9/24/2010

2010 Taipei International Flora Exhibition


I took this dark picture last Tuesday just outside of the Yuanshan MRT station in Taipei on my iPhone. This construction zone will be a part of the grounds for the 2010 Taipei International Flora Exhibition. People are complaining about this because of the price tag: I’ve heard it's NT$10 billion. These individuals are dissatisfied because they don’t know what they’ll get back from it and there have been scandals. I’m guessing it’s the same lot as those who whined about last year’s Deaflympics: NT$9.5 billion. And many others.

I wonder how much has to be spent or wasted before one of these kinds of extravaganzas gets labeled a failure. Some pretty cool infrastructure was left behind for the Deaflympics, like a stadium and an almost Olympic-sized swimming pool (see my previous post – I’ve put a pic up there). The Flora Exhibition is going to leave behind the Eco Ark, a three-story building made out of recycled plastic bottles. That's about it.

There are also some aspects of the Flora Exhibition that confuse me. Look at the picture at the top of this post. We’re building a park, but right on top of a park. As the old park was perfectly fine, nothing’s getting improved here. Furthermore, the Eco Ark is placed over another park, one that was built just 15 years ago. Why do we have to put it on top of a park and how is that an improvement to Taipei? Why not on a gas station, an old ugly building, etc.? And do you notice the blue-fence corridor for pedestrians to walk through? That used to be a street. I asked the guards who were keeping people out of the park that we could once use freely if the city was going to reinstate the street after the Flora Exhibition. They told me they’d heard that this was likely. I’m betting that this happens. Streets and places for traffic do not trump parks.

I’m still going to say that I think if Taipei does tear up the west end of the park for cars after the Flora Exhibition, it’s a huge waste of time and money. Plus it’s kind of dishonest; we’ll be giving visitors an untrue picture of our city. My final points are for the mayor. You say we’ll make NT$16.8 billion in tourism off this NT$10 billion flower show? Where are you getting this amount? Are you simply counting any visitor that buys a ticket? If so, remember this: There are better reasons to visit Taiwan than to see some flowers, see Toroko Gorge, Hualien, the Pescadores, the National Palace Museum and Monga. See the night markets, shopping, Taipei 101. If you’re counting tickets bought by “foreigners,” you should remember that if they weren’t spending NT$3,000 on your flower show, they probably would’ve been dropping it eating in restaurants, getting out to see the country and putting that money somewhere else.  

Infastructure Left Over from the 2009 Taipei Deaflympics


Deaflympic 400 m Mens', originally uploaded by Patrick Cowsill.
Taipei built this stadium for the 2009 Deaflympics. The city and the country wrangled over who would pick up the tab, with, I think, the city losing. I took this shot from the roof of the building I work in. There is an almost Olympic-sized pool next to the stadium that was also built for the show.

BTW, this was the semis for one event, either the hurdles or 400 meter dash. I can't remember.

9/16/2010

Chinatrust Commercial Bank Continues to Screw with Out-groups

I've already written about the shenanigans I faced in getting a credit card from the Chinatrust Commercial Bank in Taiwan (中國信託商業銀行). I was told I couldn't apply because I was a "foreigner." As this happened just inside the doors of the Chung Ho (中和) Costco, the company Chinatrust was cooperating with on a particular credit card I wanted, I simply wrote to them in the US and asked them if they really wanted to have their brand associated with a bank that discriminates against out-groups. The full story is here: http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2009/11/foreigners-getting-credit-card-in.html. Obviously, Costco did not like the fact that the Chinatrust Commercial Bank was discriminating against out-groups in Taiwan and, a couple weeks later, I had a Chinatrust Commercial Bank / Costco credit card in hand.

Today, I experienced another hurdle with this silly bank. When I tried to purchase a Taiwan High Speed Rail ticket online, using my Chinatrust credit card, my transaction failed because I did not have a Chinese name on my credit card. Here's how it went down: After loading up the English Web site for the Taiwan High Speed, I input the required information: date, time, destination, name, ID and agreed to the terms. When I keyed in my credit card number and its expiration date however a Chinatrust verification box automatically sprung up, in Chinese. I found this a bit strange, especially since I was working on the English Web site for the Taiwan High Speed Rail, but I started to fill it out. The box called for my birthday, the expiration date of my card and my name, which I could not input. Why? Well, it told me to type in "all three characters of my name." This was impossible as the name on my credit card is in English. So, basically, this is it: the only Chinatrust cardholders allowed to purchase HSR tickets online are the ones with Chinese names on their cards.

I have already complained to Taiwan High Speed Rail about this. But the incident gets me thinking. After Costco forced Chinatrust to give me a credit card, the bank told me that it didn't discriminate against "foreigners." When I told them I could name lots of friends that had been turned down at their bank simply because they were "foreigners," the rep. handling my case informed me that I was imagining things. I'm still waiting for the statistics I requested on "foreign" credit card holders at Chinatrust Bank because I don't think I am. I don't understand this either: Chinatrust Commercial Bank says that it does not discriminate against "foreigners." If so, why doesn't their box, which automatically pops up on the Taiwan High Speed Rail's English Web site, allow for "foreigners" to input their "foreign" names? Why is it just in Chinese? Hint: it hasn't occurred to Chinatrust Commercial Bank in Taiwan (中國信託商業銀行) to have an English pop up because they do not have "foreign" customers. Cross out folks like me because we just don't count. We slipped through the cracks and are infinitesimal quirks in how they are rounding things out.  

I'm going to check back with the Taiwan High Speed in a week to get this sorted out. The reason I don't bother complaining to Chinatrust is because I do not trust them. If you want results with this bank, you have to appeal to their partners, like I did when I wrote to Costco in the US. I'll just close by saying I've observed a trend:

1. If I point out that it is hard for "foreigners" to get credit cards in Taiwan to a "foreigner," the explanation I'll normally get is "that's because Taiwan's banks are racist, xenophobic, etc."

2.If I point out that it is hard for "foreigners" to get credit cards in Taiwan to a "Taiwanese person," the explanation I'll normally get is that the banks are absolutely not racist or xenophobic, but rather because "'foreigners' are a flight risk." I find this kind of reasoning disingenuous. Every single person who applies for a credit card is a flight risk. If you don't believe that Taiwanese people go bankrupt, run away from their debts, etc., then read the news. Or, talk to a local. Debt collection in Taiwan is just as big a headache as it is anywhere.

I also believe the flight risk explanation to be disingenuous for another reason. I think it's offered up because a majority of Taiwanese people want to categorically deny that racism exists in Taiwan.

9/13/2010

Travel Grove's Cheap Airplane Tickets

This will be a paid post is for the travel site Travel Grove and it's Cheap AirfaresTheir Web site works as a meta-search engine to bring users offers on cheap offers. This is how they work: they save the best prices found by users and then display it for those searching for the same thing, so though. You will find offers like cheap flights to Chicago, Asia, cheap flights to Hong Kong and so forth If you want to read about these destinations, you can also do that. Travel Grove also provides travel guides in the top menu of their homepage.

You could see some more of these posts from time to time. I'm not against advertising something when it suits me. Once again, I don't have any issues with people seeing the world as inexpensively as they can. I have been providing content for Patrick Cowsill Wanhua Taiwan for three-plus years. If I can put away a few dollars every now and then, what's the problem with that? Do you have an issue with me supplementing my efforts like this? Let me know your thoughts below. I would never put an ad up that I found troublesome, and would kill this program if someone were to make a reasonable argument for doing so. Travel away, my friends.