Capybara Taiwan

My family rented a car and we drove out to Greater Yilan two Mondays ago. We stayed at the Lakeshore Hotel Suao, a five-star hotel with adjoining hotspring and coldspring tubs in the room. 

I recommend getting a car for Yilan as public transportation in northeastern Taiwan is sparse. The drive is fine, excluding the last tunnel coming in (13.9 kilometers tong). By the end of the tunnel, I was tense. Driving through long tunnels hypnotizes me in the same way driving on a snowy night does. We stopped at at the Yilan Zhangmei Grandma's Farm before we left Yilan because my daughter wanted to check out capybaras. Capybaras are the world's largest rodent and come from South America. Bill Peet modeled the wumps of his classic 1970 children's book Wump World after the capybara. 


Mandarin Airlines: The Flight Attendant Tricked Me


Western Fisher Island, Penghu / Pescadores (澎湖): The Western Fort on Fisher Island dates back to 1681. Built two years before the fall of the Koxinga Dynasty in Taiwan, the battery was meant to defend the country against Shilang, the admiral sent by the Emperor Kangxi to clear the island out of bandits. Kangxi originally meant to defeat Koxinga's . . .

This is as far as I got. I was flying back to Taipei from the Pescadores on Mandarin Airlines. The flight attendant told me to turn off my computer. When I indicated I was in flight mode, she came within an inch of clapping my computer closed. She said: "Using a computer on a domestic flight is against the law in Taiwan." When I asked her why, she showed me the safety card in the pouch of the seat in front of me. I called Information for Foreigners when we landed. They said they did not know about that law and gave me the number for the civil aviation authorites. There is no such law in Taiwan. 

...anyway, I am back a week later to writing this post: Koxinga's grandson, Zheng Keshuang. The Emperor Kangxi wanted to evacuate Taiwan after the Qing Dynasty military defeated Zheng's forces, to remove all the people in Taiwan who seemed Chinese. He said Taiwan was a piece of muddy shit floating in the ocean beyond China. Shilang explained it was necessary to maintain a presence in Taiwan to clamp down on pirates. There was an idea to entice the Dutch East India Co. back, but the Dutch had lost interest in Taiwan. Zheng was taken into tribute captivity and imprisoned in China a couple of years later (1683).

I think the Pescadores were also evacuated in 1425, after the lightning strike and subsequent burning of the temple in Nanjing (I forget the name), which resulted in all people being forced to move inland, away from the ocean. The Chinese Navy was also put in storage at that time. 


A British Consul's Report: Formosa 1895, Respect the Queue

This report came out of Tainan instead of Tamsui from the British Consul, R.W. Hurst, late 1895. Hurst is commenting on the state of Taiwan eight months after China ceded Taiwan to Japan. He calls the ceding an invasion. Taiwan’s junior high school social study textbooks label the ceding of Taiwan by China to Japan in the same terms but, for a reason likely related to indoctrination, do not label the arrival of Chiang Kai-shek and his forces after WWII an invasion. Why the British Consul located to Tainan before 1895 has not been told to me. My guess is Britain cleared out of Tamsui when the French and Chinese became hostile there in the 1880s. Taiwan’s junior high school social study textbooks stress aboriginal groups favored Chinese settlers over other invaders, Japan here and the Dutch East India Company (labeled as Holland in those social study textbooks) before, but the Consul does not share the opinion (see his opening comment) and neither do I. Hurst later writes, “The inhabitants of Formosa, a specially timorous race, have under these circumstances have been slow gaining confidence….” Hurst seems antsy too. The first pages of the report on Taiwan follow:

H.M. Consulate, Tainan, 31 December, 1895

Separate Sir,

I have the honour to forward an Intelligence Report for Tainan for the Quarter ended this day. I have the to be, Sir, your obedient Servant, R.W. Hurst, Consul

Sir E.M. Safow, KCMG, Her Majesty’s Minister, Tokio

Enclosed in Consul Hursts’, Tainan, Sep of 31, Our 1895

Tainan Intelligence Report for the Quarter ended 31 December 1895


The subjugation of the country by the Japanese except as regards the aborigines who are said to be favourably affected towards them may now be regarded as complete.

For the first 2 or 3 weeks after the occupation a veritable reign of terror prevailed among the panic stricken Chinese. In Tainanfu for many days all the shops closed their doors and it would have appeared like a city of the dead, were it not for the conquering army of Japanese, which was much in evidence parading the principal thorough-fares and occupying many houses which the timorous owners in their panic had deserted. Owing to the truculence of the coolies, the camp followers of the invading army, . . .

[MY NOTE: Taiwan was ceded to Japan by China in April of 1895. The Japanese were not invading.]

. . . a congress of the worst class in Japan, which frequently behaved with much brutality towards them, a large number of Chinese abandoned their dwellings, and fled into the interior, whilst others, including a large proportion of the well-to-do classes have sought a refuge on the mainland of China from the unpalatable rule of the alien.

[MY NOTE: These that fled later came to be known as Half-Mountain People. Many returned to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek in the 1940s, their fortunes reversed. They were broke. There is talk of their involvement in the drafting of kill sheets used for the 2-28 massacre of Taiwan’s ruling class.]

The dwellings of all unless they were able to produce title deeds were at the mercy of the conquerers, and much misery must have resulted from destitution and exposure. The inhabitants of  Formosa, a specially timorous race, have under these circumstances been slow in gaining confidence, which can hardly be considered fully restored.

Soldiers with fixed bayonets are still posted at Tainanfu.

[MY NOTE: I cannot read the next word. The cursive is pretty, but it looks like “coho.”]

. . . [The soldiers with bayonets] pounce down upon any unfortunate Chinese who may pass with his queue coiled round his head, a procedure resented as wanting in proper respect.

Hurst’s Consular Report continues for a few more pages. 


I Want to Practice English






This review left for my restaurant is bullshit and libel, and racist crap. I do not normally respond to reviews, but I did for a change. I wrote: "This is racially motivated hate speech." I tagged the review above as offensive. Google actually removed it. I want to hold on to it for reasons of my own.

The writer starts his ramble by suggesting I asked him about his English ability -- if he could speak English. That is a lie. I never do that. In fact, I often tell Taiwanese people who insist on speaking English to me that I am French or something else, just to get out of answering the usual stuff or for efficiency. Then my interlocutor claims I shouted at him. Again, a lie. I was joking loudly with my friends at the end of the counter, on the other side of him. I spoke to him, and his group, once. I had one verbal engagement with them all night. He said he wanted to practice English with me. I said to him: "I already speak English fluently, so I do not need the practice. My wife Shufang and her friend Sally, she's sitting next to you, love to speak English." He rounds out his review by asking: "Are all honkies (foreigners) such dicks / assholes?"

I was busy cooking because that is what I do when customers come into my place. I cook. These four men sat down across from me and started to yammer: "Look. It's a foreigner. Hey boss! We want to practice English. Do you like stinky tofu? Etc." Why not rock out the practicing with the Taiwanese people in my place? Lots of Taiwanese people enjoy practicing English. A native speaker has no need to practice English. Or, if you really want to learn English, just sign up for a class in a school or take one online. Hire a private teacher. Travel. Get someone with qualifications, not a cook in a hole in the wall, to help.

These four men were after me from the get go. I was busy. It was Friday night. Why did they write that review (above)? I was not anything to them. I had never even met them. Would they conduct themselves like this at any other restaurant in the neighborhood? Would they harrass the owner of the chicken fry shop down the way to practice a school subject with them? There is a place a few doors down from The Hammer, a restaurant that makes traditional Taiwanese soup. It is sour, with sticky meat balls that are savory. The soup tastes great, especially with vinegar. Why not bug the owners of that place instead of me? Go perch up inside their restaurant and have a go at the boss. I have a feeling they would not harrass one other boss around here in this way.


I Opted for AZ Astra Zeneca

As an outsider biding his time in Taiwan, I am concerned about a pandemic spread out of China a year and a half ago and repercussions, the sloppy and hypocritical behavior of the government here, a virus that seems like it was designed in a lab, and so on. The first six days of the initial lockdown here in Taiwan, in mid May, 2021, the police visited my restaurant five days in a row. Government officials took an interest in my place -- they dropped by on the fourth day of that first lockdown, Tuesday, May 18. Officials did not pester the businesses around us. Not once. Both 7/11 and Family Mart were open and full of customers. We were the emptiest joint on the block; we were the only ones catching it from the cops. Since The Hammer has been open, almost nine years ago, we have been visited by the police four hundred times. No other establishment on our block has been visited, to my knowledge, three times. I talked to my wife. We know additional harassment is headed our way. We will deal as usual, because what else can we do?


I Opted for AZ

Shufang declared: "I have owned a business in Taiwan for close to a decade. This virus has yet to infect me, but it has crushed my business."

I signed up for the Astra Zeneca vaccine three weeks ago. I got my first jab on Wednesday. Shufang is next Wednesday. I got my jab because I was open to Astra Zeneca. Some of my friends signed up for Moderna. They regret their decision now. Taiwan lacks Moderna shots. I was lucky to get AZ. 

Thus, I went to Cardinal Tien Hospital in Yonghe last Wednesday to get my COVID-19 shot. The man working the door told me to head to the second floor. I found chaos up there on the second floor. A line spread down the corridor and spiraled down the stairs, into the road. There was no concept of social distancing. I asked the nurse for help. I went from nurse to nurse. None of them had any time. They said "hold on." I could see how much stress they were under. I finally figured out this was the Moderna station, not mine.

There is a convention hall (or maybe a church) outside the Cardinal Tien Hospital, to the back. They are practicing social distancing inside. I spent five minutes filling out the application, 1.5 meters from my fellow applicant. I got my jab a few minutes later. No jab recipient is allowed to leave for fifteen minutes. There is a feeling of peace and dreams in that room of socially-distanced people sitting on those carefully placed chairs. For those seeking Moderna, no chair seems to await. You get what you sign up for. We leaned back to stare at the ceiling in that tomb, contemplating "what God wrought when He made the world so sad."


Have I Got a Deal For You

Taiwan has been fairly locked down for around a month now. We can still go out, but the schools are online now and most offices are doing the same. On Monday, we were informed we could only go to market or a supermarket every second day. It depends on one's ID, you see? If the last digit of one's ID is odd, one can visit Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Even numbers get the other days. By law, people in Taiwan are not required to produce ID when asked. Most people I have talked are unaware of this law. While North America is opening up, we are going in the opposite direction. I think part of the problem is complacency; for example, people in America were getting the jab and we in Taiwan were busy patting ourselves on the back for managing to sidestep, relatively speaking that is, for more than a year. We complained and complained we did not get respect or congratulations on virus control. Now there is no herd immunity. Less than five percent of the population has been vaccinated.

The Hammer https://www.facebook.com/thehammertw, our restaurant, is still open. We can only do take out order. We have had to get more creative. We are offering new dishes and additional specials on drinks. My wife took this pic of one of the beers we are offering. The view is off our bedroom's balcony. The washed backdrop is the street that leads down to the Xindian River in Yonghe. 


Lalu Island

I noticed from a higher place that Lalu Island, in Sun Moon Lake, is actually moated. In Chinese, Lalu (拉魯) means "marinated," but it seems more likely the word comes out of the Thao Aboriginal (邵族) language and is along the lines of "do not forget this spirit-fested place." Most of the Thao homes and temples in the area collapsed on September 21, 1999, as a result of a 7.3 scale earthquake. Whatever structure(s) existed on Lalu Island then does not now. The Thao have also closed the island to visitors.

Capybara Taiwan

My family rented a car and we drove out to Greater Yilan two Mondays ago. We stayed at the Lakeshore Hotel Suao, a five-star hotel with adjo...