Who Gives These Assholes Licenses?

We were riding on a biking trail down by the Danshui River when this rumbling old taxi turned and then pulled out right in front of us! It's illegal to drive on hiking and biking trails in Taiwan, so I grabbed my cell phone from my shorts' pocket with my free hand to take a picture.

My first comment was: "Is he lost?" Actually, this route is far from any street and quite tricky to get to by car, which suggests to me that he knows his way around, meaning he's done this lots of times. The driver had to drive on a series of trails to get to this one closer to the river.

My friend Ben said: "Nah, he's probably dropping someone off." In retrospect, I imagine he was headed down to the river's banks to do some Sunday morning fishing. I should've gotten a bit closer to get the license plate number.

Danshui, Taiwan 淡水

Patrick, Eric and Ben at Danshui, Taiwan. Behind us, it looks a little like Thailand.


Cycling the Historic Danshui 淡水

Ben, Eric and Eric (above picture)

My friend George has been bugging me to blog more. I just haven't been able to find the time. Yesterday, I got together with some old friends, Eric and Ben of "Ben Goes to Taiwan (Not Thailand)" at http://taiwanben.wordpress.com/ and another Eric I hadn't met before for a 3.5 hour ride along the Danshui River 淡水 to the Danshui Wharf.

I've blogged about some of the spots along the way (Treasure Hill, the 2-28 Execution Grounds, etc.). This time, I'll mention Guangdu Temple 關渡宮, which is reportedly the oldest Matsu Temple 媽祖廟 in Taiwan (above photos). Built in 1661, Guangdu is 77 years older than Lungshan Temple 龍山寺, Taipei's most well-known temple. Guangdu's construction also coincides with the arrival of Koxinga 鄭成功, though I'm not sure if Koxinga had any hand in its construction. (Koxinga is a favorite of local historians, who write of how his 25,000-50,000 Ming Loyalists "liberated" Taiwan after driving just 1,000 Dutch colonists to their boats. It took a year of combat for these brave many to wear down the Dutch.)

After stopping for a quick beer in Danshui, I took the MRT back to Taipei for a lunch appointment. (It's okay to take bikes on the MRT on Sundays before 4:00.) Eric, Eric and Ben stayed to eat by the water.


Eighty Five Thousand Dollar Calculator

I don't have much to say. Fatherhood has temporarily taken away my bark and my bite. In the meantime, my Taiwanese friend Jennifer has broken down and bought an NT$85,000 calculator. The reason it costs so much is that it is plastered full of Swarovski crystals. Plus, you can't get one in Taiwan - you need to go to Italy to pick one up.

For NT$85,000, I could spend a summer in Greece.


My Lousy Googling Skills

I've been noticing recently that I am not a very good googler. For example, the guy behind me in the office can locate any topic in five seconds flat. Me? I'll start out looking for how many homers Griffey hit in 1991 and end up at pics of apples and bananas in the Pike Street Market.

Anyway, I heard on ICRT (kind of - I was half asleep) that there were some problems with the bags of rice that Taiwan just donated to Haiti. When the Haitians opened them up, much of rice was moldy. Other bags had jelatin instead of rice, even though they were stamped "rice - inspected". Taiwan's gov., which is pretty pissed, traced the jelatin back to the supplier, who blamed it on "the many foreign laborers" he had "working in his plant". Can you imagine how saavy these "foreign laborers" must be, to be able to bribe local officials? I wonder what they did with the good rice?

I tried to google the story, but alas, was unsuccessful. I couldn't even find it in the Taipei Times. My search words were "Taiwan tainted bad rice Haiti". I did come up with this great link on lousy production standards in China:


It seems that one in five products produced in China are sub-standard (although officials in Beijing are saying this is American propoganda - it's a plot to discredit China to protect its own market, and because the US is ashamed about the trade deficit, you see).