search ozsoapbox

Exploring Emei Lake recreational area, Hsinchu


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...]

Hsinchu rice vermicelli, less rice = harmful?

Although not as entrenched as China’s (complete lack of ) food safety and regulation, there’s still a certain air of distrust when it comes to trusting food manufacturers in Taiwan.

So much so that when a new scandal breaks, the focus is not on the act itself, but for how long they’ve been getting away with it and how much tainted product an individual may or may not have consumed.

For me personally it’s a bit of a worry. I can’t read the labels of half the stuff I buy and I still have that ingrained trust one develops from living in a country where food scares are far and few between.

Part of the problem is also the punishments doled out when people are caught. Usually it’s a fine equivalent their children’s pocket-money for a week, the media covering it for a day or two, perhaps an interview with the government employee who discovered the ruse – and then everybody goes back to watching news reports about trending YouTube videos.

Then six months later it happens all over again.

Thankfully the latest question mark over food safety isn’t anywhere near as concerning as say twenty something years of plasticizer in our beverages, but still raises an eyebrow or two. [Continue reading...]

Shui Xing Temple (水興宮), Jhunan Township


If you’re travelling around the northern outskirts of Jhunan Township proper, there’s a good chance you’ve sped past this shiny statue and wondered what it was about.


Giving off a kind of Batman vibe, that’s Nezha, a Taoist protection diety, watching over the township of Jhunan. [Continue reading...]

Scooter raincoats, what works and doesn’t?

Rain and scooters. Ugh.

You’d think in a country like Taiwan that rains alot, that rain itself would be a major consideration in the scooter-buying equation. Even more so for me as I come from the world of bike-riding, where we face the same challenges.

Not so!

It wasn’t until I was caught in a torrential downpour in Taipei (a few months after purchasing my scooter) that I realised those cheap $30 TWD (~$1 USD) 7-11 yellow raincoats weren’t viable.

So, kind of clueless in this area and not wanting to go through the hassle of switching out my cycle gear between scooter and bike everytime I took one out, I went to my local scooter shop and bought your stock-standard Taiwanese raincoat getup.


My reasoning behind this was that, after decades of torrential rain and the scooter-centric lifestyle, surely the overwhelming majority of riders had a clue about how to best keep themselves dry.

How wrong that assumption turned out to be. [Continue reading...]

Fuxing Historic Old Street, Hsinchu County

We’d spent a long day exploring around Hsinchu’s Emei Lake recreation area, and as the day came to a close were hanging out for a feed somewhere.

Touching base around the northern part of the lake, we began to follow tourist signs that led to “Fuxing Historic Street”.


Historic streets (more commonly referred to as “old streets”) are sort of like little night markets. Typically a street is set aside for commercial activity, offering light shopping (local produce, craft etc.) and vendor-style eats.

We couldn’t even find a 7-11 around Emei and we were still a ways out from Toufen (where we were staying). Whatever nourishment Fuxing Historic street had to offer to get us home, we’d gladly treasure. [Continue reading...]

Suing the MRT stabber for NT$20.6 million? Huh?!

taiwan-facepalmSo uh… following the stabbing rampage by Cheng Chieh (鄭捷) on Taipei’s MRT back on May 21st, things have been rather tense.

Just over a week or so ago cops jumped some guy dressed in full army camo gear who armed with an airsoft ‘assault rifle fitted with a tactical foregrip and four magazines, three grenades and a pistol with one magazine‘.

airsoft-warrior-on-taipei-mrtUpon arriving at Taipei Main Station, police hauled him for questioning, during which it was revealed he was just off to some airsoft wargames nearby. Fair enough… but seriously dude? You couldn’t carry that gear in a bag or something. Fuck me.

Then there was the poor schmuck who had an epileptic fit on a train just a few days ago. How’d that go?

A video posted online showed passengers running out of the train as soon as it arrived at the Longshan Temple station.

“Somebody in the back was shouting that someone had been killed,” an injured passenger said. “Then we were told to keep running, but I did not even know what was going on. People fell down while running away and I was hurt too.”

Quick run, HE’S GOING TO FROTH US ALL TO DEATH! [Continue reading...]

Revisiting Emei Lake’s Maitreya Buddha statue

When I first stumbled across the giant Buddha down at Hsinchu’s Emei Lake, it was little more than a big statue adjacent a muddied construction site.


Glimpses of the temple that would be were evident, but it was hard to imagine the finished product.

That was back in mid 2010. Roughly a year later I found myself in the area again and decided to pay the statue another visit.


What a difference! Looking resort-like, things were looking pretty finished from the outside.

Figuring the temple might be open “for business”, we headed down into Emei (the shot above was taken from a nearby mountain) to suss things out. [Continue reading...]