Thoughts of a Canadian Exchange Student

2008 Pinghsi Lantern Festival (平溪天燈)


What a beautiful night to check out the Pinghsi Lantern Festival (平溪天燈).

I ended up following a large group of new exchange students to Pinghsi. First, we took the MRT to the end of the Muzha line (the Taipei Zoo) and subsequently got on a bus to Pinghsi.

A comment on the systematic bus system: cool!

To get on the bus going to Pinghsi or back to Taipei, you can either stand or get a seat. There are two lines for this. Obviously, the line to get a seat is much longer. The ride to Pinghsi take 1.5 hours. The flat rate there and back is 150 NTD

At Pinghsi, it is much like a night market, except that this ‘night market’ centres itself around railway tracks, is in a mountainous area and has bajillions of firecrackers, fireworks and sky lanterns setting off into the night air. It all makes for a loud, noisy, and charming view.


A concert of sorts

On this night, you can buy a sky lantern, paint it full of hopes and wishes for the future and then send it off into the sky. It reminds me of New Year resolutions, but not quite so doomed to failure.

Also, there was some sort of concert in an adjoining area of the ‘night market’ area. I was only able to catch a teensy bit of it, but it looked nice. Actually, more that it looked cool and dangerous. I saw a bit of fire tossing. Flash, flash, flash!

One a closing note: Where do all these lanterns end up the next day?


2008 Lantern Festival at National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (元宵節:國父紀念館)

Posted in Culture, Exchange Students, Night Life, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Weather by J on February 17, 2008


The night of touching down in Taipei, I headed out to take a look at the lanterns at National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. Despite the insistent rain, many people were out to admire the lanterns. I must say, regardless of which school level produced the lanterns (the elementary, the secondary, or the university school level), all the lanterns were very well done.

I think it would have been fun to have been able to participate in this competition myself. My lantern display probably would be filled with wacky things.

Snow Tubing at Cypress Mountain

Posted in Clothing, Culture, Home, Outdoors, Transportation, Weather by J on February 5, 2008


I dare you to try and fit one of these inside your mouth.

Broke out the long underwear! The fog and snow was fantastic! Just remember the snow tires.

Snow tubing is a lot of fun. You slide down these huge snow slides inside these inner tubes (pictured above). You can go down individually, in twos, with spinning, or without spinning, etc. More people = faster ride down. And the tube tow makes short work of going back up the hill.

Although Cypress is quite fun, I much prefer the snow tubing at Big White. However, snow tubing is fun wherever you go.

$18 CDN gets you 2 hours of tubing fun and includes the tube rental.

Paper Sizing

Posted in Culture, Home, Learning, Observations, Taiwan, Thoughts by J on February 4, 2008

Paper made from flowers for commercial purposes. It’s a possibility.

As I handed in the last of my papers, during winter break and overseas, I had a situation where I couldn’t find the correct paper size to send to Taiwan. I’m specifically speaking about the A4 paper size (210 x 290 mm).

Here in Canada, when I asked for A4 paper, the store clerks pointed me in the direction of all the 8.5″ X 11″ paper. Turns out that A4 paper is synonymous with 8.5″ X 11″ in Canada. It comes as no surprise that we in Canada use American standards. The problem was solved by cutting down the larger legal size paper to the correct A4 size.

During this little situation, my beef:

“Why doesn’t Taiwan use American sizing?!”

Implicit in this thought is that America is omnipresent (and thereby Canada, by association).

When I went and did some research, I found out that Taiwan actually follows international paper sizing.


“Why doesn’t Canada use A4 paper sizing?!”

Vancouver Aquarium

Posted in Clothing, Culture, Home, Learning, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Weather by J on February 1, 2008


On a bright, clear & chilly day, we set out for the Vancouver Aquarium. Other than the admission fee taking a large chunk out of your wallet, it was a fairly painless process to gain entrance to the aquarium. Just be prepared for the souvenir photo taking! It’ll feel like an ambush if you didn’t bother to read the sign outside.

Anyways, as I don’t ever seem to wear enough nowadays, we made a beeline to the tropical area of the aquarium. It wasn’t quite as warm as it seems to be in the summer. Darn.

Bright, pretty fish.

The fish, birds and monkeys were fun to look at in the tropical area, but what was neatest about the indoor section was the new addition. It looks COOL and is COOL because you have the opportunity to learn something new as well as get a hands-on experience about what you’re learning.

The new area.

I loved watching the jellyfish on display and playing with the interactive displays. It’s a lot more fun than the older section where you just read the information off the displays. There’s even a section specifically designed for children under 8 years of age. The kids can get very up close and personal with the marine life in that section.

Outside, you can watch the many shows that are presented throughout the day. We heard a dolphin show from the underwater viewing area (indoors). It was neat to see what the dolphins did underwater before they burst through the water to show off their jumps to the crowds above. They move so fast that there’s always little water tornadoes that follow their swimming paths.

Beluga outside.

Also outside, you can touch some of the underwater creatures with your pinky finger as well, you can see the seals, sea otters and the beluga whales! I wonder where the killer whales went… probably the way of the penguins and the polar bears.

The aquarium is nestled in Stanley Park (1000 acres of park!) and is a really big tourist attraction. As we went when it was fairly early in the morning, there wasn’t such a large crowd. However, by about 1pm it was starting to feel a little bit crowded. So, get there early with a full wallet and be prepared for the new, cool interactive section!

“Chief of the Undersea World” by Haida artist, Bill Reid, greets you.