|From: shan lung <shanlung9@y...>
Date: Wed Dec 31, 2003
Subject: Tinkerbell at Chihpeng
I am determined to write this now before the
forthcoming deluge of work sweep me back into lurkdom.
The last couple of weeks have not been good for long
letter writing. My already short time truncated even
shorter with Christmas parties, watching LOTR Return
of the King and other miscellaneous stuff that got to
be done yesterday but put off till tomorrow and
reading and planning for a too short vacation down in
New Zealand from 9 Jan.
To make it even more difficult, I shot about 500
photos that I need to select 60 for webshots prior to
any writing. That was why I did not write earlier as
I usually have the selected shots to guide me in my
normal writeup. That is part of the stuff I should
have done yesterday but got pushed mercilessly to that
perpertual tomorrow. It is a bit of a pity as the
photos are even better than that taken in the past
(courtesy of even more re-reads of the camera manual)
and the stunning beauty of Taiwan East Coast and the
South Cross Island highway which snaked itself up some
of the most rugged mountains I have been on. I remain
as ugly as before.
With the change of format of yahoo groups, I cannot
even find earlier emails addressed to me that I like
to address directly to. I am happy that some of you
readers think enough of my description of life here
with Tinkerbell that you forward to your friends in
California, Nebraska and UK. It may be possible that
my emails reached beyond mailing list into a UK parrot
magazine. If so, Tinkerbell's share of that money
will go back to help her kind be they wild or
abandoned(Don, that will include cockatoos).
All of us love our charges. Just as there are many
roads to walk on, there are many approaches to a
compromise with keeping both our charges and ourselves
happy. I always feel that those who chose to clip the
wings love their charges no less than I who decide to
let Tinkerbell fly freely at home. I write of our
trips together that perhaps one day if any of you have
changes of circumstances (eg no little kids opening
screen doors and no open pots of boiling water) and
decide to let your charge fly and to travel about
outside with your charges, you think of Tinkerbell and
take that step. Or if your charge does fly and you
think of taking him/her out to join you on harness,
you think of Tinkerbell. Or even if your charge is
clipped and you want to take him/her out wearing
harness, you think of Tinkerbell. Just remember being
clipped is no guarantee against gust of winds. And
that they are clipped means they are even less capable
of flying back to you.
I mentioned in my last letter that I was going to
Chihpeng, a hot spring near Taitung for four days from
13-16 Dec. That was our original intention, but ever
since Tink came into our lives, plans have always
subject to changes. While on the train, the nagging
doubt of taking Tink to a hotspring resort area with
the huge crowd during the weekend intimidated me
sufficiently to decide to avoid Chihpeng that weekend
altogether. I then called the car rental company I
used before, remained on the train until the next town
of Taitung where the car rental people picked me up. I
guess Tink was relieved that the train journey was
over. She was harnessed in her carrier cage but
stuffed into a huge black bag so we would not be
thrown off or threatened to be thrown off the train as
experienced in a much earlier train ride here in
Taiwan during the height of the SARS scare. Tink
remained quiet during that 4 hour train ride comforted
now and then with my fingers for her to manicure and
chew on. Outside the station and well away from any
officials, she came out onto her travelling basket
perch with her harness clipped on.
In my last trip here towards Taroko gorge, I regretted
the short time I spend on the coast that I thought we
can check out a bit more this time.
We headed up North on the coastal road to this
nondescript little provision shop on that road but
which served one of the most delicious beef noodles I
ever had. I found this place the last time on the
basis that I was hungry and this was the first place I
came to that served food. Just think of the most
delicious French onion soup and the best beef stew you
ever had and you may have an inkling of how delectable
that beef noodle was. But instead of being found in a
5 star restaurant in a major city, getting that
instead in an obscure little open air stall that
borrowed a bit of space from a little provision shop.
Tinkerbell loved the noodle slurping it down long
thick string after long thick string.
It was getting late and I was getting lazy and we
stopped and stayed at this wooden chalets off that
coastal road. As always, Tink go through her recalls
to the delight of all the others as well. She joined
us for dinner where she was religiously feed choice
pieces first with me taking her left over pieces.
The next day, we continued with our slow drive up the
coast. We came to this huge beach where I thought
perhaps we can try that fly fly fly flyabout that was
such a painful experience for me a few weeks earlier.
As we walked down the vast expense of sand, the wind
was rather light, about force 3 with gust to force 5
which I thought will be perfect for her. But as I
tried to get her to step up in preparation to place
her on a big piece of driftword for initial simple
recalls, she protested strongly and refused to step up
as if she was afraid of the beach.
I then recalled a few weeks ago, I rode my bike with
Tinkerbell to Tainan, a city just south of Chiayi, to
look at the stuff made by this knife/sword maker who
forged the swords used in the movie 'Crouching tiger,
(above URL got me interested enough to check him up
but sadly, he told me his better pieces were sold)
We passed by a very wide beach that time. The winds
at that time were blowing at force 8 with gust to 10
courtesy of a late passing typhoon. Tink readily did
her step up and attempted to fulfill her recalls to me
at very great difficulties. She could barely come to
me against the head wind over a five meters recall.
With the tail wind, she slammed at me. In cross wind,
she tried once but just could not fly to me and was
blown down and I had to retrieve her. That wind was
whipping sand up and we did not stay too long.
That must have upset her enough to dislike beaches
even in more friendly windy conditions. When we got
off the beach and onto open grass land, she was back
to her usual self chattering and scolding me and added
more holes to my suffering shirt. She readily step up
and got to various perches to do her recalls at cue.
We passed by this town called Changung. It looked
just like any small taiwanese town, people going
around in their everyday ordinary Sunday stuff.
Except you recalled my last email? that Chiayi was
shaken by this earthquake of Richter 4 which was at
6.6 at its epicenter on the other side of the massive
central mountain range?
Changung was the epicenter. The damage it suffered as
watched by me on the local TV was that drink bottles
and stuff kept on shelves tumbled down and messed up
the floors. In the light of that terrible disaster in
Iran and a short while back in California, Changung
picked itself up within hours. But then, there are so
many earthquakes in Taiwan that newspapers even have a
regular daily column telling you about the earthquakes
that struck the day before.
It will take a really big one like Sept 21 1999 where
the Richter scale of 7.6 was reached. Even then, many
buildings remained intact even at epicenter.
We even went into the large marine aquarium in
Changung. The huge tanks and everthing remained ok.
Seeing that very few people were around in such a big
enclosed area, I took off Tinkerbell's harness. She
did her recalls and she took off to do her flyabout
before answering her recall back to me. That tickled
me! We know that aviary is to fly birds, not often do
we get to fly bird in an aquarium.
I then decided to drive up the South Cross Island
highway which snaked itself up and across the main
mountain range in the center of Taiwan.
After a while, we were off the coastal road and onto
the mountain road winding itself into what was cut and
blasted out of granite and marble. I know I should
keep my eye on the road. However, it was fascinating
to watch Tinkerbell on that basket perch resting on
Joy's lap. She was looking out as if fascinated by
the powerful view. As and when the car turn to follow
the road, her body swayed from side to side to balance
the centrifugal force on her. Now and then as I had
to apply the brakes, her body dipped and did a slight
curtsey before uprighting herself.
In the past, she talked only at home with the two of
us. She must have gotten so seasoned to the
travelling that we did together that she talked to us
in the car. And screamed along when her favourite
songs (which happened to be the ones I liked too) belt
out from the car CD player.
Before it got too dark, we checked into a hotel just
before the road really start to climb. Photos are
impossible to convey the scale and the beauty and
words are even more inadequate.
Where ever we stopped, Tink gets to do her recalls.
After a warm up of 3-4 meters, I put her through 15
meters recalls. Perhaps it was from the car trip.
But at the fourth long recall, I sensed her reluctance
to step up off from my shoulder and to step up onto
the balustrade. I knew I should have gone back to 3
meters recall but I guess the devil in me sensed she
was annoyed and I wanted to see if I was correct. On
the cue from 15 meters away, she flew towards me,
lifted herself upwards and soared beyond to the end of
the line to circle me a couple of times.
Thats when a break was agreed upon and we went to our
room so she could be released from her harness. In
the past, we tend to use the attached bathroom for
her. It got to a point now she just stay with us in
the hotel room while the bathroom is used to place her
food and drink dishes.
Next morning we continued the drive upwards.
12 years ago when I was first in Taiwan as one of the
advisors on the Taipei MRT subway system, I walked
across on this route that I wanted to show my wife
The road was so difficult and with so many landslides
that you did not know if the route was through until
you got there. That time, I spoke very little Chinese
which did not make the matter better. It was only on
the fourth attempt that I found the route was through
and I could take a hike across. With the outmost
persistence and expense of energy that astonished me
now, I could get in my quota of masochistic exertions
which made me wondered at those times why did I do
such things to myself when all other sane people
relaxed and enjoy their holidays.
I walked up on the other side and walked down on this
Driving up with the car now, I relived those earlier
memories of a painful but hauntingly beautiful walk.
Then for a while, the drive became very slow as fog
and mist lowered vision to just a few meters. When it
cleared to 10 meters visibility or so, the sides of
the valley wall showed themselves covered with thick
rich green moss.
Then we broke through the cloud cover. The air was so
clear that you can see almost for ever. The sky was
so blue and the sun so bright that the it was so
We stopped at the top just before the road entered a
600m tunnel at 2600 meters. There was some traffic
control with the cars on our side waiting for the
designated time to continue through the tunnel.
Tinkerbell did her rounds of recalls. I wish I know
what go on in her mind at those times, I understand
bird vision is far superior to ours. She must have
seen the other mountain peaks stretching far away in
the distance in superb visibility. She also flew and
can know where she was in the context of that
All too soon, it was time to turn back. After all, we
were going to go to Chihpeng although the past 3 days
were spend in about anyplace but Chihpeng.
Thirteen years or so ago, I was at this hotspring
area. I thought things may have changed and memories
of where to stay may not be that reliable.
It was evening when we reached there. I recalled that
the hotels and hotspring resorts were 2-3 storey high.
The mushrooming up of 14-20 storeys of hotels drove
me to such confusion that I cop out, let myself be
taken by the first 'hotel tout' that spotted me as a
target and checked into the room that he 'sold' to me.
The next morning was much better. We checked out as
early as we could to drive further up the valley to
find the rest of the place was like before, but much
better now with well designed hotspring facilities.
Tink stayed on her basket on a big patio overlooking
the crystal clear water of the river as it flowed over
the rocks. The verdant green of the opposite slope of
the valley acted as a wonderful backdrop. If you do
get to this part of the world, just remember that you
must get past the initial concrete jungle of Chihpen
and you can get to some real gems deeper in the
valley. Dong Tai is the name of the beautiful
hotspring resort/hotel that redeemed Chihpeng in my
eyes and heart.
We then got home. And over the 4 days of Christmas
holiday here from 25-28 I took Joy and Tink to
Tsaoling to revisit my bird whisperer friend and
But let us keep that for the next email.
Let me wish everyone of you and your fids a GREAT AND
HAPPY NEW YEAR
With warmest regards
Joy - wife, Tinkerbell - CAG & surrogate daughter
earlier emails and photo links on Tink -