Tuesday, February 28, 2006

From One Island to Another

Taking advantage of the National Holiday, Ariel and I ventured south, casting all our colleagues concerns aside, to travel to Green Island. When both of us told people that we were heading down to the small island, the vast majority of them shook their heads and said something to the effect of "Oh god... You're not thinking about going now?" Rather than take this as a warning or harbinger of things to come, we headed down to the port near Taidong to catch the ferry to the island. In brief, the island is roughly 17 km around and is primarily know for its notorious prisons (now closed). Currently, the island is a tourist destination that is known for its diving opportunities and saltwater hot springs (one of three in the world... you can ooh and aah now). Aside from that, there isn't too much else unless you consider a Sika deer farm something to write home about. Anyway, the island is a delightful place to go visit for its disgustingly picturesque scenery and Jurassic park-vibe. I am glad we went at the time that we did, as I will gladly take inclement weather over hundreds of weekend warriors on scooters any day. So sit back and enjoy the photos.

Ariel trying to capture goats in their natural habitat. Take notice of the numerous goat restaurants across the street.

You really don't get to see mating skinks everyday, especially right outside of your campsite. I felt obliged to post this.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


It only took a year or two, but we finally got to the Yuanmingyuan.
After briefly taking refuge in a hotel lobby, Eben shows off the more stripped down version of Harbin's winter line.

Despite the completely illogical nature of heading to the northern provinces in the middle of winter, we all felt compelled to make our pilgrimage to the Manchu homeland.

Although I am probably going to hell for visiting this Siberian Tiger "reserve" in Harbin, I have to admit it was quite a sight. When you buy you tickets to the park, you also have the option of purchasing some Beef, a live Chicken, a Goat or a Cow for the Tigers to make your trip more memorable... What the park really taught me is that they are conditioning these tigers to attack Toyota Land Cruisers, not a particularly comforting thought.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I'm Not Tom Ford but.....

[Please note that I am wantonly ignoring the past few weeks for the time being, including a Chinese New Year, a trip to the Mainland, other travel related excitement, etc. I'll get back to that eventually but I am still processing it. For now you'll have to deal with something that has been nagging at me for a while]

Due to its geographical placement and its history of occupation over the past few hundred years, Taiwan has, unfortunately, become the place where fashion comes to die. That may be a bit of an overstatement. Perhaps, worldwide trends in fashions tend to arrive on the island in convoluted waves and wallow in their death throes for a couple weeks or months. This is not to say that there is no fashion in Taiwan, far from it, many people have delightfully refined and organized tastes. What I am mainly referring to is the confusing hodge-podge of fashion that is found in many parts of the island. Before delving into some examples, I must confess that I am have not (and probably will not) ever classified myself as fashionable. If one were to describe my general wardrobe, the phrase "innocuous and forgettable male" would probably come to mind before dissolving into nothingness. Also, due to my current situation, I really have no idea what the current trends in fashion are in the US, so I hope I don't offend anyone out there who just got a new outfit for Christmas or Valentine's Day.

That being said, I can turn back to a few of the more egregious violations.

Due to the fact that many people do a large portion of their shopping at the night markets in which the quality and selection of goods is questionable at best, a number of problems arise as people incorporate new sales items into their wardrobes. Since people of all ages go to the same markets, it is not uncommon to see eighty year old men in the park wearing the same motorcycle jackets as certain youths in Ximending. It's more than a little unsettling to see a grandfather playing with his grandkids while wearing something that proclaims he is part of the "Top Gun Killer Squad" with patches to boot. Since I've already mentioned the problems with english on night market clothing, I'll move on to a few more scary fashion trends...

Though it horrified me in Ireland two years ago, I thought the D'artagnan boot [i.e. tall, typically suede boots in any variety of colors, usually pointed and occasionally offered with other accessories] trend would have come to a fortunate end by this time. Sadly, this fashion has risen from the grave and taken on a new life in Taiwan. While I will freely admit that there are a few examples of this style of shoe that could be tastefully incorporated into some wardrobes, they are few and far between. In an effort to keep this fashion trend alive in, many manufacturers have started adding more to the boots. Now it is not uncommon to see someone walking through the train station bedecked in boots that are entirely covered in fur. Yes, the D'artagnan boot has evolved [devolved?] into good old-fashioned Cro-Magnon footwear... I fear the next evolution.

Another trend I hope will go the way of Old Yeller is the so-called "Muppet Vest." About three months ago, this terrifying trend took Taiwan by force. In every city I have visited, I have run into someone wearing what looks to be the remnants of Elmo or the Cookie Monster. The scariest aspect of this particular trend is that it doesn't discriminate by age......

Now, instead of ending on a downer [there's nothing sadder than a dead Muppet], I will tell you about a trend that despite my skepticism has actually worked out. Roughly two month's ago I stepped onto the MRT and was confronted by the newest trend to hit Taiwan. Standing in front of me was a high school student who was tastefully dressed in...... knickers. Yes, knickers. Not capris, not clam diggers, not awkwardly-fitting shorts... No full-blown, I want to be an extra in "Newsies" wool knickers. Like everything else in life, I tempered myself with a healthy dose of skepticism and cynicism towards the tenability of this trend. Interestingly, as I saw more and more examples of this style of clothing I found myself being won over by the incredibly retro nature of the outfits. This may have been a product of mania or gradual acclimation to Taiwanese fashion, the jury's still out. Admittedly, some people are able to pull it off better than others and it takes a certain amount of confidence to go out wearing knickers but perhaps there is a future for this style..... but, I'm not holding my breath.