Scribbles in the Sand

All About My Life in Taiwan

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The Wedding Day


Wedding GIF


We met Laurie on the day of the wedding (12th Dec 2013) and walked to our local brunch restaurant that we have now been almost every day since arriving.


After eating gorgeous eggs Benedict and orange juice, we all headed back to our hotel room to get ready together and use the iron that the staff had provided us with. I couldn’t decide on whether to wear a bow tie or a normal tie, but decided on both in the end, pocketing the bow tie for later use.


Laurie and I decided to learn once and for all how to tie a Windsor knot, but as you can see from the picture, my first attempt failed terrible. The knot is quite a hefty thing, but looks nice and solid.


It was quite surreal knowing that in a few hours we would be married, but it was nice to be getting ready with my brother and wife-to-be without all the stressors of a normal wedding such as wondering if the bride will even turn up. Fiona headed out for an hour to find some place to wash and style her hair while I practiced doing up my bow tie.  Luckily, I can still remember how to do it from my graduation day and can even do it without a mirror!


When she came back we all went down and asked reception to call a cab. The staff escorted us out onto the street and tried to hail a taxi for us. We had to wait for over 10 minutes on the curb, as the concierge seemed to pick the most inconvenient place for a taxi to pull over.


Luckily the drive to the Cotton Tree Drive located in Hong Kong Park is only 15 minutes and we arrived in good time. Here we met Fiona’s cousins, and walked up to the registry office. There was already a wedding party 50 strong who were taking the opportunity to take pictures in the beautiful park, and the guests were all dressed to the nines. We were very lucky that the marriage registry was located in such a lovely place and it saved renting out an expensive venue for the occasion.


Linda and Patrick, Doris’ parents arrived shortly after and we headed inside to check in. Once checked-in, we headed back outside to take some pictures and have a quick Skype with my sister and parents.


at 4:30pm we were called inside, and entered into the ceremonial room where we were told the process. A few moments later, an unusually young and attractive official came in to do the legal bidding. We each had to stand and listen attentively to the countries rules and regulations, as well as the conditions of marriage etc, and then we had to read a statement to the tune of ” I hereby take thee….” .


She then said I could kiss the bride and exchange rings, and that was that. After this, we collected our wedding certificate and walked around the park some more, snapping pictures along the way, until we made it to a bar where we had champagne, beers, and warm whiskey with honey.


After a merry hour we decided to get out of our restricting clothes, and headed back the hotel room to change. By this time we were all quite tired, but we met up again in search of nice food and more fun times in the evening.IMG_2471-TWINKLEIMG_2351-MOTION



How to Extend your Visitor/Student Visa in Taiwan.

Study Chinese in Taiwan?
Need to extend your visa after 60-90 days?
Read on for a walk through and tips of attaining your extension…

If you are studying Chinese in Taiwan, you will at some point need to extend the visa that you used to get into the county. Continue reading

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We Sold TalkEasy: A Summary of Last Year, and The Year Ahead

[A TalkEasy tour from last year]

A little over a year ago we managed to finally find a place suitable for a school which passed the stringent fire regulations that every other building had failed. After a month of so of scrubbing and sanding we were ready to launch the brand “TalkEasy” and within the first week got enough students to cover all our running costs and pay each of us a modest wage. We always kept wages low knowing that the most important thing was to make sure our costs were covered first, but with rent being so low, and the only commodity being our own teaching, our monthly expenses were relatively little. Trying to open a school in England would have been a no go (for one thing, no one goes to cram school in England) and secondly, the initial investment and subsequent insurance costs would have been too high without investors. Continue reading


Day 3 – Big Buddha

Today’s adventure was to the island of Lantau to see the largest Buddha in the world.  We took a ratty coach from Doris’ doorstep to a motorway bus stop, and then a 20 minute journey to the brand new MRT station in the new territories, (an exceedingly modern, clean and deserted place, clearly built for future travellers).  From here we took a pleasant journey across the water and met up with one of Doris’ old school friends. (all of this using the octopus card-similar to an oyster card).   She had brought along her professional grade camera which was exceedingly large, heavy, and expensive, so I was happy knowing we would get some great snaps*. Continue reading


Hong Kong Day 2

The previous day I had made a list of things to see in Hong Kong,  and so the first thing on the agenda was to see The Peak.  A giant hill in the centre of Hong Kong, home to the rich and famous.  Doris’ sister drove us up the ridiculously steep slopes to the very top where there is giant viewing platform.

This is the real home of the western tourist, which in comparison to the asian tourists, look like giant blond buffalos.  I’m so used to seeing a foreigner and expecting them to be American that it was nice hearing German, Swedish, and British English accents for a change.  We took some snaps then looked around the shopping centre before taking the peak tram back down into the city.


View from “The Peak”

Inside the peak tram

This ancient railway descends almost vertically at points, and offers amazing views down across the harbour through the thicket of trees.  A Chinese tourist was so overwhelmed by this beauty that he insisted on standing for the entire journey snapping pictures with his overly large camera.

When the tram suddenly descended steeply, he fell back several meters, but luckily a hairy italian stuck out his arm and propped the man up.  Even this near death experience (or rather, broken camera experience) didn’t deter him and he continued with his pictures.

Once at the bottom, we crossed the road and entered one of Hong Kong park’s.  Inside this mosquito haven was a giant Eden project style Avery,  full of exotic birds, and even more exotic cameras.  After being bit one too many times we took a tram to a coffee shop, and then to a giant computer emporium filled with all manner of computer accessories and apple connector cables.  Approaching nightfall we walked to the harbour.

All of the party boats chartered by white bankers were returning as nightfall descended and we and took a 1o minute boat ride over the Kowloon in order to look back across the harbour at HK island from the promenade.  The viewing gallery gradually filled up with thousands of tourists and the show began.

It was a bit slow to start with, and didn’t really end with a massive bang, but seeing lasers and LED’s put to the sound of pumping music on world-famous buildings was worth seeing.  It happens every night at 8pm so I recommend it if you ever go.

After the show finished we walked along some busy shopping streets and entered one of the many many restaurants.  We both had beef noodles and milk tea, and later got picked up by her parents and drove home after a long day of walking about town.


Here is a video teaser of the light show.

The boat we took across harbour

Nathan Road, the longest road in HK, filed with expensive shops.

Beef Noodle Joint

Every Night at 8pm. See the Attached video




Hong Kong Day 1

Woke at 7am, collected my key deposit and took the MRT from Shandao Temple to Taipei Main Station (10mins).  Walked to the Kuo Kuang 國光 bus station and booked my tickets to Taoyuan airport.

A nice man tried helping me buy my bus tickets assuming I was another clueless foreigner, but the ticket lady said there was no need because my Chinese was very good. I was chuffed.

Boarded the bus and took the 55min journey out of town.  With plenty of time to spare I headed into one of the gadget shops to try out all the latest smart phones and tablets and practice my Chinese.  They even had the new  Google Nexus 7 tablet which I had been dying to try out having read great reviews.  The shop assistant’s english was not great but he had an impressive technical vocabulary with words like graphics chip, near field technology and retina display.

Luckily my flight was announced because I was close to buying it there and then.   Boarding the plane I chose the Chinese newspaper to make me look smart, but mainly to look at pictures of the new iPhone.

The plane was the type you would normally take on a long haul journey, but the trip to Hong Kong (HK) is only 1hour 19 mins so they didn’t even give access to any movies. I only had time to watch 2 episodes of 30 Rock, eat my lovely warm chicken baguette and sip on some green tea.

My bag was the last onto the carousel and I followed the herd towards the transport links.  I couldn’t see any signs for bus stations, and was funnelled into the ticket office for the high speed rail service.  My experience of Taiwan with its cheap subway fairs lead me to think it would be a reasonable price.  It wasn’t.  Not knowing the local currency, I assumed the 5 brightly coloured notes that Laurie had given me was enough to cover a single ticket.  It wasn’t.  $100HK dolla.  So expensive la!  (£8).

(on refection it wasn’t too bad a price, but relative to what i’m used to spending it seems a lot.  Needless to say, it was a smooth air conditioned ride through valleys, along the coast and into the centre of HK island.

I took the elevator out and entered into one of HK’s many luxury shopping malls.  I was struck by how multicultural it was, with at least a third of the people being white, as well as quite a lot of indian and middle eastern people, which is a rare sight in Taipei which is much more uni-cultural. Also, everyone seemed to be dressed up for a fashion shoot, but luckily my new outfit from the day before didn’t make me look too out of place.  All I now needed to fit in was a pin-stripe suit, suitcase and pointy brown shoes.

Doris had arranged lunch with her sister so I had some time to kill until she finished up.  I found a massive Apple store but soon got bored inside the shop because it was packed with people debating whether to spend a lot of money or a ton of money.

I waited outside the shop soaking up the free wifi and catching up on emails.  Standing there for 10 mins, a man with a polishing cloth came out at least 3 times to buff the aluminium fascia of the shop removing any stray bit of dust.  I decided to move on, feeling like I was dirtying his lovely shop.

I met with Doris and we took the MTR to Times Square, a central department store area filled with flagship shops.  We even discover a recently opened Jack Wills shop flying a 3 storey union jack.  Much as i dislike this brand, I couldn’t help feeling pride when I saw the “Made in Salcome, Devon” label.

After a quick snack of curried tripe and fish balls, we took a taxi to her grans house.  It was a lovely small apartment house in the hills of the city, with impossibly steep roads which required dropping down into number 1 and 2 on the gear box.  Most apartments are gated and houses fenced off.  Each building has its own guard and all the doors are pin coded.  I was greeted by their lovely maid who prepared us a drink, (most households have a Philippino maid).

In the evening we stayed at the grandmothers for dinner. We ate with Doris’ two cousins, her sister who arrived later from work, and her parents who had been out buying me a camp-bed despite me saying that I was happy to sleep on the floor.

The maids brought out lots of lovely dishes, and afterwards we relaxed on the sofa and watched one of their favourite period dramas. It felt odd having the maids clean up after us, but they’re treated well and receive a better wage than if they were elsewhere. I’m not condoning it, but most households can afford a live-in maid for about £300 each month and it’s definitely good for older people.

Downloaded the city guide app for my iPhone (recommend) and made a checklist of all the things I wanted to see during my weeks stay.

After dinner the parents drove us home in their lovely new merc and her dad gave me a quick tour of HK as we drove out into the new territories.  I hadn’t actually looked at a map before arriving, so it was very helpful.  Hong Kong is made up of 3 main areas, HK island which has all the impressive skyscrapers. Then we move across into Kowloon (九龍) “9 dragons”  which is much the same as the island, and all brand new and modern.  Then we have “the peak” which are massive hills in the centre of HK island and the location of the most expensive property prices in the world.  After we cross some massive suspension brigades (their cables wrap around the world many times) and through the longest tunnel I’ve been in, (under the harbour and mountains) we are into the new territories which are outside of Kowloon, in the country side, and are rapidly becoming built up.

The parents live in a town/village off from the motorway in a brand new housing complex in an ultra modern building that they’ve designed just the way they wanted.  I was amazed by brand new Sony Bravia that takes up most of the wall.

I had a quick shower, broke their sink and then set up my bed downstairs in the living room, and slept like Jesus, surrounded by many animals, two old Labradors (bobby/jojo, their two cats, ding ding, dong dong, and another dog, Mocha.  Her dogs snore louder than humans but I got a good nights sleep nether the less.





Day 1 Journey to Hong Kong

Left for Taipei early in the morning and boarded the small propeller plane at Magong airport. Transit into the air was not a pleasant one with lots of turbulence . Touched down in Taipei around 10am and stowed my luggage in the airport lockers for 3 hours and took the MRT into town. Headed for ximen district 西門 which is an interesting area packed with young people, trendy shops and imax cinemas.

The grid system is very confusing with every side street looking identical so I spent lots of time walking up and down the same streets trying to find the clothes shop I wanted.

I still had an hour to kill until the shops opened so grabbed an over priced tea at a flashy Starbucks. Half an hour later and the shutters came up and I was the first in. I have been in need of a new wardrobe for some time having not bought clothes since my last trip to Taipei.

With the shop to myself I was free to try on all the clothes at a leisurely pace and picked up lots of great bargains because they were gearing up for a new season of winter clothes. I bought 5 t-shirts, 2 polo shirts and two pairs of smart shorts for a total cost of $3000/£55.

I left the shop in an entirely new outfit and all that was missing was some new shoes. I wanted to watch an imax movie, but everything showing was utter rubbish and the dark knight was no longer on.

Checked into my hostel after lunch and had a nap in my metre squared  palace. For ten pounds a night you can’t complain. Later I headed to shilin 士林 night market in search for shoes and giant chicken steak 雞排.the market was packed as usual but with no bags weighing me down I casually strolled down all of the streets soaking in the atmosphere and people watching.

I bought my shoes in a place I had visited before and then ordered some chicken steak and green tea and sipped on this while looking at all of the stuff of sale which is mainly Iphone cases and angry birds merchandise.

Feet sore I took the MRT back to Shandao temple and walked the 30 metres to my hostel where I relaxed in the living room with the other guests, all engrossed in our portable devices and relishing the free WiFi whilst simultaneously watching basic instinct 2 in the background. Don’t watch this movie. It’s rubbish. Up early for my flight to Hong Kong tomorrow. Best get some rest.

p.s this is probably filled with lots of errors as i composed it on small keyboard












My over priced tea. I thought I was ordering a green tea but it turned out to be a £4 green tea and cream smoothy. YUK!