Not About Taipei: Good Value Family Accommodation in Tokyo

A friend from my University days, Tokyo-based New Zealand Greg Lane has a site focusing on budget options in Tokyo. Aptly-named "Tokyo Cheapo", it's turning into quite a resource for the budget-conscious.

Today's post caught my eye.  Greg has found a great little hotel for families staying in Tokyo.  Read the beginning of his post:

OK, so if you’ve come all the way to Tokyo with your family you’re probably looking for something close to Disneyland.  However, if you’ve decided to subject your loved ones to the experience of central Tokyo, then you’ll probably, no, definitely have problems finding somewhere that isn’t either enormously expensive or incredibly cramped.  That is where the somewhat unique (not just for the strange vaguely French sounding name) Avanshell Akasaka comes in.
For photos and more details, continue to read here.

You can tell by his site that he is in the web design business... and that I'm, well, not.  Maybe one day I'll make it to Tokyo, spend a few days trying out his recommendations, and hit him up for a web design tips.  Until then, I guess readers will have to be content with the content.


Full Interview with Angie Chang, Doula in Taipei

In its September issue, Centered on Taipei magazine ran an article I co-wrote with editor Kath Liu, about Taipei-based Canadian Doula Angie Chang.  Due to space restraints, much of my interview was not published.  With permission, I am printing the full interview here.  I trust it will be of some interest to families planning on having their babies here in Taiwan.

An Interview With A Doula : Birth in Taiwan

A wonderful part of being in the “Taipei Long-term Ex-pat with Family” community is mixing with dynamic, motivated women making their own way in a country that has become a second home. Canadian-born doula Angela Chang is one such woman. Curiosity got the better of me, and I begged her to let me interview her about her experiences in helping others start their own Taiwan-based families.

So, Angie, tell me about your early academic background.

I studied English literature in my home country of Canada, so I could earn enough money to get to Asia. I wanted to teach English for a year, travel for a year, and then go home.

Did you have any ambitions to be in the baby business when you were young?

No, not at all! Well, I wanted to be a mom and maybe open my own daycare, but I never imagined I would be helping moms give birth in Taiwan.

So, what happened? Did you get to travel?

No! I came to Taiwan, met my now-husband, and had three children. I didn't get to travel much at all, but I was happy.

Tell me about your experience having three children in Taiwan.

I had my first baby in hospital. I thought I knew what to expect, but actually knew nothing about giving birth in Taiwan, nor how to communicate with my caregiver. I fell into the hospital trap of having lots of “stuff” done without being able to speak up. I felt quite powerless during labor. As a result, I cried for a week after the birth. My son was in the Neo-natal unit and I was not able to be an advocate my for son or myself.

I felt so traumatized after my first birth, that I decided I would just stay home for my second birth. But, at the time there were no practicing midwives in North Taiwan, so I just stayed home as long as I could. I got to the hospital at 11:00 and had the baby at 11:10. In retrospect, this was a reaction to being traumatized during the first birth. I was like, “You can't do any interventions. Ha! Ha!” These interventions included being strapped to the bed, which I realized is not compulsory, but done as routine here in Taiwan.

For my third birth, we were lucky enough to find the natural birthing center in Shingjuang. I convinced my husband that it was safe, and then had a fabulous water birth where I felt like a Superwoman totally in control of my family.

What was your “A-ha! I need to become a doula” moment?

A friend of mine asked me to be her doula, because I seemed quite experienced at this birth thing. I looked up “doula” and said “A-ha!” I knew that this is what Taiwan needs. Families really need this emotional and educational support, including continuous support during labor. A lot of birth-related things are different in Taiwan compared to our own countries, and new parents really need this extra assistance.

Some readers are probably dying to ask, “What the heck the is a doula?” Can you give us a definition?

Basically, a doula provides emotional and educational support for parents. A doula stays for the entire duration of birth, giving continuous assistance in areas including suggesting different questions to ask to assist decision making, trying different birth positions, helping the partner support the mother, giving reassurance, and unique to Taiwan, helping with language and cultural differences. Most women appreciate a woman next to them who has experienced birth before, and who can empathize with their situation, particularly with birthing in Taiwan. It's not always practical for family to attend births and it can also provide relief to moms or aunties who can only arrive after the baby is actually born.

What are some myths about doulas you'd like to dispel?

A doula is not a midwife. Not all doulas are totally pro-natural, anti-intervention. Doulas don't make medical decisions. They provide information to help parents make informed decisions, and then support that decision. Doulas can attend c-sections, and support you during the experience. It's all about making informed choices.

What's the hardest thing about being a doula?

Being on-call is really tough. I can't plan any trips out of town or with my children during the 4 weeks around the client's due date. Births are unpredictable, so my husband may need to look after my children for two hours or two days. I have missed birthdays and children's milestones because I'm at a birth. I'm not complaining, it's just a part of the job that people don't really think about.

What's the best thing for you about your job?

Seeing the reaction of the parents when the baby is born. It brings me joy every time!

What changes have you seen in birthing procedures in Taiwan since you started working as a doula?

I've attended 75 births since becoming certified (through Childbirth International). I thought I'd be attending three births a year, but I am now attending two to three per month.

Compared to when I started this work, there is more immediate contact between mom and baby, and a lot more support with breastfeeding. There is more rooming-in, and less scheduled feeding. All hospitals try to get the baby breastfeeding within the first hour of birth. There are now “LDR”s (labor, delivery, recovery rooms) for women choosing natural birth. Hospitals also have equipment like birth-balls, but you still do have to specifically request them.

How have staff at hospitals reacted to you, a Canadian woman, coming in and working with them in Taiwan hospitals?

Honestly, every single hospital has been very welcoming. Nurses are thankful to have someone to communicate with in their native language, as well as someone experienced with Taiwan hospital procedure to give continuous support to the mother. OBYGNs have been happy to take on suggestions, and there has been no negativity at all.

Why do clients come to you?

Generally, they are looking for a natural birth advocate that can explain what is happening in the Taiwan system. Sometimes, the father is doesn't know how to support the mother and is looking for support in assisting most effectively.

What have your ex-pat clients been most surprised about when experiencing birth in Taiwan?

The first thing is how cheap it is! The second is probably the high level of medical care available, and the choices available if you know how to get them.

You do a bit of work with The Friendly Birthing Center. Can you tell me a bit about that?

Barbara Harper, world-renowned water-birth advocate, trained staff and help set up the water-birth clinic. The Friendly Birthing Center moved to a better, bigger location two years ago. They practice “Expectant Management” This means, they are ready to use interventions like giving an IV if necessary, as opposed to traditional ways of giving an IV to everyone whether they need it or not. At “The Center”, you don't need to lie on the bed all the time because they use a hand-held Doppler rather than a strap-on unit to monitor the baby. Mothers are encouraged to try different positions, whether in the water, squatting, or on their hands and knees.

The Friendly Birthing Center is run by OBGYNs, not midwives. C-sections can be performed if deemed necessary. Unlike some other hospitals, dad can attend the c-section, and breastfeeding is started as soon as possible.

What other interesting birth information do you have for expectant parents in Taiwan?

Well, home births are covered by NHI, and actually cheaper than going to the hospital. Your prenatal and postpartum visits can be done at home, too..Certified midwives do a four-year nursing degree and then a masters in Midwifery, so they are well-qualified.

There are some birth classes in Taiwan, but as they are usually in Chinese, and geared toward local parents, I run English-language classes throughout the year. It's a great way for parents to meet others in the same situation as themselves, and many parents end up forming baby playgroups after the classes. In Taiwan, you are sent home on the third day after the birth, and there is no home-support given. I give postpartum visits to help with the concerns clients have as new parents, whether it be childcare, breastfeeding, or mom's general wellbeing.

It's about time to wrap up the interview and let both of us pick up our children from school. Reflecting on my own birth experience and life with my kids in Taiwan, I realize how lucky we are to have ex-pats like Angie, working hard to make life easier for families like mine, in Angie's case right from before the child's first breath.

Angie's five questions for taking to a caregiver:

It's important to find out whether you on the same page as your doctor regarding birth. Here are five questions you can ask to check whether you are on the same page as your caregivers.
  1. What positions do you encourage moms to use in labor?
  2. What are your policies regarding induction?
  3. In what ways is your hospital supportive of breastfeeding?
  4. What is your procedure if a c-section becomes necessary?
  5. How often do you attend natural births?
Angie is a certified doula and childbirth educator working in Northern Taiwan. You can find out more about her services at www.beautifulbeginnings.com.tw. She also has a community center for families in Neihu: www.parentsplace.com.tw.


Interesting Subsidy for Pregnant Women - Taxi Subsidies New Taipei City

From the Taipei Times on September 9th, 2012:

The New Taipei City (新北市) Government is slated to launch a taxi subsidy scheme for pregnant women registered in the city to save them the trouble of taking public transportation to periodic prenatal examinations, as part of its efforts to boost the nation’s dwindling birthrate.
“Presumably starting from October, pregnant women registered in the city will be eligible for 20 subsidized trips by taxi during pregnancy, with an average subsidy of NT$200 per trip,” New Taipei City Department of Social Affairs Director Lee Li-chen (李麗圳) said.

Read more online.

Working Holiday Contest - For 18 to 30 Year Olds Who Want to Visit Taiwan

This is aimed at a group a bit out of my audience range, but I think it's worth sharing, just the same.  Here's a chance to win a working holiday in Taiwan.  It's the usual "make a video, get people to vote" method. 

Contest Outline:
1. Contestant Qualifications Must be a youth from the 7 listed countries that have signed an agreement to provide a Working Holiday / Youth Mobility visa with Taiwan(United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Korea.), and the youth must be qualified for the application requirement.
2. How to apply Please fill out the application form on our official website (http://youthtravel.tw/youthtrekker) and attach a video link (video can be uploaded on Youtube or other internet platforms, the length of the video should be in 1-2 minutes)
3. Registration period: today until October 8th, 2012, 12:00p.m. (Taiwan Standard Time)
4. Voting period: October 9th, 2012 until October 23rd, 2012, 12:00p.m. (Taiwan Standard Time)
5. Voting An internet poll will be uploaded for voting. One contestant from each of the seven eligible countries will be chosen based on their number of votes. The contestant with the highest number of votes will be the selected winners.
6. The uploaded video should be titled "Working Holiday in Taiwan", and the content of the video should include a self-introduction and the contestant's expectations of a trip to Taiwan. Using creativity to perform the theme "Working Holiday in Taiwan", not limited to any type of video.
7. The winners are responsible for their Working Holiday / Youth Mobility visa application. For Working Holiday / Youth Mobility visa application and regulation, please visit the official website of Bureau of Consular Affairs: http://www.boca.gov.tw/lp.asp?ctNode=783&CtUnit=80&BaseDSD=7&mp=2



The Rising Sun Surf Inn, Wai Ao

Some time ago, I posted about the fabulous Lan Yang Museum in Wai Ao (a coastal town about one hour from Taipei).  Wai Ao is a very popular surf beach.  Breakers on the shore, undertow, and riptides, make it a bit like the beach I grew up with.  It can be a lot of fun, but you have to try to make your kids aware of the power of the ocean and help them understand the concept of water safety.

We are now lucky to enough to have a lifeguard from the US with a fabulous surf shop, away from the real crowds of Wai Ao's "main" beach.  My son got a lesson from Garrett a couple of weeks ago, and we have been back since to rent boards from him.  The surf shop/hostel itself is very clean and well-organised, and I would be very happy to stay there with my children if the room was available.

Garrett has this great deal going - Family Day Thursdays.
Come out and bring the family on Thursdays and Kids 3-16 years old get 50% off on a bed.

星期四家庭日 3-16歲 50%折扣

Our surfing coach Garrett was a professional beach lifeguard in California for 6 years and will be here to give some beach safety tips on how to stay safe in the ocean.
我們教練Garrett (阿球)曾在加州海邊擔任6年救生員,

We remember being kids and enjoying the beach.
We would like to SHARE that experience with all the kids and teach them more about being safe on the beach and ocean.
I have been in Taiwan for two years and I notice people doing dangerous things around the ocean because they don't have the proper knowledge about the ocean many Americans learn as a child. Let's make the beach a fun and SAFE place with learning, instead of being forbidden!!

我在台灣住了兩年多, 注意到很多人因缺乏海洋常識而導致危險或遺憾事件.
很多美國人從小就開始海洋常識, 希望我的經驗分享能讓大家在海邊安全的玩樂. 讓我們從禁止轉換成學習安全保護小孩吧!- 教練阿球

**Tell them you read about this on my site, Kidzone, and get... the joy of knowing you've given me an ego boost.**

Be warned, boogie boarding is addictive! You may well end up like us, going out to the beach more often than you'd imagined possible in Taiwan.

I stole this from their FB page. I hope they can a website up soon!

衝浪背包客棧 We're a new hostel with a surf school/bar/restaurant right on the beach in Wai-ao, Yilan county. No. 236, Section 2, Bīnhǎi Rd, Toucheng Township
Coach Garrett was born and raised in Ventura County, California. He came to Taiwan and fell in love with it's beautiful beaches and culture. Surfing in Taiwan is a quickly growing sport and our mission is to bring the California beach spirit to Taiwan.

Rising Sun Surf Inn is located right on the beach in beautiful Wai-ao township. Our hostel is run by surfers who have spent their life enjoying the ocean and the beach. We are providing an amazing hostel experience for travelers and locals alike in a safe, fun and relaxing environment.

2-hour lesson with full day board rental --1500NT per person
2-day lesson (board rental and a total of 4 hours of lessons)-- 2500NT per person
Group lessons of 5 or more get a 10% discount
10% discount on lessons when booking a bed at the hostel

棧長是來自加州的國際衝浪手, 也是2012國際衝浪比賽大會裁判.

1天課程/2小時衝浪教學及整天租板/ NT.$1500
2天課程/ 4小時教學及兩天租板/ NT$ 2500
揪團課程/ 5-6位一班省 10%費用
住客一律享有10% 折扣 快來學衝浪練英文吧!


Coaches Garrett and Justin come from California and know GOOOOD Mexican food. Have a blended ice cocktail on the patio or chill out and be lazy in the AC lounge.



Female Dorm-- 6 beds, private bathroom and shower with sea view. Ocean side deck connected to the room. Air conditioned. NT$ 800/bed

Co-ed Dorm-- 6 beds, Air conditioned. NT$ 700/bed

Whole house booking available at a discounted rate.

女生房共6床/ 無敵海景陽台及衛浴/ 冷暖氣/NT$ 800元

混合房共6床/ 窗戶/ 冷暖氣/NT$700元


For english: Garrett-- 0938330735
中文: 0932-769-769

General Information
No. 236, Section 2, Bīnhǎi Rd, Toucheng Township

宜蘭外澳車站斜對面, 走路1分鐘即可到達. 由台美經驗豐富的背包客所經營的混血客棧. Rising Sun面對無敵美麗海景, 隨時可跟龜山島對望. 週邊環境有免費停車場, 外澳城堡咖啡, 飛行傘, 蘭陽博物館, 賞鯨旅遊, 礁溪溫泉, 羅東夜市, 交通方便.

We are conveniently located on the coastal highway across the road from the Wai-ao Train Station. Our beach front patio and ocean view rooms overlook beautiful Wai-ao Beach. Train service is available directly from Taipei and surrounding areas. There is free parking available 50 meters from the hostel.

There are many activities Rising Sun offers. Surfboard rentals and lessons are provided by our international staff with over 20 years of experience. Our shuttle van is available for booking to cold springs in Jiaoxi (20 min. drive), paragliding off the foothills of Wai-ao and landing on the beach (10 min. drive) and tours to the Kamalan Castle and breathtaking views in the coastal mountains of Wai-ao.

Animals Taiwan's 20​12 Hu​m​a​n​e Ed​u​c​a​tio​n Ar​t Co​n​t​e​st

Animals Taiwan is inviting kids ages 6 to 11 to participate in a poster contest to celebrate the 2012 World Animal Day. 
Invite your friends, win great prizes and support the strays in Taiwan by creating a poster that expresses the theme “I am a stray and I can be your pet”

*Deadline is September 26th, 2012.
*You need to enter through your school, so encourage your school to participate. (An English-speaking contact is needed, so this your chance to bring something new to your school!)
*Limited to children aged 6 to 11 residing in Taipei.
*Some nice prizes and a chance to educate kids about animals welfare.

Official site can be found here.



Useful Search Tool: Family Doctors Island-Wide

If you are looking for a family doctor (or information about family medicine in Taiwan) and have someone who can read Chinese in your life, then this is a really useful link and website.

It's for the Taiwan Association of Family Medicine.

Chocolate Christmas Tree Decorations at Costco (Xijhir branch)

Not my usual kind of post, but I know how hard it is to keep up the holiday spirit in Taiwan if you miss the products when they come through!  Last week, I noticed Costco has the big boxes of chocolate Christmas Tree decorations in already.  I didn't see anything for Halloween yet, though.

I'm not sure if I have a place cockroach-free to keep them where they won't melt before Christmas, but if you do, go pick up a box!

Birthing in Taiwan - Information and Experience-Sharing

Check out the September 2012 edition of Centered on Taipei magazine (pages 20-21) for my article about doula Angie Chang, and Serina Huang's perspective on gentle birthing in Taipei.