Showing posts with label Taiwan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Taiwan. Show all posts

19 October 2019

Arte ed ostriche a Chongqing

Visita al monumento della liberazione, una grande stele che commemora le vittime della guerra contro il Giappone. Chongqing era la capitale cinese provvisoria durante la guerra.

SI trova a Times Square, con un grattacielo copia molto approssimativa del Chrysler Building di New York! Ovunque Cartelloni elettronici di pubblicità come nella Time Square originale.

Marche superbrands, Giorgio Armani, Longines, Rolex di fronte al negozio un tipo si avvicina e mi chiede con grande naturalezza se sono interessato a comprare dei Rolex finti a prezzi molto convenienti.

Pranzo in un food court non so come tradurre, ma è una zona che assomiglia ad un mercato coperto con molti ristoranti che servono pietanze cotte al momento da piccole cucine. Per mangiare ci si sistema su tavolate comuni a tutti i ristoranti, spesso condividendo tavola e sedie con perfetti sconosciuti.

Anche un negozio di Apple computers è praticamente una fotocopia di quello di New York, solo che qui sta accanto ad una grande fioriera che commemora i 70 anni della fondazione della Repubblica Popolare Cinese, con tanto di bandiera rossa e stellette, che a New York mancano!

Mangiamo ottimo pollo con ortaggi e riso. Poi Lifang trova una specialità: ostriche grigliate in salsetta piccante (dopo tutto siamo in Sichuan!) che dopo aver superato una prima ritrosia si sono rivelate squisite.

Museo delle Belle Arti, edificio rosso molto moderno, circondato da giardini on famiglie che giocano e un paio di signori di mezza età che corrono. Panchine di pietra, Lifang si fa una siesta mentre io guardo il mondo che mi passa davanti.

Nel museo, gratuito, due piani di quadri di autori di Chongqing e di Taiwan. Chissà perché questo gemellaggio, fra l'altro in un momento politicamente delicato per i rapporti "tra le due parti dello stretto" come si dice in termini diplomatici. Misto di quadri moderni, anche astratti, e soggetti più classici e politici, come soldati comunisti che liberano il paese.

Andiamo a piedi verso Hongyadong, non ci orientiamo e il mio navigatore Google Maps sul telefono non funziona perché Google è censurata in Cina. Il navigatore di Lifang non ci indica la strada giusta ma ogni volta che chiediamo indicazioni cercano di venderti qualcosa, un tour organizzato, un pranzo, persino un guardia della sicurezza stradale!

Ci arriviamo dopo un po’ di tentativi, troppa gente, troppo commerciale, ha perso il fascino che aveva una volta. Comunque restano alcuni scorci interessanti, soprattutto la sera quando si accendono le luci gialle sui tetti, che creano un'atmosfera antica.

Strapaghiamo un cocktail in un bar che però offre una vista strepitosa sullo Yangtse dalla terrazza di legno.



Il bar ha anche un utilissimo bagno, le due porte del quale (uomini e donne) sono indicate da un segnale speciale: una pipa per gli uomini e due orecchini per le donne. A ognuno il suo.

Ancora due passi dopo il bar. Lungo una scalinata che si arrampica su per il ripido pendio sulla riva destra del fiume vedo molti pezzi di carta attaccati al muro, con una descrizione e numero di telefono per contatto. Mi spiega Lifang che si tratta di annunci matrimoniali, attaccati dai genitori di celibi e nubili, che decantano le qualità della prole e specificano le caratteristiche ricercate per eventuali futuri coniugi.

Noto un curioso cartello lungo la stessa scalinata, vicino ad un idrante: "In caso di incendio non usare l'equipaggiamento anti-incendio". Mmmmhhh...

Torniamo a casa in metropolitana, pulita, veloce e con frequenti treni che portano in tutta la città. Accanto alla stazione di Shapingba vicino casa un Carrefour ed un supermercato cinese, si chiama Bravo, che mi ripropongo di andare a visitare.

17 February 2019

Fruit market and calligraphy exhibition

In the morning we walked to the flower market, just opposite the jade market I visited last week.

Some European food for sale, interesting to see prosciutto, salami and mortadella from Italy, and Iberico from Spain.



Lots of flowers but also wood carvings, tableware, exotic (for me) fruits.

Afterward, it was time to head back to the Sun Yat-Sen memorial for the calligraphy exhibition we heard about would be taking place today.



As we arrive we are welcomed by a lively scene of families, elderly people, some with their carers,

A whole huge room of the memorial is reserved for this event.
first children, then high school students followed by professors and finally masters. It is amazing to see all this talent pooled together to honor and perpetuate the ancient art of Chinese calligraphy.

At 5 o'clock sharp the staff start packing everything up, seats tables...

As I see some blank paper, a brush and an inkpot that have not been packed away yet, I call my wife and she paints my Chinese name on a white scroll in beautiful calligraphy!

In addition to local calligraphers, there are many participants from Japan and the United States.

As we are about to leave we met Mr. Zheng, a slim and tall Chinese who was born in Malaysia but emigrated to California in 1980. He is an active member of the American Association for calligraphy...

His main hobby however is painting and he's also been performing Peking opera for over 30 years.

His brother lives in London, his sister in Australia but his 98-years-old mother is still in Malaysia. They try to get all together with her as often as possible!

Before parting ways he wants to take a picture together, then the official photographer of the event comes up and wants to shoot us too, what an honor!

16 February 2019

CKS Memorial and stroll around Taipei

CKS Memorial
Visit to an important landmark of the city of Taipei, whatever you think of the history behind the man.

The most obviously awesome sight is the change of the guard in front of the huge statue of CKS sitting between flags of the Republic of China. It takes over ten minutes for the procedure to complete, and there always are lots of people watching.

A highly controversial man he was: the museum takes you through the various phases of his life, from a traditional Chinese background to world leader dealing with Churchill and Roosevelt.

His father died when he was very young and he grew up attached to his mother.

He was married off to his first wife at age 14! Much later he met Soong Meili, the woman of his life..... but still had a concubine in traditional Chinese royal fashion!

CKS car


The exhibition lavishes praise on him but I would not say there is a
cult of personality. his political and military failures and defeats are also covered in text and photos.

There are other art exhibitions in the mausoleum, one about Andy Worhol and another by YawaiMeika, a young (born 1990) lady painter who belongs to an aboriginal tribe in Taiwan.

We also try our luck at the concert hall and theater but there is not much going on, the next concert is in a week's time! perhaps because of the New year celebrations, oh well.

A pleasant walk around the mausoleum, lots of people walking around, children playing, elderly watching on wheelchairs, it is a weekend family day out despite a cloudy and windy day. Many exotic plants, the grapefruit flowers gift us the most intense scent of the afternoon.

Lunch at a simple but friendly eatery just outside the memorial complex, Steamed chicken, pork intestines. Shared formica tables, paper napkins and metal chopsticks which I don't really like, too slippery. I later noticed packs of single-use wooden chopsticks but they are for takeout clients. As I was thinking to ask for permission to use them a Deliveroo driver came by to pick up an order.

pork intestines


On the way to the hotel, past lots of lit paper balloons for CNY,  a well-deserved foot and body massage, a popular feature of central Taipei, 1200 ntd, 1 hour foot and 1 hour body.


15 February 2019

National Palace Museum and Shilin night Market

Per la terza volta al National Palace Museum di Taipei. Mai abbastanza anche se certamente non c'è più l'effetto novità. Vero che le circa 700.000 opere delle collezioni imperiali sono esposte a rotazione (solo l’1% è visibile, il 99% sta negli scantinati) sono probabilmente diverse da quelle che ho visto nel 2002 e nel 2010. Non sono però in grado di ricordare, e tanto meno valutare, le differenze tra diversi capolavori.

Fa sempre impressione ricordare la storia di questa collezione. Per secoli a Pechino nella città proibita, poi portata via da Chiang Kai-shek in ritirata e trasportata a Taiwan quando i comunisti di Mao vinsero la guerra civile. C'erano molte più opere, ma i militari di Chiang non poterono portare via tutto. Alla fine comunque qualche migliaio di bauli sono adesso protetti nella motagna adiacente a Taipei, a prova di attacco nucleare!

Il possesso della collezione è vista, in sé, come una sorta di legittimazione del potere politico, per questo a Pechino sono così arrabbiati. Il direttore del museo che organizzò la prima esposizione è visto come una sorta di usurpatore, vilipeso quasi quanto Chiang. Molti a Taiwan pensano che sia un bene che le opere siano qui, avrebbero potuto essere distrutte durante la Rivoluzione Culturale di Mao.

Ottima audioguida multlingue, ma sono sorpreso che bisogni pagare in contanti, Taiwan dovrebbe essere all'avanguardia tecnologica ma invece no.

Nel museo i cartelli esplicativi sono in inglese e cinese, e anche traslitterati in Pinyin (il sistema inventato negli anni 50 in Cina e ora adottato in tutto il mondo) e Wade-Giles, il vecchio sistema della Cina imperiale.

C'è molta gente, soprattutto scolaresche, poi dopo le 5 tutto più calmo e ci possiamo godere le opere d'arte con calma.

Uber a Shilin in prima serata, il "mercato notturno" per antonomasia. Sicuramente un pochino turistico ma comunque interessante. Ci sono turisti ma anche molti locali.

Zuppa di costolette di maiale e poi ostriche e uova. Poi andando via siamo stati imbrogliati da una venditrice di frutta fresca. Ottimi prodotti ma prezzi triplicati rispetto agli altri mercati "normali" della città. Non era così quando ero venuto in passato, nel 2010 l'ultima volta, era più genuino!

Abbiam preferito un Uber, aspettanto qualche minuto, invece che prendere uno dei tanti taxi che aspettavano all'uscita del museo, perché TUTTI i tassisti erano incalliti fumatori e le auto puzzavano in modo indecente.

Qualche colpetto sulla app e mi arriva una email annunciando l'arrivo della macchina. Pulita e profumata. La cosa strana è che a Taiwan non è consentito lasciare una mancia agli autisti Uber, vai a capire.

10 February 2019

Taipei, Jade market and night food

It's a late morning wakeup, we are tired from our travels returning from Palau and need a good sleep.

As we leave our hotel in the cranky elevator I went to push the 1 button to get to the ground floor and noticed that there is no floor number 4. They skip from floor 3 to floor 5. 

This is because anything number 4 in China is bad luck, as the pronunciation of the number is similar to that of the character for "death".

I thought it was some kind of old superstition that only old people in villages believe, but no, it is here in one of the best hotels in the high-tech capital of modern Taiwan.

A short walk and we are out in the lazy Sunday traffic.

Trip to the Jade Market, which has become a bit touristy, a lot actually, but is still interesting. Open only on weekends from 10 to 6 in the evening.

Mostly jewels, lots of handicraft and even live anumals, like a few friendly parrots.

Many coins from the Qing dynasty are available, a souvenir full of history. Some may be fakes, but they are quite common and cheap, I don't think it would pay to mint fakes.

In the end I bought a pair of jade earrings from the Qing dynasty for my wife. They dynasty reigned for almost 300 years so it's hard to date the stuff, but it does not really matter.

The most interesting encounter is with a Tibetan couple who came to Taiwan 11 years ago. In broken English, they tell us their stories and show us their wares. They did not feel safe in Tibet and decided to leave, but it was not clear to me why they decided to come to Taiwan. I did not want to be intrusive and did not ask.

I bought a curiously intriguing red Buddha carved in I am not sure what. Maybe some resin or perhaps animal bone.



Funny that they only take cash everywhere in the market. I did not expect Taiwan to be so backward. In any similar market in China these days everyone, including illiterate farmers, would accept electronic payments.

Liaoning night food market for dinner. Taipei is famous for its night markets, again it can be a touristy experience but the food is good and generally cheap.

Tonight for me it's goose intestine with chili, ginger and spring onion. All washed down with cool local beer.


Followed by pig blood curd soup. Usually we have our soups first, but you can't really plan a meal at a night market in Taiwan, it depends what you stumble into first.




11 August 2015

Film review: Three times (2005) di Hou Hsiao Hsien, ***

Taipei temple
Sinossi

Un film diviso in tre episodi in cui si riflette sulla impossibilita' dell'amore.

1911, Dadaocheng. il tempo della liberta'. il padrone di una piantagione di tè e suo figlio vogliono riscattare il contratto di una giovane cortigiana. avendo capito che la ragazza aspetta un bambino dal figlio, m. chang cerca di accelerare le trattative. la ragazza intanto diventa la concubina del padre e m. chang va in Giappone a raggiungere un rivoluzionario cinese in esilio.

1966, Kaohsiung. il tempo dell'amore. chen incontra may, che lavora in una sala da biliardo che lui frequenta con regolarita'. i due giovani giocano una partita insieme poco prima che lui parta per il servizio militare. durante un permesso, chen torna a trovarla ma lei sembra essere scomparsa.

2005, Taipei. il tempo della giovinezza. Jing e' epilettica e sta perdendo progressivamente la vista dall'occhio destro. abita con la madre e la nonna ed ha un'avventura con una donna, michy. Zhen lavora in un negozio di foto digitali ed abita con blue, la sua ragazza. quando lei scopre che lui la tradisce con Jing, diventa folle di rabbia. che futuro avranno questi quattro giovani? Almeno uno di loro potra' avere una vita serena?

Taipen night market

Recensione

Non il miglior film del regista di Taiwan Hou Hsiao-Hsien a mio parere. Parte con un ritmo difficile e stenta a decollare. È interessante la sequenza storica: la "prima volta" è il 1966, la seconda è il 1911 (si parla dialetto Hokkien sotto occupazione coloniale giapponese) e la terza nella moderna Taiwan degli anni sessanta del XX secolo (si parla mandarino).


Ho trovato difficile entrare nel film, ma penso sia comunque utile a capire alcuni aspetti della storia di Taiwan, questa isola cinese che da oltre un secolo è separata dalla madrepatria.














15 September 2012

Book review: Andrew Zimmern visits Taiwan (2009) by Andrew Zimmern, *

making dim sum in a Taipei restaurant

Synopsis

One chapter of a book about the author traveling around the world to try different foods. This chapter is about Taiwan, or so I thought when I bought it. In reality only half of it is about Taiwan and then only about dim sum.


Review


Disappointing. I bought it to learn about food in Taiwan, and all you get is one restaurant in Taipei he visited. One that is in all the guidebooks and that just about any foreign tourist will probably end up trying. I did too. It was very good, but did not need this audio-book. Anyway, the first half of the piece is about the author's food experiences trying Chinese food in New York!

Look elsewhere if you are interested in finding out more about Taiwanese food. Which, by the way, is absolutely excellent, possibly the best Chinese food in the world. Perhaps because in mainland China the rich traditions of Chinese food were repressed for decades during Maoism, though they are obviously nurtured again to their full, amazing variety.

You can buy this chapter about Taiwan as an audio-book or the whole book by clicking below.


making dim sum in a Taipei restaurant



02 June 2012

Film Review: Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), by Ang Lee, ****

Synopsis

This is not a movie to see on an empty stomach. Writer-director Ang Lee's 1994 Oscar nominee tells a family story about a chef and his three daughters through the meals the chef prepares and serves his family. This touching, dryly funny story of a family coping with personal lives and the way those lives intersect with the family relationships captures a shift in generations in Taipei. The father, a famous chef who has lost his taste buds, still cooks, though he draws no pleasure from eating. His daughters, meanwhile, deal with both the disappointments and surprises of daily living and the way their adult lives compare to the expectations the widowed father had for them. A subtle, amusing--and mouth-watering--comedy of impeccable manners. --Marshall Fine

Review

I found this Taiwanese movie exhilarating. As a lover of food, I was enchanted with the preparations of elaborate Chinese dishes. This is a movie about food, about life in Taiwan and about human nature.

I also found the movie to be an interesting picture into the daily life of a family in Taiwan, a fascinating island with a profound Chinese culture but also a society that has developed in a much different way compared to the mainland.

31 May 2012

Film review: The Wedding Banquet, (1993), by Ang Lee, ****

Synopsis
Dig in! This "funny and poignant comedy of manners" (The New York Times), directed and co-written by Oscar(r) nominee* Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility), is an absolutely delicious feast! Winner of the Berlin Film Festival's prestigious Golden Bear, The Wedding Banquet is "top-notch comedy" (Leonard Maltin)! Successful New Yorker Wai Tung and his partner Simon are blissfully happy, except for one thing: Wai Tung's conservative Taiwanese parents are determined he find a nice girl to marry! To please them and get a tax break he arranges a sham marriage to Wei Wei, a sexy go-getter in need of a green card. But when his family swoops down for the extravaganza, Wai Tung would do well to remember that at a traditional Chinese wedding banquet, sexual repression takes the night off!

24 November 2011

Book Review: City of Sadness, by Bérénice Reynaud, ****

Synopsis
This work introduces the Western audience to the richness of New Taiwanese Cinema. It revisits a painful episode in Taiwanese history, creating an elliptical and impressionistic picture of Chiang Kai-shek's takeover of the island after the defeat of his Kuomintang army by Mao Zedong.

Review
This is a moving love story that serves as a conduit to illustrate the period right after WW II in Taiwan, when the Japanese colonial administration was replaced by the ruthless and corrupt rule of Chen Yi, a mainland administrator for Chiang Kai-shek. The infamous episode of 2/28/47 is the background against which the story is set.

Taiwan later became an extraordinary success story and today it is a thriving democracy, but the end of Japanese colonial rule did not start under the best auspices...

26 October 2011

Book Review: Formosa Betrayed, by George Kerr, *****

Island of Tatan, off Quemoy with Nationalist flag
By way of background...

"Our experience in Formosa is most enlightening. The Administration of the former Governor Chen Yi has alienated the people from the Central Government. Many were forced to feel that conditions under autocratic rule [Japan's rule] were preferable.

21 February 2010

Taipei: National Palace Museum, 101, Longshan temple

National Palace Museum
My morning is entirely devoted to the National Palace Museum. I was here eight years ago but I am just as excited today. The best museum for Chinese art in the world. The story is well known. Chiang kai-shek took about 20,000 trunks wirth of art from the imperial collection of the forbidden city when he had to leave Beijing during the civil war. All that stuff traveled around China, but when Chiang saw that he was losing to mao, he had his staff pack "only" about 7,000 trunks of the best items and shipped it over to Taiwan. This treasure is still a major bone of contention with Beijing, though in recent years there have been cooperation programs with museums in the mainland.

This is la crème de la crème of Chinese art, collected by emperors as far back as the Tang dynasty. Chiang had a nuclear bomb proof vault buil in a mountain next to Taipei and then, next to the mountain, this museum. The world is lucky that the stuff is here, or it would probably have been dstroyed during the cultural revolution in China. Today, only about one percent of the items are on display, and the Museum's staff rotates it ever so many months. Incredibly refined, pottery, ceramics, calligraphy, jewellery, jade, bronze...

I can see myself coming back here many, many times...

Leaving the Museum I head to the XXI symbol of pride of Taiwan, Taipei 101. When it was completed in 2004 it was the tallest building in the world, and it remained that until last month, when Burj Khalifa opened in Dubai. Taipei 101 is a controversial project. My friend S., who openly sympathizes for the independentist school of thought in Taiwan, says it was not really necessary and it was motly a trick by the Nationalists to impress an increasingly disillusioned electorate.

Taipei 101


Moving fast in 101 elevator
Be that as it may, it is still impressive. Inside, there is a slurpy food center in the basement. Then several floors of shopping mall, and what a shopping mall! Luxur brands from all over the world and a pleasant yet awe inspiring carousel of escalators, lifts, lights, and immense empty spaces that provide a welcoming and warm atmosphere.

At the top, it is cold and windy today. Not the best day to enjoy the landscape. I don't spend much time there, but again I must admit to being impressed: this time by the elevator, the fastest (at this time) in the world, going up and down at 17 meters per second without the slightest discomfort for the user. Well, may I should say the traveler, since it's over half a kilometer up from ground level!
Inside 101


An impressive 730 tons tuned mass damper is installed near the top to absorb shocks caused by wind or earthquakes.

tuned mass damper in 101
In the evening I went to the Longshan temple, where I spent some time looking at the faithful perform Buddhist ceremonies and giving offerings. It is a mystic atmosphere, welcoming and somewhat magic. Free CDs with Buddhist music ara available.
Longshan temple


20 February 2010

Taipei, Taiwan: Shilin night market

After eight years, I am back in Taiwan. Taipei fascinates me, a small capital city of a fiercely proud nation that wants to be a country. It is in fact a country, except the politics of the world don't allow it to call itself so.

I fly in from Hong Kong and check in my hotel in Da 'an. It's sort of late for a proper tour of the city so I opt to go to Shilin night market and have dinner on the go, and watch people.

It's a lively scene, the food available is beyond description, you can sit down at any of the countless stalls and have anything prepared for your as you wait. Actually, as you watch, it is done right there in front of your eyes.





Lots of games of skill around, people have fun, quietly, between a bite and a drink. I wish I had a month to come back every night and taste all of this tempting food!

There is people of all ages. Families with children playing around, adolescents on a date, older people savoring the atmosphere. A bustling yet serene night market.