18 04 2014

Taipei funny

18 04 2014

18 04 2014

Danshui and Bali

18 04 2014

Some of my favourite times in Taipei this trip were on the foreshore of Danshui, and across the river in the neighbouring town of Bali. Danshui, at the far end of the Northern suburban train line, is one of the city’s weekend hangouts. Its boardwalk-like foreshore is lined with snack stalls(most selling some form of squid) and inland along its “old street,” alleyways snake up hillsides past temples and old colonial churches and forts. One alley (well, staircase almost) transforms on weekends into a colourful flea market for local craftspeople, with the odd little gallery or patch of street art and ocean views over the rooftops. It reminded me of a little Valparaiso.

The area also has cheesier attractions. Although the “Starbugs Insect Mall” was closed, we did manage to find the Ripleys Believe It Or Not (not affiliated with the international version!) “freakshow” museum with its two headed turtle, a stuffed four-legged chicken, various bizarre reptiles and fish, rusty chastity belts and an (apparently used) female condom, and other jokey exhibits.

Bali, a short ferry hop across the shining waters of the estuary, is much quieter. It sits in the shadow of a volcanic-looking mountain and when we went midweek it was – wonderfully – empty. The big attraction here is the bicycle paths which spread over 20 blissful kilometres through sun-dappled parkland, under freeways, past sculptures and little cafes and in its wilder segments, along volcanic black beaches where packs of scary dogs rove, past witchy mangrove swamps and rusty old factories and villages, one home to an apparently abandoned temple reputed to be home to a “ghost army”.

We spent a happy day whizzing up and down the bike paths, watching the sun shining on the water and the city skyline rising up across on the other bank, dodging pigeons and racing each other down the slopes, before retiring for the local specialty of garlic-fried mussels.

It was great.

I want to go back!




Taiwan: What I learned

18 04 2014

- The spirit of protest is alive and well. For several weeks prior to my trip student protestors had succeeded in occupying the Parliament building, in protest against a trade agreement with China. The protestors, known as the “sunflower movement”, were concerned that the agreement would undermine wages in Taiwan and leave the country open to pressure and manipulation from Beijing while alienating traditional ally Tokyo. In our time in the country there were also environmental protests over threats to the habitat of the leopard cat, a local endangered species, and a windfarm, as well as “no more Fukushimas” anti-nuclear banners strung up in many youth-oriented establishments around the city.

- Taiwanese don’t use toilet paper rolls. How did it take me five trips to the country to notice this? Although many restaurants and hotels use Western style rolls of toilet paper, in their homes Taiwanese almost all opt for tissue-style packs.

- Taipei is expensive – for locals at least. While we marvelled at how cheap everything was ( half the price of Hong Kong in many cases), a friend mentioned that real estate in the city is the second most expensive in the world in relation to local wages. Many Taiwanese complained about poor salaries compared to HK or, increasingly, Shanghai.

- All shops in Taiwan give receipts which come with lottery numbers. Every month the lottery is called and – if you care to comb through all of your receipts for the month – you could win. A local accountant friend explained this odd system: its actually a government ploy to crack down on businesses avoiding tax by giving consumers an incentive to insist on proper receipts.

- The Fried Chicken Girl is Taiwan’s hot new celebrity – a pretty girl who rose to fame in a youtube tutorial on how to cook fried chicken and has since parlayed this “talent” into appearance on talk shows and bikini photoshoots in gossip mags.

Taipei nights

18 04 2014

Taipei nights are warm, buzzing with the rush of scooters and workers returning home on foot, shops thronged and brightly lit and  multicolored neon lights flashing above the glass booths of the “betel nut girls”, bored-looking ladies in skimpy clothing who sit by the roadside selling betel, Taiwan’s indigenous stimulant which is chewed and then spat out, leaving red blood-like stains on the footpaths.

With the buff boys all away in Bangkok (scroll down) I didn’t spend much time experiencing the city’s bumping gay scene (hahaha) – but to tell the truth I wasn’t in the mood anyway. I preferred to spend the nights at home with the boyfriend, or sampling the local street food: gun-shaped taiyaki (waffles), pineapples and custard apples, rice hot dogs (delicious!), chicken steaks, butter buns and stinky tofu.


18 04 2014

Taiwanese singer Joanna Wang.


18 04 2014

Taipei is home to quite a burgeoning cafe scene, with lots of cute little places serving OK (if not quite-Melbourne standard) coffee and names like “Mother’s Mouth”, “Emptiness of Cats”, “Kafka by the Shore” (Murakami reference!) and my favourite, “Eat Shit and Die is Not Allowed”.

We went to A8, owned by Taiwanese superstar A-Mei, which features a warm if slightly muddled rustic-industrial theme, a basement art gallery, leisurely service, serviceable coffee and a pretty good Taiwanese pork noodle.


18 04 2014

Flying above the forest in the crystal-floored cable car that travels 300 metres up from Taipei’s impressive zoo (home to pandas and koalas among other things) to the summit of a wild green mountain and the tea-farming village and weekend getaway of Maokong.

The cable-car travels over deep valleys, thick green forests and monasteries before reaching Maokong, with its popular weekend teahouses and views over the city below and the skyscraping Taipei 108 building.

We managed to time our trip perfectly, to see the city lights switching on on the way down.

18 04 2014

Party boy: Kuan Jiang

13 01 2014

When too much eye candy is not enough: Kuan Jiang is a dancer in Taiwan and Tokyo gay clubs and friend/rival/sparring partner of this blog’s previous crush objects Kevin Wei and Kenta Go. Like the other two guys mentioned, he comes across as a sweet, fun guy making the most of having been born with a fairly incredible body in a stream of facebook pictures of him frolicking on beaches and in ludicrous shorty shorts on nightclub stages, as well as kicking back with friends in noodle shops, mugging for adorable selfies and posing in various Asian cities in cute, well-cut streetwear and with cute, well-cut gym buddies.

Sigh. The life of a jetsetting gogo boy.

But wait:  where have we seen this backpack before? ;)


2 12 2013

Taiwanese artist Shen Chao-liang constructs these elaborate, colourful stages for his photography. One is on display in Hong Kong now at the Saltyard gallery in Kwun Tong until January 12th.

Taiwan vs HK

11 11 2013

The highly recommended Coconuts website ( quirky city-specific news from Bangkok, Hong Kong and Manila) currently has these translations of cartoons illustrating the difference between Hong Kong and Taiwan. Some of the points  are obvious, but some I hadn’t picked up on.

This last one doesn’t really ring true for me though. I see some pretty rough-looking delivery dudes around Hong Kong…

See the full gallery here.

Dead duck

4 11 2013

Brace yourselves – the duck is dead!

The giant rubber duck that has been enthralling much of the Chinese speaking world (and this blog) exploded this week (EXPLODED!!) during its stop in Taiwan.

Following an earthquake, the duck’s air supply was cut off and “rescue workers” overzealously re-pumped the 18 metre high inflatable artwork too quickly, leading to a rupture.

The duck’s deflation, following its tabloid-baiting “death” in Hong Kong earlier this year, caused an internet sensation with this photoshopped picture of the mascot in a traditional funeral home doing the rounds under the caption “First victim of the earthquake”.

23 10 2013


23 10 2013

After the recent stresses of my break-up and house moving, I decided to give myself a weekend break to Taiwan. I was arriving in Taipei, one of my favourite Asian cities, the week before the city’s snowballing gay pride festivities (which I visited last year), but despite the slightly off-beat timing I found the city, as always, up for a good time.

If Beijing and Shanghai are the grand old dames of the Chinese-speaking world, and Hong Kong their besuited asshole investment banker son, then Taipei is the younger brother, a funky Chinese literature teacher who plays drums in a rock band on the weekend and looks good in bicycle shorts.

It is a good city in which to explore being single again. Taipei hums with the crowds in its “gay village”, a cluster of thirty or so bars, shops and restaurants around an open cafe-filled square (as well as saunas, clubs and gay hot springs.) The city is socially progressive in other ways too – while I was there there were feminist film festivals and digital art extravaganzas, newly restored industrial art spaces, and the opening of a network of cycling paths along the city’s rivers. The city is decorated with quirky public art projects and sometimes interesting grafitti.

And unlike many other cities in the Sinosphere, it has space – you can look up at the sky as you stroll Taipei’s broad boulevards or quaint alleyways, and feel the cool breezes blowing down from the forested hills and mountains which ring the city on three sides.

After four days in the city I left rejuvenated, and looking forward to a return trip in the near future.

23 10 2013

Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water (on Minquan Street)

23 10 2013

Little known even to many Taipei residents is the fascinating block-long strip of aquarium supplies stores on Minquan Street (near the domestic airport). I had glimpsed the district late at night from the window of a passing taxi on my last trip and promised myself I’d return for a closer look. This trip I did, and found shop windows full of odd spotted stingrays, sharks and all kinds of bizarre ornamental tropical fish. The perfect place for a different Taipei souvenir?

Taipei boy

23 10 2013

Local gay pin-up (and guitarist) Kevin Wei. Hawt.

Here he is in action in the video for last year’s G5 Gay Pride party. I don’t think they made one for this year.

Taipei kicks

23 10 2013

Taipei culture

23 10 2013

Taipei is a great city for readers. In the palatial Eslite, a chain of 24 hour bookstores that have recently morphed into all-encompassing lifestyle malls, it has one of the world’s great bookstores (now with an offshoot in Hong Kong).

There are also stores like Mag Freak, a one stop shop for Japanese, Chinese and Korean magazines and anime, and Gin Gin, supposedly the only gay bookstore in the Chinese-speaking world, located near the university district of Shida.

The city also has a range of other cultural attractions, ranging from an architectural museum (when I was there staging an exhibition on ‘metabolism’, a largely failed Japanese experiment with architectural brutalism in the 1970s, to a couple of “creative parks”.

The Songshan Creative park, dominated by a branch of Eslite, is a glossy and beautiful upmarket design mall in an area of old tobacco warehouses, but even better is the Huashan 1914 Creative Park, where old brick warehouses and factory buildings have been transformed into a shady compound of theatres, art studios and exhibition spaces.

Currently on show is this “sound” exhibition where visitors can stand under cloud-shaped speakers to hear different compositions – a concept that has (rightly) become an instagram hit.


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