The sunset …

21 09 2016


My boyfriend had been advised by somebody’s Taiwanese girlfriend in Hong Kong that while in Taichung we should go to the nearby Gaomei coastal wetlands to watch the sun go down. I was a bit skeptical, it sounded like the kind of thing you would do in a small town rather than a mid-sized city.Watching the sun go down in a swamp? O-K…. But then we had nothing else to do…

Approaching the wetlands – visible from far away because of the silhouettes of its huge, vaguely futuristic wind turbines – traffic slowed to a crawl. It seemed the whole town had turned out for the twilight show. Soon, we saw why.


With masses of spectators standing on an artfully designed bridge, we watched one of the most spectacular sunsets I can remember break over the wind towers, while flocks of birds, little sparrows and larger waders, drifted over the mud flats.

It turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.


21 09 2016

Outside the Zhongying Recreational Building in Taichung

Synapticism is an interesting urban exploration/haikyo blog I stumbled upon, seemingly based in Taichung. The site has lots of interesting information on the background behind the decay of Taichung’s old downtown area with its dilapidated Qianyue Department store, as well as links to other interesting “urbex” sites in the city like the abandoned Jukuiju mansion and the “shark graveyard” below.

A shark cemetery in Taichung Jukuiju, an abandoned mansion in Taichung

All pics here courtesy of the Synapticism blog.

21 09 2016


The ‘Rainbow Village’ is one of Taichung’s few high-profile “sights” and probably the best known example of outsider art in Taiwan. The colourful, naive paintings are the work of one man, now 94, who drew them over the decades on the outer walls of a fairly grim public housing block for former Kuomintang war veterans. Once threatened with demolition, the block (not really a “village”) was saved by a public outcry and has now become an out-and-out tourist scrum, a jarring experience in otherwise-laidback Taichung. When I was there the site was so crowded with holiday makers armed with selfie sticks that I gave up trying to take a “clean shot” and just started taking pictures of the other tourists. “Papa Rainbow” was there too, manning the souvenir stall and looking mighty proud- as he should – of the colourful chaos he has created.

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A Tuesday night at the Mansions

21 09 2016


I ventured out on a Tuesday night to the notorious Chungking Mansions, the “ghetto at the centre of the world”. Together with some friends, I had decided to track down the African food that was reputed to be found there. We had been warned that many of the restaurants there, being unlicensed and therefore technically illegal, would be unwelcoming to outsiders, and we didn’t have so much as an address or even a phone number but we figured we would wander around and try to strike it lucky. Which we did, in a way.

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Upon entering we were mobbed by touts of the famous curry houses on the upper floors – in all my trips to the mansion I have never experienced anything like it. But after we forced our way through the scrum and piled into an elevator, waiting for the previous occupant to lug out numerous bags of some kind of tradeable commodity, we got out at a random floor. Strings of green fruit, some kid of citrus and peppers, were hanging over the doorways (some kind of charm), and one door opened briefly to reveal a crimson-robed Bhutanese (?) monk inside, then shut just as fast. Black and Indian faces pressed past. Soon we were told that there was an African restaurant on the floor, behind a door with no sign, and on ringing the bell we sure enough glimpsed a room with Congolese music playing and tall African dudes sitting around chatting in a windowless room. The Filipina clerk who answered the door had a hasty conversation with an unseen boss (“There are some Chinese outside, they want to come in”) and we were told the restaurant was “fully booked” but we could sit in the Indian restaurant next door and order from their menu – which we did, supplementing delicious naan and paneer with fufu rice, a spicy fish dish and okra chicken stew from Tanzania, although they also offered Nigerian dishes like abacha and ugba, watching Kylie Minogue’s never-before-glimpsed Bollywood video on the TV screen mounted to the wall.

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Just another night in the mansions.


Pink flamingoes

5 09 2016


A friend recently posted pictures of this mall in Thailand – FN Mall in Cha-am – complete with lush tropical greenery, huge stand-alone mirrors, plastic flamingoes and dinosaurs with painted flamingoes on them! Amazingly kitsch. I love it.




Bangkok: To do list

21 08 2016


It has been a while since I was in my favourite city and the list of new and interesting places I want to check out is growing ever longer, especially since I discovered the Thai magazine “aday”, which has lots of great tips like this cafe near the Hua Mak airport express stop in Ramkhamhaeng called Sunday.


Or this pretty jogging track around the Ram Inthra stadium:


Restaurant Harmonique with its courtyard under a banyan tree.


Plus a secret drinking den in the city’s US military headquarters

The Skytrain jazz bar

The dining table inside a swimming pool at 3nvy.

The city’s riverside Protestant cemetery.

And the cluster of art workshops and galleries amid old European buildings on the Charoen Krung Soi 30, also known after an obscure historical figure as Soi Captain Bush.

Then there is the chic speakeasy cocktail bar J Boroski, hidden on a Thonglor sidestreet, with a plush interior featuring a wall of mounted beetles.

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Plus there is the new incarnation of the Thailand Design and Creativity Centre nearby in the vast old nineteen thirties main post office building, and the glittering ICON mall across the river promising a new art museum and Takashimaya department store, coming next year.


Hidden Bangkok

4 08 2016


Thai magazine ‘aday’ has released a “100 secrets of hidden Bangkok” issue and it seems to be a hit; I asked a Thai friend to help me get hold of a copy but the magazine had sold out everywhere. These kind of “Secret City X” articles always tread a fine line, sometimes the tips are exceedingly basic and obvious, as in a recent “Travel+Leisure” magazine feature I read on Hong Kong which tipped Sheung Wan as an under-the-radar district the expat hordes had yet to discover, when of course, it is in fact firmly established.


Oneday Wallflowers, the elegant floral workshop tucked into an alley on Chinatown’s Soi Nana, and one of the 100 secrets of Hidden Bangkok.

But in the case of “Hidden Bangkok” the editors seem to have made some interesting choices – and discoveries! Some of the places listed are obscure attractions which I have none the less visited and enjoyed, while many others IU had never heard of. I can’t wait to get back to the city to explore them.


The public park in the old Tiajew Chinese cemetery near Surasak skytrain station, read more here.

Good luck getting your hands on a physical copy  of the magazine but there is a Google Map to the 100 secrets of hidden Bangkok here, although it is only in Thai – let google translate be your friend!


Chula University’s little-visited zoology museum.


The Islamic Center of Thailand in Ramkhamhaeng.