Saturday, June 30, 2012

Taiwan's food

Since being in Taiwan is so much about the eating, here is a sampling of what you can enjoy eating in Taiwan...

Something in shells.
Tasty frozen yogurt.
Something else in shells.
Pinapples, tomatoes and other fruits.
Waffles and ice cream.
Marvelous desserts.

Hm, I'm it lunch time yet?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Damper 101

What is yellow and weighs as much as 132 elephants?

The damper inside the Taipei 101 building, that's what.

It is a 660-metric-ton tuned mass damper with a diameter of 5.5 meters, which helps to stabilize the tower against movements caused by high winds.
The damper is five storeys high, suspended from Level 92 to Level 87.

So: it's a great big, yellow ball that keeps the building from swaying, which is a good thing because it's built in a typhoon and earthquake prone area.

Before Taipei 101, no building had been built to withstand both of those natural forces.  The design, therefore, needed to be stiff enough to combat winds and flexible enough to endure earthquakes--these two are conflicting engineering feats.
Okay, so all that is amazing and all, but here's the thing:
I look at the 101 damper and think of this giant red ball--the one from the Alias TV series.
Do you remember that?
It hung in the air over a city in Russia and everyone turned into zombies.

There are these odd little characters called Damper Babies, and I am thinking that they are a part of the conspiracy.
Don't believe me?  Why do they have a secret base?

The damper, yes.  A whole lot to do with physics and little bit of conspiracy theory.

Taipei 101

Taipei 101 is one of the tallest buildings in the world.  The third tallest, as I write this, but buildings keep competing for this spot, so who knows how long these words will be up to date.
101 was ranked as the tallest building in the world for only six years.

How many floors do you think it has?
Did you guess 101?
But there are actually five more floors underground, so it should be Taipei 106.
Or maybe not.

It's more than half a kilometer high.  Whoa.
To get you from street level to the top, the tower has one of the fastest elevators in the world.  It travels
1010 meters per minute.  Which is also:
16.83 meters per second
55.22 feet per second
60.6 kilometers per hour
37.7 miles per hour.
The elevator man will tell you all of that on your way up in several different languages, but it's hard to keep up with him.

The blue-green glass offers UV protection to those inside.  It's also supposed to give the building the look of bamboo--which was intentional, to show strength, growth and resilience.
It may be an engineering feat,but there are elements of design evident all over the place.

The repeating of 8 (a number of luck and prosperity) segments of 8 floors echo the rhythms of a pagoda (serenity) or a stack of Chinese money boxes (prosperity).

Even the emblem over the door is meant to show three coins with central holes implying the number 1-0-1.

And why 101?
Because it commemorates the renewal offered by the beginning of a new year and a new century:  January (1) the first day (01).
The building is even helpful in telling time as a giant sundial when its shadow falls in the adjoining park.
At night, Taipei 101 stands like a candle with a flame at the top, said to symbolize liberty and welcome.
From 6 to 10pm each evening, the tower lights up in a different color for each day of the week:
Monday - red
Tuesday - orange
Wednesday - yellow
Thursday - green
Friday - blue
Saturday - indigo
Sunday - purple
I visited on a Friday.

The more I learn about it, the more impressed I am.  The designers and builders could have just built a building to be the tallest.  That's a pretty top level feat in itself.  But the amount of thought they put into the design and character of the building makes it very likeable.

Fort San Domingo

The fort, as one of the oldest existing buildings in Danshui, has been called many things.

It was "Fort San Domingo" to the Spanish who built the first fort here in 1629.

"Hongmao Castle" to the Dutch in 1642 when they kicked the Spanish out and it was called after the red haired folk who lived there (Fort of the Red Heads).

"The Consulate" to the British, who leased it in 1867 and turned it into their compound. 

And "historic site of the first grade" to the Taiwanese who repossessed it in 1980 and turned it into a tourist attraction.
It's a fort, so it needs cannons, but I wonder if these ones were ever used from here, or just put there to look impervious.

This one says, "The cannon is cast by the order of the emperor in Chiaching 18th year of the Qing Dynasty, weighing 800 catties."

I wondered what a catty is...probably not a fat cat...
Nope.  I looked it up.
A catty is a traditional Chinese unit of mass equivalent to about 600 grams.  So the cannon would only weigh about 96 cats, if I've done my math right.
...if we were weighing in cats, that is...
The British made all sorts of renovations.  The guide pamphlet listed some of them as the "elegant features".

One was these green, glazed bottle railings.  They are pretty, it's true.
Another was the brick carving.  Come to think of it, I've never seen brick carved before.  Cool.

So go to the fort.  Look around.  Learn some stuff.
But forget about measuring in units of cat, people don't really do that.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bike mechanic space

Here is some intense bike repair space.
This guy's brain must be super organized to work in an environment so chaotic.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The arcades

They're popular in Taiwan.   Bunches of them.
That claw game that grabs a stuffed animal for you.
They're full of cutesy things--teletubbies, bears, pokemon, more bears.

What do people do with all these things?
And why does one street need so many?
Do people end their day saying, "Ah, long day at work, I need to go relax and win a stuffed, red teletubbie"?

It's one of those things in life that I find mysterious.

Little dogs

The little dogs are every where in Taiwan.
On the streets.
In the shops.
On the scooters.
In the arm bags.
At the cafes.
On the tables.

You're just not cool in Taiwan unless you have a little dog.

Squid on a stick

On a stick.
Would you like some?

The street food of Taiwan is everywhere--plentious and delicious.  And much of it comes on a stick.
It's a snacker's paradise, for more than just the squid, but you can try that, too.
I was told that eating squid is like eating stale, salty jellybeans.  If that doesn't make it appealing, I don't know what does.


This is what Little Pear eats.

When I found them among the street foods of Taiwan, they were like something from my imagination come to life.
That's because they were immediately recognizable to me as the treat the Chinese boy in one of my favorite books could not resist.
I read the books about Little Pear at least half a dozen times as a child, and another two or three dozen times to all the many children I've read stories to over the years.

Everybody loves Little Pear.
And Little Pear loves his tanghulu.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Thakur the statue in a hat

 Another person who wears the hat is this guy:
Thakur Sain Negi.

I found him presiding over the village center traffic circle and bus stop.
He wasn't getting a lot of attention there.

It seems he doesn't get a lot of attention anywhere.

The only information I can find is that he was a translator and scholar of Tibetan Buddhist texts.  But what his connection to the village is, I do not know.
I could read the Hindi...but I am feeling lazy.  Any one else wanna translate it for me so I can figure out why he's standing in the village wearing the hat?

July 26 UPDATE:

Help with reading the Hindi has revealed that he was born in one of the villages in the Kinnaur region.  Thus they claim him as one of their own.

Everybody's hat

This is what I noticed up in the village:
Everybody wears the same hat.


Cloth merchants.

Doctor's wives.
Even the statues wear the hat.

That's wild.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Village in the mountains

Once you travel up the thrilling mountain road,
you reach the village of Rekong Peo in Kinnaur.
Where the air is fresh, the people are few(er), and the weather is vastly cooler than on the plains.

Look, there's even empty space on the road.

It's like a whole other world out there.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mountain road

There's a road up into the mountains where my friends live that takes eight to ten hours to drive.
It's a beautiful view along the way:  mountains, valleys, rivers, waterfalls.

Before I left to start on the journey to her home, my friend described the road like this:  "First, there are 3 to 4 hours of winding, mountain roads.  Then there are 3 to 4 hours of nice, smooth roads.  Then there are 2 to 3 hours of terror."
Okay, I thought as we drove along, winding roads--check.  Not too bad.  No car sickness.
Smooth roads--check.  Not bad, either.
Terror?  She must be exaggerating to over-prepare me, right?  This isn't so bad.
Well, then I saw what she was talking about.
Construction along the road doesn't stop the traffic from going through--the mountain road is the only way through, so through we must go.

Some day maybe the construction will all be finished.
And it's a beautiful drive if you ever have opportunity to travel it.