Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One More for Good Measure

After I posted, Nardpuncher told me this one takes the cake...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The 'How Not to Work' out Series

A while back I made a comment about strange stuff I have seen at the gym.


Just want to bring some attention to a friend of mine, Nardpuncher, who's been making some great videos about Taiwan with good commentary too. I present his series entitled 'How Not to Workout' which seems to be secretly captured while he was at his Taipei gym over several sessions.

Nardpuncher's Channel

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Air Asia Makes its Mark

AirAsia is Asia's discount airline. It's been making waves here in Taiwan with its cheap flights.

I was surprised to see this commercial on CNN featuring Air Asia.

It's bizarre in many aspects. Its narrated by a boy who talks about how his granny couldn't decide which meal to eat so she had both. Oh, and she says that the stewardesses are hot. Watch it to the end to see the nice ass shot which I'm sure will prompt travelers to take more delicious stewardess shots in flight.

This ad would never 'fly' in the West. Obviously, it made it past the CNN censors.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Making the Armed Forces Attractive

This promo video makes the ROC armed forces look cool, presumably to attract the hordes of young gamers and Transformer lovers in Taiwan to go out and sign up. The reality is something else...

Watching this reminded me of the free computer game that is given away by the army in the US to attract recruits called America's Army.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Opening the Book on Landslides Again

I've written before about the anti-betelnut campaign in Taiwan that may be due to educated, 'civilized' city dwellers despising the chewing habit and making every excuse to attack betelnut trees and their betelnut chewers. You see, betelnut chewing is a part of Taiwan culture but it is considered low-class by some...


Betelnut trees being the root cause for disasters has come into doubt following the devastating summer typhoon of 2009.

"In the absence of any official declaration of the underlying causes, residents have filled the void with speculation.

Taiwan’s forestry bureau says native subtropical trees had covered most of the deadly mudslide areas of Kaohsiung County in southern Taiwan, doing more to hold mountain sides intact than to loosen them. Villagers had planted mainly bamboo, mangoes, peaches and taro on the lower hillsides. They had shunned betel nut plantations and high-mountain tea, which are common elsewhere on the island and are notorious for destablising soil for lack of deep roots, an agricultural official said.

Other disaster authorities point toward Taiwan’s fragile geology and ecosystem, including repeated earthquakes, typhoons and an early 2009 drought that have left hillsides at increased risk, allowing even huge deep-rooted trees to fall last month.

“Taiwan is an important case study in climate change,” said Chern Jenn-chuan, deputy minister of the cabinet’s Public Construction Commission. “We can say that natural disasters will be more and more severe. We can be sure of that.”

The villagers claim:

"Decades of forestry, farming and over-population have loosened mountain soil all over the island, leaving it prone to massive slides."


So once again it seems that betelnut trees, often scapegoated in these disasters, are not the culprit this time. In fact, there are a wider range of factors which would fit nicely in Jared Diamond's Collapse theories.

On top of this it is interesting that high mountain tea is also mentioned due to lack of deep roots. Why isn't there an anti-high mountain tea growing campaign from intellectuals?

So it appears that farming and deforestation in general are more likely the cause of landslides. Why do people believe the anti-betelnut lobby so blindly?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Travel Fear

100_4071, originally uploaded by islaformosa2009.

This poster perfectly represents the typical Taiwanese family on their vacation, totally carefree and innocent while the masses of criminal types zero in on their kill.

Taiwanese travelers are most likely targeted due to their lack of street-wiseness.

This poster takes advantage of Taiwanese fears by advertising safety deposit boxes to prevent armed bandits from spoiling vacations.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Betelnut Girl Commentary

Found this really screwed up web page selling shoes and boots doing a bit on betelnut girls from an article that appeared in The Los Angeles Times.


Thought it was interesting to get someone's comment about the phenomenon who has never been here. He seems to be getting his jollies from the article...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Google Street View Arrives in Taipei

BIG BIG NEWS! Google Street View is HERE in Taipei FINALLY!

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

Only for Taipei central area so far. Drag the little man over the map to see the extent of the coverage. Parts of Taipei county are in there too.

Read earlier Google Street View Post featuring pics of the Street View camera car:


Forumosa chat

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ingenious Bending of the Law in Taiwan

This picture of a plain looking table in a night market may seem on the boring side but, in fact, it you are looking a little bit of Taiwan ingenuity when it comes to the law.

On this unattended table can be found DVDs of films like Terminator Salvation and all the very latest movies in the theaters. So you've figured out that this is a table full of pirated videos. The only thing is they are just sitting there unattended.

Taiwanese are smart and always find ways to get around laws. In this case, were the table attended, the police would have someone to arrest. No attendee therefore no arrest. The DVDs are just sitting there. However, customers can't just take them. They are expected to make a 'donation' in the box in the middle. And the box just stays there unattended. Or so it seems...

In fact, the table and the box are monitored by someone but in a crowded night market, it's hard to know just who. Most likely gangsters working in the area. So, if you choose to help yourself to a copy, don't forget to make your donation.

So, as you can see the secret attendants are protected and the customers help themselves to the DVDs, self-service style. It's an ingenious way to keep the law-breakers out of harms way. And, it seems, the customers seem not to be at fault as 'unwitting' buyers of such illegal movie copies.

Teaching Kids the Lowdown on Poop

Enjoy the stool world at the Taipei Zoo.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fallout: NIN's 'Formally Abolished' Taipei Concert

I should explain. After the NIN concert was canceled I went to the website of the promoter. There were two way to refund: go there on the night of the performance to be or send in your ticket by mail and have the money wired to your account. Thinking the second method very scammy, I went in person. I'm glad I did and I have a fantastic story to go with it.

What greeted me was exactly as this post suggests, the back of a very hard to find pitch dark parking lot in the middle of a non-descript NanGang neighborhood with a table with an umbrella as in the picture (right out in the open with money in piles on the table).

As I was walking up to the table, though, a foreign guy said to me be careful because someone will tell me to F*** Off. Jesus man, I thought, don't drag me into your fight man. I just wanted my money back.

I went up and they (3 or 4 people + 2 security guards) checked my ticket with a flashlight and then gave me my money back. No problems. Phew!

Little did I know there was more to the story

Reading this all, though, I really feel that everyone is overacting a little. Both sides seem to have their points, however hreatening to sue people left and right really doesn't seem the right way to go though. We'll see what becomes of this all.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Shark's Still on the Table

Someone recently posted an article about how an aquarium in Taiwan is hosting a whale shark. The article seemed to suggest that the Taiwanese are becoming more environmental, especially when it comes to sharks.


I laugh at this suggestion. Don't be fooled.

As much as we wish Taiwanese would take more of a serious look at environmental issues, the fact remains that their old habits die hard, particularly about food, which Taiwanese are obsessed with. Shark fin is and will be on the table for some time to come. Taiwanese brutally slaughter sharks by the hundreds to get these fins for Chinese restaurants all over.

Read my previous shark blog entry

To understand the Taiwanese position, take for example some discussions I have had. I have talked to Taiwanese friends on numerous occasions about Canada's seal hunt and Japanese hunting whales for 'research' purposes. Why kill the cute little seals they say? I say it's to control the seal population so that fish stocks don't get too low. Still not ok. When it came to Japanese whaling, they said this the right of Japanese since whale is tradition food for Japanese (which flies in the face of what Western people feel about the whale hunt).

When I turned to shark hunting, the Taiwanese also turned a blind eye. They've always caught sharks. Sharks eat us so why shouldn't we eat them first, they said. Besides, they're delicious in soup.

To top it off, I'll leave you with a comment I heard from an avid young Taiwanese surfer friend. I asked if there were worries about sharks in the water around Taiwan where he was surfing.

To this he answered, with a smile that conveyed that it was a typical Taiwanese answer to the question, that there are no sharks in the waters around Taiwan. Taiwanese sharks can only be found on Taiwanese restaurant tables! (I am such a silly guy, of course I should know this.)

He continued to smile after cracking the 'joke,' perhaps thinking of chowing down on that perfect bowl of shark fin soup. Unknownst to him, he had given me a perfect example of the mentality Taiwanese are up against when it comes to the shark fin trade that they are unwilling to give up.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Taiwanese are Dense

Talking with a friend of mine last night, the topic of population density came up and the often quoted statement about YongHe being the most densely populated area on Earth. I live in YongHe so it was of immediate interest to me when I had heard first heard this.

I remember hearing or reading (in the Lonely Planet?) that YongHe held this record many years ago but I have never been able to corroborate it with data until now. Turns out it is wrong. Although not the most dense, YongHe does rank among the densest populated areas on Earth though:

YongHe 41,139 per km2 making it 37th on the list
By comparison to the densest:
Marine Lines, Mumbai, India 114,000 per km2

Taiwan island ranks 6th among islands at 636 per km2
By comparison to the densest:
Ap Lei Chau HK 66,755 per km2

The Republic of China ranks 15th among 'countries,' also with 636 per km2
By comparison to the densest:
Macau 18,405 per km2


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Taiwan Legs of the World Photowalk 2009

Joined the second annual photowalk this year. The Taipei one was led by Craig Ferguson, a seasoned Taiwan-based photographer.


I'm no professional. I didn't even have a decent camera (I just used my Canon 950IS snapshotter). But my friend Joe and I still had a good time taking pictures within the shadow of 101 and drinking beers all the way.

To view the Taiwan pictures, follow these links and scroll to the bottom:
Taipei leg
Taichung leg

Here's a panoramic interactive image of all the Taipei walkers to enjoy as well. Check out in the trees and on the ground as well:
Craig's in red with the hat.
You can guess which person I am...

And the winner is...

Unemployment Rate Blues

There's been a lot of coverage lately about Taiwan's highest unemployment rate ever: 5.9%



Taiwanese seem worried but, honestly, I can't help but laugh. Western countries' unemployment rates usually range in the 7 to 12% range in normal situations and, heck, we're in a global recession at the moment of huge proportions. By comparison, Taiwanese screaming about unemployment rates seem like Chicken Little (The sky is falling!).

Just how do unemployment statistics stack up across countries? Well there is a lot of dispute since some governments are less open about reporting unemployment statistics or have vastly different ways of calculating them (some countries do not include incarcerated prisoners in their statistics, a fact, that as some have pointed out, makes unemployment statistics in countries like the US artificially lower [feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about this]).

Wikipedia to the rescue! Found some good data to compare which needs to be taken with a grain of salt. However, the overall picture painted is clear.

Taiwan 5.82%
Japan 5.2%
China 9%
United States 9.5%
UK 7.6%
Germany 8.3%
Spain 18.7%
Russia 9.9%
Brazil 8.8%
Iraq 18.00%; 28% among youth; 83% among women

Compare these to:
Zimbabwe 90%
Andorra 0%


All this unemployment talk has made me think about ways that citizens of each country react to unemployment news. I look at a country like Spain in particular which has, in my opinion, a fairly high unemployment rate for the kind of country it is. No one is rioting in the streets there about unemployment. However, if it were Taiwan, people would be thinking it is the end of the world. So how does a country like Spain cope?

I think it has a lot to do with the capacity to absorb unemployed back home to the family and this is also a point in Taiwan's favor as well. Usually, the goal of western kids is to leave the nest and strike on their own and be independent. Living with parents has a stigma attached to it. However, traditionally, kids lived at home. In some cultures, having the kids at home later in life doesn't have a stigma attached. In fact, some parents are thrilled to keep their kids at home longer or indefinitely (think 'mama's boys' or 'failure to launch' types).

Spain is a Latin country with a strong family tradition (let's not forget those relatives too). In tough times, kids can come back home to roost. Is Taiwan so different? Lots of kids are living with their parents (who have relative huge savings compared to their kids) indefinitely or have no qualms returning home if things go wrong or they need a break.

In fact, now that I think of it, western kids trying to live apart from their family creates unecessary duplication (another house and related costs) and spending (buying bulk saves more money). If there just weren't such a stigma attached to living with parents forever!

Taiwan will do fine in the face of this higher unemployment. No riots here. The sky may feel like it's falling but the family unit and emphasis on Taiwan families taking care of their own will prevail.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Forumosa Recognizes blog.IslaFormosa.com

I just got an email today that really made my day. After all the effort, Forumosa has recognized my website. I'd just like to thank my followers wherever you may be. Drop me a line if you like what you read!

http://www.forumosa.org/favorites/ (I'm 3rd from the top)

I know I've been delinquent writing lately but I'll be back very soon when I feel the urge.

In the meantime, enjoy my archives of close to 400 entries. Use the SEARCH FUNCTION to find what you'd like or check out my LABELS.

Be sure to also check out Forumosa.com's innumerable posts about just about everything Taiwan.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How many Taiwanese does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Here's the story behind the punchline.

I bumped into a female Taiwanese colleague in the elevator at work the other day. It seemed early and she looked like she was leaving so I asked her where she was going. She said home.

"Oh, to do what?," I asked.

"To change a lightbulb," she said.

"Why not later after work?," I decided to ask.

"Because a plumber is coming over to change it for me," she said matter-of-factly.

"Ok, can't you change the bulb yourself? I mean it's easy," I questioned.

"(Oh you silly foreigner) I'm a Taiwanese girl," she replied.

Yes, you certainly are, I thought.

Turns out that she didn't know anything about switching off breakers or electricity I guess and was willing to pay to have someone do a simple thing like this. This can happen in Taiwan where the girls often really play the part.

So to repeat from the beginning:
How many Taiwanese does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Evidently, in a Taiwanese girl's case, it might mean at least two...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

NIN makes a date with Taipei

NIN is coming to Taipei.
This will be a big concert for alternate music lovers out there.

Date: August 12, 2009 (Wednesday)
Time: 20:00 (18:00 Admission)
Venue: South 101 (Nankang)
Fare Zoning: A / B / C (all standing)

On-line ticket sales start April 13
Contact's ticket sales http://www.ticket.com.tw/dm.asp?P1=0000009580

Before April 30 special: A zone 2600 / B zone 1800 / C zone 1200
Before May 30 special: A zone 2700 / B zone 1900 / C zone 1300
Regular A zone︰ 3000 / B zone 2200 / C zone 1600

See you there!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Don't call me Laowai, bitch!

Are you a little tired at being called Laowai? Don't like to be lumped in that category? It seems to be a tad too negative for my liking. Kind of like lumping foreigners in a 'can't be like us Chinese category'.

But what else can we be called? WaiGuoRen (foreign person) is ok although still implies outsider (not like us). YangGuiZi (foreign ghost or devil) is a bit much.

[More about those terms here]

Or should we really be thinking about what to call ourselves? I think it's about time we had an endonym to call ourselves, the foreigners living in Taiwan. Enough of these antiquated and loaded names (exonyms) that locals have for us. Anyone have any ideas?

Foreign friend? Foreign guest? Foreign slave? Something else?

Alternatively we could just start calling each other LaoWai and make the word our own much like some Taiwanese have twisted the term TaiKe.

When I see you on the street and you hear me say, "What's up LaoWai?" you could reply "Laowai, long time no see". It might worth the trouble to say how locals react.

On a final note, a friend of mine once drunkenly blurted out, "Caucasian is just Asian with a 'Cauc' ". He was a 'Cauc' alright for saying that. But at least he took a shot at claiming a stake to the name.

Take your best shot whether it be serious or idiotic. What name should we, the foreigners of Taiwan, lay claim to?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Oasis: China's Loss is Taiwan's Gain

Oasis will be in Taipei for a show on April 3.  Saw this show when I was back home.  Oasis as always were in good form although the brother's still not on speaking terms (no stage interaction between them).  Also be forwarned that they are playing a lot of new songs from their mediocre new album.  A few classics though.  Should still be fun.

There's an interesting story about why they are coming to Taiwan and why all of a sudden.  It seems that they were rejected by China because they had participated in pro-Tibetan acitivities in the past.  Not surprising.  Well, Taiwan makes up the slack in their tour.  Don't think we're getting special treatment.  We're just the second choice for lack of a better place to go.

read more:

PS. From that ticket site it looks like there is another big concert coming August 13.  3 big bands:
18:00 All-American Rejects
19:00 Hoobastank
20:00 Linkin Park

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Google Street View Confirmed for Taipei

A while back I wrote about seeing a van with cameras on the top. I thought it was Google's.
Turns out I was wrong BUT Google Street View is coming to Taipei anyhow!

This car was spotted roaming the streets and there's a video to go with it to boot.  

I can't wait for Street View to come here.  Taipei, as anyone knows who's been lost here, really needs it.

Wiki says "As of March 2009 the Google Street View camera car was seen roaming the streets of Taipei, Taiwan." wiki

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ice Saw

This guy just got a block of ice delivered to his market stall.  He plans to cut it with the saw.
From Blogger

Cat Hammock

These two cats were just loving this cat hammock, jostling for the better sleeping position.
From Blogger

Another Doggie Poop Sign

Taiwanese love those cartoon version doggie poops.  Obsessed with them, in fact.
From Blogger

Taiwan Has Never Been the Same Since...

Taiwan has come a long way since I first arrived in 1997:

From Blogger

From Blogger

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Osama makes a Taipei appearance

From Blogger

Along with his buddies Mao and Che...
From Blogger

From Blogger

CNY 2009

Have trouble talking with that mask on? Want a mask that doesn't cover your mouth? This may be for you!

Selling firecrackers and fireworks in front of the park sign prohibiting fireworks in the park.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Random Around Town Cell Shots

From Blogger
The Goddess of Democracy guards Taipei 101.

From Blogger
Metropolitan Life sells using Peanuts characters.

From Blogger
Cadina potato chips uses movie characters to advertise. I detect a lawsuit coming...

From Blogger
Sportsac creates people entirely made of balloons.

From Blogger
Google advertises "What can you use Google to do?" Get a tip!

From Blogger
A bus has an ad for MOD (Media on Demand) on the side featuring Californication starring David Duchovny. Funny thing is, as far as I know, that series doesn't air in Taiwan! Great show though!

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