Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I am a huge fan of this blog post.

I'm not exactly an off-road cyclist, or even a long-distance cyclist. I have a little city girl bike that I take on the back lanes of southern Taipei (I think once or twice I've gone north of Ba-de Road, but I do cycle in Wanhua occasionally and that takes parts. I think I deserve some cred for that). Usually I ride it down to Jingmei Riverside Park and get some exercise biking up to Machangding Park and back, stopping to pet the occasional tiny dog on the way. The only danger on that bike lane is the occasional ojisan walking down the lane slapping his hands together to facilitate the flow of qi, turtles that come out after dark, and renegade tiny dogs.

(I love the tiny dogs. So?)

It's safe enough that I've even been known to listen to my MP3 player while riding it, as cars aren't allowed.

Anyway, regardless of this, the post above is a hilarious roll-call of bad driving in Taiwan, and the cars that bad drivers use to endanger us all. Ah, the blue trucks. Taxis, yes. I agree about the Cefire but I think Benzes and Beamers are just as dangerous.

And, y'know, taxis are fun. They can do anything. 6pm, in Xinzhu Science Park, need to make it back to the High Speed Rail station in 25 minutes? (This is doable at 10pm, but 6pm? You'd have to be suicidal *and* on drugs to attempt it in rush hour traffic) - tell the driver. He'll say "可能來不及喔!" (Oh, you probably won't make it!) But you know what, 9 times out of 10 he'll get you there. (The 10th time, you end up at a strange tunnel of light).

Plus, bonus! Get 'em talking about politics. They love to talk about that. I have heard so many amazing opinions on things from taxi drivers. It's like pulling political opinions out of a hat. It's like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Large Size Shoes For Women!!!11!!!!1


(Yes, this is that big of a deal. I had to break out the "1"s.)

Shu Flies already covered this in her post about plus-size stores in Taipei, but I didn't want to post about it until I'd checked it out personally.

Sandy Ho Shoes

#68 Zhongshan N. Road Section 1, Zhongshan District, Taipei

#100 Nanjing E. Road Section 4 Songshan District, Taipei

#336 Zhongshan N. Road Section 6, Shilin District, Taipei (Tianmu, near Whose Books, The Community Services Center and Best Buy clothing, a bit south of International Square)

#100 Meicun Road Section 1, West District, Taizhong

#71 Ximen Road Sec. 2 Zhongxi (Middle West) District, Tainan

#342 Zhonghua W. Road Qianjin District Kaohsiung

#165 Wufu 1st Road Lingya District Kaohsiung

#289 Minsheng Road, Pingdong City

Or you can browse here. They're also mentioned here in a great article about larger-sized clothing stores for women in Taiwan. (As a curvy Western woman who has to shop in these stores, I do intend to put a review of them up later).

Sandy Ho has three locations in Taipei, one in Taizhong, one in Tainan, two in Kaohsiung and one in Pingdong City. Her stores aren't large but carry a fair selection of women's dress shoes in all sizes - some were even too big for me (that has honestly never happened before). I even met a Taiwanese girl who has to leave the country once a year to buy shoes, or at least she did until she found Sandy's store. As the first Taiwanese girl I've ever met who has feet that are actually bigger than mine (I wear a US 10 - it's hard to find nice shoes in a US 10 in the USA), I greeted her quite enthusiastically. "我很,真,這麼那麼高興見到妳啦!"

Most of her shoes are in the $60 US range, which for shoes of fairly good quality, I am OK with. If she's only got a few left of any one style, it goes on sale - I got one pair for NT $600.

The important thing is that they're dress shoes. I can get effeminate men's running shoes that could easily pass for women's sneakers here. I wear flip-flops or Birkenstocks (or even Tevas) as sandals, so those are easy to find in men's sizes. I have a pair of Grandma-tacular Obasan local-style cloth shoes (the quilted ones with rubber soles) in black for comfy days when I don't care how trendy I look - not that it matters as I wear boot-cut jeans.

But I do have a job that requires me to work in many different offices in Taipei and Xinzhu (not that my Xinzhu clients care one jot what shoes I wear: they're engineers. The best engineers in the country. They wear jeans and spectacularly unfashionable shirts every day). My finance/banking clients, however, probably do notice.

I posted a question about just this thing on Forumosa - "Where can I get large-size women's dress shoes" and I got a bunch of crap back that told me the following:

- where to get large-sized men's shoes

- where to get sneakers / running shoes / sandals that women can wear (because you know most foreigners here are either students or work in some kid's school where it doesn't matter)

- that I have to go abroad - "oh, go to Thailand and have someone make them for you" - as if. The whole point was asking where to get shoes domestically.

...all of which was ridiculously unhelpful.

So yes, I am very excited about the discovery of Sandy Ho's business. Not all of her shoes are to my taste (there are a few designer-style disasters like the plaid upholstered heels and lots of shoes with blingy crap on them, and some '80s monstrosities) but quite a few suited me perfectly. They had a fine selection of office shoes, flats, kitten heels, low heels ("court heels" apparently) and high heels. They even carried sizes too big for me to wear.

I am happy that their selection of flats was so good: a lot of companies in Taiwan erroneously believe that high heels are mandatory office wear for females, which is of course utter bollocks, to borrow a phrase from the British.

So, hooray for Sandy, and all you foreign females out there, give her your business!

Clunky Puns

Ah, Taipei district elections.

The Chinese language has a proud history of puns - word play is considered one of the highest forms of comedy and wit, and while I question any "wit" that's based on a pun, since it's more difficult to pun effectively in Chinese (at least for me), I can sort of almost be OK with it. I will even do it sometimes, to which those who have heard my "下很大!" joke on rainy days can attest.

Well, as a friend of mine noted, Presidential candidates have the money for professional staff to come up with their witty lines and groan-worthy puns - that's how we got "馬上改善經濟“ (actually not sure it said "gai shan" - it was years ago during the Ma/Xie election). It means "Immediately improve the economy". For those who don't speak Chinese, "Immediately" is "馬上", which also means "on the horse", and now-President Ma's name is the same "Ma" as "horse". And of course those ads had pictures of President Horse riding...a horse. Ha ha. Oh, you slay me. (Ba-dum ching!)

District candidates...don't have that money. As you can see here:

We've been kind of following the Zhongshan-Datong election because we have a friend who lives in that area, and we haven't seen much happening in Jingmei. The fight seems to be between Yeh Lin-chuan, the KMT candidate above with a penchant for the color scheme of a Pretty Pretty Princess dollhouse, and one A-Yu, whose last name is not that important.

(I do love the super-feminine Yeh Linchuan poster on the ubiquitous blue truck with the ubiquitous undershirt wearing dude driving it).

I originally mistranslated this poster as "(Yeh Lin) Chuan comes out to love" because, as many of you know, I am capable of heroically misusing the "把" construction. I was corrected: his name is used as a pun here. The "chuan" of "Linchuan" is added to the phrase to say "Take the love and send it out".

Aww. Peace, man. Love yer scrolling purple characters. I think you should add a few more flowers, though.

Then there's A-Yu, who, instead of the usual tissues or notepads (I still have my "Ma and Siew" notepad. I drew devil horns on Ma and have him saying "I love China!") has been giving out face masks:

A-Yu's name (餘) is basically the same as pronunciation as 魚 for "fish", so the little card says "With one fish, eat three times" and three reasons why you should vote for him (the usual stuff, like he'll help bring development, he'll speak for you in city government etc.). Under that it says "Plus, get a side dish: Twenty years of experience!" - though that seems to be referencing some other guy also on the ad.

Sigh. I mean, it's cute & all, and Americans do it too, even if our candidates don't do it themselves ("Obama-rama" or "That's my Bush!" anyone?). But I feel like you either need to be truly witty or hire someone who is, or you get kind of clunky puns like the ones above.

(BTW, simply because I lean green with a dash of brown, I'd vote for A-Yu if I could vote here).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Kunming Islamic Restaurant (昆明園)

Kunming Islamic Restaurant
#26 Lane 81 Fuxing N. Road Taipei Taiwan


Seriously. Just go. Don't wait. Go. Now. I'll wait.

(tick tick tick)

Back? So...wasn't that great?! I mean, YUM! I know. I KNOW. Sooo good.

In case you didn't obey my instructions and did not just run out and eat there right now, let me just say that this place is gooooood.

We had:

Coconut chicken: good
Channa Masala: great
Chili Shrimp: Amazing
Chapatis: pretty damn good
Indian Masala Tea: good, needed more cardamom
Plain lassi: Sooooo good
Samosas with yoghurt and coriander chutney: MMmmmmmmMMMMmmmmMmMm!
Biriyani rice: Taaasty!
Gulab jamun: may have been from a can but was served in a very nice sugar syrup (*may* have been homemade from a mix, not sure) and hot the way I like it.
Moussaka (eggplant and beef): except for green peppers, yummmmy

No beer though. Boo on that. Fortunately the plain lassi was quenching enough that we barely noticed.

So yeah, for serious, go here. Eat all the food. It's a really interesting mix of Middle Eastern, Indian, Southeast Asian and Chinese - we stuck mostly with the Indian but there was other stuff on offer.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Lush is gone!

No, really, it's gone, gone, gone.

This makes me so sad. So very, very sad. It also makes me sad that it's shown me how much of the expat-o-sphere in Taiwan is male; if we had more female bloggers here I think I would have seen this come up. (It was a tiny blurb in the Taipei Times - so tiny that I missed it).

And if I had known, I'd have rushed over there on Wednesday to pick up whatever I could get my paws on before the creditors arrived (and done my part to help pay the salaries of those poor workers who didn't get paid).


I mean, at least we still have L'Occitane (and Body Shop is not bad - I quite like their Satsuma body lotion - but I preferred the more complex smells at Lush and the quality of L'Occitane). And since my job is actually kinda good now, with professional clients and well-known names and everything - I can actually afford it. Yay!

But anyway. More foreign women in Taiwan please. I am sick of inquiring about foreigner-size shoes only to get directed to a bunch of stores that sell men's shoes, and none that sell women's. NONE. I am sick of having to scrounge and scavenge even for underclothes that fit (and that don't make me look like the heroine of that song "Roxanne" or like someone's Grandma), shoes that fit, a hair stylist who can actually cut my hair (I found one! Next post, I promise)...and Brendan being able to find everything he needs here. I honestly think that has everything to do with the fact that the foreign female presence in Taiwan is just paltry and sad. Which makes me sad. Not that I don't like the guys (OK, I don't like a lot of the guys, but some of them are good folks) but c'mon.
In good news: gay couples get hospital visitation rights in the USA. Hooray! It's about fracking time! For those who don't know, Brendan and I are huge supporters of gay marriage rights. Not just because we're bleeding heart liberals (though we are), but because we can't find any reason in any form - be it social, religious, scientific or otherwise - to deny this basic right...other than bigotry and hate. That's why, instead of wedding gifts, we want people to donate to Freedom to Marry. That's why this news makes me happy and hopeful that there's more change to come.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Some More East Coast Photos

Gorgeous View of the East Rift Valley as approached from Highway 64 off the coast (about 2 hours north of Taidong).

Here are the rest of the photos from our east coast trip last weekend, in sort-of order!

A delicious salad at the well-known cafe in Matayan, near Hualien Sugar Factory. While the fish was good, it was not as good as the flying fish stir fried with wild boar that we had further south. The roast salty pork was basically pork fat (tasty pork fat, but pork fat nonetheless) so while I thought it was a good enough dinner, for the fame that this restaurant gets, it should have been better than "good". It should have been great. And while the salad was great...fresh, delicious, flavorful - the rest of the food was just OK.

Adorable fat dog at a restaurant on the east coast, in one of those tiny nowhere towns that has one real restaurant, some shacks and a convenience store.

Absolutely stunningly tasty dried flying fish and wild boar stir fry at the restaurant with the resident fat dog.

Above Taroko Gorge, further inland from Tianxiang. We didn't continue onward because the view was totally obscured from this point on.

...though the clouds were gorgeous.

Taroko Gorge

Swallow Grotto

Swallow Grotto
Taroko Gorge

And finally, after leaving the gorge at about 4pm, we drove over the Qingshui cliffs not long before sunset, in rather bad weather conditions. This view is visible from a portion of the old Su'ao Highway that is now closed to traffic, but open (you can park and walk there) to walkers. It's about 800 meters with stunning views in both directions.

As you can see, the cliffs do plunge straight into the blue Pacific. This is not hte only stretch of east coast like this: further north, between Nanfangao and Su'ao, more cliffs rise in a similar fashion, with identically terrifying roads perched high above the surf. They're not as famous but just as stunning.

The Qingshui Cliffs - check out that road!


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sweepin' the Toombz

Except we don't have any tombs to sweep so we rented a car over the weekend and drove across the North Cross Island Highway, based ourselves in Hualien and drove some more down the east coast, across the Ruiguang Highway (#64) and up the East Rift Valley before coming back via the Qingshui Cliffs and Luodong.

I haven't sorted through all of my photos yet, and a lot of them were taken from a moving car so they're not very good. But here's a smattering of what I've got (in backwards order):

One of the two Sao Ba Megaliths near Ruisui (East Rift Valley). Nice views, and they're kind of cool and maybe worth a quick look if you're in the area, but overall somewhat disappointing.

The cheese-tacular Tropic of Cancer monument. This place screams "pork barrel funding" (with pavilions and educational panels about the tropics, zodiac and latitude lines). Love it!

The scenic Highway #64 between Dagangkou and Ruisui. We encountered very little traffic here, and lots of lovely mountain views and unexpected animals (one mammal that ran away too fast to identify, and goats. Goats!)

Another view from the Ruiguang Highway.

Emily at Shihtiping. This was a nice stop though not as stunning as Yeliu in the north, and not as awe-inspiring as the views from the highway down the coast. Lots of tour groups here, though.

Some tidal pools at Shihtiping.

View of the coast from Shihtiping - this was one of the best parts of that stop.

View down the coast south of Hualien.

Cow Mountain Beach from the main road - it's a long, narrow drive down the hill to get to it, and the sand is burning hot when it's sunny.

These decorations were around the cafe and rest area attached to the beach. We didn't appreciate that with our burning feet on the sand, once we entered we couldn't even use their hose without buying a $50 ticket, but hey, you've got to make a living somehow. We did buy the ticket because we wanted cold drinks at the cafe.

The wind and sun do interesting things to my hair...

View north from Cow Mountain Beach

Rocks at Cow Mountain Beach

What I can only assume is Cow Mountain.

Emily at the beach.

We found a ...Wal-Mart! In Hualien! It's got to be a real Wal-Mart - the sign says so.

I like this sign along the North Cross Island Highway (this is somewhere past Baling) because one always pictures factories, airports, urban sprawl and betel nut shops when one thinks of Taoyuan. This shows that the county can be quite rural.

View near Baling. We stopped in one of the small roadside restaurants here (before Baling town) and had a delicious meal of mountain boar, local river fish and vegetables.

Some art depicting an aboriginal dance - I'm not sure what the deal is with the depiction of that woman, though. This area is heavily settled by aborigines.

Along the North Cross Island Highway, near the turnoff to Lalashan.

We did continue along down to Mingchi, Qilan and Luodong, but the fog was quite bad up there and we sadly missed all the best views.