No Christmas Market this year

I have seriously underestimated the Taiwanese people’s love for Christmas. For the first time this year, Europe’s Christmas market will be coming to Taipei and I was stupid enough to miss the deadline to get pre-order tickets online. But I thought: “Well, I’ll just line up for tickets instead. How bad can it be?”

Oh, it was bad.

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This was the line-up, or should I say, part of the line-up. Tickets went on sale at 12pm and I arrived at 12:10pm to this scene. There’s a limit of 500 tickets today, but there were at least 2000 people lining up so a lot of people will be going home empty-handed. The earliest people lined up before 9am.

It’s obvious that I’ll only be enjoying the Christmas market from afar this year!

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Wintertime Beach and Wharf Day

WY has been working a lot of overtime since January started, so he wanted to get away from the city and recharge this past weekend before another busy week started. So away we went to the beach at Laomei (老梅) in Shimen District.

We rode WY’s scooter there, and was it ever cold! So our first stop was to “Old Place” (老地方) restaurant for some hot lunch.

10917211_10205198152211265_4675492764675619483_oThen off to the beach we go~

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This beach is interesting in that it’s not just sandy, but instead there are these finger-like rocky protrusions where the sand usually meets the water. After doing some research online (link), I found out that these are actually reefs formed by wave-cut volcanic lava. I saw a few tidal pools, but the waves were too strong and water too cold, so I didn’t see any wildlife other than algae and seaweed. Other than that, I also came across 10+ dead pufferfish and a lot of garbage. There were mini pieces of garbage everywhere, and they were strewn in the sand like colourful confetti, which ruined the otherwise perfect beach.

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Afterwards, when it became too unbearably cold, we had to end our walk on the beach (wind on our faces, bundled up like eskimos; very romantic) and headed to Fuji Harbour (富基漁港). There was a marketplace by the harbour that sold fresh seafood (fish, crab, clams), and it would have been a fun sight to see except that as it was a cold weekend so there weren’t many customers to begin with, every single market stall tried to get us to stop at their stall to purchase or eat seafood (they can prepare the seafood that you buy there for a nominal fee), so we had to get out of there. We ended up walking to the harbour and looked at the boats.

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Afterwards, we stopped by a temple (關渡宮) before heading back to Taipei to catch the 8pm showing of “Hobbit 3”. I must say that I was a bit disappointed by “Hobbit 3″… They should have filmed one movie instead of 3 for “The Hobbit”. It did answer a lot of questions for LOTR though.1518534_10205198188852181_8292840931115121181_o

Overall, I thought that it was a fantastic day and even though I was chilled to the bones by the end, it made me really happy to get away from the city. Sometimes, a walk on a windy beach is just what’s needed to blow away the city dust and all its worries.

All photos are courtesy of WY. If you would like to see more Danbo and follow his adventures, feel free to check out his fan page here: Alon and World.

Taichung Trip – Dec. ’14

I’m waiting for the HSR back to Taipei now after I spent the weekend in Taichung with Sis, WY, and CF. As my train doesn’t come for another 50 minutes, I am killing the time by using the free laptops provided in the HSR station while charging Sis’s cellphone battery… Long story short, Sis and CF left Taichung early because they were tired/cold, and WY is staying in Taichung tonight as he has to work nearby tomorrow. Sis needed my e-ticket to take an earlier train, so I was left with her phone that was running low on battery, and unable to charge with a regular charger (the battery has to be charged separately because the connector broke). As I needed the phone to work in order to use the e-ticket to get back to Taipei, you can imagine how stressed out I was with an almost-dead phone. Thankfully the HSR station had a charging station complete with 4 laptops equipped with free internet (whoever came up with the brilliant idea of adding charging stations to HSR and MRT stations in Taiwan, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!).

The original plan was to visit Taichung yesterday, then Changhwa (Lukang) today, but we left the hostel too late this morning, and as CF didn’t know the way to Lukang  (we rented two scooters), it would’ve taken too long to travel to and from Lukang, so we decided to stay in Taichung instead.

Yesterday we visited Luce Church in Donghai University; the church is a popular site for wedding photographers, then had lunch at this 3D-printing factory. In the evening, we visited Eslite Taichung, then had dinner with Sophia at this Halloween-themed restaurant. There are so many themed restaurants in Taichung, and a lot of dessert shops! Sis and I are considering moving there in the future… Life feels more relaxed in Taichung, and housing is more affordable, even though prices have soared in the past couple of years too. Sigh, housing prices are ridiculous in Taiwan.

Luce Chapel

Luce Church

Lunch

Lunch

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Dinner at Pumpkin House, Taichung

Dinner at Pumpkin House, Taichung

Today, we had lunch at a Mexican restaurant, then went for dessert at “La Famille”, a beautiful French patisserie. Their affogato (espresso poured over a scoop of their madacascar vanilla gelato) was amazing! Afterwards, we walked around a small alley and visited many vintage boutiques (we actually went last night but because we spent so long talking to the manager of a leather shop, by the time we left, the other stores had all closed). Then Sis and CF left first, and WY and I had a quiche with ginger black tea, and then I left for the HSR.

My train is going to arrive soon, so I’ll end my post for now. “In the Woods” will keep me company until I arrive in Taipei.

Skating in Taiwan

It’s finally Friday today, and I spent my favourite evening of the week skating for the first time in Taiwan and having beef noodles with MM, her coworkers, a coworker’s husband, and his friend from work. I was so disappointed by the size of Taiwan’s rink! However, since it was an indoor rink located on the 8th floor of Eslite 116 in Ximending, I shouldn’t have expected so much in the first place. I’m sure the rink in the Taipei Sports Arena is probably much better. We didn’t skate for long as the rink was tiny (maybe half the size I’m used to seeing in Canada), and the skates really hurt my feet (they kept squishing my ankles).

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Afterwards, we had delicious beef noodles from a hole in the wall called 建宏 at the outskirts of Ximending. It’s open 24 hours and have unlimited refills for noodles and soup. MM and I shared a medium bowl (only NTD90) and it was plenty. We didn’t even have to get refills! Next time we’ll just go for a small.

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Last night QB was such a sleepyhead. He fell asleep on my bed and I just couldn’t bear to wake him up. Zzz…

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Crazy housing prices in Taipei

There’s something seriously wrong with the real estate market in Taiwan. MM informed me today that it is the most difficult city to buy a house. In the world. Yes, Taipei, Taiwan topped the list comparing average salary to housing price. New Taipei City also made the list at number 3. Vancouver’s number 4. Those are honestly some grim looking numbers, so there is something wrong with the system. Prices for everything in Taiwan (food, living…) just keep going up, yet the only thing that has not increased is wage. So basically the rich just keep getting richer, and the poor poorer. I wonder what Taiwan needs to get its economy back up?! Wage in Taiwan is 3x lower than wage in North America, yet many things cost the same. It’s not like brand name products for clothing and food will cost less in Taiwan just because we make less here, and many food items (especially imported products) cost so much more than in Canada. So imagine buying Starbucks in Taiwan: one grande vanilla latte for NTD120 (equiv to CAD4). That’s the same as in Canada, right? Wrong. CAD4*3 = CAD12. This takes into account how the wage in Taiwan is 3x less than in Canada. You just bought a CAD12 cup of coffee. This is why Starbucks doesn’t do too well in Taiwan.

I really hope that the trade agreement with China will help Taiwan’s economy flourish like they keep saying it will. But you know what they say: the Devil’s in the details.

Happy Friday! QB got a haircut because his fur was too tangled. He looks like an oversized rat now. Poor darling:

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Trade Agreement between Taiwan and China

I’m not sure if you’ve seen it in the news, but Taiwan recently made headlines in international news for protests against a trade deal with China.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s a brief update:
– President Ma of Taiwan is planning to sign a trade alliance with China, which would open Taiwan to Chinese trades
– This signing was to be signed without first fully informing the people of Taiwan, which infuriated many people
– Last Tuesday, university students stormed the legislative building and took over so the signing couldn’t happen
– The argument was that Taiwanese people did not want Taiwan to be sold to China; they feel like this agreement will lead to more job competition.

I applaud the people of Taiwan for standing up for what they believe is right, and for doing all this in a non-violent way. I think it’s great that Taiwan has a voice, which is quite unlike China and North Korea. So although Taiwan is technically a part of China, Taiwan is a democracy.

After some discussion with others on this topic, I realized that people were worried about this agreement because it would mean more Chinese people coming into Taiwan, taking over more jobs, and Taiwan would eventually become ruled by Chinese. A lot of political talk. Also, Chinese students would actually get scholarships if they choose to study in Taiwan. And whose money is that? Of course the Taiwanese taxpayers! However, I also learned that banks want the agreement to be signed, because China would grant a large sum of money towards Taiwan banks for trading purposes, so Taiwan would not have to depend on Hong Kong for international trade.

Mic brought up some very good point though, that I’d like to express here:
He said there was a lot of political involvement, and it wasn’t so simple.
Also, Taiwanese should not feel like they’ve already lost even before the battle has even started. Who says that the Chinese will take over? It all depends on how the agreement is written. Take Singapore for example. It is extremely successful on the international platform, but they also open job openings to foreigners. However, there are strict and narrow laws governing these foreign workers. Taiwan has to make sure that this agreement benefits Taiwan, rather than tipping one-sided towards China!
Lastly, he said that instead of occupying the legislature, the students should hold their own meeting and write their own version of the trade agreement. Apparently the students did do that by hosting a meeting marking their 100th hour of protest, and had a debate for and against the trade agreement.

An Economics Professor at National Taiwan University said that this trade agreement went against everything that the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz expressed about free trade:
1. Any trade agreement should be symmetrical
2. No trade agreement should put commercial interests ahead of broader national interests
3. Finally, there must be a commitment to transparency

Let’s see how this unfolds now; the government cannot continue to stand by for much longer. Something’s gotta give.

A decade

I attended half of grade 5 and all of grade 6 at an elementary school in Taiwan, and last week there was a Chinese New Year dinner arranged by some classmates. Ever since we started using Facebook, some of us found each other, so occasionally (once a year or so) there would be a gathering just to see how each other’s doing.

It’s nice to meet everyone (out of 35 people in the class, we found about 10-15. Not too bad!), even though it’s always a bit awkward at first. The people I was friends with when I was 12 are only strangers now. One of them was my first “boyfriend” (but he’s a player so he liked almost every girl in the class and we were together for only a week). Another one is going to be getting married in September to her university classmate. April moved to the States shortly after junior high, and Annie went to Shanghai in the middle of junior high. And the class fatty is now the best looking guy (in my opinion) out of the bunch.

After leaving elementary school, everyone went on to live their own lives, and because technology was not as advanced back then, we couldn’t keep in touch. I’m quite envious of those people (like V) who have childhood friends of 20 or 30 years and counting. If you’re one of those people, you should count yourself to be very lucky! :)

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