Thursday, August 17, 2006

Great Taiwan Bike Rides IV: Taidong Loop

This ride can be done in one long day. As usual though, I spent the night at the Dulan Sugar Refinery first and spent a bit of time the first morning exploring the area around Dulan. It's about 15km from Taidong to Dulan on Route 11 up the coast.

Then it was off to the beautiful Jinzun beach about eight kilometers up the road where I had a refreshing Espresso ice smoothie and a lounge about the beach.
It's just few more kilometers on Taiwan Route 11 through Donghe proper and the turnoff to Route 23. Ride 5 km on a very gentle uphill grade to the farming town of Taiyuan.

There's a sign in Chinese for Taidong County Road 23 which follows the Mawuku River into an incredibly sleepy valley that time seems to have forgotten. Near Shangde Village I saw a waterfall to the east. I didn't have time to check it out though because it was already 3:30pm. There is a junction at Shangde that looks like it would take you to the waterfall.

There are shops every 5km or so until you reach Qikuaicu The road is a gentle grade until about km 8 where you climb for three or for km before a downhill that takes you into Qikuaicu.

After Qikuaicu you will begin a fairly long climb of about 7 or 8 km. There are no shops along this section which was apparently only paved in the late 1990s. The road is in bad shape, so don't think about riding a road bike through here.

Taidong County Road 23 continues on across the Fuxing Mountan Range and over to Taidong County Road 197 on the eastern side of the Rift Valley. There are no kilometer markers after km. 13 or so; I would estimate that it is 25 km from Taiyuan to the junction with 197 at Zhongye. Be careful on the section after Qikaicu. There is a lot of water on the road since it is paved with concrete, the surface can be very slick indeed. Somewhere around km 17 (estimate), a large tree was blocking the road completely. I was able to slide my bike under it to get through.

From Zhongye it is about another 15 km back to Taidong on a beautiful one lane road that eventually takes you over the tail end of the Coastal Mountain Range. I had some beautiful sunset views of the Pacific Ocean from here. At a village called Fuyuan there are several shops with nice views selling traditional Taiwanese mutton hot pots. This would be a great feed at the end of a grueling day if you were with a group.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Great Taiwan Bike Rides Part III: Chiayi to Pingtung

This ride is best done in three days although we did it in 2 very long days (>100km both days). This is a classic ride through some of Taiwan's most beautiful back country.

[Update 2010-4-2]: Here's a Google map of the route using 159A instead of Route 18. 159A is a one lane beauty of a road with far less traffic. Note that Namaxia area was seriously damaged by Typhoon Morokat last August followed by the earthquake in early March. According to this blog post from a few weeks ago, the roads are passable. Please report road conditions in the comments.]

Friday evening

Fly to Chiayi with bikes. Stay at one of the cheap hotels near the train station. Don't try riding out of town to look for a hotel. We ended up sleeping outside in Chukou because there was nowhere to stay.


This is the toughest day with two grueling climbs if you make it all the way to Sanmin.

Take Route 18 east toward Alishan. You will begin to climb at Chukou. Stay on Route 18 until you reach Longmei. Stop here for a well-deserved break and don't miss the handmade baozi at the first shop on the left-hand side of the road.

At Longmei, turn right onto Jiayi Route 129. This is also known as the Shanmei Access Road (??????). Enjoy the long downhill. Take a dip in the Puyanu Creek near the Chashan suspension bridge or trace the creek east up to the waterfalls. When you get to Chashan, stay left on 129-1. The roads are not very clearly marked here. There may be some guest houses at Chashan. This would be a good spot to stop for the night. Otherwise you will need to push on over the mountain to Sanmin. Make sure you have enough water. Country store are far apart here.


129-1 is not well maintained. It eventually turns into the Chashan Access Rd. and eventually connects up with Route 21. There is accommodation in Sanmin and a couple of noodle shops that close at dusk. Head southwest on Route 21 for a lovely wide out to Jiaxian. Ride over the Neiyingshan Mountains on Route 20 (the Southern Cross) east and drop down into Laonong. At Laonong ride south on Route 27 until you reach the turnoff for Kaohsiung Rt. 113. Ride up 113 a few kilometers north and stay at one of the many hot spring hotels. Alternatively, go all the the way up to Baolai, turn right at the school and climb up to the Shidong Hot Springs ????. This secluded spot is one of my favorite hot springs in Taiwan, but call first because accommodation is limited.


This day will be long but mostly flat unless you do a side trip up to Maolin. Coming off 113, turn right back onto Route 27. Backtrack about .5 km and turn left onto Kaohsiung Route 131. Take 131 down to Liugui, cross the Liugui Bridge, and get back onto Route 27 heading south. Ride down the east bank of the Laonong River on a lovely road through some of Taiwan's prettiest countryside. Notice the distinctive Hakka farmhouses along the way.

If you are making good time, turn left at Dajin and ride up into Maolin. Eat some barbecue at Duona and soak in the hot springs.

From Dajin, ride south on 185, otherwise known as the Mountainside Highway ????. Stay on 185 all the way to Sandimen and then take Route 24 into Pingtung where you can stash your bikes on train and then fly or take the train back.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Can you feel it coming on?

If you've been enjoying fine government propaganda commercials like You Are Not Alone and Ilha Formosa: Taiwan will Touch Your Heart, I'm sure you will also enjoy this allegorical look at relations with China entitled, I kid you not, Can You Feel It Coming On. Brought to you by the folks at the Mainland Affairs Council.

Note: I could only get Ilha Formosa to play in IE. Grrr...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Madame Chiang cost Taiwan NT$1 billion

The China Times today reported that Madame Chiang Kai-shek's upkeep in the US over the last 30 years of her life cost Taiwanese taxpayers NT$1 billion. During the last years of Madame Chiang's very long life, her niece Kong Ling-wei was chaffuered around by Madame Chiang's driver--also at taxpayer expense. President Chen rejected suggestions that Madame Chiang's retinue be reduced on two occasions since 2000.

The story is based on unnamed sources, presumably inside the Presidential Office who fed the story to the China Times with the clear intention of putting recent allegation of corruption over the of a housekeeper at the president's family residence in perspective.

President Chen's disabled wife Wu Shu-chen, in contrast, has no staff assigned to her, and she pays her private nurse out of her own pocket.

This is indeed one of the great mysteries of the Chen administration. Why didn't he shut down Madame Chiang's tax payer-funded lifestyle and make sure his children and relatives were not abusing his office (albeit lesser scale by far)? And why didn't his administration, elected on a reform platform, at least attempt to reform Taiwan's imperial presidency? If he had, he would have easily survived this concatenation of manufactured and trumped-up charges against him by the rabid Blue camp. But since he has failed to carry out his mandate, he is being punished by an angry, alienated electorate.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The end of the DPP's problems

A DPP lawmaker symbolically seals the lips of #1 first family gadfly (KMT Lawmaker) Chiu Yi.

Somehow I don't think this will help.
Things that appear in my inbox

In my position as "a just gentleman of intact humanity, and one of the most influential persons in the world," I receive a considerable amount of correspondence from PR firms, from the media realations departments at various corporations and government ministries, and from howling lunatics.

Allow me to quote from a piece of e-mail I received this morning:

"Now, you may have a question: How could an ordinary Taiwan people be elected president of Taiwan in the democratic election if most Taiwan people had been mentally transformed; remodeled and suffering from major type Stockholm Syndrome through 3 generations? The answer is composed of 3 fortunate factors:

First: Jiang’s henchmen are corrupt enough to be intolerably stinky."

I'm going to cut it off there, adding only that the excerpt I've provided comes near the end of e-mail that runs nearly 3500 words.


Friday, June 09, 2006

FTA in the deep freeze (ha ha)

Well, I knew that Taiwan was serious about working toward signing a free-trade agreement with the United States. But I didn't realize how serious until I belatedly noticed that among the congressmen pushing hardest for an FTA is William Jefferson, the Lousiana Democrat in whose refrigerator the FBI recently (allegedly) discovered $90,000, evidently what remained from a $100,000 bribe that Jefferson had accepted days earlier from a wire-wearing operative in exchange for Jefferson's influence over some kind of shenanigans in Nigeria. If you're interested in the complex details of the case, go read the Jefferson link above. But in the meantime, I can't help but wonder how much Jefferson charged Taiwan for introducing a pro-FTA resolution on the floor of the House...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Great Taipei Rides II: The Graveyard (and Beyond)

This is an ideal training ride for people who are tired of riding along the flat bike paths by the river. If you are looking for better scenery, a better workout, and less people, you need to learn how to climb hills in Taiwan to be able access the truly great rides here. Here is an article on how to climb hills. I have a few of my own tips at the end of this post.

Head down Heping East Road past the the Liuzhangli MRT station at the corner of Keelung Rd. and Heping. Turn left onto Jiaxing St. at the first light after the MRT station. Ride past Bobwundaye and continue on Jiaxing past the police station until you see 711. Turn right onto Chongde St. and ride past some interesting old brick shops and houses in the heart of Liuzhangli. You will pass the local Earth God's temple. He is particularly efficacious according to the friendly owner of the country store across the street. This store, incidentally, was built by the current owner's mother-in-law who hauled bricks down from Fudekeng after American air raids during World War II.

Keep to the left to stay on Chongde and you will pass through a ramshackle shanty town of the kind that used to be all over Taipei. The road will begin to ascend gently and you will soon find yourself in Taipei City's public cemetery. The first section is the Muslim cemetery in which Bai Chongxi, the famous Republican Muslim general from Guangxi, is buried. A little further on, you can take a steep left and visit the White Terror Memorial.

Stay on Chongde for several km. After the first climb, the grade gets much easier even though you are steadily climbing. You will eventually come to a junction. Yanjiuyuan Rd. on the left will take you to Nangang. Stay on Chongde for another five minutes or so and you will see an abandoned truck weighing station. Turn right here and head downhill to Muzha.

At the bottom of the hill is Muzha Rd. From here you have many options for longer rides:

Pingxi/Pinglin (via Shiding).

Cross the bridge toward Taipei Zoo and turn left onto Xinguang Rd. Stay on Xinguang Rd. as it loops under the freeway and continue on straight down Wenshan Rd until it ends. Now cross the river and you will be on Beishen Rd. having bypassed unpleasant downtown Shenkeng. From here you can continue onto to Pingxi and Pinglin via Shiding. It is also possible to take a small access road over the hills to Nangang and then loop back to the cemetery on Yanjiuyuan Rd. (see above).

Zhinangong Loop

If I am just out for quick three hour workout, this is the route I usually take. Turn right on Muzha Rd, cross the freeway exit, and continue on until you reach Jungong Rd. Cross to the other side of Muzha Rd. and look for the entrance to the Jingmei River bikepath. The second bridge is Zhinan Rd. Cross the bridge and follow Zhinan Rd. to Zhengda's main gate. Turn left at the bus station and then right onto Wanshou Rd. Climb up Wanshou Rd. to the Zhinan Temple parking lot. Stop for a bit of a rest and a popsicle at the first vendor on the right in the covered market. Carry your bike into the covered market. After the first few shops, you can see up the hill on the left. Carry your bike up the steps on the left (this a bit of a workout) until you reach a concrete path. Turn left and head up the slick trail which will loop up onto the ridge. Stay on the trail veering to the right (nice view of Zhinan Temple, one of Taiwan's most important Taoist temples, on the left) until you reach a second parking lot. Follow the road out the back of the parking lot. About .5 km later you will see a dirt trail on the left. Off-road enthusiasts of all levels will enjoy this single track that is nearly flat and takes about 10 minutes if you can stay on your bike. This trail is much flatter after the first 1/4 but is very wet and slippery after rains as it is one the wet side on the mountain. You will come out on Zhinan Road on the other side. Head down hill to return to the Zhengda area, go straight to Maokong, or head over the hills on Zhinan Rd. to Shenkeng's Wenshan Rd. (See above).

If you don't like off-road riding, just continue on and you will run into Zhinan Rd. a little further down the hill from the off road trail's exit. Turn right and head down the hill back to the Zhengda campus.

Back to Gongguan via bike paths

Get back on the Jingmei River bike path on the far side of the Jingmei River. The path is still under construction as of this riding, but there is another alternative walkway/bike path on top of the river wall. Switch to this after about 1.5 km when the construction gets heavy. Stay on top of the dike until you get to the bridge at Baoqiao Rd. Cross under the bridge and follow the river on Xinhai Rd. Section 7 until you hit Muzha Rd. Turn left for just a few blocks and make another left onto Lane 70 across from Yongjian Elementary School. Follow Lane 70 and you will quickly find another bike path/walkway on the dike. Follow this until you come out on Muzha Rd. again and then stay on Muzha Rd. until you get to the old Jingmei Bridge where you can access the Riverside Park bike paths. Take these to Gongguan or Guting.

Shorter Return to Heping East Rd. Section 3/Bobwundaye

If you are doing the graveyard as one of your first rides, you may be too tired to do the Zhinan Temple ride. If so, turn right onto Jungong Road and follow it up to the Zhuangjing Tunnel. Go through the tunnel and follow Wolong St. down the hill. Stay to the right and you will be on Heping E. Rd. Section 3. If you are heading to Bob's for a few well-deserved cold ones, a more pleasant way is to turn left off Heping on Lane 463 at Linguang MRT Station. Stay on Lane 463 keeping to the left and continue on until you run into Chongde St. right near the temple. Stay on Chongde until you see the 711 at the corner of Jiaxing St. Turn left onto Jiaxing St. and you will see Bob's blue sign on your right after you pass the police station.

I dislike riding through the Zhuangjing Tunnel (dangerous and polluted). Instead, I usually take the last left before the tunnel and go straight up the hill. This road connects up with Wolong St. on the other side of the tunnel.

Climbing Tips

Taiwan has some of the world's steepest mountains. That means it is nearly impossible to avoid climbing hills if you want to go anywhere nice on your bicycle. Here are a few tips that help me:

  • Use toe clips or lock-in riding shoes
  • Make sure your seat is not too low--you need to extend properly
  • Try to breathe deeply rather than panting
  • Relax your upper body--a tense chest and straining arms aren't going to help
  • Focus on short-distance goals rather than the 7km you need to grind out. I often focus on a telephone pole or sign 200 or 300 meters away as a target
  • Zig-zag if the grade is really steep
  • Try not stay in your granny gears on medium grades. You just end up flailing about and wasting energy
  • Remember that the first climb always hurts the most! You will feel much stronger on the second of third climb of the day. Get over the hump!
  • If you ride regularly, you will be amazed at how fast what once seemed to be impossible hills now seem easy. I walked my bike most of the way up the first hill on this ride and was quite sure I would never want to do something so painful again. Fight through those feelings. It will be much easier next time!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Great Taipei Rides I: The Xindian Loop

Update [2010-3-29] A number of people get lost or can't find the right turn off on Pingguang Rd. The Biking Viking has a nice write up and a good photo of that turnoff.

This four hour ride is an excellent weekend morning ride that will help you get in shape for some of the harder rides outside of Taipei. It's amazing that such great riding is available so close to Taipei, and if you use the MRT, you can cut out nearly all of the unpleasant city riding. I timed this ride starting in the Yongkang St. neighborhood. If you take the MRT (recommended), your actual riding time would slightly less than 3 hours. This ride lower medium in terms of difficulty-but you must be comfortable with climbing hills. If you have not learned how to climb hills yet comfortably, I would recommend you practice on the road through the Fudekeng cemetery behind Liuzhangli. This ride is written up in Great Taipei Rides II: The Graveyard (and Beyond).

Taipei to Xindian

You have two options: take the MRT to Xindian Station or ride via the Riverside Park bike paths down to Xindian. Enter the Riverside Park bike path from Siyuan Rd. behind the Gongguan night market passing the Taipei Water Park on you way in. When you enter the park, turn left and head south toward Xindian. After a short downhill, you will pass the Baozangyan (Treasure Hill) and go under the Fuhe Bridge. Continue all the way down to the Jingmei River and follow the bike path along the Jingmei River. Exit the bike path at the Old Jingmei Bridge on Jingwen St. Cross the bridge into Xindian and go straight on Jingwen St. until you run into Roosevelt Road. Continue in the same direction (south) along Roosevelt until you get to the Xindian Station.

2. Bitan

Exit the Xindian MRT station at the back where the buses park. Follow the street along the flood wall into the market street and then turn right to cross the Bitan Suspension Bridge. On the other side, go straight for about 50m. and find the entrance to Hanbi Road (there is a 711 at the corner).

Hanbi Road is a few blocks of typical city and then you have your first short climb. At some point Hanbi Rd. turns into Yongye Rd. You will pass a Family Mart in this fairly pleasant suburban area, and then all of a sudden you are cruising downhill into rural Taiwan. Now you are on Tanxin Rd. passing through farms and some very sleepy little villages. A few kilometers later you will come to a poorly marked juncture. Follow the road on the left going down. The higher road on the Right (Tanxin Rd.) is the one you will come down on in about 90 minutes to complete the loop.

After you take the left hand turn and go down, you will do another brief climb and then will find yourself riding beneath some pretty cliffs along the edge of the Xindian River. The water is a beautiful green on sunny days and there are lots of flowers here in the spring. Stay on this road until you come to a T-intersection with a few houses and a country store on the right. Buy water here--this could be your last chance for the next 15km, most of which will be uphill.

Pingguang Creek to Shitouzaishan

Turn right onto Pingguang Rd. Follow Pingguang Rd. along the river for seven km. You are going steadily uphill now, but the grade is very forgiving and you should be able to make good time. The turn-off to Shitouzaishan (Lion Head Mtn.) is always a bit further than I think. You are looking for a bridge just after km. 7 next to a country store made of green corrugated metal (this store is only sometimes open on the weekend). The house across from the store is No. 285 Pingguang Rd. and there is signage (all in Chinese) for Shitouzaishan, Youlai, and Jiqing Temple. Cross the bridge and begin the climb up a beautiful quiet country road. You can stop for a quick dip in the Pingguang Creek on the far side of the bridge where a rough trail leads down to the refreshing water.

The climb is about 8km and takes around 60 minutes with one 5 or 10 minute break thrown in. The first few km. are relatively tough as you gain altitude but it gets easier and there are some nice flat sections between km. 10 and 12 you can rest on. At 11.5 a small stream crosses the road. If you look to your right up the hill, you will see a 'waterfall' about 3 meters high. Alas there is no pool, but you can use the waterfall for a very refreshing shower. There is another small pool on the left that you can take a quick dip in if the water is high enough. At km. 12.5 there is a nasty straight climb that can be a bit of an unpleasant shock if you have been taking things too fast. There is a temple around km. 13.5 where you can go upstairs and help yourself to warm water and stale cookies (leave a donation) if you are really desperate. The temple caretakers are nice but very spaced out--they are Taoist practitioners who spend most of their time quelling demons.

For some reason, I have seem more people bonk on this climb (myself included) than anywhere else in Taiwan. It's not that tough of a climb, but I think people try this when they are still getting into shape and sometimes push themselves too hard. It's also usually very hot by the time you get to the top in the summer. I don't like being up here too long after 9:00am in the summer. So please make sure you bring plenty of water and some snacks for this. If do this ride in the spring, you will see flowers everywhere by the sides of the road and, in the evening, fireflies.

You will pass the entrance to the Shitouzaishan hiking trail and enjoy a nice view of the Ankeng area of Xindian around km. 15. You then enjoy a screaming downhill that never fails to surprise me by how long it lasts. You will come out on Xintan Rd. at the junction I mentioned earlier. Head back to Xindian via Xintan Rd. and Yongye Rd.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Pandas and Their Discontents

[This post is a translation. The original is on KusoNews. All photos from KusoNews]

This was Taipei Zoo's orginal plan:

After the pandas didn't show, Taipei Zoo came up with these alternative plans to pacify the multitudes:

With this [latest] defeat in the War of Unification, China decided on another plan...


Monday, May 08, 2006

Great Taiwan Bike Rides Part II: Taidong to Hualien--the hairy-legged version

Hualien to Taidong via Route 11 too easy for you? Here's a more strenuous version that criss-crosses the Coastal Mountain Range three times! You should be fit, ready to ride about 120 km both days, and be able to handle climbing up to 900 meter in one day on moderate (by Taiwan standard) grades. Rank advises riding from about 5:30am till 11:00 am and then 3:30pm till 6:00pm if possible. It can get really hot--sunscreen and precautions against sunstroke are in order. Assume that you can buy water every 5km unless we say otherwise.

Fly to Taidong with bikes

Taidong->Dulan Friday night on Route 11


Dulan to Donghe on Route 11. Stop at Donghe Baozi shop for great Baozi and bad coffee.

Donghe to Fuli Route 23

Just after the river in Donghe turn left and head west 43 km on Route 23. Although they are widening 23, it is still a beautiful road especially the downhill into the Rift Valley. This passes through a small gorge with very picturesque rice paddies.

If you see an old soldier selling stuff across from the Donghe Recreation farm, be sure to stop and swill some of his chilled organic mulberry juice.

Fuli to Yuli on the Zhuofu Access Road

Arriving in Fuli, consider having some lunch on the main road. Otherwise, you'll have to wait till Yuli. Now ride south till you are near the end of town and take any of the streets/lanes you see east to the railroad tracks. Find the one road that crosses the tracks and head west Across the Xiuguluan River and under Route 9 (elevated here) toward Shiping. Ask if you can't find this road--it is the beginning of the Zhuofu Access Rd. Take the Zhuofu Access Rd to Shiping and head north (the elementary school in Shiping has some nice trees if you need a nap). Stay on the Zhuofu Access Rd. all the way to Yuli.

Yuli to Ruisui on 195

Once in Yuli, head south out of town on Zhongshan Rd. About two km southeast of town, turn left otnto 195 and head north up 195 to Ruisui. In Ruisui, you can eat at the corner of Zhongshan (195) and Zhongzheng (Route 9) at the Taiwanese restaurant's next to the new Family Mart on Zhongshan. Alternatively there is a pretentious bar and restaurant a few blocks south on Zhongzheng with Taipei prices. Once you have eaten dinner, find the railway station and loop around a block to cross the railway tracks. Head west up Wenquan Rd. for about seven km. to find the Hongye hot springs at the very end of the road. This is a Japanese-era hot spring run by an eccentric Taiwanese family that has changed little. Bring a swim suit and soak in the outdoor pools out back. NT$300/night for the tatami rooms. No food but they do have drinks. Plan on a party if you come on any of the major holidays.


Ruisui to Dagangkou

Head back into Ruisui. Get back on Zhongshan Rd. (195) for about 20 seconds an turn left onto Guogung N. Rd. Cross the Fuyuan River and turn right onto Hualian Route 64 otherwise known as the Ruigang Rd.) There is a short but tough climb out of the valley as you head east. Soon you will be rewarded with some gorgeous views down isolated ravines. It's abut 23 km to Dagangkou.

Dagangkou to Fengbin

Ride north on Route 11 past what Rank thinks is the most beautiful section of the Taidong-Hualien coast. You could stop at Shitiping for a delicious seafood lunch or at the Zhuoerqi Studio a few km. north to check out the Salvador Dali style sculpture and an iced coffee smoothie. Fengbin is also an option for lunch. Eat at the restaurant on the right hand-side of the road. The more obvious one on the left is awful. Dagangkou to Fengbin is about 12 km.

Fengbin to Guangfu

Just north of town past the 7-11 and across the river, take Route 11A west toward Guangfu. This is another 22 km crossing of the Coastal Mountain Range. Nice steady grade for about 14km and then a fun downhill. Do stock up on water in Fengbin since this is one of the few sections on this ride that you can't stock up at a betel nut stand every 5 km.

Guangfu to Hualien c. 70km

As you come off the Coastal Mountain Range. look for the Guangfu No. 2 Public Cemetery on your right. This is your landmark to turn right and go north up Hualian Route 195 all the way up to Hualien. This is a beautiful ride through one of the most isolated areas of Taiwan. Some hills but no major climbs.

Train/plane back to Taipei

Train tickets out of Hualien are often available for same-day purchase these days even on Sunday (but don't count on it). Check your bike to Sungshan or Wanhua at the baggage counter.
Great Taiwan Bike Rides Part 1: Taidong to Hualien (Easy Version)

Cycling from Hualien to Taidong on Route 11 down the coast is a classic ride suitable for beginners. Almost anyone in reasonable shape can enjoy this ride, which can easily be completed in two days. Rank recommends doing this ride from Hualien to Taidong because you will have the wind at your back most of the way. There is one short climb at about 25km up to about 300 meters. Be sure to stop at the Baqi (Baci) lookout point at km 33 or so for a coffee and an ice cream to reward yourselves. Spend the night in Shitiping around km 63 at the hostel above the big seafood restaurant (NT$800/double) but eat at the friendly seafood place behind this one up the hill.

Coast north of Shitiping fishing harbour

If you have time on the second day, Jinzun beach (hike down the staircase from the tourist facilities) about seven km north of Dulan is great for a walk/break depending on how hot it is. You can also spend the night at the hostel at the Dulan sugar refinery (NT$700/double). Ask at the big house to the right of the cafe, and remember that there is usually live music at the cafe on Saturday nights.
Coast north of Shitiping fishing harbour
Want to see if you are in good enough shape for this ride and live in Taipei? Rent a bike in Pinglin and ride the Jingua River trail some weekend. This is a mild uphill 8 km ride. If you can do this, you can definitely handle the 180km or so from Hualien to Taidong.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Taipei is Fun
By Han Liang-lu
Originally published in the China Times on 30 Apr. 2006

A friend of mine from Shanghai who has a foreign passport came to Taipei by herself to hang out. I was asked to show her around as a local and make sure that she had a good time.

This friend had travelled all over the worl but had never been to Taipei. But just before she came, heard a group of friends who had been to Taipei making fun of Taipei and saying that it was no fun. Other than stopping by the Palace Museum, walking around Eslite, and eating at the night market, there wasn't really anything else to do. As someone who more and more thinks that Taipei is really fun, I thought that Taipei was getting a bum rap

When my friend's friends came to Taipei, their trips were organized by government officials--typical business junkets. Of course they didn't see what's special about everyday life in Taipei. So after they went back home. they didn't think much of Taipei. What traces have several decades of economic growth and democracy left on Taipei life? What is Taipei's advantage compared to Shanghai, a city which has been advancing quickly during the past 15 years?

That afternoon when my friend arrived, we took a taxi from his hotel in east Taipei to the Shida area. Passing by the building in which Little S [a popular TV personality] recently bought an apartment, I told him how much one ping cost in the building. He couldn't understand how it coould cost soo much since the building didn't look as nice as some new buildings in Shanghai--especially since the building was right next to an elevated expressway.

Fortunately my friend saw quite a few tree-lined lanes after we turned onto Shida Road. He kept saying that cities really need some old trees. Then he said that it was a shame that Shanghai had dug up so many trees on old streets in the name of development.
We walked around Shida's lanes and alleys. My friend was fascinated by Jiuxiangju, a second hand bookstore [at 1F, No. 18 Longquan St]. He said that this kind of small independent second-hand bookstore was the way to see a city's culture. When we went past Micang Cafe [24 Chaozhou St.], my friend took a picture for his friendd with his digital camera. He said that on the weekend in Shanghai, he really wished he could find this kind of simple cafe where you can read the paper, talk, and just hang out. Shanghai's coffee shops are too commercial. There are no bohemian cafes like Micang or Jamaica [anybody know where this is?].
Then we went to Grandma Nitti's to have a bottomless cup of American coffee and eat some authentic American carrot cake. My friend, who had studied at an American university on the East Coast was really excited when he saw Philly cheese steaks on the menu. He said there was not a single foreign restaurant in Shanghai that sold this kind of really student-style, down home food. He praised Grandma Nitti's funky casualk style to the heavens saying that it felt like going back to the hippy era in the States. He complained that Shanghai is not like Taipei in that it never went through the kind of cultural exchange that the US and Taiwan had during the Vietnam war. So Shangai people don't really understand American food. All Shanghai has are American restaurants like Fridays. But there are lots of choices in Taipei--you can go to Fridays or Grandma Nitti's if you like. But opening a Fridays is easier--all a business man needs is the capital and he can but a franchise. To open a Grandma Nitti's, the owner needs to know the living culture.

This was the first time my friend had tried fermented Taiwanese tea [baozhongcha]. He listened to He Jian talk about tea and looked at the tea pots. He said that Shanghai did not have any quiet places like this to drink tea. This kind of late-Ming humanistic tea culture just couldn't exist in today's bustling Shanghai.

When it was time for dinner, we naturally did not choose a big hotel or restaurant. Shanghainese go to fancy places all the time these days.

There are so many choices on Yongkang St. But I wanted my friend to feel that we were going some where special. The lines were too long at Dingtaifeng even for Japanese tourists. Anyway, there is now a branch of Dingtaifeng in Shanghai's Xintiandi. I thought about how some Shanghainese men run private snack stalls. Doesn't Yoongkang St. also have some home-style Taiwanese food places run by old Taiwanese guys?

We drank local draft Taiwan beer and had some steamed clams soaked in garlic-infused soy sauce, poached mackerel, yam greens, stewed pork, and grilled perch. My friend kept saying how good it all was and how different it was from the Taiwanese food sold in Shanghai. He also found that the customers were having interesting conversations in the tiny store that could barely hold ten people--one table was discussing Kobe woodblocks while another table discussed Yuan Shi-kai's private life. No uninformed people here. My friend started talking about private Shanghai restaurants like Spring where there is a rule that customers can eat for only one hour so that they can increase their turnover. Shanghai is all about making money. The private restaurants there claim to serve home-style cooking, but who would go to someone's house to eat and then be rushed out after a little while.

A little later we ran into the painter Peng Kang-long and went with him to sip green tea and vintage Wulong at his friend's antique store. Peng said that people who open businesses in the Yongkang St. area are making life instead of making a living. My friend suddenly observed that the difference between Shanghai and Taipei is that after the bubble economy burst here, people here have learned how to live.

My friend sent a text message to his Shanghai friends that evening. It said that ""Taipei is really fun. I don't want to leave."
Embracing People From Outside Taipei
Zhou Fuyi ???
Chinese original appeared in 29 Apr. edition of the China Times (E7 supplement)

Early morning at Taipei Main Station. Many passengers heading for the east coast or the south are passing through the station. I'm one of them--carrying my luggage and waiting for my train which will leave the station in half an hour. I get to the platform, find a seat and take my novel out of my bag. Almost immediately, I hear two old men nearby discussing politics in 'standard Mandarin' [euphemism for a mainlander accent] while they flip through their newspapers.

I don't really want to listen in, but the old guy on my left is speaking so percussively that every sentence drifts my way and I can't focus on my novel. He points at the oversize headline type in his newspaper that reads "Implicated in Corruption," and citing his own experience of having studied in the US as a young man, makes his points about a government procurement scandal. His friend then laments how corrupt the present government is and how the government isn't clean like it was under martial law. And what is causing all this trouble was that shooting case two years ago. He confidently says that anyone who has been a soldier immediately saw that the shooting was staged. How could anyone who had been shot go in to the hospital smiling. And the scars were in the wrong place. And then they took so long to do the recount so that they could stuff the ballot boxes. Back then when those pro-democracy people demanded, a recount, wasn't it just done in three days? When did it ever take so long? That's because now law enforcement and intelligence are all the government's, that's why. All all of this, is just because those people down south have heads full of paste. They just won't wake up. They vote for the wrong people. That's why the country has turned out like this.

Even though I am one of the 'people down south with a head full of sawdust' that the old guy was talking about, I held my temper and didn't say anything. I kept listening to his complaints. He adjusted his APEC baseball cap and went on. He said they should have never reduced the voting age so that college students could vote. College students don't have any economic responsibilities. They don't know how hard it is to make a living. All they do is see who puts on the best show and then they vote for him. Didn't Sun Yat-sen say that soldiers and young people shouldn't be able to vote?

Hearing this, my anger turned to astonished contemplation. Wasn't what he was saying the exact same thing I had read in an article two years ago? A political scientist from overseas had come to Taiwan two years ago at the time of the last election to interview the 'second-generation mainlander' elite in English. A female novelist who was first published when she was still in high school [Zhu Tianxin?], told him that the reason southern Taiwan and northern Taiwan would make very different political choices was because southerners are poorly educated and had trouble getting information. This resulted in them always voting for whomever was in power. And college students always chose [ethnically] Taiwanese parties because they don't have families to support.

At the time, this interview provoked quite a bit of discussion among my friends who like me had come north to study or work. We were all annoyed that our relatives were judged this way and everyone spoke of our experience of having to go back down south to vote because we have left our hometowns and how this fact overturned the novelist's stereotype of how Taiwan's political divisions work [Taiwanese have to vote in the place where their household is registered. This has been long criticized as a rule that effectively disenfranchises large numbers of young people from central and southern Taiwan since they have to make special trips home to vote. Here the author means that many people who live in the north actually vote in the south].

As a southern who was practically discriminated against by those two old men and the novelist, I had a different kind of experience when I was studying in Tainan. Many times in a fast food place or a snack shop, I'd hear people saying [in Taiwanese] "If there is something about us southerners on TV or in the paper, it won't be good." And once the owner snapped off the TV and started complaining sullenly about the Legislature and the media, "How can the government do anything this way?"

Those honest faces kept appearing in my mind. The train announcer kept announcing what train was next. The old guy next to me told his friend with satisfaction that their trip only took a few stops. They could get back to Taipei from Changhua by evening. I looked at the trains heading south and thought about when these old men and a member of the intellectual elite like the novelist would see how "people outside of Taipei" have lived on the margins for so long and why they have grievances. And will there ever be a day when they can meet those southerners, whose heads they wrongly think are filled with paste, get to know them in daily life, and embrace them? I'm hoping and trying.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Taiwan Taxi Music Blog
This article confirms my sense that political blogs will never be popular in Taiwan. So as Rank continues to flag as an occasionally political blog, why not consider moving into a niche category that will make it unique. Dog's last post suggests a direction - an exploration of the netherworld of Taxi Music. Or maybe we could put our cameras to use and change "notes from the overpass" to "photos from an overpass." A change of perspective; That's all I'm suggesting. Or maybe we can follow the direction suggested by the GIO minister: food, travel or movies. But how would Rank deal with the sudden popularity?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Taxi Music

Yesterday, while further depleting my local 7-Eleven's beer supply, I realized that the type of music they were playing on the radio is slowly disappearing -- good old-fashioned Taiwan taxi music. You know the songs, those low-budget sentimental pop ballads with swirling pentatonic string parts, with achy-voice singers who seem to be sounding out their plaintive noises while hip-deep in a lonely rice paddy.

I remember that 15 years ago you just about couldn't get into a taxi without hearing that stuff. Now, in a taxi you'll probably hear talk radio or "Don't You Wish Your Girlfriend Was a Freak Like Me."

Many will say good riddance to Taiwan Taxi Music. But I miss the stuff. For all its obvious flaws, I always thought Taxi Music communicated a bit of credible pathos. And you know what? The women and men who sang those songs, unlike the Mandopop youth of today, could actually carry a tune.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Lien's Trip to China

Honorary KMT Chairman Lien Chan is following up last April's historic Chinese visit with another this year. He's leaving Thursday, April 14. Since he added the "honorary" title, the Chinese could hardly not accord him even more honors befitting a high-profile provincial minion - so he gets to meet with PRC President Hu Jintao on Sunday.

Hu's most generous gift to Lien and Taiwan last year was a pair of giant pandas. He's expected to offer more goodwill this year - probably in the form of more non-cashable currency. The big question in some people's minds: Will Hu take President Chen's bait and announce that he embraces the 1992 consensus and explicitly state that it means that Beijing can interpret "one China" as the PRC and Taipei can can interpret it as the ROC?

Chen indicated during his meeting last week with Ma Ying-jeou that he would proceed with cross-strait dialogue if Hu makes such a public statement. The farce, as Chen pointed out, is that he actually recognizes that there are two Chinas. It's only the PRC that doesn't accept the existence of the ROC. It would indeed be fascinating if Hu made a clear statement in support of "one China, each side with its own interpretation."

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Populism Unpopular in Hong Kong

Poor President Chen. Suffering dismal popularity ratings at home in Taiwan, you'd expect that comrades in Hong Kong would at least recognize his good faith in actively managing cross-strait relations. Sadly not. Apparently, Chen is almost as unpopular in Hong Kong as in Taiwan. See this Angus-Reid poll. However, it appears Hong Kongers are on the "Ma Phenomenon" bandwagon. At least they won't hurl "Hong Kong Foot" as an epithet at the handsome KMT chairman.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Preserving a "Traditional" Way of Life

If I ever get back to my erstwhile occupation as a translator, I want to be sure that I have as many opportunities to get source text in traditional characters as possible. That's why I "signed" this online petition. 16,000 "signatures" and counting.

Maybe I've been in Taiwan too long, but it just seems crazy to me that the UN would adopt the upstart simplified characters when even people in China seem to prefer traditional ones in intellectual and even commercial pursuits. Or maybe the UN has taken a position similar to President Chen's re pandas: keep them (traditional characters) in their natural environment for conservation reasons.

Update 4/11: After a few weeks of this story coming into and out of the news, Taiwan's foreign ministry has explained that the UN told it that in fact, traditional characters have not been used there since 1971. A sad day for Taiwan's media workers ... and anyone else worldwide who picked up the story and never double-checked it.

I was kind of wondering whether it was an April Fool's prank, but a quick google news search yielded a March 24 story

Monday, April 03, 2006

Bian-Ma Hui

Watching the end of the meeting between Ma Ying-jeou and Chen Shui-bian.

Well, it's a start.

Really, though, it's mostly an argument about words.

I'll leave it to Feiren to write a more complete analysis. I just have to say both men are pretty impressive. Ma speaks very well and looks very reasonable, but he's just not as foxy as Chen. I've seen him speak a few times in person using English and he knows how to use humor, but he doesn't really make laugh.

This may be the first time I've seen Chen in a conversational context and it's the first time I've understood his appeal. He makes me laugh. The most amusing part of his "conversation" with Ma was when he asked him to define the boundaries of ROC under his "one China, each his own interpretation" ('92 consensus) model.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Washington Post Ma interview

Michael Turton over at The View From Taiwan says he'll "be watching this one[Ma Ying Jeou's US trip] closely, as it will be an important test of the fairness and accuracy of US media."

Rank will kick things off by a review of Edward Cody's interview with Ma in the Washington Post.

Here in Taiwan, a strong majority has consistently told poll-takers that maintenance of the status quo is the wisest course, expressing unwillingness to embrace reunification but uneasiness about the possibility that a passionate quest for independence could lead to war. A dip in the island's economic growth has added another argument, raising fears that Chen's independence drive is diverting official attention from economic concerns. In casual conversations last week, residents of the capital, Taipei, repeatedly emphasized worries that Chen's priorities were out of balance.
The problem here of course is that residents of Taipei City tend to be anti-Chen because of the high proportion of mainlanders in Taipei. Foreign journalists and others consistently make the mistake of conflating views they hear in Taipei with those of the rest of Taiwan. And then they wonder why the KMT doesn't always win.

In fact, there is a fierce debate going on over Taiwan's economy. The pro-China parties say that Chen is ignoring the economy while the pro-Taiwan parties and press say that the reason Taiwan's economy is growing slowly is because Taiwan's industrial base is being hollowed out investment in China.

In spite of that investment, Taiwan's economy has been making modest but consistent gains over the past 18 months. Taiwan is also undergoing a difficult transition from a manufacturing economy to an service-oriented knowledge economy. But whoever wins the next election will have difficulties meeting expectations of fast economic growth that were created during Taiwan's boom days as it industrialzed. Those days are not going to come back no matter who is president simply because Taiwan relatively mature economy is simply not going to grow at a rate of 10 percent.

Ma, the mayor of Taipei, has the movie-star looks and sleaze-free appeal to capitalize on the new political winds, Taiwanese analysts said, provided nothing blows him off course during the next two years. Women on both sides of the Taiwan Strait especially appreciate him. Hearing that a friend was about to interview Ma, Chen Hui-ting, a 24-year-old college student, said: "Wow, that's so cool to be meeting Ma. Say hi to him for me."

Ma's supposed appeal to women and this quote are both misleading. While Ma does appeal to some segments of Taiwan's newly-minted middle class, I have often heard working class Taiwanese women (especially down south) say that he is not manly enough and that he comes off as being weak. So his appeal may not be universal.

Taiwanese tend to get excited about meeting celebrities. So just because Ms. Chen thinks it would be cool to meet Ma, it does not necessarily follow that she will vote for him. You can see this if you follow two candidates from different parties as they canvas a traditional market. There will be shouts of Dongsuan (Elected!) for both candidates and gifts of turnips (sign of good luck and prosperity) for both candidates. In other words, the warmth of a reception is no guaruntee that votes will be delivered.

But he has left nothing to chance. To broaden his appeal among Taiwan's native population -- who provide Chen his base -- Ma has been studying Taiwanese dialect and renewing ties to the man he defeated to become Nationalist chairman, Wang Jin-pyng, the parliamentary speaker and a native Taiwanese.

Calling Taiwanese a dialect is a sure sign of bias. And Ma has hardly smoothed things over with Wang, who is still smarting from the thrashing Ma gave him. This is a good example of how the personal usually trumps political principle in Taiwan. Wang could well defect in 2008 or wait in the wings for the conclsuion of a disasterous first term for Ma and then run on some kind of pro-Taiwan ticket in 2008.

The son of a Nationalist general who came from the mainland with the defeated Chiang Kai-shek in 1949, Ma has been a party activist since his student days.
The KMT didn't have party activists when MA was cronying his way up the ranks and allegedly spying on Taiwanese activists at Harvard. But Ma's 'activist days' are worth looking at partly because of his involvement in the Diaoyutai Islands movement, a touchstone for Chinese nationalism in Taiwan. One of the more telling omissions in Cody's interview is his failure to address Ma's Chinese nationalism. What many foreigners believe they are getting in Ma is a western-educated English speaking politician they can deal with and who shares or understands US interests. While Ma is genuinely committed to democracy and rule of law, he is also a fairly hardcore Chinese nationalist who will almost certainly tilt Taiwan sharply toward China and away from the US.

Despite his promise to smooth relations with China, Ma is likely to face hostile questions in Washington about why his party's legislative majority has blocked an $18.2 billion arms sale proposed by the Bush administration five years ago and pushed without success by Chen.

Ma's position, as he repeated on TV, is that Taiwan does not need and cannot afford 'unreasonable' arms purchases. At the core of Ma position is the proposition that Taiwan does not need to buy weapons from the US because he is going to defuse tensions with China by not confronting China. This is not only dangerous since the one of the few things in the outside world that China's leadership seems to understand and respect is military power, but also unpersuasive since the US is concerned that Taiwan is effectively disarming itself while China is vastly expanding its military arsenal. The arms purchases are unreasonable for Ma because as a Chinese nationalist he does not see China as a threat to Taiwan.

Ma said the Bush administration was unwise to accept Chen's decision on the unification council with only a mild reaction. U.S. and Taiwanese officials had negotiated the language carefully, leading Chen to abandon his stated intention to "abolish" the council in favor of the "ceased to function" formulation. Largely on that basis, the administration accepted Chen's contention that the status quo was not changed by his decision.

But Ma, citing his training as a lawyer, said the Chinese word Chen used in fact means "terminate," which does imply a change in the status quo. In addition, he said, no matter what the language, Chen's decision to stand up and announce the end of an official symbol of willingness to get along with China amounted to provocation.

Rank agrees with Ma analysis of the term 'zhongzhi' which means terminate and is a legal term of art. If a contract is terminated it means that it existed in the past but that it no longer exists now. By terminating the Council, Chen is admitting that the Council once existed, but it no longer exists now. In any event, it is clear that here in Taiwan, all shades of the political spectrum agree that the Council no longer exists, and Chen has pointedly refused to publicly affirm that the Council still exists as the US State Department has asked him to do.

Ma, by the way, is not admitted to the bar in Taiwan because he could not pass the notoriously difficult bar exam (less than 1 percent of candidates passed in 1970s and 1980s) although he did graduate from National Taiwan University with a degree in law. Chen, Frank Hsieh, and Su Chen-tsang, in contrast, are all admitted lawyers.

His last comment about the US's being gullible is one that I think he should have left unsaid. He tried a similar line with the obviously well-prepped interviewer in his recent BBC interview where he said that the interviewer didn't understand Taiwan's relations with China. Rather than engage in a serious discussion of ideas, Ma is showing a tendency to dismiss foreigners who disagree with him as being gullible or failing to understand the 'impenetrable' mysteries of the east. His English may be fluent, but his mind, Rank fears, is shut tight.

Pandas Protest

Green rallies in Taiwan are characterized by a carnival atmosphere and lots of creative signs and costumes. One of the best at yesterday's rally was the 'China Panda Brigade' at the front of the march. They demanded the right to decide their own future--a takeoff on China's proposed gift of two pandas to Taiwan.

In this photo from the Chinese-language China Times, members of the Panda Brigade are holding signs that say Freedom Of Press, Internet Freedom, We Want Democracy and Freedom.

Friday, March 17, 2006

A weekend of rallies

Not too many people are getting fired up about the rallies that we are to witness this weekend - one to "protect" Taiwan and one to protest the cessation (or termination, or abolishment - depending on your point of view) of the National Unification Council and National Unification Guidelines.

A United Evening Express editorial a week or so ago basically said: "Enough already with all these political party-organized rallies!" I agree. Five years ago, I thought they were kind of fun, but they get tiresome. In any case, I wonder how many places there are in the world where political parties organize rallies. At least in Thailand, the protests against Thaksin are ostensibly organized by something called the People's Alliance for Democracy - even if political opponents are really behind it.

Cracks have appeared in the DPP over the latest rally ... and I think maybe they will organize fewer such rallies in the future. However the echoes of the "two bullets" fired on March 19, 2004 will no doubt continue reverberating for some time.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Posted without comment

"Lu then said she was curious to know who had likened her to a 'deserted concubine left in the harem of despair,' since she had never called herself that."
VOA Correction

This is of interest. VOA has apologized for adding misinformation into the flap over the National Unification Guidelines and National Unification Council. Here is a report on the apology.

Actually, most international media were reporting that the NUG and NUC were "abolished" or "scrapped" even after the Presidential Office took extra pains to emphasize which wording they were using (NOT synonyms for abolish or scrap; see Feiren's post below). Will they be apologizing too?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Recall and Impeachment

The KMT and PFP are being their irrepressible selves!

I was wondering why I have been reading in English about impeachment (tanhe) but in Chinese about recall (bamian) initiatives planned by the opposition.

Turns out, they are pursuing both courses. I explained recall procecures somewhat in the post below.

To my understanding, for impeachment lawmakers propose an impeachment case (usually because of unconsitutional behavior on the part of officials) and the Council of Grand Justices makes a ruling. If it's in favor of impeachment, then the official has to step down. Doesn't sound like it would have much of a chance of succeeding.

However, I haven't looked up the legal basis of this, so I'm unsure if I've gotten it right ...

UPDATE (March 3): OK, I've looked it up. From the president's website.

According to the most recent constitutional amendments for August 2004. Half of all legislators can initiate impeachment (this is feasible, since the opposition has the legislative majority). Then 2/3 of all legislators must pass the resolution, which is then referred to the Council of Grand Justices for a ruling (shenli; unlikely that 2/3 of lawmakers would pass the resolution, since about 100 of 225 wouldn't play ball and even if they did pass it, the Grand Justices are unlikely to rule in favor of impeachment).

I'm still a bit uncertain about the grounds for impeachment, but a previous amendment says the reasons for impeachment are either causing civil strife (fan neiluan) or treason (waihuanzui). I guess the opposition is going for causing civil strife.

This really reminds me of how the pan blues took all possible judicial remedies to court after the 2004 election, instead of focusing their energy on the one remedy that stood the best chance of succeeding. Of course in this case, they've chosen two dead-end routes - all in the name of "expressing strong dissatisfaction." Spinning their wheels.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Refresher on Recall

I was in the newsroom yesterday translating the news about KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou saying the threshold to passing a recall vote is very high. I asked news colleagues what the threshold was and I got blank stares. I haven't seen any English papers this morning, but just in case this hasn't been explained, here goes:

As far as the KMT and whoever else signs on will get is making the motion (they need a quarter of lawmakers to "initiate" it). Of course, they need to get it into the general assembly of the Legislative Yuan, which won't be a problem with the pan blue advantage in numbers in the Procedure Committee.

If the pan green lawmakers cooperate, they can run a vote on the motion soon and lose, since the threshold is 2/3 (and the pan greens won 100 of 225 seats in the last election).

However, the pan greens will probably insist on cross-party negotiaions, which would delay the recall vote in the LY by probably 4 months.

Then it wouldn't pass because of the 2/3 threshold.

Even if it did pass, the Central Election Commission would than have to run a nationwide recall referendum, and the LY recall proposal would have to be accepted by 50% + 1 of voters.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The China Times is reporting that Chen Shui-bian has 'terminated' zhong1zhi3 the National Unification Council and the National Unification Guidelines. More specifically, he has terminated the operations of the Council, halted its funding, transferred its personnel, and will notify the Executive Yuan. The 'applicability' shi4yong4 of the Guidelines has also been terminated. The terms 'terminate' and 'applicability' are legal terms. A party to a contract may terminate a contract while a court decides whether a law applies to a given set of facts. Rank raises the issue because in the countdown to the announcement, some of the local press spilled a lot of ink about how the US was pressuring Chen not to 'abolish' fei4chu2 the council.

Chen will issue a presidential decree formalizing the decision tomorrow "if time permits." This is obviously symbolic since tomorrow is the 59th anniversary of the February 28th uprising on 28 February 1947 against the KMT and the second anniversary of the 2004 'Hands across Taiwan' rally.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Taiwan Sunset

Ahhh...a beautiful Taiwan sunset over the Linkou Power Plant. This was in yesterday's China Times which described the scene as "not only beautiful, but also evocative of science fiction."
Curling for Asians
There are 1001 news tidbits that I could be blogging here, but I'm afraid I'm not finding the time.

One story that caught my attention yesterday was an Olympic news feature about curling. The reporter's angle was that this "strange" (mosheng; as in a sport no-one really knows about) sport is attracting a lot of attention in Turin (or Torino) because it's easy to understand.

The reporter ends by noting that there is no optimal body type for curling; therefore it is suitable for Asians. Man, all these years we Canadians have excelled at a sport that we can practice with a beer in hand while sporting a beer gut (for a lower center of gravity, you understand) ... with barely anyone else taking notice as we haul in medals. Now the Asians are going to be coming in with their typical diligence and a will to prove that the beer gut isn't even necessary. That's so cold, man. I need a beer. What the hell - make it a Taiwan Beer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

After a very long absence... I blog.

(still without formatting, however)

Last week, within two days, I had two beautiful Taiwan moments.

First, I was walking through back-alley Taipei in the late afternoon and I saw a very old man approaching me. He must have been 80, but he was standing upright and striding energetically -- and he was pushing a carriage with an infant in it. Meanwhile, a couple of scroungy little dogs were trotting down the street. This caused the old man, who was clearly having the time of his life with what must have been his great-grandchild, to exclaim in a voice of wonderment, "Ah! Liang ge xiao gou!" (Oh, two little doggies!)

I would have paid to see that.

The next evening I was standing at an intersection with my wife, waiting for the light to turn. We were feeling lovey-dovey -- nothing inappropriate, mind you -- but
we were clearly a couple of little lovebirds. Along comes a heavy, middle-aged lady on her bicycle, grinning broady and looking at us like we were just the cutest thing in the whole wide world. I'm not sure I've ever made anyone happier (not even my wife).

Nothing about these moments, now that I think about it, was peculiarly Taiwanese. But they were beautiful moments anyway.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

I think I will start another panda-only blog. It seems the panda gifts are the only item I'm interested in posting about.

The Times of Oman pubishes this AP article about how #16 and #19 (or Freedom and Democracy as I insist on calling them)are being taught to respond to the Taiwanese language. Heart-warming.

Updated 1/23: Even more on pandas! Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan are the most popular names so far. Put em together and you have "reunion." It must be destiny that a million Chinese will all come up with the same name in an Internet vote! You'd think that with the famous Chinese penchant for expressing dichotomies, they would have gone for Tong Tong and Du Du, for "reunification v. independence."

Friday, January 06, 2006


Big Mouth

It appears I put my foot in my mouth a few months ago when I suggested that Big Mouth the Panda would not be selected by Chinese handlers to be sent to Taiwan.

It turns out that the male "#19" panda selected by China is nicknamed Big Mouth and he will be paired with #16 and sent to Taiwan - so long as the authorities here agree.

My argument was that China would perceive it as too much of a risk to send a big mouth to Taiwan, who may spill state secrets. I guess I wasn't really thinking straight. This is a Panda. Pandas only talk in cartoons ...

Updated 2006/01/07: A suggestion comes to me that Taiwan's government should be quick to accept the pair of pandas and just as quickly rename them Democracy (Minzhu) and Freedom (Ziyou) when they arrive. My understanding from the AWSJ is that a contest is being held and 16 and 19 are to have their names revealed on Jan. 28. So maybe those are the names incscribed in their passports, but couldn't they have pet names in Taiwan?
Something is seriously wrong with Blogger

You can't link, you can't post a picture, you can't format. This really hinders my ability to build Rank into Taiwan's unquestioned leader in online journalism and punditry.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

And today's prize for most baffling photo and caption goes to...

"Education: Taiwan-style"

Honestly, this photo and caption appear in the midst of an article on education and workforce participation in Harvard Asia Quarterly.

I can't even begin to imagine what the photo is suposed to illustrate -- and I'm certainly not going to read the article to figure it out!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Eery stillness

During my first year and a half in Taiwan, it seemed that we had a good little rumbler of an earthquake at least once a month. I grew almost to appreciate those little temblors, on the theory that little temblors released tectonic energy in small amounts, so that big quakes would never be necessary.

Hmm. I can't remember the last time we felt any trembling in Taipei...

On another note, I see that Taiwan won the prize for best international float in the Rose Bowl Parade. I'd provide a link, but the news has filled me with such excitement that my hypothalamus is spasming, and I need to lie down.