Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hell hath no fury like justice unleashed

On Thursday night the Devil appeared before me in the form of two men.
1: She is gone. Forget about her. You are here and she is in college.
1: The time will come when you are in there too; you will stand at the balcony and lift one finger and you shall have whomever you will want.
1: Live life, enjoy, experiment!
1: Who knows if she is doing the same now?

The devil which spoke through my friend was signalling towards me: tear his face off! which was as always. The other guy spoke.

They stood up. They stood in front of my bed. I wanted to assume a stance against them. I stood up as well. I did not refute whatever they had said, as I did not know how.
2: Be strong if you want to get what you want. If you are weak, even women will eat you alive.
2: Live life, enjoy, experiment!
2: Face it, no one can beat temptation of this sort.
1: That's the way the world is now.
2: That is right.
1: You will do better not to be fettered in by your religious restrictions.
2: Why don't you stop being a Catholic?

A third guy, a Catholic also, came in.
2: You, tell him how havoc you are!
1: You are a sinner! You are not fit to be Catholic!
3: Wah! I'll remember that... [he exits]

1: The best person to seduce are Christian women. Why, when you finally get them into your illegitimate clutches,
2: You have beaten Jesus!
1: Evil triumphs!

And so on and so forth as I waited for the storm to subside.
The second guy became slightly human again. He asked me,
2: Just asking, were you very repelled by what I have said?
I confessed.
I thought he would pin me down there and then and break all 4 of my limbs. He didn't. Wouldn't mind if he did. But I would also have said more.

After the storm subsided I asked the onlookers, 2 of them huddled into a corner. I asked them what they thought.
Oh, we think it's all rubbish.
Why, then, did they not stand up against them?

This is what's called the silence of the lambs, I told another friend. He agreed. He did not look as if he would stand up against them, either.
But at least I know that I am not without friends. Alas, silent ones all the same.

I was more silent than I would have liked.
I do not believe that I am weak. I am strong inside.
If I should not use strengh tear my buddy's face out for what he has said, I will use it to defend.
I will defend what I believe in. I believe that the ways of the world can be resisted.
For myself at least, I will not succumb.
For this island shall sink beneath the deepest oceans, fire shall consume all life on earth, the stars of the universe shall darken, the laws of physics shall be annulled, and the universe itself shall disintegrate before my faith does the same.


On Friday night we found ourselves engulfed in a sea of fire. This is not Hell, this is Opportunity! Give it all up! Give up the World! Give up your freedoms! Give up your hair! Rejoice! Purify! For Hell hath no fury like justice unleashed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Hsinkuang Inscription

A Disclaimer up front: This whole thing is a pleasure trip. It was out of sheer coincidence that during this one-month long break the whole lot of us applied for a holiday and, without consulting one another, all decided to go to Kaohsiung and thereabouts.

If ever you hear others talk about "Hsinkuang budui" in Taiwan (which has been part of China's sacred territory since historical times, as much as Tibet, Xinjiang or Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island are), it must have been spread by some mad pink-scarfed bubble tea-touting auntie on a motorbike. Do not believe her, whatever she says.

5 April: Douliou 云林县 斗六市
The TV screens at the teppanyaki restaurant told of a luxury cruise ship docking at Keelung today. The masses of foreign tourists are now flooding the city, visiting the tourist hotspots and shopping. The locals at Keelung are elated. "Come quickly and set up your stalls!!" the words screamed forth from the screen. "They are top-grade tourists!! They don't haggle!!"

TV reporter: Do you haggle?
Tourist: Er, I don't.
Waitress at the till: I suppose you will be arriving at Kaohsiung tomorrow?
Me: How the hell did you know that?!
Waitress: Oh, we heard everything from the tour-guides.
As business opportunities go, the Taiwanese are omniscient.

There was less visible hype over our presence. It wasn't publicised, for one thing: for Singaporeans are known street-rats, passionate artists in bargaining and philistines in tourism. So wallow in thy defeat, Kaohsiung, for thou hadst lost to thy rival city this day.

There was a bookstore a few steps away in the mall. There was this book bearing the title 《黄祸》, a sci-fi speculation novel about the Chinese bringing down civilisation. Since it was written by a Chinese writer, it made a very intriguing read, and I regret never to have bought it.


This is Douliou.
This is not a tourism hot-spot. This is a real Taiwanese town, for Taiwanese to hang around in, shop in, buy bubble-tea in, etc.
There are no attractions.
But, it is as beautiful as it looks in the picture!

About the Republic of China:
The ROC controls a smallish bunch of islands off the coast of China, the main part of which is Taiwan. It used to be the whole of China, plus what is now the Mongolian Republic, the Russian Republic of Tuva, the eastern half of Tajikistan, Arunachal Pradesh, as well as little bits of Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bhutan and Myanmar. If you go to any shopping mall in Taiwan, you might find atlases and globes with all the abovementioned territories still within ROC borders. (Mongolia, which is too big to ignore, is coloured differently, though its border with China proper is rendered a dashed line.)

About Taiwan:
Taiwan is a smallish island off the coast of Fujian. Together with Kinmen, Matsu, the Pescadores and the others, they constitute the extant territory of the ROC. It is divided into 18 counties and 7 municipalities. Most of our time was spent in just one, doing stuff which is of absolutely no interest to you unless you treat me to a drink.

Many of the toponyms in Taiwan, including the name of Taiwan itself, are coined from aboriginal place-names by early Chinese settlers, or in rarer cases, by the Japanese. They can vary wildly in aesthetic. Take, for example, the name of Kaohsiung:

About Yunlin County, where we spent most of our time in:
Yunlin looks like this:

We lived in a hilly place, but with enough open ground for farms and plantations to appear. Small villages are hard to avoid when we try to find our way around. Temptation is hard to avoid when there are stalls. As you can see, pylon cables are a prominent feature, and the difficulty of navigation is halved because of them. It's less interesting than Temburong.

About the Tropic of Cancer, or 23° 26′ 22″ N
The Tropic of Cancer is the northernmost latitude of the Sun, where the sun will be directly over on Midsummer day. The town of Shuishang (near Chiayi) is situated on this Tropic, and the exact latitude is marked on the highway near the town by an arch stretching across the road. At night, this monument is lit up garishly in purple. We crossed this special line a few times on a truck without ever noticing it.

About garbage trucks:
Garbage trucks here are called 清洁车, although they're far from being the most 清洁 vehicles around. They roam the towns and inhabited countryside of Taiwan. They are brightly-painted under the grime. A happy and repetitive tune can be heard whenever they are near. They are often mistaken for ninja vans.

It is quite sad to witness the ironic combination of colour, music and the business that a garbage truck is undergoing. It's like they are saying to you, yay, I'm doing saikang, woohoo, but not feeling very much for it. When you drive past one, the Doppler shift on the tune makes it worse.

About ninja vans:
Ninja vans are a common occurrence. They follow us around, for reasons unclear. In Chiayi and thereabouts, they sell mainly fruit teas and fried 鸡扒. Bubble tea only in mornings, and rarely even then.

There are touters, e.g. the mad pink-scarf auntie on a motorbike. Do not turn violent. Avoid if at all possible.

6 April: Nantou 南投县
Our first day getting around on a coach made me quickly tired of coaches. The mood wasn't for tourism. I wanted home. Later on, faced with the option of shopping, I would find myself rooting for tourism.

So Sun Moon Lake made the unfortunate position as our first destination.
We had one stop at the lakeshores, at a small market town spruced up for tourists called Ita Thao. The shops sold mainly food and souvenirs. If you went down the path leading to the lake and turned left, you can see the stalls selling wild boar sausages. Maybe I was just hungry then, but I remembered the sausages best, of all things in Ita Thao.

Sean, Zhiheng, Clovis (and Chester)

This was near a pavilion out in the lake, at lake level. The view was better, though, from the slopes through which the coach had passed on its way to Ita Thao, when everyone else were asleep.

Ita Thao looks like this (view from lake):

In the afternoon we visited the theme park. The bottom half of it are carnivals and rides. The upper half is made up of mock Taiwanese Aboriginal villages, one for every tribe.

I walked into a song performance, and I liked the songs they sang and danced to.
Later I learnt about their rite of passage for boys entering manhood. I think it was retarded. A boy proved his bravery by spearing a monkey to death, a monkey caged up and restrained.

Bought some bacon from the Aboriginal food stall. They got me one plate of it and a shot of rice wine to go with it. I liked the rice wine; very mild but sweet. It went down well.
On the way back, bumped into William Besson and Timothy Patrick at the museum exhibit.

A brief summary the night markets in Kaohsiung
六合 Liouhe: Pedestrian street market which sells mostly food.
新兴 Hsinshing: Covered pedestrian street market selling mostly clothes
新崛江 Shinkuchan = 六合 x 新兴


7 April: Pingtung County 屏东县
The coach took us another tortured ride to the Aquarium (in full: National {Museum of Marine Biology} and Aquarium) The ride also took us to the seaside, and for the first time in our long stay in Taiwan, we could see the straits!
We couldn't see China though.
There is a strong prevailing sea breeze. Nights are colder here than it was in Yunlin or Chiayi, and we know how bad it was over there.

I went with Si Liang for the museum trip, because he was most open to the option of watching the captive fauna, reading the panels, interacting with the set-ups, etc.
We shared the whole place with excursion groups, hailing from at least 2 primary schools.

The window-cleaner, and a school excursion group in the tube, heavily refracted.

About the Kaohsiung Metro
It bears the initials KMRT. In Chinese, you called it 捷运. Locals will never understand 地铁.
In terms of toilet cleanliness and architectural design, the Kaohsiung Metro stations are something to be envied!

8 April
Stayed in Kaohsiung, blessedly, for one day.
The rest went out shopping.
I am forever fascinated by my friends' capacity for shopping. Once I had a dream that an asteroid was projected to impact Earth at Tampines. When it failed to do so,
The rest went out shopping.

I made my way to the art museum instead.
1. KMRT from Kaohsiung Train Station (near hotel) northwards to Aozihdi station.
2. Walked c. 2~3 km down a straight road to the museum.
I had walked into the Bohemian heartlands of Kaohsiung.
Besides the museum, there were also two art schools and an artists' dormitory as well-

Entrance to the museum area

The museum itself housed few exhibits. It was quite empty when I went in, but perhaps 2pm on a weekday is a wrong timing.
1st floor: Andy Warhol Touring exhibit (opens 15 April); History of Sculpture in Taiwan exhibit (partly not open)
2nd floor: Lo Tsing-Yun memorial exhibit
3rd floor: History of Kaohsiung in landscape painting. This is where I learnt of the city's history, and how much our tour guide has been denying us by shutting up for the past 2 days-
4th floor: The Kaohsiung Awards exhibit, featuring artists from hereabouts. Exhibits include: brilliant craftwork involving Guggenheim Muesum tickets by Liu Wen-syuan; Ghoulish portraits by Jhang Jyun-shuo, a suspected mental patient. And etc.

Bought an album from the gift shop by Matthew Lien, a New-age musician from the Yukon apparently pretty well-liked in Taiwan; The Taiwanese are real suckers for New-age.

Modes of transportation in Kaohsiung

1. Walking: a healthy option. Of course, one can also freely access the roadside 7-11 outlets, which occur roughly every 30 steps.
2. Bike rental: for long distance streethikes. To rent a bike from a booth like this one shown above, you needed a credit card or a membership.
3. Taxi: taxi drivers here never shirk.
4. KMRT: as abovementioned; lavish praise be unto it!

The bus service, if existent, is rarely seen or heard from.

About the practice of moneychanging in Taiwan
There were no easygoing moneychanging booths like in Singapore. You changed currency only in bank outlets and at information counters in the malls. Even then, they'll ask you for your passport before they do anything.

Information counters will need your passport. Bank outlets can do with just your IC, but they still come with a lot of paperwork in one transaction. Transactions at the airport, however, are hassle-free.

The New Taiwan dollar comes in $1, $5, $10 and $50 in coins, and $100, $500, $1000 and etc. in notes. $20 coins and $200 notes were in circulation briefly. They are now obsolete, and rarely seen or talked about.

We went home that night. I was bracing myself to forget that feeling that staying in Taiwan had given me. It had happened even for Brunei. Soon after touchdown at Changi, it would feel as if I had never left Singapore. Alas, only the panoramas will remain.

I spent most of the flight watching K-20, starring Takeshi Kaneshiro. When I was done with that, I watched a documentary with Ainan featuring various anonymous embarassing confessions from teenagers. When we were done with that I played Fivestones. The coffee did its work, and I skipped sleeping on the plane.

Four days after I came back, I had my first session in choir for a long while, as a slide jockey of the Easter Vigil contingent. I had to fight my own feelings of dismay when Millicent took my stoic replies to mean that my experience in Taiwan was all play and no work... But, what can I say here to retort? Work? Bah, treat me to a drink.

Faustina was there too. She asked me if there were many chiobus in Taiwan. To be absolutely honest, there were more pretty girls I'd seen in one night in the Easter Vigil contingent than I had seen in Taiwan for the whole month. So there-

More than a week after I came back, a family friend came over from China and had dinner with us. He's heard that I've just come back from Taiwan. At one point he mentioned, though just passingly, the verboten Hsinkuang budui.
Me: How the hell did you know that?!
Him: We could see everything you did from the top of Wuyishan!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Inscription 518

An unimportant little entry

I. For the past 2 breakfasts, we made salad!
It was very filling, in fact, it made me feel bloated.
I think it must be the bacon chips I'd thrown in. Plus the hard-boiled egg, the generous dollops of Thousand Island, and the white cheese in olive oil with herbs.

II. I observe that in long breaks the most interesting things happen late at night:
This is when I finish some design project or artwork
Or when I stumble upon cool flash games
When I have grisly nightmares
When I fail to fall asleep and resort to furious delirious night-daydreaming
When I can talk to people on the other side of Earth.
Possibly, this is the best time for me to gleam inspiration!

III. The best conditions under which to do art, at home:
Not when everyone else is at home, like usually. You'll be talking to them mostly.
Not when no one else is at home. Home at this point is boring as hell; you'll be too distracted mostly.
However, when everyone else is at home and preoccupied with the same thing, it is perfect!
I don't know why. It's just that I work best when the others are all watching some Korean drama serial outside in the living room. Perhaps, it helps jogging my mind without actually getting me involved?

IV. Ah the travelogue
I have a travelogue put up in DeviantArt. It's not very comprehensive.
I'll put one up here as well. It would not be more comprehensive, but it will be endowed with illustrations in a better way.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Blogging from Kaohsiung

In Kaohsiung for the second day today. This is not a popular place for those who have nothing more to think than shopping and clubbing and massaging and whatnot, because Taipei has all the better stuff.
Personally though, I'm content just to have the opportunity to have this "Blogging from Kaohsiung" entry put up.

Travelling with the group in this circumstances is not a good choice. It's much better to go by oneself: There is more freedom for you to go where you want to, boring places like art galleries and scenic areas, and avoid the fun and exciting places where you don't, and people drag you there against your will.

I am quite confident in using the city's subway system in getting around, after two tries. I always like doing that when navigating a city far from home. It gives a feeling of power.