Tag Archives: night

Scooter moment: Ximending & TiT

2 Aug

Corner of "Movie Street" in Ximending

Okay, so I live in Ximending, and find myself at this intersection just about every day, but I still like the bright lights and variety of people, as long as those people aren’t getting in my way. The darkness you see on the left is the looming structure of  TiT (yeah, try Googling that!), which has been under construction for a couple of years now, and will consist of expensive apartments that run about 60-110 ping, last I heard. TiT, which is short for “Town in Town,” is being built by Aman Corporation, which seemingly should have at least one English-speaker on staff who might have advised against making the TiT acronym so prominent on all of the advertising. At one point two summers ago, they even had large metal lettering on the sidewalk in front of the site, proclaiming “AMAN TiT” to all who passed by. Yup, “a man tit” has come to my crowded little space in Taipei.

I have to wonder what this tower is going to do to the neighborhood when it finally opens, and if the developers have succeeded in filling it yet. Check out this advertisement, which shows the tower design for about 2 seconds in the midst of making Ximending look quiet and romantic:

If they succeed with this development, it will signal a huge victory in changing people’s opinions of the neighborhood. Pretty much every single Taiwanese friend I have thinks I’m crazy for wanting to live in Ximending, with the exception of a handful of bohemians who live and work nearby. The thing is, the people who actually like Ximending enough to perhaps want to live here (teenagers, artists, tourists) are not the people who will be able to afford to live in TiT. I would imagine that the people who do have enough money to live there are not the sort of people who want to deal with the crowds, traffic, and general mayhem of Ximending on a typical weekend. So if people are actually buying up these apartments, does that mean a new kind of 西門町人 is on its way? There are a few other large buildings going up in the neighborhood, so perhaps that’s exactly what developers are hoping for.

Incidentally, though it’s not visible in the photo, the tower has had a crane perched atop it for months now, which terrifies me every time I pass by. After last year’s crane accident near Taipei 101 in which a crane fell from a building and crushed a bus carrying Chinese tourists, I’m paranoid about cranes in general, and don’t like the fact that I have to pass this one regularly.

Anyway, if you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to check out this monster of a construction project. Perhaps you can get your photo with a TiT sign!

Taipei Things #23 & 24: Visit Di Hua Street & have a furoshiki made

2 Aug

Di Hua Street, Section 1

My friend Xiao Bih suggested that I visit 迪化街, which was absolutely fine with me because I love this old street. I had hoped to visit in the morning, but the rain on this day had kept me inside until it was too late to manage it before I met my friends for afternoon tea. Still, the place has its charms at night, and there were even some shops still open. Passing by one of the fabric shops, I realized that, although I wasn’t quite in the right place for it, I could fulfill @graphgetsen‘s suggestion that I get a furoshiki made.

After stopping in to ask the fabric store owner where I could get my bag made, I was off to the old market building in search of a seamstress. She was already closed, but the nice man at the store had called her and asked her to come out and meet me. While I waited, I came upon one of my favorite sights in Taiwan, which never fails to make me smile:

After watching for a bit, I was tempted to join in (and mostly surely would have been given a warm welcome, despite the fact that I don’t know any of the dances), but I was on a mission and the seamstress was waving me over from inside the closed gate of the market building. After trying to explain to her what I was after (which mostly consisted of showing her a picture on my iPhone), she said she’d be able to make what I wanted, and told me to come back with the fabrics.

Back to the fabric store, the owner was helpful with his suggestions, and I decided to get three different fabrics, which he gladly displayed for the camera:

A Japanese-style print, fitting for a furoshiki

Traditional Hakka flower print in red

Flowers in blue

I’m partial to the red because it’s the same fabric my dearest friend Shrchang uses in his clothing designs (see his collection, called 大囍堂,  here: http://shrchang.pixnet.net/blog), but had a hard time choosing the others. Frankly, I wanted to buy half the shop, despite the fact that I have no need for fabrics.

After making my purchases (very inexpensive, though I can’t recall now how much I paid), I headed back to the seamstress, who led me through the back door of the darkened building and into her small shop, which wasn’t much bigger than my bathroom. We talked prices, design, and another foreign girl who apparently comes to the same seamstress, and the lady let me take a few shots of her thread:

Waiting for their purposes in life

I don’t have any photos of the finished bags, but I’ll post them later, as soon as I have them. For now, here are some more images from Di Hua Street at night.

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Taipei Thing #16: Visit 228 Peace Park at night

1 Jun

Nighttime stroll

Besides seemingly wanting to get me stuffed, Jesse also proposed some exercise – of the mildly frightening variety. His idea was to make a nighttime visit to 228 Peace Park. When I told my friends Curis & Shelley of this plan during our dinner at KGB, they didn’t think it was a very good idea, pointing out that it’s very dark there at night. However, when I was passing sometime after 11:30, it didn’t seem so scary to me.

During my stroll, I ran into a number of park characters: foreigners having a drink next to the pond, a homeless guy digging through trash for something to eat (he found an unfinished bag of Lay’s), a random guy seemingly trying to steal things from the tents along the main walkway (where vendors sell things in the daytime), a guy sitting in front of the stage all alone, with a couple doing the same thing not far way, lone joggers, gay men hanging out by the pagoda, a guy reading the newspaper under the monument, women in business suits hurrying through the park in the direction of the MRT, and students passing through in a loud group. In short, there were still plenty of people around despite the late hour, which made me feel fairly secure. I’m not sure the scene would feel that way a few hours later, but I’m not particularly interested in finding out, at least by myself.

If you’d like to find out exactly where the name of the park comes from, check out this article on the 228 Massacre.

And here are some of the things you might come across in the park:

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Taipei Thing #3: More about those pigs (vegetarians, beware)

27 May

A closer look.

My dog went a bit crazy this evening when I got home. He could smell the pig blood on my shoes.

After noticing the pig truck for the first time on Saturday, I happened to be passing the same place at the same hour tonight. This time, after watching a bit from afar, I decided to ask the workers if they’d mind my taking some photos. Not only did they not mind, they also invited me into the truck for a better look. As you can see above, the view from the inside is quite different. A few more:

I was surprisingly not disgusted by this.

More pieces.

Stamps.

I expect some people will be rather disgusted by these photos, and if that’s the case for you, I’d advise you not to watch the video below.

As for me, I was fascinated rather than disgusted. After all, if I can’t stomach seeing where the pork I eat comes from, I probably shouldn’t be eating pork in the first place. The only thing that was slightly gross was standing to the side in the truck as they carried off two pigs, and seeing what was presumably fat slide down one of the carcasses as it passed no more than a foot away from me. Of course, that may have been more terror than disgust – terror at the possibility of that fat sliding off and hitting me. Ick.

And actually, it was the people that I found the most interesting. This particular truck had two men working – one was middle-aged, while the other appeared to be perhaps a few years younger than me. Both were very friendly. The older man seemed almost proud of his work, happy to have someone take an interest in his job. The younger man asked if I was going to put my photos and video on a blog, or possibly Facebook (you can hear him say “妳要放在部落格?” at the end). When I said I’d probably do both, he told me he thought Americans didn’t use Facebook, and that I looked Australian – something about the shape of my face? We had a nice chat, and I got the impression that I was a welcome distraction from what is normally tedious work.

In any case, if you’re still reading, and haven’t been bothered so far by the photos above, here’s the older man in action. Watch how smoothly he works, not even looking when he hangs the meat hooks:

If you’re interested in seeing the process for yourself, the market is located on Xi Ning South Rd., about a block south of Zhong Xiao West Rd. According to the workers, there are many trucks in and out of the market all night (I saw 3 come and go while I was there), so there will be plenty to see. Be a bit careful if you get close, though. The pavement will be covered in blood.

PS: Lest anyone feel the need to use the comments to discuss the horrors of meat-eating and the cruelty of pig slaughter, let me forewarn you that any such comments will be deleted. This blog is meant to be an exploration of urban life in Taipei, not a platform for promoting an agenda – unless, of course, that agenda is to share with others how great Taipei is.

Taipei Thing #7: Eat at Yong He Dou Jiang in the middle of the night

25 May

蛋餅 (egg pancake) and 蘿蔔糕 (radish cakes) - two of my favorites

Jonas is responsible for this suggestion as well. Despite the enormous meal at Nonzero, Katy, Ping, and I were somehow able to manage a little extra eating. Perhaps the walk to Eslite and all that browsing had helped us burn off some of our dinner?

The plan was to visit the popular Yong He Dou Jiang Da Wang (永和豆漿大王) on Fuxing South Rd. For as long as I’ve been in Taipei, this has been the go-to place for late night eats. Here’s what we saw when we arrived:

What? Foiled!

They were closed! Not a person in sight, either, so we couldn’t ask what was going on. I had never seen this place closed before, but apparently even the King takes a rest sometimes.

Luckily, the Yong He Dou Jiang name is ubiquitous throughout Taipei, and we were only a short taxi ride away from this lesser-known place, located at the corner of Xinyi and Guang Fu:

Who needs a Da Wang anyway? Katy marches in.

The breakfast was excellent, of course. The staff were all hard at work, making me wonder if they were just starting their shifts or nearly ready to go home.

A calm evening for the staff

This is where the magic happens.

Note the menu, which gives you an idea of how cheap breakfast can be in Taipei. The food in the header photo, 2 orders of 蛋餅 and 3 of 蘿蔔糕, add up to a grand total of $66 NT (or $2.05 USD!). I’ll admit that we couldn’t even finish it all – maybe we were more full from dinner than we had thought.

We also had the place to ourselves, which gave us a chance to share our book selections from Eslite and muse over the crumbling spackling of the restaurant’s walls.

The loot.

Katy, the happy reader.

Fine late night dining, Taipei style

The wall, up close. A flying buffalo? Or a hopping rabbit?

I had passed by this Yong He Dou Jiang before without giving it much thought, but now I think I might prefer it to the Yong He Dou Jiang royalty on Fuxing. It seemed much more homey and personal, and I like that in a restaurant. I’d also like to see what becomes of the spackling.

Taipei Thing #6: Visit Eslite bookstore at 4 a.m.

25 May

Late on a Sunday at Eslite's 24-hour bookstore

Klaus suggested that I check out the Eslite (誠品) 24-hour bookstore at 4 a.m. to see what kinds of people are browsing the shelves so late at night. I wasn’t able to stay out nearly so late, but my adventurous friends Katy and Ping were willing to join me in heading there at the midnight hour. We had a lovely time discussing our different reading habits, and created our own mini-adventure by choosing books for each other to read. My assignments? Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw (chosen by Ping, who just so happens to have written one of the forewords for the Taiwan edition of this book) and Alain de Botton’s The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (Katy’s thoughtful choice).

After I made my choices to share with my friends (Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and Mick Jackson’s Ten Sorry Tales), I spent a little time roaming the various sections and observing the late night crowd. Here are some of the faces you’ll come across past midnight:

Folks settled in with their free reading materials

Lots of squatting going on

More squatting.

Seriously!

One of my most-visited sections, with something new to browse this evening.

Many people came in pairs.

Ping checks out the bestseller section, normally crowded with people.

While I didn’t quite make the 4 a.m. goal (we left sometime before 1 a.m.), I certainly did enjoy the calm of Eslite late at night. I also discovered upon leaving that Ping had quizzed the staff on the people traffic at 4 a.m., and they reported that, while there used to be a problem with people trying to sleep in the store, these days the super-late crowd is mostly made up of people killing time before heading somewhere early in the morning. They never buy anything.

Taipei Thing #3: Take a nighttime walk & watch for half pigs!

24 May

Pigs in the process of becoming pork

Anna S. suggested that I take a long walk at night, and be sure to keep an eye out for people hauling half pigs. I assumed that the first part would be pretty simple, but I doubted that I’d see any pigs being carried around.

Well, as it turns out, I ended up spotting the pigs before I had even had a chance to take a late night walk! On my midnight scooter ride (#1) home from seeing Obnoxious (#2), I found myself at a red light next to a truck full of half pigs! There they are in the photo above – not a very pleasant sight, but fascinating nonetheless. In fact, I drove all the way around the block again just to get this photo, lest I not get another chance. Looking back on it now, I should have taken it a step further and spoken to the man shouldering the pigs and hauling them into the market building where he was parked. It would have given me a little insight into what kind of person does this job, and also a chance to see the gruesome pig carcasses up close. (Vegetarians, forgive me. I’m a fan of the grotesque.)

What’s strange to me about coming across these pigs is that, unless I’ve just ignored this kind of sight in the past, I had never seen this before Anna mentioned it to me. I wouldn’t have even known where to look for the pigs, but they somehow found me.

And as for the walk, I counted this task as only half completed as of last night, but I did get in a late night walk this evening to make up for the discrepancy. Walk + pigs! Mission accomplished!