1. Taiwan From the Outside (Taiwan Style, August 八月 2011)
I don't think you ever really know a place until you've seen it from the outside. If you've lived in the same place all your life, if you've never bothered to go anywhere, then there's not much you can really say about where you live.
I have nothing against people who've chosen to end their days in the place they were born, but if they've never bothered to see what lies outside their familiar surroundings, I have to wonder how much they really know about the place they live in, and how much they know about themselves. There's nothing wrong with deciding that home will always be the same place, but only if you've seen home from somewhere else.
Otherwise you are making a choice based on ignorance - and more often than not this ignorance is willful ignorance - and that is never good.
I know a lot of people "back home" (in the States) who swear that they live in the best place on Earth. The food is the best, the scenery is the best, and the people are the best. Everything American, as far as they are concerned, is the best, and any attempt to change their minds is seen as unpatriotic.
The only trouble is that most of these people haven't really been anywhere, and they certainly haven't lived anywhere, besides the place where they were born. Lacking any real experience of another city, town, or country, how can they know that where they live is the best? How can they be so sure? Without any relevant knowledge of the rest of the world, all they can do to support their argument is to hand you truisms, and slogans, and other propaganda. They can never tell you that they like America because it has a more sensible economic policy than Ghana's. They can never tell you that they like America because American culture is less racist than Thailand's. And if they can tell you these things, it is usually because they've seen them on TV, and believe that everything on TV must be true.
So I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Taiwan is a better place to live than America. At least for me.
Why, you ask? Because I've lived in both countries, and I know that Taiwan suits me better. Taiwan's economic policy, convoluted as it is, makes more sense to me than America's. Taiwan's food tastes better. The women are (on average) more attractive to me. The culture is more interesting, and I have work in Taiwan that I find both financially remunerative and intellectually stimulating. This is not to say that such things will automatically be true for you, but there is a truth in my experience.
And that's what it comes down to: experience. Until you have lived in Taiwan, or America, or South Africa, you are are not in much of a position to judge those countries. What you and I can do, however, is to give them a fair chance, and to keep an open mind.
I recently came back from Seattle, in the USA, where I'm from. I had a lot of good food, I met a lot of good people, but almost every time I talked about Taiwan I felt a certain discomfort on the other side of the conversation. Tell Americans that another country is better than theirs and they will do some soul-searching. Tell Americans that another way of life is superior to their own and they will often see you as a threat. It is natural for them to try to love the place they live in, but they should be open to another option.
It is, after all, not only the unfaithful who leave their country for another. It can also be the innocent, the seekers, and those who really want to know the value of the place they came from. I cannot say that I came to Taiwan as an innocent. I cannot say that I came here seeking anything specific. But I can say that I came here in search of a home, and a people, and a place that I could call my own. Maybe, given another set of circumstances, that place might have wound up being Seattle, but it didn't, and so it is Taiwan that I came to call my home.
And in doing so, in calling Taiwan home, I knew the value of both America and Taiwan. Why? Because I had one to compare against the other. Because I had seen them from the outside.
2. Intro (II) (Taiwan Style, August 八月 2011)
All of the questions below were taken from the Side by Side Textbook, Volume 2.
1. Do you have a very good friend who lives far away? Tell about your friendship.
Yes. I have a couple of good friends who live in Seattle, besides other friends of less enduring acquaintance in other parts of the world. I have known these two friends in Seattle since I started college, and I have remained in contact with them for over ten years. I see them every time I go back to Seattle, and I am thankful to both of them for their friendship. They help keep me sane.
2. Tell about foods you like. Tell about foods you don't like.
My favorite food is probably Indian food. Chinese and Japanese food would be my second choice. I eat dumplings probably more than anything. I have never been very fond of steak, and I have never been a big fan of Greek food.
3. Who is the most popular actor/actress in your country? Who is the most popular TV star? The best singer?
Honestly I have no idea. I don't watch television, and I rarely watch Taiwanese films. As far as singers go, Tiger Huang 黃小琥 is probably the best in Taiwan, even if her music is a bit boring lately.
4. What is the best city in your country? What is the worst city? Why? What are the most interesting tourist sites in your country? What are the most important vacation places?
I think the best city to live in is Taitung 台東. It's quiet, it's relaxed, it's scenic, and most of my friends are here. The best city to visit has got to be Taipei 台北. It's hard to be bored in Taipei. As for worst city, I would have to nominate Jia Yi 嘉義, because it's ugly, not interesting, and the weather there is crap.
The most interesting tourist places would have to be the Taipei 101 Building and the Shin-Yi 信義 shopping discrict, Taroko Gorge 太魯閣 in Hualien 花蓮, Shui-Ba National Park 雪霸國家公園 in central Taiwan, and Orchid Island 蘭嶼. The east coast of the island is everyone's vacation destination, which means that I live in a semi-permanent state of vacation.
5. You're going to invite people to your home. Draw a map and write directions to help them get there (give them directions from your school).
Why draw a picture when I can use Google maps? There you go.
From my school, you take a left out of the parking lot, head up Chang Sha 長沙 Street, and take a right on Jeng Chi 正汽 North Road. You drive down this road to Chuan Gwang 傳廣Road, and take a left in front of the Presotea tea shop. After that you drive up Chuan Gwang Road to Ren Wu 仁五 Street, and then take another left. The big building is where I live.
3. Triathlons: Here and There 鐵人三項: 台灣跟美國 (Taitung Style, September 九月 2011)
I recently participated in a triathlon in Seattle. This was the second triathlon I've taken part in, and my first in the USA. My first-ever triathlon was the "Flowing Lake Triathlon" in Taitung. 我最近在美國西雅圖參加一個鐵人三項賽. 這是我第二次參加鐵人賽 , 也是我第一次在美國參加這種比賽. 我第一次是參加台東活水湖的鐵人三項.
Since the Flowing Lake was my first triathlon, I was naturally very nervous. I can remember checking my gear twenty or thirty times before the race, and once it was all over I couldn't believe that I had actually done it. My triathlon in Seattle, by comparison, was a relatively stress-free affair. I didn't bother to check my gear much, and I spent the time before the race warming up, watching the competitors in the longer event, and getting myself mentally ready for the competition. 因為台東活水湖的鐵人賽是我的第一次, 所以我那時候很緊張. 比賽前, 我好幾次檢查裝備. 賽後, 我真不敢相信自己居然完成了.對照台東的經驗, 西雅圖的鐵人賽就輕鬆多了. 我只檢查一次設備, 而且也不像以前那麼緊張.看看其他選手的狀況也同時將自己的心情準備好接受挑戰.
This particular Seattle triathlon was the "Federal Escape Triathlon," which was about an hour south of where my parents live. My time on that one was pretty good, even though my timing chip popped off my leg halfway through the swim segment. The lake where it was held was very small, and I was a lot more confident about my swimming this time out. 這次參加的美國鐵人三項為"Federal Escape Triathlon." 舉辦的地點在西雅圖的南邊. 從我父母家開車到那裏差不多一個小時. 雖然比賽時我的晶片在游泳項目中掉了又補發 ,還好舉行游泳比賽的那個湖很小而且我對自己的游泳能力也比較有自信,所以我完賽的時間不錯.
People generally swim like they drive, and in this respect my Seattle triathlon experience was very good. The competitors gave each other a lot of space, swam in the most efficient manner possible, and kept their own and others' safety foremost in mind. Compare this to this to the Flowing Lake Triathlon, where people swam as if they were fighting traffic in Taipei. 在美國參加游泳比賽很棒,因為大家都像開車一樣很守規矩. 比賽者會給彼此足夠的空間也很注意自身及他人的安全. 相對地,活水湖的鐵人游泳部分,大家都游的像在台北賽車一樣.
But what I say about swimming is not true for bicycling. I have found that bicycling in the USA is twice as miserable as bicycling in Taiwan. Why? Because there are lights and stop signs EVERYWHERE, and everyone follows the traffic rules. There were also police all over the course, which made building up speed during the bicycle segment very problematic. In Taitung I would have been flying, whereas the best I could manage in Seattle was the occasional burst of momentum, followed by a grinding halt at the next light. 可是腳踏車部分就不一樣了,在台灣騎腳踏車比在美國好多了. 為甚麼呢? 因為在美國到處都有紅綠燈和"停"的交通號制.每個人都要守交通規則, 到處都有警察開罰單. 因為這個原因, 在那邊沒辦法騎快. 但在台東我都快可以飛起來了.
The running part of either triathlon was about the same. I will say, however, that running in the Seattle summer is much easier than running in Taitung on a hot day. In Taitung dehydration is a very serious matter, whereas during the Seattle triathlon I barely drank any water, and still did OK. 跑步的部分就跟台東鐵人比賽中的差不多. 在西雅圖跑步的好處就是天氣不像台東那麼濕熱. 在台東要注意喝多少水. 但在西雅圖我幾乎可以在賽程中不喝水..
All in all, I think I like doing triathlons in Taitung much better. This is mostly because I enjoy the scenery in Taitung more. There are many beautiful places in the USA, but for me there's something indescribably cool about riding or running my way up the east coast of Taiwan. I'd be eager to do a triathlon in either place, but for me the "real deal" will always be the traithlons in Taitung. 話說回來, 我覺得參加台東的鐵人三項比較好玩. 因為我比較喜歡台東的風景. 美國風景好的地點並不少, 只是在臺灣東海岸跑步或是騎單車是最酷的. 我對任何地方的鐵人三項賽都有興趣, 但是我還是覺得在台東舉辦的鐵人三項是最棒的.
4. 7-11 (Taiwan Style, September 九月 2011)
I have trouble explaining 7-11 to people back in the States. It's weird. I mean it's not like they don't have them over there, but it's just a different thing - a far less essential thing.
In Taiwan, 7-11s are EVERYWHERE. And they are building more every day. I'm sure that even as I sit here writing this - even as I sit here typing - they are building another 7-11, somewhere in Taiwan.
In Seattle, I can count the number of 7-11s on one hand. That, and I can barely remember the last time I was inside one of them. 7-11s in Seattle are only good for chips, slurpees, hot dogs, and sometimes gas, and they are definitely far from convenient.
In Taiwan, however, there is a 7-11 or Family Mart 全家 on just about every corner in every city. I go in there to buy drinks, I go in there to pay parking fees, and I even go there just to enjoy the air-conditioning on a hot day. 7-11s are so ubiquitous that you stop noticing them after a while. If you told someone in Taiwan to "take a left at the 7-11," you'd have to spend a lot of time explaining which 7-11 you were talking about. In Seattle, and in most neighborhoods, no further discussion would be necessary.
I believe that the 7-11s in Taiwan and the 7-11s in America are actually run by different corporations. The Taiwanese 7-11s are, I believe, a Japanese concern, while the American version, with all of its surprising LACK of convenience, is the Ford to Japan's Toyota. The company that owns/operates the Taiwanese 7-11s also owns Kaohsiung's 高雄 Dream Mall 夢時代, and several other shopping areas throughout Taiwan.
It's easy to like 7-11 if you live in Taiwan, but I sometimes wonder if we aren't all pouring too much money into the same basket. 7-11s are convenient, but sometimes convenience isn't the best thing for everyone. Yeah, it's an easy place to spend your pocket change, but there are many local merchants who could probably use that change more than 7-11.
5. Chang Hua County 彰化縣 (Taiwan Style, September 九月 2011)
Chang Hua County 彰化縣 is south of Taichung 台中. It is very small, and can be explored in a day. It is cut off from the mountains by Nantou County 南投縣, and the coastline along this part of Taiwan isn't much to speak of.
When I lived in Taichung, my older daughter and I would occasionally get on the scooter and drive all the way to Chang Hua. Back then we lived in Taichung's Industrial Area, and it was an easy drive through places like Da Du 大肚 and Wu Rh 烏日 to get there. There was nothing scenic on the way, just a series of apartment buildings, moldering factories, and an army base that looked distinctly uninviting.
At some point we crossed a very long bridge, and we knew that Chang Hua was on the other side of that bridge. We always made a beeline for Chang Hua city, which back then hosted the closest Mos Burger to our house. Taichung has a lot more Mos Burgers now, but back then the nearest to us was in Chang Hua.
Just behind that particular Mos Burger was Ba Gua Shan 八卦山, which is one of the two better-known places in Chang Hua. Ba Gua Shan is a large, park-like area on top of a hill, dedicated to the odd temple and a huge image of the Buddha. The view from here at night is impressive, and during the day, early in the morning, it's not bad either.
From Ba Gua Shan and downtown Chang Hua, there is a highway that leads west to Lu Gang 鹿港. Lu Gang, or "Deer Port," is one of the most famous historical spots in Taiwan. Many of the houses and temples there can be dated back several hundred years, and there is also a lot of famous food in Lu Gang. To be honest, I never really understood the appeal of the place, but many Taiwanese people love it.
Aside from Lu Gang and Ba Gua Shan, there's not much in Chang Hua County. The southern parts of the county are almost entirely rural. Farming and fishing villages lead into the agricultural heartland of Central Taiwan, continuing all the way to the more urban sections of Tainan 台南 and Kaohsiung 高雄 in the south. People like to pose for pictures in front of the innumerable flower patches occupying fallow fields, and they make good grape wine around Bai Guo Shan 百果山.
I can't say that I've been in Chang Hua for a while, so it may be that there are new attractions in that part of Taiwan. I encourage you to visit there if you haven't. Maybe you can let me know what you discover.
6. A Long Drive 回家的路 (Taitung Style, September 九月 2011)
My daughters and I came back from Seattle, USA on August 22. It takes about 12 hours to fly from Seattle to the airport in Taoyuan. 我跟我兩個女兒在八月二十二日從美國西雅圖回來台灣. 一路上從西雅圖到桃園機場要十二個小時.
Even after arriving in Taoyuan, our travels were far from over. We still had to get to Taitung, on the other side of the island. From Taoyuan, there are three ways to get to Taitung: 到桃園還不是旅途的終點, 我們必須回到台灣東部的台東. 從桃園機場去台東的方法有三個:
1. Take a bus or taxi to Taipei, and then take a plane to Taitung. 坐公車或是計程車到台北市, 再從台北搭飛機到台東.
2. Take a bus or taxi to Taipei, and then take the train to Taitung. 坐公車或是計程車到台北市, 再從台北搭火車到台東.
3. Drive back. 開車.
But since it was August, and there were no more train or plane tickets to Taitung, we had to go with option #3, which wasn't really an option anymore, since we had no choice. So my wife rented a car in Taitung, drove it up to Taoyuan, and met us in the airport. This left us with a VERY long drive back to Taitung - more than half the distance around the island. 因為是八月的關係, 買不到往台東的火車票和飛機票. 所以沒辦法,我們選的是第三個選擇 . 我太太從台東租車並開車到桃園機場接我們.我們再從桃園開到台東. 這樣子的路程都超過環島的里數了.
We drove south from the airport, intending to take the Southern Highway (南迴) from Ping Tung into Taitung County. It took us about 9 hours to drive from Taoyuan to our apartment in Taitung. Add to this the 12 hours on the plane, largely spent without sleep, and you can imagine how tired the four of us were on that particular day. 我們從機場往南走. 從屏東縣走南迴公路回去台東. 總共花了大概九個小時. 這九個小時和飛機上的十二個小時加起來, 您應該知道我們回到台東時多累了,何況我們在飛機上也沒睡多久.
Still, thanks to all the coffee I drank, I found the drive home interesting. They are building a lot around Taoyuan, especially around the old freeway. I'm not sure what those enormous bridges on either side of the freeway are supposed to be for (the MRT? a train? cars?), but they look like something out of a sci-fi movie. 還好,我那時喝了好幾杯咖啡, 所以一路上開回來還蠻有趣的. 桃園附近正進行著許多工程, 尤其是高速公路附近. 我不知道高速公路旁邊的那兩座大橋是什麼東西, 可是它們真的很像科幻電影裡面的東西.
Besides Taoyuan, the rest of Taiwan's western half looked pretty much the same to me. We stopped in Taichung for an early lunch, and all the places I remembered were still there. I was only sorry I wasn't able to see some of my friends in Taichung. We got there very last moment, and no one had time. 除了桃園之外, 西部跟我印象中的一樣. 我們在台中休息吃午餐, 我記得的一些地點都還在. 只是很可惜沒辦法跟台中的朋友見面. 時間好趕.
After Taichung, a mixture of coffee and gasoline took us the rest of the way. We stopped in Tai Ma Li for beef noodles, but I was too exhausted to enjoy them. By the time we got to Taitung City, I was getting that floaty feeling that comes with bone-tiredness. We had been driving all day, and the four of us felt like the walking (or maybe I should say driving) dead. 台中以後,就只是為了咖啡和汽油的短暫停留了 .我們到台東縣太麻里鄉吃牛肉麵, 只是我累得沒辦法好好享受這頓晚餐. 回到台東市的時候, 我整個人感到虛浮和深入骨髓的疲累. 我們開了整天的車,四個人都累斃了.
It was good to walk into our apartment after all that commuting. More than anything, it was good to be home. It was nice to visit family and friends in the States, but I know that Taitung is the place for me. I can't say when I'll be visiting Seattle again, but when I think of all the driving, and waiting in line, and money that it takes to get there, well... let's just say I'm in no hurry to repeat the procedure. 回到家真的是見最棒的事 ,回家真好! 我當然喜歡跟美國的親戚朋友在一起, 但是我更知道台東比較適合我. 我不知道下次時候回去西雅圖, 只是我想到開車,排隊, 跟要花的錢,我就不想那麼早回去了.
7. The Superman Complex (Taiwan Style, September 九月 2011)
On the first day of my first job ever in Taiwan, they summoned us all to the Head Office for an orientation meeting. At the time, I was working for a private kindergarten in Taichung 台中, part of a 5-school chain that operated between downtown Taichung and the present location of the Howard Prince Hotel 福華飯店.
As part of our orientation, a guy named A.J. sat us all down for a talk about how we might better adjust to life in Asia. None of us had really lived overseas before, and I guess we were all fairly green about such things. As it turned out, A.J. had a lot of insightful things to say.
He started the meeting by talking about the "Superman complex." Mind you, he didn't call it by that name. This was a name I invented later, given its handiness as a term. I have met a lot of foreigners in Taiwan with a Superman complex.
To hear A.J. tell it, "A lot of guys come over here and start thinking they're Superman. They get stared at wherever they go, everyone tells them how wonderful they are, and even if they're only doing a half-assed job all they ever get is compliments. After a while they really start to think they're so wonderful, and so worthy of all those compliments. They feel so handsome, so talented, and so free to do so many things they couldn't do back home. And then, the next thing you know, they're in some bar coming on to some Taiwanese guy's girlfriend, and before you can say 'Look out,' the foreigner is getting his ass kicked by this Taiwanese guy and five of his friends."
I think there is a lot to this. I have met countless guys - almost shy as a rule, awkward with women - only to see them months later, convinced they are stunningly attractive to anything with breasts. Or maybe they played a little guitar back home, or they did some modeling, and the next thing you know they are playing in weird bars and convinced of their "God-given talent," or else certain that they're on the way to Hollywood dreams.
Taiwan really does that for a lot of foreign people. On the good side, it allows them to be a star, and to receive praise. On the bad side, their very foreignness allows them to build up their egos to an often intolerable degree. This is particularly true in cities like Taipei 台北, Hsinchu 新竹, Taichung, and Kaohsiung 高雄, where some foreigners have almost built a culture based on their own perceived celebrity.
But then, of course, comes the inevitable fall from grace. The Ladies' Man discovers that one of his ladies has an irate husband, or the Master Painter discovers that no one wants to buy his or her paintings, or the Distinguished Actor discovers that they only wanted a Caucasian for that commercial, and any Caucasian would have done just fine.
Of course ANY foreigner in Taiwan has felt like this at one point or another. I know I have. But it's important to recognize the pattern, in order to avoid the consequences. Taiwan is a place where manners are highly valued, and many Taiwanese people will go out of their way to compliment the local foreigner. They do this as a display of manners, and because they want to be your friend. This doesn't mean that every compliment should inflate your self-esteem to the breaking point.
I, for one, am not going to complain too much about a place where I get a pat on the back now and then. I can't deny it. It feels good. Still, it is important to remember that none of us are supermen. We are, more often, just big fish in a small pond.
8. Sports in Taitung 台東 (Taiwan Style, September 九月 2011)
I have met a lot of people, both Taiwanese and not, who are curious about Eastern Taiwan. This is because only 10% of the island's population can be found here, and also because the eastern half of the island is often praised for its natural beauty.
This curiosity also extends to sporting events. Many cyclists, runners, and triathletes flock to Yilan 宜蘭, Hualien 花蓮, and Taitung 台東 counties to take part in events over here, often going to great lengths to escape places like Taipei 台北. Personally speaking, if I spent 7, 8, or 9 hours in a car, the last thing I'd want to do is take part in a marathon the following morning.
But to each their own, right? I am lucky that I can take the East Coast for granted. I can still remember when this part of Taiwan was new to me, and I woke up happy every day, wondering what new corner of the East Coast I would be exploring. That newness has since worn off, but I am in no hurry to return to the West Coast.
I can't comment so much on events in Yilan and Hualien. Hualien County is about three hours from where I live, and I barely go to Yilan. Last year I attended the Hue Lan Cup, but that was the first and last race in Hualien I went to.
So as far as the East Coast goes, I can only tell you about Taitung. I have, at this point, been to almost every major sporting event in Taitung County, including events like the Hong Ye 紅葉 Youth Baseball Tournament, which I had no interest in. Baseball has always bored me.
There are three triathlons in Taitung every year. There is the most famous, the Flowing Lake 活水 Triathlon, every May. There is another, lesser known, triathlon in the same location next month. There is a true "Ironman" triathlon somewhere between these two. The Flowing Lake Triathlon boasts an olympic and half-Ironman event, the triathlon next month has a sprint and an olympic event, and the other, well... make sure you come ready for that one. I cannot imagine how TIRED it would be to ride more than 100 KM, and then to try and run a marathon around Taitung City. Actually, I'd rather not imagine it at all.
There are also several marathons and smaller-distance running events around the county. There's the Taitung Marathon in the spring, and there is another, "Healthy Life" marathon in a couple of months. In my opinion, the best marathon of all is the Green Island Marathon, which hosts marathon, half-marathon, and 5K races. I am hoping to do the half-marathon at Green Island next March, and this would be my first half-marathon ever. I did the 5K there last year, and I also represented the athletic association that put it on. I had a great time.
The bicycling events in Taitung are more spread out, and more difficult to locate information for. The Taitung Urban and Rural Athletic Association sponsors the "Love 197" race in the summer every year, which has 100, 60, and "family ride" divisions. They also sponsor other races around the county, but none of these are particularly famous. There is also the Taiwan Cup, which extends from Jer Ben 知本 to Hualien County (100K or 200K divisions), and the Tour de Taiwan teams pass through Taitung and their way around the island.
Besides triathlons, road races, and cycling events, there are many other less structured events you can take part in. Surfing is very popular along the coast, especially near Dong He 東河 and Cheng Gong 成功 townships, and there are also many clubs for mountain climbing, hiking, and other activities. Taitung is a great place to be outdoors. In fact, it's a place that almost forces you to be outdoors, since there's so little to do inside. There are no department stores here, or big restaurants, or indoor exercise centers. Lacking these, what are we going to do except go outside and sweat?
9. Taiwanese Men's Magazines (Taiwan Style, September 九月 2011)
I probably ought to get my mind out of the gutter, but it's happy there.
And yes, this topic could be construed as yet another excuse to show off pictures of scantily-clad Taiwanese women. Just allow me this opportunity to exorcise my demons, for the lack of just sitting in front of a computer and exercising other parts of my anatomy.
I should probably start by saying that I am NOT talking about Taiwanese porn. All of the women in the magazines below are non-nude, or at least non-nude as it is defined under Taiwanese law. There are other magazines that show breasts and blurred out genitals, and those in search of these are directed to both the internet and to the bottom shelf of any magazine rack in Taiwan.
1. GQ Taiwan
You might have wondered if the articles in the Taiwan version of GQ are just as stupid as in the Western version. I can confidently answer that yes, the articles are equally stupid. Restaurants you'd never be able to afford, clothes you wouldn't be caught dead in, and an array of other homocentric topics are covered.
The photography in Taiwan GQ is also just as annoyingly arty as in the Western version. The women are achingly beautiful - but only men (or women) with powerful imaginations would be able to, ah, satisfy themselves over this stuff. I find that the covers are usually the best part.
1. FHM Taiwan
Yes, there's an FHM in Taiwan too. Again, it's similar to its Western equivalent. The women all look very demure, if slightly more sexualized than their counterparts in GQ. The articles (hey, some people read those, right?) are slightly more interesting.
3. Sexy Nuts (!) 性感誌
No, I'm not making that up. There really is a magazine called Sexy Nuts in Taiwan. There also used to be one called Crazy Nuts. Perhaps they are the same magazine, and someone changed the name.
If GQ is Playboy, and FHM is Penthouse, then Sexy Nuts is definitely Hustler. No, there's still no nudity to be found within, but the women in Sexy Nuts are more on a par with what you might find within the local KTV. Not "Holiday" or "Cashbox" mind you. One of those KTVs where you never need sing alone.
I think the women in Sexy Nuts look more like women you would actually see in Taiwan. No, not every woman in Taiwan is so smokin' hot, but there are a few. I don't know where the GQ and FHM women live, but I haven't exactly run into them at the 7-11.
4. Next Magazine 壹週刊
This magazine started in Hong Kong, though they now publish a special version just for Taiwan. This is probably the most popular magazine in Taiwan, and can be seen everywhere.
I'm not sure if this one can be defined as a "men's magazine," however. While I'm sure that plenty of people get off on the bikini babes (and the bikini dudes!) inside, this magazine is aimed at a more general audience. It is published several times a month, and comes taped together in two installments. One of these installments covers political scandals and business, while the other covers celebrities and sex. The cartoons in the back of this second installment are truly crude.
5. Usexy 犬物
This is a new one, and I have never read it. Judging by the cover, I don't think I'm missing much - with respect to the articles - at least. I only ever read these magazines when I'm in either a waiting room or a breakfast restaurant, so perhaps it will turn up somewhere.
And that's it for me on this subject. Hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as I did?
10. Moon Festival 中秋節 (Taiwan Style, September 九月 2011)
Did I talk about Moon Festival before? I can't remember.
Well anyway, Moon Festival, also called Mid-Autumn Festival, follows the lunar calendar, and is in September or October. It was originally a harvest festival in ancient China, and precedes the autumnal equinox. It is also a national holiday in Taiwan.
There is an elaborate, and often contradictory, legend surrounding Moon Festival. Someway or another, the archer Houyi gets hold of a pill that will give him immortality, but instead of just swallowing the thing, he leaves it in his house, where it is discovered by his wife Change. After eating the pill (thanks, honey), she flies up to the moon, where she is separated from her husband. It is only on Moon Festival that the moon comes close enough for the two to be reunited, though how this happens is unclear.
There's also something about a rabbit in there, but I can't make much sense of it. It is about as logical as Easter, I suppose. Christ rising from the dead? Easter egg hunts? Huh?
So mythology aside, what people really do on Moon Festival is barbecue, eat pomeloes, and consume life-threatening amounts of moon cakes. After they eat the pomeloes they turn the skin into hats for their children. And after they eat all those moon cakes they get very sick, and have to see the doctor the next day.
I am no different. I spent Moon Festival, which was last Friday, barbecuing and eating moon cakes with everyone else. I don't like pomeloes much, and I brought my own hat, so I didn't need the skin. I drank a lot of Taiwan beer, ate far too much, and was generally feeling very ill on Saturday.
All in all a fun holiday, I think.
11. Counties in Taiwan That I Am Ignorant Of (Taiwan Style, September 九月 2011)
I hope I don't come off sounding like a know-it-all when it comes to Taiwan. There's still a lot I don't know, and that can be a good thing. If I knew everything about this island, I would be bored with it, and I hope that never happens.
With this thought in mind, I will metaphorically close the book on my discussion of Taiwan's counties. This is because I simply don't know enough about Penghu 澎湖, Matsu 馬租, Taoyuan 桃園, Miaoli 苗栗, Tainan 台南, Jia Yi 嘉義 or Nantou 南投 to say much about them. Aside from Penghu and Matsu, which I have never visited, I haven't been in any of those counties long enough to introduce them here.
I can, however, recommend some interesting places in the above counties. If this counts as an introduction, please be aware that the person doing the introducing is no expert.
1. Taoyuan County 桃園縣
Taoyuan seems to be a decidedly un-scenic place. The airport is there, and that would seem to be the end of it. I have heard of a place called La La Mountain 拉拉山 that's supposedly cool. Many of the Hakka villages on the eastern side of Taoyuan are interesting. I also always wanted to go to "Coca-Cola World," which is a museum situated near the bottling plant in Taoyuan. Never had the time.
2. Miaoli County苗栗縣
I've been to Miaoli many, many times, but this was years ago. I remember San-Yi 三義 being fun, but only if you're in the market for wood sculptures. The area where they grow the strawberries is a nice drive, and the southern entrance to Shuei-Ba National Park 雪霸國家公園 is in the same area. Oh yes, and the Taiwan Beer Brewery is in Jhunan 竹南, just south of Hsinchu 新竹. Last time I was there I had ALL THE BEER I COULD DRINK - for free!!
3. Tainan County 台南縣
Anping Fort 安平古堡 is cool. Tainan City makes for an interesting walk, provided the weather isn't too hot. There's a lot of history - and a lot of good food - in that place.
4. Jia Yi County 嘉義縣
I hated Alishan 阿里山. Too many tourists, too many overpriced stores, too much garbage. All in all, not fun. I'm sure there are cool places in Jia Yi, I just don't know what they are. Jia Yi City is not interesting.
5. Nantou County 南投縣
I haven't been to Nantou since forever. My father-in-law came to our house one time, and said he was on the way up to a monastery in Nantou to see The Buddha's toe bone. We took the bus up there, and it was a fascinating study in humanity - if nothing else. I remember Sun Moon Lake 日月潭 being beautiful, but I haven't been there since 2000.
12. The Hotel in Shan Yuan 杉原的大飯店 (Taitung Style, September 九月 2011)
They are building a big hotel in Shan Yuan Village, Beinan Township, just north of Taitung City. They have been building this hotel, on and off, since I first moved to Taitung. I think it is safe to say that many people are angry about this hotel, given the environmental impact the construction will have on the coral reef offshore.他們正在台東市北邊的卑南鄉杉原村蓋一間大飯店.從我剛搬到台東的時候蓋到現在.當地很多人對於在這裡蓋飯店很憤怒, 因為它對環境的直接衝擊是傷害沿岸的珊瑚.
I'm not aware of the legal history behind this construction project, but I had heard that local residents had voted it down. From what I've heard, it is illegal to build anything so close to the beach. 我不了解整個工程的法律程序與歷史, 只聽說當地居民投票決定不要再繼續蓋飯店. 也聽說在海攤上蓋這麼大的建築物是違法的.
For years the hotel just sat there, unfinished. Then, last year, they resumed construction on this hotel over many local objections. This resumption of building coincided with a change of Taitung County Magistrates. I don't know what the Taitung County Government's position on this structure really is, though the Taitung County Government Bureau of Tourism is named as the body responsible for this construction project on the metal fence that surrounds the site. 好幾年, 那間未完成的飯店就被廢棄在那裡. 去年才又在眾多的反對聲浪中繼續動工, 這當中也經歷了縣長的更替. 我不知道現任縣長跟前任縣長兩人對此看法的異同, 但是飯店工程圍欄上標明的是它屬於台東縣觀光旅遊局的負責範圍.
The primary argument against the hotel is that runoff from the construction will damage the surrounding coral. This is a concern for snorklers, fishermen, and other people using the waters around Shan Yuan. It also seems that there are overlapping legal issues in this case. The hotel may or may not encroach on aboriginal land holdings, and members of the A-mei tribe have already spoken out against its construction. 主要的爭議點是建築廢料會影響附近的珊瑚生態. 杉原的浮淺, 漁業, 和其他使用這個海域的人們都對此相當關心. 它也似乎牽涉許多的法律問題,例如飯店跟當地原住民的用地權益爭議. 對此,阿美族人已經說出他們的抗議.
But of course the construction of any such hotel in that area can't be all bad. The hotel would doubtless create jobs in the area, and would also create business opportunities for those living in Shan Yuan Village. There's certainly NOT a lot of economic activity taking place there now. 在杉原蓋飯店並不盡然是壞事. 飯店在未來能提供杉原村民工作機會, 附近居民也能經營小生意. 目前那裡幾乎看不到任何的經濟發展.
Before this hotel began construction, Shan Yuan Beach was administered as a public beach, with entrance fees. This public beach existed for many years prior to my arrival in Taitung, and was advertised in much of the tourist literature. For whatever reason, this beach was abandoned by the local government, and was left to the mercy of tourists and local residents. 開始蓋這個飯店以前, 杉原是個要買門票的公共海灘. 這個公共海灘維持了幾年,也在觀光雜誌上出現過. 不知道甚麼原因, 縣政府不再維持這個海灘. 讓村民跟觀光客自由使用海灘.
Which meant, basically, that the place was full of garbage around public holidays. This is one of the things that surprises me about the vehement reaction from locals regarding the hotel. When the hotel paused in its construction, the place became a garbage dump. You would think that those so concerned about the environment would have tried to keep this place clean, especially since all of those plastic garbage bags and other refuse would have been at least equally detrimental to local coral.那也造成每次節日過後,整個沙灘上充滿了垃圾. 當地居民對於興建飯店表現出憤怒與不滿,讓我驚訝的是當飯店停工了,那裡就成了一個大垃圾堆,你會認為那些關心環境生態的人會想辦法維持清潔,因為那些塑膠袋和其他的廢棄物也會同樣地對珊瑚造成傷害.
When the hotel is finished, which should be sometime next year, Shan Yuan will be a public beach, with entrance fees, yet again. This means that someone will be in charge of cleaning it, though of course the fate of the coral reef remains uncertain. 當飯店蓋好後(可能是明年),杉原將成為收費的海水浴場,那表示有人會維持它的清潔,當然那些珊瑚的命運仍是個未知數.
I cannot say that the opening day of the Shan Yuan Hotel (tentatively named "Beautiful Bay,") will signal some kind of environmental apocalypse in Taitung, but it is certainly something to think about. There are pluses and minuses to any project of this nature, and it remains for local citizens to sort through the data, and to make the choices that will benefit the largest numbers of people. In the end, it is a debate over what kind of future environment we wish to have, and this debate is important to each and every one of us.
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