Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Time to ride that dragon (and Ker Chien-ming is a coward)

Please enjoy this photo of cowardly garbage person 柯建銘 sneaking out a side door of the Legislative Yuan after the stankerific amendments to the Labor Standards Act passed, like the loser and all-around character-lacking person he is. Taken by a good friend.

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He's the one with the bald head.

Oh yeah, protests broke out today, for good reason.

There's a big protest on Sunday 12/10 in Kaohsiung and on 12/23 in Taipei - I advise you to be there. I am supposed to make 5 curries, and I will, but I also need to be there. I'll make it work.

Let's ride this dragon. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

民進黨不行,國民黨再贏: on dragons and not riding them

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Look, I know I said I was going to take a break, but I'm taking a break from taking a break so here you go.

Still working on my personal junk, you'll hear about it when I'm ready to talk about it. Still working on grad school, just needed a break from that. Don't worry, I'm plugging right along.

Anyway.

I'm not particularly surprised that the DPP has turned around and betrayed Taiwanese labor with their new bullshit changes to labor regulations. (Quick note: the seven public holidays mentioned in this article only snapped back into existence for a year - otherwise, we haven't had them for the entirety of the decade I've lived in Taiwan. They're also not great holidays, to be honest. It's not as though we lost something we'd grown used to over many years.)

They might have a better origin story - I mean, they didn't commit mass murder and pillage and steal from Taiwan for decades after flying and sailing over from another country and settling in like they owned the place - but their ascendancy to the main opposition party of the (even worse) KMT hasn't left them as pure of heart as they might have started out. Sure, they began more idealistically but I don't think anyone can realistically say that they've maintained their dangwai-era vision. They'll line their own pockets, set up their own patronage networks and kowtow to special interests just as much as the KMT will. We've known that for awhile.

I think we've all known for awhile that the DPP is a corruption-filled pustule - perhaps we just told ourselves until recently that all the pus was because they were fighting the KMT infection. But come on, we knew.

Oh but they're not willing to sell us out to China, and they didn't perpetrate a murderous half-century or so of political and social oppression, so they only really look better by comparison. They were always going to bend over and take it from big business. The major difference is that they're pro-independence buttmonkeys who didn't kill people.

Likewise, I'm not even really shocked that they've gone so limp on marriage equality. I'm angry, but I think deep down I always knew that this was in their nature. They were always going to bend over and take it from conservative and Christian groups. Again, the only real difference is that they're pro-independence buttmonkeys who didn't kill people.

They have a better origin story, that's really all at this point. At one point they surely meant what they said with all of that idealism about a better Taiwan. I don't know when things changed, but the spirit of the dangwai who fought for a better Taiwan seems to be dead. Now, they're in it for the power just like the KMT it seems.

I guess deep down, as I can't be surprised, I'm mostly just sad.

Perhaps we always knew that neither of Taiwan's two major parties ever really had the people's backs, but until recently at least we could pretend. We could tell ourselves that if we could just hand the DPP a presidency along with a legislative majority, we could actually get something done. We could transform the country, or at least start down that path.

Now we know that's not true. Now we know there's no major party that really will do the right thing, that will govern as representatives of the people, that will really have our backs rather than letting those with more power than Taiwanese labor (or marriage equality activists and the LGBT community) get up on their backs.

Now we know - there's no one to vote for. Not among the major parties.

I mean, if anything, activism is in the same old rut it always was. We all though things would get better when Tsai's inaugural parade featured that huge sunflower-bedecked float touting the strides Taiwan has made in social movements. And yet we still have a few hundred people turning out for protests until something huge blows up, we still have the same old muddy turmoil, the same old pro-China zealots beating people up and the same old police not responding. The same old turned back from the government. Did the DPP really think that activists would back off because the less-bad party won? That fighting back was something we only did to the KMT because they sucked so hard? That sucking only slightly less hard would be good enough?

So what now? Punishing the DPP - which they roundly deserve - will only hand the KMT a victory. The KMT deserves to be punished more harshly than anyone and it seems they never quite get what's coming to them. We criticize the DPP, calling Lai Ching-te "God Lai" and making fun of him, but the KMT is full of princelings who fancy themselves as gods come across the water from China. This is not a solution.

A buildup of smaller parties? Great. I would love to see the Third Force come together, I'd love to see the two big parties fracture and split and a true multiparty democracy flower. But let's be honest, that's probably not going to happen. I'd love to see the NPP gain support and really challenge the DPP without splitting the liberal vote and handing victories to the KMT - but I'm not sure about either.

At the local and legislative level we can vote for these Third Force parties, but who do we vote for at the presidential level when the DPP has gone down the tubes, and the KMT is already in the gutter?

What I fear is going to happen is this. Tsai will win a second term because presidents here generally do. Ma wasn't punished for being a terrible president. Tsai won't be punished for being a weak one who seems to have betrayed the people she campaigned to win. She'll muddle along just like she is doing in this term, things won't get better, the DPP will continue to suck, and the KMT will start seeming "not that bad" in comparison.

Of course, they are so much worse. But that's not how I think the electorate, sick of 8 years of DPP bullshit, will see it. They'll see it as a "change", and will be willing to give the Chinese princelings another go-'round.

This doesn't mean that Taiwan will suddenly swing pro-China. I don't see that happening again. The conditions for Taiwanese identity to remain strong and even grow are still there. I just see a lot of light blue and green people who aren't as politically attached to "Taiwanese identity" decide that they can preserve their support for it while still voting blue. You know, just like they did when they voted for Ma. You know, deciding that their love for Taiwan can exist under a KMT leader, or that civil society will keep that leader in check. They may forget what happened the last time they thought that.

And in 2024, blammo. We'll be back to the same old bullshit from the KMT.

We thought it couldn't happen in the US, that the Republicans were dead, and yet look what happened. It can happen here too, even if the KMT's core ideology is dead (one major difference: the Republicans' core ideology only seemed dead).

Yay.

The DPP can do better and needs to do better, but I think it's clear that they won't. What's worse, for now they're impossible to punish. Nobody has our backs, and there's no way right now to force them to. This is what happens in two-party systems: no matter their origins, both sides slowly morph into a giant douche fighting a turd sandwich for your votes. 

The NPP also needs to do better - this could be their moment, and they have captured it to some extent - Hsu Yong-ming is my new hero - but they need to really grab this dragon and ride it. Get those labor votes and get them now. Do it while the KMT is still in shambles. Don't let those apolitical votes turn light blue again. They need to hold it together and get those votes right now so that some of their younger leaders can gain experience to assume the mantle before the party's momentum withers and their base goes with it.

But - Hsu's filibustering aside - if that were happening we'd see bigger turnouts for these protests, and we're not. We're not seeing enough public calls to action from the NPP - we're seeing Freddy Lim talking about how "useless" the old Tibetan and Mongolian Affairs Committee was (which may be true, but I don't know that he's asked Tibetan refugees, perhaps, what they think of it?). We've got Huang Kuo-chang worried that he's going to be unseated in a few days. We've got former Sunflowers trying to encourage people to turn out, but no big names in youth activism really leading the charge (to be fair, some can't right now). We've got the DPP shouting "your Sunflower movement has collapsed!" and the Third Force not responding in a way that's proving them wrong.

Hsu Yong-ming can't do it alone, but I just don't see the sort of rallying that we need. We need another 400,000 people to go downtown, sit their asses down at Jingfu Gate and tell the DPP what's fucking what, and it's not happening.

Seriously, it feels like 2013 up in here.

I know these things need to evolve naturally, and maybe it'll be a slow burn until the big blowout, but hey, I'm waiting. In any case, what's waiting for us at the other end of that blowout? In 2014 there was a clear path forward: kick out the KMT. Hell, we chanted it in the streets: 國民黨不倒,台灣不會好. What now? 民進黨不行,國民黨再贏?

The dragon seems to be passing the NPP and Third Force right by.

Come on, guys.

Update: Indian food in Taipei

I've updated my long-running list of Indian restaurants in Taipei, making a few improvements:

- Standardized format with links and addresses in green
- Consolidated updates
- New additions (including places I haven't tried yet and a few changes in ownership)
- Cleaning out of entries for places that are closed
- Updates of reviews - a few places have slid considerably in quality
- A few more photos

I've hit literally every restaurant I've heard of or can find, but I can't try them all and I can't keep up with every opening and closing, so I do count on reader comments to help me out with this.

I consider this my bit of free community service, making sure everyone can find their perfect Indian food match in Taipei since 2008. Yes, I started this in 2008. I have been making sure Taipei's Indian food scene has a consolidated online presence for 9 years. This is because I'm great. You're welcome. :)

I'm working on this in part because I want a break from reading for my paper due in January, and in part because I'm genuinely heartbroken over the labor law kerfuffle going on in the legislature now. Did the Taiwanese left and Taiwanese labor (that is, most of us) ever have a major party that had their backs? Can the NPP pick up the slack and become a bigger force? I don't know, but it's killing me to watch both major parties screw us over so royally. Truly, the old Turd Sandwich Party used to have a real rival. Now, they're just running against a Giant Douche Party.

I just can't take it. It breaks my heart. Let's talk about curry instead. Consider this my fiddle music as Rome burns.

Friday, December 1, 2017

One tiny opinion...and time for a break

So first, I'm going to be cutting back on my posting between now and March/April. Grad school deadlines are getting closer and while I'm chugging along nicely with my written assignments, I need more time to focus on them and that time has to come from somewhere. I am (almost certainly) about to start doing teacher training as well which means more time planning lessons as I get used to my new role. I just won't have the time to write like I did this summer and autumn.

Frankly, I also have some personal junk to work through and I need to make time for that. Nothing serious, don't worry. Nothing even hugely life-changing.

This doesn't mean Lao Ren Cha will be totally dead between now and then - I have a few posts on the back burner that will be going up, and if something really catches my eye I'll take the time to write about it. The volume, however, will be considerably less.

I'll also still occasionally put work out through Ketagalan Media - watch for an interview with a well-known Taiwanese artist coming up soon - and I have another (paid!) writing opportunity coming along, so I'll be around.

And now, for an opinion.

As the whole world knows, in the US chaos continues to reign. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is on his way out, some fucker is on his way in (yeah yeah the CIA director...but also whatever, everything is a shambles and we're all gonna die), and Tom Cotton seems destined for the CIA role.

So...Tom Cotton.

You know when I've said in the past that I have an issue with the sorts of conservative Republicans who tend to support Taiwan, because they're so horrible in every other way? Well, Cotton is one of them. He's a horrible person with horrible opinions who happens to have one correct viewpoint - Taiwan. Frankly, just by association with the hellscape that is his political worldview, this makes Taiwan look bad. I'm happy for support in the halls of US government, but it sure doesn't look good for us that he is the sort of person supporting us (and Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, and all sorts of other terrible people).

Of course, I've come around on that a little, seeing this bipartisan letter in support of the TRA, but it still remains that we have a menagerie of horrible far-right ideologues supporting us too.

And now that Cotton is in the national spotlight, all the people whose support we want are talking about how horrible Tom Cotton is, how awful every single one of his policy stances are, and how he has "taken outspoken stances far to the right on every issue domestic and foreign".

I've long feared that the left, hating everything about the right, might continue to not support Taiwan simply because horrible people do support it. In government I'm not that scared - clearly there is bipartisan support. But in terms of winning more Americans over to Taiwan's side (that is, getting them to know Taiwan exists and that China treats us like garbage is one of the many reasons why China ain't great), I could well see American liberals who think of themselves as 'well-informed' turning against Taiwan because someone like Cotton supports us. (The right does this to the left too, but it's the left I'm concerned about persuading). Just because they are usually right and generally do not hold abhorrent social views, do not kid yourself that lefties are smarter - there are plenty of idiots who will hate something just because someone like Tom Cotton likes it.

I've already been seeing it happen. In the past day, more than one person in my Facebook feed has expressed hatred for Cotton and everything he stands for. So far they've been open to hearing that he's actually right about Taiwan, but I doubt every "we hate everything about Tom Cotton" liberal is going to be so easily persuaded, and most won't be approached at all.

So yeah...mixed feelings about this. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it doesn't matter. But it hasn't stopped me from worrying. I want support for Taiwan, bipartisan even, but support from people like him just taint us by association with the people we want to convince. To use a tired cliche, it's a double-edged sword.

Anyway, I need a bit more wine and then to sleep, because I don't have any free time ever.

See you when I have more to say and time to say it.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Whose land is this? A drive through Tainan County

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On the outskirts of Jingliao (菁寮) near the Chiayi border


This post has been a long time coming - I took this trip in the early summer of 2017, the last of several successive visits to Tainan between March 2016 and April 2017.

In fact I remember exactly which day we left, because it was the day that the Sunflowers put on trial were acquitted, a happy outcome that I learned about on the HSR south.

Why Tainan? Well, I just happen to really like the place. If they had better public transport - and I had a good job offer - I'd live there. Some of these trips - I think I went four times in total - were for fun. Twice, I got sent there for work for two completely unrelated reasons (my love of Tainan is so well-known that even my various employers are aware of it, so I have something like first dibs on any work in that city). Once, I took my visiting cousin down so he could see more of the country.

This time, a friend of ours had wanted to explore not Tainan City but Tainan County (which is now like greater Tainan City, they've incorporated the whole thing, but that's stupid and I still differentiate). Unfortunately, the lack of good public transport means if you want to do that, you pretty much have to drive. Other options if driving is not possible include hiring taxis to get you from one town to the other - possible if you pre-arrange it - or doing day trips from Tainan City. Neither of these are as fun as driving yourself.

I know what you're thinking - if there's one thing we know about Jenna, it's that she hates driving and is quite happy to tell you so, repeatedly! And you're kind of right. I do hate driving...in cities. In the open country it can actually be quite nice. I actually do have a license and international driver's permit, because once I'm out of the city I'm not at all opposed to renting a car.

That said, although this trip was meant to be just about Tainan's rural stretches, I can never resist a day in the city - I managed to convince our friend to leave a day early and just chill downtown because who doesn't love that?

We ate a hell of a lot of food, including braised meat rice (picture below), eel noodles, milkfish congee with fried pastry stick, glutinous meat balls with wasabi, 碗粿 (a glutinous bowl of tasty stuff topped with gravy and egg - I'll find the address later but it's super famous), my favorite melon with ice cream, and beef soup (there are many good places to have this - try this one).


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Otherwise, we just chilled in the city - lots of temples, cafes, atmospheric streets and old buildings to hang out in. What else does one do in Tainan with a free day?

And you know what else I love about Tainan City - other than everything except the crap public transport? That you are definitely in a city, but it's hard to tell sometimes with all the atmospheric backstreets.

So, before we hit the road, enjoy some pictures:

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The Five Concubines Temple - with feminine offerings for the five hanged ladies

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At Narrow Door Cafe (窄門咖啡)

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it's the Jesus-mobile!


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This says "the KMT needs to change...we need you to join and give us power!" (or something like that).
Ha. I mean that the KMT campaigns in Tainan at all is a joke, but...


The next day, we headed back to the HSR to pick up a rental car. We weren't quite done with Tainan City yet, though - I'd wanted to go to the National Museum of Taiwan History for some time. It's near Tainan City, but not that easy to get to by public transit, so we decided to pick up the car first and drive.

Just outside is a huge map of Taiwan, in a satellite style, but imagined as it would have looked in prehistoric times (this has a filter on it which is why it looks odd):

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I noted with mixed emotion the very first placard you see when you walk in:

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Would someone please send a copy of this to the government? 


...because this is a lovely sentiment, but so far removed from the reality of Taiwan's immigration laws that it makes me want to cry.

I mean, I would love to declare with a loud voice that "I am a Taiwanese", but that's so far from being mainstream accepted - and let's face it, I do come from a wildly different cultural background on the other side of the world, living in a country that has only recently started to consider its own diverse history. Taiwan is not a monoculture, but not everyone's figured that out yet. A friend once pointed out that if we feel that those who came from China in the 1940s would be well-advised to consider themselves "Taiwanese" rather than telling the Taiwanese that they are Chinese (which the Taiwanese are, for the record, not particularly interested in hearing), then we can't ourselves turn around and say that we as permanent residents of Taiwan are "not" Taiwanese.

And yet, I don't know whose land this is, but it doesn't really feel like mine yet. Not because I don't want it to, but because others don't necessarily want it to, or haven't even realized that it's a possibility yet.

The museum itself is great - it's structured more along the lines of learning about history through imagery than showing actual artifacts - all, or almost all, of the artifacts on display are high-quality reproductions. But, for that it was still interesting.

We stayed until the museum closed, and then drove to Xinhua, not far from Tainan City, arriving just before dark.

We stayed at 老街168民宿 - a hotel just across the street from the park at the end of the old street (you'll know it because it's the one with the Japanese-era martial arts hall to one side). There's not much to do in Xinhua after dark, but we entertained ourselves - Xinhua is famous for its goat meat, so we went to a restaurant recommended by our hotel. There are a few such restaurants near the Zhongxing Rd. and Fuxing Rd. intersection not far away (I can't remember which one we ate at exactly).

Then we wandered a bit, not finding a night market or anything like that but coming across a fairly normal old temple, that is, except for these terrifying decorations:


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If you take the old street (Heping Street) to Zhongzheng Road and turn left, you'll pass it eventually.

Xinhua has a very pretty old street that is - as yet - undeveloped. Other than a single coffee shop, there isn't much to do other than look at the lovely Japanese-era buildings, although some of the lanes are very atmospheric.

There's also an old-school market:

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Some pretty Xinhua old street houses (filtered because the flat white sky wasn't very appealing):


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Lanes and backstreets - worth walking down: 

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I'm telling you that market was great - meat + underpants!

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We wandered until we got bored, drank some coffee then walked a little bit more in town, finding this abandoned house: 

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You can just about peek in the window: 

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We're not Synapticism, so we didn't break in, but it was pretty cool.

That seemed to exhaust what Xinhua had to offer, so we hopped in the car and took off for Moon World.
 
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It sounds like a terrible theme park, but it's not - it's a large area of badlands on the Tainan/Kaohsiung border - eroded mudstone that looks like a lunar landscape. 


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There is still some plant life, and a few people do live around here. The smoke you see in the photo above, though, is from some sort of draft pulling dust off of "Little Jade Mountain". And just in case you didn't believe me, see, here's proof. I can and do drive.

Just not in cities.

The roads around here are actually quite lovely to drive in, and I'm pretty good at hills and mountains - the best of the three of us, frankly. I don't mind this kind of jaunt in a car at all. The weather was so nice we kept the windows down and let the warm breeze flow in. No AC for us!


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Since I was the driver, not the navigator, I don't actually remember the route we took but I believe we drove the南168 to the 南171, eventually turning off down a series of country roads - anything to avoid the highway, besides the scenery is better - to finally hit the 20. We stopped at some lovely lookouts - more than one, in fact:



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And otherwise took to the backcountry, the types of places that make you want to sing 黃昏故鄉 at the top of your lungs, if you speak Taiwanese, which I don't.

But I won't lie, I saw this landscape in the late afternoon and keyed it up - different arrangement though - on the driving playlist. Twice. Hey, don't judge. It's not my hometown, but I can still find it beautiful in the yellowing light. It's not my land, but I love it anyway.

We slowed down to enjoy the scenery with this playing and some local dude peeked in the car, saw three whiteys and got the shock of his life, and that was just great.


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From there it was a gentle twilight drive over the Tainan-Kaohsiung border to our accommodation for the night in Jiaxian (甲仙), just across the way in Kaohsiung.

Jiaxian isn't anything special, but we had a good dinner (I can't find the restaurant on Google Maps) with preserved tofu fried chicken with sour plums (豆腐乳酸梅炸雞) and some other dishes, and as the area is famous for taro, some taro balls for dessert. Then some taro ice cream. The bridge into town is painted the color of taro, as well.

We stayed at Gooddays near the bridge - yes, they have a Jiaxian store - and I picked up a few gifts in their gift shop downstairs.

But there's not a lot else to do in Jiaxian, so this is the only photo I took worth sharing:

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taro + cat

The next day after breakfast we hit the road again, this time back across the bridge and up into the hills past Nanhua Reservoir. We took the 南179 with gorgeous views across, noting how low the water seemed at the time (that was in early April - I sure hope things have gotten better. I'm going to assume they have as the only time of year when our destination on the far side is accessible is right when we went).


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Our goal was Dadigu (大地谷), a small gorge on the far side, where the resevoir narrows considerably. What you do is this: there's a small parking lot about 500 meters up from the trail down to the reservoir, which is dry enough only at that time of year - I guess March/April but check ahead - to cross on foot. Then you can either head down from the parking lot or walk down the 500 meters or so to the main trailhead, which seemed easier. The parking lot is small and it fills up - be warned. We had to wedge ourselves in near the entrance and it was a bit precarious.

When you hit the bottom of the trail, what you see is this:


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A dry reservoir bed, where hikers have already put wooden planks over muddy rivulets so you can get across to the gorge. Just follow the people - there are always people going there, the place is thoroughly discovered.

On the other side after an easy, flat but sun-baked hike (only go on dry days - trust me) you reach a small cave-like opening in the hill on the other side. Climb over the rocks and enter and what you get to is this:


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Joseph matches the rocks

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This place is so discovered, we weren't even the only foreigners there.

There's a ledge you can climb up to, and a watering hole at the far end with a small waterfall that is safe for a dip, but not deep enough to swim in. I love a good dip in the water, and we'd just trudged across a baking reservoir bed in the heat, sun and dust, so I took off my hiking boots and walked right in, happy I was wearing my quick dry hiking slacks. The guys did not join me.

We then hiked back up to the car and hit the road, reaching the plains in time for a (late) lunch.

If there are two things I love, they are mangoes and Taiwanese political history. So, it's no surprise that I asked to include a stop in Yujing - an otherwise unremarkable little town on the Tainan plains - on our itinerary. It seemed like a good place to go for lunch. We had a thoroughly unremarkable lunch in the sleepy town at midday - it wasn't bad...it was just...fine. I guess. In fact, it was so "um, fine" that it led us to create a little jingle: Everybody loves food that's fine! 

I then remembered that there was no reason at all to stop for mangoes as they weren't in season. Whatever, my plan was perfect, y'all are just haters. I bought some dried mangoes elsewhere. They were good, I'll have you know.

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A political cartoon in the Tapani Incident Memorial

We then headed to the Tapani Incident Memorial (噍吧哖事件紀念園區), which is on the outskirts of Yujing town. I had estimated that it wouldn't take us long and I was right: it's a small area, and all of the exhibits are exclusively in Chinese (when that happens I don't try to read everything, I just skim whatever looks interesting). I can't blame them - I would not expect too many foreigners to drop by. But I'm a nerd so we did.

I won't bother to tell the story of the (failed) Tapani Incident here - there's a tiny little summary on Wikipedia, and it's memorialized in the Kou Chou Ching song Civil Revolt Part 2 - well, if you speak Taiwanese or Chinese that is. The song starts with the Taiwanese lyric "這是誰的土地" (Whose land is this?)

And, you know what? It's not mine, not really. But I love it anyway.

Anyway, I don't have a folksy attachment to this particular historical incident or anything, I just thought it would be interesting to swing by. The temple across the street, which played some role in the incident, is also quite atmospheric.


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I love a good temple, and this was a very good one.

Anyway, we also found a gelato shop - not so different from something you might find in a smart shopping area downtown in any of Taiwan's larger cities - selling all manner of gelato, many of them based on quintessentially Taiwanese flavors. Along with mango, chocolate, lemon, rose and other flavors, options included milk candy (the Taiwanese kind), milk tea and Pipa Gao cough syrup (no, I am not making that up):


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And you know what? It was really good gelato. Perfect for a sunny tropical day.

We also found some creepy abandoned children's rides and a few cats:


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...and that was that for Yujing.

We took the 3 out of town, headed for Guanziling (關子嶺), with plans to stop at the Chiang Family Compound (鹿陶洋江家聚落 - a little family village for the Chiang family, full of historic old-style houses). Although the sun was exactly wrong for taking good photos, here are a few:

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This was our last stop on the plains for the day. We then hit the mountains, stopping along the way for coffee and a nice view as the sun went down:


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We hit Guanziling after dark. The town is famous for three things: muddy hot springs, chicken you tear apart with your hands, and the "fire on water" (a combination of flammable gas and hot spring mineral water which pours out of the hillside, so it looks like the fire is emanating from the water).

I took a muddy hot spring bath at our hotel, which I don't have a picture of. The chicken was good:

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...though that is a horrible picture of me.

And we did stop by the fire-on-water thing, and found it thoroughly unremarkable. A total tourist trap.

Drank a lot of beer though.

The next morning we packed up the car for the final time, stopped for coffee with another lovely view:


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And then stopped at a temple in the hills (火山碧雲寺) before hitting the plains again. The temple is worth it for the views alone, but also has some nice stuff inside:


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We drove down to one of those "flower streets" - this one outside the town of Baihe (白河) that are so famous in Tainan, which was supposed to be at the end of its blooming season but still covered with flowers, and we were sorely disappointed:

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The only way to make the picture even a little interesting is to filter it to hell and back. Meh. I like it when the photos are good without having to do that.

We then headed to the tiny town of Jingliao (菁寮), and I'm not telling you how we got there because I honestly have no idea. We took a lot of weird back roads, which were great for scenery but not exactly great for remembering how exactly we criss-crossed the county.


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You see weird things on weird back roads. 


Jingliao is well-known for having some of the best-preserved historic architecture in Taiwan, and yet although it's meant to be something of a tourist draw, there was hardly anyone there. That's fine by me. Though it did make it hard to find a decent lunch - I think we just ate some completely flavorless steamed buns (Everybody loves food that's fine!) and walked around. It is a truly pretty little town.

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But, pretty as it is, there's not a lot to do. So, we found the cow we'd parked near (not joking), navigated back to the car and headed for our final stop of the trip: Yanshui.

Yanshui is famous for holding the Beehive Fireworks Festival every year, which I took my cousin to in 2016. It was fun, but once is enough. We also arrived after dark that time, and didn't get to walk around what was a really cool little town, worth visiting when they aren't shooting firecrackers at people.

Unsatisfied with our hilariously sad Jingliao "lunch", our first stop was a Vietnamese restaurant that happened to be open all afternoon (a lot of restaurants close and we were trying to avoid a convenience store meal). It was quite good, in fact. Then, we wandered in the backstreets a bit, passing some lovely Japanese-era architecture. The most famous historic site in town is an old wooden tower - which I didn't see and learned nothing about, because it was closed for renovation at the time. Oh well. I'll blog it if we ever return.

But we did visit the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, which is famous for its murals depicting Biblical figures as Chinese deities, and then walked down Qiaonan Old Street (橋南老街), which was lovely and had almost no people, though we did find a cafe to take a rest in. Yanshui isn't that small, and doesn't have public transit, but it was just urban enough that none of us wanted to drive, so we walked. And walked. And walked. A place to sit for a bit was a welcome respite.



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Yes, this is the Last Supper except everyone is Chinese. 


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Chinese Jesus, Mary and Joseph


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At that point, the sun was setting again and it was time to head back to Taipei. From Yanshui, one is actually much closer to Chiayi HSR Station than Tainan. Sick of driving, I handed the keys to Brendan and we headed north. We'd crossed all of Tainan County, from Kaohsiung in the south to Chiayi in the north, and still not felt in four days like we'd done everything there is to do there. I'll certainly be back - after all, I always return to Tainan. I do imagine I will live there someday.

From modern cafes to old temples and traditional food in downtown Tainan to a war memorial for an incident that took place under Japanese rule in 1915 - and then high-end gelato - in Yujing, to old Chinese-style farmhouses in Jingliao and Japanese colonial architecture in Yanshui, I started to think it was silly to ask "who's land is this?" - it's very obviously the land of the people who live here.

I live here too, and while I won't yet be so arrogant as to claim it's also my land, I do love it nonetheless.