Archive for April, 2013

Sanxia old street

A visit to Sanxia is not complete without a visit to Sanxia old street – which is actually the southern section of Minquan St. in New Taipei City.

This throwback to the Japanese occupation era of Taiwan is full of little shops and eateries offering all manner of goods.  While a lot of “old streets” in Taiwanese towns have similar shops and boutiques, Sanxia is different because the architecture on  the old street is very uniquely Japanese.  The red brick buildings are in great shape and are from the time of the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. Continue reading ‘Sanxia old street’

Hakka Tung blossom festival

If you aren’t up in the mountains, snow is non-existent in Taiwan.  So when the Tung flowers bloom, and the trees look like they have a smattering of downy snow, people flock in droves to catch the sights.

In 2002, the council of Hakka affairs formalized this into the Tung blossom festival.  This annual event runs every year during the end of spring, around April – March.

The Hakka are a group of people from southern China who came and settled in Taiwan.  They are located mostly in north-west Taiwan (Miaoli and Hsinchu counties).  In days past, they used the Tung tree extensively for Tung oil, wood, and food.  During the Japanese occupation of Taiwan (1895 – 1945), many Tung trees were planted in the hills of Miaoli county, and now they’ve spread all over the hills creating a tourist opportunity for Taiwan.

While the Tung tree can be found all over Taiwan, most of them are in Miaoli county.  When they bloom, from far off, it looks something like this: Continue reading ‘Hakka Tung blossom festival’

Zushi Temple (清水祖師廟), Sanxia, Taipei

Zushi TempleZushi temple, in Sanxia, Taipei is one of the older temples in Taiwan.  It was originally built in 1767 and has gone through 3 reconstructions since.  We went on a rainy day but that, in no way, lessened the  beauty of the temple.  I’m always in awe when I visit a temple in Taiwan because of the sheer amount of intricate artwork and carvings jammed tightly into such a small space.  This holds doubly true for the Zushi temple because of the large amount of stonework within it’s walls. Continue reading ‘Zushi Temple (清水祖師廟), Sanxia, Taipei’

Funny things kids write in class

I haven’t written much about teaching English in Taiwan, because there is tonnes of information out there about it.  Recently though, I was going through some of my pictures and couldn’t help laughing, so I thought I’d share some of the funny moments I’ve had during marking some of the exercises.

If you have experience teaching ESL, then you will be aware that for most language learners, bad words are the first ones learned.  In the case of little tykes in Taiwan, poo poo rules as king.  Everything can be related to poo poo.  One even went so far as to write: Continue reading ‘Funny things kids write in class’

Gambling in Taiwan

Putting the words “gambling” and “Asian” or “Chinese” together immediately conjures up a scene of a small, dimly lit room with a dingy table surrounded by men huching over blocks with strange characters on them.  There is money on the table and in their hands, and they are shouting at each other in unrecognizable words, gesturing and excited.  A heavy haze of smoke permeates the room, and the door is closed, with an oily, gangster type standing beside it.  This room is located in the back of a Chinese restaurant, somewhere in Chinatown in any major western city.  And these men are fathers and controllers of powerful factions within the Asian community. Continue reading ‘Gambling in Taiwan’

The Taiwanese Princess

If you’ve been in Taiwan for 24 hrs. or more, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, you’re not missing out.

What I’m referring to is the fashionably dressed, accessory carrying, irritating female embodiment of sickening “cuteness” that refers to everything as “Hen ke’ai” (Soooo cute).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about real, normal Taiwanese women.  They are fantastic, no complaints here.  No sir!  I’m talking about the under evolved variants – the walking, talking avatars of annoying and fake.  The epitomes of corny, the mistresses of cheesy.  The ones you want to slap in the face just for being born.

Yes, I’m talking about the Taiwanese Princess.  Here’s a gaggle of them: Continue reading ‘The Taiwanese Princess’

Cops and gangs in Taiwan

I don’t go up to Taipei much, simply because life in small town Taiwan is very relaxing, and makes one quite lazy.  One of the few times I did head up there, I was fortunate enough to meet a guy who worked as a camera man for a local TV station and a police captain who works in Taipei.  We kept in touch over the months, and hung out once in a while.  During one of these times, I got an invite to a formal dinner.  It was described as being a gathering of the “local power” – which I took to mean the local boys in blue.

Being no stranger to gatherings of this sort, I knew what to expect.  Getting together with a professional fraternity of men usually results in copius consumption of alcohol, loads of snacks, stories of braggery and other such enjoyable nonsense.  It may start out professional, but ends up with plenty of drunken camaraderie, possible wrestling matches and invariably, shot downing competitions.

Well, in Taiwan, substitute karaoke for wrestling, and beer shots for liquor shots. Continue reading ‘Cops and gangs in Taiwan’


I had no idea what this was until very recently.  I was having a conversation with a friend who has been in Asia for a while, and we were talking about girls (go figure eh?).  I mentioned that I’d seen a lot of Taiwanese girls puckering their lips in pictures – sort of  like when you go in for a kiss.  Not having seen too much of it back home, I figured that this was a Taiwanese thing.  He cured my ignorance and explained that it’s called Duckface; it’s all the rage in Asia.  Google served up a plethora of information, that I now feel obligated to share with you. Continue reading ‘Duckface’

Aren’t all Canadians white???

Being in small town Taiwan, people are naturally curious about westerners.  Like an endangered species, we aren’t spotted in the wild too often.  My town is shunned by westerners because it’s sleepy and boring compared to the bigger cities.  While there a handful of us here, the locals aren’t used to seeing our kind too often, and thus don’t have a clear idea of what we are exactly.

That’s not to say they are foreigner-wary, or foreigner-cautious – just foreigner-uninformed.  Western foreigner, that is.

I started realizing this when my Mandarin got good enough to have rudimentary conversations with people.  I’d go to a store to buy something and upon speaking, it would become obvious that I’m a foreigner.  The conversation would go something like this: Continue reading ‘Aren’t all Canadians white???’

Time and distance in Taiwan

Taiwan is a tiny island (at least compared to Canada) and travelling to different places here is incredibly easy.  The train system in Taiwan can take you from Taipei (north) to Kaohsiung (south) in a matter of 4.5 hours.  If you take the high speed train, that time gets cut down to 1.5 hrs, and by plane, about an hour.  From the point of view of anyone coming from North America, this is peanuts.

Back home, I’d regularly drive 1 – 1.5 hrs. to meet a friend for dinner, then drive back.  Just driving across my town could take 30 mins, so when I landed in  Taiwan, I was pleasantly surprised at how close everything seemed to be.  Travelling across the island would be easy.  So, I was astonished when Taiwanese people described a city 100 kms away as very, very far! Continue reading ‘Time and distance in Taiwan’

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