Hsinchu


Wandering around some of Saigon’s alleys reminded me that I still have plenty of pictures of the alleys and doorways around Hsinchu. The red doors are often adorned with good wishes on either side of the entrance. These ones were a bit different than what you’d usually see, having images of angels on the doors.

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I have managed to get myself completely lost on several occasions just by wandering down one of the numerous alleyways that lead of the main roads in Hsinchu, my former hometown in Taiwan. Once you enter these labyrinths you get so turned around as they twist, curve and branch off in every direction that you invariably end up in a totally different part of town when you find your way out of them.

Getting myself purposefully lost in the alleys was one of my favorite things to do when wandering around downtown on a weekend. You always catch a glimpse of an almost completely different city than the one you know. Department stores, convenience stores and juice stands disappear altogether and you enter a world of overgrown and crumbling walls, parked bikes and red doors decorated with blessings and good wishes for the home.

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When living in Taiwan it’s easy to spend your time just traveling between work and home on the same route everyday and never paying attention to how beautiful the island is. I know this as I used to do so during my first year in Taiwan.

Even though the Taiwan of today is not the Isla Formosa that Portuguese sailors saw centuries ago it is still a spectacularly beautiful island, covered in mountains and verdant forests.

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And you don’t have to go far to experience this greenery. Within the city limits of our little city, Hsinchu (meaning new bamboo) lies the 18 Peaks Mountain Park. It is a small range of hills, clad in trees, big leaved plants, ferns and bamboo with numerous walkways, exercising spots and benches.

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Twice now we picked up sandwiches for lunch and braved the forest critters; giant mosquitoes, even bigger spiders and dinosaur-looking lizards, to enjoy a relaxing break in the verdurous hills before returning to deal with noisy and difficult students.

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