Category Archives: Taipei

Lantern Festivals

Its lantern festival season in Taiwan. It seems most cities across the island have some sort of festivities. Jason got the chance to go to Pingxi last week to see the famous sky lantern festival. For my taste of the festivities I took an afternoon trip with Max to see what Taipei had on offer.

At Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall the city put on a large festival for over a week. It’s the Year of the Rabbit, which is painfully obvious since the entire site is basically a bunny explosion:

Make no mistake. Its the year of the Rabbit. If the hundreds of bunny’s littering the front lawn doesn’t do it, well than this giant rotating pink rabbit should:

I do find it interesting that the Taiwanese interpretation of the year of the Rabbit is more so the year of the cutesy smiley bunny.

Or so I thought. Until I saw the free mini lanterns being given away daily to kids:


Surveying the rest of the grounds the majority was dedicated to displaying lanterns built by various schools in the city. For me, say the word paper lantern and I conger up images of the typical ikea ball shaped paper lantern lamp. Imagine my surprise when I rock up to the festival to find these:

Lanterns it seems can be any paper shaped hallow object. Personally I love the ciber-bunny. And I appreciate that the students of Taipei strayed from the cute bunny image as well. Although dimsum bunny and banna/garlic bunny have vague resemblance to Bugs Bunny back in the racist years of cartoons.

Aside from lantern displays, there were DIY crafting tents for kids, a large stage for concerts, and an area for writing down wishes:

This is afterall a festival with religious roots.

So, by no means as cool as the Pingxi Festival that Jason went to, but still a very interesting sample of local culture.

Seatbelts in Taipei Taxis – It’s About Time!

My #1 issue with Taipei – and the #1 thing that would keep me from returning – is road safety. The streets of Taipei are crazy. Yes, they’re a lot less crazy than they used to be, but there are still a lot of nutjobs. And it’s not just for drivers and passengers, but pedestrians too. Sylvia has been almost run down by drivers going the wrong way down one-way streets, driving down crosswalks (not through – down the crosswalk in the direction that pedestrians walk), and driving on sidewalks. And don’t even get me started on the scooters!

The Government of Canada’s Travel Advisory page for Taiwan puts it well:

Driving habits in Taiwan are often more erratic and reckless than in Canada. Driving or riding motorcycles is dangerous and should be avoided, even by experienced motorcyclists. Substandard road conditions and local disregard for traffic laws result in frequent accidents that cause serious and even fatal injuries to foreigners. Motorcycles and scooters weave in and out of traffic.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an end in site to the insanity on the roads, but as a regular taxi passenger it’s good to see that at least we’re going to get seatbelts in the back of taxi cabs, after Nora Sun (孫穗芬), a granddaughter of Republic of China (ROC) founding father Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), was severely injured in a car accident on New Year’s Day.

This has been a major annoyance for me for years: taxi drivers in Taipei routinely remove, hide, or otherwise cripple the seatbelts in the back of their taxis. And if you do manage to find or repair the seatbelt and use it, the driver usually takes offence; I’ve heard it’s because you’re insinuating that he isn’t a good driver – and he probably isn’t – but it’s the other nutjobs on the road I’m more worried about.

Score one for road safety! Now, if only they could go about enforcing the other road safety laws they already have … and will Taipei County (sorry, “New Taipei City” now), where I work, follow suit?

Mayoral election mayhem

Oh man – why is this thing not over with?! We’ve been here for practically 3 months and the city has been bombarded with it the whole time. Flags covering the streets:

from wikipedia

You know what this road needs? More flags.

Volunteers thrusting leaflets and sponsored kleenex packets into your hand on the streets, little vans blasting candidate platforms through megaphones (this is particularly annoying):

I can't go 10 minutes outside without seeing one of these

Here’s some video to show just how annoying these “megaphone trucks” and other loud events can be:

… and now, at 8pm I can hear a drum parade outside our window. As I pray that it doesn’t wake our baby up, I also mentally count down to Saturday when this thing will finally be over.

Side note. the news today reported concern about potentially low voter turn out due to cold weather.

The forecast: low of 17C high of 21C. um…. really?


This came in the post the other day:

Looks like a Taiwanese Home Depot (BQ for the Brits). At first, all looked normal. But on closer inspection a few interesting differences. First, the ad for beer at the bottom. Maybe they do sell beer alongside lumber? Fair enough, probably very appropriate cross shopping.

Next, flipping though the pages, I find this:

seems normal

Here, a zoom in:

That is one happy looking man with a hoover!

Finally, I felt that one!

This week Taipei has had two earthquakes, and after missing the first one, I actually felt last nights!  Just a minor 5.1 magnitude quake – no biggie (by Taiwan standards), but i felt it during Max’s night feed (very weird feeling, like a gentle swaying motion).  Both Jason and I slept through the Wednesday night one, but our friend who’s staying with us can attest that the chandeliers in our living room did in fact sway and the windows rattled.  I’m pleased to see that our place is holding up just fine during the quakes.

Side note, outside of Taipei in the rest of Taiwan, there were actually a string of 10 mild earthquakes on Wednesday.  Considering that i’m pretty sure last night was my first earthquake experience, i feel like we’re being thrown in the deep end here.

ps – Canadians – that minor 5.1 quake we felt last night?  Same magnitude as the Ontario/Quebec quake that hit a few months back in July.

supermarket sweep

As we’ve noted in a previous post, we have a garbage service.  3 days a week a man comes to our place to collect our trash and recyclables since our building has no disposal system.  After the first collection we were told that we are using the wrong bags and we need to get the “right” garbage bags – the blue ones.  Thinking this was some sort of preference of our little man, I willingly obliged and scouted the various 7-11 and Family Marts in our area for blue bags.  (maybe he will be safer on his scooter with the right bags)  Orange, black, lime green, lilac coloured?  all present, but no blue.    Odd.  So i do some internet searching.

Turns out that the city government requires you to purchase special government approved bags.  blue bags.  If you don’t use the right bag, your garbage won’t be accepted.   Apparently to recycle, you can use any bag, cheaper bags, so this should encourage you to recycle.  (for what its worth, the Taipei City Government statistics show that the volume of household garbage has declined 67 percent since the bag-fee policy was imposed, so the system is working).  Of course the government site doesn’t have a picture so i still don’t know what these bags look like.  Thankfully the internets saves me and i found another expat blog that photographed his ordeal too.

Well this all sounds very progressive and enlightened, so knowing what they look like off i go to find these bags.  It took 3 days and 7 stores to find them.  Very well hidden.  You’d think they’d be displayed alongside the regular kitchen garbage bags, perhaps alongside the household items – no that would make sense.  Instead these were hidden at the checkout along side candy, gum and other impulse items.  Why?  why put them there? why make it so painfully hard to find??  Here is what they look like by the way:

Notice the government seal in the top right? that prevents fakes

Although, I will say this is not the first time i’ve played the game:  where would random item be in the grocery store.

Here is where my baby formula is sold:

safely behind lock and key right beside the liquor

Yes, you see that right.  After 2 days of searching the shelves of every grocery store in our area we found it locked away in a glass case beside the liquor.  Obviously.   If ever there was a Taiwanese version of supermarket sweeps – i would do chasing my tail lost in the wrong aisle.

Our First Typhoon: Fanapi

Last weekend we experienced Fanapi, a category 3 typhoon and our first typhoon while in Taiwan. To us in the North of Taiwan, it was relatively harmless, however Hualien County (花蓮縣) on the east coast was hit harder.

It's coming right for us!

Sunday was very bad weather so we stayed inside to watch the alternating wind and heavy rain. Apart from some felled tree branches on RenAi Road, there wasn’t much of an aftermath where we were. Taiwan is well-prepared for typhoons – here’s a restaurant menu that Sylvia found that even mentions being open on “typhoon days.”

A typhoon shouldn't prevent you from getting good waffles.

Stay tuned for our inevitable “first earthquake” post! 🙂

Never a Dull Moment: No Water at Home!

Living in Taipei there’s always something new coming up every day – and it’s usually a situation that forces us to use our (limited) Chinese! Like this morning, when suddenly our water taps went dry. Uh oh. Our water stopped working? Now what?

Well first, I remembered the landlord briefly mentioning that our water pump used a battery. Why? I have no idea. The only electricity it has is that battery, so I figured it needed replacing.

Off to 7-11 (given that a typhoon is on its way this weekend I didn’t want to go much further). Do you sell batteries? (你們賣出電池嗎?Nǐmen mài chū diànchí ma?) I have no idea how to ask for “D-Cell” batteries specifically so I brought the old one with me.

Nope. That didn't do it.

But that didn’t work. So I ventured out and considered trying to ask a neighbour if they had any water (I guess it would be: 你的公寓有水嗎?Nǐ de gōngyù yǒu shuǐ ma?) when I noticed a new piece of paper taped to the inside of our elevator:

Ah, of course! Written right here, plain as day.

Uhh. Yeah. Well, it mentions today’s date (and yesterday’s) and it has the character for water (“水”) so I figured this was it. To my surprise, I was actually able to read the relevant bit: “9月18日(星期六)停水一天” (“September 18th (Saturday) water [will be] stopped for one day”).

The always humourous Google Translate version is:

Dear Neighborhood Hello, everybody!

More recently said, the elevator can not be used by the Friends of the lift in conjunction with worship and dealing with leaking water and other professional staff after survey has identified the reasons for the roof caused water seepage into the elevator machine pit.

It will be 99 September 17 to September 18, (Week 56 construction), and are scheduled from September 18 (Saturday) without water one day, please neighbor early water use.

Be between these, please forgive me!

Yeah. I wish I had noticed this sign yesterday! Looks like I’m going back to 7-11 for some more jugs of water!

pampered pooch

Within a short week its already obvious how much the Taiwanese love their dogs.  So far it seems easier to buy pet food than baby formula as our neighbourhood has 3 pet stores (and counting) in a 5 block radius and my local grocery store doesn’t seem to carry formula.  I’ve seen dogs being carried in hand bags ala Paris Hilton and even being pushed down the street in baby strollers.  Yesterday I managed to snap a photo of this woman carrying her cinnamon poodle in her sling while grocery shopping.

Look a lot like a baby sling...

Odd thing though, at checkout in this same grocery store there is a sign that I think says No Dogs?!

No dogs?

Or maybe it says no unicorns.  Its hard to tell.