Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Eating My Way Through Taiwan: Yakiniku

Stone Yakiniku's distinctive building

Why is there so much Japanese food in Taiwan, you may well ask.  To find an answer to that question one only needs to understand a bit of Taiwanese history.  In 1895, the Qing dynasty surrendered to the Japanese ending the first Sino-Japanese war.  The Qing dynasty had failed at its attempt to modernize army of China.  For the last half-century the power and influence of the Qing emperor and his army had been in decline.  This defeat was the harbinger of doom for the dynasty, and the very early beginnings of the rise to power of the Republic of China. In just sixteen years, the Wuchang uprising would usher in the Xinhai Revolution and after a few months of war the dynasty would fall.

Barbecuing right at the table
China had changed as a result of this important defeat and one of the spoils of victory for the Japanese was the island of Taiwan.  Taiwan, until the end of the Second World War, would be operated as a Japanese colony, so it is no surprise that Japanese food is so popular here.  There are many restaurants that serve Japanese food, but one of the most interesting in my mind is the Japanese barbecue, or Yakiniku. 

Bade City has a number of Yakiniku restaurants, but my favorite is a brand new one called Stone Yakiniku.  It’s located on the corner of Jie Shou Lu and Jinhe Lu, across from the tennis courts.

The start of the Hot Pot
The way it works is that you choose a level of the menu that you want.  There are three price structures.  The highest price is $639 NTD.  The food served is all you can eat.  The waitresses will bring you a starter of Beef, Pork and Chicken and you barbecue it yourself in a charcoal pit built right into the table.   Shrimp and seafood are also available for those who ask, and the menu also includes Hot Pot at no extra charge, which is also heated right there at the table. Most places have a hood over the pit to pull the smoke, but they're noisy, in your face and real hindrance to conversation.  This restaurant has fans built right into the table, they're silent and extremely effective.

Throughout your meal, whenever you need more meat, or seafood to barbecue, you press the buzzer and the waitress comes to see what else you would like.  Soft drinks are, "All You Can Drink," and included with your meal.  Haagen Daz ice cream is also included with your meal.  That’s pretty special, but what really makes Stone Yakiniku the premiere yakiniku restaurant in the Bade-Taoyuan area s that you can also get sashimi and sushi, made to order and it is also included in the price. 

The atmosphere is noisy and fun.  I like those restaurants where you hear all the commotion and people enjoying themselves.  The wait staff are young and lively and make an enjoyable experience.  The service they provide is excellent. If you don’t speak Chinese you can make it work because there are a few who will enjoy practicing their English on you. 

Other posts you may be interested in:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Local Color: The Color is Green

Recently we drove up the 7乙, above Sanxia in the mountains of Taoyuan County.  We drove along the river to the very end of the road.  Hidden up there among the trees is a fish hatchery.  Welcome to the Taiwanese countryside.

The sign says, "Ecological Secret Hideout - Return Journey for the Fish."

This is to what the sign referred.

This temple was all alone out there.

A Western-style Farmhouse and Tea Field.

Other posts you may be interested in:

Traveling with M13:  Finding Toad Valley
Traveling with M13:  The Sequel:  Return to Toad Valley
Local Color:  The Colors of Yingge
Local Color:  The Temples of Taoyuan City

All Photos by Brenda and Emily Banducci

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Taiwan Adventure on the Voice of Asia

Radio Taiwan International was started in 1928 by the government of the Republic of China to be the Central Broadcasting System (CBS) in Nanjing, Mainland China When the Japanese invaded in 1937, CBS moved to Hankou, then to Chongqing following the ROC government.  At the end of World War 2 the radio station went back Nanjing and four years later Radio Taiwan International moved to Taipei, Taiwan along with the ROC government.

Today RTI broadcasts in 13 languages to 122 countries, it is one of the oldest radio stations operating, broadcasting news and other programs. RTI provides opportunities for listeners around the world to become acquainted with Taiwan.  RTI is also called the Voice of Asia.

Natalie Tso
Recently, Natalie Tso, the host of Taiwan Today, interviewed me on the Taiwan Adventure Blog’s recent Taiwan’s Best Blog Award for 2011.   I appreciate Natalie for allowing me an opportunity to bore her listeners. 

Natalie is also from California, an American born Chinese, was educated at Columbia University and began her radio broadcasting career in 1993.  She is also a published author.  Her books include Free to be you:  A Woman’s Guide to Dreams, Love and Self Discovery and Free to Love.  She is also a contributor to TIME magazine. Writing articles on Taiwan.  

The following is the audio from our interview.  Thank you, Natalie for this opportunity.
Natalie Tso Photo:  http://english.rti.org.tw/hostinfo.aspx?tid=E9F45554960FB097

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day Tripping: Jiufen

The view from Jiufen

Now that the weather has turned nice again, we are back on our schedule of Monday day trips.  Yesterday, we drove about an hour northeast of Taoyuan to a place called Jiufen 九份.  Jiufen is a historic mining town built in the mountains overlooking the northeastern coast of Taiwan.

If you’re driving from Taoyuan City, take National Highway 1 through Taipei, exit at the Badu interchange to Highway 62.  Follow Highway 62 to the Coastal Highway (Prov. Highway 2D) then exit to Highway 102.  Follow that into the mountains and you will find Jiufen. 

There are a number of things worth seeing there.  Jiufen has a beautiful view of the Northeastern Coast:  Beautiful bays, huge rocks and the Pacific Ocean.  There are a number of tea shops that overlook the the ocean and you can sit and drink tea and enjoy the view.  But the biggest attraction is the Jiufen Old Street area.

The entrance to Jiufen Old Streets
It’s similar to many of Taiwan’s historic "Old Street" areas.  But Jiufen is built right into the side of the hill.  Tourists from all over the world come to Jiufen when visiting Taiwan.  My daughter and I sat in one spot for a while and guessed where people were from.  We saw Norwegians, Germans, Americans and many people from Mainland China.  If you’re a homesick foreigner, like my children, this is a good place to come to find your countrymen.

If you visit Yingge, the old street area centers around ceramics.  There there are a lot of stores that’s sell only ceramics, but Jiufen is different, here the vendors are much more eclectic.  We saw a number of shoe shops, food vendors, teashops, traditional clothing stores, and of course souveneir shops.  (What tourist spot doesn’t sell souvenirs to tourists?) Just about everything was for sale here.

Grilled Sea Snails
I, of course was interested in food.  I’m always interested in food.  We found a number of vendors selling the local snacks.  Things like Squid on a Stick, some kind of sea snail, and sausages.  I will eat just about anything, but for the less adventurous, they had other Taiwanese snacks that were a little more common.

We took the wheelchair and found it pretty tough going.  The area is steep and paved with old rough-hewn stones.  We parked at the top of the area near the park and had to go down the hill, which was a bit scary.  If the wheelchair got away it would have been disastrous.  Going up the hill on the way back was very difficult for the one pushing.  So if you’re disabled it may take a bit of planning.  But it was a fun and interesting trip.  We have already discussed a return trip when family comes to visit in the fall. 

Temple rooftops in Jiufen.

Jiufen is built right into the side of the mountain.

Squid on a Stick

Lots of tourists visit Jiufen

Tombs built into the Hillside

Other posts you may be interested in:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Living in Taiwan: The Wheelchair Scooter

Places that I go that require walking long distances or dealing with large crowds are difficult for me.  I get tired quickly and after about an hour I’m completely exhausted.  Crowds present a different problem because of all the jostling and quick stops I have a tendency to lose balance and fall.  It is no fun laying on the ground in a large crowd.  People fall over you or trample you.  It can be a bit intimidating.  So in those types of situations I use a wheelchair.  The problem with wheel chairs in my situation, is that because of the Muscular Dystrophy and muscle wasting that comes with that, it’s difficult for me to maneuver or move the chair on some surfaces.  I do okay on tile floors or cement sidewalks but carpet and asphalt are more difficult.  So I have to depend on the love and care of a relative or friend to move me along.

We have all seen those little electric mobility scooters.  They either have three or four wheels and they travel really slowly.  These have been great thing for disabled people providing them mobility and access to places they might not otherwise be able to go.  The problem with them for me is that they are primarily designed for short trips.  I can’t drive a mobility scooter 12 kilometers to Daxi.  They’re wonderful for a short trip through the neighborhood, but not for long rides.

When I moved to Taiwan, I discovered an excellent solution to the mobility problem.  It travels at roadway speeds.  It gives you all the fun and freedom of a regular scooter and allows you complete independence:  The Wheelchair Scooter.  This is a scooter that is designed to accommodate a wheelchair. 

The wheelchair scooter is another modification of a standard scooter.  I have a modified scooter, with extra wheels to give me stability to get on and off, but this is a modification that allows you to drive your scooter while remaining in your wheelchair. 

Any company that customizes scooters can help you to modify your scooter to accommodate a wheelchair.  Actually the scooter dealer can make all of the arrangements and include the modifications in the sale price. 

A regular scooter is cut in half.  The front wheel and handlebars are placed in front of a box, with a hinged ramp like door.  The rear of the bike is then attached to the side of the box.  On the other side of the box is another wheel.  The result is a type of trike, with the engine and drive wheel on one side along with a passenger seat.  The driver sits in his wheelchair safely locked into the box and steer and operates the scooter with his hands.  The scooters, as with all scooters are completely hand operated.

The scooter will travel at road speeds, is stable and easy to drive.  The only difficulty is parking.  It is much too large for a regular scooter parking spot and too small to use a car spot.  However, it has been my experience that the police are tolerant of disability scooters parking in places where they wouldn’t allow a regular scooter to park. 

There's room for a passenger on the seat.
I once parked in a place where a number of scooters were parked only to come back and find all the scooters but mine were towed a way.  I think there are two reasons for this one personal and one economic.  Police like everyone have compassion and realize that people with disabilities may need to park closer to the building than others.  The economic reason is that my disability scooter takes up two places in the towing vehicle.  That’s one less impound charge for the towing company. 

The following video is by Mordeth 13:

Other posts you may be interested in:

Photo credits:  http://www.mobilityzone.co.uk/acatalog/Shoprider_Cordoba_Mobility_Scooter.html
Wheel Chair Scooter: (screen capture)  Mordeth 13 (M13)
Thanks to M13 for the use of his video, Wheelchair Scooters 
All other photos Chris Banducci