ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Taipei

HOW WE USED TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS

2020.12.24.

We got off work early for Christmas Eve. Some restaurants were about to close as we picked up our takeout from a small Japanese restaurant in Tai Hang. In Hong Kong, no restaurant is allowed to serve customers (except takeouts) after 6pm. No countdown events, Christmas parties or family gatherings. Just a simple dinner at home for the two of us seemed to be the most appropriate Christmas Eve celebration for this unusual year. 2020 is an extraordinary year. I can hardly recall another incident in my lifetime that has simultaneously affected virtually every single human being in the world. The terrible pandemic is forcing all of us to face the same fear, frustration and isolation. Most planes have been grounded, borders shut, and international tourism has almost come to a complete halt. This abrupt disruption to our lives lead us to realize that celebrating a festive moment with families and friends or spending the holiday season at a foreign land shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Memory is interesting when it works with time. At this bizarre moment of frustrating lock downs and social distancing, a recollection of how we had spent Christmas and New Year in the past two decades remind us how we used to freely experience the world and appreciate every little things around us. Looking beyond the vivid fireworks and lavish parties, it was our curiosity, freedom and gratefulness that allowed these joyful moments to simply make us happy in different stages of our lives. At this time of physical restrictions and emotional stress, looking back at these little moments of ours have become more precious than ever. Everyone deserves memories of celebrations that worth cherishing. Hope our little sharing would remind you some of your own best moments of Christmas.

We wish you Merry Christmas and good health for the upcoming 2021.

Separately we both had a school term in Rome. In the eternal city, both our studio and apartment were located in the lively neighbourhood of Trastevere.
Rome, December 2002
Wooden decorations for Christmas tree, festive balloons, magic shows, and many others. The Christmas market at Piazza Navona was our first experience of an European Christmas.
Rome, December 2002
I used to go to Vatican for evening walks during my stay in Rome. Vatican was relatively quiet and peaceful throughout much of December. A large Christmas tree was put up at St. Peter’s Square.
Vatican, December 2002
Another big Christmas tree was set up at the Victor Emmanuel II Monument.
Rome, December 2002
After graduation, we moved to London in 2007. At Christmas, we made a short trip to the Belgian capital for Christmas break. Like many locals and tourists, we spent the night at the Grand Place for light shows and Christmas countdown.
Brussels, Christmas Eve, 2007
Back in London, the Covent Garden was particularly festive during Christmas. The Apple Market was full of delightful vendor stalls and dining patios.
London, December 2007
Elegant, sparkling, and eye catching. One thing we loved about Christmas in London were the amazing shop windows.
London, England, January 2008
Cinema became a big part of our lives in London. We often went to the BFI and Leicester Square after work. At Leicester Square, a carousel and small fair would be set up during the holiday season.
London, December 2008
We decided to stay in England at our second Christmas in London. We made a short trip to the area of Liverpool and Manchester. During that trip, we were particularly fond of the Christmas lights in Leeds.
Leeds, England, December 2008
In 2009, we returned to Toronto to do our professional licensing. In Toronto, Christmas is always cozy and homey, and so does its lights.
Toronto, December 2010
In 2011, we made a trip to Cambodia and Hong Kong. With two of our friends, we experienced one of the most noisy countdown at the bustling Pub Street in Siem Reap.
Siem Reap, New Year’s Eve 2011
On our way to New Year’s countdown in Downtown Toronto, we stopped by the atmospheric Distillery District to test out my new DSLR. From then on, film camera has eventually faded out from my travel packing list.
Toronto, New Year’s Eve 2012
Before relocating to Hong Kong, we made our 90-day trip to South America. We spent the entire month of December in Patagonia and made it to Ushuaia (world’s southernmost city) in Argentina. Reaching the “End of the World” definitely deserved an early Christmas dinner at the beautiful Kaupe restaurant.
Ushuaia, December 2013
Ushuaia is the main port going to Antarctica. We didn’t take the chance to do an Antarctica Christmas trip. Perhaps we would regret it, who knows.
Ushuaia, December 2013
For almost a week we based ourselves at Argentina’s El Chalten to do day hikes near Mount Fitz Roy. At Christmas Eve, we did the longest day hike of the week to the glacier lake right below the magnificent mountain.
Mount Fitz Roy, Christmas Eve 2013
We booked the best room at Yellow House Hotel well in advance just to take in the panoramic harbour view of Chile’s Valparaiso, and enjoy the world famous New Year fireworks from the comfort of our room.
Valparaiso, New Year’s Day 2014
Getting off work at 2:30pm on Christmas Eve, talked about a short getaway trip during dinner, bought the plane ticket right away, then packed a small carryon bag and get a bit of sleep before heading off to Hong Kong International Airport at around 2:30am on Christmas Day. At 7 in the morning, we finally arrived in Taiwan. That trip remains as our quickest travel decision so far.
Main Station, Taipei, Christmas Day 2014
Thanks to the convenient public transportation network, we have been to many neighbourhoods across the city of Hong Kong. Because of Cinematheque movie centre, we often find ourselves in Yau Ma Tei, home to a wide spectrum of people from new immigrants to elderly. Christmas Carol in Yau Ma Tei has to be catered for all.
Hong Kong, Christmas Eve 2015
New Year, Chinese New Year, HKSAR Anniversary, and Chinese National Day. There were once numerous firework displays each year over the iconic Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. All shows have been scrapped for 2020.
Hong Kong, New Year’s Eve 2015
Most Hong Kongers love to visit Japan, and so do we. Their fine sense of beauty and comfortable balance between traditions and technologies go beyond just commercialized eye candy for festival decorations and celebrations.
Railway Station, Kyoto, December 2016
Famous for their lighting technologies, Christmas lights in Japan often create a coherent ambience reflecting their pursuit of romantic fantasy for the holiday season.
Kyoto, December 2016
Under the dreamy lights, the sense of community remains strong during Christmas in Japan.
Kyoto, December 2016
We didn’t expect to see Christmas celebrations in Myanmar (Burma), a Buddhist nation in Southeast Asia. Seeing such a large crowd and festive decorations in Yangon was a pleasant surprise.
Yangon, December 2017
Christmas celebration, Southeast Asian style. Street food is definitely a must.
Yangon, December 2017
I took my parents to Shanghai for a short trip. At the Bund, we passed by the historical Peace Hotel and its Christmas tree.
Shanghai, December 2018
After two trips to India, our third journeys to South Asia was a winter getaway to Sri Lanka. The trip was full of history, spices and fine tea. In a Buddhist country, we were surprised to see so many churches in Negombo, a coastal town near Colombo. A heritage since the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, Christmas is celebrated in a number of coastal towns in Sri Lanka.
Negombo, December 2019
After visiting and staying at a number of cities around the world, Hong Kong remains as our top destination to experience the festive energy and Christmas decorations in an urban setting. Political and social unrest in 2019 have taken a toll in the financial hub. Tai Kwun, a cultural and commercial complex at the former colonial police headquarters in Central, remained as the place to go for expats and the younger generation.
Tai Kwun, Hong Kong, December 2019
Due to the pandemic, most Christmas celebrations have been cancelled across the city. Christmas trees have been downsized, and lighting decorations have been scaled down. In Central District of Hong Kong, the high-end commercial complex Landmark Atrium remains as one of the few venues still maintain a relatively large Christmas installation.
Landmark, Hong Kong, December 2020
But perhaps the most representational thing for this year’s festival season is the Christmas face mask. Social distancing with a bit of festive joy, why not?
Hong Kong, December 2020

LONGSHAN TEMPLE, Taipei, Taiwan

Longshan Temple is a prime tourist attraction and a religious centre in Taipei. Built in 1738, the temple has survived through earthquakes and fire, and has undergone numerous renovations and reconstructions. The temple is dedicated to a number of Buddhist, Taoist and traditional Chinese deities.

1Tourist groups gathered at the Entrance Hall of the temple.

2Temple signage and the richly decorated dougong (wooden brackets) under the eaves of the Entrance Hall.

3Exquisite carvings, especially the bronze dragons on the columns, are some of the most remarkable details of the Entrance Hall building.

4A dozen or so worshipers were busy throwing moon shaped wooden pieces onto the ground, performing a kind of psychic ritual asking for spiritual advices from the gods.

5Beautiful ceiling finish of the Entrance Hall.

6Worshipers at the entrance of the Main Hall.

7Interior of the Main Hall.

8Splendid carvings decorate the exterior columns of the Main Hall.

9A number of smaller side halls dedicate to different deities lined up the perimeter of the temple complex.

10Alters and offerings in one of the smaller temple halls.

11Incenses, candles, food and flower offerings could be seen on tables set up all over the courtyards in the temple complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGroups of elderly gathered around the main courtyard socializing.

13One of the most fascinating features of Longshan Temple is the dragon carvings on the roof ridges.

14Worshipers gathered in the main courtyard to participate a chanting ritual.

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Read more posts on Taipei 2014
1. 40 hours in Taipei
2.Raohe Street Night Market
3. Longshan Temple


RAOHE STREET NIGHT MARKET, Taipei, Taiwan

No visitor comes to Taipei will leave without a visit to one of the city’s famous street markets. We picked Raohe Street Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市) at Songshan District. It was not only the wide varieties of food that excited us, but watching how each vendor earnestly prepared the food was also a fascinating experience.

1We entered Raohe Street Night Market through its east gate.

23The famous black pepper buns were prepared with a traditional baking method in a cylindrical charcoal stove.

4Pearl red bean cakes.

5Grilled squid.

6Some stalls were neatly decorated with colourful lights.

7Several stalls were selling sausages prepared in indigenous Taiwanese style.

8Rice with mutton and pork spare ribs are some of the more filling options around.

9Ice-sugar gourds.

10 Tables were set up in the middle of the street.

11Mango dessert is a local favorite.

12Spicy beef noodles, dumblings, and fish ball soup.

13Red lanterns enhanced the atmosphere of the market.

14Meat and vegetable wraps were carefully prepared by this vendor.

15Taiwanese guava.

16Dry goods were also sold in the market.

17Skewers with various spices.

18Ciyou Temple at the entrance of Raohe Street Night Market.

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Read more posts on Taipei 2014
1. 40 hours in Taipei
2.Raohe Street Night Market
3. Longshan Temple


40 HOURS IN TAIPEI, Christmas 2014

During Christmas, we made a brief visit to Taipei (台北), the capital city of Taiwan. On Christmas Eve, we purchased a last minute flight ticket and hopped onto a last minute red-eye flight to Taipei for a two-day visit.
001 07:15 Christmas Day – We arrived at Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport.

002 002a 08:45 – The airport shuttle bus took us to the Taipei Railway Station at the heart of the city. A huge Christmas tree was in display in the main hall.

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10:30 – We arrived at the National Palace Museum at the city’s outskirt. Its tremendous collection of Chinese artifacts and artworks is probably peerless in the world, with a majority of the pieces gathered from Beijing’s Forbidden City in the first half of the 20th century. We particularly enjoyed the Chinese paintings. The rotating display of the permanent painting collection currently on show is the works by Qiu Ying, one of the Four Masters of the Ming Dynasty.

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14:45 – We returned by bus to Shilin, the closest metro station from the National Palace Museum. Adjacent to the station stood many small eateries. We picked one and had our first delicious meal of Taiwanese beef noodles and fish ball soup.

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18:00 – We passed by an enormous Christmas Tree in a hotel lobby at Downtown Taipei. Despite Taiwan is not a Christian country, many hotel and restaurant owners decorate their stores to enhance the festive atmosphere of the city.

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20:30 – We began our foodie stroll at Raohe Street, one of the most popular night markets in Taipei. We hopped from one stall to another, and sampled a number of delicious street food including charcoal oven baked black pepper buns, grilled squid, grilled scallops, seafood soup, salted black-skinned peanuts and tofu dessert.

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22:15 – After our visit to Raohe Street Night Market, we walked along the Keelung River. We stopped at the Rainbow Bridge for a while before calling it a day.

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8:50 Boxing Day – We were on our way to Fuhang Soy Drink for breakfast and passed by Taipei’s largest Buddhist temple, Shandao Temple. It was built during the period under Japanese rule.

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9:45 – After 45 minutes of queuing on the street, we finally made it to the counter of Fuhang Soy Drink. This busy eatery is located in a foodcourt, on the second level of a local market. Apparently it is very popular among the locals and tourists. We had two kinds of pancakes with egg and Chinese fried dough, a sticky rice bun, and two bowls of hot soy drinks, one sweet and one salty.

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12:00 Taipei 101 (completed in 2004) is the tallest building in Taiwan. This skyscraper was awarded the LEED Platinum certification and designed to withstand earthquake and fierce wind. An observatory deck on the 89th floor is open for tourists but we chose to give it a pass because of poor weather.

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13:00 We tried our first slush ice, one of the most popular dessert in Taipei.

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13:45 A good friend of ours recommended us to try the beef noodle from Yong-Kang Beef Noodle. The queue was long but we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to taste one of the best beef noodle in Taipei.

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15:00 We decided to visit one of Taipei’s temples and we chose Longshan Temple in Wanhua District.  Longshan is the oldest temple in Taipei. The temple is dedicated to a number of deities including Buddhist, Taoist and some historical Chinese figures.  This lively temple is exquisitely decorated in a Fujian style. The dragon columns and eaves are particularly wonderful.

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18:00 Before heading out to the airport, we spent the remaining day in Songshan District. This quiet area has many little local cafes and eateries. We stopped by a hotpot restaurant for a quick supper.

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Read more posts on Taipei 2014
1. 40 hours in Taipei
2.Raohe Street Night Market
3. Longshan Temple