Friday, December 26, 2008

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...

No really!  In Taiwan.  I kid you not. And the smell is amazing.

From Blogger

In Taiwan they use tar pellets and mix them with the chestnuts and then roast them in a wok. The tar pellets insure that the heat gets all around the nuts and not just from the heat under the wok.  I wonder if they know the Christmas song describing this age old treat...

From Blogger

I remember traveling with my wife in south France and eating these. They were a fraction of the price of the ones in Taiwan. In fact, they were lying all over the place in France for anyone to pick and bring home...

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year everyone!
Thanks for reading and being a part of my blog!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Beitou Garbage Incinerator Smokestack Resto

View Larger Map

As you are passing by on the MRT on the way to Danshui, you may notice a large tower near the river. This is the Beitou Incinerator.

And when you think incinerators, you think restaurants, right? Well, boy do I have a surprise for you. You can combine your love for burning trash with delicious food by visiting the Beitou Incinerator!

While walking along the bikepath from Guandu with a friend, we spotted the tower and wondered what it was. Upon closer inspection we noticed that the smokestack also had an observation deck. Googling it on Google Maps, I found out that the building was a trash incinerator.

The story would have stopped there had it not been for a hotpot meal with some corporate students. I told them about the walk and the tower. Then, one guy, to my absolute astonishment, said that there was a restaurant on the tower! (He also mentioned that it was operated by a famous star, who I don't recall.)

Googling the incinerator again I found its website:

Sure enough, if you scroll down, you can see some links for the restaurant. Clicking around the site reveals that the tower also has a viewing deck. There are various pictures of the view there as well.

But here's the thing: do people really equate incinerator with restaurant? I keep picturing sitting enjoying a wonderful meal while thinking the smokestack inside is pumping out poison into the sky around us. Maybe it's just me.

One more thing. Take a look at the art on the roof. It's pretty elaborate when considering that only the people in the tower and Google Maps can see it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Taiwan Touch Your Heart or is that Thailand Touch Your Heart?

The visuals are ok but the Islaformosa song is just plain bad. I have noticed that Taiwan is advertising on CNN these days using this jingle as are a lot of other Asian countries with their own songs.

There are definitely really terrible ads. Seoul's advertising (Seoul, Soul of Asia) is pretty bad as well and leaves me feeling loathe to visit.

So far I've only been impressed with Malaysia's and India's songs and Cambodia has done a pretty good job with their commercial as well.

As a final message, I say Naruwan to you if you are coming to Taiwan! And remember it's not Taiwan, not Thailand, bitch!

(If you are wondering what the heck 'naruwan' is then you weren't the only one who misunderstood the last ad campaign thought up by those spin doctors at Taiwan tourism. Google 'naruwan' to see how misguided that campaign slogan was...)

Stores, stores and more stores...

Just in time for Xmas, let IslaFormosa help you pick that special gift for everyone on your list...

For the Samurai swordsman on your list...
From 2008_12_10 Taipei Walkabout

For the boar's head collector...
From 2008_12_10 Taipei Walkabout

For the action figure collector...
From 2008_12_10 Taipei Walkabout

Or the Nazi you may know...
From 2008_12_10 Taipei Walkabout

Or the all-around pleaser: an 'artistic' dining room or living room wall hanging!
(Check the details of the pictures for the bestiality of it all...)
From 2008_12_10 Taipei Walkabout

So many choices... So little time...

Police and Army Uniforms Galore!

From 2008_12_07 December Day in Taipei

I thought there only were these kinds of stores in China. This is a kind of stores where you can buy official (looking) uniforms of police officers and soldiers. It's on ChungHua Road near XiMenDing.

As some people living in China may know, army and police surplus stores are everywhere. In fact, many people who are not police or soldiers wear the uniforms for regular work clothes as they are cheap and fairly durable.

This was a first for me to see in Taiwan. I wonder who the prime customers are: army vets, para-military types or Halloween costume hunters.

From Blogger

From Blogger

From Blogger

From Blogger

From Blogger

Taiwan 2008 Zeitgeist

[translated with Google Translate; original text at bottom]

Welcome to the 2008 Taiwan Top Google keyword list!
Raorao have gone through, the event continued a year, users in the Google search keywords, what difference will it make? Continued to lead the wave of online video, "YouTube" crowned as the most popular keyword list; "104" in keeping up, the reaction of an economic downturn, the unemployment rate or frequency, we thirst job; "Gmail" free up more than 7G The space has attracted many domestic users and the use of inquiry; Interestingly, "Taiwan High Speed Rail" and "Taiwan Railway Administration" search beyond the amount of celebrity or popular Web site, occupies the fourth, fifth, showed that the downturn in online travel The public transport network information or the opportunity to increase the booking. In the rapid popularity of the keyword ranking, as a result of events set off rapid popularity keywords, such as drug formula of the "three hydrogen-amine," "Chu Li-Ning" and "Edison", "Ma Ying-jeou" and other issues before itself 5. In addition, the network's famous "Energizer small love", adding fuel to the flames as a result of the network in the world, the highest in the rapid popularity of the keyword in the second. Quick look at 2008, "the most popular keywords" and "rapid popularity of the keywords" list, the current understanding of the dynamics of this year it!

Top ranking keyword search (Fastest Rising)

1. Li Ning Chu
2. Energizer small love
3. Edison
4. Melamine
5. Ma Ying-jeou
6. Diego velázquez
7.2008 Beijing Olympic Games
8. Chrome
9. Large Hadron collision device
10. Pan when Interior Design

Rapid popularity keyword search ranking (Most Popular)

1. Youtube
3. Gmail
4. Taiwan High Speed Rail
5. TRA
6. Chunghwa Telecom
7. Mobile 01
8. Reunification of the invoice
9. Google map
10. Central Weather Bureau

Top 10 Taiwan News

1. Promontory on the 7th (Cape no.7)
2. Edison events
3. To help Stars
4. Job
5. Taiwan High Speed Rail
6. Cycling
7. Asus
9. China Trust
10. Predestined I love you

3C annual brand search

1. Asus
2. Apple
3. Hp
4. Sony
5. Acer
6. Nokia
7. Cannon
8. Dell
9. Htc
10. Epson

Person of the Year search ranking

1. Edison
2. Tanaka draw thousands
3. Ma Ying-jeou
5. Children & Teng
6. Yang Wei
7. Cecilia Cheung
8. Jay Chou
9. Xu Jiaying
10. Chu Lai Ning

Taiwan's annual tourism attractions search

1. Penghu Lodge
2. Hualien Lodge
3. South of the border
4. Alishan
5. Bora
6. Sun Moon Lake
7. Ilan Lodge
8. Wuling Farm
9. Kaohsiung
10. Hushan sword

歷經紛紛擾擾、大事不斷的一年,網友們在 Google搜尋的關鍵字又有何不同呢?線上影音持續引領風潮,「YouTube」榮登最熱門關鍵字榜首;「104」緊跟在後,反應經濟不景氣、失業率頻 升,大家求職若渴;「Gmail」免費又高達7G以上的空間,吸引許多國內網友查詢並使用;有趣的是,「台灣高鐵」與「台鐵」的搜尋量超越名人或熱門網 站,佔居第四、第五名,顯示網友在不景氣中搭乘大眾交通運輸資訊或網路訂票的機會增多。在快速竄紅的關鍵字排行方面,因新聞事件引爆的快速竄紅關鍵字,如 毒奶粉「三聚氫胺」、「黎礎寧」、「陳冠希」、「馬英九」等議題,佔居前五名。另外,在網路上聲名大噪的「勁量小愛」,因網路世界的推波助瀾,高居快速竄 紅的關鍵字第二。快看看2008年「最熱門關鍵字」、「快速竄紅的關鍵字」排行榜,了解今年時事動態吧!

熱門關鍵字搜尋排行 (Fastest Rising)

  1. 黎礎寧
  2. 勁量小愛
  3. 陳冠希
  4. 三聚氰胺
  5. 馬英九
  6. diego velázquez
  7. 2008 北京 奧運
  8. chrome
  9. 大型強子對撞器
  10. 磐時室內設計

快速竄紅關鍵字搜尋排行 (Most Popular)

  1. youtube
  2. 104
  3. gmail
  4. 台灣高鐵
  5. 台鐵
  6. 中華電信
  7. mobile 01
  8. 統一發票
  9. google map
  10. 中央氣象局


  1. 海角七號
  2. 陳冠希事件
  3. 星光幫
  4. 求職
  5. 台灣高鐵
  6. 自行車
  7. asus
  8. 591
  9. 中國信託
  10. 命中注定我愛你


  1. asus
  2. apple
  3. hp
  4. sony
  5. acer
  6. nokia
  7. cannon
  8. dell
  9. htc
  10. epson


  1. 陳冠希
  2. 田中千繪
  3. 馬英九
  4. 彎彎
  5. 蕭敬騰
  6. 楊宗緯
  7. 張柏芝
  8. 周杰倫
  9. 徐佳瑩
  10. 黎礎寧


  1. 澎湖民宿
  2. 花蓮民宿
  3. 國境之南
  4. 阿里山
  5. 寶來
  6. 日月潭
  7. 宜蘭民宿
  8. 武陵農場
  9. 高雄
  10. 劍湖山

Friday, December 5, 2008

Attack of the African Snails!

From Blogger
It was a slow week so it called for a sluggish story. East African Land Snails in Taiwan.

I have been surprised a few times in the concrete jungle of Taipei to find these rather large suckers crawling all over hedges at night (during the day they burry themselves in the earth). They are really big when compared to the tiny land snails we have back home in Canada so it makes them doubly striking to find in the middle of the city. I have accidentally stepped on a few of them crossing the sidewalks of Taipei and the feeling of their cracking shells is not unlike stepping on Xmas bulbs.

[Bushman has a good account of coming across one of these giant suckers]

At the time I just assumed that someone's meal had escaped and had managed to find another of its own to reproduce. I was wrong on both counts.

First, what, you say, are African snails doing here in Taiwan? Well they were probably accidentally introduced through trade. The problem is:

"They are a highly invasive species, and colonies can be formed from a single [...] individual. The species has established itself in Temperate Climates also, and in many places, release into the wild is illegal."

"The Giant East African Snail is a simultaneous hermaphrodite."

It is this factor that makes it a pest. All it takes is one stray snail and the right environment for these snails to flourish into colonies.

Even so, Taiwanese have probably responded to the invasion by serving them on the dinner plate. Other infested countries have, though, tried control methods and haven't been so succesful:

"Suggested preventative measures must include strict quarantine measures to prevent introduction and further spread. Many methods have been tried to eradicate the Giant East African Snail. Generally, none of them have been effective except where implemented at the first sign of infestation. Methods include hand collecting, use of molluscicides, flame-throwers [!!!], and the failed attempts at biological control discussed below. In some regions, an effort has been made to promote use of the Giant East African Snail as a food resource, collecting the snails for food being seen as a method of controlling them. However, promoting a pest in this way is a controversial measure, as it may encourage the further deliberate spread of the snails."


So, although not dangerous, the snails are certainly pesky foreign guests whose numbers may or may not be welcome in Taiwan.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Build it and they will ride

From 2008_12_03 Taipei Bike Paths

Here's the Taipei Cycling Service Center at JingFu by night. It's where the YongFu Bridge meets the river in GongGuan.

A lot of money has been put into the system in general. Despite the economic downturn, work is still on at the Taipei Drinking Water Museum. A bike path has just been put along the edge of the museum.

While I was in the area there were countless bikers riding in the dark traveling the paths.

From 2008_12_03 Taipei Bike Paths

From 2008_12_03 Taipei Bike Paths

From 2008_12_03 Taipei Bike Paths

I hate it when that happens

From Blogger

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Blood on the streets

From Blogger
Imagine seeing this on your city street back home. This was one of the things I noticed about Taiwan when I first arrived. It's not a pretty picture is it?

At first, I thought street corners just had an inordinate amount of accidents. Bloody accidents.

I know better now as do most people after living in Taiwan for some time. 'Tis the mark of the cursed betelnut spittle.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ignorance (of the Law) is Bliss

I went out for hotpot the other night with some friends and was planning to have a few beers. The trouble is, you see, I wanted to have a few beers with the meal and then ride the scooter home. I know, I know, drinking and driving don't mix, blah, blah, blah. But I could drink under the legal limit and still drive, right? That is, of course, still legal.

However, what exactly is the legal limit in Taiwan? Most Taiwanese I asked just spouted off what the commercials against drunk driving say, "Jiou hou bu kai che," "After alcohol, don't drive." They basically were saying to me that there is a zero tolerance towards any driving after drinking (some countries do have zero tolerance laws). One local guy at work even went as far as saying if they stopped me and detected alcohol on the breath, one small wiff and you'd be busted.

[BTW, the drunk driving checks in Taipei amount to police road blocks, usually at night, in very typical spots around bridges or very heavily traveled roads. They are very predictable and often the police cars leave their lights on, warning vehicles in advance of the road blocks. The scientific drunk test amounts to an officer stopping a vehicle and asking for the driver to blow in his face so he can take a wiff. That's it! Hope he likes the smell of the stinky tofu I just ate! Some officers have also started to use flashlights to check pupil dilation. So much for robust checking....]

This brings me to a side point: Taiwanese are mostly pretty ignorant of their laws. In fact, Taiwanese just have impressions of their laws or know hear-say about the laws but do not know the fine letter of their laws. If you want to test this, ask someone about a law that you know a lot about back home and see if there is a Taiwanese equivalent. You'll understand what I mean.

So, Taiwanese, for the most part, live in ignorance of their laws. They go about their lives with a feeling for what is right or wrong for society but largely are unaware at the legal structures in place to settle legal matters. When I think about how people back home take no time to spout off their God-given rights and threaten to sue at the drop of a hat, you can immediately notice a difference in Taiwan which is much less of a litigation society. This is a kind of bliss.

Perhaps Taiwan is headed in the litigation society direction, though, with all the legal wrangling in the courts these days. It is important to note that previous presidents were technocrats with degrees in things like Agriculture Economics (Lee Deng-Hui). But now, we have had a lawyer by profession (President Chen who has landed himself in some legal troubles recently) and someone who studied Law (current President Ma). As in the West, lawyers and law-types seem to be rising here in Taiwan politics.

I digress. Back to the drunk driving law. Here is something more concrete and fairly up to date from the Taipei Times:

"Under the former regulations, the legal limit for a driver's blood-alcohol level was 0.25mg per liter. If a driver's blood-alcohol level exceeded 0.25mg per liter, he or she faced a fine of between NT$15,000 (US$460) and NT$60,000 -- depending on the type of vehicle driven and the blood alcohol content measured.

If a driver's blood alcohol content exceeded 0.55mg per liter, he or she would be charged with the inability to drive safely, which carried either a maximum one-year jail sentence or a maximum fine of NT$30,000.

The new regulations punish serious drunk drivers with both imprisonment and a fine, stipulating that if a driver's blood alcohol level exceeds 0.55mg per liter, he or she could face up to one-year in prison as well as a fine of up to NT$150,000.

As a result, should an offender receive a six-month sentence (the maximum length of sentence that can be commuted to a fine), and commutes the term to a fine, the offender would face paying a fine of up to NT$690,000."

Taipei Times

There are, in fact, 2 different standards for testing: BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) and mg/liter.

The definitive source is the TBAF or Taiwan Beverage Alcohol Forum a group sponsored by the major alcohol companies in Taiwan:

The current penalty listing below:

Alcohol Strength Automobile Payment
Alcohol breathalyzer test over 0.25mg/litre to 0.4mg/litre or BAC at 0.05% to 0.08%


Sedan 19500
Long & heavy vehicle 22500
The driver convicted with DUI twice in one year and one dose not have a driver license. 60000

Alcohol breathalyzer test over 0.4mg/litre to 0.55mg/litre or BAC at 0.08% to 0.11%


Sedan 34500
Long & heavy vehicle 37500
The driver convicted with DUI twice in one year and one dose not have a driver license. 60000
Alcohol breathalyzer test over 0.55mg/litre and above or BAC 0.11% and above

Long & heavy vehicle 52500
The driver convicted with DUI twice in one year and one dose not have a driver license. The drunk driver would be prosecuted if caused any car accident 60000

Information source: Taipei City Police Department Traffic Division.

There you have it but if you blinked or fell asleep you may have missed an important distinction about Taiwan's drunk driving law. Countries like the US and some parts of Canada have BAC legal tolerance up to 0.08 but Taiwan's is 0.05 which is quite a bit lower.

According to the Wikipedia, that means for a 82kg man, anything more that 2 cans of beer would put you over 0.05 (subtract approximately .01% for every 40 minutes after drinking), theoretically speaking. [I am not responsible for any faulty math or reading of the charts]

So, scooter and car drivers beware! Only 1 can of beer for me before I hit the road... just to be sure. Ignorance of Taiwan's drunk driving law is not bliss. It could be quite costly.

TBAF faq page

TBAF drunk driving statistics Seems like mid-Taiwan has, by far, the most incidents. That is, if all police forces are equally diligent in enforcing and reporting.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Stimulate This!

Well not exactly this kind of stimulation package but it enticed you to read this entry, did it not?

As you may well be aware, early next year every Taiwan citizen will be receiving a $3600 voucher from the government to stimulate spending. This is really in line with what a lot of nations are doing in order to keep their economies afloat through this financial crisis.

And I guess I am happy that something is being done instead of only hand wringing and hesitation. The medicine is bad any way you approach the issue but in many ways this crisis is aggravated by psychological factors. Even if this package is merely a placebo for the ills (I concede that it may just be), the psychological good it does will inevitably be positive. Believe me, people in Taiwan need more placebos like this in their dark economic hour to stay thinking positive even though it might be illusory.

Once again, it's psychology. Even if the package is just a drip in the bucket, it gives the perception that something is being done and this is important to people. I think the general consensus is that eventually the situation will improve but that it will take time. That's why it's a positive thing to relieve a little of the people's worries so that things (hopefully) don't sink so deep. Of course, the government has to nurture things in these dark times.

It's interesting to know that, even though many people are making the case that the package will do little or nothing, the voucher system instead of a tax break or cash back is more of a sound decision than it may seem. An economist makes this point...

"The standard stimulus package doesn't change incentives. It's a check from the government. The hope is that the receiver will spend it. But when you just send out checks from the government, whoever gets stimulated is likely to be offset by someone who gets unstimulated.


And even the people who get the money often save more of it than they spend.

That's why stimulus schemes based on giving people money have a poor track record of energizing the economy. Usually, the only thing that gets stimulated is a politician's approval rating."


What's interesting to note, though, is that Taiwan's government isn't just giving out cash or giving a tax break (which people can convert into cash and just save away without helping to stimulate the economy). People have to use the vouchers to buy products at businesses that issue receipts for purchases (which the tax department obviously likes since people pay their taxes (incidentally, this is the reason why the have the lottery on those receipts: it tries to keep businesses more honest about their books)).

Also, as implied in the report, some people have argued that the vouchers are just to buy voters since only citizens can receive them (that rules out us foreign paying taxpayers since we definitely cannot vote). However if that is the case, then why would a country like China also launch a stimulus package? It's not like they need to cater to their voters. However, they do need to keep its economy rolling to keep its citizens happy and that's purely psychological.

So there you have it. By me, the package seems reasonable as real stimulus or as a placebo or both. In the end, my Taiwanese wife for one will be spending her voucher with pleasure as will, I am sure, most of the people who receive one. Happy and positive spending!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Golden Horse Rides Again

From 2008_11_16 Good Citizen

I never see this festival coming but thanks to my Japanese friend, Koizumi, we managed to catch it this year.

Saw a great film called 'Shine a Light' starring the Rolling Stones and directed by Martin Scorsese. It ran about 122min and had the Stones in concert in New York in a small auditorium for a Bill Clinton organization event. It was great. Pure escapism and the energy of the concert really started me up. Get it?

From 2008_11_16 Good Citizen
Taking a cue from the posters outside, Koizumi and I drank a cold beer in the theater while watching. A perfect match for a rock concert and testament to the openness of living in Taiwan (drinking virtually anywhere, even in cars as long as you are not the driver!).

The end of the movie featured an acoustic version of 'Wild Horses'... Wild Golden Horses indeed!

You still have time to catch other films. The festival ends Nov. 21.

McDonalds Goes Psychedelic

From 2008_11_16 Good Citizen
I wonder what item on the menu caused me to trip like this?

In the Navy

From 2008_11_16 Good Citizen
Is it just me or is this advertisement for joining the ROC military just a little gay (happy if you wish)?  Aren't military types supposed to be silent and disciplined killers? 

Put it this way, would a bunch of shaved head guys piled on top of each other and smiling like a batch of giddy school boys make you want to join?  It just reinforces the cute image that Taiwan tries to put on everything with mixed results...

The irony is that the morale in the army is very poor.  Lots of suicide.  Superiors drinking on the job.  Initiation involving women of ill-repute.  Not to mention the poor training and sometimes inadequate equipment (Humvees for the narrow alleys of Taiwan?  Give me a break!  The war would be over before they got those things out of the traffic jams!).

Don't believe me about the initiation?  See for yourself.  As most boys who have done their military service will tell you, you'll come out a man whether you want to or not.

The Dink Rides Again

From 2008_11_16 Good Citizen

And there it was.  Right in front of me.  Someone's Dink.
Yes, it's a real scooter model.  

Click on the pic for a closer look and read the label on the side.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Recycle This

From 2008_11_16 Good Citizen

In case you are wondering what types of things are recyclable in Taiwan, here is a good brochure that we received from our neighborhood leader to help us sort it all out.


From 2008_11_16 Good Citizen

A photo I snapped on my cell of a jet sitting outside a machine tool shop on the TaiDa campus.  I assume it's for students to take apart in order to study engineering.

Fittingly, one side of it was plastered in grafitti.  If I'm bold enough, I'll try climbing on it one day to take a look in the cockpit.

Bike Paths of the Taipei Area

From 2008_11_16 Good Citizen

I've written a little about the bike boom recently.  On a recent stop at Carrefour, I picked this brochure up in their bike section.  It's a pretty good overview of the bike system in place in the Taipei area, most of it running alongside the rivers withing the flood wall system.

I wonder if Taiwan will ever get around to having something like the Cross Canada bike path we have back home.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Diner: Truly Comfort on a Plate

From 2008_11_02 The Diner

Ahhhh, The Diner.  I only have good things to say about this place.

Started by Taiwanese Amy and her boyfriend, the place does amazing business and rightfully so.  The Diner is home to the tastiest hamburger of them all in Taipei.  Grilled to perfection, greasy like it's supposed to be.  Crispy, firm fries.  And this is not mentioning the all-day breakfast menu also available to you.

And the service?  Well, I've been to a lot of places and to my knowledge it is unsurpassed.  Amy the hostess must have a great memory as she has remembered our names every time we have gone and has gone out of her way to make us feel welcome.  And the waitresses are also very accomodating too!  Keep up the good work everyone!

Like I said, the business there justifiedly rocks, so much so that the Diner does not take reservations.  So, be prepared to wait long waits at feeding time on the weekends.  However, fear not.  The Diner has opened a second location on Dunhua I you will.  

Check out their hamburger selection.  Two of our favorites, the bacon and cheese and the swiss cheese and mushroom go for $200 (served as in the picture).  

One more recommendation: the chocolate brownie with ice cream ($150).  A large warm brownie with two scoops of ice cream towering over it.  Enough to feed 2 people.  Exceptional value all around.

From 2008_11_02 The Diner

View Larger Map

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What a Butt!

From 2008_11_01

Taipei Times had another great Johny Neihu piece today (Nov 1, 2008):

Poontang in the peddling of Taiwan

"A publication called Taiwanese Businessman Weekly
, published in China to promote tourism in Taipei, had the following lines: “Girls who go clubbing in Taipei are all dressed in sexy outfits, showing half of their breasts and wearing mini skirts.”

The mag described our capital city’s clubbing girls as “chicks who dress hot and act wild.”

Good one, guys. Why not just call the article “We’ve got poontang”?"

I have to agree with him. I know of another very strange promotional article for Taiwan that appeared in a tourism magazine here several years back. As you can see, 'What a butt!' is conveniently written in Chinese, Japanese and English for all the pervs (sorry for the clarity as I only have it in photocopy form now... click on the pictures for closeups) and seems to echo the the opinions of Taiwanese Businessman Weekly...

From 2008_11_01
Jesus, who writes this stuff?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Taiwanese Food is #1 in the Taiwanese Mind

The question though is does Taiwan's cuisine rank in the top 10 or even top 20 in the world? Are the Taiwanese true culinary masters or do they just have a huge culinary ego?

Basically, most top ten lists name the usual suspects:



Mexican, Greek and Lebanese and lots of others also get thrown in. Could these lists be anything other than super subjective though? It's a fact though that I've actually never seen Taiwan on a top ten list unless you lump it in the Chinese category.

Most Taiwanese are ferociously proud of their cuisine (even with respect to other local Chinese cuisines) which in some respects has had thrown in a mixture of many different Chinese styles. This is due to the fact that immigrants to the island have brought their various Chinese local area cuisines with them. For example, I'm a big fan of Northern food (dumplings and buns) but these are hardly traditional Taiwanese food, even though sold everywhere in Taiwan.

Another thing is when Taiwanese travel to other places, they are often disgusted with foods there. My wife wasn't even that impressed by French, which consistently rates as the top in Western minds! But when I experienced her rejection, I presumed that Taiwanese are quite picky about their food's taste and are not so adventurous when it comes to international cuisines that do not resemble their own; they are fond of Italian (noodles) and Thai (spicy) but are turned off by British food (to the point of packing instant noodles in their suitcase when having to live there for any period of time) or German (heavy and would doubtfully rank in the top 10 in Western minds either).

Taiwanese tour groups visiting European destinations famous for their food often hit local Chinese restaurants to essentially please the older (read more stubborn to try new things) Taiwanese travelers. My Taiwanese father-in-law, for example, often shows his dislike of cheese but in fact I think he just can't change his eating habits.

So, in the end, maybe the best way to judge cuisine is on a restaurant by restaurant basis. As such, there are many amazing restaurants and places to eat in Taiwan. Ding Tai Feng, a dumpling restaurant, was rated one of the top restaurants in the New York Times and boasts of this fact. I, for one, agree with the review when talking about the taste and presentation.

However, faced with the 'lu-wei' stall on the street with it's assortment of brown (soy-marinated) animal parts etc., I would say exactly what a old Japanese teacher once said to me when we were teaching at the same school in China:

"Japanese food looks fantastic but tastes so-so. Chinese food tastes great but looks horrendous."

The latter sentence pretty well sums it up for most cases. But then again, I'm an aesthetic minded Westerner! :)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cosplay is a little freaky

From 2008_10_26 Petit Fancy

I went to Petit Fancy this weekend (for research purposes). This is Taipei's COSPLAY central.

First, I met a colleague of mine who is an all-things-Japanese aficionado. In the two hours we spent there, he guided me through the event which approximates a comic book or sci-fi convention.

What made it different though was the darker undercurrent, a mixture of cuteness, youth and porn. And to think it was held on the grounds of Taiwan's foremost university.

I will be asking my colleague to sort through what we saw and will present it as a series of further posts.

From 2008_10_26 Petit Fancy

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

TiT Town in Taipei

Taiwan's Tantilizing TiT Townhouses - More free videos are here

What is TiT? Well according to this development it's Town in Taipei.
Maybe I should find some TaT and trade it in for TiT.

This entry's been begging for someone to write up. A few people beat me to the punch...

Other links:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bike Blind

I have to say that I've been oblivious to a trend that has swept the biking world. Folding, compact and ultra-light bikes are all the rage!

I recently had a talk with a Dahon employee Matthew Davis who brought me up to speed with the phenomena.

It seems that with the high price of oil, there has been a boost in public transportation use. The problem is the soft connections, that is the connections between the home and the public transportation outlets.

Step in the folding bikes. You've seen them around Taipei. Taiwan still remains one of the foremost places for bike design, you know! Old ladies ride them, business people ride them and some are even motorized (electric).

The fact is they really fit the bill here in Taipei in order to make the connection with MRT stations (who wants to take the jerky old crowded bus). Just pack it up and take it with you on the MRT. It's as easy as that! It's good exercise and it's environmental!

Well needless to say, I'm really considering one. Maybe you should too!

P.S. There are actually many companies that manufacture these things so this is not necessarily an endorsement of Dahon only!

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