Bird Watching in Winter Hokkaido (Dec 19)

For someone from the tropics, it was a challenge getting used to winter bird watching. Bird watching wasn’t just grabbing the camera and binoculars, we had to spend some thought into keeping warm in the freezing weather. Else, the fun from bird watching would quickly diminish in the freezing weather.

During this Hokkaido winter trip, right from the start, our goal was to look for the long-tailed tit, also known as shima-enaga (シマエナガ or 雪の妖精). In Hokkaido, this tit species has a pale white face, making it look like a cotton toy with black dots for its eyes and beak. So throughout the trip, we spent a great deal of time outdoors in the hopes of catching a glimpse as we missed in on our previous trips in summer.

Starting from Chitose, we headed to the wild East of Hokkaido, we made our base at Kushiro for a couple of days. We visited the marshlands and nature reserve. In winter, it was easy to see large flocks of red-crowned cranes, also known as tancho, gathered around feeding stations, marshlands or fields. If you have a chance to spot them, do observe their territorial or mating courtship behaviour. Keen to spot one? You can look for them at the following areas in Kushiro on this map (both summer and winter spots are available).

20191217_Kushiro_Tsurui Ito_Red crowned crane (8)

There are two species of owls that can be found on Hokkaido. The ural owls are small in size and are not uncommonly seen. We chanced upon this blog by Dev in the “A textbook winter trip in Hokkaido – Japan under Day 11 – Mar 5 paragraph. We followed the instructions to a tee and indeed, they was an owl in the tree hole.

20191217_Kushiro_Ural Owl (1)

After Kushiro, we started to make a anti-clockwise loop back to Chitose. Along the way, we passed by the prime location of Hokkaido’s other owl species, the Blakiston’s Fish Owl around northeast Hokkaido, Akan and Shiretoko. The Blakiston’s Fish Owl (Bubo blakistoni) is the largest species of owl in the world. They require pristine freshwater habitats, which are rapidly disappearing. Hence, their numbers are low and are considered to be an endangered species. We stayed in a local ryokan, Yuyado Daiichi, in Nakashibetsu. The ryokan is next to a freshwater stream and during the evening, there was a chance to spot this rare, elusive owl. However, we didn’t manage to see any owl, but instead saw a Japanese sable and mink.


Since it was in December, it was still early winter in Hokkaido. But we got lucky and spotted a Steller’s Sea Eagle from the telescopes in the Akkeshi Waterfowl Observation Centre. Even though, it was a really far, but they look so much bigger than the already very large Hokkaido crows. If you want to see them up close, there are the drift ice tours in January – March to see them on the north-east to east coast of Hokkaido.

20191218_Akkeshi Waterfowl Observation Centre_Stellar Sea Eagle with crows (2)

Another winter migrant to Hokkaido are the Whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus). In winter, large flocks of them will fly down south and some will end up on Hokkaido. We saw a small flock of them in Lake Kussharo area. They are quite easy to see especially if you visit large inland lakes or freshwater areas.

2019-12-19 11.14.28

Back to Chitose area and we still haven’t caught sight of the shima-enaga. So we decided to visit Utonai Sanctuary on our third last day. It turned out that Utonai lake was a great place to do winter birding. We saw quite a diversity of birds and we also saw our only long-tailed tit in a mixed flock of other tit species. A quick online search revealed that another place to catch sight of these snow angels was at Maruyama Park, Sapporo.

We got to Maruyama Park early and we strike gold. There was a flock of about 10 of them feeding and moving among the trees. They are small, more slender than the other tits and they do not sit still for long. We spent some time watching them go about their activities and managed to get some cute photographs of them. Below are two long-tailed tits (white ones) and a varied tit at the Maruyama Park.

Since we cleared our challenge, last minute, we tried our luck to find the crested kingfisher (Megaceryle lugubris) or Yamasemi (山せみ). We have seen some Japanese photographers post some really great photos on social media. After asking Google, we managed to narrow it down to a place in Sapporo, where we might see them. So off we go to Makomanai Park, Sapporo. We followed the river along Makomanai Park and near the end, lo and behold, was this large kingfisher sitting on a branch looking at the river for potential prey. The Crested Kingfisher is one out of three species of kingfishers that Japan has, the other two are the Common Kingfisher and Ruddy Kingfisher.

20191223_Makomanai Park_Crested Kingfisher (9)

Winter bird watching can really be a challenge sometimes, but it can be real rewarding when you find more elusive wildlife. Stay safe and have a great winter wildlife watching experience!


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Highlights from the Scotland leg (UK2017)

The mention of Scotland reminds me of mountains and green valleys (cues Braveheart music!). During the trip, we managed to explore the historical-looking capital, Edinburgh, hiked around some of the loch and took a wildlife boat ride around the inner Hebrides.

Here are some of our recommended spots:

Visit the Hebrides from Oban

Oban is a small port town, but it has an interesting whiskey distillery (Oban distillery) and amazing seafood shop (Oban Seafood Hut). If you are into fresh and value for money seafood, you definitely have to visit the Oban Seafood Hut. It is a little shop by the pier, so if you are in a hurry, they have sandwiches to pack and go but we highly recommend that you try their scallops or have a go at their crabs/lobsters.

I really wanted to see the puffins and we tried to go on a Treshnish Isles & Staffa tour but this was cancelled due to poor sea conditions forecast. Instead, we managed to join a three Isles tour. The three isle tour allowed us to visit Mull, Iona and Staffa, the best part being that there might still be chance for a puffin sighting and other wildlife sightings (maybe a basking shark, golden eagles or even otters?). In the end, as per prediction, the seas were really choppy and rough, the puffin sightings were only for a couple of minutes and most of the puffins were really far away and too tiny to see.

Visiting Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh:

Edinburgh has the old town charms and it is actually quite nice to take a stroll along in the city. And if you are a Harry Potter buff, there is a lot of history and connections between the stories and places in Edinburgh. You could also join many of their city’s walking tours to explore the sights around.

On the other hand, if you are a natural history buff, do not miss the Edinburgh National History Museum. They might not be as large as other natural history museum, but the displays and exhibits were kept in great condition. If you are the kind who takes time to look through each of the thematic displays in detail, you could easily spend half a day poring through the multiple floors of exhibits.

Given our limited time in Scotland, we really didn’t have enough time to explore too many places. Luckily, we had just enough time to have a quick experience of modern and the wild side of Scotland.

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To the U.K. 2017: Welcome to Fossil Heaven, Lyme Regis

In June 2017, we got adventurous and decided to head to the UK from the 4 – 18 June. Across the three weeks, we went to Dorset, Scotland and finally ending off in London. This post is part 1 of the UK2017 travel to the fossil wonderland of Lyme Regis in Dorset.

The first highlight of the trip was a detour trip from London to Lyme Regis, Dorset, instead of heading straight to Scotland. Does the place, Lyme Regis ring a bell? If you are an avid Jane Austen fan and have read her work, “Persuasion”, you would know that the novel is set there. The other reason why you would be familiar with Lyme Regis is if you are interested in fossils (Lyme Regis is part of the Jurassic Coast) or have read about Mary Anning’s discoveries. (Psst: She is an amazing paleontologist. She uncovered the fossils of the ichthyosaur and plesiosaur, but unfortunately, she was not given the proper recognition as she lived in poverty and was in a time where females were not respected in the academic circle. You can read more about it here.)

You know you are nearing Lyme Regis when you start to see Jurassic Coast buses. Lyme Regis is such a quaint, coastal town, with hardly a crowd in sight. When we were there, it was raining quite heavily and we were worried that the tour might be cancelled.


Luckily after the heavy downpour, the weather turned slightly better on the day of the fossil trip. We managed to attend a fossil walk conducted by veteran fossil hunters Paddy Howe and Chris Andrew. Both Chris (below left photo) and Paddy (below right photo) gave context about the site, such as the geological age, about Mary Anning and most importantly, how to spot fossils.

It was a well-run 3 – 4h activity and Paddy even went ahead of us to comb for rock nodules which he thought might contain fossils. At the end, he cracked all the nodules that he collected and there were some cool finds inside those rocks. Most of the times, they were ammonite fossils but if you are lucky, you could find fossilized crinoids, vertebrae bone of a larger prehistoric reptile or even fossilized poop. All the finds during the walk can be kept by the guests and given those that were found in the nodules that Paddy cracked opened were given to the guests. But don’t be greedy and take too many back, remember, they are all embedded in rocks and rocks are generally not light too!

It was really such an enjoyable experience to walk along the beach to find fossils. While in the tropical Singapore, we do intertidal walks to see live organisms, in Lyme Regis, you might come across the fossils of an ancient marine reptile that is lived 90 – 250 millions of years ago! So if you are interested to join, the walks are not every day, so if you are keen, do look at their calendar of events –

Till we meet again, Lyme Regis!


Lyme Regis, part of the Jurassic Coast

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Tasmania Dec 2016

For our Tasmania trip in Dec 2016, we went along with Chan Brothers tour. After traveling on a tour, I reckon it is quite easy to move around via self-drive and still enjoy some of the same sights that we visited. Here are some of the places to visit if you are planning a trip on your own:

1) Salamanca Market, Hobart: This outdoor crafts and local produce market opens on Saturdays. It had quite a diversity of stalls, ranging from artwork, toys and even fruits and vegetables occupying a couple of streets. There were also many people in the market as we were there in the late morning, so head there early.

2) Eating fresh oysters: We ate ours at Barilla Bay but I’m pretty sure you can eat them in quite a few places in Tasmania. If you are a fan of oysters, do remember to try some.


3) Fruit picking at Sorell Fruit Farm: Depending on which months you arrive, they have different fruits ready for picking. It was quite fun to pick your own fruits, we definitely spend quite a lot of time choosing and picking enough to bring back to enjoy. During Dec, many of the “berries” were ripe for picking, we picked two whole boxes of cherries and strawberries to bring back.

4) Night penguin tour, Bicheno: No photos were allowed on this tour, but I highly recommend this tour as it allows you to get really close to the small fairy blue penguins. Each group is quite small and is led by a guide who will explain about the penguin behaviour and biology. During the walk, you will be watching them return to their burrows after their day of foraging in the sea. And if you are really lucky, the penguin would walk by you so do watch where you are stepping. To note, it does get quite chilly as you are by the sea, so if you get chilly quickly, do remember to bring your coldwear.

5) View Australia’s wildlife up close at Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary: Many of you might be familiar with Aussie wildlife such as the kangaroos and wombats. However, in this sanctuary, the stars are the Tasmania devils and quolls (other marsupial carnivores). The guide will explain the biology and threats to these animals. And if you are in luck, your visit might coincide with devils’ feeding time.

6) Cradle Mountain: For more natural areas, do visit this magnificent place. Along the way, there are wild wombats to be spotted and if it is a clear day, the view is breath-taking. There are several walking trails to do with varying difficulty, after which you can take your time to smell the flowers and enjoy the awesome nature in Cradle Mountain.

7) Bridestowe Lavender Estate: One of the last few stops was to visit a lavender farm. Once you stepped into the farm, there is a whiff of lavender in the air. We went on the factory tour which had a guide explaining how the flowers are collected and distilled into essence for use in their products and produce. If you haven’t visited a lavender farm before, do consider visiting.

So a total of seven places to help you kickstart your Tasmania planning. If you do have any other nature areas or sights to recommend, do let us know.

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Taiwan 2016: To Kenting & back to Taipei

Having been slightly disappointed that we missed a trip to the south end of Taiwan in 2015. In June 2016, we made a trip to Kenting in Pingtung and back to Taipei. Getting to Kenting takes up half to nearly a day depending on what transport you take. If you are taking the High-Speed Rail (HSR), the southern stop is at Zuoying in Kaoshiung. After that, you will need to take either a Kenting shuttle bus or a cab to head down to Kenting, which takes about another 2 – 2.5hours. For more information, you can use this website.

Even in hot summer, there are many visitors to Kenting visiting its lovely beaches. Known for its beautiful coastal scenery and Kenting National Park, there are indeed lots of nature-related activities to do there. Public transport around the Kenting attractions might be scare, so the best way to explore is by e-scooter (yes, you can drive it even without a motorbike license! But it is better if you do know how to cycle, so do try it out before renting!).

We took our e-scooter and traveled to many of the sightseeing spots such as to the most south point of Taiwan, past Eluanbi lighthouse (below middle photo). There are really lots of beaches to visit with some interesting rock formation or inter tidal areas.

Some of the local recommendations include Maobitou (for sunset watching), Houbihu Fishing Port for your lunch/early dinner (yummy seafood), Lungpan Park & Jialeshui. If you are into forests sightseeing, you can consider exploring Kenting Forest Recreation Area. Use the map below for rough planning of your pit stops along the southern coast.


Another must place to visit is in Checheng and that is the National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium (NMMBA). It had a really large facility with a huge diversity of marine organisms. The marine organisms sculptures were also a great opportunity for photos. We sent half a day here just looking at the cool exhibits, it had horseshoe crabs, nautilus and even coelacanths in their collection. Really cool!

Once back in Taipei, we had a chance to discover two new nature areas. First up is the seasonal blooms in Yangmingshan National Park. Even though it is not our first time visiting this National Park, but this time our visit coincided with the hydrangea bloom. In certain parts of the year especially in spring and summer, there are certain flower seasons to look for, you can refer to this and also the Yangmingshan website. Pro-tip: do go early to visit, the later you arrive the more crowds there will be, which also means the less chance you have of taking photos without random strangers inside!)

Another nature spot is Guandu Nature Park. It is a place that is highly recommended for birding watching. It is a short walk from the Guandu MRT station. Inside the nature park, it has many small trails to slowly explore. The trails cross different habitats, from brushlands to freshwater ponds, so lots to take your time to see-see-look-look. After walking, you can take a break in the visitor centre area. The visitor centre even has binoculars set up for visitors to look at birds (e.g. roosting egrets). Even though it was drizzling that day and we didn’t manage to see many things, but it is also worth another visit another time.

Can’t believe that no matter how many times I visit Taiwan, there are always these small little pockets of nature areas still left unexplored. Till next time, continue to enjoy the great outdoors.

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Taiwan adventures 2015: Part 3 (Taichung)

08 – 11 June 2015

Traveling up north from the south to the central city of Taiwan, Taichung (臺中), which is also the third largest city on the island. From Kaohsiung to Taichung, it takes about two hours on the high speed rail. On this leg of the trip, there is a total of three places that I would like to introduce:

  1. Miyahara Ice Cream (宫原眼科)
  2. Xitou Nature Education Area (溪頭自然教育園區)
  3. Taichung National Museum of Natural Science (國立自然科學博物館)

After so much walking around, it’s time for some food! For most people that visit Taichung for the first time, they will most probably be recommended to visit this place. So why the long queue outside Miyahara (宫原眼科)? When we first heard the name from a friend, I was confused as to why this spectacles shop is a MUST GO? A brief history of the name, during the Japanese occupation, this shop was originally an ophthalmology hospital. Now, the building has been bought by a Taiwan business and they have refurnished to look Harry Potter-ish with a little old school charm. The shop sell lots of Taiwanese desserts in very lovely containers and they would make for wonderful travel gifts.

After being awed by the interiors of the shop, don’t forget the best part, the ice cream! This also explains the super long queue outside. Actually, you can enjoy the ice-cream indoors, within the shop restaurant, but takeaway is a little cheaper (no need to pay service tax). My advice is to try to eat on weekdays, as we heard that the queue can be quite long on Fridays and weekends! In any case, I am sure you will have a good time here and take your time to choose your ice-cream, I guarantee that there will be lots of choices to make (flavours, no. of scoops and even the toppings).

If you are itching to go out, one place to hike around is Xitou Nature Education Area (溪頭自然教育園區). This is a little further away from the city area and you would have to take the Taiwan Tourist shuttle that has fixed timings or hire a taxi to bring you there. The Xitou Nature Education Area is just behind the Xitou Monster Village and the shuttle will stop there and you will just be a few minutes’ walk away. It is a large area, so put aside enough time if you wish to cover the entire park. It is on slightly elevated ground, so the temperature is cool. As a result, it is also a great place to visit in summer and lots of locals visit to escape the summer heat or take a short hike without the perspiration. The park has many routes and forest types. Take your time to explore and I am sure that you will discover many interesting flora and fauna on your hikes.

Lastly, if you are a natural history fan, you cannot miss the visit to the Taichung National Museum of Natural Science. There are several halls in the museum, ranging from themes in zoology, botany, geology, and anthropology. In the zoology and botany sections, there are really good exhibits on how life began on Earth, representation of well-known fossils (mainly dinosaurs) as well as modern day plant and animal diversity. As with any museum, there also have permanent exhibits with temporary ones, so do check it out to see what are the ongoing exhibits. And if you are still game after walking the main museum, there is a botanical garden across the road for you to explore.

In Taichung, it was a blast, filled with yummy food and exciting places to visit! We now had to visit another part of Taiwan. It’s time to travel to north-eastern Taiwan, let’s go to Hualien!

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Taiwan adventures 2015: Part 2 (Kaohsiung)

05 – 08 June 2015

Kaohsiung (高雄) is located in the southwestern part of Taiwan and is the second largest city. Similar to Taipei, it has a MRT system and is easy to travel around within the city.

One of the places that we went to is the Kezailiao Wharf Fish Market (蚵仔寮港觀光魚市). I love exploring and walking through fish ports and wet markets. There will always be something exciting to find and see. For most fish ports, they tend to operate early in the morning. However, for this particular fish market, the opening hours are 3.00 – 7.30pm, so that is good news for a late morning person.

The fish market is small in scale, but lots of fishes. We saw some monkfishes (a kind of anglerfish), barracuda, lionfishes and groupers on sale. The fish market was very bright and clean and the stalls were in several rows. You could take your time to walk around to look at the seafood and even have a chat with the friendly store owners.

Another area that we explored was the Shoushan National Nature Park (壽山國家自然公園). We didn’t managed to explore this nature park as much as we wanted. We took a long time to find the place and arrived a little late. However, the nature park is situated very near to the Shoushan Mountain Zoo and you can enter the park via a footpath next to the zoo.

We were fortunate to encounter a lone Formosan macaque on the trail. Some things to take note, firstly, the Formosan macaques are quite common, so do know how to behave around them and be careful not to have exposed food or plastic bags lying around. Secondly, the mosquitoes in the nature park are also quite formidable, so if you are prone to bites, remember to wear long sleeves or bring your repellant along. According to description on the Taiwan Tourism page, the nature park has “limestone caves area”, “twisty narrow limestone caves … where you can “see crystals from the milky stones like stalagmites and stone pillars”.  Sounds beautiful right?

After this brief trip to Kaoshiung, we headed north to Taichung for more nature and wildlife adventures!

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Taiwan adventures 2015: Part 1 (Penghu)

03 – 05 Jun 2015

Some of us would have heard this song, 外婆的澎湖灣 (1979) by 潘安邦. But how many of you have visited Penghu before? Penghu is an archipelago made up of 64 islands and islets, many people travel here for the summer to enjoy sea sports and the coastal scenery. For the first stop of our 2015 Taiwan trip, we had a 3D2N trip to Penghu (澎湖).

How to get to Penghu?

There are many ways to get to Penghu from mainland Taiwan, you can either take a plane or catch a ferry over. From Songshan airport, Taipei, it took us one hour to travel to Magong airport. Besides Taipei, you can also catch a flight from Taichung, Jiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung and Jinmen Island. Flights cut down on time but are slightly pricier. There are several domestic air carriers that have flights. If you wish to save on costs, you can take a ferry over from Kaoshiung, but do be aware that the ride takes about 5 hours and the waters can be quite choppy.

A traveling tip for domestic flight to Magong airport, do remember to pack light as the check-in baggage limit is 10kg. However, don’t fret! The excess baggage charges on Uni-air are quite reasonable, TWD17/kg.

Our flight from Songshan airport to Magong airport

Our flight from Songshan airport, Taipei to Magong airport

Accommodation and getting around Penghu

We stayed in La villa de la sirene (人魚之丘) upon the recommendation of a friend. The minsu is tucked inside a cove and overlooks a mudflat. When we arrived at Penghu, the minsu arranged transport to pick us up. For me, one of the main drawbacks on Penghu is the lack of public transport, so in order to get around, you would need to rent a motorbike, cab or join a tour group.

Our minsu, doesn't it look like a lighthouse?

Our minsu, La villa de la sirene, doesn’t it look like a lighthouse?

There are many rooms to choose from in the minsu and all of them have a unique theme to it. Due to the design of the minsu, there was a very special room at the top level, 5F 海洋之樹.This room is a double-floor attic and even the view from the bedroom is amazing. Check out the room here. Jen (小貞) was the main person in charge and she was always so cheerful and welcoming. At first, we didn’t have any activity planned beforehand. However, once upon arrival, she helped us planned our itinerary from scratch and it was a blast. Here were some of my highlights:

penghu map

Penghu map

Penghu Day 1: Sightseeing by cab
Some of the main tourist attractions include visiting a impressive looking centuries-old fig tree, 樑古榕樹 (online sources say it’s more than 300 years old!) This is supposedly a Ficus microcarpa and Penghu’s country tree. At the fig tree stop, don’t forget to try the famous cactus ice-cream (仙人掌冰).


Wow, such a huge Ficus tree! Glad it is now integrated as part of the Penghu culture & tourist stop


Next up, we went to the Penghu JhuWan Crab Museum (竹灣螃蟹博物館). It had lots of live crustacean in aquariums and also preserved ones.

crab-museummantis-shrimpPenghu has lots of amazing geographical land forms, so it should be quite exciting for some of you. I would imagine that some of these land forms are those that you will in textbooks but not in real-life.

Whale cave? (鯨魚洞 )

Whale cave? (鯨魚洞 ) Does it look like one?

Basalt landscape (大菓葉柱状岩)

Basalt landscape (大菓葉柱状岩)

It was low tide just before dusk. We managed to do a bit of intertidaling in the mudflats just behind the minsu before heading out for a special dinner.


We signed up for a dinner cruise (海上浪漫之夜), sounds romantic ahh.. We had to meet at the designated pier at 6.20pm to board a boat for the scrumptious dinner. Almost every dish had some form of seafood and all were fresh and so yummy! If you are a seafoodie, make sure to try one of these meals! After the meal, we also got to try night-time squid fishing, but the whole boat only caught two squids. Not too many squids this time round as it was not squid season yet.


Lots of fresh grilled oysters and other seafood for dinner

Penghu Day 2: Eco trip & Penghu Fireworks Festival


We went for a whole day coastal trip at Shagang 沙港東海一日遊. The tour depends largely on the tides. At low tide, we get to go out to the rocky shore just in front of the dock to try to bait crabs, to observe inter-tidal organisms and also to dig for cockles 海瓜子.


Tri-spine horseshoe crab!

seastarsSo many marine organisms!! Urchins, Pentaceraster sea star and horseshoe crabs (Tachypleus tridentatus), so happy!

In order to everyone to put in their best efforts, the staff said that the food at lunch and tea depended on what we managed to find. The staff also demonstrated one of the traditional fishing methods (抱墩)that people used to trap fishes during a change in tides.


Digging for sea cockles, “hum” (in Singapore’s context)


Our meal depended on it!

Duoduo the sea dog, who always accompanied us to the rocky shore and enjoyed getting soaked in seawater

Duoduo, the sea dog, who enjoyed getting soaked in seawater

After lunch, we were out to sea to collect the fishing lines that were set up the previous day. According to the staff, whatever that was caught will become food for tea. Besides fishing lines, little pots were also used to catch moray eels which were supposed to be their favourite hiding spots. There were a few flatheads, solefishes, stingrays and eels for meals while the tri-spine horseshoe crab was taken back to the rocky shore for use for visitors’ show & tell session.

leopard moray eels

leopard moray eels


We also had a chance to try out fishing too using a simple line & hook. Even though we came back with a tan, it was an enjoyable half day out, enjoying the sea breeze and observing biodiversity up close. If you are interested in the full itinerary of this tour, you can take a look, here & here.

At night, we went to town to catch the annual Penghu fireworks festival. The fireworks festival is only held in summer months, on Mondays and Thursday. So if you are interested in catching it, do remember to check out the dates. If you like to know more about the history of the fireworks festival, you can check out here.


Fireworks to end the Penghu leg of the 2015 Taiwan trip

So that’s the end of short first leg to idyllic Penghu with all its coastal charm. If you want to experience a Penghu islander’s fishing lifestyle and also observe biodiversity in their natural habitat, then you might just fall in love with the place. For more information, you can check out the Penghu Tour Website. For the next leg of the trip, we took a domestic flight back to mainland Taiwan and our adventure continued with the second largest city of Taiwan, Kaohsiung City! Off we go!

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Taiwan adventures 2015: Part 4 (Hualien)

If you are into nature and the great outdoors, then you wouldn’t want to miss heading to Hualien. It faces the Pacific Ocean and is also on the border of the Central Mountain Range (中央山脈). That is also the reason why there is so much nature sights to see.

One of the places that I highly recommend you visit is Taroko National Park. Without your own transport, it can be difficult to travel around so getting a guide or following a tour group might be the next best option. You can find out more information from the Taroko National Park website. There are many must-see stops around in the National Park such as Qingshui cliff and Baiyang trail. All the pit stops have amazing scenery or interesting history significance. With so many sights to see, you will definitely not be able to complete all of them in a half day, so a good opportunity to revisit this national park if you are short of time.

Another must-see nature tour to consider is the dolphin watching tours at Hualien. The tour takes about 2h and the chances of seeing dolphins are quite high when we went in June. During the trip, we saw spinner dolphins just minutes after leaving the harbour and after that we also saw other cetaceans. If you are lucky, you might be able to see killer whales too!


Even though Hualien is the largest county with the largest population, but this is spread over a large land area. As a result, the city area is not as crowded and you will definitely feel very relaxed while traveling there. Hualien is really a paradise for nature lovers and for those who are interested in physical landscapes. If you have 1-2 days to spare in your Taiwan itinerary, I highly recommend you to visit this eastern gem of Taiwan.

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Durian heaven in Ubin

It’s now semester break and I’m helping Tze Kwan for her civet project on Pulau Ubin this June. Each field trip to Ubin consist of two sessions, one in the late morning and the other is in late afternoon. However, in between sessions, we have to occupy ourselves for four hours.

It’s durian season in Ubin in June! We have encountered many visitors who return to the mainland with rucksacks or tupperware full of durian. Since some of us are durian lovers and have long heard about how wonderful Ubin durians are, we went about on the hunt for the king of the fruits. Fortunately, we managed to learn some skills of picking and choosing a good durians from seasoned durian hunters and Ubin villagers. The secret was in three very important points: first the durian had to feel light, second, it should have a flat, clean-cut stem and lastly, possess the lovely durian aroma. Hmmm.. Yumyum! Already drooling at the thought of picking durians.

Even though, we are still noob in the area of durian picking, uncles have been pretty generous. Many see us being suaku and picking unripe fruits have happily shared their spoils with us. You know what’s the best part? Tze Kwan, from her numerous trips to Ubin has also learnt the art of durian opening but she doesn’t like to eat durians. You know what that means…? The durians are ALL MINEEE! Just kidding!


Even though TK doesn’t eat durians, but she loves to find and opens them up. Maybe a durian shop owner in the making?

All these durian hunting is a seasonal affair and is part and parcel of fun during field trips! So if you love doing field work and durians, you can help Tze Kwan for her fieldwork. And you might just get a bonus Ubin durian tasting trip!

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