/% Made in Taiwan

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cat Burglars

The door was locked.

The cats, beyond the door sounded like they had just knocked something over. "Silly cats." Taking out the key and turning it in the lock, I didn't get the usual three-stage series of weighted clicks; instead just a solitary single rotation, signifying a flatmate was home.


No answer, I walk into my room, but catch a glance of Abe's. "He must be doing washing." Clothes everywhere. Cupboards open. Something is not right. Thoughts of Abe or his girlfriend in a frenzied argument wander through my brain, as I pass into my room and see a symmetrical display of laundry. Something is definitely not right.

The penny drops at about the same speed as my jaw as I glance round my room. Lenses and camera intact. Passport strewn on the bed. Computer accounted for. I run back into Abe's room; again I see his camera equipment and computer, and am even more confused. The trifecta of laundry-themed rooms ends in Armando's, as I run past on the way to the living room, and awaiting brand-new Macbook Pro. What is going on?

Abe. No reply. A quick word with Armando, and he cuts short dinner to run home. Obviously avoiding touching anything at all, I do a quick second sweep of the rooms - the only stuff missing seems to be Abe's computer and our beloved three-legged cat, Tripod, who is likely hiding in a dark corner somewhere. Armando arrives - pennies and jaws dropping all around.

"What's the number for emergency services in Taiwan? ... 012?"

I try Abe again. No response, so I call Natasha and ruin one more evening.

Time to dive into emergency Chinese, and I dial. The guy on the end of the phone is calm and positive, and he dispatches a policeman to arrive in the next few minutes. Just before hanging up, he compliments me on my Chinese; and even under such stress my ego still pauses to be stroked before I shake myself out of it. Meanwhile, Armando is doing his own sweep of the house, shocked that he had only left home an hour previously at 6:50. We play out the scenario - the door, the lights, the stuff left lying around - nothing quite making sense. I grab the camera, take some shots of each room, and run a video around while narrating what I remember.


My dirty laundry


Abe one more time. Or maybe two. His phone is clearly off.

The first cop arrives, and I rattle off what happened to him. This shit clearly happens all the time, and he calmly listens to our story while he wanders around and takes photos of the most pertinent details. He sits me down and I sign some forms that seem to allow detectives to come in and do a formal inspection. Switching between his Nokia cell phone and radio, he radios for backup, and Armando and I look up to see the househould Hulk cookie jar, well, ajar; it's head and shoulders telling the story of a very polite burglar taking a peek inside and returning the lid.

The phone rings. A conversation completely out of context is difficult enough to grasp at the best of times, and it was only after a minute that I realised it was the police call centre asking to see if I was 'satisfied' with the timely service so far? Satisfied? What... yeah sure. Thanks. Slightly knocked sideways, it seemed all the more natural to strike up a conversation about our cats, while watching the policeman edging towards Datou. A few photos are collected on his official camera; and in mild disbelief I watch as he takes out his cell phone and adds a couple for himself. Are we looking for a cat burglar here?

Datou has a new friend.

More police begin arriving, and questions begin to be asked of the likely location of the other keys. Abe is out of contact, Natasha is on the way, and I don't even have the cell phone of the landlord. Raised eyebrows, inspection of ID card etc etc. This is getting a bit frustrating.

The CSI dude turns up, and he begins inspecting the main door lock. No joy. Then, his eye wanders over to the window opening into the living room; a brief flash of the light and it's clear that's where they came in. Bars block the windows of most houses in Taiwan, and ours is no exception. The only surprise is how easily they prised the bars - with an adjustable spanner, no less. So, let me ask you - if you can get through the bars with such a crude tool, and the bars themselves work as a ladder, what is the freaking point. Strike one for Taiwan. Not in our favour is the fact that we often leave that window open to allow air in, and it was unlikely that it was locked - lesson learnt.


Breaking and entering

Prints are taken on the window, and ... Hulk. Gloves. They came and went through the same place, which probably explains the scuffling sound when I arrived. We chat briefly about what to do, and his advice sounds like it is coming from a man that has seen this way, way too often. The adrenaline starts to fade as he leaves, and we assess the damage. Tasha arrives, slightly breathless.

Yes - Hulk. Please take him in for more questioning, by all means...

It's quite clear straight off the bat that we got away amazingly lightly. A few hundred dollars in American cash, and all the expensive equipment and travel documents are still intact, as far as we can see. But still one cat missing.

Tripod is timid cat at the best of times, but she was not to be found in any of her typical hiding places. I shine a light quickly outside, and nothing. I go and get my camera, and set the flash on, hoping to capture some reflective eyes; nothing. Did they really steal her?

Another shot with the torch, and the other guys hear a loud "meow". Tripod, except for Gizmo-like sound effects simply does not meow, ever, and I am in disbelief that it is her. Datou, on the other hand, makes a bolt for the window, clearly in distress - what a hero! Some more flash photographs taken down the alleyway, and sure enough it is her, lurking behind an air conditioning unit. I grab a torch, throw on some shoes and run out of the door, with Natasha in hot pursuit.


The rear of the apartment building is dark, dim, and not easy to access. I catch sight of her, and she scampers off (with three legs it's hard to do much else), and I worry that we are about to start a bizarre game of mouse and cat. But I corner her, and manage to pick her shivering body up. Safe. And I pass her up to Armando, manhandling herself up the bars and into the warm light of the apartment.

Covered in the muck of a million scooters, I head back to join Natasha and walk back around to the apartment entrance. Call Abe a dozen or more times. Talk at length about what the hell just happened, and wait for his arrival. And it was about this point that we realised just how hungry we were. The adrenalin surge comes to an abrupt stop.

We didn't need to wait to long for Abe to come back. Without wanting to get too dramatic, we walked him through the house, and it was clear that he was as shocked as the rest of us. Turns out his phone had run out of power. It's at times like this that I realise my daily Chinese skills have definite limits - vocabulary that Abe is talented and dedicated enough to learn. Still, we got through, and in the end what more is there to say? We were amazingly lucky.

We'll be lodging the full report with the police tomorrow, but until then I have rather an important gathering to attend - the departure of Nick Chaney from Taiwan. But I'll leave that for the next post.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Jiufen Tea Ceremony

Company team-building activities are a fairly regular activity on the Dell calendar. One of the more community-spirited activities is the annual Jinshan beach clear-up operation at one of the surf hot spots on the other side of northen Taiwan. As a result of Typhoon Morakot, the area was in severe need of some affection, and we were glad to help. Rubbish and driftwood were dispatched in double-quick time and arranged in a relatively neat pile at the head of the beach, and we were so efficient that we were told to 'stop' lest we ruin the beach cleanup effort of subsequent companies doing similar initiatives - irony.

Once we had that done and dusted, we took the opportunity not to squander our time on that side of the island, and made a beeline for the Gold Ecological Park, where my ex-Chinese teacher works. A pretty nice place, and worth a trip up the amazingly meandering road.

Highlight of the day, though, was an evening spent in Jiufen - a place I have inexplicably never been to. What a mistake - the place was magical, and we spent a happy few hours spiriting away time in a tea shop watching the sun set over the hills towards Taipei, and subsequent glide down quite the most charming street of hanging lanterns. All in all, a fantastic little adventure.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Shanghai Quickie

View from my hotel room - I am quite a big fan of the Renaissance in Shanghai - not super downtown, but close enough.

It also floats above Zhongshan Park, which I had written about before. It's quite a pleasure to drop in on the way to the Shanghai Dell offices, and get a little slice of everyday Chinese life before logging into the old e-mail.

Old dudes together, found everywhere in the world.

Pleasure boats, lined up for a weekend of action.

Practice makes perfect.

As has happened with Hong Kong, it's a little strange to realise that the regular trips I make there are becoming routine. When people ask 'hey, how was the Shanghai trip?' it seems terribly spoiled to say 'oh, normal' ... it just doesn't cut it!

I think much of that is down to losing some great friends from the city (now in Germany and ... well, I am not too sure), and I am building up some new links and all. It will get its mojo back, of this I have no doubt.

Next trip for me though, is of course Miami ... still blows me away that I will be there in a matter of weeks!

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Window Undressing

Walking home after a late night in the office, and I stumbled across a window being re-dressed at Sogo. Or undressed, perhaps. Flickr.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, July 27, 2009

2 Days, 10,000 Buddas

I have quite some photography and writing to catch up on, but for good reason; it's been super busy here for the last month or so, and I have barely had time to unpack.

In between landing from the UK, and spending time in Shanghai and Kunshan, I managed a diversion on the way to Guangzhou to stop in and say hi to Team M&T. Always a pleasure!

We didn't have too much planned, so it was doubly pleasant to match my request of A. great food, and B. some hiking. The food was the easy bit, blending Thai and Indian flavours, while we managed a quick excursion up to the north of the city to check up on some delinquent Buddas, that seemed to be trying their best to escape their mounts and leg it down the hillside.

Chunking Mansions Infrastructure

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pockets of Design # 1

Favourite Local Buildings

In my bid to pay a little more attention to my surroundings, I have decided to photograph and document some of the things that I like the most in my local area, but that I see regularly - maybe the most difficult things to appreciate.

For me, this manages to be 'Taiwanese', speaking in a vernacular of concrete and harsh angles. The desire to customise individual treatment of air conditioning and external facades is somewhat channeled, and who can argue with the stripes of magenta, and might-I-say awesome lightening bolt foyer? This building makes me smile.

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 18, 2009

Taipei a-Wanderin'

Since I have now been in Taiwan an improbably long FIVE YEARS, and on top of that broke one year at Dell, I thought I would go and treat myself to a new camera lens. I somehow managed to misplace my old 50mm F1.8, so thought I would take the plunge and get the F1.4 upgrade. Abe, my flat mate, has the F1.2, which is an amazing piece of glass to be sure, but it's a bit big for carrying for long periods, and I didn't have a spare kidney to sell.

I am quite enjoying it so far, and also bought a polarising filter for my 24-105 L, since I thought I would be more likely to do landscape images with that one. All good fun.

Triple-double reflections

This picture was interesting, not for the thing itself (I rather liked the yellow tape while waiting for food), but for the reaction of one of the passers-by. He leaned in, asked me what I was taking a photo of, and when I explained 'of the yellow tape' snorted indignantly and strutted off.

There were some pretty serious anti-government marches this weekend, and I spotted the minor result of one of the rallies - they had crossed out the 'Chinese' on the Deaflympics signs. That'll teach 'em!

Lane positioning

Building at rest

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Taipei Has Eyes

Walking away from buying a new lens, I was amused by this underpass and the faces that jumped up at me as I walked up and down the steps.

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 13, 2009

Taipei Mega Architecture


I live pretty much slap bang downtown in Taipei, and I am forever amazed at the scale of my local motorway at the end of the street. The thing is, they posted it up on stilts, so it really does the double trick of magically disappearing and providing an incredible space right in the centre of the city. It also seems to be lit professionally, although I suspect that was more by accident than design.

Anyway, on my way back from my semi-regular trips to the computer market, I thought I would take a few photos.

Stairway to heaven

Painting on the ceiling with light.

Cathedral of the Automobile

Juicy couture. And home.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ye Shanghai

In Shanghai and Hong Kong for a few days of business and pleasure.

I haven't quite found time enough to talk about the amazing number of visitors to Taiwan in the last couple of weeks, and indeed my intrepid parents in New Zealand, but I promise I shall soon!

View in the other direction from my hotel - think I prefer the park-side view!

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Open-Source Architecture

Open-Source Architecture in Taiwan

I am sure I could find some earnest academics somewhere postulating about Architecture 2.0, or some such thing, but the fact is that it is happening here in Taiwan right before your eyes.

Unlike in the West (see top layer of the image), where we tend to build something, and leave it as-is until it falls down, or at least when a new supermarket comes to town, Taiwanese people tend to view their buildings as a mere starting point for their own augmentations and addenda. When you first arrive - or at least for the first few years - it's easy to say that it is ugly and unplanned, and that clearly nobody cares about the big picture (see second layer of the photo). However, after some time looking and getting used to the pipes emerging out of every orifice, it does at least seem to make a little more sense. Why not, indeed, customise the building for its eventual use? Why not allow it to adapt over time? Is this not what we are talking about with Web 2.0, Democratic Design and Open-Source Architecture? (do forgive me if I am coining these trends, or at least give me a royalty cheque).

With a little more foresight, and accepting that this is going to happen no matter what the planners do, I reckon that there is a way to build these edifces with just a touch more grace and charm. Lord Rogers - do pop in, and I'll discuss my ideas with you.

Lloyds Building in London (with the Erotic Gherkin behind) - sometimes Taiwanese buildings remind me of this building, a little.
Photographed by Adrian Pingstone in June 2005 and released to the public domain.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Taipei Street Movies

Wandering along Civic Boulevard the other evening, one of the local temples was putting on a show of movies, projected from proper reel, down the pavement. I am not quite sure who was supposed to be watching, as it only seemed to be the guy operating the projector and his mate in the audience. I don't even remember if there was any sound. What a great concept, though.

A night at the movies.

IMAX, almost.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Digital Work Signs

Awesome warning signs - sorry about the cam phone quality!

On the way to lunch...

Snapped some snaps at lunch time - what fantastic work sign warning graphics. Somewhat different from the ones I have talked about before ... see here:

Construction Signs Taipei

Labels: ,

Cycle Lanes in Taipei

Cycle Lanes in Taipei

The incredible increasing interest in cycling in the last year is encouraging the city government to install cycle lanes along some of the major streets in the city. It's a great initiative, and I appreciate the spirit, but next time, how about guiding them away from fire hydrants, up steps less than 20 cm and out of the way of oncoming traffic? One step at a time, chaps.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Grey Days in Taipei

I had a day wandering the streets in the rain last weekend, and it was well worth checking out some of the nooks and crannies of Taipei that I have not returned to in a while. It has been seriously pissing it down for months now (without much exaggeration) with a seemingly daily shower timed to coincide with leaving the office. Its really getting a bit boring and predictable!

Orange Adidas hit the MRT escalator

A taxi lies in wait

Wandering off to Guanghua Arts District to check out one of the graduation shows.

Zhongshan / Zhongxiao intersection while waiting for the lights to change.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 11, 2008

TiT Taipei

I love Taipei.

All the building developments in the city have an enormous amount of money thrown at marketing and branding, usually ending up gleefully making impossible promises about the life-changing factors that come along with purchase of your, as an example, 'Noble City Castle'.

However, there are times when the English checking team clearly left early for the day, and you end up with such incredible names as this - opposite the Siemens / Nokia building on MinSheng and Fuxing - it must have made their day.

Town in Town = TiT

And seen in context ... of one of the busiest intersections of the city.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Yes. I do!

Looks like we got an answer to our big question!

Yes. I do!

There has been more than a little controversy over this proposal... which surprise surprise turned out to be a fake, and an attempt to drum up business for the world's (maybe) tallest building.

The cost for proposing in this way? About 300,000 US$, so you better be sure he/she says yes! (I wonder, is the reply included in the price?).

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Marry Me - Diana

Taipei 101 - now available for rent ... I wonder if she said yes?

... Quite a trend of using the world's tallest buildings to propose, eh Ele?! :-)

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, May 07, 2007

Taiwanese Health & Safety

Coming home from a blast on the bikes, I needed to pop into Sean's bike shop after shredding another rear tyre. I am, indeed, that extreme.

Sean's, apparently, does the best business in Taipei. As such, he is having a nice refit with a shiny new frontage. Many of the workers in Taiwan don't stop for Sunday, so it was no surprise to see them hard at work. What was surprising was to see them drilling through a water pipe several times, and then leave the drill perilously close to the stream of water.

A danger to passers by and to any potential user of the drill, all anyone could do was laugh an embarrassed guffaw when i started snapping away with my camera-phone.

You are now entering a work area

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Windows on Taiwan

Growing up in the West, there are many things that you assume to be universally acknowledged as a Good Thing, but this is not always the case. Windows are a nice example; in the West, they add greatly to a living environment and raise the value of property by allowing light in and a view to be presented to the lucky inhabitant.

Here, they seem to be a necessary evil, added as an orifice for the air conditioning units. If the small size of the windows was not enough, very often a layer of dark plastic is applied over the top to stop too much natural light in, and bars are then drilled into the fabric of the building. People have explained these bars in various ways - for security, to stop babies falling out, and so on - but I am positive it is much more culturally ingrained than that. I am just sure that the link between the inside and outside world is much less obvious here.

In general, people seem to place much less emphasis on the outward appearance of a dwelling, focusing instead on the interior decoration. This is not always the case, as there are too many stylized European villas and castles to explain it that way, but there is something different going on with the relationship.

Enjoy the view

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Love is in the Air

... it must be, because the Taipei Municipal Government says it is.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, February 04, 2007


I awoke to the sounds of diggers in the street this morning. This is not an especially strange occurence here in Taipei, but I was still rather surprised to see that they had dug up the entire street, with zero warning and no pedestrian access to the street! My door is third on the left.

I looks like the boys just tied the cable onto the digger and pull backwards, peeling the cable out of the ground!

Even more surprising was returning a few hours later to discover they had glued it all back together again!

Am I on the same street? (about 10 hours later)

I also had a marvellous day enjoying the chilly, sunny weather - two weather types that are not commonly seen together here. I cruised through MOCA, and onto meet Jade at DiHua St. festive market - the equivalent of a Christmas market back in Europe. The street was totally packed and defined the word 'RiNao', which is the Chinese appreciation of busy, bustling places with lots of shouting, music, food and flashing things. My particular favourites were the ever more improbable piles of shredded squid and nuts with the sellers up on stools shouting at people to buy them.

"Get your lovely shredded squid here!"

Labels: , , ,