Sunday, October 28, 2012

Raw crab!

A plate of raw crab served with chilis and a kaoliang-based sauce that I enjoyed a few months ago in Kinmen. Tasty, and I speak as no great fan of either crab or kaoliang.

Monday, October 22, 2012

How can we sleep when a boat is burning?

Over the weekend, photographer Rich Matheson and I attended the climax of Donggang's famous triennial boat-burning ritual, 2012 edition. We got there about 7.30pm, when the boat was still in Donglong Temple's forecourt. Watching the slow, ritual loading of supplies and other rites, around 10pm I asked myself, "Why the hell did I come here, knowing I'll have to stand up all night?" But things soon got livelier. Seeing the boat dragged through the temple's massive gateway was thrilling. After that we didn't hang around - the writer of this excellent article about the festival had given us good advice: dash to the beach, 1.6km away, so you can get a good spot from which to witness the burning.
On the black sand we sat and watched for a further three hours as the masts were erected and the sails hoist. Sacks of joss paper were piled around the hull, and strings of firecrackers laid across them. Around 5.30am, the firecrackers were lit; the joss paper immediately caught fire and within 45 minutes the boat was a charred wreck. It was entrancing. Spectacular. Truly memorable. Now I understand why some people travel all the way from Taipei to see this event, even if they've seen it before.
The title of this post was, of course, inspired by Midnight Oil's classic song.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

National park drops triple-pricing plan

According to reports in the Chinese-language media, Yushan National Park has decided not to charge foreigners much more than locals for permits to hike Taiwan's highest mountain. It seems everyone will pay NT$480, regardless of nationality or country of residence. But there's still no confirmation when Paiyun Lodge may reopen.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Guardian lions

Lion statues have been guarding the entrances of temples and public buildings in the Chinese world for at least 1,800 years. According to Wikipedia: "The lions are always created in pairs, with the male resting his paw upon the world and the female restraining a playful cub that is on its back."

I took this photo of an especially impressive male guardian lion several years ago, outside a newly-built temple in Chiayi County.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Two attractions in Zhubei

Zhubei City (竹北市) is a rapidly-growing part of Hsinchu County, much of the growth being driven by residential and commercial developments near Hsinchu HSR Station. A handful of old, single-storey homes have been preserved and turned into New Tile House (新瓦屋), also known as the Hakka Art Village. New Tile House is visually attractive (see this Chinese-language blog for good photos) but unless you come on a weekend, when there's live traditional music, it's not worth going out of your way for. Bus #1782 from the HSR station stops outside New Tile House. If you want to walk, it'll take you around 20 minutes.

If you're in the neighbourhood and want a soft drink, a beer or English-language conversation, drop by the intriguingly-named Titty Tea, which is less than 100m away. In the evenings there's often live music or comedy.