Issue 39: Taipei International Kite Festival

The trip to Taipei, Taiwan for the 2004 Taipei International Kite Festival was my fourth trip to Asia this year. This trip’s flight was like the other trips this year, in that they were all long, and with many connecting flights. I started my journey on Monday September 27th, driving two hours to Oklahoma City, OK, where I caught my first flight at 7:30am from Oklahoma City to Denver, Denver to San Francisco, San Francisco to Tokyo, Japan, Japan to Taipei, Taiwan. In San Francisco I met up with my Team TKO teammate, John Barresi, whom had just flown in from Portland, OR. There were a total of 5 airports and four connecting flights. We finally arrived to Taipei Tuesday night 28th Sep at 9pm, after 27 hours of traveling and airport layovers. We then met one of our other TKO teammates at the airport in Taipei, where he had just flown in from China. Chris left Austin, TX a week earlier to spend a week in China at the New Tech Kites factory in Southern China. Chris is the General Manager of New Tech Kites and had been doing some product development with Dodd Gross at the Kite factory.

After our greetings to Chris we then had a one-hour drive to the Festival’s host hotel in Wan-Li Taiwan. We arrive to Wan-Li at about midnight, and check in to the Pacific Greenbay Resort Hotel. Surprisingly enough, we weren’t really that tired! We checked into our rooms, which were very nice. The hotel had a nice platter full of sandwiches and French fries waiting for us in our rooms. What a nice welcome gesture! I wasn’t hungry so I donated my share of food to John Barresi. John is a growing boy and can easily eat 6 times a day and never gain weight! The rooms were well equipped, with a small refrigerator, and outdoor balcony. Our room faced east toward the ocean, which is always great for watching the sunrise!

Since we were all still excited about finally arriving to our host hotel and we weren’t ready to get any sleep, we decided to take a walk down to the beach, which is located directly next to the hotel. It proved too difficult to see much of the scenery on the beach at 1:00 am, so we decide to head back up to the rooms and get some much need sleep.

Wednesday Sep 29, 2004
(Indoor Demonstrations)

After a much needed night’s sleep, John and I awoke at about 7:00 am, and wandered out on our balcony to see the local scenic view. Wow, were we surprised with the beautiful coastline view, with its white sand beaches, steep mountains, and breath taking sunrise that glistened off of the Pacific Ocean! Up on the mountain directly south of us were a couple people paragliding with large JOJO Para-gliders. This was my fourth year in a row to attend the Taipei International Kite Festival, but the Pacific Greenbay Resort in Wan-Li and its local scenery is the most beautiful place I’ve seen in all my visits to Taiwan!

Later we wander down to the hotel restaurant to meet up with teammate Chris Shultz, and to discuss our schedule for the day. We finish a great breakfast and meet a few other invited kiters, then head out of the hotel to take a stroll down the beach. This was Wednesday morning and there were few people on the beach, but the scenery was spectacular! We headed back to the hotel to gather our kites and other gear for the day’s scheduled activities. We were scheduled to perform indoor stunt kite demos at Sheman Junior High School, which is a sort 20 minute drive from Wan-Li. Fortunately indoor kites are very light weight and are easy to carry! Normally we have to carry all of our gear for outdoor demos, but this day we didn’t have to bring our entire arsenal of team kites, line bags and gear, which weigh about 70 pounds per kite bag! I am the team equipment manager and the bag that I carry all of our team kites in has earned the nick name “The Body Bag”, because it is 72 inches long and 24 inches in diameter, and can easily carry 20 kites, lines, flight straps, repair parts spares, music cds, etc. It’s a real pain to carry on buses, trains, and through airports!

About 11:00 am, Andrew and another helper meet us at the hotel, and we load our indoor kites and gear into a van for our drive to Sheman J.H.S. The coastal drive to Sheman also revealed more spectacular scenic views, including a few huge wind turbines that generate electrical power for the local area. Finally we arrive at Sheman JHS and are greeted by good friend and kite flier Bell Chui, and his indoor kite team “Sprite”. Team Sprite is totally comprised of about 10 Sheman JHS students, with half being female. As we all prepared our kites for our scheduled performances to music, the gymnasium was filling with students from the school that were to watch our performances. In total there were about 200-300 students.

Up first was Team Sprite performing as a four person team with stunt kites that were designed by Bell Chui. Bell is also the coach of Team Sprite. When the team was first learning, he coached them two hours per day, everyday, for the entire first year! Bell’s excellent coaching and the students determination to perfect their indoor kite performances, was evident by their great performance this day! They executed synchronized nose to nose belly down landings – where the kites landed nose to nose, while the flier stood in a four corner square pattern. Then to our amazement, they also relaunched the kites from this position. They performed the best indoor sport kite performance we had ever seen!

Our only regret about this demo, was that we had to follow Team Sprite’s outstanding performance! Chris performed an excellent demo using two separate New Tech Kites “Air YOs”, but he amazed everyone by flying both of them at the same time! I flew a graceful dual line stunt routine, with a no hands, over the head flat spin to a catch. John was up last performing a graceful quad line routine with his Rev 1. John executed all known quad line maneuvers and tricks, and showed everyone why he is the current AKA Grand National Quad Line Champion for ballet and precision.

After we all finished our indoor performances, Team TKO, and Bell Chui decided it would be fun to teach the students how to fly the New Tech Kites Air YO. The students and everyone there got to give the Air YOs a try, and everyone really enjoyed the opportunity. Afterwards, many group photos were taken with the students and kite performers, and the school staff. We packed up our kites, said farewell to everyone, and loaded ourselves and kites into the van, and drove to Taipei City to finish out the rest of our day, to do a bit of touring.

We arrive in Taipei City and ask our helpers to drop us off at the MRT train station, so we could ride the train to Shelin Night Market, which happens to be the city’s largest and most popular night market. Our helpers were concerned that we might get lost with out them, but I assured them that I had been there before and knew my way around. So off we went walking through the MRT Transit Train station, where we bought our tickets, and then waited for the next train the Shelin Night Market. Once we boarded the MRT, it was about 5:30 pm and the train was pretty full with students and workers that were commuting back to their homes, so it was standing room only. It was about 20 minutes to our destination, so it gave us the time to discuss what we would do if we got separated and lost while at the night market. We decided that the best plan was to always stay together.

Finally we arrive at Shelin Night Market just at dusk. Shelin Night market comes alive at about 6 pm, and is crawling with ten’s of thousands of shoppers and tourists. It’s easy to get lost because the night market spans dozens of blocks in all different directions, with street and store vendors even in the side alleys. We made sure we remembered our starting point street name, just in case we got turned around and lost. The Shelin Market has a plethora of items to see, buy, or try! This was John and Chris’s first time to a Taipei Night Market, so they were amazed by the sheer number of people there. We strolled down street after street just taking in all the vendors, and the people. I had warned Chris and John about the Stinky smell of the fried fermented tofu that is cooked and sold at most of the outdoor markets, I’m not sure if they took my warning seriously until we finally walked directly downwind of a food vendor that was cooking a fresh batch of this stinky, locally popular food item. The looks on their faces after they got a good dose of the stinky smell, told me that they now believed me! The smell is like a pair of sweaty sport socks that have been hiding in a locker for a month!

After a couple hours at the night market we started looking for a restaurant where we could sit down, rest our tired feet, and try some local customary Taiwan cuisine.

We chose a place named “The Boiling Pot”. This turned out to be an excellent choice. Customers are seated at their own private tables, and in the middle of each table is a flaming barbeque pit. The wait staff brings endless platters full of thinly sliced beef, chicken, pork, squid, crabs, and we take turns cooking it all ourselves. The food beef, pork and chicken cooks very fast, so we were always eating and cooking at the same time, as we would take food off of the grill, we would replace it with fresh replacements. We figured out that it worked best if we worked in shifts or one person ended up doing all the cooking. The wait staff keeps bringing food out until you can eat no more, or until two hours has gone by, which ever comes first. If you ever get to go to Taipei City, I highly recommend you try this restaurant!

We did a bit more street shopping and finally decided it was time to waive down a taxi cab so we could ride back to our hotel in Wan-Li, because it was about 10pm by this time. Finding a taxi is no problem. Finding a taxi driver that speaks English is a giant problem! We finally find one that says he knows how to get us to our hotel, but he ends up stopping and having us call Patrick (our helper) at the hotel so he can ask Patrick for driving directions. The driver gets the directions and finally gets us to the hotel, which ended up costing us 700 NTD, which is only about $15 USD. Not bad for a 30 mile taxi ride!

We arrive at the hotel about 11:00 pm just in time for the arrival of some more invited kiters from Japan, Holland, Germany, UK, France, Malaysia, China, Australia, Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, etc… Many of these kiters I’ve met before at other kite festivals that we attended previously this year, in India, Malaysia, Singapore, and China. It’s always great to see many of our kite friends from around the world! We drink a few beers and catch up on some kite gossip, and head to our rooms for another night’s rest, because the next day is media day and demos at the festival location in White Sand Beach in Sheman Township!

Thursday Sep 30, 2004
(Media Day)

We awake to another beautiful sunrise, but the sun wouldn’t last for very long this day as a storm was forecast to blow in, and by 11:00 am this morning the skies would be completely overcast. Once again we meet at the hotel’s restaurant for breakfast and conversations with each other and other invited kite fliers. We were scheduled to depart for White Sand Beach at Sheman Township for media day. Media day is when all of the television, newspaper, and radio reporters show up, so that they can shoot footage and give interviews of the International Kite fliers. The media reports would be released over the next 2-4 days as a means for promoting the kite festival, and to attract spectators to the event.

Sheman Township is about 30 miles from Taipei City, and the city and county government provide bus transportation for Taipei City residents to travel to and from the kite festival. In all, about 125,000 spectators visit the kite festival each year because of the provided transportation to the event! Angela Wu and her staff at the Taipei County Government tourism office really do a great job of promoting the kite festival, and try to attract as many spectators to the festival as possible.

We arrive at the festival site in Sheman Township for media day, and the location is busy with workers cleaning the beach, setting up vendor tents, erecting the long row of kite flier tents for the internationally invited kite guests, bringing in porta potties (water closets), and a dozen other things that have to be completed within the next 48 hours in time for the start of the kite festival. Already the stage area above the beach is crawling with media reporters.

Robert Valkenburgh from Holland was invited partly because of his fantastic kinetic art creations that he builds once he arrives at the festival sites. Basically he creates a unique standing sculpture made of large diameter bamboo, rope, and ribbons. The finished piece of kinetic art stands about 10 meters (30 feet) tall, and takes about 1 to 2 days to build. This would prove to be a challenge for Robert on this day and in the next few days to follow, as the winds were very strong and gusty, and were expected to stay that way!

Meanwhile all of the international kiters were struggling to find kites that could be flown in such strong winds, but eventually most everyone put up something in the sky for the media to see. Chris Shultz of Team TKO was over next to the main festival building out of the direct path of the wind, demonstrating a new Toy kite by New Tech Kites, named the Air YO. John Barresi and I (Troy Gunn) decided that the stage area location was too small of an area for our TKO team to perform a dual line team demo for the media, so we decided to fly a pairs quad line routine with a pair of Revolution 1’s.

Although John and I had never actually done a quad line routine together before this event, we are both very proficient fliers, and with our experience at team flying we knew we could perform a decent enough performance for the media. We performed without any mistakes, and pulled off some very difficult quad line pairs maneuvers, including the iron cross, where one kite flies between the lines of the other kite and then the two kites lock leading edges together to form a cross. We then did a 360° rotation while locked into the iron cross! The media and spectators were very pleased with our performance and everyone, until now, thought that the routine was rehearsed. We flew to Australian Aboriginal music that fit the style of the routine perfectly!

Over the next few hours, the media continued their interviews, kiters continued to wow spectators with their hand made kites, and the festival work crews continued to prepare the location for the weekend’s upcoming kite festival.

We were starting to worry about the success of the festival because of the expected strong gusty winds and very high tides. The high tides only allowed about 30 meters of available beach area between the ocean and the bamboo fence line at the edge of the sand. Well, all we could do is pray that the strong winds and high tides would recede by the start of the festival, which would be just 36 hours away.

After the scheduled media demos and interviews were completed, we all loaded back on the buses and headed back to our hotel at the Pacific Greenbay Resort in Wan-Li. We arrived back at the hotel just in time for a great dinner and more conversations with our fellow kiters.

After dinner there were many things to do at the hotel. This hotel was divided into two 12 story buildings, and one of the buildings has a natural hot spring behind it where guests can sit in the hot spring and relax. The other building had a unique indoor/outdoor combination swimming pool, and what was really unique about the pool was the fact that they fill the pool with filtered sea-water pumped directly from the ocean. The other choices for hotel entertainment were sitting outside the hotel chatting with other kiters. This was actually the smoking area, but then turned into a popular gathering place during the week.

The other choice for entertainment was attending one of many in room drinking parties that went on every night of the week. The Japanese, Koreans, and Malaysians really know how to have drinking and karaoke parties! Honestly, I don’t think we ever got more than 4 hours sleep each night while we were there (Bombay/Drink Up)! It’s always more fun than a person should be allowed to have!

After much drinking, socializing, and even more drinking, we decided to get some shut-eye.

Friday Oct 1, 2004
(Tour Day for the Four Amigos!)

We awoke early as usual, ate breakfast, chatted with some newly arriving kite fliers, and watched a few of them wander out onto the field in front of the hotel for some early morning flying… John Barresi was out with his Shiva enjoying some of the best wind we’d have for the whole trip, and was even joined by a passing eagle who decided to soar back and forth through the sky with him for a few minutes, enjoying the breeze together.

After a spell we figured that since we had a free day to do what we wanted, that we would take a taxi ride to Taipei City to see some of the popular tourist attractions. Myself, John Barresi, Chris Shultz, and German kiter Volker Hoberg jumped in a taxi and headed to Taipei. But before departing we had the direction back to Wan-Li written down for us in Chinese. We weren’t about to take any more chances with non-English speaking taxi drivers.

Our first stop was Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. Chiang Kai-Shek was the Taiwan leader that was responsible for liberating Taiwan ROC from mainland China, back in the late 1940’s. The memorial grounds are made up of three large buildings with traditional curved roofs, with hand carved sculptures also on the roofs. The main building contains a huge bronze statue of Chiang Kai-Shek, and is guarded by Taiwan Military. We arrived just in time to watch the Taiwan army, marching in straight lines. They were practicing for an upcoming event that would take place there. Unfortunately the twin buildings that contain the history of Chiang Kai-Shek were closed when we were there, so we didn’t get to tour them. After we had seen all there was to see there, we decided to move on to our next tour destination.

Next stop on the list was the Main MRT train station and business hub for Taipei. According to our tourist map, it would be a short walk. Either the maps are wrong or we’re just stupid, but the short walk turned into a 2 mile journey. On the plus side, walking gave us the chance to see more of how people live in Taiwan. We arrive at the Main Station MRT and there are thousands of people walking every which way, going about their daily business. One thing we noticed during our walks is that Taiwan likes convenience stores. There were 7-11’s or Circle K’s on every corner! (notice two 7-11’s in the picture above) We spotted a Starbucks, and decided that we need some caffeine, so we went in and each of us bought a frozen Mocha Frappuccino drink. We went back outside to drink them, and to watch the pretty women walking around everywhere. Warning!!! Never drink frozen Frapps too fast, or you’ll have the worst ice cream style headache of your life! I found this out the hard way!

We were going to take the MRT train to our next tour stop, but decided to take another taxi. We did walk underground at the MRT for a few minutes before we changed our minds about taking the train, and it was just long enough for John to get yelled at by an older Chinese woman, because he was taking her picture, and she didn’t like it one bit! She yelled at him to behave! LOL

Next stop was Longshan Temple. We arrived at the Temple after a short 10 minute taxi ride. This temple is listed as the number one visited temple in Taipei, and we soon found out why! The temple featured the traditional Asian curved roof, but also had hand carved pillars and ornamental sculptures everywhere. It was amazing in its architecture! We took several photos of this magnificent temple and watched as people came to pray, light incense, and toss the moon shaped wishing stones. We then stepped outside and looked at our handy tourist map to see where we would go next.

Our next journey would take us on a 1 mile walk to the infamous Snake Alley Night Market! Three years ago the kiters were brought to a night market that was famous for snakes and pick pockets, and at that time, we were told that that night market was Snake Alley. When we arrived at this night market area, I swore that this couldn’t be Snake Alley, because I had been to what I thought was the real Snake Alley three years ago, and this wasn’t the same place. So, we asked 5-6 different people where Snake Alley was, and they all pointed us back to the one we walked to. Needless to say, the festival helpers gave us the wrong information three years ago about the night market they thought was Snake Alley. My Amigos were starting to think I was crazy when I kept insisting that the place we were at wasn’t Snake Alley. They were right! It’s just as well, because it was only 1:00 pm and Snake Alley wouldn’t open for another 5 hours. It its heyday, Snake Alley was pretty much a red light district where anything and everything could be bought, including prostitutes, real snake meat, etc… Snake handling shows and snake fighting used to be a main attraction to this night market, and still are to a certain extent as long as they don’t violate animal cruelty laws.

Anyway, we decided to find an internet cafe/kiosk, so that John Barresi and Chris Shultz could check their e-mail. After a mile or so of more walking, we located an internet kiosk. While John and Chris were getting their e-mail fix, Volker and I strolled around the block and after about 30 minutes, the boys were done writing home, and we were ready to move on to our next tourist stop.

Next stop would be Confucius Temple, and the map showed that it was about 4 miles away. After a little discussion, we decided to walk the distance. After an hour and a half walk and many stops to look for a certain brand of candy that John was craving, we finally arrived at Confucius Temple. The walk must have been 8-9 miles, but was interesting; because of all the open-front stores and other businesses that we got to see along the way. Although this temple wasn’t as spectacular to look at as the Longshan Temple, Confucius Temple was unique in its own way, because of it’s history and spiritual origin. The temple is filled with hundreds of tablets that show the philosophical beliefs of Confucius. I could have sworn that one of the tablets read “Man who believe tourist map, will soon have tired feet”! We take more pictures and plan our next tour destination.

Next stop, a taxi ride back to Snake Alley to try and find some snake or food to eat… The taxi ride took about 12 minutes to get back to Snake Alley where we had just walked from. We arrive back to Snake Alley, but arrive an hour too early for any food to buy. Heck, we were getting so hungry that we would have eaten snake. After a short Amigo meeting and after referring to our idiot-proof tourist map, it looked as if our best choice for food and beer would be the Main Station MRT area and the YMCA Restaurant hotel. I had stayed at that hotel a couple years earlier. The map, once again showed that it was no more than 3-4 miles walk from where we were. And besides, we could visually see the tallest building in Taiwan, which was only a block from the YMCA. So off we went again.

Do you know how depth perception is a very tricky thing? It makes it hard to judge the size of an object (tall building) with regards to how far it is away. Well that tall building that looked like it was only 3-4 miles away, ended up being another 6-7 miles away, and we ended up walking another hour before we reached the YMCA restaurant. By the time we got there, we decided to only drink a beer and order some French fries. And besides, if we hurried with our beer and fries, we could easily wave down a taxi to take us back to Wan-Li, so we could eat free dinner at the hotel.

We finished our beer and fries, waved down a taxi, and arrived to our hotel just in time for dinner! What a long day it had been for these four stupid Amigos!

Hey, where you going? I’m not done with my story yet!

Tonight would also be the night that our other TKO Team member, Jerry Hershey, would be arriving from Wichita, Kansas USA, so although we were a bit tired, we decided to wait up for Jerry. And besides, there were more in-room beer drinking parties to attend in the Japanese or Korean’s rooms. And drink we did (Bombay)!

Jerry finally arrived shortly after midnight. While we were ready to get some sleep, Jerry was wound up from his long trip and wanted to visit and drink beer before going to bed, so we obliged him for a while. We knew that we had to get at least 4 hours of sleep because we were scheduled for an early 8:30 am departure to the kite festival, and since Jerry had just arrived, we would need extra time in the morning to do some team stick practice to prepare for the festival sport kite demos.

Finally we get to bed at 3:00 am!

Saturday & Sunday Oct 2-3 2004
(Official Festival Days)

John Barresi and I awoke on Saturday to find one of the most awesome views that either of us had seen in a while! It was mostly cloudy, but out over the ocean about 3-4 miles was a very small island and a huge cargo ship. What was awesome about this morning’s view was that there was a hole in the dense cloud cover that allowed a brilliant beam of sunlight to shine down, directly over the cargo ship, and eventually over the small island. It looked as if it was a beam of light from heaven, or maybe a UFO tractor beam that was sucking the ship and island into its cargo hole! It only lasted for 5-10 minutes and then it was gone. It was definitely a site we won’t soon forget!

Today was the first day of the Taipei International Kite Festival, so we had to gather all of our kites, gear, music, and rain gear, and be ready to leave on the buses by 8:30am. Three buses were used to transport the 125 plus kite fliers from Wan-Li to White Sand Beach in Sheman Township, where the festival would take place for the next two days.

We were all a bit worried about the today’s kite flying festival conditions, because the winds were blowing 20-30 mph and the skies were overcast with some light sprinkles. We arrive at the kite festival location and unload all of our kites, etc… Off the buses, and then walk a couple hundred meters to the main stage area, which sits at the top of the stairs, about 30 meters above the beach. The first thing we noticed was the Kinetic art structure that Holland’s Robert Valkenburgh had spent two days building, had been blown over by the strong winds and was partially broken. Not to worry though, Robert is a pro and had it reconstructed within a few hours that day.

The next bad thing we noticed was that the strong winds had blown over and destroyed the long tent line on the beach that was to be used as shelters for all the International kite fliers. This meant that there would be no shelter from the weather in case it rains. Speaking of rain, it did rain for 15 or 20 minutes, early in the day, but only for a brief time.

The official opening ceremonies took place on the main festival stage area. The ceremony started with a wonderful drum performance by a team of young school aged girls. Also during the opening ceremony, key speakers such as the mayor of Sheman Township, the Taipei County Governor, and Festival Coordinator Angela Wu all made speeches formally announcing the official opening of the Taipei County International Kite Festival. Sponsor of the festival were also thanked, and those that were in attendance were brought on stage, including Mr. Michael Lin of New Tech Kites.

The invited International Kitefliers were announced one by one, and were thanked for their participation. Groups of International kiters stood in groups behind signs that displayed their country’s name. Balloons were launched, and the Taipei County Governor walks down row of kiters, shaking hands with many of the kiters. He then launched and flew a train of kites that had each participating countries logo on each kite. The opening ceremonies were attended by thousands of appreciative spectators and tourist!

The kite building workshops, seminars, and sport kite demonstrations were all scheduled according to time, and each kiter had to be ready to perform at the scheduled times.

With an incredible number of spectators in attendance, fliers were inspired to overcome the challenges and entertain their impressive audience… Announcers took their time in introducing each performer in Chinese over the PA system.

In addition to the workshop, seminars, and sport kite demonstration participants, there were many other kiters that brought a flew their fantastic hand made kites, from Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Korea, China, Australia, Japan, Thailand, UK, Australia, India, France, Germany, Holland, and Taiwan ROC.

Workshop instructors were represented by a variety of professional kite builders from a variety of countries, including: Glenn Davidson (USA), Mr. Yen Den-Quei, Mr. Wang Cheng-Fa, and Mr. Su Tien-Fu (Taiwan), Mr. Ohashi Eiji and Mr. Masaki Modegi (Japan), Ms. Janet Mayer (Australia), Mr. Otto Vossen and Mr. Robert Valkenburgh (Holland), Mr. Syed Nazim Ali (India), Jean-Paul Richon (France). All the workshops and cultural seminars were held in the large festival building or directly outside under a couple canopy tents.

Unfortunately for the single line kite fliers, the wind was too strong for many of their large kites or paper fighter kites, and the beach was very small because of high tides, so it didn’t allow them very much room to set up or fly large kites. Many single line kiters choose to fly in the small grass area next to the festival stage and building. Volker Hoberg of Germany was one of the only ones brave enough to attempt to fly any large inflatable kites in the strong winds and small beach area. During the two days of the festival Volker Hoberg was successful in launching a large figure inflatable kite that was designed after the Sesame Street character (Super Grover). It was huge!

Jean-Paul Ricon and his wife assembled flower kites that are attached to 4m stakes and inserted into the ground. They placed dozens of these all around the stage area. They call it their wind garden, and it really added color to the festival!

Another group launched kite with a radio controlled camera attached up the flying line and just below the kite, and they were taking kite aerial photos (KAP) all weekend. This allows a bird’s/kite’s view of the festival and the spectators.

The sport kiters were challenged to perform their demos under some of the most extreme conditions any of them had ever seen or done. With the strong winds, small beach, and bamboo fence that bordered the demo area on the beach, it meant that kite fliers would be forced to do one of two things: 1. Fly their kite demos on very short lines. 2. Or stand in waist deep ocean water, while also flying their choreographed sport kite routines over a bamboo fence that stuck up 30 feet higher than where the kiter would be standing, because of the sloped angle of the beach.  Chris Shultz even went so far as to fly his stack of Mirages in and out of the curl of the waves as they came in, utilizing the ocean as part of his performance!

In all, there were only a few kite collisions with the bamboo fence line, and most everyone opted to get wet, by standing in the water and waves. All of the sport kite performances were outstanding and were done according to schedule. Mr. Bell Chui did an excellent job handling most of the announcing duties. Bell his many helpers managed to keep the sport kite demos on schedule, despite the challenging conditions!

Sport Kite performances were given by:

Team TKO
Troy Gunn
John Barresi
Chris Shultz
Jerry Hershey
Dodd Gross

Team Lung Ta
Marion Hurel
Thierry Helaine
Mathiew Mayet
Gregory Raines

Stephen Hoath


Windy Magic
Team Feng-Shen
Team Feng-Suo
Mr. Lin
Feng Yuan

Saturday night featured an indoor banquet at the hotel, with the usual impressive variety of flavors and culinary delights. Part way through, we were treated to some performances by local dancers… One of the great facets of any international kite festival outside the USA!

Each of the two days, the festival also featured about 100,000 spectators each day, dozens of food, kite, and gift vendor booths, indoor kite exhibits, and live musical performances by various local musicians. There were also some great paved hiking trails that ran along the beach cliff side. A few times during the festival we managed to break away and hike up the trails to the top of the cliffs, and were able to see a great bird’s eye view of the kite festival from a few hundred meters away.

The only major difference between weather on day one and day two of the festival was the second day (Sunday) the winds were a tad bit lighter, and half way through the day the sun burned off most of the clouds. This brought out even more spectators!

Sunday’s events were brought to a close by teams NIJI and Windy Magic from Japan, who combined forces to fly as a ten member team flying 6-stacks, each in the colors from 10 different international flags… What a mind-blowing show! My hats off to all the members who took part in the performance, it was truly awe inspiring.

The festival helpers were everywhere, and were always eager to help the different kite fliers they were assigned to. Our helpers were Patrick, Elvis, and Andrew. All three helped us beyond the call of duty, and were always there for us! I want to take this time to personally thank them and Angela Wu for making our visit so wonderful!

We left the festival after the first day and rode the buses back to the hotel. Once there, everyone cleaned up and ate a wonderful dinner. Then the socializing and drinking parties began, again! Mr. Lee of Malaysia always seems to have a smile on his face, and is a joy to have at any kite festival, and besides that, he always has some of the best hotel room drinking parties, which most of us attended every night!

Well once again, it’s time to get 3-4 hours of sleep and do it all over again tomorrow. Tomorrow night (Sunday) would be the closing ceremonies and awards banquet.

Sunday Evening Oct 3, 2004
(The Awards Banquet)

After everyone had returned to the Pacific Greenbay Resort Hotel from the second and final day of the kite festival, everyone cleaned up, and headed outside to where the Awards banquet was just getting under way. It was a mild evening with temps in the upper 60’s F, but it was still overcast. The hotel had prepared a wonderful feast for everyone’s enjoyment. Everyone claimed a table, and headed for the food. There was a variety of traditional Taiwan dishes, and enough to feed a small country! I’ve never seen anyone that could eat as much as John Barresi and never gain any weight. John went back 5 or six times! He must certainly have been a cow in his former life, and retained his four stomachs. *wink*

After everyone had finished their meal, the Festival organizers Angela and Jonathan Wu, began making appreciation speeches over the PA System. One of the main helpers “Elvis” interpreted in English, and another helper, who I can’t recall her name, did the Japanese interpretations. Angela and Jonathan thanked all of the invited kite fliers for their wonderful kite flying performances and workshops that took place during the festival. In appreciation to the kite fliers, nice awards and/or prizes were given to each kite flier from all the 14 countries that were represented at this festival.

Afterwards I was asked by Mr. Lee of Singapore if I would mind going up to the microphone and saying thank you / Shay Shay, on behalf of all of the invited International Kite Fliers. I was happy to volunteer to go the microphone and thank those that made the kite festival possible! And once again I want to thank, Angela and Jonathan Wu, Elvis, Patrick, Andrew, Bell Chui, all the other helpers, the hotel staff, the generous sponsors, and the Taipei County Government for making the festival possible, and enjoyable for everyone! Nehow May!

After the awards and gratitude speeches, it started pouring down rain, and everyone headed into the hotel. People scattered quickly to various parts of the hotel. Little did we know, that about the time it started raining, there was a band scheduled to play for everyone’s enjoyment. The rain stopped after 15 minutes, and the bad moved indoors to one of the indoor banquet rooms.

It wasn’t long before word spread thru the hotel to all the kiters that the party wasn’t over, and the real fun was just getting started! It took about 30 minutes for the band to get set up indoors, but it was well worth the wait! They were a three-piece band comprised of two males and one beautiful female singer. They played a variety of their own music, and the female lead vocalist really mesmerized the crowd with her dance style movements. In between songs they also entertained us with magic shows, and dancers. It was all quite fun, especially when they started giving out quart size bottles of beer!

After an hour the band finished their performances and the official party was over. I say official party, because afterwards most kiters headed back across the street to the main hotel building and went room party jumping. There were at least 3 parties going on. the Japanese had a party. The Koreans had a party, and another party was going on that included Mr. Lee!

The partying went on until the wee hours of the morning, but eventually we all went to bed and got some sleep. What a great day!

Monday Oct 4, 2004
(Official Tour Day)

This would be our last full day in Taiwan and today’s schedule was the traditional kite flier’s scenic tour.

We all loaded onto the buses and went along for the ride, because on tour days like this, the event coordinators never really tell us where we’re going. Our first stop was up a long twisting road to the top of a Na-Tan volcano scenic area. The ride up supplied us with some spectacular views as the bus gradually climbed up the mountain. Once we reached the peak we pulled into a tourist parking area next to Na-Tan Volcano crater. We all got off the bus and followed our tour guide across the parking lot and up a trail through thickets of small diameter bamboo. We all smelled a very strong sulfur smell in the air, which turned out to be steam holes in the crater, venting out sulfur gas from the volcano. The bamboo was the same species that was used to make archer shafts many hundreds of years ago. We all followed our guide through the length of the trail and back around to the crater of the volcano.

The volcano’s crater had many steaming vent holes, and most of the vent holes had a ring of yellow sulfur coating around the holes perimeter. If you’re not familiar with the smell of sulfur, the smell is much the same as rotten eggs, or large fireworks displays.

Next stop would take us down the south side of the mountain, directly into Taipei City, and to a beautiful botanical nature park on the residential grounds of Taiwan’s elected president. The park was beautiful with all of its variety of flowers, trees, other ornamentals, and ponds. Trails weaved through the park in many different directions, but unfortunately for us, we only got to spend 30 minutes there before we were back on the bus which brought us to the famous Sun-Yat-Sen Memorial Hall Temple.

We arrived just in time to watch the changing of the guards. The entire changing of the guards ceremony takes about 30 minutes, and is very interesting to watch. The guards are wearing traditional military attire, and every step and turn they make with their bodies and rifles is almost robotic. These guys were very disciplined! The memorial Hall was built in celebration of Taiwan’s independence from Mainland China, and some of the past key political figures statues are honored and displayed there. One interesting note was that there were two separate water closets (restrooms) there. One for tourists, and one for guards. Back on to the bus after 30 minutes and off to our next destination.

Next stop was a 25 minute drive to the tallest building in Taiwan, the World Trade center. The bottom floor of this building has been built into one of the most upscale shopping malls I’ve ever been in! We all were allowed one hour to go shopping, but as many of us quickly discovered, most of the clothing stores featured name brand clothing that most of us would have to take out a second mortgage on our homes to be able to afford to buy anything there! John Barresi and I did manage to locate some great ice cream, but at a premium price. We got two golf ball size scoops for $150 NTD ($4.50 USD), with a wooden style popsicle stick to eat it with. Most of us went outside to a table area to wait for the few that were still shopping – that actually could afford to buy something there. Then back on the bus we went!

Next stop was a 30 minute drive to the Taiwan Kite museum in the small coastal mountain town of Chiou-Fon. This little tourist town sits on the side of a mountain that looks out into the ocean from above. The view there at sunset was truly the highlight of the trip for me as far as scenery goes! It was absolutely breath-taking looking down at the ocean, the smaller mountains to the north, and large mountains to the west. If you ever get the chance to visit Taiwan, this is a must see location! The small town has a narrow winding road that lead to the town’s two blocks of gift and food shops. 200 meters down the hill from the shops was a beautiful traditional temple with the curved rooftop and hand chiseled marble pillars that were very exact in their details. After visiting the temple, everyone walked down the hill and down a steep flight of stairs to the kite museum. I’ve been to many of the best kite museums in the world, in Weifang China, Long Beach, Washington, Ahmedabad India, Pasir Gudang Malaysia, and this museum in Chiou-Fon, Taiwan is one of the best! It contains a wide variety of different styles of kites from countries all over the world. The display cases are very well lit and organized. It’s truly top-notch, and it a must see for any kite enthusiast!

After we toured the kite museum, we walked upstairs to the museum’s restaurant. The organizers planned another grand feast for us. We sat at round tables, with each table having its own lazy-susan server (spinning wheel) in the middle of the table. The restaurant staff brought family style platters of various traditional Taiwan cuisines out, usually three different foods at a time. When we were done with those they would replace the platters of food with 3-4 different styles of food. They kept doing this until most of us (except John) could eat no more! The food was most excellent and the staff was very efficient! One of the kite helpers that was sitting at our table (Ms. Yu-Ching), was voluntarily serving all the food onto each of our plates, and she didn’t even work there. Although she was an assigned kite flier’s helper, she went beyond the call of duty to make sure we were well taken care of! And that is typical of the overall treatment we received the entire time we visit this International Kite Festival in Taiwan! Outstanding!

Well, it’s now time to drag ourselves to the buses for the 30 minute ride to the hotel. We arrived back at the hotel at about 10:00 pm, and immediately went to our rooms to start packing away all of our kites, clothes, luggage, gifts, etc…, because most of us have to leave for the airport from the hotel at 5:30 am. I had a major problem! The day before, my teammate Jerry Hershey, whom I like to call “Mr. Destruction”, was going through my stunt kite bag while looking for a kite, when he accidentally derailed the zipper tab on the bag. Not only was it derailed, but it was not repairable unless I could find someone in Taipei City to tear out the old zipper and sew in a new one. Well our team member Chris Shultz and Dodd Gross skipped the tour day to do some New Tech Kite business in Taipei City, so I asked them to please find a seamstress to replace the 72 inch zipper on my giant team kite bag.

Anyway, it was now 12:00 am and I had not heard or seen Chris and Dodd all day, so I am getting pretty worried about what to do if they couldn’t get my bag fixed! I had no way of knowing when they would be back to the hotel, but I knew that it is only five and a half hours before I have to leave on the bus to drive to the airport, and I’ve yet to get any sleep. Plus I’m wondering what I could do with all the team kites, gear, etc… If they don’t arrive back in time with my bag repaired. Needless to say, I was getting a bit nervous (just ask Otto Vossen and Robert Valkenburgh)! Finally at about 1:30 am Chris and Dodd show up at the hotel with my bag completely repaired. Yee Haa! They said that they had spent until 11:00 pm that night before they finally found someone to repair the bag. Thanks guys!

Anyhow, I finished packing the kites and team gear in the giant stunt kite bag. It’s now 2:30 am, so we try and get a couple hours sleep before we depart for our 30 hour journey back to America.

We wake up on time, drag our belongings down stairs, check out of our room, say our farewells, take a few group pictures, thank Angela and our assigned helpers again, and load onto the bus for the airport.

We depart Taipei International Airport at 9:30 am Tuesday Oct 3 and I arrive to my house in Texas, via 5 airports, and two car rides, after nearly 30 hours of traveling!

Are we having fun yet? You bet!

The End!!!

See you on the field,

Troy Gunn

– All photographs by John Barresi –
(Be sure to check out the photo gallery in this issue, plus over 100 more
photos and an 8-minute video can be found in the subscriber’s area!)