It’s been another successful week in Taiwan: I watched it rain for two straight days, ate dozens of dumplings, explored a few new MRT stations, took a day trip and got completely lost, took tons of pictures, got a $3 haircut, downloaded more RAM, and had my backup hard drive randomly crash. All in all – a completely productive week of living abroad.
(Most of this post will be pictures with a series of accompanying words, although for some things there are no pictures. If I could get back in the habit of updating this more than once a week I wouldn’t have to do this…)
A Clash of Hard Drives
A few months ago when I was in Kuala Lumpur my collection of photos had reached around 250 gigs – a size too large to continue to not have backed-up. I continued to tell myself that I should go through all of the pictures and delete the crap, but decided that it was much easier to just make copies of everything and worry about doing that at some other time. I went to the giant technology mall in Kuala Lumpur and purchased TWO external hard drives made by Seagate. You could say that I’m a little paranoid, but the idea of only having a single backup of every picture I’ve taken along this journey just seemed ludicrous.
My concerns about a single backup were justified this weekend though when one of those hard drives decided that it no longer had the will to live. Fortunately for me, there’s an electronics store right down the street from where I’m staying in Taipei. I now have another second backup with all of my photos and videos.
While I was at the electronic store I felt like a kid in a candy store and decided that my laptop needed more RAM…and I decided to upgrade from 4gigs to 8. Installing more RAM to a laptop is a fairly easy and painless process …as long as you have the right tools for the job. I am not traveling with those tools. There are 11 screws on the bottom of my laptop that needed to be removed and all I had access to were a set of knives. I was able to unscrew 8 of them with the knives – not bad all things considered… For the last three, the knives weren’t good enough. Eventually I did find a set of mini-screwdrivers, and was able to get two of the last three out. For the last one, I ended up back at the electronics store and had to ask them if they had a proper screwdriver. Fortunately they did and all was right in the world.
If a Cat and Red Fox Mated…
If I ever got back into market research, one of the metrics I would use to measure how developed or wealthy a country is would be how much money is spent per capita on pets. When animals make the transition from on top of the dinner table to down below feeding on scraps, you’ve started to evolve as a country… During 2012 the USA spent over $53 BILLION on its pets.
According to 2012 data collected by the IMF, Taiwan is 38 on the list of countries when listed in order of GDP per capita – which is really just a way of me saying that the people here are nowhere near as poor as other places I’ve visited…like Cambodia which sits at 154 on the same list. (A difference of $20,000 per capita vs. $1,000…)
Anywho…(back into traveler mode?) – what sort of unholy abomination created this dog grooming disaster? It looks like a red fox mated with a cat. The Ugg boots, pearl necklace, fluffy tail, and pink leash may all go well together (as far as gene splicing animals goes), but holy smokes it is a giant slap in the face to remind you that you aren’t in the poor part of Asia anymore.
Shilin Night Market …by Day
I’ve previously mentioned the Shilin Night Market – a lovely place to buy T-Shirts with broken English slogans, get a cheap meal, and eat penis waffles. Penis waffles? Yes. In hindsight I should have taken more pictures of the happy customers, although now I have a reason to go back.
If waffles aren’t you’re thing, there are plenty of other options ranging from crab to clams and ice cream to intestines. The underground food court has capacity for 1400 people, which makes daylight the best time to show up and try to take pictures of the area.
When Engrish Attaks
I love finding signs that have been improperly translated into English. I have a growing collection of pictures that will (hopefully) make a great photo gallery eventually. In the meantime, while walking around the Shilin area I came across a restaurant that had their menu posted on the wall outside of their doors. I couldn’t pick between having the Pasta Fisherman or Inclined Tube Surface for lunch.
Dahu Park (MRT Brown Line)
Dahu park is located towards the end of the brown line of the MRT going towards the Taipei Zoo. It happened to be a nice day so I decided to go check out the park and possibly do some reading. Someone had previously mentioned that the park was “somewhat small,” but I decided to check it out for myself.
The park is VERY small. First, as you can see on the map above, the park is mostly a lake. Had I brought fishing equipment, it’s possible that I would have been able to spend a few hours here. Second, it takes roughly 10 minutes to walk from one side of the park to the other.
For the most part, everyone at the park (other than me) was well into their 60’s. All of the men were fishing and all of the women were painting. Although this country doesn’t believe in them, I’m fairly sure that there is a retirement home somewhere around Dahu Park.
Tamsui & Fort San Domingo (MRT Red Line)
At the very top of the Red Line on the MRT is Tamsui. (Also called Danshui since Taiwan seems to use T’s and D’s interchangeably…more on this later) From the center of town it takes at least 25 minutes to get there – it’s 18 stops from Taipei Main Station. The area outside of the MRT station opens up toward the water on one side, and a large (8- story) shopping center on the other.
Once you get to this part of Taipei – far outside of the city center – the general feel is that you aren’t entirely in the city anymore. It’s still there if you look, but so are the wide streets, people biking, a long boardwalk along the waterfront, and an old Spanish fort built in the 1600s.
Fort San Domingo, also known as Fuerte Santo Domingo, is something that I didn’t expect to randomly come across as I was walking around Tamsui. In fact, on the specific day that I was there, my intention was to go sit by the water and read. I didn’t read a single page that day. Instead I roamed around the fort and the northern part of Taipei that has a definite European vibe to its design.
Since the Dutch took over the fort after the Spanish were run out of town …well yeah – fake wooden shoes.
If you look in between the two sets of trees you can see how far away from any sort of development this area is located.
This photo, which looks like some sort of stock photography, gives a very accurate description of the current state of Taiwan politics. The flags on display are: United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, the USA, and Taiwan.
After the Dutch were run out the Brittsh came through and made the fort its British Consular Residence. Since no self-respecting British museum can operate without a tea-party or a picture of the queen – both are on display here.
Keelung – T’s, D’s, and WTF’s
I went to Keelung, a city about 35 minutes northeast of Taipei by train, entirely because of the following pictures that randomly showed up on the internet in 2008. I wanted to go find this place and photograph it and explore it. One thing to note is that the location of this place is listed as “exact location between Ln. 290 and 230, Diaohe St., Zhongzheng Dist., Keelung City”. How hard could it be to find the place with the exact location? Hard.
To get to Keelung you have to take and actual train and not just the MRT. I didn’t know anything about the schedule of the train, so I just showed up and assumed I could buy a ticket on the spot. Fortunately for me the trains to Keelung seem to run once an hour and cost only a hair over $1.
I’m not sure if I got lost, didn’t find the place, or if after five years someone came along and tore this complex down and built overtop of the buildings that can be seen in the pictures. I do know that I certainly tried to find it though.
I mentioned this earlier, but it seems to be common practice to interchangeably use T’s and D’s throughout Taiwan. It also turns out that Keelung has streets named Tiaohe AND Diaohe. Fortunately both are close to each other – hell they even intersect at one point!
If you look at the picture below, it seems like I’ve almost found it…290 Tiaohe! Or was it 290 Diaohe?
Later on in the day I found the intersection of Tiaohe and Diaohe. Just for S’s & G’s, they intersect…the same address? Hell I don’t know. These two pictures are taken right next to each other. The Chinese characters are exactly the same yet the signs read differently.
If you haven’t figured out where this is going – I didn’t find the place in the pictures. I did find some random run-down buildings, but they were run-down and not abandoned. I also hopped a fence and took a walk along a closed down railroad.
Lastly, the place I’m staying has a cat. Cats make everything great right? Here’s a picture of a cat. He’s convinced that he’s a dog and enjoys being dragged around the floor by his hind legs. He also talks a lot, especially at 6am when he expects you to feed him. He’s probably going to get punched in the face one morning…