Pages

Showing posts with label Taiwan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Taiwan. Show all posts

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Rambling Travel Tale: One Way to Go From Taipei to Guangdong

The previous post may have seemed out of the blue not only because it was about trash collection but also because it featured Macau. So I will take this opportunity to share a personal travel experience that captures a few of the issues involved in traveling to the Pearl River Delta area.

After an unexpectedly long stay in Taipei, it was time to leave. I knew I wanted to head to Guangdong province but had some flexibility in how to do that. For example, I could take a cheap (less than US $60) flight from Taipei to the island of Kinmen, a ferry to Xiamen in mainland China, and then high-speed rail to Guangdong. Or I could fly directly from Taipei to Shenzhen or Guangzhou in Guangdong. The differing options had various tradeoffs regarding price and convenience. One issue was that there was no way to fly directly from Taipei to where I expected to spend the Lunar New Year holiday.

Then I discovered some cheap direct flights from Taipei to Macau — just US $80 one way. Macau borders Zhuhai, a city in Guangdong. There are no direct flights from Taipei to Zhuhai. But even if there were, the Zhuhai airport is actually farther from the most urban areas of Zhuhai than the Macau airport. The catch is that as a Special Administrative Region in the People's Republic of China, Macau has its own immigration procedures. And they take time to go through.

Overall, I felt the Macau to Zhuhai route was reasonably convenient, and the price was sweet. Oh, and the flight was on Air Macau. I could add yet another airline to my list. So, I bought the ticket.

The flight left the gate about 15 minutes early. The breakfast on the flight, some sort of chicken noodles, was surprisingly tasty. Upon arriving at the airport in Macau, I considered taking a special bus that allows you to avoid Macau immigration and head straight to one of the mainland China immigrations checkpoints on the border with Zhuhai. A policewoman saw me reading a relevant sign, though, and asked if I had a reservation. I said the website indicated that tickets for a bus to the checkpoint I wanted could only be bought at the airport. She then said the tickets must be sold out and that Chinese tour groups often buy them out. I explained the website didn't indicate they were sold out, just that you had to buy them in person. She repeated the point about Chinese tour groups.

I was tempted to check things out with the bus company myself. But given the departure of the next bus (they aren't very freqent) I thought I might make it to Zhuhai more quickly another way.

So, I went through Macau immigration, which was very fast at the airport. Then I wanted to take a convenient city bus to the border at Portas do Cerco. I had some change in both Macau patacas and Hong Kong dollars, both usable on buses in Macau, but not enough. So I exchanged some Chinese yuan knowing I would be making my way back to Macau later. Then I took a bus to Portas do Cerco where I passed through Macanese immigration once again — not as quickly as at the airport but 10 minutes is fine. The line for mainland China immigration was reasonable as well. In the end, I made it to Zhuhai quicker than I would have had I taken the more expensive bus which bypasses Macau's immigration process.

After settling in Zhuhai for a bit, I returned to Macau for a day. And later I finally made the next leg of this journey.

So here's a photo from today, the first day of the new Lunar New Year, next to the Jiangmen River in Jiangmen, Guangdong:

Man and boy sitting next to the Jiangmen River


One take home message from all of this is that when one making a long trip to this part of Guangdong, there can be a variety of options worth considering (I have other tales to share). I wouldn't have guessed that flying to Macau would be the winner in this case. But it was. And it worked just fine.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Dope Sign in Taipei

Admittedly, I paused for a moment when I first noticed the "Dope Rent" sign hanging above a lane in Taipei.

"酷租 Dope Rent" sign in Taipei


I figured the sign wasn't about renting illegal drugs, so I wondered what led to the use of "dope" in the company's English name. A look at the company's Chinese name "酷租" gave a clue.

The first character can mean "hip" — a loanword reflecting that "kù" (Mandarin Chinese) sounds somewhat similar to "cool" in English. A look around Dope Rent's website indicates that was the meaning they had in mind.

The rest of the English name is straightforward, as "rent" is a common translation for the second character in the Chinese name. Fittingly, both the website and the sign indicate Dope Rent is a property management company.

So they could have gone with something like "Cool Rent" for their name. But maybe they didn't think that would be so dope.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Green and Red at Zhishan Park in Taipei

Some paths and insects for today, all from Zhishan Park:


bamboo covered path at Zhishan Park in Taipei



tree covered path at Zhishan Park in Taipei



Chinese lanterns along a stairway with traditional Chinese designs at Zhishan Park in Taipei



red bugs at Zhishan Park in Taipei


If you can identify the red insects, I'd appreciate being enlightened. I feel like they deserve a name. And maybe you can give some other red insects I once saw in Fuzhou a try as well.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Taipei Lunar New Year Festival at Dihua Street

One of the main entrances to the Taipei Lunar New Year Festival on Dihua Street
One of the main entrances to the Taipei Lunar New Year Festival on Dihua Street

Dihua Street runs through Dadaocheng, a section of Taipei dense with visible history. According to a government tourist website:
In late 1880s, Dadaocheng started to prosper in light of the opening of Tamsui Harbor. It has since become the keystone of economic and cultural development. In Dadaocheng, you will see extravagant Baroque architecture, traditional Hokkien bungalows and brilliant red-brick western houses. Historical buildings, traditional folklore center, tea houses, fabric stores, Chinese pharmacy and local eateries alike are rich in history. A new everyday-aesthetics derives in the vintage neighborhoods of Dadaocheng where century-old stores meet with contemporary innovation.
And at the moment, there's another reason to visit Dihua Street. It is one of the locations for this year's Taipei Lunar New Year Festival:
The Dihua New Year's Goods shopping street will be in place from February 1st to 14th, featuring hundreds of stands selling classic or trendy items. There will be 15 food trucks at Yongle Plaza during the period as well. On weekends, chefs are invited to demonstrate how they prepare New Year's dishes, and visitors can also pour their emotions and creativity into making red envelopes and New Year’s banners. Vintage style clothing and cute dog costumes are also available for people to take fun photos with, sitting in front of an AR technology backdrop. This year's festival has been expanded to Ningxia Night market, Taipei Station Wholesale Market, Rongbin Shopping District and Taipei City Mall, immersing visitors from all places in the lively, colorful Chinese New Year experience in Taipei.
When I visited Dihua Street last Thursday afternoon, what most caught my attention early on were the very dense crowds, all the more striking considering it was a cold overcast weekday afternoon and rain had been forecasted.

dense crowd at the Taipei Lunar New Year Festival on Dihua Street


This made me wonder what it would be like on a weekend day with good weather.

In comparison to past Lunar New Year Fairs in Hong Kong I've attended, there appeared to be more of an emphasis on the traditional items people commonly buy for celebrating the Lunar New Year, making it more distinct from a regular night market, common in Taiwan. In that spirit, some of the sellers wore traditional clothing.

sellers at the Taipei Lunar New Year Festival on Dihua Street


I didn't see anybody wearing a dog costume, though, fitting for the upcoming Year of the Dog. But I see someone wearing a Cheshire Cat outfit.

person wearing a Cheshire Cat costume


As usual for the Lunar New Year, candy was a common item for sale and a great number of varieties were available.

candy for sale at the Taipei Lunar New Year Festival on Dihua Street


candy for sale at the Taipei Lunar New Year Festival on Dihua Street


chocolate coins for sale at the Taipei Lunar New Year Festival on Dihua Street


I tried one of the chocolate coins, something familiar from my own childhood, and I'll just say after the first taste I had no desire to finish it. The cheap Italian chocolates, many with liquor fillings, sold at the same stand were significantly better.

I also took advantage of the the many food vendors there.

Taiwanese sausages for sale at the Taipei Lunar New Year Festival on Dihua Street


Sure, black cuttlefish sausages aren't specifically a Lunar New Year treat, but I don't come across them often (the one place which comes to mind is a long metro ride away in Tamsui, though I assume there are closer options). And how can you ignore somebody waving a giant cuttlefish sausage?

woman holding a large fake Cuttlefish Sausage


As it started to get darker around 5 p.m. the crowds thinned slightly and it was easier to explore the various stands.

The Taipei Lunar New Year Festival on Dihua Street during the evening


But things seemed to pick up later on, though still not as busy as the afternoon.

There's much more to see (and eat) than what I have shared here. So if you can, head on over to Dihua Street before the festival ends on February 14. It's an opportunity to immerse yourself in a bit of history while enjoying the Lunar New Year festivities. You won't be alone.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Rain and Monochromatic Adidas Themes in Taipei

Many people lined up with their umbrellas today at the Taipei Xinyi VieShow Square to have their photo taken. The large crowd for the outdoor promotion, even on a cold rainy afternoon, suggests Adidas got something right.

people with umbrellas waiting in line to take photos at an Adidas promotion


people with umbrellas waiting in line to take photos at an Adidas promotion


people with umbrellas waiting in line to take photos at an Adidas promotion

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Globes Without Nine Dashes: Taiwan's Claims in the South China Sea

globe for sale in Taipei
Dash-less globes for sale in Taipei


At a shopping center in Taipei today I noticed some world globes for sale. A closer looked revealed they didn't include some dashes I used to seeing in mainland China, whether on globes or maps of restaurant locations. These dashes, commonly referred to as the Nine-Dash Line, have been used by both the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan) to indicate their claims in the South China Sea. The exact nature of the claims represented by the dashes hasn't always been clear. The globes inspired me to learn a bit more about the ROC side of things in this complex issue.

So below are a links to a few relevant pieces with different perspectives along with excerpts. Of note, after the first two pieces were published the ruling in the South China Sea Arbitration was issued in July 2016. The next two pieces capture some of its ramifications.


1. "Where Does Taiwan Stand on the South China Sea?" (May 2016) by Jiye Kim
The ROC seems to have slightly adjusted the gravity of its claim. Recently, the ROC’s claim has focused more on the islands, their surrounding waters and continental shelf, rather than the whole body of water in the U-shaped line. The ROC ‘suspended its claim to the entire waters’ within the line in December 2005, while still advocating its ownership of land features within the line.

2. "Has Taiwan Implicitly Clarified the U-Shaped Line?" (May 2016) by Chi-Ting Tsai
The illustration of the U-shaped line on an official map, “The First ROC Territorial Baseline and Territorial and Contiguous Zone Lines,” also constrains Taipei’s legal options. There is a brief footnote on the map noting, “All of the islands and rocks of the Spratly Islands within the traditional U-shaped line are ROC territory.” The map therefore suggests Taiwan claims only territorial sovereignty over the islands and rocks within the U-shaped line, not historical rights or sovereignty over the waters within the line. If Taiwan’s government regarded historical rights and waters as an indispensable interest within the U-shaped line, there would be no reason to exclude mention of them from the map. This does not necessarily prevent Taiwan from taking action to claim historical rights and waters in the future, but it does provide ammunition against Taipei were it to do so.

3. "Taiwan Can’t Negotiate, Likely to Observe Rules on South China Sea" (May, 2017) by Ralph Jennings
Taiwan lost a chance to make a global impression by stepping away from its nine-dash line claim, said Euan Graham, international security director with the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

“There was an opportunity there I think for Taiwan to get ahead of China in a way by maintaining its claim on the basis of features, but separating itself from the nine-dash line,” Graham said. “That would have been interesting, how China would have responded to that.”

4. "Taiwan’s Unique Opportunity to Help Resolve the South China Sea Maritime Territorial Dispute" (November, 2017) by Christopher Yung
Two of the larger remaining grand strategic options appear to be quite risky. A threat to renounce Taiwan’s traditional claim based on historic rights would plunge Taiwan into a deep and sustained row with Beijing. If the purpose of the renunciation is to create greater negotiating leverage with the PRC, then the risk might be worth taking. A move toward greater cooperation with Beijing on issues related to the South China Sea poses the risk that Taiwan is snared by Beijing’s “United Front” tactics, but if the result is a PRC promise to agree to a Taiwan proposal to convene an international conference to help bridge the Chinese position with that of international law, thereby elevating Taipei’s international status, then this too might be worth the risk.

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Language School Wants to "Make Taiwan Great Again": Cheers for Donald Trump in Taipei

During my travels the past couple of years I have seen images of Donald Trump in a variety of settings, such as at a newsstand in Taiyuan, on the wall of a noodle restaurant in Hong Kong, and at a stall selling paper cut portraits in Shanghai. The past few weeks it was an advertisement on a building in Taipei that most caught my attention.

Cheers language school advertisement with "Make Taiwan Great Again" and image of Donald Trump


The "Make Taiwan Great Again" slogan which accompanies the image of Trump on the advertisement for Cheers International Education Group is a clear play on Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan. While the use of English in advertisements isn't uncommon in Taipei, it is especially fitting given the focus of Cheers: foreign language training.

The Cheers page on Facebook features the same slogan and image of Trump:

top section of the Cheers International Education Group's Facebook page


Trump is depicted making a sign with his right hand, as best as I can tell not one which has been captured in an unaltered photo of him. Since the thumb is extended it isn't a standard horns sign, though perhaps a horns sign was intended. The hand sign does match the American Sign Language sign for the acronym "ILY" — standing for "I love you". But there's a twist here. The palm should face towards the object of the love. So the hand sign in this case could be interpreted as "I love myself".

Whatever the advertisement's designer had in mind, that a language school in Taipei would use Trump's message and image in this way raises questions about how he is perceived here. I am not aware of any scientific polling results on the matter, but both positive and negative opinions about Trump could be found in Taiwan when he was elected. Anecdotally and more recently, I have come across a mix of opinions as well. For example, when Trump came up in a conversation with a Taiwanese friend who strongly dislikes him, she commented that a surprising-to-her number of people in Taiwan view him positively as President of the U.S. due to his business background. And a local political activist I met mentioned that some Taiwanese hope Taiwan's next president will be like Trump for the same reason.

So while The Trump Organization could see the advertisement as impinging on their brand, Donald Trump may first see it as indicating some of his appeal abroad. A bigger test, however, may be whether a Taiwanese politician ever prominently features Trump in a positive fashion as part of a political advertising campaign. Barack Obama can already claim that achievement.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Thursday, January 25, 2018

McDonald's Brings Out the Prosperity Burger in Taiwan

Last night in Taipei I had local food on my mind and had no plans to eat at a McDonald's. But as I passed by one of their restaurants something caught my eye. It couldn't be.

It was.

The glorious Prosperity Burger, a special offering from McDonald's for the Lunar New Year holiday, was beckoning. Curiously, the burger is unavailable in mainland China, where McDonald's typically offers other holiday food items that change from year to year, such as the Year of Luck Burger (not at all my thing) or shrimp burgers (meh). I knew I'd be soon departing Taiwan in the near future and wasn't sure I'd be in any of the other areas that typically offers the Prosperity Burger, such as Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, or Indonesia, before the holiday ends.

So I changed plans and went inside the McDonald's to examine the options.

Lunar New Year special menu at McDonald's in Taipei


Last year in Macau I personally found that adding a hash brown "didn't do much for the burger except add intense caloric mass while diluting the taste of the Prosperity Sauce", so I avoided those options this time. That left a choice of either beef or chicken. I ordered the beef version, and very quickly I had a Prosperity Burger box in front of me.

McDonald's Prosperity Burger box in Taipei


Even better, as promised there was a Prosperity Burger inside.

McDonald's Prosperity Beef Burger in Taiwan


So black-peppery good.

If you've never had one, you're not just missing out on a delightful fast food holiday treat, you're also missing out on ensuring you aren't salt-deprived for the day.

nutritional information for the special Lunar New Year burgers at McDonald's in Taiwan


According to the McDonald's Taiwan website, the beef Prosperity Burger has 1320 mg of sodium. In comparison, the website indicates a Big Mac has 880 mg of sodium. Notably, the McDonald's U.S. website indicates a Big Mac has 950 mg. Perhaps this difference is due to Americans preferring more salt. Or perhaps this is due to Taiwan having a lower daily value for sodium (less than 2000 mg) than the US (less than 2400 mg). Whatever the case, the Prosperity Burger will have you well on your way to blasting through your sodium ceiling. You're really set if you layer on a hash brown or add a side of fries.

Regarding fries, I didn't bother getting any since curly fries, which have been part of the McDonald's Lunar New Year menu in other areas, weren't available. I suppose there is both good and bad in that.

And if you're still not convinced to try a Prosperity Burger, perhaps this McDonald's Taiwan promotional video, which emphasizes the hash brown option, will do the trick:


Anyway, I'm glad I was lucky enough to enjoy a Prosperity Burger this year. And I managed to still include a Taiwanese treat last night, though I had to head down a nearby alley. The small bowl of noodles with large intestines, not available at McDonald's even during holidays, was great as well. I don't want to know how much sodium they included though.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Leaping Cat Bridge: A Black Feline Braves the Heights in Taiwan

black cat on a stairway landing
Cropped photo of a daring cat


Today after crossing a bridge connecting Taipei City and New Taipei City, a black cat caused me to pause before I went down a stairway — the only way to reach ground level from this section of the bridge.

black cat on a stairway landing


Needless to say, the cat also saw me. After a couple of photos, I began to slowly descend the stairs. I figured either the cat would allow me to greet it / pass by or it would head down the stairs in front of me.

Of course, the cat did something else. It jumped onto the concrete wall bordering the stair landing. I froze, fearing the cat would try to reach a supporting structure of the bridge requiring a leap at a perilous height.

Of course, the cat leaped nonetheless. It didn't give itself much of a margin but still landed safely on the other side and settled down.

black cat on a high supporting structure for a bridge


Quite relieved not to have witnessed a catastrophe (pun not intended), wanting to keep things that way, and not seeing anything I could do to help at the moment, I made my way down the rest of the stairs.

Later as I stood across the street from the stairs, I heard a young voice from above exclaim "Māomī!" — "Kitty!" in Mandarin Chinese. When I looked up I saw a boy standing at the top of the stairs who was soon joined by numerous other school children. It wasn't clear what the children would do, but at least the cat was in a safe location, relatively speaking.

Or so I thought.

In fact, the cat had already returned to the stairway. And before any of the children went down the stairs, it made the same leap to the bridge again.

Expecting another return to the stairway, I waited as the cat remained out of view. After about seven minutes of nobody using the stairs, the cat came into view and prepared itself.

black cat about to jump from a bridge at a high height


Then, it leaped.

black cat jumping from a from a bridge to a stairway at a high height


That's a photo worth cropping.

closeup of a black cat jumping from a from a bridge to a stairway at a high height


The End.

Ok, not the end. I'm pleased to report the cat made it safely back to the stairs. Here's another cropped photo with a bit of proof:

black cat on the ledge of a stairway at a high height


And now some speculation . . .

The cat appeared to been have been ear tipped, suggesting it is a stray. Given what I have seen elsewhere in Taipei, where stray cats aren't uncommon, I wouldn't be surprised if somebody is feeding the cat regularly at the stairway landing around the time of day I arrived. Perhaps they first encountered the cat there and a ritual began. If so, the downside to this act of kindness is that as the cat waits for the person (food) to arrive it avoids other people by repeatedly making a dangerous leap.

The cat apparently feels confident enough in its abilities. But as an online video search easily indicates, cats aren't perfect. And at some point as the cat ages, it won't be able to leap as well. Will the cat know to retire from its bridge adventures before then? That would be quite a height for a cat, no matter how many lives it has, to fall, and the ground far below is unforgiving concrete.

One potential downside to sharing this story is that people who can figure out the exact location may be inspired to engage in some leaping-kitty tourism and approach the cat on the stair landing hoping to see a jump up close. So please, refrain. This will only add to the number of times the cat is tempted to take a substantial risk.

To be clear, I don't know whether or not the cat is a regular on these stairs — hopefully not. But if you or somebody you know are cat-experienced and interested in further exploring the situation with the aim to help if need be, feel free to contact me (see the sidebar of the website; go here if currently viewing the mobile version). I can help you pin down the exact location and also share the time of day when I saw the cat. Assuming it could require multiple regular visits, I'm not able to undertake the deed, especially since I expect to be departing Taipei soon.

If more high leaps are in store, though, may they all be good ones. Whatever the future holds for the cat, I might feel more confident in the answer if I later see another cat at such heights and think to myself "You're not really going to jump there, are you?"

Monday, January 22, 2018

Models, Dogs, and Lobster: The Breeze Center in Taipei Welcomes Valentine's Day and the Lunar New Year

A Valentine's Day promotion at the Qsquare shopping mall in Taipei left me wondering if the Lunar New Year, another potential holiday for a promotion, falling close to Valentine's Day this year influenced the decision to start the promotion nearly a month before February 14. Yesterday I saw that the Breeze Center, a luxury shopping mall in Taipei, had also began a Valentine's Day promotion on January 18. But it marked the start of their Lunar New Year promotions as well.

A series of banners with "Happy Chinese New Year & Valentine's Day" were easy to spot

"Happy Chinese New Year & Valentine's Day" banners at the Breeze Center in Taipei

"Happy Chinese New Year & Valentine's Day" banner at the Breeze Center in Taipei


Although the holidays are mentioned together, the text size on the banners highlights the Lunar New Year holiday more. And at one entrance, while the Lunar New Year theme was clear, including that it will be Year of the Dog, there was nothing specifically indicating Valentine's Day.

Entrance to Breeze Center decorated for the Lunar New Year


On Breeze's website for all of its shopping centers in Taipei portions of four images are currently featured, one appearing at a time and all with holiday promotions. One, like the banners at the mall, mentions both holidays.

"Happy Chinese New Year & Valentine's Day" image on the Breeze website


Another only mentions Valentine's Day.

"Happy Valentine's Day" banner by Breeze


And another only mentions the Lunar New Year.

"Happy Chinese New Year" banner by Breeze


All of the previous banners include female models. One other, which only mentions the Lunar New Year, does not. It has a cooked lobster instead.

Banner for Breeze's Chinese New Year Gift Guide with image of a cooked lobster


The promotions are a sign of how Breeze is handling the proximity of the holidays. Perhaps they will convince some people there is nothing like new shoes for celebrating Valentine's Day and lobster for the starting of the Year of the Dog — all purchased at Breeze, of course.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Getting a Head Start on Showing Love: A Valentine's Month Sale at Qsquare in Taipei

Yesterday, January 18, I didn't expect to be thinking about Valentine's Day, which isn't until February 14. However, sale signs at the Qsquare shopping mall in Taipei changed that.

Valentine's Day Winter Sale sign at Qsquare in Taipei


The mall's website now prominently features its Valentine's Day themed winter sale as well.

Valentine's Day Winter Sale promotion on the Qsquare website


I don't know whether it is typical for Qsquare to start a Valentine's Day promotion nearly four weeks before the holiday. Qsquare may have chosen the timing because another holiday with sales potential — the Lunar New Year — falls on February 16 this year. However, I have seen similarly early starts to holiday sales elsewhere. So I wouldn't be shocked if Valentine's Day signs would now be up even if the Lunar New Year fell on a later date.

In any case, the Chinese message on the banner indicates the sale will be an opportunity for couples to show evidence of their love. It doesn't mention that depending on your significant other it may or may not be beneficial to mention you bought their gift on sale.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Guidance at Two Temples in Taipei

Learning . . .

Group of young students in front of Ling-Xing Gate at the Taipei Confucius Temple
Ling-Xing Gate at the Taipei Confucius Temple


and directions . . .

Man wearing "Taipei Baoan Temple" pointing a man in the right direction
Taipei Baoan Temple


weren't in short supply today at two nearby historic temples in Taipei.