Japan and Jon was happy to find reprieve from the Taiwanese drinking customs.


10/10/10 (taipei)


5am wake up call. Big day. October 10, 2010 better known as 10/10/10. This day was the 99th Independence Day for Taiwan that happened to coincide with a large filming project I was undertaking. The project is called One Day On Earth and it is basically a video time capsule in which thousands of filmmakers are contributing footage from every country on the planet that will be compiled into a major motion picture and released on 11/11/11. The goal is to document one day on earth from as many perspectives as possible. The Independence celebration was a natural for subject matter and after some incredible preparation from Annie’s sister Grace and brother-in-law Arnold, we were well on our way to a successful day. 

Our first stop was determined by the parade route in downtown Taipei. We had decided on a location that we thought would be the best possible vantage point but knew things would be hectic and so an early departure was a necessity. The main portion of the procession was blocked off to foot traffic and you needed special clearance to enter. We didn’t have that clearance and so we set up shop right at the edge of the restricted zone and were in location by 6am. The parade would begin shortly after 11am. The next five hours were spent jockeying for position with the aggressive Taiwanese and the conditions were far from ideal. 

Things started to move shortly after 11am. The marching band in front of us trickled forward following several floats as the parade began to get underway. At this point our plan began to break down as several stubborn Taiwanese positioned themselves right is front of our curbside location and it made getting a good shot impossible. It was hot, people were pushing, and I was beginning to get frustrated. After another half an hour we decided to get some lunch and move on to our next location. 

As we made our way toward the end of the parade route the crowd began to thin out. Annie spotted the Yami tribe who were making their first appearance at the Taipei parade. The Yami are the indigenous people of Orchid Island along the southeast coast of Taiwan. We had seen a picture of them in our guidebook and were planning a trip to go see them during our stay in Taiwan. Annie acted quickly in trying to salvage a frustrating situation and told the Yami parade manager I was a director from the United States. I was making a movie that would come out next year and I wanted the Yami people in it. The tide turned quickly after this request as the entire tribe came over and donned their costumes and gave us a private performance.

The parade began to move and the filmmaker filming the Yami told us to follow him and we began to sprint inside the security barricades along the parade route to keep up with the procession. We were in the parade! Things got hectic as we followed the group into the restricted zone and the Taiwanese secret service came after us. We explained we were filming the Yami and they laid off for a little while. At this point we were roughly 200 yards from the President of Taiwan. I spent the next few minutes filming the Yami as they preformed followed by the final group in the parade that showcased a large Asian dragon. At this point the secret service was on to our game and asked us to leave. He gave us the option to exit in the rear and we obliged. After walking 100 meters and no one watching us, Annie and I agreed to stay in the restricted zone and film what we could. We parked ourselves behind a crowd of a thousand Taiwanese facing a large jumbotron screen showcasing the parade highlights and I proceeded to get the best shot of the day as the parade came to a climactic conclusion and the crowd erupted waiving their Taiwanese flags. Annie saved the day yet again!

Our next stop was the Longshan Temple. Longshan is probably one of the most famous temples and it was very busy being a Sunday and people felt it was good luck to visit on 10/10/10. We spent the next hour filming at the photogenic location.

The day was to be capped along the Taipei riverbank to catch the evening fireworks. The show started at 7 pm and lasted 52 minutes.  We arrived at our scouted location at 5 pm and were greeted by hundreds of Taiwanese and even more tripods along the river bank. Annie and I spent several minutes looking for a location and finally asked a group if we could squeeze in. They agreed and we spent the next two hours getting to know our neighbors. The man to our right had been at this location since 1 pm and we were once again very lucky to have gained access to a prime spot. The fireworks show was fantastic and I captured many great shots. 

The day was a success and I have some great content to enter into the One Day Earth. Annie was amazing and I have to agree with her sister when she said we were very lucky on this day. Come to think of it we have been pretty lucky for this entire trip!