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Monday, June 4, 2007

Sunday with the Family ファミリーサービス

The morning began with a downpour, and the pattern of rain, followed by sunshine, would repeat throughout the day. Nonetheless, Amber, Pamela and I had a nice afternoon exploring an older section of T'aichung (Taijhong) city 台中(たいちゅう)

Our neighborhood in the morning rain

On the way into Taichung, we stopped off for lunch. I had a fried pork cutlet on rice, a sort of Taiwanese 豚カツ, while Pamela ate beef noodles. Total cost: NT110, about $3.30, or ¥400.

In Taichung, we first visited the Ren Ren Itoman Swimming School, where Pamela inquired about water familiarization classes for Amber.

Pamela will take Amber there for a trial lesson next Saturday morning. The swimming school is located in one of Taichung's upper-income areas. A few buildings down is this exclusive residence, seemingly oblivious to the towering apartment blocks behind it. 

Next, Pamela suggested going into a nearby liquor store 酒屋 on Wenhsin (Wunsin) Road 文心路 to pick up some bottles of Belgian beer the store was featuring this month. Fortunately/Unfortunately, there was only one bottle left, a De Koninck blond, which we quickly snapped up for the sum of NT190, or $5.75/¥700. The beer situation in general in Taiwan is pretty bleak, so I'm really looking forward to enjoying this bottle at an opportune time!

Close to the liquor store on Wenhsin Road were some restaurants.

The sign on the left is for a well-known Taichung Korean-style restaurant. For some reason it says "Sumiyakiniku tabehodai" 炭焼き肉食べ放題 ("All-you-can-eat charcoal-grilled meat") and "Shabu-shabu tabehodai" しゃぶしゃぶ食べ放題 ("All-you-can-eat Shabu-shabu") in Japanese. The other photo is of a couple of banners outside a Japanese restaurant next to the Korean place. The banner on the left advertises Japanese box lunches ("O-bento") お弁当. The words above "O-bento" read "Dekitate hoka hoka" 出来たてほかほか, telling us that their lunch boxes can be done so that they're steaming hot. Why they chose to inform Taiwanese customers of this fact in Japanese is beyond me, however. The banner on the right announces appetizing set meals 旨い定食 ("Umai teishoku"), and welcomes us with an いらっしゃいませ. I don't get into Taichung very often these days, but it seems there are more Japanese restaurants around. Or more Japanese customers perhaps, as I can't imagine too many Taiwanese can understand the signage.

Further along on Wenshin Road, on the way to our destination, I spotted these two signs, a two-for-the-price-of-one barrage of Japanese.

The top one reads "Chosei kenko kan" 長生健康館, a literal translation of which would be "Longevity Health Hall", but the フリガナ above the 漢字 says ちょうせいヘルスショップ, the "Chosei Health Shop". The name "Kawasaki" is obvious on the bottom sign. Next to it, in ひらがな is written マッサージチェア, or "Massage chairs". Like English, Japanese is used in advertising in Taiwan to give the product or service a more sophisticated image.

Eventually we arrived at our destination, Nant'un (Nantun) 南屯. It's here that you will find Taichung's oldest temple, Wanhe Temple (1726) 萬和宮, where Matsu (Mazu) 媽祖, an important sea goddess in Chinese folk religion, is worshiped.

Across the street from Wenhe Temple, what the new Rough Guide to Taiwan calls the "Last-Name Show", was going on. These are performances on a stage given to entertain the gods. I hope they liked the show, because very few mortals were watching. Even Amber quickly lost interest.

Behind Wenhe Temple is Wench'ang (Wunchang) Temple 文昌公廟, popular with students who wish to pass their tests.


And what's so interesting about this picture?

Nothing really, except that on my first visit to Taiwan back in April 1998, I stayed with my friend Steve in the apartment on the top floor of the building on the left. The view of Taichung from the balcony was fantastic.

After checking out the temples, we took Amber for a stroll along the Nantun Old Street 南屯老街. It's a short stretch of road that has some old buildings, and reminded Pamela of her childhood growing up in the countryside. But despite being listed in both the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet Taiwan guides, I don't think it's worth making a special effort to see, unless you happen to be in the area.


Two pictures from Nantun Old Street that merit some explanation:

The sign in the first photo is for a school that teaches Japanese. The 日本語 at the bottom says "O-toiawasesaki" お問合せ先, which has the meaning of "Inquire within". The woman in the lower picture is preparing Ch'ou toufu (Chou doufu) 臭豆腐, Taiwan's notorious Stinky Tofu. I can't stand the smell or the taste. My wife Pamela, who ordered the dish from this woman, can't get enough of it.

After leaving Nantun, we headed for home, but not before making one last stop, this time at a shopping mall on the corner of Wenhsin and Chungkang (Jhonggang) Roads 中港路. This place had several Japanese-style eateries, such as Genteishoku 元定食, the signs for which included such Japanese as 食べたい ("I want to eat!") and おすすめ ("recommendation")...

...and a bento place called かおり, which means "good smelling" (though I'm not sure of the significance of the duck logo)... naturally we chose MOS Burger, where Amber was just bursting with energy after being confined to her stroller for most of the day.

If the day ever comes that Fengyuan (Fongyuan) 豊原(とよはら)gets its own MOS Burger, Mister Donut and Subway Sandwiches outlets, I will truly and humbly apologize for all (some of) the bad things I've said about Taiwan. Honest.

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