Memories are emotional. “Saudades” as the Portuguese, Brazilians and Angolans say…that lingering, sentimental emotion associated with a place, a time, a person, people, a memory, which but for the invention of a time machine, WILL NEVER BE REPLACED. That’s a globe of planet earth above, one which I found on my first day in Shinying, Taiwan.
And so to Shinying then. Call it what you will or spell it how you want. You can spell it Shin Ying, Shinying, Sinying (as the train station there displays – though is nowhere near the real name of the city in English), Sin Ying, Xinying, Xinjing and a host of others. I’m going to stick with Shinying, because that is the first way I learned how to pronounce the name of this little known city in Taiwan. The meaning in Chinese is something like “new camp”, originally it must have been a new settlement to take people out of cities like Tainan and Chiayi, now however the title of “new camp” seems itself to be an oxymoron, not really a camp and definitely not “new”, perhaps then a parallel with “New” townards the town of my birth…
In 2009, I was leaving the UK behind, with the first proper port of call being the city of Shinying. I don’t make obvious journeys on this round ball. From London’s Heathrow we swapped planes at Bangkok Airport, before arriving in Taiwan at Taoyuan International Airport. I say “we” because it was me and my travel buddy Natalja who arrived on the beautiful island with an over generous 6 month visa as there was some intent to set up camp and stay, at least if I wanted to. On arrival, my well trusted mate of almost 10 years now Millwall Neil was there to provide everything a mate could want – accommodation, comfort, directions, cultural awareness, translations, suitable bus journeys and best of all a sense of humour.
I had no idea of the impression that Shinying would leave on me, nor did I know where it was.
Shinying is so remote and unheard of, even my popular Taiwan Guidebook “The Lonely Planet” (which claimed to report on the entire island) refused even a single sentence on this city. It was just a dot on the map, the only mention of it in the book.
Perhaps that’s why it left a longer lasting impression than intended. Even the ardent of travellers don’t head here. I mean, there’s nothing to do in Shinying!
But that statement is so harsh to the brutal collectiveness of un-ventured Shinying. Take the first five letters of the name, Shiny. Indeed, this city became a shiny light, re-invented my life and re-sparked the old Jonny Blair that had been lost somewhere on Southbourne promenade on a cold winter night almost a year earlier.
I reported on Shinying live at the time when I was there, and that report will have the optimism and vibrancy of what the city is all about, but here retrospectively it’s time to give an overview of Shinying and report on my departure from the city (which I forgot to blog about before…)
I only stayed there for 13 days (and a lot of that was actually spent jumping on trains and buses leaving Shinying!) but it was my home and base in Taiwan, almost to the point where it felt like I was living there. Thanks eternally to Millwall Neil for making us feel welcome and giving us a new lease of life. And to many of Neil’s friends in the area – especially Eva Jun (or Eva Chung) who was our travel buddy for the entire 2 weeks. A top girl. What I did find in Shinying was a place to relax, feel safe and experience a real part of Asia. You could probably count on one hand the amount of foreigners that live there in a city of over 2 million…
Ocean Every Day Pub in Shinying. this tiny, local pub with the Heineken sign outside was my local pub for a couple of weeks and Neil’s local pub for a year. Warm and friendly, yet Taiwanese to the core.
Our crowd on the second Wednesday night in Shinying, including Ricky from Bangor in Northern Ireland. The co-incidences along my travels on this planet are quite phenomenal. Not only did I meet Ricky by chance in a pub called Hang Out in Tainan (a pub we only went into because of Natalja), but he also used to work in the same school as Neil AND lived in the same flat. Freaky. Our crowd then (left to right): Jonny Blair (Northern Ireland), Natalja Tsumakova (Estonia), Caparzo Leo (Taiwan), Millwall Neil Macey (England), Binh H Trinh (USA/Vietnam), Eva Jun/Chung (Taiwan), Ricky Sharpe (Northern Ireland).
Bowling in Shinying. There’s not a great deal of things to do there, but in no way were we clutching at straws. In fact the activities we did in Shinying were wide and varied, and fun.
The local post office.
The local 24 hour internet place. Across the road from Neils!
Neil’s Street, Sanmin Road.
Neil’s flat in Shinying.
Watching live internet of Czech Republic v. Northern Ireland in Shinying. in Neil’s flat- first time I watched a Northern Ireland match in Asia, and also the first time I watched one online! We drew 0-0.
Friday night barbecue in Shinying.
Swan Lake in Shinying, pictured above. I cycled there and did a fair amout of cycling in my time in Shinying – public transport doesn’t seem to be an option within the city itself, so a bike is a perfect way to explore the boundaries and gems in Shinying. Given that my Lonely Planet Book didn’t even mention Shinying, I presumed Swan Lake to be the city’s best attraction. A huge relaxing lake on the edge of the city with a swan monument and a park. After the madness of Shinying however, I found out that Shinying’s most popular touristy thing to do is visit the Sugar Refinery, I found out from this blog here: http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2011/09/old-sugar-refinery-in-sinying.html Kind of fitting into my entire travel mentality then, that the sugar refinery, or indeed its very existence passed me by…
And so as dawn broke on this sleeping city, a 5 am bus saw me leave behind the pure madness of Shinying, for this lifetime.
The bus station was opposite the city’s poshest restaurant – a McDonald’s. That in itself shows the true pureness of Shinying to me.
Natalja had left Shinying a few days earlier than me to travel up north of Taipei with some friends from the hotel she used to work in. There was time therefore for a few last nights and memories in Shinying, before I myself called it quits on this unknown settlement.
With my bus ticket ready to leave Shinying. As Neil and I left Shinying behind that day, I know for sure it was me not just leaving behind “another city”. I had memories, people and fun times there. I don’t recall a single bad moment.
My bus strolled out of the city and onto a nearby carriageway, taking with it all those fond moments and leaving a lifetime of memories behind. It had made a huge impact. It was off to see the capital city of Taipei next.
Thanks to Millwall Neil. Thanks to Shinying.
(the final picture above is “international fish and football night” we ate at the local seafood restaurant over a few beers and later watched both England and Northern Ireland international matches at Neil’s flat at 3am or something…)
A nice wee blog I found, the content of which I totally agree with, especially with regards the English translation of the city. As for being the Kansas City of Taiwan? OK then, I’m happy to go along with that (and throw in a Beatles song below…):
Transport Used – Bus, train, bicycle, taxi
Where I Stayed – Neil’s Flat, Fifth Floor of a Dentist, Sanmin Road, Shinying, Taiwan
Nationalities There – Taiwanese, Chinese, United States, English, Australian, Northern Irish, Estonian
THE BEATLES – KANSAS CITY (Shinying being Taiwan’s Kansas of course):
MY VIDEOS OF SHINYING (at least the best of them, many more on my YouTube channel):
ANIMALS IN MARKET:
SINGING SHINYING BIN LORRY:
PLAYING THE DICE GAME IN OCEAN EVERY DAY BAR, SHINYING:
LEAVING SHINYING BEHIND ON THE GREEN UBUS FOR TAIPEI: