(Taiwan is strange and new to foreigners. Many things in Taiwan take foreigners by surprise. As Americans we want Taiwanese people to know what kind of questions foreigners have when first coming to Taiwan. This is by no means a complete list, but is written with the intent to help Taiwanese and Foreigners have a better understanding of one another’s culture.)
10. 怎麽這麽多機車？ Why are There so Many Scooters?
(In comparison, there are very few mopeds or scooters in foreign countries, especially in places with vast amounts of land such as the U.S. and Canada. Foreigners coming to Taiwan for the first time may be taken aback, and may feel that scooters in Taiwan are too loud and pollute the environment.)
9. 爲什麽到處是哈比人房屋？Why are there Hobbit Homes Everywhere?
(Taiwan has many intrastate tombs scattered throughout Taiwan, that look different from typical gravestones in other countries. Foreigners unfamiliar with Taiwan’s traditions and culture may misinterpret these tombs as actually being houses, houses that look a lot like hobbit homes from the Lord of the Rings.)
8. 怎麽到處都沒有垃圾桶？Why are There no Garbage Cans Anywhere?
(For many foreigners one of the first places they go sight-seeing is a night market. Some night markets do not mark trash canisters well if at all. This in addition to the foreign tourist always having to hold garbage in their hands can lead to some frustration and complaining.)
7. 爲什麽你的名字叫“Apple?” Why Is Your Name Apple?
(“Apple” in English is not a name. Despite this, there are still many Taiwanese children with the name “Apple” or similar non-names such as “Seven” or “Taco.” These are the Chinese equivalent of being called “warm drinking water” or “wood forest.”)
6. 我爲什麽一定要吃臭豆腐？Why do I Have to
Eat Some Stinky Tofu?
(For people that have never eaten stinky tofu, it really stinks, like raw sewage. But still Taiwanese people insist that ever new foreigner try this tasty delicacy, even though it is torture for most of them.)
5. 大家戴口罩是因爲…? What’s the Deal With Everyone Wearing Masks?
(In Taiwan it is courteous and polite to wear masks in public if one is sick to prevent communicable disease from spreading. My Taiwanese friends this trend started with the outbreak of bird flu a few years ago. It is also common to wear masks when riding a scooter to prevent breathing in pollutants. However, foreigners don’t know about this trend. In western countries it is common to wear surgical masks only in a hospital, so when they come to Taiwan and see so many people on the street wearing surgical masks, they may get confused.)
4. 爲什麽穿牛仔褲去海邊玩水？Why are so Many People Wearing Jeans at the Beach?
(Many western people come to Taiwan to enjoy its tropical beaches, wear a swim suit, get tan, and swim in the ocean. But many Taiwanese are more conservative when they go to the beach, hiding from the sun in long sleeves, long pants, and under umbrellas. Foreigners seeing Taiwanese people stomp in the ocean with long pants and umbrellas might shake their heads in curiosity.)
3. 大晴天爲什麽有人帶雨傘？Why do People Have Umbrellas out When it's Sunny?
(Foreigners with lighter skin tend to want to tan themselves and make their skin darker. Americans spend thousands of dollars a year in tanning salons, and umbrellas are almost never used for blocking out the sun’s rays. So when foreigners come to Taiwan and see people with umbrellas in the 30 degree weather, they might think it strange.)
2. 怎麽到處都沒有厠所？Why are there No Restrooms Anywhere?
(In America there seems to be a bathroom in every shop or store, however in Taiwan foreigners might be shocked to find that not every restaurant or store has a restroom. I’ve known a few foreigners who because of this have dirtied their underwear. I’ll stop there.)
1. 臺灣不是泰國嗎？Isn’t Taiwan the Same Thing as Thailand?
(It’s really sad but many foreigners don’t even know that Taiwan exists, or think that it is another name for Thailand, or simply know very little about the geography of Asia. But on the other hand I doubt the average Taiwanese citizen can name all 50 states.)
Like we said in the beginning, this list is not a complete statistical analysis with scientific data. It is just some fun things that foreigners think about when coming to Taiwan. If you feel like we missed anything, please let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to like and share!
Nangang, the district in Taipei where I live and work, has a rich history that includes being a center for industry and transportation. However many of Nangang do historical buildings have been destroyed or sit in decay out of view of the general public, mostly due to greedy bureaucrats. One such building that lays hidden in Nangang from the Japanese era called “松山療養所長宿舍” which I have translated as “The Songshan Sanatorium Superintendent’s Dormitory.”
Built in 1925, this dormitory was made for the Japanese doctor that watched over the mental hospital nearby. Made a historical building in 2006, the government later said it required 20,000,000 NT to restore the building and open it to the public. It is planned to be reopened as an “Art Therapy” center for children with special needs, where they can learn to paint, draw, and perform. Here is a depiction of what the building is supposed to look like when finished.
Originally this building was under supervision of the Ministry of Culture, but then the government decided to hand it over to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, who did not want to take on such an expensive project. The Ministry of Culture promised to give funds to help the project, but it has not happened. Supposedly the Ministry of Culture was supposed to pass on funds to the Ministry of Health and Welfare this year, but it seems everyone is dragging their feet.
Below is a historical time travel I have created using maps from here:
Besides climbing over the low brick wall, one can squeeze through an opening between a tree behind someone's private parking space. I was carrying a baby on the front of me so I imagine any fat person could slip through just fine.
Walking around the back of the building, one can see collapsed brick wall and rubble everywhere. This brick wall has collapsed recently because I have seen it standing in other people's blogs.
Behind the dormitory is garden, and a red tin house construction that has been added on recently for cleaning purposes I assume. The entire house is very much securely locked, so even the most skilled ninja will have trouble getting in.
That is a new deadbolt. The person that "regularly cleans" the place surely comes in through here. There is no other entrance into the building that hasn't been boarded off.
There are a few storage shed type constructions around the dormitory. I assume that perhaps their purpose was to store wood or coal fuel.
There is quite a large sinkhole in the ground here, I imagine this is one of the reasons why restoring this place would be so expensive.
View from inside the front yard shed. I'm not sure what the metal object in the far right corner is. Perhaps a well. Also I am not sure what the red wooden object is in the background, and why it is not stored in the house.
You will notice that the windows protrude out of the house. This is to protect the rooms from rain. Also the cement foundation with airways is supposed to protect the house from pests such as termites, although I imagine they now spray the house for bugs.
At this point I had given up on getting inside the house, but I found that there was still a way to get pictures of the inside.
This is the best I can give you for the house's interior. There is wood everything, and it all looks in somewhat decent shape. Although I think they should fire whoever they hired to "regularly" clean this place.
I took off my my loyal steed, which I left unlocked because this is Taiwan, and thus concluded my exploration of the place.
Some work has been done to preserve this building, but now it simply sits in southwestern Nangang, boarded up, empty, and rotting. Although this building is kept in somewhat good condition and is cleaned regularly, it seems a great pity that more has not been done to preserve it for the public to enjoy. It is now in a political tennis court where different government agencies to not want to pay for its repair. As Mayor Ke said, having a historical building placed under your bureau is like getting a fine; you have to pay for the repairs. Now everyone wants to pass this “fine” around. So I guess the general feeling in the government is to ignore history and culture and do not spend money to restore these burdensome "fines" at all costs. It’s a sad mindset that has all but destroyed most of Nangang’s history.
This building is one of the few well preserved Japanese wooden buildings in Taipei. It should be preserved for the public to enjoy, and the Taipei city government should be ashamed for greedily hoarding funds and putting it its renovation for so long.
The location of the actual Sanatorium itself not well documented and currently lies on protected private property. It too is boarded up, but unlike the dormitory it is hidden away, forgotten, and thus has not been made a historical building. For more info please send me a message. If I have time I might make a follow up blog on it.
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When I tell Taiwanese people that I live in Nangang, some older people tell me that it is a place full of factories and industry. However Nangang today is a vibrant and modern part of Taipei, full of greenery and advanced architecture. But sadly, there is almost no trace of Nangang’s industrial history anywhere.
Nangang 南港means “South Port” in Chinese. This south port once rested on the southern banks of the Keelung River near what is now the Neihu MRT depot in Nangang District, Taipei. There was a "North Port" on the Keelung river in what is now Xizhi. Nangang was once part of Neihu District before it split in the ROC era. In the earliest times, Nangang was known as an industry hub for coal, brick making, and tea farming. In order to ship goods from Neihu to Nangang rail station, at least two suspension bridges were made across the Keelung River.
Currently two remaining suspension bridge towers next to the Keelung River from the industrial era of Nangang. The best preserved is “五分吊橋” Wufen suspension bridge. According to the signs next to the bridge, it was built in 1918.
This bridge is very large and prominent along the river. It has its own garden and sidewalk around it as well as signs detailing the historical significance of the bridge. I see no reason not to just explain what the signs already say.
I will paraphrase the signs next to Wufen Suspension Bridge :
During the late Qing and Japanese era, brick making was the main industry in Neihu. The soil and clay here was prime for brick making, and many brick kilns sprung up in the area. However in modern times due to pollution, price of land, and other factors the brick making industry has all but disappeared here.
During the Japanese era, there were many coal mines that sprung up in Neihu, mining two major coal veins. After 1950, the coal mining industry could not compete with modern industry and gradually disappeared.
Wufen bridge was the first bridge built across the Keelung river for shipping coal to Nangang train station, where it could then be shipped across all Taiwan. The bridge broke apart in 1969 and was not repaired since. In 2004 the Taipei City government designated it as a historical building, recognizing it as one of the last standing suspension bridges in Taipei and an important structure showing the modernization of the area.
History of Wufen Village: Basically Wufen village changed its name and area through the years and is now part of Donghu village in Neihu District.
Another bridge that many people forget exists further down the river as a monument to Taipei’s past. This bridge is called Nanhu Suspension bridge, “南湖吊橋” and also called “內湖葫蘆洲吊橋” Neihu Hulu Suspension Bridge. It sits on the top of an embankment and has no signs or anything to tell us its history. But, the fact that it still stands is a miracle.
This bridge stands directly north of Nangang station, giving a direct path for coal and other good from Neihu. Map:
According to this source, Neihu Hulu Suspension Bridge was built in 1930 and was the main connection between what is now Nangang and Neihu. It helped to carry bricks and coal across the river during the height of the brick making era. Now all that remains is one tower, which has been declared a historical monument. But now it seems the only people that care about this historical artifact are a few graffiti artists and the person that cuts the grass.
Another suspension bridge down the river from this era was Changshou Suspension bridge長壽吊橋, which was rebuilt for foot passengers. I will have to cover this in a later blog.
Even though these towers may seem insignificant, they are some of the last historical monuments left in the area. Wufen Suspension bridge is perhaps the best preserved and presented historical monument near Nangang, and is a shining beacon to future historical preservation in Taipei, which is sorely needed.
Tainan green tunnel is famous for its beautiful green waterway surrounded by overgrowth to become a literal tunnel. One would think that this place was a pristine natural wonderland, but actually it is not. Keep reading. With no expectations other than seeing the photo, we visited the place with open minds. Below we have detailed our experience.
The Sicao wetlands are a protected area of 515 hectares, designated to protect the habitat and wildlife from encroachment by nearby industrial parks and factories. The area has a long history of Taiwan Aboriginal habitation, and then being an economic center settled by Fujian fisherman, Dutch, Chinese, then Japanese, and now the ROC.
Driving a car, we simply used GPS to find the place, which consist of a Daoist temple, parking lot, shops, and ferry terminals (No. 360, Dazhong Road, Annan District, Tainan City, 709 台南市安南區大眾街360號). There is also a large temple in front of the river, Dazhong Temple (大衆廟), that according to our tour guide was supposedly 300 years old. Behind the temple is also the Qing era Sicao Fort（四草炮臺）which we will not cover in this blog. You can also get there via Tainan city bus no. 2.
We made our way to the ticket counter and quickly found that pets were not allowed, so my sister in law and her husband chose to stay behind and walk their dog. Prices were as follows:
If you can't read Chinese, that's 200 NT for an adult ticket, 150 NT for a child ticket, 100 NT for a disabled ticket, and 30 NT for an infant ticket.
We waited in line in the building next to the ticket counter; the air conditioning was very nice. We then watched a safety video and put on life jackets and straw hats, then got on motorized barges. The boat had about 20 other people on board, and everyone had their own little plastic stool to sit on. Later we started our journey. In order for you to experience the journey in the most authentic way, here is a video of the tour:
A man came and voiced us through all of the many plants and wildlife along the river. We passed quite a few other tourist boats along the way, all full of people. It was a hot day, but quite cool under the shade on the canal. Before we knew it the boat stopped in the middle of the river for the prize winning photos that you see everywhere:
I noticed that these trees were trimmed. I wonder if they didn’t trim the trees if there would be a tunnel at all. Also I noticed sandbags along the sides of the tunnel. The whole thing started to seem like a very artificial and manmade tourist destination money grab. But it was still beautiful.
At the end of the tunnel, our tour guide told we had arrived at the site of a Qing dynasty tax bureau. This apparently was the customs border for collecting tax from merchant ships, and the canal we were in was apparently built during the Qing dynasty.
There is also the site of fort Zeeburg, a Dutch fort, which consists of some oddly shaped stones on the shore.
Along the river there was abundant wildlife, such as many white egrets and crabs along the shore. We got off the boat and proceeded to the shops nearby, purchasing some delicious ice cream to cool us down on that hot day.
Forget Everything You Knew about the History of Sicao Tunnel!
After I got home and started writing this blog, I noticed that every blogger who has blogged a blog about this has blogged down pretty much exactly what the tour guide said and moved on. Then I came across a blog that rocked my world:
According to this Taiwanese blogger, the green tunnel was actually built as a drainage ditch by the Japanese. Also, the actual Qing dynasty bureau is located nearby at No. 150, Bentian Road Sec. 1 (本田路一段150號), and the real thing actually has been destroyed. And to put a nail in the coffin, he suggested that the Zeeburg fort is actually supposed to be at the bottom of lake next to the tunnel.
This blogger piqued my interest. After further research on the government's website, I found that he was right about the tunnel drain and Qing tax bureau placed elsewhere. The actual brick construction that you see is a bridge, water flow control, and a water pump all built by the Japanese.
Next I tested this bloggers theory on fort Zeeburg. This for was built north of Zeelandia by the Dutch but destroyed in 1656 by a Typhoon. Only 26 troops were stationed here, compared to over 300 on Zeelandia.
However, the fort Zeeburg (or 海堡） that the tour guide showed us is real. That rock I took a picture of is the true remnants of that fort. It was discovered in 1962 by local people doing construction in the water near there. And we know that it’s the real deal because local archaeologists, such as professor Chen Xinxiong 陳信雄, have studied and verified the site. One thing professor Chen suggested is that the government make a model of the fort or uncover it for the public to enjoy, which I think would be a great idea.
Finally, I did a search on Dazhong Temple. Just from Wikipedia, one can find that Dazhong temple is not necessarily 300 years old. No one knows for sure actually, because historical documents have been lost. The temple could have been built as late as 1801. The temple was badly damaged in a storm during the Japanese era, and then rebuilt in 1961, then refurbished in 1984 and 1987. Just from the naked eye this temple does not look anywhere close to 300 years old.
Even though some parts of the tour are misleading, it’s still a pretty place that is worth visiting. I didn’t know or care about the historical facts of the place before I went, and I’m sure most everyone else feels the same. Even if the tunnel was built yesterday and all the plants were imported from Vietnam I would still go visit this place. The facts about the history of the place may not be totally correct, but everything is still really old and has historical value. However it would be nice if the tour guide would provide more accurate information instead of telling everyone “alternative facts” about the history of the place to wow and inspire more ticket sales, which is really unnecessary.
The end. Please comment, like, and share.
FIRE hot springs! What other reason do you need to visit this place? Hopefully that should be enough, because there is not much else to see besides a natural gas fire and a hot spring. It's name Chinese literally means water and fire coming from the same source (水火同源). Some have called it one of the seven wonders of Taiwan. This is a place that we have wanted to go for a long time, and the first place that we have checked off of our “secret places” list.
We came south on National Highway 3 from Jiayi and exited near Tainan Baihe district. If you do not have a vehicle, Water and Fire hot spring can also be reached via Xinying Bus (新營客運) or tour bus.
After we drove into Baihe, we made our way past a few Buddhist temples, and then the road got really steep. We were stuck behind 7 tour buses, which seem to break the rules of “no oversize vehicles” on the mountain road. They took up both lanes on every switchback. Below the spring, there is a parking lot and bathroom from which you can walk up to the entrance.
The entrance is full of snacks and other “street food” of which we did not partake except ice cream, because looking at fire on a scorching 36 degree autumn day is quite a hot experience.
We noticed that the tour buses were not full of foreign tourists, but rather Taiwan senior citizens. We made our way through the crowds of Taiwanese elderly to the front of spring to take pictures. No one was standing there, probably because it was so hot.
There is a shrine underneath which burns a natural gas fire, and the water beneath bubbles. It reminded me of the natural gas fireplace I had growing up in Seattle. There's not much more to say except that it is a rare natural wonder.
Here is a video of the fire so you can see Water and Fire hot spring in all its glory.
History of Fire and Water Cave:
The Fire and Water Hot Spring and Cave was supposedly discovered by a Fujianese monk from a nearby monetary on the mountain in Baihe. After the Japanese Colonial Period ended in Taiwan, the local people created a shrine here and placed a God atop the spring called “不動明王” “unmoving king.” The natural gas for the fire is supplied from the Liuchong River Fault that runs underneath the ground here. In 1964 there was an earthquake that apparently split the fire apart, whereas before the fire all came from one hole. Nowadays this place is a tourist destination that from which locals can cash in on by selling various snacks and merchandise.
Informative signs next to the spring:
This sign is a series of beautiful poems about the Water and Fire Cave put up by the Tainan County Chairmain.
Some information about the spring's history in Chinese, English, and Japanese.
Legend of the Water and Fire Cave:
According to local Chinese folklore, the Kirin, a mythical Chinese Dragon-Horse creature, is said to have long ago lived in the spot where the fire spring now stands. The spring water is his leftover urine and the fire his breath. This legend comes purely from the sign above.
Another legend from the Taiwan Tourism website says that the legend is actually about two dragons: a fire dragon and a water dragon. They both lost in battle, one became the spring's water and the other the spring's fire. Source: www.siraya-nsa.gov.tw/mainweb/article.aspx?L=2&SNO=04000653
This legend seems to go along with the mural next to the spring which depicts two dragons fighting. I don't understand why they put the above sign which seems to clash with mural next to it.
Now you are ready for your trip to Fire and Water Cave! Be sure to like, share and comment below!
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.