Sunday, February 10, 2019

My world walk blog - Taiwan #15

My world walk blog - Taiwan #15


Sorry for any typos as my spell check is on strike! 
I walked out of Taipei and on pavements where families burned fake paper money and printed gold bars. This is a tradition  to honor their deceased loved ones.They believe the offerings will bring fortune and good luck to their ancestors in the afterlife.
According to one ancient Chinese myth there was a monster named Nian who come about every New Year’s Eve. Most people would hide in their homes. But one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers. The next day, people celebrated their survival by setting off even more firecrackers. That scaring off the monster practice became an integetal part of the Spring Festival. So much so that for days, if not weeks later firecrackers are still ignited. It became such an envoiremental problem that Beijing and 500 Chinese cities banned fireworks. In the end due to so much public anger this decision was reversed in 2006. 
Walking out of Taipei that New Year Day I saw a vehicle which was obviously organised by the Chinese government. It was flying the Chinese and Taiwanese flags and I presumed the messages I heard were of unity. The Taiwanese people just seemed to be resigned to what may happen and just shrug off President Xi's recent message that the island will one day become reunited with the mainland and if necessary by force. I asked many people if that is the belief in Beijing then what is to stop the tanks from rolling in and annexing it in the same way that Russia did with Crimea. After all China has the second largest and soon to be the largest economy in the world and sanctions would have a lesser effect. It seems that the Chinese are wary of the American pledge of support for Taiwan but that they also want to achieve this by peaceful means. After all fifty or so years is pretty insignificant in the annals of time. And that exactly what's happening in Hong Kong and Macoa. Even though they were officially handed back in 1997 part of the agreement was for a fifth year democratic process to be respected. So, the Chinese are just playing the clock down. Interestingly one woman in Hong Kong mentioned to me that since 1997 there was a radical shift from a British culture towards Chinese. English was less mainstream in favour of Mandarin in schools and even British style fish 'n' chip shops declined. 
Should a reverse display of Taiwanese independence  be staged on the mainland I guarantee that vehicle wouldn't get far and the occupants would be locked up for a long time. 

I made steady progress that day and walked through the suburbs. As on many occasions in Taiwan I stopped at a 7-11 convenience store for a microwave meal. One is never more than about fifteen minutes walk from these stores in a town or city. They also provide free wifi . I came upon a national park. The visitors centre would have been an ideal place to crash for the night as it had shelter, a toilet, electricity and even a hot water tap for my noodles and coffee. Yes I would have loved to have stayed there that night but my ferry to Pingtan on the mainland deparated at nine am and I had to be there a couple of hours early for the ticketing, boarding, customs and immigration process. I was tempted to set my alarm for four o clock but as it was still eleven kilometres away I didn't trust myself. The next ferry wound be in two days time and there was no backpackers hostel in the area. The cheapest accommodation was in the region of seventy Euro a night, so that was not an option. It would be too long two days to hang out and camp. So not to take any chances I cracked on and decided to get as near to the port as possible. 
When I arrived a couple of hours later I tried to find a place to sleep at the port but I was stopped by the harbour police. They were a friendly bunch and some of them spoke English as the Taiwanese are more 'international'' minded people. The officers even gave me a sofa for the night in their games room. I laughed when the police chief upon offering me a shower suggested it was probably a long time since I had one! "No sir, only twelve hours!" 
Once clothing becomes sweaty as mine had that day in the mountains, people assume it is because of lack of hygiene! 
Next morning I had only a few minutes walk to the ferry terminal and was annoyed that because of the New Year period that I had to pay a twenty-five Euro surchage on my previously paid for return ticket. To add insult to injury my ticket costs four times what the locals pay and so too did this surcharge. So-called tourist rates should be illegal. 
As always I had to politely request for a manual inspection of Karma as she is obviously too bulky to fit through the security x-ray machine officials are usually bemused and baffled by her! I slept soundly for the three-hour crossing.

Monday, February 4, 2019

My world walk blog - The Philippines #5

My world walk blog - The Philippines #5


The Philippines #5

Based on my Facebook posts. Please read up from #1 to here.

Francis shouted out that there was a snake on the ground just in fromt of me! Charmer that I am, at least snake charmer I picked it up. It was a non-venemous dead Hanlulukay snake. We shot a fun video. We walked along with Francis carrying the snake. When we stopped for lunch at a trendy restaurant he left it on a counter top much to the startled surprise of a customer. 😂
That day we covered 28 kilometres and when we got to Balambam I stepped into  the sea to compete our walk across the Philippines from east to west. There we were greatly helped by Francis's friend Peter who kindly put us up for the night in his lovely house. Thanks a million Peter and also to his son Darien for picking us up on his motorcycle and taking us to their house. 
We stayed there that night and were thankful for the great hospitality, laundry and the following morning for a lift back to Cebu from one of Peters friends.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my host, walking companion and friend Francis Cosgrave. Also to his wife Nida and their three children. Teenage daughter Norlisa who is a beautiful choir singer. I enjoyed meeting the family and telling them many travel, running and walking yarns. Thanks also to their two young sons who are both talented runners called Anthony and Tony! Yes, they found a novel way to name both of their two sons after Francis's father Tony! So good they honoured him twice!

My world walk blog - The Philippines #4

My world walk blog - The Philippines #4


The Philippines #4


More than 7,000 islands make up the Philippines, but most of the 106 million population live on just 11 of them.

Much of Asia's only Christian majority country is mountainous and prone to earthquakes and eruptions from around 20 active volcanoes. It is often buffeted by typhoons and other storms.

The Philippines - a Spanish colony for more than three centuries and named after a 16th-century Spanish king - was taken over by the US in the early 20th century after a protracted rebellion against rule from Madrid.

Spanish and US influences remain strong, especially in terms of language, religion and government. Self-rule in 1935 was followed by full independence in 1946 under a US-style constitution.

The US is a close ally and has provided military aid to help combat Muslim and communist insurgencies.
Firebrand former mayor Rodrigo Duterte came to power in a landslide victory in June 2016 after winning over voters with promises of a no-holds-barred campaign to take on crime, drugs and corruption.
His tough talking on the subjects - including a pledge to have thousands of offenders killed - scandalised the political establishment, but proved popular with Filipinos tired of the status quo.
In his first year in office, he launched a controversial anti-drugs campaign with a call to citizens and the police to conduct extra-judicial killings of suspects; thousands are thought to have died since.
Mr Duterte, who denies running vigilante death squads during his 22 years as mayor of Davao City has admitted that he had himself shot dead three men during that time, although a spokesman later said this was not to be taken literally.
The president has also suggested he wants to court China, at the expense of the Philippines' traditionally close ties to the US.

My world walk blog - The Philippines #3

My world walk blog - The Philippines #3


The Philippines #3 
   
Next day Sunday and obviously Francis being a missionary we went to his local Baptist Church Sunday service. That and the long Bible study session took up the whole morning. On the way out one of the congregation asked me how I found the service! 
"Ah, Francis brought me!" Lol 😂 was my reply.
Then we went for pizza with his family. 
So it was another short and slow crawl of a day walking up steep mountains. We walked through villages where children came out to cheer us an. They waved and smiled as was also the case in all if south-east Asia. It was an interesting observation as to how this was rarely the case in China, a much more reserved society. 
 Because of our late start, I'm almost embarrassed to report the distance walked that hilly day was only 10 kilometres but we were walking in the mountains. 
That night I paid about three Euro for us and we slept in a restaurant. I slept on a bench and Francis on some chairs which he pulled together. 

My world walk blog - The Philippines #2

My world walk blog - The Philippines #2


The Philippines #2


That first day on the road in the Philippines. It was late, almost 3 pm when we started to walk across the island of Cebu. Today I had the luxury of being accompanied by an old Irish friend called Francis Cosgrave.
He lives on the island with his wife Nida and their three children for almost twenty years. 
Much of the day was spent walking uphill to a summit in the tropical Busay region which Francis said is famous for its delicious mangos. We walked along the so-called central highway with the temperature at a comfortable mid-twenties °C. Heavy traffic sometimes hampered our progress. A  colourful parade with enthusiastic marching bands and an exciting fiesta in one of the communities slowed us down further. We made many stops to talk to people and it was one of those days when I didn't care about our slow progress. The Philippines was once a Spanish colony but it seems that the brief period that it was under American rule has had a greater lasting effect. It seems to me that everyone speaks English. At least I haven't met anyone who doesn't speak the language. Signage is almost totally in English and the couple of Filipino signs I came across had some Spanish words mixed in. I was told that the national language has its fair share of Spanish influence. 
Because of our late start we only managed 12 kilometres before darkness
 We finished at the turnoff for a location called The Top Of Cebu and then made our way back to the Cosgrave house by local transport.

My world walk blog - The Philippines #1

My world walk blog - The Philippines #1


The Philippines #1

I made my way to Taipei airport for my flight to Cubu in the Philippines.
As I made a late decision to walk a token island there and that was only to meet up with an Irish hill running friend called Francis Cosgrave. He lives there now. Many years ago we raced each other a couple of times in the Wicklow mountains in Ireland.
That first Friday in Cebu, Philippines we visited an indigenous community who are known as the Bajau Sea Gypsies. They are sea-dwelling people who live by the sea in houseboats or ramshackle seaside dwellings.
These days Francis is a missionary in the area and has done a lot of good work with them. He set up the mission many years ago. I got permission to shoot some photograph and to post them as the community wants to highlight their plight of what seems like government indifference. Many of the photos were distressing and transmit much hopelessness while other people and children were smiling bravely. 

The next day I begun my walk across Cebu, Philippines from a port and only walked 12 kilometres as it was a late start. I was delighted when Francis said he would accompany me His mate Miguel came along and did support on his motorcycle that first day 
Our route across the island was only 50 kilometres which could be done in one day. We had decided upon two easy half days and a full day. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

My world walk blog - Taiwan #14

To read this blog in order please start reading up from Taiwan #1 to here on this 14 blog posting! Thank you 😂 NB these updates have been edited from my Facebook posts and there may be some tense errors as they were edited in a raoid manner 😂
Thanks to Scott Richards for posting. 

To read this blog in order please start reading up from Taiwan #1 to here on this 14 blog posting! Thank you 😂 NB these updates have been edited from my Facebook posts and there may be some tense errors as they were edited in a raoid manner 😂
Thanks to Scott Richards for posting. 

My world walk blog - Taiwan #14


Massive thanks to a man called Koali Chang who drove an hour and a half each way just to meet me for a chat! How thoughtful was that? We went out for breakfast and when he told the owner about my walk the nice owner of the Kiwi restaurant didn't even charge. What wonderful people the Taiwan people are.
That day I took a beachside rest day and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The next day I walked the final thirteen kilometres to the most southern point in the country. 
Taiwan has been walked.


Massive thanks to a man called Koali Chang who drove an hour and a half each way just to meet me for a chat! How thoughtful was that? We went out for breakfast and when he told the owner about my walk the nice owner of the Kiwi restaurant didn't even charge. What wonderful people the Taiwan people are.
That day I took a beachside rest day and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The next day I walked the final thirteen kilometres to the most southern point in the country. 
Taiwan has been walked.

My world walk blog - Taiwan #13

My world walk blog - Taiwan #13

Taiwan has been walked!

That short day was just 15 kilometres from my backpacker's hostel in Checheng to another one called the Gold hostel near the Nanwan Recreation Area. It was a nice stroll despite a blustery headwind. The slate-grey sky threatened to crack open and pour with rain. Somehow it didn't. The Nanwan area and surrounding beaches were busy with swimmers surfers and lovers. I was told its a famous surfing area in Taiwan.
With my beachside hostel which charged me only seven Euro, a night was certainly a hidden gem. Those last few days of my walk and with a return bus journey costing just three Euro I commuted back and forth from my route to my accommodation. And as always that meant I didn't have to carry my backpack, always a joy. The buses run frequently and on average my journeys took about a half hour; time spent answering my emails.  
A few days ago I was stopped by a funny woman called Paige to see if I was okay. She addressed me as Cute Sir (lol 😍😂) and said she met a Taiwan walker on the road and mentioned it would be great if we met as we are walking in opposite directions and towards each other. As luck would have it I just happened to be sitting on the right side of the bus when I looked out of the window and spotted him. There was no mistake as he wears a big sign on his back with the number of days since his walk began. Had I been sitting on the opposite side or not looking out the window I wouldn't have noticed him. So I got out three kilometres early and walked with him to Checheng.
Called Jarvis Cai, he is 25-years-old, speaks very good English and is walking around Taiwan. He said he needed a challenge after he finished his military service (which I'm told is compulsory for men.) He mostly camps or sleeps in temples or in peoples homes. He walks with a sign on his back asking for a bed and reports a lot of success. I joked and said his sign should just say "LADIES ONLY NEED APPLY!" on his sign lol 😂 
Anyway, as we were near my hostel I suggested he stop there for the night. As people have been so good to me on this walk it was a rare opportunity for me to give back and I was delighted to sponsor his bed. Back at the hostel, I was surprised to meet another walker. Also from Taiwan 60-year-old Chiou doesn't speak English and he told us he is also walking around the country but wants to do more inland trail walking. The three of us went out to a restaurant that specialises in duck and astonishingly the kind owner insisted on sponsoring our dinners 😂

My world walk blog - Taiwan #12

My world walk blog - Taiwan #12

As I approached the end of my Taiwan north to south walk I made an instinctive decision. I'm going to take my Irish friend Francis Cosgrave up on a long-standing invitation to visit him and his family in the Philippines. They live on the island of Cebu. It's about fifty or sixty kilometres across the island and I'm going to walk it with him. I will have just have six days there between 24/31 January. Then I will return to Taiwan and pick up Karma and make my way to Taipei Port for the ferry back to Pingtan, on mainland China

My world walk blog - Taiwan #11

My world walk blog - Taiwan #11

Then an easy 15-kilometre day and it was time to celebrate a new record claim!