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Cycling around Taiwan with no tools? No worries.

One of the constants that has impressed me as I’ve cycled around Taiwan are the basic toolsets available in rural 7-11s.

If you pop into a provincial highway or township 7-11, you’ll likely run into one of these:

repair-kit-station-merida-7-11-taiwan

What you’re looking at there is a complimentary pump and basic toolkit. As opposed to the crappy gaugeless variety you typically get when you roll into a bicycle store and ask politely to use the store pump, here you get a proper dual valve head pump with gauge. [Continue reading...]


Cat noodles?!

Searching for dinner along Provincial Highway 3, we’d just left Hsinchu and were beginning to regret not stopping in the city proper to grab a bite to eat.

As we began to resign ourselves to the increasing likelihood that we were looking at a quick dinner at 7-11, we came across your typical roadside shack.

On the menu though was something very out of the ordinary…

cat-noodles-incense-hsinchu-taiwan

…or so I thought. [Continue reading...]


The pink Japanese Kombi

You’ve probably seen the weird-looking Kombi clones parked somewhere with its owners grilling hotdogs, serving up mashed potato dishes or some such.

Sometimes they make appearances at night markets but otherwise you’ll usually only see them at events.

What you’re essentially looking at is a stock-standard van, customized so that the owner can use the back area as a mobile storefront.

I get why they go for the look. The Kombi was iconic and with some color-contrasting, the vehicles obviously stand out among Taiwan’s drab blue trucks, black luxury boatcars and silver and white econoboxes. Even when parked.

What I hadn’t seen though was the design deployed for regular use. That is, until I ran across this frightful pink specimen:

pink-kombi-wannabe-van-front-taiwan [Continue reading...]


7-11 EeePC Internet Kiosks

Most people these days seem to have an internet equipped smart phone. I still hold out, mostly because I spend such a stupid amount of time in front of my laptop during the day. Time away from the internet often feels like a welcome respite.

Still, it was the early hours of a Thursday morning and I was hightailing Route 1 on the Long Haul Trucker.

I’d started out somewhere in Miaoli earlier, and was now regretting not pitstopping at a hotel along the way to Taipei.

Needing a short rest and a drink, I pulled over and parked the Trucker outside of a 7-11.

Grabbing an energy drink I headed over to the seating area. And that’s when I saw this:

7-11-asus-eeepc-internet-kiosk-taiwan

An Asus EEEPC internet kiosk. [Continue reading...]


Ma meets fake passengers on Taichung’s BRT?

taiwan-facepalmIn Taichung to collect credit for the city’s Bus Rapid Transit system (read: poor man’s MRT), President Ma was to meet and greet with random passengers on a bus.

The approaching of random passengers using the BRT, a shake of hands, all-smiles, some cordially exchanged pleasantries and everyone goes their separate ways.

Well, at least that was what was sold to the general public. In reality the photo-op turned out to be a sham.

But while staged political stunts are nothing new, how the KMT handled this one (once they were caught out) is hilarious. [Continue reading...]


Emei Lake tourism sign Engrish fail

As we cycled around Emei Lake, we found informational signposts to be a rarity. Given that there’s a crapload of tourist signs helping you get to the area it was somewhat ironic, but I digress.

Anyway, there we were cycling along the lake. Nice day. Birds doing there thing. Nobody around. Peace and quiet. And then boom went the dynamite:

red-engrish-tourist-sign-emei-lake-recreational-area-hsinchu

BIG RED SIGN! That can’t be good… [Continue reading...]


Exploring Emei Lake recreational area, Hsinchu

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The above is the tourist information sign for Emei Lake recreational area and highlights two bicycle paths, green and blue. Looking a bit spaghetti like, we decided to hit up the area on our bikes and see what was out there. [Continue reading...]


An ode to Taiwan’s knock-off colas

I have a sort of love-hate relationship with cola. I’ve always known it’s bad terrible for me but that never really stopped me using it as a water substitute.

Of late, say the last year or so, I’ve shifted my attitude and while I still enjoy the odd Coke (typically with a meal), have substituted practically all soft-drink with water-based alternatives.

For the most part this works well but then you get week-long heatwaves like we had last week, or I temporarily run out of filtered water to mix with… and it’s game over.

2L Coke bottle binges with ice, here we come.

Another instance I still haven’t found a work around is when you’re out and about on the bike trekking through the areas of Taiwan the convenience stores don’t cater to. Areas so remote and/or small it’s just not worth their time (or the locals don’t want them to interfere with local business).

If you’re lucky the mom and pop grocery store doesn’t have an exclusive deal with HeySong, and offers a decent selection of drinks. Lord knows how many times I’ve rocked up somewhere and gotten excited at the red cans, only to realize I was staring at their god-awful Sarsaparilla drink.

In that scenario, your alternatives are usually apple cider (who wants to drink that on a ride?) and copious variants of green and black tea (yawn, boring).

If HeySong aren’t present, then you get these weird drinks from who knows where. And oftentimes they have their own strange little cola variant. [Continue reading...]


Wenshan District snobbery strikes again

poor-foreigners-not-welcome-wenshan-district-taipei-cityWenshan District, formed in 1990 after Muzha and Jingmei combined, covers most of the southeast Taipei City.

It doesn’t quite carry the prestige of neighboring Xinyi to the north, but its residents are trying.

Back in 2004, some of the uneducated bigots who inhabit Wenshan sued the Harmony Home Association.

The charge?

Said uneducated bigots “feared” the HIV patients Harmony Home Association were caring for at their Wenshan shelter.

Yeah, you can catch HIV just by living near people. That’s how it works, right?

Even more asinine than the Wenshan lawsuit was that a judge actually agreed with the residents. It wasn’t until 2007 that Harmony Home won their appeal.

Now, some seven years later, once again the bigots of Wenshan are trying to curb Harmony Home’s charitable activities in the area. [Continue reading...]


FDA backflip on Hsinchu rice vermicelli labelling

What was supposed to be an effort to stop the Hsinchu-based companies from mislabeling their corn-starch product as rice vermicelli, has descended into somewhat of a farce.

Compromising on their earlier decision, hours after the law came into effect, the FDA made a decision to

to allow “rice noodle brands of historical significance” to display the term “rice vermicelli” (米粉) on their packaging, regardless of whether the product is made entirely from rice.

The catch is that

the term must be printed smaller than the noodles’ actual product names, which still have to comply with the new labeling rules, the administration said at the time.  

The new labeling rules require corn-starch vermicelli, which manufacturers have been passing off as rice vermicelli for years, must be labelled either “mixed rice vermicelli” (調和米粉) or “steamed vermicelli” (炊粉).

Granted permission to continue to mislabel their products, one would think the Hsinchu “rice” vermicelli industry might be appeased.

Not so. As they say, give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile: [Continue reading...]