2/28/2010

Business is Hopping in Monga (艋舺)

I posted a couple of months ago about the controversy created by the film Monga, in particular, the local government's financial contribution to it and some politician's objections to how it portrays the crime-infested borough which is Wanhua (萬華) AKA Monga: http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2009/12/monga-film.html

The Taipei Times had an article on it a ways back: "Although Taiwanese movie Monga (艋舺), sponsored by Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, will not be in theaters until next year, content from trailers for the movie has already raised controversy...."

"Qingshan Borough (青山里) chief Lee Chao-cheng (李昭成) criticized the movie, saying organized crime was only a small part of Bangka’s history. 'It took us many years of hard work to get rid of the bad impression that people used to have of the area, but now [the movie] is restoring that image.''' 

Lee also said "All residents — young and old alike — are opposed to it" (Taipei Times, Dec. 1, '09).

Talk about grandstanding. This guy Lee hadn't even seen the movie as his comments came months before its release. As it is, Qingshui Temple (清水巖) and Bo Pi Liao (剝皮寮) Street, almost completely dead a month ago, are now wall-to-wall with visitors who want to see the area in which Monga (艋舺) was filmed. The exact part of Monga, as I reported in past posts, was revitalised just for the shoot. The streets look great. There are a couple of new museums. 

 
Bo Pi Liao (剝皮寮) Street


Anyway, I don't think all residents "young and old alike," are opposed to Monga. Surely, the people who own the shops and restaurants, plus the street vendors - people who were standing around with nothing to do a couple of months ago - are not cursing the local government's investment. Finally, myself, also a Monga (艋舺) resident, is not opposed to it. I say money well spent.

Note: Today is 2/28 Day, a holiday in Taiwan. Starting on this day, 53 years ago, KMT invaders from China went on a murdering spree here. Is it me, or is it being brushed over in recent years? My friend Grace's father was taken away by the police at this time, in his underwear. She never saw him again.

2/21/2010

Travel Grove and Cheap Airfares

I've been writing for three years for my blog and have a chance to receive some compensation now. I also wrote a post about this issue earlier, so this below is a sponsored review.

Anyway, this post is for a travel site. I don't have anything against traveling, not at all. I hope people will through traveling and having their eyes opened learn to see the world in a way that doesn't lead them to look at each other with suspicion or call others who might look dissimilar, who could have a different skin color, "foreigner," etc. Therefore, I don't have any issue with putting up this information for Travel Grove and Cheap AirfaresTheir Web site is a meta-search engine that helps users find cheap offers. If you are looking to travel check them out. You could save some money. They save the best prices found by users and then display it to you when you are searching for the same thing, so though, the page is not perfect, this service can be useful. You will find offers like cheap flights to Chicago, or how about something that is closer to us, in Asia, cheap flights to Hong Kong. If you want to read about these destinations, you can also do that. You can find many up to date travel guides in the top menu of their homepage so you can check Hong Kong sights.

The Travel Grove representative who contacted me seemed pretty cool. She said I could write whatever I wanted, but could I please include the links above. That's it. If you have further questions, you can reach her at lidia@travelgrove.net. Her name is, surprise-surprise, Lidia.

You might see some of these posts from time to time. I'm not against advertising when it suits the mandate of my blog. Once again, I don't have any issues with people seeing the world as cheaply as they can. And I have been providing content for Patrick Cowsill Wanhua Taiwan for three years. If I can put a few bucks in my pocket every now and then, what's the problem with that? Do you have an issue with me supplementing my efforts with the odd advertisement? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments component then. I would never put an ad up that I found problematic, and would kill this program if someone were to make a reasonable argument for killing it. 

On traveling, as the poet once said: "Come, my friends, / 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world. / Push off, and sitting well in order smite / The sounding  furrows; for my purpose holds / To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths / Of all the western stars, until I die."

2/20/2010

Madou (麻豆), Taiwan: Coming Home

Madou's (麻豆的) most famous restaurant: Allen's Wagui 阿蘭碗粿

We stopped off at Madou (麻豆), a suburb of Tainan, for a bowl or two of wagui, during our Lunar New Year visit to the south. The dish wagui is like hard creamy wheat, with garlic soy sauce. The restaurant pictured above is the region's most hopping place, thanks in large part to former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). It was his family's destination of choice. The line-ups when we visited were long and the table-space limited. During lunch, I mentioned to my wife and her family Madou used to be called Mattau during the Dutch colonial era. It was one of 13 Aboriginal villages they kept an eye on, that were directly within their realm. My wife asked me what the word meant, but I didn't know. Obviously Madou (麻豆) is a Chinese re-working, like Koahsiung of Takao, etc.

I checked W.M. Campbell's Formosa Under the Dutch for clarification on the name, but couldn't find an answer. There are some interesting references. Campbell's book is a collection of letters, translated from Dutch into English in 1903, covering letters home from the 11 governors http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2006/09/taiwans-first-governor.html that served in Taiwan from 1624 to 1661. Here are some snippets on Madou (麻豆), previously called Mattau: "Allowance Made to Native Teacher.... While writing this, everything is progressing favourably, the Lord daily adding to His church those who will be saved. The schools are prospering. In these six villages [Soulang, Mattau, Sinkan, Bakloan, Tavakan and Tevorang] there are about six hundred school-children, some of whom can write tolerably well in Latin characters, as you will be able to see from their own writing, which our Rev. brother will take over with him. But, alas! while the harvest is great, the laborers are few" (October 7, 1643). 

Another item that catches my eye is "Destruction of the Idols" on page 165: "This took place first at Soulang on the 19th instant, and then at Mattau on the 20th, on which occasions the elders addressed those present in the name of all inhabitants in the following words: 'The Governor has now personally appeared among us as an everlasting memorial to our children and our children's children, that on this day we have cast away our idols as a sure and certain sign that, in the presence of His Excellency, we have sworn to forsake our gods and declared ourselves willing to be instructed by these venerable clergyman in the true doctrine of Jesus Christ...'" (December 12, 1637). The Dutch eventually disappeared from Taiwan's history. They were replaced by Koxinga (鄭成功) and then the Ching Dynasty followed by Japanese and KMT colonial times leading up to today's democratic period. Christianity, generally speaking, gave way to the Chinese concepts mixed with Aboriginal symbols that we have now. Interestingly, something like 80 percent of the "pure" Aborigines as they're seen by the census still view themselves as Christians. 

Madou (麻豆), which occupied such a central place in Dutch thinking (I count 42 references to Mattau in Campbell's collection of letters), has slipped into a sidebar of Taiwanese history. Mattau's undying cooperation with the Dutch gives them a particular place in Taiwan's history. Campbell's records leading up to the Dutch fall to Koxinga (鄭成功) in 1661-2 capture the following: "the Mattau people who left on April 27 [1661] for the mountains to punish the rebellious Dunckeduckians, returned with three heads which they had struck off. According to the former heathenish custom when celebrating a triumph, they began to dance round these heads and to perform other ridiculous antics."

This account is not an over-and-out for the history of Madou. There's more to this sleepy town resting beside the freeway some 10 kilometers north of Tainan than its hardened rice gruel that has intrigued Taiwan's former first family in recent years.