Thursday, September 07, 2006

New Contest!

Ok, so apparently Blogger is having some issues right now with posting pictures, so in the meantime, here's a little contest for all my dedicated readers . . .

Question: In what year did martial law begin and end in Taiwan, and who was responsible for imposing it?

Post your answer as a comment here and I will bring you back a small gift from Taiwan. Previous winners (Ian) cannot win again. The first correct answer wins!

Train to Taichung

This morning we left Taipei and headed south along the west coast of the island to Taichung, Taiwan's third largest city. We traveled by train, which, if I'm counting right, is my 5th form of transportation (taxi, airplane, subway, scooter, train). After buying our tickets, we walked down to the platform to wait for our train. Following Dad's lead turned out to be a mistake . . .

We got onto what we thought was our train and got comfortable in our seats. Dad mentioned that he was surprised that the train had arrived early. I asked him, "Are you sure that this is the right train?" "Oh yeah." The train pulled out of the station about 10 minutes ahead of time. "Dad, trains don't leave early."

When we got to the next station, he was convinced. We got off and tried to figure out where to go. While talking to the conductor on the platform, the train we were supposed to be on zoomed by us. After transferring and waiting another half hour, we got on the train to bring us to Taichung, about an hour behind schedule. I had a bento box lunch on the train, as recommended by my cousin Joanna from Texas (check out her MRT story here).

Upon arrival at Taichung station, we were greeted by Peter and Sue, old friends of my parents' from the University of Minnesota. Peter, a retired economics professor, was in graduate school at the same time my father was working on his Ph.D. When I was a baby, Peter and Sue took care of me when my parents were busy.

They took Dad and me to the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts where we had food and drinks at the museum cafe while catching up. Peter and Sue are avid art museum-goers (they have been to famous museums all over the world) and I invited them to come to New York to see the best museums in the world (Met, MoMA, Guggenheim). I hope they take me up on the offer.

After saying goodbye to Peter and Sue, we met with another one of my cousins, Tsai Ming-Der, and his family. Tsai Ming-Der is a photojournalist for the China Times and he has two teenage children, a boy (Jones) and a girl (Cherry). Cherry skipped her English class to have dinner with us, so I made sure that she practiced her English during our meal. I could tell that Jones liked hip hop from the buttons and stickers on his backpack, so I burned him a CD of some old school hip hop (ATCQ, Illmatic, Biggie, 36 Chambers) after dinner. Gotta spread some hip hop history!

My cousin and his wife drove us to Puli (about an hour and a half drive) after dinner. Puli is a small town in the mountains where another of my cousins, Yi-Wen and her husband Yao-Sheng, lives. We reached their home, settled in, talked, and got ready for bed.

Guanghua Tech Market

This post is dedicated to all the tech nerds out there . . .

After a nice little afternoon nap, I got up, took a shower and called my cousin Wendy, Kunlam's daughter. Wendy has visited my family in Minnesota and she has studied a lot of English in the U.S. We made plans the previous night to meet up and check out the technology and electronics district in Taipei. I planned to meet her at a specific exit at the Taipei Main Station on the MRT.

To get the to subway station from where we are staying, my uncle took me by scooter. In Taiwan, scooters are a major form of transportation. Every street is crowded with people on scooters zig-zagging in between cars and trucks. After strapping on my helmet, I jumped on the back of my uncle's scooter and took a firm grip. We zoomed off, winding through narrow streets, cruising over a long bridge, and arriving at the MRT station. I used my subway skills to get a ticket and catch my train to Taipei Main Station.

I found Wendy's fiance in the location we had specified, but Wendy was nowhere to be found. After some searching and a phone call, we connected and went off to the market. Before shopping, we stopped to get some bubble tea and dinner at a dumpling shop. We sat down and ordered 3 different types of fried dumplings; they were all delicious, but I liked the spicy ones (the red ones) the best.

Walking around the Guanghua district, I was amazed at the number of computer and electronics shops. But this was only the beginning . . .

We walked down an alley to an area with a parking lot and what looked like 3 large storage garages. Inside the garages were tiny boutiques filled with any type of electronics imaginable: hard drives, CPUs, MP3 players, headphones, computer games, blank CD/DVDs, cables, monitors, printer cartidges, digital cameras, video games, etc.

I picked up a 1 GB mini SD card for my cell phone for $800 NT (about $25 US, half of the average price in the US) and 512MB DDR400 RAM for my laptop. I later found out that I got the wrong kind, so if you or someone you know are looking for some RAM, let me know and I'll give you a good price.

We continued looking around and I picked up some kung-fu movies for a pretty good price (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Game of Death). After walking me to the MRT, Wendy and her fiance said goodbye and I headed home.