Friday, June 22, 2007

Penghu Snorkeling

I went snorkeling for the first (and second) time this past weekend with Jenna, in Penghu. There was a bit of a learning curve to overcome (as it turns out, seawater doesn't taste all that good, but that didn't stop me from accidentally swallowing/inhaling bits of it) but if you're swimming in the right place, you can see some truly awesome things.

Monday afternoon we went snorkeling off the island of Chipei. At first I enjoyed exploring, via snorkel, the areas of the beach where boring sandy stretches alternated with rocky bits. I soon figured out that I was much more likely to see some cool animal life in the rocky parts, and I saw huge swarms of little fish, and a few slightly larger fish (which were about as big as the biggest aquarium fish). I saw one truly large fish the size of my torso swimming a bit further out - he wasn't menacing at all, but looked like a giant version of a silver and yellow tropical fish with a somewhat comical-looking face. Swimming further out, I also saw dark shapes on the seafloor which I initially thought were resting fish, but when one of them opened up its head, I realized they were giant sea cucumbers.

The following day we went snorkeling in a beach on the main island of Penghu. We did not have high expectations because the beach is not well known for snorkeling, but once we began swimming around a rocky section, we saw some impressive stuff. Huge schools of glittering silver fish which moved in precise formation. Black sea urchins lodged into crevices in the rocks. Pufferfish swimming around nonchalantly - they didn't puff up, but I recognized them as pufferfish because I'd seen them on so many restaurant signs in Korea and Taiwan. A group of about seven or eight ominous-looking black squid, each about a foot long, just hanging there suspended - maybe they were waiting for food to swim by. If I'd disturbed them perhaps I would have been squirted with ink - I didn't test out this theory though. We found two cuttlefish, looking like chubby, globular squid, wandering slowly through the rocky underwater terrain. This was all close to shore - we didn't go wandering dangerously far out. And we never would have seen any of it if we had stayed on dry land.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Come to Taiwan: We're Not China (fortunately)

This is actual language from a Taiwan tourist brochure I found at the tourist kiosk at Taipei Station. I guess I don't disagree with any of it, but Jenna and I were both amazed it would be so blunt:

Interested in Chinese culture? Come to Taiwan. That's because
Taiwan is more "Chinese" than the mainland. No 50 years of communism, "Red
Guards," or "Cultural Revolution" here set on tearing down the old; just a
long-standing tradition of cherishing and preserving its rich cultural

A bit later, the same brochure introduces the National Palace Museum by saying "China may be a dragon, but the dragon's treasures are in Taiwan."