Friday, December 31, 2010

Taipei typos

Here's a project that's been ongoing since I arrived in the Far East, and will doubtless continue until I leave, or until Asian retailers stop giving their stores such amusing names.

HA HA HA! They can't even speak English properly, and occasionally make understandable mistakes that could be tenuously misinterpreted to mean something vaguely rude or otherwise inappropriate! It's as if English isn't even their native language and they're forced to adopt it to survive in international markets! The idiots!!!

Oh well, it's still funny. Here are some of the best I've found around town. More to definitely come soon.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

End of the line

Another pleasant day out, this time taking the Taipei Rapid Transit System TO THE LIMIT, for an EXTREME adventure ON THE EDGE...

What that means is I went all the way up the red line of the metro (I live down near the bottom of the green line by Dapinglin (大坪林), for any celeb stalking fans out there).

Yeah, I know there was a time when I travelled 6,000 miles in a day, but in this weird place I'm too scared of what lies beyond to risk venturing outside of the city. Here may literally be dragons, after all. Or at the very least, a lengthy and frustrating visa application process.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Freath of bresh air

You could say that I'm the last person who needs to take time out to smell the lotuses, considering the near-nonexistent stresses of my life these days.

My biggest problems of late have been things like having too much freedom to travel, feeling guilty about eating out cheaply and worrying that seeing the pyramids might raise my tourism standards to impractical heights. I tell you, any more of this shit and I'm going to snap.

Fortunately for us all, it seems Taipei was hastily built around mountains and forests that refused to budge in the face of capitalism, so there's lots of green here. Here is some of it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Taipei Temple Tour (Twenty-Ten)

'Buddhists believe that the body is a temple. They are wrong, of course. The temple is a part of the body. On the side of the head. It's an easy mistake to make, but one you'd think that one of the world's millions of Buddhists would have spotted by now.'

- Stewart Lee, Fist of Fun

With my tatty notebook, dodgy Egyptian camera and MRT map dropped into my unrealistically deep pockets along with the rest of the essentials, I was ready to embark on a breakneck tour of all the major temples in Taipei City today - until it was pointed out to me just how tedious this would be.

But that's okay, because I'm an ignorant Westerner visiting China (not actually China, but what do I know?) So when I say 'temple' I don't actually mean a sacred building where the public go to worship the Jade Emperor and co. and light joss paper. Nah, I mean any Oriental-looking building, preferably red, with paintings on the outside and those funny sloping roofs. That's temple enough for me. Even if it isn't temple at all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Black and white and nearly dead all over

Tuan Tuan: What is my favourite dual-function gland organ, Yuan Yuan?
Yuan Yuan: Is it the panda-creas, Tuan Tuan?

You have to admire China for its panda-based attitude towards international relations. Genocide, human rights atrocities - the world has yet to invent a problem that China won't attempt to solve by throwing an irrelevant panda in its direction.

Because everyone loves pandas! You'd have to be a world-weary cynic or some sort of educated person to view Beijing's gift of two giant pandas to Taipei Zoo with scepticism. Just because it undermines decades of fragile Taiwanese independence, potentially contravenes the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species and treads perilously close to a united front stratagem.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A childish day out

Dave W pretends he's unenthused, even though he genuinely didn't sleep a wink last night (wow, you can't tell!) because he was so excited about going to the zoo.
He is twenty-five years old

While Egypt's cities were essentially large-scale safari parks - where you'd see camels, donkeys, goats, chickens, dogs and so many cats taking their chances on the mental roads - local wildlife has been lacking since I got to Taiwan. I haven't seen one pigeon, and even the stray cats walk politely alongside humans as if they're being taken for a walk.

This place is mental in more subtle ways.


Luckily, Taipei Zoo is on hand for all my zoophile needs (in the bibliophile sense rather than the other one - though there's definitely a stigma attached to a fully-grown man going to the zoo by himself, so I didn't). It was bizarrely cheap too. If there's one thing I like more than seeing animals shuffle around uncomfortably in incorrect and restricted environments, it's enjoying a great, childish day out for the equivalent of 65p. 65p!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

101: thing to do in Taipei

After tourism overload in Egypt, I've been taking things pretty easy in Taiwan over the first week - unless you count the relentless food tourism (Zào Jūn be praised).

That's right - I might be suffering from the cold like the rest of you idiots now (especially after the unreasonable heat of the last three months ruined my durability), but at least I'm eating better food than you! And I wonder why nobody reads this. You're alright really.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Farewell forever, Middle East

…or at least for another nine a half years, or until I lose my passport, and can get a new one without access-limiting Israel stamps. Whichever comes sooner (yeah, like losing my passport isn't inevitable).

Thanks, Israel and Egypt, it's been fun and strange, which for me is the ideal combination.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Well, that about wraps it up for Egypt

Sphinx of Alexandria

My chronologically sound but geographically perplexing month-long journey through Egypt - from the Old Kingdom to the New Kingdom and Late Period - has reached its logical end in Greco-Roman Alexandria, back at the Mediterranean again. Where it might have begun if only Greek ferries weren't so unreliable.

But to subvert expectations (mine mostly), the city's actually pretty good. Take that, predetermined cynicism!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Knowledge is power

Dave W goes to the library

I bloody love libraries and have done since I was about seven, when I rented Alvin Schwartz's In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories every fortnight without fail, despite knowing exactly how 'The Green Ribbon' ended (chilling).

So, naturally I was excited to visit the site of the most famous library in the ancient world, even if this new institution - opened in 2003 - won't contain all the sadly lost, endearingly wrong ancient knowledge that was destroyed all those times the original Library of Alexandria caught fire. Apparently, papyrus isn't fire-proof, however much the street wranglers in Cairo boast of its indestructibility.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's always sunny in Philae

The Isle of Philae (in reality, Aglikia) is another UNESCO relocation job, and is completely ace.

I thought my egyusiasm (enthusiasm for all things Ancient Egyptian) was in danger of fading after Abu Simbel, but this beautiful little serene island was the most impressive thing I'd seen since the pyramids.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Nubian nadir

Dave W was tired, unenthused and not too well. He's going to be a barrel of laughs today!

Another Egyptian city, another day trip setting off unhealthily early to pack in the famous local sights. And ones 300km away down the lawless desert road, without a protective convoy in sight, because a bus driver didn't pay the baksheesh. Join me on the high-stakes tourism trail!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Learning Mandarin

With a busy November of work, novel, girl and being a tourist, it's been a while since I had some free time to devote to self-improvement.

Fortunately, my borderline-OCD need to keep this blog's momentum going, even in slow weeks, has provided extra incentive to learn more bits and pieces of foreign languages from countries I'll be visiting in the very near future - like Taiwan which, insanely, I'll be landing in this time next week.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Guilty life of Luxory

Okay, I'm technically in Aswan now, not Luxor, but then the pun wouldn't work, would it? If anything, Aswan's even cheaper - check out my budget balcony Nile view, which is identical to the view those snobs in the 4-star hotels on each side of me have paid a hell of a lot more for (just pretend there isn't a busy main road in-between me and the scenery and it's ideal).

I've written before about how pleasantly shocked I was by the steep drop in prices as soon as I crossed the Taba border into Egypt, but heading into the south of the country (confusingly called Upper Egypt), this drop becomes effing vertical. Since arriving here, I've been eating in restaurants every day.

Actual restaurants, where people come to your table and ask what you'd like, as if you're better than them (this type of service still makes me uncomfortable). My hotel restaurant even brings the meals to your room so you can eat them in bed like a normal person!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Luxor with altitude

Dave W at 2,100 feet

My 90-minute balloon ride over Luxor and the West Bank was the single most expensive tourist activity I've done so far, and it still only cost LE 350 (about £39). I only have a rough idea what a similar length flight would cost in the UK and Europe, but it's a lot more than £39 - and the sights wouldn't be so impressive.

Plus, they probably wouldn't throw in the complimentary tacky T-shirt either. Keep up with my photos and you're bound to see it, I'll run out of wearable T-shirts one of these days.

Early bird gets the warm (i.e. hot air)