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!

Third Wave of MRT Lines

I was in YingGe visiting the in-laws and I spotted this poster in a new building developer's office. It shows the path of the MRT through YingGe.

You see, what's likely going on here is that the developers are likely asking an MRT price for their buildings. Property around MRT stations usually goes up quite a bit when the proposed lines are announced.

What's amazing when researching this entry is the DORTS maps are pretty terrible so it's difficult to know just where the MRT is really going and where the stations will be.

The planned system map so far on a great but HUGE map (2,973 × 2,064 !!!)
A lot of the stations have numbers and/or no names...

Here's a previous entry about the system:

Anyone know where the new MRT stations will be exactly?
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Being a Banana or an Egg

Are you a 'banana'? If you didn't know already, 'banana' is slang for an Asian born in North America. That's right, yellow on the outside, white on the inside. However, I really think that the term applies to Asians who have left their country and have pretty well adopted their new 'white' country's culture (for example, leaving Taiwan at even a young age).

Some ABC and CBCs I know have told me about their experiences in Taiwan, interacting with their relatives without the language ability or the acceptance of a lot of the customs. It's the distance they sometimes feel cultural-wise from their local counterparts. Some Taiwanese must really feel that these guys are a pale shade of what real Taiwanese are.

And another odd thing happens to me when I go back to Canada. I go see my Chinese friend who, for all extents and purposes, is less Chinese than me. Hey, I speak Mandarin; he doesn't! I eat Chinese food every day. Not him!

That's why I guess I'm kind of an 'egg'. You got it! White on the outside and yellow on the inside. Hey, I don't get offended! I'm not a total Asian convert and will probably never be but there is something to be said about returning to your native country and have a little bit of reverse culture shock.

In fact, I believe there is a kind of reversion that happens when we do return to a place that we have an affinity for. I guess for some it can really get confusing, especially when you don't know where you should really call home. Eggs of Taiwan unite!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Saw a funny thing at the gym the other day...

Going to the gym in Taipei is good for the obvious reasons. You can burn off that stress by throwing some weights around and make new friends while you are at it.

However, there is another reason to go: people watching. I get a kick out of watching people use machines and weights the wrong way.

I take delight in watching young ladies lift their flimsy weight dumbells or step erratically on the elliptical machine because they are more interested in watching their TV shows on the overhead monitors than to concentrate on their workout. Or how about the guy who uses the lateral pull down bar and either pulls the bar to the back of his neck or uses it like a rowing machine!

One of the funniest things that have seen are bunches of university age guys using the Smith Machine, a type of bench press consists of a barbell that is constrained to move only vertically upwards and downwards on steel runners. Behind each runner is a series of slots on which the barbell can be hooked. Even though there are these extra safety measures, it is advisable to have a spotter to make sure you the barbell doesn't pin you or just drop on your chest when lifting the heavy stuff. What had me laughing is that, instead of standing behind the lifter (as in the picture), the lifter's spotter had actually straddled his buddy facing his head. Man, talk about gay!

Anyone have any other pet peeves or funny experiences at a Taiwan gym?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Taiwan Blogger Sausage Fest at onHouse

Was it just me or was that a total sausage fest at onHouse? Oh well, I'm sure my wife can sleep soundly knowing this fact.

A big thanks to Byron, here for an Intel conference, for treating us all to his hospitality at onHouse. Byron is the interesting and active individual who hosted the blogger/techie event attended by a lot of Taiwan's foremost bloggers (myself included) on Sunday, October 19.

Of note in attendance on the Taiwan front:

David Reid


Matthew from Dahon bikes

Darren Melrose

Christopher Lee Adams from Creative Commons

Going back to my original festive note, just noticed that there weren't any female bloggers. C'mon you guys! Get your ya-yas out and blog in Taiwan! I know it's Octoberfest and everything so sausages were in order but this was ridiculous!

Anyway, it was good to put a face to the bloggers and chat about tech, biking, Taiwan strangeness, expats, politics and finance.

Cheers Byron and thanks for the gracious door prizes!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What're you going as for Halloween?

Will it be the naughty maid? Cat woman? Betelnut girl? Race queen? Dominatrix? Oh the choices!

Thankfully we live in Taiwan were a lot of the costumes are distributed. Halloween? Cosplay? Betelnut girl? Dancer? Role play? Show girl? S&M? Bondage? There's definitely something in Taiwan for you!

Although I'm not sure that the only purpose of this website's costumers is for Halloween, I'm sure you'll enjoy...


You just have to love women in leather. (Ladies can love the male sections too.)
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Monday, October 13, 2008

Return to BigBrother Graffiti

A couple of interesting ones from BigBrother again. The top one is a man in a garbage bag sprouting a tree.

Love BigBrother's stuff.Very thought provoking.

Stalkers are also a good theme for Taiwan...
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Gold in the Age of Doom and Gloom

A nice Taiwan motif done in gold that I saw at Just Gold across from SOGO. Too bad gold prices are so high lately! I wonder if their business is hurting or is booming

And that's a funny thing about gold in hard times. It's interesting to note the Chinese obsession with things golden which can similarly be found in other places in the world like India. Gold, they say, is always useful in financial hard times so it doesn't hurt to have some stored away.

Gee, in these days of financial doom and gloom are we going to go back to melting down jewelry to make gold ingots to buy stuff or trade? Get out those antique gold weighing scales!
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Friday, October 10, 2008

Double Ten's (in)significance

Double Ten is upon us. Yawn! Not an inspiring national day. But at least it's a holiday. These days people just seem to go through the motions with the ceremonies, the parades, the fly bys and the fireworks show for the ROC's national day.

It takes its name from the Oct. 10, 1911 Wuchang uprising which is the symbolic beginning of the fall of the Qing Dynasty.

The symbol for the holiday is an joint double cross signifying two Chinese character 10s.


What is an interesting little known fact is that the symbol is also a powerful fengshui symbol as well. Taipei City Hall is situated atop the T-junction of Renai Road. Having a home or building atop a T-junction is considered bad fengshui.

In order to combat the bad vibes, the city hall designers made the building in the shape of a Double Ten symbol, which is really evident when looking at it from the air (satellite or Taipei 101 observation deck).

The logic goes like this: T-junction is bad luck, Double Ten is good luck therefore bad luck is canceled by good luck. Kinda neat!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Google Street View Coming to Taipei?

I was riding my scooter in YongHe today when I spotted a very odd-looking van. It had a rack mounted on the top with about 10 CCTV cameras facing in every direction.

I thought about what the use could be. Advertising? Traffic? News? I just couldn't figure out why the cameras would be facing in all directions.

Then it occurred to me that it might be a Google van!

Google, as some of you may know, has been taking pictures in 360 degrees of streets and intersections in many big cities. They are documented on Google Street View's wiki page:

google street view wiki

Could Google be planning to Street View Taipei next? I certainly hope so as it could have many applications and implications. First, it would help people find places without having to read Chinese that is through matching pictures. That's a plus for newbies to Taipei. A further development could be that Google is planning to offer Street View of Taiwanese cities on a phone models in Taiwan. Could the gPhone in Taipei be far behind?

Well, if anyone else has seen the van I describe, I sure would love to know your impressions or take. BTW, the pictures I googled are believed to be the Street View van in the US. The van I saw had all the cameras exposed on the roof on a rack. Seen it?

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Taiwan is a Monopoly!

Monopoly is one of the best selling board games of all time with a 'rich' history

Rich Uncle Pennybags

When I was back home recently I was surprised to see that it now has hundreds of incarnations from global monopoly to even Family Guy monopoly.

world edition

I was at Carrefour the other day and noticed that there is even a Taiwan edition (see pictures).

for sale

I mentioned it to people in the office and one person asked what the equivalent of Park Place was. He guessed it would be Renai Road in Taipei. But no, what is it? TaiPing Shan! What the %@#^#$?

Anyhow, just wondering if anyone has bought or played the Taiwan version and would be willing to tell us what other little changes they have made. Or what changes you would make to make it more reflective of Taiwan today?

A funny thing is that the World Edition actually has Taipei as a city on it, right up there with Riga (yes, Riga in Latvia!). What's more, the most expensive city on the board apparently is Montreal. Are Parker Brothers smoking crack or what?
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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Big John's Excellent Taiwan Coastal Adventure

Here's a little promotional bit about a friend of mine's blog, Big John. John's goal in his own words "is to walk all the way around Taiwan, staying as close to the coastline as reasonably possible." He has also set a goal of doing the circumference of the island in 80 days.

He hasn't been doing it all in one shot, though. He's been doing it in pieces on weekends and on holidays, picking up where he left off the previous time.

It's a worthy concept and he seems very determined, despite what some may feel are walks through pretty bleak, isolated and even dangerous stretches of coastline. The pockets of beauty captured in his logs and accompanied with photos are proof of the beauty of Taiwan which obviously spurs him on in his quest.

From my experience of driving the coastlines, the point of interest were far and few. Upon looking at John's blog, I have somewhat reconsidered my view and might take a better look.

John has recently added a crude, albeit useful map. Hoping for something a little more precise using Google Maps and GPS points so that others can find some of the points of interest he has experienced without the distances in between.   

Here is a recent article John has written for the latest issue of Highway 11:

John is a self-professed newbie of things blog but his site is coming along great!  He maintains a day by day blog of walking events here:

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