Friday, March 30, 2007

Fresh Fruit

All that exotic fruit that I used to try occasionally in the States isn't exotic any more. I can go down to the neighborhood market and buy mangoes, starfruit and custard apples. I've never lived so close to the equator - Taipei's not quite tropical, but it's only a short train ride away to places that are.

There are durians for sale down at the market. I've never had a fresh one but I know their reputation quite well. It's something I will have to try while I'm here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Taiwanese Urban Architecture

Here's something about the architecture here in Taiwan.
Along virtually all major roads, the second floor of buildings overhangs the first floor by a couple of meters and is supported by columns, creating what is essentially an outer sidewalk (a regular sidewalk, along the street) and an inner sidewalk (partially sheltered from the wind and rain).
In many places the street-facing portion of the sidewalk is crowded with parked motor scooters (and occasionally motor scooters in motion) and the "interior" portion is an extension of the business on the ground floor. Add teeming urban crowds to that mix and you get a challenging situation for an ordinary pedestrian trying to walk quickly.
Overall it's not so much that I find this architecture remarkable as that it can be found everywhere here - in Taipei and in Tainan both, so that buildings that don't have the overhanging 2nd floor/divided sidewalk arrangement are the exception. Is this common in the rest of southern China and in Southeast Asia? It's such a universal architectural feature here (and I've never seen it anywhere else) so I'm curious.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The View from My Balcony

I live not in Taipei proper, but in a suburb that's called either Chung-ho, or Jhonghe, or Zhonghe, depending on your Romanization preference. It lies directly south of Taipei and it's a quick journey by subway. And it is viewable by satellite.

These are pictures I took from my balcony this morning. The day's not terribly clear but at least it wasn't raining.
A look down at street construction:

Monday, March 12, 2007

Taiwan and Korea and Japan

Here's a difference I noticed between the Taiwanese and the Koreans. The other day I was in a big shopping area in Taipei and I noticed a Mr. Donut franchise. Mr. Donut is a Japanese franchise, unknown in Korea (where Dunkin' Donuts thoroughly dominates the market) but common here.

The sign for Mr. Donut proclaims, "Japan No. 1". If Mr. Donut were to try to enter the Korean market, I can pretty well guarantee that they would NOT mention that they were big in Japan - on the contrary, they would try to downplay the Japanese connection as much as possible.

To put it as bluntly as possible - The Taiwanese like Japan. Koreans don't.

It's kind of complicated to say why this is. Japan ruled Taiwan for longer - they took over Taiwan in 1895, Korea in 1905. But Japan invaded Korea back in the 1590s, and to hear the Korean side of things, they sacked about every city and ruined every Buddhist temple in the country. So perhaps the Koreans were prepped to hate the Japanese.

Also, Koreans have a lot more nationalistic feelings than the Taiwanese - many Koreans have a strong "KOREA #1!!" feeling that I haven't noticed yet in the Taiwanese mindset. (Korea's official English-language TV channel, Arirang, is thought by a LOT of people to be absurdly nationalistic in its outlook; I don't know if Taiwan has an equivalent.) Korea had been an independent country which was taken over and subsumed by Japan; Taiwan had been a province of Imperial China and was in many ways treated better by the Japanese than it had been by the authorities in Beijing. To generalize, Korea steadily opposed Japanese rule; Taiwan acclimated itself to Japanese rule and never resisted much.

Now, as Jenna puts it, the Taiwanese are the only people in East Asia who don't hate Japan.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Tainan 2

Statue in the Koxinga Temple. Koxinga was a military leader in the final decades of the Ming Dynasty in the mid-17th century; he wasn't able to save the dynasty but he is fondly remembered by the Taiwanese because he drove Dutch troops out of Taiwan.
A scene at the Confucius Temple.
I honestly can't remember exactly where this was taken - perhaps I should consult my Lonely Planet again and update this entry!
In another temple.
Those little cakes turned out to taste like brown sugar, because that's what they're entirely made out of.
Jenna at a Tainan temple.

Tainan 1

Tainan is the old capital of Taiwan.
It is dotted with temples both large and small.
In these temples it is quite easy to take pretty pictures.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Status Report

This weekend I went down to Tainan - in doing so, crossing the Tropic of Cancer for the first time in my life - to spend two days exploring the old capital of Taiwan with Jenna. I took a couple of pictures but have yet to upload them to my computer. Tainan is absolutely filled with temples both large and small, and has some excellent street food. (One thing I've learned is that ultra-cheap al fresco dining is REALLY BIG here - no doubt influenced by the climate. Yesterday and today have been chilly and rainy days, but Jenna assures me they are the exception, not the rule.)

I have an apartment near Nanshijiao MRT station - technically not in Taipei but rather in Chungho, but the MRT and buses make transportation to and from Taipei very easy. The apartment is on the 6th floor of a building with no elevator, but I'll manage.

Yesterday I had a job interview with Kojen, who are one of the best-respected English language schools in Taiwan, with several locations in Taipei. If I work for them I'll most likely teach kids, with maybe some adult classes as well. Today I interviewed at Berlitz, which (if I teach there) will be mostly adult classes. Tonight I go to interview at a place called Effective International English, who (I believe) teach mostly adults.

I'll have a couple of pictures up soon, but for now Michael Turton's site has a bunch of pictures showing what real Taiwan looks like.

Friday, March 02, 2007

T A I P E I !

I am in Taipei.

The name of this blog will still be Bundaegi. I like the name. But I will explore Taipei, with my camera, and hopefully will take far more pictures than I ever did of Seoul.

This weekend I'm going down to Tainan with my friend Jenna and I'll try to take some interesting photos. For now, let me just say that Taipei is warm, sunny, full of interesting smells from street stalls, and thanks to my friend's Chinese ability and connections, I have a good lead on an apartment and I'll have a cell phone soon.