Saturday, March 31, 2012

My new baby, again

I say "again" because I'm referring to the first time I used that as a blog entry title, when I obtained my pink 50cc scooter. Although Yzma the scooter has been faithful to me over the past two and a half years, she's been feeling her age lately and so I bought a new one on Tuesday. 

The difference in power is amazing; I feel much safer with this bike.  She's also much more comfortable than Yzma, which is definitely important for my middle-aged back and rear end. 

For the first 300 km I have to drive under 60 k/h to break in the engine, but I'm itching to see what she can do.

Pricing here is different than in the US. The price I was initially quoted is the price I paid out-the-door. Tax is already included. The quoted price also included:

  • License and registration
  • 2 years of accident liability, fire, and theft insurance
  • 300 km and 1,000 km oil change and maintenance
  • VIN engraving for theft identification
  • New helmet, tire lock, and floor mat.

I'm really jazzed about my new bike! I hope to take an open road journey next Wednesday during the Tomb Sweeping holiday. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Look out, litterbugs

M13 is a Canadian motorcycle vlogger who has lived in Taiwan for the past 14 years.

He doesn't have a high tolerance for littering (or animal abuse).

Go check out his channel on YouTube.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A bilingual pun (explained)

days of the week pun in chinese

The Chinese words sound like the English words when pronounced with a Chinese accent.
The Chinese meaning is appropriate for any language.

忙Day     "Mang'day"   Busy Day

求死Day  "Chius'day"   Requesting-Death Day

未死Day  "Ways'day"    Haven't-Died-Yet Day

受死Day  "Shows'day"  Accept-Death Day

福來Day  "Fulai'day"    Good Fortune-Comes Day

Friday, March 23, 2012

Scooter shopping and apologies to Al Gore

That's Yzma, my 18-year-old 50cc Yamaha scooter. She has served me well over the past two and a half years. However, the old girl has been breaking down more and more, and I'm beginning to resent putting more money into a dying machine, no matter how faithful she's been.

My first hope was to be able to go green and buy an electric scooter. Today I test drove the E-Moving brand that you see on the right. 

The pros? Besides the environmental impact, it's super quiet. In fact, I believe it shuts off when you're stopped, or at least it sounds like it. The battery is easily removable from under the seat, making it simple to take to my 10th floor apartment for recharging. It also has a cool, automated kick stand—no more manhandling to squeeze your bike into a parking spot.

The cons? The top speed I could muster up on flat land was 47k/h in 'speed' mode and 35k/h in 'energy saving' mode. There's a highway overpass that I must travel on my way to and from work; E-Moving wasn't moving much when struggled to climb it at 30k/h.

The commercial on this page—first tab on the left hand side—shows two people riding up a pretty good grade. After testing this scooter myself, I'm sure Industrial Light and Magic had a hand in making that commercial.

If my commute were downhill both ways, and if I didn't live in Taiwan—where vehicle power is essential to avoid getting creamed by taxis, blue trucks, and the ever-present clueless drivers—I would consider buying one. That's not the case, so I took a look at gas powered bikes.

I discovered that for the exact same price as the electric model, I could get a brand new 125cc. I'm sorry, but as eco-friendly as I long to be, safety concerns overrule my inner liberal hippie.

So, here's the model that I'm considering, the Sym 高手 ("Master") XPro125

The gas mileage it gets is 59 km/l (138 mpg).

It has more than enough power for my needs, especially considering that I’ve been making do with an old 50cc engine for so long.

As far as environmental impact, it's dead center on Sym’s Clean Power Scale.

Sunday I'm going to go back with a Taiwanese friend to verify the answers I think I got from the salesperson (Oh Chinese language, why do you taunt me so?). If I can manage to get financing, then I just may be the owner of a new scooter soon.

---UPDATE MARCH 27, 2012---

I bought the above model! I decided to go with the silver color.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Weekend birthday trip to Yilan 宜蘭—Day 2

Click on any photo to enlarge.

At the bus stop, an older couple watched me study the bus route sign above. I asked them in Mandarin “Is this the bus stop for Beiguan?” The old man answered back in Taiwanese Hokkien 臺語, the common second language here. Since I can barely speak Mandarin Chinese, let alone Taiwanese, I couldn’t understand him and therefore tried asking him again in Mandarin. It was obvious he could understand me, but continued to answer in Taiwanese, adding helpful (?) body language into the mix.

We went around like this for a few minutes, when I finally realized that he had been saying Beiguan the entire time. I hadn’t understood him because in Taiwanese “Beiguan” sounds like “Bek kui” and has completely different tones. I appreciated his help and I eventually made it onto the right bus. However, when it comes to communication here, I once again felt like I was back at square one.

I decided to take a train instead of bus to Fulong 福隆, my next destination. The nearest train station—Guishan 龜山站—is a 20 minute walk from the Beiguan Tidal Pools’ official entrance. The walk is enjoyable, though; besides enjoying the ocean views, you can visit the Gengfang Fishing Port 稉枋漁港, just a few minutes’ walk from the station.

This coffee shop offered teas, juices, various snacks such as shaved ice desserts, as well as lattes and cappuccinos.  As I scanned the menu board, I noticed that only some of the beverages were translated into English.  These English prices appeared on the extreme right—far removed from their Chinese equivalents on the far left—separated by a lot of other items only in Chinese.

美式咖啡     NT$50…………………..…………………..Americano             NT$60
拿鐵咖啡     NT$60…………………..…………………..Café Latte              NT$70
卡布吉諾     NT$60…………………..…………………..Cappuccino            NT$70
焦糖碼琪朵  NT$70…………………..…………………..Caramel Macchiato  NT$80

Hmm, that’s interesting.

I ordered a Café Latte. When the woman (the owner) brought it to me, she didn’t tell me the price. I handed her NT$100 and waited for my change with anticipation: Would she give me the change for the Chinese or English price?
She gave me NT$40 in change. I’m assuming she charged me the Chinese price because I ordered in Chinese. I didn’t confront her, partly because she didn’t charge me the higher price, and partly because I felt proud of myself that I could actually read the Chinese menu.

The vast majority of Taiwanese that I’ve mentioned this price discrepancy to have all expressed surprise and indignation, remarking that this practice smacks of third world shenanigans, and that Taiwan is certainly not third world. In any case, this is the first instance of “foreigner/tourist” pricing that I’ve seen (or at least have been able to recognize) in my four years here.

A fellow American teacher felt this way about it: “If you’re traveling, as a tourist you expect to pay a bit more for things. If you’re living here, this is a wake-up call to learn the local language.”

I had a couple of hours to kill before my train to Taipei arrived, so I walked around Fulong Beach.

So ended my thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing mini-vacation in Yilan. Happy 49th birthday to me!

Here’s some more information:

Congee (rice porridge) A popular breakfast item in Taiwan
Banded coral shrimp — Recipes (櫻花蝦 [英文的網站])
Radish Omelette — Recipes [Chinese site] (中文:菜脯蛋)
Lanyang Museum — In Toucheng, Yilan County. (中文:在頭城的蘭陽博物館)
Beiguan Tidal Pools (中文:北關海潮公園)
Fulong — Beaches, Biking, and Box Lunches! (中文:福隆) Check out the annual Sand Sculpture Festival (中文:福隆國際沙雕藝術季) during May & June.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Weekend birthday trip to Yilan 宜蘭—Day 1

Click on any photo to enlarge.

More information about the places I visited: