Showing posts with label living_in_taipei. Show all posts
Showing posts with label living_in_taipei. Show all posts

Friday, October 23, 2020

Not Just The Tip: Visiting Shezi Island

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The Li Hexing Mansion on Shezi Island


I've been on Shezi (which is really a peninsula) twice, but never wrote about it as both times I was either pushing to get my dissertation proposal or actual dissertation handed in. So, now's the time! 

I'm no expert on Shezi history or anything like that, so this is more of a wanderer's blog than a deep dive, in the hope of showing that Shezi is more interesting than just its scenic bike path (though that is great, too). So far, it seems most explorations of Shezi begin and end at its periphery, which includes the scenic park at the very tip. That's certainly worth a visit, but I have more to say.


There are several buses to Shezi, though none of them run particularly frequently. The 2, 215, 536 and R10 will take you up there, from various yellow or red line MRT stations. These buses originate at or pass by Yuanshan, Taipei Main, the Jiancheng circle on the Chongqing stop near Zhongshan, Jiantan and Daqiaotou, for example. The R7 from Jiantan will also get you in the general area of some of the old buildings and a good cafe popular with cyclists.

Quick bit of advice: wear or bring mosquito repellent if you're heading up here. The entire area is lowland and between two rivers, with rural or light industrial stretches. You will get bitten if you don't prepare, and cases of dengue fever are rare but not unknown.

The most efficient taxi ride would probably be from Qili'an or Qiyan stations further north as you'll ultimately be heading to Yanping North Road Sections 8 and 9. The peninsula is huge -- far larger than one would imagine for what is often considered a remote area of Taipei -- with its base somewhere around the Yanping-Dunhuang Road intersection and its tip so far north that you can see Guandu in the distance, with Yangming Mountain on one side and Guanyin Mountain on the other. Needless to say, the bus takes awhile. 

Here's a photo I snapped along the way:

 

Before heading up, I do suggest stopping off at the Chen Yueji Ancestral Mansion (陳悅記祖宅) at #231, Yanping Road Section 4. Most of the buses coming up from the south will stop by there (but probably not the ones that originate at Jiantan). It was built in 1807 and renovated in 1859, when one of the members of the Chen family became an imperial officer, had a great deal to do with arts and education in the Dalongdong area, and was the master of the Xuehai Academy (another old building in Wanhua that's worth a visit). 

After that, it's a long slog up Yanping Road, although you will pass some funky old houses from a variety of eras, several weird store signs and a Statue of Liberty that I haven't quite figured out the purpose of yet. Yanping skirts the river for awhile before turning inland.





If you're on the bus, get off first at Jian'an New Village (健安新村). On bike that's Lane 157, Yanping North Road Section 8. From the bus stop turn into the aforementioned lane (heading south, so north if you're coming from the bike path). What you're looking for is a house somewhere in the vicinity of #s 11, 15 and 19, Lane 133, Yanping North Road Section 8 (延平北路八段133巷19號) which involves turning left into Lane 133 if coming from the bus stop, which is a right if coming north from the bike path - Google Maps says this is Alley 6 but I'm not sure if that's accurate. 

Down one of the dead-ends along this lane, you'll see an old two-story brick house. This is the Li Family Mansion, which one descendant of the sprawling Li family (the Li Hexing branch) on Shezi still takes care of. Nobody from this particular set of Li descendants was around when we came by, so we couldn't ask to see the inside. Another Li family member lives nearby; though he's not authorized to let you in the house, he did invite us into his home.


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Mr. Li told us that much of the island, or at least the part of it with these old houses, is inhabited by various branches of the Li family, who settled here in the Qing dynasty to take advantage of the farming opportunities in these low wetlands. That said, he also complained about the frequent flooding, and noted that the government hadn't done much about it, telling stories about his younger years when, during floods, his family would gather in the upper loft of the house as the ground level flooded. Once, he said, the water actually made it to the upper loft and they had to break a hole in the ceiling to stand on the roof until the water subsided. From the Formosa News link a few paragraphs down, it seems likely that this was the massive Typhoon Gloria in 1963.

More information is provided by a helpful Chinese-language blog, which names other prominent families on Shezi, including the Wang and Hsieh families, and notes that the name Shezi actually has indigenous roots: a branch of the Ketagalan tribe had lived here at one point, and called it "Shezai", which later became "Shezi". 

According to that blog, Shezi indeed used to be an island, which gives us an origin story for its odd name: it's called 'Shezi Island" but it's a peninsula). Apparently, an earthquake in the 18th century caused a sandbar to come up, resulting in a spit of reclaimed land that connected Shezi to what is now Dalongdong (in Datong district). That was also about the time Han settlers began inhabiting it, often moving in from nearby Luzhou or the area between Danshui and Jinshan. 

The sandbar was still somewhat cut off from Dalongdong by a waterway until 1975, when the Chongqing Road Intersection filled it in.

Showing just how integrated the history of this area of northern Taipei is, there are two interesting related trips you can take: to one side of Shezi, the F108 bus from Danshui will take you to the Li Yanlou ancestral shrine (Li Yanlou was one of the original Li family members to migrate to Shezi). On the opposite side of Shezi, the Li Family Ancestral Mansion in Luzhou (which I swear I will blog about someday; I did go, and never wrote about it). Li Yanlou's actual house can be found at  #2 Yanping North Road Section 7 Lane 63 Alley 12 (延平北路七段63巷12弄2號), near the Fu'an Village bus stop.

The Chinese-language blog linked above offers lots of other photos of old houses on Shezi, many of which we also managed to find. Addresses are included, or you can refer to this list of historic Shezi buildings. Some are clearly Qing era, others have a strong Japanese influence notable from their use of wood. Some sections of Yanping Road Section 8 also include some interesting post-war/mid-century architecture, though there's nothing that you can't see in other parts of Taipei.

I'll include pictures below, but my recommendation is to bring along these addresses for reference, and stop by the ones that are convenient on your wanderings. Li Hexing's mansion is the real must-see if you stop by this area. 



Being a tight-knit, difficult-to-reach part of Taipei that feels isolated from the city despite its centrality, you can probably imagine that there is also a tightly-knit political scene here too. Local political figures I've never heard of play up Shezi community spirit and generally run on platforms of getting Taipei city to pay more attention (and shower more funding) on the area. This generic legislative candidate poster comes with a less formal notice of a community meeting to discuss local issues.

It's a bit of a difficult situation. Many Shezi residents want development, and it's quite fair to be angry over a lack of investment in things like safe building, flood safety and drainage. But some residents want more, citing the"tall buildings" in the rest of Taipei, but not Shezi, and the broken promises of a series of Taipei mayors who say they want to develop it (Hau Lung-pin wanted to turn it into "Taipei's Manhattan" and successive mayors have touted that line, which led to failed mayoral candidate Sean Lien (princeling son of absolute cheesemold Lien Chan) apparently calling it an "island" when it's a peninsula, demonstrating his lack of knowledge about basic Taipei geography. Ko Wen-je has also picked up the issue with the "Shezi Development Project" (no good sources in English, sorry), which appears to be ill-defined and controversial.

Some say that in order to force the issue, some landowners salted land previously zoned as agricultural in order to make farming impossible, though this report notes that the widening of the Danshui river at Guandu, undertaken after the 1963 typhoon to prevent that kind of flooding from happening again, has also let seawater flow downriver, causing a decrease in arability. The latter is certainly true, but the former is still quite possible.

But the fact remains that Shezi is a partial sandbar in a flood plain, period. I'm no urban planner, but my best guess is that it's unlikely to ever be safe to turn Shezi into a concrete jungle. Instead of planning and carrying out a sustainable investment and development plan that suits the geographical limitations of the peninsula, a succession of mayors have made insane promises of a 'Manhattan' that they know they can't deliver, and now it's hard to scale back expectations.

The area surely deserves more investment, but I'm not sure that some residents' higher-reaching skyscraper dreams could ever feasibly come true. It's hard to say whether some sort of compromise can be reached  that involves sufficient infrastructure funding and loosened restrictions on, say, rebuilding decrepit buildings but that doesn't dangerously overdevelop a flood-prone area.


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A longish walk from the biggest concentration of historic buildings will take you to Lili Koko Coffee (延平北路八段2巷200弄101號 -- #101 Yanping North Road Section 8 Lane 2 Alley 200) which is along the northern section of the bike path near the Shezi Wetlands, and therefore popular with cyclists. It has big windows and a nice view as well as decent coffee and light food. 


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This isn't the only cafe one can find on Shezi, however. There's another one right at the tip of the peninsula with equally great views. It's not walkable from the old houses, so you'll need to get back on the bus on Yanping Road and take it all the way to the end (the last stop is Fuzhou Village 富洲里) and walk the last minute or so.

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Up here you'll find An Coast Cafe, which also has coffee and light food, and panoramic windows with a view of Guandu. The park at the very end is a short walk from here, and is worth a quick stop. If the wind is blowing just right you'll even catch something like an ocean breeze coming off the Danshui River, as it meets the coast not far from here. 




Also up here is an interesting (though somewhat overpriced) antique shop called 56 Deco, but they keep very limited hours. Of course, it's pricey because it's not really meant as a browsing space for the general public (though you can go there and look around), but more like a design studio for people looking to outfit their commercial space in a funky antique style.

There's also a fun rechao 熱炒 spot up here called Shezi Island Head Riverside Gourmet (my translation for 社子島頭河岸美食). I haven't eaten there yet but after dark it looks like that's where the party's at. 

All of this is enough to make Shezi a worthwhile day trip in Taipei. I haven't yet managed to see everything I want to on the peninsula, however. I've only stopped by the old houses near the Li Hexing mansion, but not the ones that are further away. There is a clutch of secondhand 'junk shops' further south on Shezhong Street (社中街) that I've found by perusing Google Maps but haven't visited yet (they're difficult to get to by public transit). I love junk shops so I'll have to go someday. 

All in all, whether you want coffee with nice views, a visit to some lesser-known historic houses or to trawl secondhand stores and junk shops, Shezi isn't a dead end, and it contains far more than just its scenic bike path.

Anyway, I mentioned funny business signs, so here you go!


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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Spikey

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It feels like there's too much blood - or mucus, or something - rushing to one side of my head, so I turn over to see if my inner liquids right themselves. They don't. I lie there, trying to latch onto a daydream peaceful enough that it can become a night dream, and feel them drip right down to the other side. I'm thirsty - there won't be sleep without water. Not enough liquids? Then I have to pee - too many? Everything's off.

I know the night view of this apartment by heart, and in a story that romanticized artistic poverty, it would be a dump. It's not. Spacious for two people, with attractive floors and natural light, decorated with all of the beautiful things - no, items - we've collected on our travels around the world.

In that other “artistic poverty” life, I'm single or in a dramatic enactment of a relationship; in this one, I've been peacefully married so long I'm verging on matronly. We live in an upscale neighborhood, though in Taipei those divisions are not always evident. In Taipei I make a decent living as a teacher trainer of mostly local English teachers, and we like the life we can afford. I'm good at it, I enjoy it, and it's meaningful, useful work. 


I consider how, in the country of my birth, I'd be barely eking out a living, either as a teacher trainer or in some office job I'd never care about enough to excel at.

Padding across the living room, I slide open a screen on my living room window. The shunt it makes is the only sound in the courtyard, aside from some light rain. When I can't sleep, I like to look to the buildings across the treetops and see what lights are on. There are no signs of movement in the lit apartments; I recall that mine is dark.

Then I check on Spikey. I have no idea what kind of plant she is - it's a she, don't argue with me about this. Spikey has grown trunk-like woody stems with formidable thorns that resist all pruning. You can’t even really touch them. These twist around the bars of the iron grates so common to Taipei windows, even though ours are entirely unnecessary on the 7th floor. Each end of her prickly tentacles is capped with a crown of green leaves and a sprinkle of yellow flowers. They’re not much, but they’re hers.

I don't know how she got there. I'd tried growing rosemary, thyme, basil, mint, orchids, some kind of ivy, even succulents - and they all withered (well, one of the succulents was blown away in a typhoon). Only the plants the former tenant left behind survived my black thumb. I suppose one of these graveyard pots was left fallow with dirt and a little Spikey seed decided it would be a nice place to live. Unlike everything I tried to intentionally cultivate, she blossomed. So I let her stay. She seems to prefer neglect, so I throw her a bit of water now and then but otherwise leave her be.

Spikey isn’t a plant you’d want, and sitting up there wrapped around a 7th-story window grate, I doubt anyone in the silent courtyard below has ever noticed her. In a well-tended garden - say, in an immaculately-kept suburban lawn in the US - she’d have been dug out and left to rot on a pile of weeds. Rough, difficult and a bit uncompromising, she'd never be mistaken for a prize cultivar. It's not in her DNA. Certainly, she’d have never been given the time to put out those little yellow flowers.

Here, she may not belong exactly but I like to think she’s grateful that somewhere in the quirky, busy, and at times seemingly disorganized or charmingly dilapidated city of crumbling brick, corrugated iron and stained concrete, there’s a corner where she can grow, and nobody minds.

There are plenty of carefully cultivated green spaces in the city, with weeded grass and shaped hedges. But there are also cracks and crevices and mismatched sidewalks, old pots and patches of soil where plants like Spikey can grow.


I can't see them with the light off, but on one wall hangs a hand-painted vegetable-dye batik of Hindu gods, all facing the tree of life which grows lusciously between them, which I bought on a trip to India years ago. On the other, among other vintage treasures, a slice of rough natural wood with a bit of calligraphy: 閑庭百花發 - in a quiet courtyard, a hundred flowers bloom.

The lit apartments are still devoid of life, but I wonder who else is shuffling around in the dark ones. A bit of city night-light draws a weird rhombus on my ceiling, intercut with shadows from the window grate and leaves from my surviving plants.

Inside, my brain throbs with itchy red squiggles, or confused thrashes, or spikes. I have so much to be grateful for, have worked hard to achieve it, but can't shake the feeling that I deserve none of it, regardless of where I am.

I set my water down on the coffee table. This causes one of my cats - the black one, invisible in this low light - to wake up and blink at me with glow-in-the-dark eyes. He trills a little “prrt” and settles back down. He doesn't care about my mismatched t-shirt and pajama bottoms, my greasy face or my fuzzy hair. A light breeze rustles Spikey’s leaves. I get up, down a sleeping pill, and attempt to go back to sleep.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Taipei Antique and Vintage Hunting

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Honestly, I think we're all sick of Constant Coronavirus Coverage. Let's talk about something else.

Over the past few years, I have enjoyed giving my home a sort of modern-retro look by decorating with vintage finds of dubious value - I don't really care what a thing is 'worth' as long as I like it, and the price is acceptable. In fact, everyday vintage items of lower value are preferable, as I can use them without worry.

The shops where I hunt these items down are also great places to check out, as we look for ways to get out of the house, possibly while we still can. I'm not talking about the high-end antique shops or the "vintage stores" that sell the clothing I grew up wearing for a Generation Z crowd. I mean the places that sell a combination of old Taiwan and Japan flair (which is what I'm after) and the sort of Western kitsch I'd generously call "Goodwill finds" back home.

I wouldn't want to go to a bar full of people or high-traffic department store right now - not that I do so typically - but these shops tend to be lower-traffic, and they are also businesses trying to stay afloat in an economy that's suddenly turned against everyone.

Since deciding to create that 'vintage Taiwan' feel on a wall display at home, I've had even more reason to trawl my favorite vintage stores, so now feels like the right time to write about them.

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There are surely more than these in Greater Taipei, so feel free to add any that you know in the comments.


April's Goodies (唐青古物商行)
100台北市中正區羅斯福路一段83巷17號
#17 Lane 83 Roosevelt Rd. Sec 1, Zhongzheng District, Taipei
MRT Guting or CKS Memorial Hall
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The entrance to April's Goodies 

With old windowframes and some larger furniture outside, and everything from old Taiwanese dinnerware to teapots to a few vintage clothing items inside, this place is small but packed with quality vintage goods.

Not only did the window with the textured glass on my wall come from there, my glass persimmon did, too.

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(No, I don't know the actual names of vintage glass patterns, I'm not that much of a nerd about it, but this one, the vaguely floral pattern and a reeded or fluted textured glass are the most common textured glass found in vintage Taiwanese windows).


Treasure Hunters (藏舊尋寶屋)
100台北市中正區羅斯福路二段38號
#38 Roosevelt Rd. Section 2, Zhongzheng District, Taipei
MRT Guting

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This well-known store specializing in Japanese antiques looks small when you enter. Then you find it stretches further and further back (with an alley separating buildings at one point), and has an upstairs! A lot of the antiques here are actually from Japan, not Taiwan's Japanese era, but there's a lot here if you want to capture a bit of the Japanese influence of a vintage Taiwanese look. Also, their ceramics and lacquerware are highly sought-after by collectors.


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All three antiques on this bookcase came from Treasure Hunters


Prices may seem high but for a lot of what they have, you'll find it's actually fairly reasonable. For example, I've picked up 1970s vintage Zohiko and Wajima lacquerware here for a song (Zohiko is a brand, and Wajima is a Japanese island known for lacquer), as well as a beloved lacquer tray with a beautifully rendered dragon from Okinawa. The 閑庭百花發 wooden calligraphy board on my wall came from here, too, and wasn't particularly expensive.

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Recently, Treasure Hunters has been holding half-price antique markets in small space on Lishui Street, I suppose to clear out old stock. Follow their Line account to get updates on when they occur.


Qinjing Old Warehouse (秦境老倉庫)
103台北市大同區民樂街153號
#153 Minle Street, Datong District, Taipei
MRT Zhongshan or Shuanglian (but there are buses that stop closer by)


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This tiny shop, crammed with vintage goodness, is where my vintage window grate came from. They occasionally have windows and window grates here, but the real finds at Qinjing are vintage dishware. Small items sometimes go for cheap - I picked up an small ceramic 招財 cat for NT30 here, and some crystal prisms for NT50 each, that I plan to hang in my window to create rainbows my cats can chase around on sunny days.

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Qinjing also tends to be a good place to look for vintage appliances, toys, old brand gimmick items, worn-out funky keychains, wooden signs and the occasional farm implement. I can't even describe how eclectic it is, so I'll let Elmo in a Blender speak for itself.



 

Swallow Used Furniture (Swallow燕子老傢俱)
 112台北市北投區東華街一段438巷4號
#4, Lane 438, Donghua Street Section 1, Beitou District, Taipei
MRT Mingde (Shipai is also walkable)




In a quiet corner of Beitou, just inside a non-descript lane marked by a burst of tropical greenery off the road that runs under the MRT, you'll find Swallow. This place seems to be run by a pair of hipster guys, and you'd be forgiven for mistaking the front courtyard for a junkyard, or the private home of a hoarding grandpa. When I wandered in, it was only apparent that it was an actual shop by the open door and music, and prices on most (though not all) items.
 
It's packed, and it seems tiny, but this place actually has three floors. The first floor is mostly small items. The second floor has more Japanese-era antiques, and the third floor is furniture. Old windows and screens can be found in the balcony off the 2nd floor (as well as in the courtyard).



One of the friendly hipster guys seems to work on creating upcycled furniture, much like W2 (though the look is different).

I picked up a Japanese-style sliding window screen here, but haven't figured out what to do with it yet.

This place is fun to check out in person, but if you don't feel like going all the way to Mingde, they have an impressively organized Facebook page where you can click on albums of their various items, complete with prices, and shop at home. (I don't know if they deliver but they put a lot of work into their Facebook page so they should be accessible by Messenger). If you want to score some old windows or window frames for yourself, their Facebook albums are a fantastic place to start.

Moungar (莽葛拾遺二手書店)
108台北市萬華區廣州街152巷4號

#4 Guangzhou Street Lane 152, Wanhua District, Taipei
(right behind Cafe 85)

MRT Longshan Temple

Moungar is housed in an old brick shophouse half-hidden by a large bougainvillea. Decorative Majolica tiles grace the front and make it an inviting space to enter.

This is more of an antique book shop - their selection of actual antique items is smaller than the other places I've listed. I have a book from them on my shelf - a collection of Pushkin stories.

Even if you don't buy anything, the old building is very much worth a look inside. I don't know if they still serve coffee. 



Aphrodite
114台北市內湖區民權東路六段16之1號
#1-16, Minquan East Road Section 6, Neihu District, Taipei
Not near the MRT - take any of the cross-Minquan buses to get here (278, 556 and 902 also stop nearby)

To be honest, I haven't been here in years, because it's no longer convenient to any of my worksites (I used to have a class in an office not far from here).

Unlike the other antique stores on this list, Aphrodite focuses on European antiques. The other shops sometimes have items from Western countries, but this place looks like your German immigrant grandma's attic. I've purchased old wooden coasters, some glassware and some copper items here, though much of their stock is furniture.


56 Deco
台北市士林區延平北路九段348號(社子島)

#348, Yanping North Road Section 9 (Shezi)
Take buses 2, 215, R10 or 536 to get there (most of them connect to the red or yellow MRT lines)

56 Deco is hard to get to, and they prohibit photographs, but they have an array of cool stuff, including a large collection of vintage chairs and other oddities. But they are very, very local -- not many foreigners make it this far up Shezi unless they're biking -- and friendly, and the selection is pleasingly eccentric.

They're a bit overpriced but not stratospherically so. I came close to buying a piece of an iron window grate but ultimately decided against it.

This place is far from everything else in Taipei, and I would never have found it if I hadn't been looking for the nearby cafe on Google Maps. But it is near the park at the very tip of 社子島 (the Shezi peninsula, which is called an island in Mandarin) and quite close to a friendly cafe with great views. Buses up there take awhile and don't come frequently, but if you time your bus departure it's not too much trouble - or just bike it. The bike path is very popular. There's also a popular local restaurant nearby, so you could combine a stop there with an exploration of that quiet part of Taipei.

They keep very short hours (daytime Tuesday-Friday only) but the cafe nearby opens at 3pm and closes late, so you can time your departure with the bus schedule.


Fuhe Bridge Flea Market (福和橋市場)
Under Fuhe Bridge on the Yonghe (New Taipei) side
Open until noon, most popular on Saturdays
Not near the MRT but many buses stop nearby, including the 275, R25, 660, 254, 672 and 208)


Oh, Fuhe Bridge Flea Market, with your stolen shoes and dodgy goods. With your weird, wonderful weirdness and wonderfulness.

I haven't been here in years either, mostly because I have a private class on Saturday mornings, but I'm told it's still going strong and is a great place for old vintage finds, as you can see from my pictures from 2013. (If you're wondering, I eventually got that Datong fan - did you know they still make them and you can get one new?)

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A few vendors at this market actually hold Yixing clay teapot auctions, so if you trust your auctioning skills and can get in on the fun in Chinese (or Taiwanese), you might get a good deal.

The link in my original post lists a few other flea markets in the Taipei area.


Yongkang Street Jin'an Market  (錦安市場)
106台北市大安區永康街60號
#60 Yongkang Street, Da'an District, Taipei

Honestly, I have less to say about this market. It's full of cool old stuff but it's also been 'discovered', meaning that prices are higher (it's also in a fancy part of town, surrounded by antique stores that sell high-end items).

But, it's worth a stroll-through, and I'll occasionally poke around the various shops, though I don't know if I've ever actually bought anything there.


Facebook Groups

Honestly, some of the most interesting things I've come across can be found in dedicated Facebook groups to vintage shopping. I'm a fan of Grocrery Store (no idea if the typo is intentional, and don't care), 寶島新樂園二手舊貨、古董、民藝 and 二手。古董。老件。收藏。裝飾 but there are honestly tons of choices - join a few and Facebook will suggest more for you.


I will say that I have not actually tried to buy anything from these groups,  but they're great fun for browsing.

Happy hunting!


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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Discrimination against foreigners by Taiwanese businesses rises due to COVID-19 (but there's good news!)

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Updated (4/19/2020):

Friends are reporting that the Zhongxiao East Road branch of 東京燒肉專門 is not allowing foreigners to enter unless they show a passport with entry dates. Here's a link to their discriminatory policy. They say they don't discriminate, but it's stated that only foreigners need to show this, which...is discrimination.

It's also impossible - what on Earth is in my passport that I could show them, for example? How do they know who is and isn't a citizen based on looks (or even language ability) alone?


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Discrimination against foreigners in Taiwan is still going on - and this time around, there are more places that people are reporting as not serving foreigners at all, often citing a bogus "police document" or "government policy".

Something needs to be done about this - it's not just the bad logic. It's not just the discrimination. It's that these businesses are lying about government policy and "police documents" to justify discrimination, which is disinformation and harmful to public health.



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This club isn't named, but it's just one example of using "the police" as an excuse to discriminate


You can report discrimination in Taipei City to Taipei Urbanism, which will follow up with the business in question as well as pass the information on to the government. You can also send a petition directly to Taipei City government. Outside of Taipei, there are surely petition systems for other municipalities. You can also email the Executive Yuan - if they receive enough emails, perhaps they will make a statement about this trend.

If you're wondering if I'm wrong about this and it really is some sort of policy, please remember that Mayor Ko specifically asked businesses not to do this in a tweet in late March. Furthermore, I asked a friend who works for the city government, who asked colleagues in the relevant departments, all of whom said it is not a "government policy", at least in Taipei.

There are also some discriminatory businesses in Taichung which are named in the comments. 


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It's become apparent in recent days that several businesses in Taiwan have begun to discriminate against foreigners, using COVID19 as an excuse. They are either outright refusing service to foreign customers, or requiring foreigners (only foreigners - not Taiwanese) to provide passport and flight details. In some cases, this is due to rumors that COVID19 carriers had visited these bars, although some of these stories have turned out to be false.

The Bird in Tainan has also published a long, pointless rant defending its banning of foreigners from the premises after receiving complaints on the anti-foreigner policy in the screenshot below (update: they have since changed their policy).



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Point #5 says that foreigners are not allowed to enter this nightclub.


Such policies are discriminatory, and acting on them is is illegal (a friend who is a lawyer pointed out to me that the policies themselves are not actionable but if they were caught turning away a foreigner simply for being a foreigner, that might be.)


They are also illogical, as most people who have entered Taiwan from abroad in recent weeks have been Taiwanese. Foreign visitors are not currently allowed in, and the foreign resident community isn't traveling much. We're not the ones pouring in bringing COVID19 with us. Most new cases have been Taiwanese returning from other countries, not foreigners. It makes no sense to target us.

Though I'm avoiding using the word "racist", there is a racial element to the discrimination. A Chinese-speaking person of Taiwanese heritage with a foreign passport who had recently been abroad would certainly not be checked. A foreign resident who has not left Taiwan in years probably would be, even if they had an ROC ID (a very small number do). Such policies absolutely target people based on their appearance.


This trend seemed to start in restaurants and bars, but is now making its way to hotel and airbnb rentals:


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Here's the good news: since the foreign community began complaining about the discriminatory policies, some of the businesses implicated have either taken down the posts stating that foreigners would receive discriminatory treatment (I have screenshots but will not post them if the policy has been changed), or issued corrections and apologies (update: here's the most recent policy change and apology).

This is exactly the point of speaking up: directly calling out discrimination and requesting that policies be changed can work. The goal is not to hurt these businesses - we're all facing difficult times during this epidemic and nobody wants to make that worse for anyone else - but to spur positive change. It also serves to put other businesses on notice: if such policies become widespread, we will notice, we will respond, and we will tell our local friends. I don't want this to become a trend, so we have to put a stop to it now by making it clear that the foreign community will not tolerate it.

Before changing their policies, two of these establishments said they were "merely following government policy". If it had been one of them, I'd assume it was a face-saving excuse and nothing more. But when the second business said the same thing I started wondering: is some bad actor spreading disinformation? Is this an intentional campaign (not by the government) that has convinced a few business owners that these policies were necessary? Did some Youtuber blame foreigners for COVID19, causing this reaction?

Here's another restaurant doing the same thing: Indulge Bistro is requiring foreigners to provide entry stamps on passports to be served.


They don't seem to realize that, because foreign visitors are banned from entering Taiwan, almost every foreigner in Taiwan right now is a resident. We enter on our ARCs, not our passports, and most of us use e-gate. That means the vast majority of foreigners do not have entry stamps.



They do not require the same thing of Taiwanese - though they do say they won't serve you if you've traveled in the past 14 days, there is no stated requirement for Taiwanese to prove this - only foreigners. This is a form of discrimination.

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Some establishments have still not gotten the message despite complaints on their Facebook page for several days: Abrazo still has language up on their Facebook page that discriminates against foreigners. 

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This part (體溫檢測超過 37.5°C則謝絕入場或上班,並要求到外籍客戶入店消費前,也需出具有清楚標示最近一次入境日期的護照證明正本) says that people with a temperature over 37.5C are not allowed to enter, and foreign customers must produce a passport with a clearly marked entry stamp. 


If they want to be safe and check travel histories, there are blanket policies they can create which cover everyone, not just foreigners. These would be more effective, as most people who have traveled in the past 14 days and are now in Taiwan are Taiwanese.


My gym requires everyone to sign in, leave contact information and record their temperature. This is quite fair, as the policy applies to everyone. This would be a better approach for these businesses, and I strongly urge them to change their policies immediately.
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This is one of the apologies in question.
Clearly, calling out these establishments has a positive effect!

Generally, I feel welcome in Taiwan and I do believe that most Taiwanese are happy to have a dedicated foreign community here. However, actions like this make us feel very unwelcome indeed. If Taiwan wants to retain its reputation as a friendly and international nation, this sort of attitude must stop.

So far, the businesses in question are mostly bars and nightclubs, although some other business have been implicated as well,  including a hotel in Tainan rumored to have refused a room to a foreigner, saying "you should be in quarantine".

Another hotel in Guguan, a pharmacy and a popular dive shop in Taiwan have also been found announce discriminatory policies (e.g. only serving Taiwanese citizens, only selling to foreigners online, or allowing bookings by Taiwanese who've traveled recently, but not foreigners). However, after discussion with the various owners, these have generally been cleared up.


This pokes at a deeper fear that a lot of foreign residents in Taiwan have: what if Taiwan faces a medical triage situation? Again, I'm aware most Taiwanese would not treat me any differently than a Taiwanese patient, and I don't expect priority treatment. I'd be more likely to let those in greater need be treated first. But what if I am assigned doctor or nurse who decides on their own that caring for me is less important, because I am a foreigner?

It's unlikely, but not impossible. This attitude does exist in Taiwan, as these businesses have shown with their anti-foreigner sentiment.

Has a business in Taiwan discriminated against you, as a foreigner, due to COVID19? Do you have proof? (I can't name names with a story). Let me know - I'll add them to the list of places that do not welcome us and are hurting Taiwan's reputation as a country that values equal rights for all residents.

It is important that we call out these discriminatory practices, and more importantly, that we request changes. Although Indulge and Abrazo have yet to respond, and the complaints about hotels and airbnb bookings are just coming in. Ideally, the government would circulate a public service announcement that discriminating against foreigners who are not in quarantine and reside here legally is not okay and may even be illegal, to counter whatever fearmongering the people engaging in this practice are absorbing. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

Youbike discriminates against foreigners

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It feels as though every time life in Taiwan for the foreign community gets better - websites improve, companies will take our resident visa numbers rather than saying they're "invalid" - it's inevitable that soon, it'll also get a little bit worse. Two steps forward, one step back.

Today, the issue is YouBike.

The Facebook group Taiwan Foreign Residents' Association confirmed just a few hours ago that YouBike, once open to registration by all residents, including foreigners who have made Taiwan their home, now does not allow foreigners to register their EasyCards for use with YouBike.

Apparently, the reason is that YouBike now offers personal injury insurance, and such insurance is not available to foreign residents, therefore, no new registrations will be allowed (they had been allowed previously).


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Of course, there is no reason why they can't offer foreign residents this insurance. We pay taxes and pay into NHI just as citizens do. Many of us - myself included - also pay into labor insurance. We pay our dues, and deserve equal treatment.

Suggestions from YouBike staff so far have been to recommend that we register with a local friend's information - you know, like we're criminals trying to hide - or have a friend rent a bike for us (because of course, we should all have Taiwanese friends with nothing to do willing to come out and meet us every time we want to rent a bike, and also be available to us at our destination when we return the bike. Yeah, right). The other workaround is to rent one on your bank card with a one-time registration and NT$2000 deposit.

Nevermind that NT$2000 - around US$60 - is a lot of money in the local economy for something as simple as a bike ride. You do get the money back, but imagine if you rented a YouBike every day. Your bank account would be a mess, with that $2000 deposit coming and going daily. Apparently it can take up to 15 days to be refunded, but if you ride YouBike every day, does that mean every 15 days you have to hand the government NT$30,000 in deposits? If you ride it twice a day - say, to and from work - that's NT$60,000, more than the average local salary.

How is someone supposed to stay on top of their finances that way? Do they expect that foreigners will only rent YouBikes occasionally? I know people who rent one every single day. 



The other suggestion, apparently, is to giggle at the person calling because there are no other options.

Let me be clear: this is discriminatory. It is unfair. We have made Taiwan our home. We live here, work here and pay taxes here. YouBike is a government project. It is simply not acceptable to withhold government services to foreigners as though we are second-class citizens. Unwanted, untrustworthy.

Is this the face Taiwan and YouBike want to present to the world? The famous hospitality and friendliness of Taiwan, oh, except you can never truly live here as a normal person, we'll always make life difficult for you for no reason at all?

If Taiwan wants to open up to the world, to be an international nation and Taipei and international city, it must do better. It cannot treat foreigners like undesirable scum. We are not criminals. We work and pay into the system like everyone else, and so we deserve the same transportation benefits as everyone else. Period.

Even tourist deserve better - part of the whole point of YouBike is to encourage tourism by helping people get out of the city. Taipei Magazine routinely suggests tourist itineraries that use YouBike - how do they expect tourists to use it if they can't even register with the EasyCards they're going to get? Do you really think they'll pay NT$20,000 for every YouBike rental on their visit, to be refunded long after they leave? It's ridiculous!

It shouldn't be hard for the time being to create a registration system that opts out all registrants without a National ID. Hopefully the law will be changed to allow residents to participate in the insurance scheme, but for now that would be a sensible workaround.

In fact, what happens if a friend does register for you, and there's a crash? Does the insurance apply? If not, can't you sue, as technically the insurance was activated upon registration? If that's the case, doesn't that just create more confusion? If current users can still access the system, what happens if they are in a crash? The workaround suggestion negates the rationale for the change.

Finally, aren't the format of ARC and APRC numbers supposed to change soon, to match national ID numbers? What happens then? The whole thing is a mess. It doesn't make sense, meaning the reason boils down not to regulatory issues, but idiotic, discriminatory, self-defeating and short-sighted decisions.


Do better, Taipei. Do better, Taiwan. And do better, YouBike. 


If you want to complain to YouBike, you cannot contact them from their website because that requires a national ID card number. ARC numbers are not accepted. But you can email or call them:

City Hotline: 1999, ext. 5855 / 02-89785511
service-taipei@youbike.com.tw

Or, you can send a complaint to the Taipei City government under the "simple petition system" here. You can leave the National ID section blank (unlike on the YouBike website).

I suggest you do all of those things. Let's make them feel this.

This is what I wrote:

Hi, 
I'm writing because it's becoming well-known in the foreign community in Taiwan that Youbike is no longer offering Easycard registrations for foreigners who live here, even if we are permanent residents or otherwise have a resident visa. 
This is unfair and discriminatory. We pay taxes and pay into National Health Insurance (so insurance issues should not be a reason to discriminate). I personally have lived here for over 13 years; to say that I cannot access the same services as other Taipei residents makes me feel like an unwanted, second-class citizen. Is this the face Taiwan and Youbike want to show the world? That they are unfriendly - even hostile - to foreigners? 
Having to put down an NT$2000 deposit is simply not fair for people who have built their lives in Taiwan. We are not tourists. We are *residents* and we live, work and pay taxes like *residents*. We deserve to be treated like *residents*, not "scary foreigners" who can't be trusted. We are not criminals! 
Taiwan must do better, and Youbike must do better.
I am sure that this story will hit the media soon, so I request kindly that the policy be changed as soon as possible to end all unfair discrimination against the foreign community here. 
Best regards, 
Jenna Cody