More crazy signs…

Here we go again! They make it soooo easy.

At the Museum of Modern Art:

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I think the writers meant well, but this poor map isn’t going anywhere.

At the Renai and Dunhua circle advertising a recent event:

I guess the quickest way to get the party started is to leave the verbs at home!

I guess the quickest way to get the party started is to leave the verbs at home!

On the MRT; I know they meant well but…

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One never knows when a band of ill-fitting pants might attack!

For those who love to drink and drive legally:

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Mmmm, love me some beer-flavored chocolate bars. Maybe someone got confused about which type of bars these were associated with?

See what I mean?

World’s most expensive coffee

You might look at cat poo in a different light after tasting what is undeniably the most expensive cuppa joe in the world! You have probably heard of it and this weekend, I and some friends, got to try it at Taipei’s Tea, Coffee, and Wine Expo. While most coffee dealers were doling out their wares for free, the folks who create Kopi Luwak typically charge 680NT (nearly 20USD) for a thimble-sized taste. Luckily, for this event, it only cost us 100NT, or about half the cost of the tallest Starbucks offering.

This unusual java originates on the island of Java and Sumatra (Indonesia), home to a civit-like animal: the luwak, whose favorite meal is ripe red coffee “cherries”. Down the hatch they go, and of course you know where they end up. After being collected and sanitized, they are roasted and ground, to be enjoyed by coffee connoisseurs.

A caffeinated afternoon!

A caffeinated afternoon!

Was it worth the price? Yes – if only to say we’d tried it. Would I pay 100USD for 200grams of the stuff? Uh…no.

 

Murder at the Jianguo Jade Market

I headed down Xinyi on the 22 to the Jianguo markets (crafts, flowers, jade).  I was meeting my friend Najia and wanted to shop for gems – or at least see what was available. The jade market is so large (at least 3 city blocks long) that we decided to start on the east side and work our way up and back on each section, making our way to the other side. I could see vendor after vendor with jade, jade, and more jade. Finally one vendor pointed out one of his neighbors, saying that she sold gems. Then suddenly it seemed that many vendors were packing up their booths (and it was only 1pm). At the night markets this happens when the police show up to check vendor permits; those without permits cover up their booths and wheel them away to avoid a fine. We saw police officers and thought that was happening here too. The gem vendor tried to be polite while she was throwing items into boxes, asking us to come back next week and pointing to the middle section of the market, one aisle from hers.

We still didn’t get it. The police tape should have been our first clue. And then we saw it and I wish we hadn’t.

A large pool of blood spreading over the floor. A forensics officer taking photos. Thankfully there was no body but it was obvious that something dire had occurred. We moved away and asked several of the nearby vendors, what had happened. One made a slashing motion across his throat. Suicide? Apparently not. A vendor at one of the booths nearest the scene said “fight” and made the same slashing motion. There wasn’t a lot of emotion expressed. A person had just been killed, in broad daylight, in a crowded market and no one  screamed, no one was crying, no one seemed in shock. (Violent crime is definitely not the norm in Taipei but I could find nothing in the news about this incident.)

As we moved further away from the crime scene, it seemed that most of the vendors had heard about the killing but again, it was more of the British stiff upper lip reaction than outrage or horror. We did a little more window shopping but in truth, it was difficult to concentrate. I doubt I will ever look at the jade market in the same way again. RIP unknown victim.

 

Bird Street

Some feathered friends

If you’re in the market for a feathered friend, or simply want to take a colorful journey to a historic section of Taipei, consider visiting “Bird Street” in the Wanhua district, near the Longshan Temple. Just a few minutes’ walk from the Longshan Temple MRT station (turn left out of exit 3 and stay on Heping West Road). Within 10 minutes, you’ll hear the birdsong and see the many vendors. Smaller birds (parakeets, finches, sparrows) are typically displayed in traditional bamboo cages. The larger birds (parrots, lorikeets, conures, macaws, cockatiels, and cockatoos) are displayed on stands on the sidewalk, tethered so that they won’t take off (it’s also safer for passersby). If you’re taking children, please remind them not to reach out to touch the birds on stands; the “little” beaks and talons on hook bills are surprising sharp. Instead, ask the shop owner to hold a bird that’s safe to pet. It’s amazing watching and listening to them all.

If you want to purchase a winged companion, do your homework first so that you’ll know which type of bird to look for. Some are known for being noisy, others are relatively quiet. Some can be taught to talk and do tricks, others are more decorative. Remember, parrots have long (up to 35 years) lifespans and get very attached to their owners. Prices vary widely – from several hundred NT for a tiny finch to tens of thousands for a macaw – so take your time and comparison shop. The shop owners I spoke with were very knowledgeable about their offerings, can answer many of your questions, and were very willing to make recommendations based on what you’re looking for. Happy bird watching!

Halloween 2012

Last year I didn’t do much for Halloween. This year, I was determined to find something to create a costume out of. As I wandered the neighborhood night market I spied a wonderful headdress, collar, and cuff from Bali. I tried them on and then asked the price. Yikes, they were asking more than 10,000NT (325 USD). Tai gui (too expensive)! Thinking they were quoting me the “rich foreigner” price I had a local friend go in to inquire about the price. The same. Maybe a trip to Indonesia was in order. Found one, including airfare, for around 9000NT but the kicker: the headdress and accessories are still expensive to purchase. What to do? I waited until the evening of the 30th and then went to talk with the shop owner. After some spirited negotiations, I walked out with all of the items + a stand for the headdress + extra cuff + gold earrings for 8000NT.

Next, I studied Balinese dancer make up and movements, painted some “witchy” nails gold, selected some sandals, and ironed one of my sarees. The result?

Bali Dancer

 

Needless to say the costume caused quite a stir both to and from work, and in the office.  Success!

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As for me, I will take the road less travelled…