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?