About MJ Klein
Former field engineer MJ Klein now lives in Taiwan, and writes articles that primarily feature photographs of travels of MJ and wife Hui-chen, plus daily goings on in the bustling island nation of Taiwan, and other places in Asia. Articles feature people, culture, food, situations and sometimes the trials and tribulations of traveling in places such as China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Laos and of course Taiwan.
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We headed to Nantou, in the county of Nantou, the second largest county in Taiwan. On the main drag, vendors line the street.
These carnivorous plants were interesting.
And so was this wasp nest. The wasps were long gone, however.
There are little private temples all over Taiwan, and this one was next to some kind of repair shop.
One vendor was selling miniature plants.
This is what we came to see – the famous Paper Dome.
What? That’s not paper!
We walked around to the rear to see the paper structure.
These columns and seats are made of paper.
But I cried “foul!” when I saw the chip-board ceiling.
The rear sides and entire back are opened up. The outer building protects the paper structure from the elements, obviously.
This is a wider view.
Behind the Paper Dome is some interesting works of art.
The dome itself is not paper, but plastic sheeting.
This sheeting gets pretty hot, so it’s cooled with spraying water.
I thought this Japanese looking bell looked interesting, so I took a shot of it right after someone rang it.
Next to the building is a lily pond.
With lots of little fish.
Speaking of fish, this heron caught a nice one in the river beside the Paper Dome.
After we had enough of the Paper Dome, we walked back to the car to head toward our next destination. Before we go there, let me just say that had I known just what the Paper Dome really was, I probably wouldn’t have gone to see it.
Stacks of Taiwan Beer crates, full of empty bottles, can only mean one thing: we’re at the TTL Brewery in Nantou.
There are huge vats basically right out in the open.
We went inside the main building and found it to be a madhouse of vendors selling all sorts of things.
I don’t know why, but flavored eggs are a big deal in Taiwan. There was no shortage of them here.
Hui-chen wanted to take a tour of the place, so we went upstairs and took a look.
This is the beginning of what turned out to be the shortest tour I’ve been on.
That’s right – a liquor urn tunnel. Don’t ask me – I have no idea.
Before we hit the tunnel, there were several examples of classic liquor urns designs from the past.
Then we entered the Liquor Urn Tunnel.
Looking back from the end.
Around the corner are some examples of ingredients used in the factory to make the various liquors and beers.
This old-fashioned liquor cart was cool.
This is the Liquor Urn Tunnel from the outside. The urns are held in place by pipes.
One last look….
“The House Of Drunk Experiencing” is supposed to give people a feeling of being drunk, by having them walk on a tilted surface. I didn’t try it to see how authentic it felt, though.
The above 2 shots are of deceptions of old style liquor urns used in the past.
HC wanted to by some wine for cooking purposes.
After the tour, we took a look at this listing of all the local spas and HC pointed out her selection for our next spa.
Photos by MJ Klein
My wife asked me to drive her to Nantou, to a famous temple, which of course, I did. Behind the bedroom of our hotel on the first night is the spa, which makes sense since this is a hot springs hotel. On the left is a cold spring control, center is cool water, and on the right is the hot spring water.
The tub on the left (bottom) is for the cold springs, and we did not use that one. The other 2 controls are for the hot spring tub on the right).
There are no screens on the windows. Not that it matters because the roof is open between the slats. This lets in the mosquitoes but it also keeps the room from becoming overly hot.
The exterior of the hotel.
This is the outdoor spa area, which we did not use.
Just in case you were wondering, yes we are in a mountain area.
Thailand, an end to a fabulous trip.
I had the morning to myself so after relaxing in my room, I went out in search of some food. Across the street, I spied this meat grilling….
And because you just can’t have too many photos of grilling meat, here is a closer view!
I’ve been to this little place across the street from the Tamarind Residences many times before.
There is no menu. You just have to look at what they have and try to communicate what you want.
The boss lady’s very cute little girl took a keen interest in what I was doing.
I tried to get her to return the “Asian Sign of Picture Taking” but I was unable to.
After exhausting my limited repertoire of Thai, the boss lady went to work preparing the food that she thinks I ordered.
First course, some delicious grilled Thai sausage.
Next up, an omelette with basil
The little girl took a seat right next to me and intently watched everything I was eating.
Kale and garlic with Thai spices, a dish that I’ve had many times and in many places, but never tire of.
This is the Khonkaen airport terminal. When traveling, I always make sure I arrive plenty of time before my departure. Once I arrived several hours early at an airport for an international flight, only to find that there was a problem with my ticket that required almost the entire block of extra time to correct! After that, I make sure I arrive early for every flight.
When I arrived, the place was deserted.
Not a soul at the gate, either.
I wasn’t kidding when I said the place was deserted. With the exception of perhaps 2 people, the entire terminal building was devoid of waiting passengers, and this was only an hour before departure time. It seems that everyone in Thailand is on “Thai Time” because the place began to fill up about 15 minutes before boarding time.
One departing shot before I put my camera away until I arrived in Bangkok.
We’ve covered the “new” airport before. It always looks interesting, like the inside of a caterpillar.
Structural details always interest me. Hope they didn’t bore you.
After snapping too many photos (but hey, it’s digital so who cares?), it was time to board.
But when I got to my seat, I found that I couldn’t fit in it because of the box that was installed in the left armrest (shown on the right in this view). All I could do was stand and wait for a flight attendant to notice me. I was moved to another seat. They put a skinny Thai girl in this seat and she had no problems.
Little things like a cup holder make your flight more enjoyable (and easier in some respects).
And…. we’re off!
Recently we joined reader Stefan and his lovely wife and daughter for a visit to Taiwan’s Green World.
The first thing that we saw were Macaw parrots. Now, who doesn’t love parrots?
At the time of our arrival, the parrot show was about to begin. We walked past some of the food vendors,
and through the gift shop, complete with a dinosaur skeleton.
The parrot show is just ahead.
We entered the show area on the side. But it was just way too loud here, so we moved to the rear center.
This being Taiwan, of course the sound was cranked up to ear-splitting levels. I was concerned about Phoenix and her sensitive baby ears. But she seemed OK with being in the rear of the auditorium.
The parrot show is basically standard stuff, but the birds are cute and quite smart.
This Blue & Gold Macaw is responding to verbal commands in Chinese.
Soon, the trainer had the parrot doing all sorts of cute things.
An all time favorite: bicycle riding on a wire.
No parrot show would be complete without parrot skating!
I found this demonstration very interesting. The old shell game, with a golf ball hidden under one of the metal cups.
The parrot found the ball right off, every time.
Of course, I have no way of knowing if the bird was really keeping track of the ball, or if the trainer places the ball in the same position every time. But I must admit that the speed at which the trainer was moving the cups around, it would be hard to keep track of the ball.
After the parrot show, we walked over to the Alpaca House.
The alpaca is a type of small camel that has been domesticated in a number of South American countries.
The keepers have been creative in grooming these animals. This one looks more like a poodle than an alpaca.
Back to the exhibits. We went into a kind of exhibition house, but I forgot the name of the place already (and I didn’t photograph the sign). But, inside there were quite a number of different interesting animals.
Not everyone likes snakes, especially big ones. These are behind glass.
I always like tortoises of any kind. There were quite a number of several varieties on hand.
If I am not mistaken, this is a horn bill. It was nice and quiet, just posing peacefully on the perch.
I told you they had quite a number of them!
This is a worst-nightmare of a snapping turtle. This guy is huge!
I was rather amazed at how calm the animals were. This bird just stood there while I took the photo.
As we headed out the door, I took one last photo in the entrance area.
When we stepped outside, the alpacas were out in the pasture grazing.
Everyone came over to take photos of them.
Phoenix thought they were interesting and they held her attention.
Green World is kind of a big loop that you walk around (or take one of the shuttles). Along the route we came to the Sky Way, which is an elevated platform for walking through the rain forest.
The above photos show the platform, which is quite high off the ground. A nice easy loop to walk, the air was cool in the forest.
Continuing on our walk around the loop….
We came to this type of garden. Notice the signs on the different plant species. Believe it or not, at the entrance to this area, was a control panel with buttons for English, Chinese and Japanese languages. You guessed it: there is an audio program that gets blasted throughout speakers placed along the walkway, talking about each species by numbered sign. At first it was interesting, but after about 10 minutes we just wished it would end.
Audio program notwithstanding, this is a very pleasant walk.
At the end there is a small pond with a trickle of a waterfall.
Going back to the beginning (this is also a loop).
These are restrooms, which follow the decor of the park.
We couldn’t go up here because we had the stroller for Phoenix. So we have something to check out next time. The ancient Hakka building sounds interesting.
Here we come to the Bird and Butterfly Ecological Parks. We went into the Butterfly park first.
Before we even went inside there were butterflies fluttering around.
If you look hard enough, you can see the fine mesh net that covers this exhibit and keeps the butterflies inside.
If you’ve ever wondered how one feeds butterflies, now you know. There are pieces of fruit placed on these shelves.
The butterfly park is a beautiful, peaceful walk.
This is one of my favorite exhibits: insects that mimic parts of plants.
There are a number of glass cases containing many species of these types of animals.
This one really does look like a leaf.
Next we went into the Bird park where we were greeted by this myna bird who welcomed us in Chinese.
Many species of birds fly around at liberty, however they are kept inside a cage much like the butterflies.
I identified this beautiful bird as a female eclectus, one of the few sexually dimorphic species of parrots.
Stefan identified this critter as a golden pheasant, and he told me they are an introduced species in Europe.
These are a type of goat that is common in the Caribbean, but thought to originate in Africa.
And these of course, are Emus.
We sit preparing for the arrival of a super typhoon called Soulik (locally called Huanina) due to hit in the next 48 hours.
This was my last full day in Thailand on this trip. I did not want to ride the motorcycle down there, rent a car or take the bus. So I decided to ride the train so I headed to Muang Phon. Before I headed out however, I rode the motorcycle down to the lake area because it had been so long since I had been there. I used to visit Khonkaen several times a year, but now it’s more like once every 2 or 3 years. This is a Chinese temple.
But inside the gate there is a heavy Thai influence of course.
We blogged on this place before. As always, it looks immaculate.
I went looking for the PP Hotel, which is where Hui-chen and I have enjoyed many an evening eating delicious food and singing karaoke. But it appears to be gone now, with this Honda dealership in it’s place. Khonkaen sure has changed a lot since 2004 when I first visited.
I wanted to eat at the Roma Hotel, another place we’ve enjoyed over the years. Lunch sounded like a good thing to me. But when I got there, the place was deserted except for me.
This is my lunch:
A delicious oyster dish
and some deep fried pork. I had an enjoyable time with the place all to myself. Years ago it would have been packed….
Since I was going to take the train and not driving, I thought it might be a good opportunity to check out the local run, Sang Som because we’ve been drinking the export version in Taiwan. I was surprised to find that the domestic version tastes a great deal better.
The outside of the liquor store. I returned my motorcycle and took a tuk-tuk to the train station, where I arrived just as the train was in the station – perfect timing.
The train was full of friendly students on their way home!
Many of these students come from far away and ride the train for more than an hour just to attend school in Khonkaen city.
This student had on the train conductor’s hat.
You can see the conductor standing in the background. This student went around checking tickets and the other students had fun with it.
I noticed at several stations that new track was being laid.
Kids just being kids.
I happened to look out the window and saw something interesting….
A solar panel farm was under construction. I cannot tell you anything about it though.
The train stopped at every little station along the way. Ban Phai is about 1/2 way between Khonkaen and my destination, Muang Phon. The train was running late but it didn’t seem to matter to anyone.
More construction along the track.
A brief shower cooled everyone down. If you view this photo large, you can see the rain.
No air conditioning in this train! The cars were quite old.
Pulling into another station.
Just as it was really getting boring….
We arrived at Muang Phon – more than 30 minutes late!
I waved goodbye to all the students.
There were only too happy to wave back. Thai people are very nice.
Muang Phon station.
I hired a tuk-tuk to take me to the Sabua Resort.
To be honest, I did not recognize much of the scenery, because it had changed so much….
Never saw this place before….
But this corner, I knew well at one time. Here we take a right and cross the train tracks.
The ride down the highway toward the resort.
Local village roads….
My driver poses for a photo after dropping me off.
Wow, I cannot believe how much this place has grown up even more than ever!
I don’t even recognize this building anymore!
No one was around so I went into the road and over to Dr. Su’s house.
The neighbors hadn’t seen me in years!
The gate was locked so I walked around through the resort.
My old wood smoker is still there, but it’s rapidly deteriorating. I really wish I had time to use it on this trip. The truth is, I will probably never get to use it again, unfortunately.
This patio is new.
And so is this building.
I don’t know what the building is, but it sure does look cool!
The old kitchen where I used to hang out and cook some late-night snack, or daytime meals. Hui-chen used to cook here too.
Finally this guy showed up. His name is “M” and he now runs the resort. After a few minutes he recognized me, commenting that I used to have a beard. I asked him to locate Aunty for me and he made some calls. He also called Dr. Su who told me that her husband Ben (Mr. Banchob) was now in Australia where Ben’s daughter was attending university, and that the Sabua Resort was now for salem since Dr. Su was building a new resort in Chiangmai. I told her that I would come visit in Chiangmai the next time we came to Thailand. Chiangmai has been on my list for a long time but I’ve never gone there (yet).
Aunty’s son Michael appeared (sorry about the focus problem).
And then Aunty arrived! Aunty used to really take care of me at the resort over the years. She’s been a part of my life for quite some time, and I must have really missed her because my eyes welled up with tears when she appeared before me. I gave her a great big hug. We took a walk around the resort.
Aunty doesn’t speak English but we’ve always been able to communicate. She showed me how much the vegetation has grown, and how different the resort looks now.
I used to stay in this room, back in the day.
There are more chickens now….
Actually I think I’ve stayed in every room in the resort over the years.
The sad part is that I didn’t have time to stay in the resort. I would have to leave shortly.
Aunty showed me the yellow blossoms on all the trees. Quite lovely.
But then, Mr. Somkhit’s driver came to pick me up, and we headed to the factory for our meeting.
I snapped this shot out of the window as we drove to the factory. Phon is rapidly growing up and has changed since I first came here since 2005.
Oh well, I could reminisce all day. Mr. Somkhit invited me to join him and his daughter for dinner at a BBQ place in Khonkaen. I went back with them to Khonkaen and we went directly to the place.
Walking to our table I took a shot of this grill. Something cooking over charcoal always gets my attention!
Mr. Somkhit orders some dishes.
Ploy asks a few questions about the menu. I just sat and waited. Mr. Somkhit has never steered me wrong before!
I liked the place a lot. No frills, just great grilled food.
For our readers who have never dined in Thailand, the baskets of cucumbers, scallions and coriander (cilantro) are standard issue for many meals. So is the ice. Also notice the sauces. In Thai cuisine, sauces are very important.
The first dishes arrive.
The florescent lights didn’t help this dish look appetizing, but it certainly was! The fresh mint on the top was perfect.
Perfectly grilled pork,
and beef. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Another deliciously spiced dish. I never get tired of Thai food!
A nice papaya salad.
This dark soup was rich and flavorful. It’s difficult for me to describe the complex flavors. The simplicity of grilled meat paired with these side dishes was perfect.
Mr. Somkhit took us in the car to another place for a famous dessert.
All these ingredients look great!
But I had no idea what we were getting….
This is it. Or at least part of it. Fresh mango over sweet rice with some crunchy stuff on the top.
This is the rest of the desert – coconut milk with salted egg and some other stuff I couldn’t put together. It certainly was unique and although I didn’t care for the salted egg, I was glad to have tried this dessert. Now, if I can only find this place again!
After that, Mr. Somkhit dropped me off at the Number 1 Bar and later I walked back to my room.
The last time I was in Khonkaen I took Michael Turton and Michael Cannon to this place to watch some girls sing karaoke.
I was too tired to go inside, so I just took advantage of the D7000′s high ISO capability to shoot some photos.
The perfect end to the day was this ladyboy who agreed to pose for a photo.
I waited for the factory boss (Mr. Somkhit) down in Phon to be free to see me. It’s Thailand and everything is on Thailand time. And so I had time to walk around. I was using a new camera, and I had some trouble framing shots that are not tilted as much as they should be. Please overlook that problem when viewing these photos!
I noticed these guys working on the maze of overhead wires so I stopped to take a few photos.
He was picking up some cables and re-arranging them in the bundle. Don’t worry though, these are all signal wires and not powerlines. Telephone, cable TV, etc.. What a mess. I’d hate to have to work on this.
As I was walking around I couldn’t help but notice how much Khonkaen has changed over the years.
For example, this is Dave’s First Choice restaurant and travel agency.
The Silver Saloon has been gone a long time. I noticed several other places that were no longer there too. It seems that the heyday of Khonkaen is over.
More walking-around shots.
As usual, lots of spare car parts.
This young man was busy doing some flower arranging.
I pulled back for a wide shot showing the gate.
This place installs aftermarket accessories.
About this time I was getting hungry and wanted to find somewhere to sit down and eat.
Those are some nice squid in the case.
This is a dim-sum restaurant, but they have other fare too.
This is my roast duck, with pink picked ginger.
and wonton soup. Everything was pretty good.
On the way back to my room I took a few shots in the general area of the Tamarind (where I was staying).
This place is right across the street from the Tamarind.
Now I forget just where this place is located (guess I need to geotag everything!), but I think it’s on the corner of the Aircon Bus Station. I’ve never eaten here but it looks interesting.
Khonkaen Nights, Revisited
Instead of making this another separate article, I decided to include it in this article because the following photos were taken on the same day, just in the evening.
Like the first article, I started off at the Number One Bar and headed to the next corner where I took a right turn.
But before I got to the corner I saw this window display that wasn’t here the last time I was in town.
The Chaipat Hotel is still there.
This little store might be new. It’s on the same side as the Chaipat.
This was disappointing: Seven’s Corner Bar is closed. Noi told me that Nigel and Gigi sold the bar to someone else and it went under in a relatively short time.
Following the same path as the original article, we head to probably the most interesting area of Khonkaen – Sir Chant Road.
This building still stands, unfinished.
We come to Sir Chant Road.
Looking to the right, we see some new places. I took a walk down this part of the road and it’s totally changed. The Supaporn Car Rental is gone now.
This shot shows the other side of this food vendor.
Continuing down the shortcut, heading to the Kosa Hotel.
Way back when, I used to take my laundry to this shop.
The Kosa Hotel with signs in Chinese.
Around the corner to the right and through a very interesting area (in my opinion).
The Kosa Steakhouse is gone (not surprisingly) and a totally new place is here now.
Further down in the same direction….
I turned around and took the same shot I took almost 4 years ago. This square is really lit up.
This is a shot looking to the left past where the Kosa Steakhouse used to be.
It looks like the same places are still here.
It was at this point I decided to check out renting a scooter because I was tired of walking. Scooters rent for a few hundred baht per day and I only needed it for that night to drive around looking at stuff.
This is looking back towards that lit-up square, so you have an idea where the rental place is. I got my scooter in a few minutes and went on my way.
This gate is still here but it looks a bit different now. We’re going through this gate and taking a left turn.
The view to the left, under the gate.
The old 60 Bar used to be here. I never went inside this place.
Allow me to quote from the 2008 article:
“At one time this was a very hopping place. In 2005 I was staying around the corner at thePP Hotel (real name!) and I hung out at the club with the red neon lights at the left. It was an entirely different place back then. Directly across the street on the corner was the 60 Bar. I spent many evenings sitting outside at the 60 Bar surrounded by hundreds of people talking and drinking. Now this once busy corner is dull and boring. It makes me wonder how/why successful, busy places go under….”
The Rad is still there.
There is still some kind of restaurant here but the sign is different than last time.
Something not shown in the 2008 article, this shot was taken 180 degrees from the previous one.
This section of road is totally different. Nothing appears to be the same as before.
The perpetual Khonkaen Night Market.
I found a little place and parked my scooter. It’s very much like the ones we have in Taiwan.
This is my dinner: baked lasagna, made by a Thai chef. It was OK.
Later, a guy with a scooter sidecar came by offering grilled dried squid, which I really like.
He said he worked on Taiwan before and knew some Chinese words. Cool.
After this walking/riding tour, I went back to the Number One Bar for awhile and then back to my room. I’m sorry if this day seemed boring but this is pretty much what I did as I was waiting for Mr. Somkhit to become available the next day. Day Seven will find me going back to Phon to the factory and then to the Sabua Resort to see what that place looked like now.
A neighborhood institution is gone in Taiwan. Xiao-hui’s Thai Style Cuisine is no more! Xiao-hui sold her restaurant to some enterprising Vietnamese ladies who have transformed the place into (yet another) Vietnamese karaoke. Xiao-hui herself has moved back to Southeast Asia, in northern Thailand.
When they bought the place, the new owners were adamant about keeping the cuisine the same, and not changing the menu. At first, they kept it identical. Xiao-hui personally trained their staff in her style of Thai cuisine. They used the upstairs rooms for karaoke rooms. Now they’ve decided to remodel the downstairs to build new karaoke rooms, due to (what I understand is) complaints from owners of the floors above.
I’m going to say it: There are already two Vietnamese karaoke places in the same number of blocks. This new place makes three. There is another karaoke place in between too, making 4 total karaoke places in 2 blocks. Do we really need another karaoke place in this neighborhood? I say no. We do however, need more good food places. Naturally I’m concerned that food will be secondary at the new place because as you can see in the photos, there isn’t much room for tables with those new karaoke rooms and the giant counter in the front. It remains to be seen.
Years ago I used the pinyin “shao-hui” for tagging photos and articles on this blog. Since studying Chinese, I’m now using “xiao-hui” as tags. I just hope it will be a place we can hang out at like the old days….