New world order

4 01 2015

Tale of Two Cities: Hong Kong 80s X Taipei 90s

17 08 2014

A Parallel Tale: Hong Kong X 80s and Taipei X 90s is a surprisingly interesting exhibition now on in HK, tracing the comic book culture of the two cities in two different decades. I have to admit I was quite ignorant of the scene in either city, but the exhibition serves up some nice images from artists from Hong Kong and Taiwan as well as their interesting reminiscences about life and art in the 80s and 90s.

The show is free and its on currently at Comix Home Base, a new centre for the comics industry in a restored four storey historical building in Wanchai (across the street from a Mos Burger, I discovered to my delight, too.)

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.


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