Sunday, February 15, 2009

A week in Taipei

It was that kind of week, traveling, visiting, eating out.....

Tuesday I went up to Taipei to do some work for the RDEC's English Emblem program. The Research, Development, and Evaluation Commission of the Executive Yuan is one of the most important government agencies that you have never heard of. They formulate and execute all sorts of programs to upgrade every aspect of the island's life.

The train station in the morning is filled with people on their to work, or already there.

The metro is packed.

Bad teeth are not an impediment to modeling. Isn't Taiwan great?

The Goddess of White Collar Workers exhorts her minions to greater glory.

Outside the station commuters are overwhelmed with enthusiasm.

Travelers buy tickets.

A horde of long-term income streams for the Mormon Church rushed by.

Resting in the unseasonably excellent weather.

Reading...

...or chatting.

Is there anything more pleasing than a beautiful, and beautifully pregnant, young woman smiling at you on a sunny Taipei morn?

Homeless plot strategy.

That morning a group of us from the RDEC visited several shops to assess their English so that they could be awarded an emblem from the RDEC to let foreigners know their English was ok. We looked at everything from warnings and disaster escape instructions, to labels on bottles and the clerk's English abilities. The purpose of the program is a general upgrade of the island's English capabilities, aimed at tourists.

Outside Taipei was still waking up.

The construction never stops....

....and the lines never end.

Inside the liquor stores we got a kick out of the government warning signs. The third one is a hoot, warning that "It is forbidden to force a pregnant woman to smoke." It's ok to seduce, cajole, persuade, or bribe a pregnant woman to smoke, but forcing is a no-no. These signs are found in all establishments that serve liquor.[UPDATE: the Chinese says force or seduce. Persuasion is still in!]

Second hand smoke isn't good for your family.

Outside the liquor store too there were signs.

We next checked out a tour company. This involved a trip to Dead Dictator Memorial.

A tour group listens to a guide.

Among all the museums of Taiwan, this is my favorite exhibit caption. The exhibit shows a couple of sedan chairs that obviously had to be carried on someone's shoulders as the general "strolled."

The KMT fostered a personality cult around the dictator Chiang Kai-shek, and here is an offering from one of his more insane acolytes: carved in marble, an incised image of the young monster, and 13 chapters of Sun Tzu's Art of War. The whole thing is probably no more than 20 cm long.

I had dinner at the fantastic Yuma Grill, right near the Chunghsiao/Tunhua metro stop. South side of Chunghsiao, lane 216, alley 11, number 29 at the end with the brown umbrellas. I'd show more food porn but that would only be torture.

The next day I had a day off, and so went to Keelung to go hiking with my friend Jeff Miller. "Pork Fiber Danish" sounds like a good name for a Taiwan blog.

We took a hike through the city's immense fruit and vegetable wholesale market.

...which offered both food...

...and ex-food.

The trail seemed bucolic, but developers had taken over the area and new apartments were being put in everywhere we walked.

Jeff told me this mound of dirt and the big hole were dug by a pangolin.

We walked through bamboo farms....

At a small shop Jeff showed me this bottle of rice wine, designed to reduce taxes. Alcohol is taxed by volume, but this product is diluted with water. Normally makers put the two together and pay the unnecessary taxes on the water to save manufacturing costs. Not this maker, who separated the water and the alchohol to lower his tax burden.

At a development nearby the former landowner has sold a plot to developers, but kept his old house next door.

An older housing development right nearby.

We hiked up to the ridge overlooking the city, but it was too hazy to see anything except nearby organisms.....

...like this farmer hard at work...

...and this alert bird....

...and this web builder....

....and this gorgeous green spider...

...who shyly fled when he saw me...

...to the safety of a leaf.

Plenty of people out for a walk on the ridges enjoying the unseasonably nice weather.

Fruit trees wait for spring.

Jeff and I decided to explore some of the new construction.

A piece of coal....but where was the seam?

Jeff points to the black streak in the exposed face: a coal seam. Keelung was an important source of low quality coal into the 1960s, but the mines, inefficient and family operated, were shut down.

In the afternoon we drove out along the north coast past Yehliu to Chinshan and Wanli.

A fruit vendor by the side of the road.

It was an utterly glorious day.

We stopped by this small but old temple in a little hamlet on the way.

It housed this interesting boat.

A nice looking bridge lead to a very dirty beach.

Jeff shoots a door.

A seafood joint.

A ruined house and boat.

As is common in every waterway, people were hard at work fishing. I guess they wear those veiled hats so their wives can't identify them in tourists' photos.... "A-Chen! Aren't you supposed to be at work?"

Keelung is littered with the military relics of three colonial regimes, the Qing, the Japanese, and the KMT. Here a pillbox lies buried beneath the vegetation.

Although the authorities had thoughtfully carved a path on the beach, the sign warns us not to use it.

Thousands of years of erosion and deposition.

Collecting shells....

...and seaweed. The rocks here are an extension of the beautifully carved seashore that curves around northern Taiwan. Surely this is one of the most lovely parts of the island.

Jeff shoots the bay.

Can you find the little hunting spider?

Here is our goal: a pair of eroded-out pillars known as the Twin Candlesticks.

A closer view.

Fishermen were hard at work among the rocks.

With the sun setting, and the hawks out for a spin, we returned to our car....

...and I to Taipei, where, at Sogo, it is the Year of the Plastic Cow.

11 comments:

Franck said...

Great pictures!
By the way, the bottles of rice wine are amazing... Really, imagination has no limit :-)

cfimages said...

I saw an exhibition at TIVAC in Taipei recently that had shots similar to your "ex-food" shot from the wholesale market. A little more arty but basically the same as yours. The main difference was that the photos at the exhibition had price tags as high as NT$100 000 per photo on them. Average price was about $50K.

Anonymous said...

RDEC English Emblem program? Government organizations are so inefficient with this kind of thing. A private organization working as a service shops pay for would be so much better.

I bet RDEC doesn't even have obvious things like an online map of these shops (I mean, if it's supposed to be a service for English speaking tourists...).

channing said...

In Taiwan mass-media there's been a recent popularity of hiring actresses and models with "kiddy teeth" and horrendously squeaky voices. It probably suggests childishness or innocence, and I suspect it's a full-on fetish.

Anonymous said...

The sign you saw in the liquor shop was actually warning "It's forbidden to force or seduce the pregnant woman to smoke." You are correct that the third character means "force." But, the fourth character means "seduce." As a native speaker, I should correct you. No offence.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Things change fast in this city. We just drove by Dictator Hall on Sunday morning (two and a half days ago) and it still had the Democracy Hall characters above the gate. In your picture, it's 大忠門 or, I guess, Big Loyalty Gate. When I came to Taiwan, it was 中正紀念堂 - Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

I remember that many politicians and their media were up in arms when President Chen had the name changed a short while ago; they said it cost us a lot of money. Either they have amnesia or the painters and paint shops are now providing services for free. BTW, is the miniature of Chiang inside the Hall, at the Chiang exhibit? I never noticed it before.

Anonymous said...

The finest Taiwan Naugahyde comes from those plastic cows.

Feiren said...

The sign you saw in the liquor shop was actually warning "It's forbidden to force or seduce the pregnant woman to smoke." You are correct that the third character means "force." But, the fourth character means "seduce." As a native speaker, I should correct you. No offence.

Here 誘 should be translated as 'induce', not 'seduce'. As in 誘導. As a native speaker of English, I should correct you. No offense.

迫 might be rendered as 'coerce' here.

Dixteel said...

Humm...bad teeth eh...it's funny another nation that is famous for bad teeth is UK. And I heard Japanese also have bad teeth. My co-workers say Japanese bad teeth might be due to their eating habit of drink very hot soup and then drink very cold water or other drinks...not sure if he is right though.

But all the island nation people have bad teeth? Is this coincidental or something more?

Patrick Cowsill said...

Actually, the main gate (I just went by several times last weekend) still reads that it's Taiwan Democracy Hall. Your pic must be of Northern Gate, off Hsin-yi Road.

Sean said...

But...but...food porn is one reason why this site is so great!...