Thursday, December 13, 2007

Taiwan photos

Cityscape from Taipei 101

Sun Moon Lake

Trees in the mist on Mt Cising

Rock formations at Yeliou, north coast

More here if you're keen:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Now that I've surpassed Tony as having the most out of date blog on the planet, I thought I should write about Cambodia. Better late that never right?

Anyway, Jess, Desiree and I started off with a night in Singapore- we arrived late and then had the next morning to look around. Highlights included continental Asia's southernmost point on Sentosa Island, the 4D movie theatre, and Singapore's general clean and green-ness. I've heard people say it's sterile, but that wasn't my impression- although I was slightly paranoid that I'd accidentally spit in public and be fined $1000...

After our morning in Singapore, we caught a flight to Phnom Penh- Cambodia's biggest city and the seat of Pol Pot's infamous regime. We checked out various palaces, the national museum, and of course the killing fields- a sobering reminder of the nation's unfortunate past. Amidst all the culture and history, however, one moment stood out:

Yes, that's right- if you think your dog is a handful, try walking your elephant. And what's more, try pooper-scoopering the resulting deposits:

As well as chasing elephants, we got to check out a rather impressive royal palace and museum,
see some traditional Cambodian puppet theatre (along with an incredible gymnastic dance quartet who reminded me of the exhibition gymnastics at the Olympics), explore some interesting markets, and consume a lot of extremely pleasing western food and drink. Good western food is as rare as hen's teeth in Taiwan, so we took the chance to indulge in some home comforts. I even had the misfortune of watching the All Blacks' dreary world cup thrashing of Scotland (our hotel room had cable...)

After Phnom Penh, we caught a bus to Camodia's 3rd largest city, Battambang. Upon disembarkment, we were set upon by a vast horde of Cambodian hotel hawkers, most of whom seemed to be working for the same hotel. Completely overwhelmed and unable to think straight, we retreated to the bus company building, where the hawkers seemingly weren't allowed. Our eventual choice was a pretty good one, and we ended up spending a couple of days being shown around Battambang and surrounds on the back of motorcycles.

My driver, Wat, was quite the go-getter- besides tour guiding, he was taking a computer course every morning at 7am, which he hoped would eventually get him a good job in Siem Reap. He also owned a house by the river (cost: $250USD), and had a wife and child ("one is enough," he informed me- referring to the wife, not the child- in a statement that probably didn't seem quite as absurd to him as it did to me)
Aside from all this, Wat was a great guide and a very funny guy- we had a lot of laughs while tripping around the countryside. It was really encouraging too to see the opportunities that do exist in an economy that was completely destroyed not so long ago.

This incident probably bears mentioning:

Our final Cambodian destination was Siem Reap- Cambodia's 2nd largest city, it acts as the gateway to the incredible Angkor Wat and too many nearly-as-impressive temples to count. However, I won't bore you with too many photos of the Angkor Wat sunrise, or the Angkor Thom sunset, or the various intricate carvings and incredible medieval architecture, as there are plenty of those around.

We spent got a day pass for the temples, which meant getting up at about 4am to ensure we got to Angkor Wat in time for the famed sunrise. Getting up that early meant we were pretty much spent, and had seen all the main temples by about 11am- but there were plenty of other things to see in Siem Reap. These included, in no particular order- going to a very moving concert by Dr Beat Richner (staged to raise awareness of children's health issues in Cambodia), exploring more markets, sitting in our hotel pool drinking excellent coconut smoothies, drinking cocktails in upmarket bars (at $3 each, amazingly cheap), and getting bitten by an angry black dog. The latter meant a trip to the doctor for rabies and tetanus shots, but it didn't put a damper on what was a pretty awesome trip.

If anyone's thinking of traveling, I'd totally recommend Cambodia- its developed enough that you don't need to step too far out of your comfort zone, yet not so much so that you can't get off the beaten track, or that you can't climb the temples. (DOC would have a field day putting up 'DANGER- DO NOT PROCEED BEYOND THIS POINT' signs if Angkor fell under their jurisdiction.) Furthermore, everything is DIRT cheap.
Following the wildlife theme of this post, I'll leave you with this: (although the beetle- which had been buzzing around the boy's head attached to a string- wasn't displaying too many signs of life by this point)

Monday, October 08, 2007


In leiu of a proper update- which I haven't had time for yet- you can check out my Cambodia photos here:

Monday, September 17, 2007

Taiwan update

Apologies for my slackness with updating this thing- I'll try and do better in future!

Anyway, here we go. Since my last post, I've had to do a fair bit of work but I've managed to get in quite a lot of exploring too. There's lots of waterfalls and forested areas right near the apartment- its surprisingly easy to get away from it all considering Taiwan packs 23 million people into an area smaller than Canterbury! One scooter trip took us through a beautiful bush-covered pass that reminded me of Motueka; to a quintessential Taiwanese village called Pingxi, which despite its tourist savvy, felt pretty authentic.

The people are extremely friendly and helpful - its not unusual to have a veritable flock of locals pooling their knowledge in an attempt to decipher our rantings when we ask one of them for help. I say we, but Jess and Des can actually communicate pretty well using basic Chinese- mine currently extends to 'thank you', 'excuse me' and a few numbers. I do intend to learn though.

We've also spent a bit of time exploring Taipei- its pretty impressive. Taipei 101- all of half a kilometre high- is still the worlds tallest completed building (the as-yet unfinished Burj Dubai has just overtaken it) and there is plenty of other architectural bling- the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is also a sight to behold.

The weather has been fairly mild so far- I am spoilt by an air-conditioned apartment- however before I came the air-conditioned temperature was hovering around 30 degrees which wouldn't have been so good!

Having said that, we are currently catching the edge of the typhoon that's threatening Shanghai- it's raining and there's strong winds- just like Wellington really. Everyone is off work though and apparently we can't go outside in case we get maimed by a falling air-conditioner!

We're heading to Cambodia (via Singapore) tomorrow for 10 days, so there's going to be another long gap between posts... but I should have plenty of interesting stories to tell by then!

Check out more photos at

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Travel update - Wollongong / Taipei

For those who weren't aware, I'm currently in Taiwan and will be travelling for the next 6 months, so this blog is going to morph into something of a travel diary- at least that's the plan. Posts should show up on facebook too for those that way inclined. Feel free to write abusive comments if I'm slack with updates...

Anyway, I left warm, sunny Christchurch on Sunday for Wollongong, where I experienced the very best of Australian weather (rain and biting cold southerlies) and hospitality (from Alana and various other New Zealanders). Good times all around. After a few days chilling out in the 'Gong, I flew out of Sydney for Taipei.

Jess met me at the airport, and I have never been so stoked to see anyone in my life! So now I'm at her and Desiree's apartment in Hsi Chih city. It's right next to a mountain with waterfalls and a great cafe with amazing views of Taipei (including Taipei 101, the recently deposed former tallest building in the world). I've already experienced an earthquake, met Tom Cruise (the apartment security guard), consumed more tofu in 2 days than the previous 25 years, and eaten who knows what on several occasions.

We also had a bizarre encounter with a stray dog who firstly insisted on walking in front of us to the waterfall (which was thoughtful of him- presumably he was checking for snakes!) but then stole Jess's camera from right beside us when we weren't looking, before dropping it a few hundred metres up the path. There's strays all over the place here, but they all look well looked after.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
When this verse was first brought to my attention, I was going through some strife. It wasn't a life changing disaster though- and my interpretation of the verse was along the lines that no matter what happens in your life, it has good as its ultimate purpose.

Recently, I've revised my thinking. Now, I'd say the verse means that no matter what happens in your life, good can come from it. That might not seem too different, but really its a fundamental shift- where before I'd say bad things are really good things that seem bad at the time, now I'd say that bad things just happen, and they're exactly that- bad; perhaps catastrophic in some cases. The message I'd take from the verse is that no matter how bad your circumstances, you can find some good in it somewhere- so take heart, and look for the good.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


When the world has fallen out from under me
I'll be found in you, still standing
When the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees
I'll be found in you

When the world has fallen out from under me
I'll be found in you, still standing
Every fear and accusation under my feet
When time and space are through
I'll be found in you

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Blue Like Jazz

Donald Miller with an insightful observation on intellectual faith struggles:

"I don't really do that anymore. Sooner or later you just figure out that there are some guys who don't believe in God and they can prove He doesn't exist, and some other guys who do believe in God and they can prove He does exist, and the argument stopped being about God a long time ago and now its about who is smarter, and honestly I don't care."

I'm about halfway through Blue Like Jazz, and I'm finding it pretty good- quite thought provoking, but his writing style irks me sometimes. All in all, its doing a reasonable job of living up to the hype...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

1 Corinthians 14:22-25

Reading 1 Corinthians a while back, I noticed what seemed to be a direct contradiction within successive verses.

1 Corinthians 14:22
Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.
1 Corinthians 14:23-25
So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"

Basically, the first one appears to be saying that tongues are for unbelievers- ie that openly 'speaking in tongues' is a good way to encourage people to become christians. The second passage, by contrast, clearly spells out that if those unfamiliar with the practice hear you speaking in tongues, they're likely to think you're nuts.

This perplexed me for a while, not least because I couldn't seem to find anyone else who'd noticed the same paradox. The only websites I could find that touched it were of the how-dare-you-insinuate-that-the-bible-contains-errors variety, and had laughable explanations- like that Paul was referring to two different types of tongues and prophecy (in the context of one paragraph, without differentiating the two)

Happily, there's a quite reasonable explanation- you just have to read the preceding verses!

Here it is again, in context:

1 Corinthians 14:20-25
20Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21In the Law it is written:

"Through men of strange tongues
and through the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people,
but even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord.

22Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. 23So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"

In verse 22, Paul is suggesting that the quoted passage (from Isaiah) could be interpreted as meaning that the 'speaking of tongues' should be used as an evangelistic tool- however, he goes on to debunk this (obviously false) assertion in verses 23-25.

Interestingly, the Greek word translated as 'tongues' in the passage from Isaiah is heteroglossos (Strong's G2084)- which literally means someone who speaks a foreign language; whereas the word translated as 'tongues' elsewhere is glossa (Strong's G1100), which means an unnaturally acquired language. So verse 21 would perhaps be more accurately translated as:
In the Law it is written: "Through men who speak foreign languages and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, listen to me," says the Lord.
Which makes it fairly obvious as to why the interpretation given in verse 22 is incorrect.

The first part of the passage states
"Brothers, stop thinking like children... in your thinking be adults."
I believe Paul's purpose in writing this passage was to encourage the Corinthian believers to exercise their brains when interpreting scripture- not to take one verse out of context and use it to justify a particular action, but to attempt to gain a holistic understanding of what message the writer was trying to convey, and how it applied to their situation.

I love this passage, partly because I think the point is a crucial one, but also because the very lesson Paul was attempting to teach the Corinthians 2 millenia ago, using the ancient writings of the time, has been taught to me through Paul's own writings. There's a nice symmetry to it...