I kept this diary of things we have done in Singapore for 2 years. I have now moved some of it to other travel pages but you can still find links to many of our activities here. I have also created a reading list of books we have read about the region.

Western Japan

Birds in Singapore

Kuala Lumpur stopover

Thai Diving

Singapore Liveaboard

Local Residents

Beijing Summer

Diving with Sharks

Shanghai Heatwave

Taiwan Tourists

An Indian week

Where U bin?

Island hideaway

Steamy running

A Trip to the Zoo

Gardens by the Bay


Singapore walks

Mind the bus

Flower power


Early weeks


Vicky's Blog


Jade CupTaiwan is not on many people's list of places to go (unless you come from Singapore) so when we came here for a week's work we really did not know what to expect. Just 120 miles off the coast of China everything is very Chinese including the taxi drivers who need to be shown cards with the destination written on to know where you want to go.

First stop for us is the National Palace Museum. The Chinese Government moved much of their national treasures to Taiwan to protect them from the 'communist rebels' in 1948 and they have been here ever since. The museum is packed with huge tour groups queuing right up the stairs at 9 in the morning but we manage to squeeze around them and inspect the huge collection. The curators rotate the enormous volume of exhibits - less than 10% is on display at any time. I am most impressed by the jade collection - I have never really considered it before but the 4000 year old perfect disks and beautically carved pieces like the cup above reveal extraordinary history and workmanship.

Tube doorNext stop are the hot springs at Xinbeitou. I had expected a scenic mountain spot high above the city so am rather surprised when the MRT drops us in the middle of a Taipei suburb. The tube train itself is rather fun - a little spur line that takes us one stop and is decorated by spa cartoons (see right). We wander up the road to find the green sulphur lake (only two of a kind in the world) before staggering on up and failing to find anywhere to eat. We make our hot and sweaty way back to the MRT to find a big local celebration going on for the town's latest centagenarian.

Jade MarketAfter lunch a trip to the local flower and jade markets is more of a success. Half of Taipei is here buying orchids and bonzais or complaining about last week's purchase after all the leaves have dropped off. As for the Jade Market it is interesting to see the huge amount on sale after looking at the priceless antiques in the morning but how you know what to pay I really don't know. We retreat to the hotel and then go out in the evening for a very good seafood meal in a local restaurant where the owner actually spoke reasonable English.

The next day we go for a tour of the North Coast It is damp and overcast as we drive out of Taipei along the expressway - the huge Taipei 101 building looming over the city with mountains in the background. YeliuAfter 40 mins we reach the coast and get our first view of the Pacific Ocean. First stop is Yeliu where a sandstone promontory with strange eroded pillars has been transformed into a big tourist attraction. About 40 coaches are already here and we join a sea of umbrellas to follow hundreds of visitors from PRC along catwalks to view rocks described as "the queen", "slipper", and "chicken drumstick" among others. Everyone snapping away with their phones or rather fancy cameras. The new Chinese middle class clearly have disposable cash.

Next stop is the Ju Ming museum - a large collection of works by Taiwan's most famous living artist. Set on a hillside overlooked by a cemetery and looking over the sea much of the works are arranged in gardens. Ju Ming Tai ChiJu Ming has a huge output of work. From life sized statues of soldiers, paratroopers and sailors to women and animals carved into sandstone to his famous Tai Chi series (left) and works on paper and mixed media. After the crowds at Yelui it is very peaceful wandering around the gardens looking at the output of this highly creative artist.

From Ju Ming we head on up the coast to Fugiu Cape, the most northerly point in Taiwan where we walk the coast path to the lighthouse, buffeted by the wind. The sea is choppy as the Pacific meets the Taiwan straits. Fishermen are balancing on the basalt boulders and fellow walkers smile at us, some tottering along in inappropriate high heels.

DanshuiLast stop is Danshui, a busy town on the North East coast, the last stop on the MRT out of Taipei. After inspecting the Dutch Fort and the British Consulate (amusing panels explaining how the Victorian British took their afternoon tea) we join the throng of Sunday holidaymakers in the old streets. It has all the trappings of a seaside holiday town - ice cream stalls, stalls where you can shoot balloons for prizes, and every kind of food vendor from cakes and deep fried squid to cake (big queues) and pickled eggs. There are also several fine old temples and some interesting characters like the trendy couple here.

Then its back to Taipei for a week's work. We still manage an 86th floor dinner in Taipei 101- 9 course seafood meal with great views, and some good sushi at lunchtime. Vicky manages to pack in some tours while I am at the office (see her blog). On Wednesday night we finally make it out to Shilin night market. The night markets are famous in Taipei. Narrow streets packed with shops and stalls selling clothes, bags, shoes, and all sorts of food. Shilin night marketYou can have a go at shooting balloons or graze on kebabs, and doughnuts. Some of the food is unrecognisable and other looks inedible (chicken feet and intestines - no thanks). Vicky finds a "French" designer bag for USD6 and I replace my lost umbrella.

There is lots more to see in Taiwan - gorges and mountains in particular with great trekking. The people are charming and the food is great. What else do you need for an interesting tourist destination?

click on the images below to see my photo diary of our trip to Taiwan.