shanlung (shanlung) wrote,

Fragments of earlier memories of Taiwan

This entry is not on birds or animals. This is my memoirs that I wanted to write before it faded away with time.

There are some adult themes not suitable for minors.
There are encounters of mystical strange nature.


(Written over last 3 weeks)

Sometime ago, I wrote of my hard-disk crashing on me wiping out photos and diaries and notes I kept on my travels to remote places. That was written in
"First introductory letter on Tinkerbell"

I extract that part below


My hard disk from that time died a horrible death and with
a most mournful cry sometime in December 2002. The death of that hard disk
was bizarre. One day, I relate the entire story. You may even say that was
a fantastic series of coincidence. But that touched on events even
more strange than what I related about Ivan my cat. And I have had enough
of brickbats thrown at me for that issue. For those curious about Ivan, read

Not only Tink photos and letters I wrote from that time, but the
digital photos of my travelling along path less trodded. I stepped
off the pages of Lonely Planet to walk on some of those
paths in the wild reaches of Yunnan, EmeiShan, WudangShan mountains
and Tibet in search of martial artists and their traces of historical
and almost mythical martial artists and sunrises and sunsets.

The email exchanges on martial arts, stuff and other old
memories of those travels were lost in that flash when the HD died.
(I still lugged about with me that died hard disk. Maybe one day it will
be resurrected again giving me back a period of my past otherwise
lobotomised from me.)

I did find some photo folders that did escaped as they were
on another hard disk, but the vast bulk of the early days in
Taipei are residing in that hard disk that died.


That it was a series of strange inexplicable coincidences that can only be described and not explained. It might be more than just weird coincidence, or just coincidence.

I so wished I have back that hard-disk that crashed. I felt I have been lobotomised without the notes and photos still stuck in that hard-disk. I wrote part of this in the precursor to our WWW, in those Listserv and BBS. Sadly, I was unable to get to those now defunct sites.

Then in 2009 March in my last visit to Tinkerbell in Taiwan
Tinkerbell - Rhapsody in Spring 2009

or more accurately, in my report Reflections on Tinkerbell I mentioned of the proprietor (LauBan) of the beef stall in Ray Fang.

I extract what I wrote then below.


We took the train after CH left us to RayFang, a town at northern tip of Taiwan. This town had special significance for us. There was this proprietor of a beef stall who shared with me one of the strangest mystical experience I have had in 1991 that I will write about some time later. CH knew this guy too, and so did many of my friends as they went there to seek confirmation from him that he saw that series of events between me and an unusual monk.

And there was this sushi proprietor who caught and present Halftail the Bimbo to us in 2002

I was delighted to find that those two were still there, and in the same food court near the river and 300 meters in front of the Ray Fang railway station. And they remembered us still.

Flickr folder

The sushi man who caught and gave me Halftail the Bimbo
We had the most delicious sushi meal from him that night

The proprietor of that beef stall


I need to start at the beginning.

I was invited to work and live in Taipei, Taiwan as a Planning Advisor to the Government there on the building of the Taipei Metro System in 1990.

The first couple of month there, I could only order beef noodle soup ‘ neu rou mien’ for dinner as those were the only words I knew. My lunches were better in that first couple of months. I would join my Taiwaness collegues who then do the ordering. In a country where 99% of the people find it mentally impossible to use English and only speak in Chinese or Taiwanese, learning their language was so important. The friendliest people I encountered in the world are Taiwanese who were more ready than not to help you learn and speak Chinese, perhaps so that they were not be forced to use English with you. The problem was in the evening when I had to do the ordering. Pointing at the food was not enough as Taiwanese in their friendliness will then asked you what sauces do you wish and what other preparations do you want. That was so incomprehensible to me that I was forced to back out of their restaurant and go order ‘neu rou mein’ at ‘neu rou mien’ stall again and again. Then when I managed to learn enough Chinese and ordered ‘ chee tui fan’ (chicken drumstick rice) and gotten that served to me, I knew I was going to make it there.

After a few months of initial shock and disbelief in the chaos of Taipei and despair as to why I allowed myself to be there, I found myself slowly falling in love, body and soul, with that country and her people. Having learned in the first few months how to communicate in Chinese helped a lot too. That was not just in ordering dinner. Buses had destinations all written in Chinese and incomprehensible to me and I just could not take the bus. There were no underground trains to take. Do recall I was there to build that system in the first place.

Prior to learning enough Chinese to get by, I had no choice but to walk in the vast city of Taipei. I walked probably faster than I could run nowadays. In those early days, I cursed the motor bikes and scooters riding on the pavements. Just a couple of weeks after that incredible hike I made in Taroko Gorge and meet my good friend ‘Lone Ranger’ or Chen Hung or CH(report here 'Extract of 1990 diary on Taiwan and Taroko Gorge' )
, I decided to continue on with what I wanted to do before. Which was to walk from Tayuling to Wushe. In 1991, the main East/West cross country/mountain highway was via Tayuling to Lishan and down to TaiChong. My trail was a rocky walking track from Tayuling over HoHuanShan and perhaps 45 km. My knee was still bad and ankle wobbly. That track was icy with elevation climb of 1000M. I recalled that as a wonderful morning stroll. The huge earthquake brought down half the mountain and the main East/West highway after Lishan and a new road was constructed where the track was. In 2003 when I rented a car to drive on that new road to Lishan with Tinkerbell and my wife. That drive was so tiring that I could not figured how I thought it was a stroll for me in 1991, when I was carrying a 20++ kg backpack as well on that same route.

And I walked over the Southern Cross Country Highway, with that backpack, and slept in sleeping bag off the road in the forest too.

Back to life in Taipei. When I knew the words ‘juo juan’ (left turn), ‘you juan’ (right turn) , ‘yi tse jou’ (go straight ahead) and could communicate with taxis to tell them where to go, I knew I was going to enjoy life there as well .

With the ability to order food, and to tell taxis where to take me, I thought I have died, and gone to Paradise.


I worked hard, and I played hard. Much of my spare time had been devoted to martial arts training, about 2 hours or so every day.
(My martial arts background here )

I got into the intricacies of Chinese Chess by first watching Chinese Chess players playing under street light in my neighbourhood on table next to the 7/11 store and then playing and being killed by them all other than the weakest players. The best Chinese Chess player there thought he could play International Chess as well. I took sweet revenge in massacring him the way he slaughtered me in Chinese Chess. For those who know International Chess, Chinese Chess is as similar to International Chess as Chinese language is similar to English language. So if you think you can play Chinese Chess because you play International Chess, that will be like you thinking you can talk in Chinese because you can talk in English.

(my International Chess covered here "Modes of flight of Riamfada and comparison to Tinkerbell //Some chess memories, hustler foil, Bali " )

Chinese Chess got into the middle game almost immediately and tactically as rich if not richer than International Chess. I had not realised how rich CC was earlier thinking it was just a bastardized International Chess treating it with disdain then. When my son Mark was young and beating the best of us in my club in International Chess as I mentioned before, Mark was also beating the best of the Chinese Chess players in that same club without being taught that game. I regretted forcing Mark to stop playing Chinese Chess despite the pleadings of the top Chinese Chess players to let him continue.

(My son Mark covered here "Ramadan & Kitties on beach// Chess -1st Saturday IM Tournament // Tinkerbell Harness for Piper " )

Taiwan is an incredibly small country. But with a huge high mountain range running down her spine, the scenery can be so different just a kilometre down the road that you think you moved through strange portals from one part of the world to another part of the world.

Weekends were spend on travelling to and enjoying other parts of Taiwan. Or go on the wildest Hash House runs with chalk markings , pieces of papers and sometimes even lumps of human turds to set the trail and indulging in the booze ups after that followed by wrecking of the restaurant. Luckily there were many restaurants, and short memories of their owners who might even be one of the Hash runners.

Or go to other parks in Taipei to challenge and meet challenges in martial arts. Not much point in learning combat Taijichuan if you were never going to find it practical. Those lovey-dovey ‘one with universe’ teachings and slow waving of arms are as corny and useless as the teacher who teaches that because they truly do not know taijichuan.

Taoism - Some thoughts on Wu Wei
(this also give a sketch to my earlier days and involvement in martial arts)

Taijichuan martial arts

(editted on 13 Nov 2013 to add more on my background of taijichuan
Taiping thoughts //Camera malfunction at NanHwaShi//Combat Taijichuan -some notes )

Taipei is a city which never sleep and stayed open 24 hours.

Evenings saw me painting the town red in the bars and nightclubs with my buddies and friends there.

Or in a ‘neu rou chang’, loosely translated to ‘beef market’ . The first time I went into a ‘neu rou chang’, I was literally dragged kicking and screaming into that hall by a sweet lady barker when I happened to walk by the entrance. I became an instant fan after that. In a neu rou chang, very pretty girls will come on the stage to sing her first song in a gorgeous gown, and then the second song sung only in her stockings and shoes and wearing only a smile. In between those songs, there might be juggling acts , comic sketches, and magic shows. That became family entertainment. In the Chai Hong (Rainbow) Neu Rou Chang, at least ¼ of the audience were clearly families. I was amused to see families in the audience with their little boys and girls who presumably enjoyed the magic and juggling more than the singing. I enjoyed everything, including the singing. That was in the early 90s. I was saddened when a moralistic self serving politician banned the neu rou changs, institutions that existed for a hundred years. That same politician is now in jail for life having been convicted of massive embezzlement. That added to my belief those that moralised the most are the biggest crooks that needed to cover up what they really want to do.

Or having a tranquil evening sipping and appreciating Chinese tea and munching traditional titbits in a serene tea houses in traditional setting a few hundred years back in time. Regardless if the tea houses were up in the mountains, in wooded areas, or in the middle of Taipei, the services were impeccable and genuine and from the heart.

Or in my neighbourhood watching or playing Chinese Chess under street light.

Or in a 24 hour ‘san wan nah’ with friends for the evening. Those 'san wan nah ' can barely be described. I wrote of that in my first visit back to Tinkerbell in Tinkerbell Revisited in 2005. That partial report is here 'Tinkerbell revisited - file on SWNs'

I wrote a lot more but forgot to save what I wrote and power died in that Internet cafe killed what was not saved.

Those are males only establishment. Once you are inside and naked or in their house kimonos, you are the equal of anyone be you a billionair or a taxi driver. All will be greeted as Prince and all be treated as a Prince. I even kept a good International Chess set there to play with some of my expat friends from time to time.

I lived alone there as my wife was still my girlfriend and completing her University studies in Singapore. I had no beasties or birdies living with me at that time.

Eventually I bought a motorbike to help me get around. Why I bought a motorbike is a big story in itself. Cars were totally useless in Taipei in early 1990s. With so few parking spaces, cars were double parked or treble parked by side of the roads. I recalled going out with a friend there with his car parked in his apartment basement. We had to knock on 4 doors to get the owners out to move their cars so he could drive out. When eventually we got to where we wanted to be, an hour trying to get parking space convinced us to drive back to the apartment and parked the car there. We then caught a taxi which should have been done in the first place. With a motorbike, you can park on the pavement (illegally) and even ride on the pavement (illegally) while cursing the pedestrians who so inconveniently to me, wanted to walk on the pavements. Provided that you do not knock down an old lady or old man, the policemen close an eye or both eyes. One way street had little meaning there. You can drive or ride any direction you wanted as long as you hold a hand up and say ‘PauChien PauChien’ (please excuse me, please excuse me).

At about end September 1991, there was this Confucius Birthday, a very big event in Taiwan. So much so that day will be a public holiday as well. On that day, Confucius Temple in Taipei would be opened for that one day in the year in a ceremony that was thousands of years old and unchanged in its style and the music. People taking part in that ceremony will be dressed in ceremonial gowns conducting rites and playing old musical instruments.

The ceremony would start at 5 am in the morning at first light of the morning. And you must be in the temple grounds at 4 am way before that start time. Since coming to Taiwan, I became fascinated in everything Chinese as those were my roots that I never knew until I was there and learned to speak Chinese and with many Chinese friends.

I managed to get a ticket for myself. Early that morning I was in the temple for this ceremony. The ceremony ended shortly after dawn.

Here are some photos of the ceremony that I brought my wife to in 2002.

more photos in flickr folder "Taiwan - Confucious Birthday"




In my roaming about Taiwan, I was fascinated by the harbours that I had seen there. The breakwaters to protect the harbours were so huge and faced with such gigantic interlocking armour blocks that they seemed unreal to me as I thought then no waves could be that big. Then a few months before, I was at a harbour when a typhoon took a side swipe at Taiwan. The waves were absolutely enormous. When that wave rolled in and hit that breakwater, it was an explosion and I was thrilled beyond words to have witnessed that. I heard a roar of voices to turn my head to find many people were at the harbour just to admire the huge waves crashing onto the breakwaters and voiced their admiration in unison. I became an instant fan and my voice joined theirs. While that first time I seen the waves crashing was accidental, all other times later on were deliberate. I paid attention to any typhoons hitting Taiwan. I tried to estimate the track of the typhoon and positioned myself near them when they hit the shore. All typhoon forecasts also had the warnings to people like us not to go to harbour to watch the waves to avoid danger. I think those warnings spurred us to go watch the waves instead.

I had a little motorbike then to get about.

As I said, that day was a public holiday. It so happened that there was this typhoon warning that a typhoon was approaching and expected to hit Taiwan at her North Western coast. I had my breakfast at one of the many breakfast places in Taipei and set off down the road to the North Western coast. I had my Goretex raingear on together with a strong rope in case I needed it to lash myself later on to huge rock or lamppost if necessary.

I rode on between bouts of clear sky and bright sun alternating with bands of rain whipping down at me typical of any typhoon.
This could not be done in spur of the moment. When the typhoon hit, the winds were so strong and intense that you could be blown off the road or hit by flying debris. When you were there, you need to be in semi safe area to admire and appreciate the gigantic waves without being washed away.

I reached the coast and positioned myself on high ground to remain safe and yet near enough to the shore to appreciate those huge waves that had to come. The sea remained merely rough, without the gigantic waves to pound the rocks. I waited patiently for 3-4 hours, periodically being whipped by the rains and strong gusts of wind in between times of sun shine. I decided that the typhoon must had shifted and not hitting that part after all. I decided to head back to Taipei for lunch.

In the ride back to Taipei from the North West Coastal road, I had to pass by this town called Ray Fang. I was getting near that town. I saw this man walking towards that town by the side of the road I was riding on. He was wearing a kind of velvet black raingear that appeared to be multi-caped, like that worn by Sherlock Homes or Dick Turpin to give you all an idea. That raingear design and make appeared even more traditional and ancient. Including the ancient looking pair of straw sandals he had on. I just felt that he was a monk. He had on a broad rimmed straw hat. What was really striking was that he was so fair and white making such a contrast with his black raingear.

So many thoughts came into my mind. Was he a Caucasian who turned native and became a monk in Taiwan? What was he doing there? As I rode towards him I thought of stopping my bike and chatting with him. But it was still raining even if the rain was not intense. I felt he might not appreciate being accosted by a stranger and I rode on past him. Just then, I changed my mind about getting back to Taipei for lunch.

I recalled this little restaurant in Ray Fang that a friend had taken me to a few months earlier. That specialised in beef dishes and with the most delicious beef broth and fried beef noodles and with side dishes of strangest parts of a bull. This little restaurant had only 3 tables inside an ancient looking shack and had so many newspaper cuttings extolling the dishes. I decided to have my lunch there instead.

Ray Fang was typical of villages in Taiwan, with incredible complex maze of roads. By gut feel and luck, I weaved my way to this little shop in that ancient looking shack close by the bank of the river at Ray Fang.

That shack had the roof sloping down into low hanging eaves and dimly lighted inside. The outside was bright comparative to inside the shop. When I reached the shop, I could hardly seen inside the open doorway. I parked my bike outside and I made my order and waited for my meal.

I looked out of the door to see the road and the rains from this dying typhoon. To my shock, I saw that monk dressed in black walking down that road towards me. I thought in my mind that was impossible as I left him 5 minutes ago on my bike. I was riding slowly in the rain, and later even more slowly in figuring where the shop was. But I had made at least 5-6 turns in the maze of roads.

I knew he should not be able to see into the darkness of the shop from the comparative bright outside of the road. Yet at that moment when I saw him, I knew he saw me, and that he was coming to me, and that he knew I seen him too.

It was so bizarre how he could have found me that fear grew more and more in me as he came closer and closer. It was not as if I made eye contact with him earlier. I was riding my bike coming from behind him. I had thought of stopping and chatting at him. But those were just random spur of moment thoughts. I had to hang on to my rationalisation that it must have been a coincidence that he was walking towards here.

He stepped past the door. He extruded such an aura of calm, peace and tranquility that my earlier fears evaporated. Without that fear, I became intensely curious at that guy. I saw he was wearing a very close knit thick material, multi-caped , and with rain drops running off. He was not wearing one of those cheap plastic raincoat used once and thrown away so typical in Taiwan. Everything that he wore appeared to be traditional from the sandals on his feet to the straw hat on his head. It looked more than just his rain gear. It looked like a traditional kind of monk outfit as well.

He was alabaster fair to the extent I thought he must be an albino. I looked at his face expecting to see red eyes. His eyes were clear and black with a twinkle. His face was aged and appeared to be in his 80s. He was a Chinese and not the Caucasian as I thought and neither was he an albino. He smiled at me showing the most perfect of teeth unlike the half decayed rotting teeth of most old folks there and he spoke to me in a manner that was so clear to me.

That gave me the next shock. I am an ethnic Chinese as can be seen in my photos and I looked Chinese too. Most people in Taiwan assumed I was a native and spoke to me accordingly. They used Chinese words too complex for me to understand and spoke too rapidly at the same time. Only when I replied to them, they then immediately realised I was not a native there and with a weak command of Chinese. They then would revert to a simpler form of Chinese used for kids and spoke much slower for me to understand them.

That old man spoke to me first, using very simple form of Chinese and spoke slowly, as if he knew my level of Chinese was not great. He spoke in such clear voice that he sounded so much younger than what he appeared to be. I only knew I understood him clearly even if much of what he spoke to me was not remembered. Although I was no longer frightened of him , so many thoughts crowded my mind at the same time.

Who was he and how he managed to find me?

Could I offer him an exchange of my Goretex rain gear for his ancient looking rain gear/outfit?
He was much smaller built than I was.

Could I buy his ancient looking rain gear/outfit?

Could I invite him to join my beef lunch and would it be offensive to invite him as he clearly a monk and likely vegetarian?

Was he a carnivorous monk that I could invite to join me for lunch?

Should I pay up for the expensive order I made, and invite him to join me in a more appropriate tea shop instead?

With all those thoughts running in my mind, I could not remember what he spoke to me although I understood all that he said. All I remembered of what he said to me was near the end, that not to worry, and to be happy. That was said in the general context of life itself and not as assurance to me not to be frightened at his appearance.

I even forgot my state of art Nikon SLR in my bag to take photos of him there and then while all those inane thoughts ran through my mind.

He could not have spoken with me more than 5 minutes or so. He then half turned as if to go off. He was getting something from the sling bag he had, made of the same charcoal black material of his coat. He turned to me and said “ I have something that you might like”. He paused for a moment while holding me with his eyes and a smile on his face. “Just 50 NT$” . He hold a little figurine to me. I did not know what it was then. Later on, the restaurant owner and then my friends told me it was a little figurine of the plump Milofor (in Chinese). Westerners would know him as the Laughing Buddha or the Fat Buddha.

As you all can imagine. That little Milofor was and will always be with me in my backpack whenever I travelled.

I felt so relieved. He finally spoke in language I could comprehend. That he merely wanted money. But I was puzzled why such a paltry amount.

50 NT$ is the smallest denomination note in Taiwan and at that time, about US$1.20. An ordinary simple lunch would cost you 60-70 NT$. The lunch that I ordered from that little restaurant would set me back about 1000 NT$. My shirt front pocket had what I considered to be loose change, an assortment of 50 and 100 and 500 NT$ bills. The 50 NT$ he requested was laughable when I thought of how he must have ran in the rain to catch up with me. I certainly had no intention to give him that 50 NT$ that he requested. I closed my hand on a fistful of notes and had intended to give that all to him.

I was smiling at him and thinking smugly to myself that would give him a nice surprise when I gave him much much more than the paltry 50 NT$ he asked for.

I was just about to withdraw my fistful of notes when inside my head, I heard his voice telling me “ I just need 50NT$”. That smile left my eyes and in shock, I froze my hand and stared with eyes wide opened at him thinking “ Have I imagined him talking to me inside my head?” As if he knew the thoughts in my mind, he smiled and spoke to me “That is correct, I ask only for 50 NT$”.

I knew I had to give him just that 50 NT$ note. Almost as if it was a ritual. I knew I could not give you that fistful of bills that I originally wanted. I knew I could not offer him 100 NT$ note and asked him to keep the change or asked for change. I withdrew my hand, checked for the newest and least grotty 50 NT$ to give to him.

Different thoughts flooded my mind then. I loved martial arts, given up only when Tinkerbell came into my life. In the combat taijichuan, there was this intense training from my Master on ‘Ting-Jing’. That was a kind of supra normal awareness of the intent of the other person that you get just by light physical contact with him. It is an advance progression of ‘tui-shou’. ‘tui-shou’ is not the rubbish pseudo wrestling that is far too commonly seen done. I was also brought up on kungfu movies with martial monks and their superhuman feats which I thought existed only in Hongkong movie studios. So many thoughts raced in my head. I wanted just to touch him to ‘sense’ him. I tried to press that 50 NT$ into his hand as an excuse to touch him. I just could not make contact with him.

Than when he handed me that little Milofor, again I tried to touch him. In no way was he moving fast or jerked his hand and himself from me. Yet I could not touch his hand although I tried to short of being rude and grapping him in my arms. I felt if I gave up all pretense of courtesy and tried to grap him, it would not work even then.

Notwithstanding Milofor figurine has Buddha in the name, Milofor is also Taoism as well. I somehow knew that monk was a Taoist monk.

I thought how wonderful and ideas came to me of visiting him at where ever he was at and if he could teach me martial arts beyond what I was doing with my incredible Taiji Masters. I was just about to voice to him as to where he lived and that I want to see him again. He hold me in his eyes and a smile on his face. And spoke to me inside my mind. I watched him just smiling and mouth closed. And clearly in my mind, he laughed and said “ Even if I tell you where I stay, you will never be able to find me”.

He then opened his mouth and told me softly I have nothing to worry about life, and to be happy.

With those words, he turned around and walked out of the door into the road and the rain.

I felt so drained. I could not run out of the restaurant after him. I thought that time to be time of space rockets, IBM ATs, BitNet (grandfather of Internet), karoke and modern science. What I had encountered was so bizarre that should not and could not have happened

The LauBan, boss proprietor and chef of the shop then spoke to me. He was a very chatty kind of man. He remarked how kind hearted I was to buy that figurine from that monk. I asked him if that monk appeared often in the village. He said he had never seen that monk in the 20++ years that he was there. That day was the first time for him. I then told him all that transpired. He listened in silence and did not know what to say other than ‘remarkable, remarkable’.

It was so strange even now to me. But I have that figurine, and a witness, that it was not a bizarre hallucination.

Milorfor from that mystic monk

I went back to Taipei, and told my friends of this incident. Of my intention of finding that monk again whether he wanted it or not. My friends came with me to visit that beef restaurant LauBan. To hear his confirmation that it happened in front of his eyes. Among them will be my good American friend, and ‘Lone Ranger’ who can verify what I related as told to them by that LauBan.

I had map of that area, and checked out all the temples within walking distance of the town. And found monks never wore black. They wore yellow or grey. On all those searches, I would have my meal at the beef restaurant using that as base and got to know that LauBan very well.

I even thought of ‘allowing’ that monk to find me since I could not find him. There were forests with lovely streams in that area. I would ride my bike on trail inside the woods with my sleeping bag, I slept a few nights in my sleeping bag alone by myself hoping he would turn up. He never did.

I was a Methodist in early life. That could not be helped. I was a captive audience doing my early studies in a Methodist missionary school. I then became a Roman Catholic, partly because my first wife arm twisted me and partly because their rituals fascinated me. I then became a Buddhist, initiated by a Reincarnated Lama of the Yellow Hat.

I am now a Taoist, a simple Taoist. The meeting of that monk was that turning point. He never said he was a Taoist or even tried to convert me. For those who wondered just what is Taoism, Taoism is the Zen in Zen Buddism.

Taiwan , especially in the early 1990s , was such an incredibly beautiful country with natural beauty that I tend to travel with my sleeping bag strapped to my little motorbike. There were no super highways then and roads were largely rustic charming roads considered dangerous to standards now with multi lanes highways. I had little fear of the dark or being alone. Beautiful places were more likely than not to be far from hotels or hostels. If I could find a place under rock overhang or sheltered in some way , I just pull out my sleeping bag and sleep there. I spend quite a few evenings this way in the old Taroko Gorge in just my sleeping bag and no bivouac bag thinking that’s for wimps. Having no bivi bag can be nice too. Once I was in Kenting , Oluanpi, at the big field on top of the cliff next to the radar station with huge geodesic dome sleeping under the stars in my sleeping bag. 3 girls camped next to me in their little tent. Weather changed suddenly and a storm hit there. They took pity on me and invited me to sleep with them in their tent. That was rather nice.

For such a beautiful country, trash was unfortunately plentiful. Beer cans, drink cans could be gathered about everywhere. So what I would do was to get about a dozen empty cans. I pull the gasoline tube from my motorbike gas tank and filled each of those cans 2/3 full. Wicks of tissue paper were stuffed into the cans. I would light 2-3 cans at a time to give me enough light to read by. As and when each can ran out of gas, another can be lighted up. They remain lighted even in fairly strong wind. The flickering about gave them a charm that I liked.

In March 1992, I was riding on the fabulous coastal road that linked Suao to Hualien on the Eastern Coast. This road climbed periodically from sea level to 400++ meters hugging the side of the mountains that plunged down to the Pacific ocean.

I turned the corner of a road to find I was at a corner of the mountain which looked down to the Pacific Ocean far down below. There was a little clearing between the road and the edge of the cliff with a little roadside temple and a pavilion. It was dusk already with just that bit of light. It was so beautiful . I could not just ride on by to the hostel I planned to stay in the hamlet below where the mountain road turned into a coastal bay. I just wanted to sleep there in that beautiful surrounding. The pavilion would shelter me in case of rain. I had mosquito coils to keep mosquitoes away. I had a biantan (Japanese bento) or package meal I bought earlier. I scrounged and found that dozen empty beer/drink cans in the trashcan that became my dozen lamps.

I looked at the ocean below until the light faded. I lit two of my lamps, had my dinner and read for a while. I felt how wonderful life was for me in beautiful Taiwan. As the wick sputtered to tell me the gas was running out, more lamps were lit. In such travels, I would normally sleep early at about 10 pm and it was not time yet. I read (could not recall which book it was) listening to the noise of the insects and sounds of the night with the distant sound of the waves far below.

I then noticed the sound of the insects faded away with all other sounds. I wondered that was very strange. I put my book down and sat up looking around. I felt the night itself stopped breathing. It was totally silent. The light of the two lamps gave only a small area of flickering light near them. I felt clearly the presence of two or more entities, just outside the cone of light given by my flickering lights. I have had this kind of feeling of presence of entities before. I had not paid them much attention as that was fleeting and they went away. But it was so different this time with malignant feelings from them. As if I was an unwanted trespasser in that place. And that they were getting closer and closer to me.

I quickly added another two more lamps to get more light. I was close to panic when I recalled that little Milofor. I hurriedly got it out of the bag and into my hand. And immediately felt calm and tranquillity back into my heart. I felt the presence of that monk. And the voice of that monk spoke inside my head. “You must leave this place now”.

I lit all the lamps. I packed up everything as quickly as I could. Jumped on my bike and kick start it and rode like the devil was after me down that road and into the hamlet to spend the rest of the night in the hostel there.

Later on, I found the figurine was not necessary Buddhist even if the name contained ‘For’ meaning Buddha. Milofor is Taoistic or Buddhistic as you wish. He will be found in Buddhist and Taoist temples in Taiwan and all over the world.

I did not think that figurine had special powers, other than the link when I met that monk and literally given to me under the guise of being sold to me.

By holding that figurine, that must have focused my thoughts on that monk. And somehow, somewhere, somewhat, I gotten the strength to snap out of that panic and moved out. Or somehow, somewhere, somewhat, that presence of monk came and got me out.

I don’t know and never will know.

Since that time, I passed by this little roadside temple a few times during that first assignment in Taiwan. That could not be helped. This was on the road from Taipei to Taroko Gorge, a place that saw me so many times until early 1995 when I was transferred to Canton to do that Mass Rapid Transit system there. But I did not stop there again even in bright daylight.

From time to time, I flew back to Taiwan because I love Taiwan and have friends there and hoped to work there again. In those trips, I would go to RayFang and meet that LauBan again because I love his beef restaurant, his fried beef noodles, beef soup and strange parts of beef he served. And because I met the monk under his eyes. His old shop was gone and torn down as part of urban renewal and he had a stall in the hawker center on the bank of river and directly in front of Ray Fang railway station. On one of those times, I was there and talking of that strange monk. I reflected aloud “ It was so strange that he wore black”. To my shock, LauBan immediately took exception to what I said. “What do you mean! That monk was wearing yellow!”

I looked at him and saw the conviction in his eyes. I recalled all my friends spoke to him and confirmed by him was the monk coming into the shop to talk with me and selling me that figurine, They never asked, and he never said, that monk was wearing all black. To me clearly on that day, that monk was wearing all black especially contrasting on the alabaster whiteness of his skin.

I decided I will not make an issue with LauBan. It was so strange anyway. What did it matter if in LauBan eyes, that monk wore yellow. For those reading, do not make an issue of it with me either.
I am as clueless as you are. All this should not have happened and could not have happened in the first place anyway.

In 2001, I was invited back to work on the High Speed Rail of Taiwan. An assignment that came to me out of the blue making me ecstatic to be back in Taiwan again. And where Tinkerbell entered into my life and yours, together with Zorro my ferret and Halftail the Bimbo.

One day in 2002, my wife saw a notice on excursion to Hualien organised by our neighbourhood community of MingSheng TseChee to watch dolphins and whales if so lucky as well as other places of interest on the East coast. We went on that trip. I made a mention of that trip here 'Some thoughts on Clicker Training'


Some thoughts on Clicker Training

(The photo folders below are part of this letter)

Taiwan - Ghost Festival and whales watching


Taiwan - 2500 years old Confucious Festival


It was a huge tour bus that we all got up on in Taipei. This would take the beautiful winding road from Suao to Hualien. I drove on that road, or ride on that road many times. If you were driving, you could only see the scenery from the corner of the eyes as you needed to focus to ensure you remained on the road and not over the side of the road. But with the bus driver driving, and big windows of the bus, I knew we were going to enjoy this scenic ride. The bus was not full. My wife and I decided to sit apart to be at window edge to take photos. With digital cameras, you can just shoot on and on. On the ride to Hualien, we had to pass that little roadside temple. With the passing of years, the earlier paranoia I had of that place faded. Beside that, it was in the day time. The surrounding of that place was still beautiful. From the moving bus, I took a few photos of that place.

Eventually we got home. The photos were downloaded into the PC to be enjoyed. The photos turned out very well. Even photos taken from the moving bus. Until I came to those taken of that little roadside temple. I felt it strange the photos were so fuzzy and some totally whiteout. But photos taken shortly after that place were ok. I remarked that to my wife.

She turned to me in surprise and asked me to look at her photos that she took of the trip when she sat a couple seats from me. She knew of the saga I have had with a temple. There were so many temples alongside of the road. She had not known that was this particular temple. As I said before, that location of the little temple was beautiful. It was because of its natural beauty that she tried to take photos of that temple as well. I flipped down her photos. Her photos were clear and sharp. Until to those shot of the temple. They were as fuzzy or blank as those taken by me. And after that, the photos were clear and sharp again.

I did not know what to think. Two different cameras, which seemed to fail at the same place and same time. The photos that were taken by me and ok were uploaded into

Taiwan - Ghost Festival and whales watching

Below are some of the photos taken on that beautiful coastal road that hugged the mountains between Suao and Hualien on that trip.

shot on that bus on that particular trip



traffic stopped to clear rockfalls on the road (caused by one of the daily earthquakes that hit Taiwan)

my wife & girlfriend, before, then and now.

I brooded over that for a few weeks. I decided to hire a car to drive to Taroko as an excuse. The main reason was to drive to that temple. To make sure no camera shake could be the cause of bad photos, I bought a sturdy tripod as well. This was at the early stage of Tinkerbell, and we had not quite thought of taking her with us the way we took her everywhere we went later on.

We drove there and parked the car by the side of the road. The tripod was set up and camera fixed. I shot and shot and shot. I took in the surrounding, and went into the little temple to shoot. I found it interesting that there were no deities in the temple. A big black rock was in the place of honor. There were no name above this temple as was usually the case.

We got back home after that trip. Eventually the photos in my camera were downloaded into the PC. To my delight, the photos turned out well. Even the shots taken outside or inside the little temple. I flipped through the photos one by one reliving that time when I took them. I felt stupid of my earlier paranoia. The shots were clear and sharp. I was satisfied and cleared the photos from the flash card of my camera. I felt stupid thinking of my earlier paranoia.

My wife was also taking photos with her hand held camera. I called to her from my PC room telling her my shots were ok. She told me her shots turned out well too. Not only that, she uploaded those shots into the Internet into a folder specially for them just that morning

I asked her to come over and look at what I had taken. I clicked on that folder and my PC went zzzip giving me a blank screen. I had this queasy feeling inside as that never occurred before. I hit Ctrl Alt Del to reboot and nothing happened. I turned off the power to the PC and waited a few minutes and then powered up again. The screen remained blank. I took that PC to the computer shop for urgent repair. To be told later that my C hard disk crashed. With all the photos of that trip. And the early photos of Tinkerbell, and photos of my trips to strange places in China and elsewhere. The diaries I had kept there were all gone. Only fragments and pieces and those I uploaded earlier into the Internet remained.

They replaced that hard disk and operating system and gave me the failed hard disk. But all my other precious photos and diaries were gone. I could have cried. I tried to recover that failed hard disk. The software were not sophisticated enough and I brought it to specialist. Who quoted an arm and leg to be paid up first and with no guarantee of success. Yes! We all know that should be backed up. I kept putting that off month after month to year after year. After all, it always worked well before.

I asked my wife what about her photos that she took. She told me she wiped them off once she uploaded into the Internet. I thought that was small consolation for the massive loss of my photos and other data but were at least something. She then logged on, and turned in shock to me. That particular folder she created for those photos were corrupted and she could not get into that to view or download the photos of that temple.

Her news stupefied me and I stood in silence beside her as she tried to get to her folder.

To have this happening again was more than I could bear. Perhaps it was a coincidence my hard disk decided to be wonky and die on me. To have this repeated in an Internet folder created by my wife send chills up and down my spine. I asked how about that in her PC. She told me her hard disk died. She also told me her hard disk died many times before.

She then said she did a backup on CD. She popped that CD into the drive. That CD was ok, except for that particular folder.

You now understand why I took so long to write how my hard disk died.

My mind could not take it. I was speechless for a long time.

I took care not to pass that temple again. That was easy as I was transferred to Chiayi. Going to Taroko meant a totally different route from the route between Taipei and Hualien.

I had talked of this strange series of incidents with my good friends of Chiayi and we had spoke of making a trip there. But that was not serious. And in truth, I do not wish to see or even pass by that place again if I could help it.

There are some things that is best left alone.

I still have that hard disk in Singapore hoping one day I get all those data back.

That little Milofor is still with me and will always be with me.




Perhaps one day, that monk will appear in front of me and ask me to join him.

I will do so. And if so, I probably would not have the time to let you all know.

edited and added on 9 Mar 2014

a similar kind of camera malfunction of an event on mid 1990s that I wrote in
Taiping thoughts //Camera malfunction at NanHwaShi//Combat Taijichuan -some notes

edited and added on 30 May 2015
Recording the loss of the Milofor

Perhaps it might be a telling of me to let go.

Those who read above would have known that Immortal I met gave me a momento of a 1991
That was always with me. kept in my backpack which you have seen in almost all my blogs.

Then in Oct 2014 , I was in Nepal Khatmandu. I stayed there a while to enjoy that city after an absence of 30 years or so. That was also about the time of the Dashain, a festival that celebrate the victory of good over evil. So naturally I stayed on for that delaying my going to Pokhara and going on the Annapunna trek. The 8th day of Dashain , Maha Ashtami: Wednesday, 21-10-2015 , was a big day that involved in the beheading of countless buffalos and goats. I was at that 30 years ago. In the days when cameras are loaded with rolls of 36 shots and this time I had electronic camera loaded with countless shots.

I was in the Khatmandu Durbar Square and on top platform of one of the pavilions.
My money and passport was in body belt and pouch hang on my neck. My backpack had nothing of value compared to what I that I had safely on my body. That backpack still had about 3-400USD I considered as loose change of SGD and Malaysian Ringgits, and tele photo lense of my Olympus.

I left the backpack on the ground next to my leg as I sat on the step. A commotion came and the Kumari, the living Goddess of Nepal was walking. Since she was a Goddess and her feet must not touch the ground. So they were placing rolls of silk on the ground and a huge crowd was around her.

Even on top of the platform, I could barely see her. I stood up to try to get some shots of her. It was only a couple of seconds. And in that couple of seconds my bag was gone.

I cared little for the money left in the bag or the telephoto lens. My priceless Milofor was in that bag.

Maybe thrown away after they strip it of money, tele lens and my Buck folding knife.

I made offer of 1000 USD for the return via the friendly staff of the place in stayed in (Secret Garden). I was actually prepared to pay more, 5 times more.

I have to accept eventually that I never will see that Milofor again. Maybe that was for the good. Maybe I should not remain attach to anything or object.

And anyway, that Milofor , with that Immortal, remain forever with me in my heart.



Below is what I do with birdies and beasties.
Underlaid by a deep relationship between me and them,

Without that kind of relationship, I would not have been able to do
what you see below.

Below are some photos of Riamfada flying with Tinkerbell harness





or calling Dommie to come through tide pools to me and seeing him doing just that.





Riamfada is doing free flights as well in areas that I felt are safe enough for us to do that after a year of flights in harness and leash.



Thoughts on free flights // Riamfada last weekend with Jabris

Her freeflights were recorded here


Chile // Riamfada free flights at the edge of Rub Al Khali


Then soul searching in

Reflections on Riamfada at edge of the Empty Quarter and some rants

followed by

Free flights at Edge of Rub Al Khali Revisited

Important old letters on harness
Harness for flighted parrots – To Nick and folks

August, 2005.

‘ cargo cult'

'Ramadan & Kitties on beach// Chess -1st Saturday IM Tournament // Tinkerbell Harness for Piper '

Making of Tinkerbell Mash
Morning with Harry & the decision// Sultan of Oman Palace// Tinkerbell Mash Batch 7

(edited on 4th November 2011 to include below)

To Shanlung - How to do Free Flight Outside

If what I wrote help you and you like to help, give a thought
for the wildlife sharing our planet.
Do write that cheque to Gerald Durrell wildlife trust

I am a life member of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Do join us to do
whatever we can for the wildlife that shared our planet.
or to any wildlife conservation body of your choice


For those that through no fault of their own, or otherwise, and had to part painfully and unwillingly from their beastie or birdies, whether in the past, or the present, or in the future, I dedicate the saga of Riamfada that I had wrote , and continue to write to that final handover , to you all.


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