An Update

I haven’t posted in a while so here is an update—Lucy is in Taipei, but Nathan no longer is.

If you haven’t heard, Nathan moved to China. Hangzhou, to be exact. There was a better financial opportunity there and after a lot of back-and-forth we decided that he would go and I would stay in Taiwan. Luckily the trip is but a short flight between the two cities and we’ll make plans to see each other frequently. Speaking of which, we’ll be seeing each other next week in Vietnam.

Now that this blog is truer to its name and Nathan and I are more settled in our separate places, I’ve decided to spend more time on the site, at least after I return from Vietnam. I juggled a few ideas about what to do with the blog and whether I should turn it into a “useful” source of information that prioritizes the reader (like so many Taiwan blogs do nowadays), or make it something a bit more navel-gazing. 

...And I've decided on the latter. This isn’t to say I’m turning this site into Tumblr or anything, but the content will likely look pretty different after I get a couple overdue posts out of the way. Maybe there will be some interesting nuggets of information about Taipei along the way, but maybe not. Who knows. 

I’ll write again soon.  

Graffiti in Taipei (Pow! Wow! Taiwan)

pow wow taiwan case maclaim

Back when Kevin visited in June, we biked through the city on YouBikes in search of street art. But instead of leaving the search up to chance, I mapped out a route to track down murals from Pow! Wow! Taiwan.

What is Pow! Wow! Taiwan? 

If you've seen any large-scale street art in Taipei, there's a chance it was commissioned by Pow! Wow! Taiwan. It’s a spinoff of Pow! Wow!, an art festival founded by Jasper Wong that first launched in Hong Kong six years ago and has since spread worldwide, from its flagship in Hawaii to Tokyo, Washington D.C., Austin, and beyond. It's essentially a giant gathering of artists who work together to beautify parts of a city, or at least add interesting and unexpected splashes of creativity in gritty urban corners.

The global arts movement improves public perception of graffiti and street art, however the artwork that comes out of Pow! Wow! isn’t technically graffiti. It’s legal and done with permission, even if the artists involved typically make illicit art. The events also receive sponsorship by major international corporations, like Microsoft, as well as local brands.

Larry Chen kicked off Pow! Wow! Taiwan in 2014 and, as is typical of all Pow! Wow! events, invited a mix of international and local street artists. The first year featured 40 international and 20 local Taiwanese artists, such as Mr. Ogay, DEBE, and Candy Bird, who took their art to the streets of Taipei, from the sides of schools to the Taipei Zoo. 

Pow! Wow! Taiwan returned in 2015 with bigger, more ambitious plans. For three art-filled weeks in autumn 2015, the artists expanded their reach to three cities: Taipei, Taichung, and Tainan. By default, the process is open to the public and capped by a big party at the end. It’s likely Pow! Wow! Taiwan will return this fall, though they haven’t announced a date. 

Kevin and I didn’t see all the Pow! Wow! Taiwan art in Taipei—some were on buildings now demolished—but here’s a round up of the ones we did see, along with addresses if you want to check them out. 

Dragon by Case Maclaim (2015)

As mentioned, all Pow! Wow! events seek sponsorship by local brands. In Taiwan, the team attracted the likes of Chess Taipei, Imperial Taels, and Taihu Brewing. Visavis Jing Hair Salon 斐瑟 菁 stepped up as well to commission this multicolored dragon hand by Frankfurt-based street artist CASE Maclaim. The piece was completed in November 2015 and features the artist’s iconic use of highly detailed overlapping hands.

Address: 忠孝東路三段248巷51弄2號1樓
Floor 1 No. 2 Alley 51 Lane 248 Section 3 Zhongxiao E Road Da’an District

正義國宅 Multiple graffiti artists (2014 and 2015)

CASE Maclaim’s dragon will likely stay for years to come, but that’s not so for the murals at 正義國宅. International and local graffiti artists went to town painting small and large-scale artworks on the decrepit 正義國宅 apartment complex in both 2014 and 2015. They probably won’t get the chance to return to the site in 2016—I wanted to sneak in but the construction worker on duty shooed us away and said the demolition should be complete by this October. However, this building project has been plagued with delays so there’s no telling if it’ll actually be gone by then. Judging by the SOGO department store just a few blocks away, it’ll likely be replaced by a luxury high-rise.

All sides of 正義國宅 are covered in art, including the roof and interior. My favorites are Hua Tunan’s epic, classic Chinese art-inspired lion mural (2014) that spans the height of the building and Jeff Soto’s Reaper, Owl, and Snake rooftop series (2015) that symbolize “heroic and tumultuous times in Taiwan’s history.” 

You can see glimpses of Jeff Soto's work from the street, but you should visit his site to see them in their full glory. 

You can see glimpses of Jeff Soto's work from the street, but you should visit his site to see them in their full glory. 

You’ll also find Alex Lve Wang’s giant dragon wall (2015) opposite Hua Tunan’s art; Bounce x Ano’s 8-bit Mario mural wall (2015) as well as Ahdia One and Colasa’s giant murals (2015) on the street side; the faded hands by Faith47; and Mr. OGAY’s grotesque and bizarrely cute naked men (2015), to mention a few. A beautiful portrait of a girl by Kamea Hadar and Naturel (2015) is also tucked inside one of the rooms, but I have no idea which one. If you’re inclined to break in to find that portrait and Jeff Soto’s rooftop series (you can see glimpses of it from the street), do be careful as some floors have given way. 

The girl in 正義國宅 by Kamea Hadar and Naturel. Photo by Pow! Wow!

The girl in 正義國宅 by Kamea Hadar and Naturel. Photo by Pow! Wow!

Extra: Watch Bounce and Ano discuss their Pow! Wow! mural 正義國宅 in this video (in Chinese)

Address: 忠孝東路三段276巷6弄
Alley 6 Lane 276 Section 3 Zhongxiao E Road Da’an District

DJ Geisha by Will Barras (2014)

Okay, it’s not really called DJ Geisha. That’s just the name Kevin gave British artist Will Barras’ enormous pastel mural emblazoned with the Pow! Wow! Taiwan logo. Completed over the course of a hot and rainy summer week, Will Barras’ flowing street art covers an incredible seven stories of 東區知名大廈.

Address: 敦化南路一段177巷42號
No. 42 Alley 177 Section 1 South Dunhua Road

Songshan Cultural and Creative Park murals by Smoky, Cherng and Xue (2014)

I can’t find my pictures of these murals but they’re so close to other ones I mentioned I might as well stick them in. As far as I know, there are only two Pow! Wow! Taiwan pieces in Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, a former tobacco factory converted into the “creative hub of Taipei.” 

熱帶暴動 (Tropical Rebellion) by Cherng and XUE

The first mural, titled 熱帶暴動, is tucked between two buildings on the wall of an outhouse. Split in two, the jungle-inspired mural features local artist XUE’s brightly colored scene of bipedal animals staring straight ahead on the left side, while local artist Cherng’s signature Malaysian tapirs are painted opposite in black and white. Repetition of shapes and patterns creates cohesion between the two pieces, as does the playful crossover of characters.

Address: 松山文創園區(1號與2號倉庫之間洗手間) 
Songshan Cultural and Creative Park | on the bathroom between warehouse 1 and warehouse 2)

他們用漂亮的糖果打你 (They use beautiful candy to hit you) by Smoky 

Between the same set of warehouses is Smoky’s contribution of a black-and-white watercolor-like mural curiously titled 他們用漂亮的糖果打你 (They use beautiful candy to hit you). Smoky often uses his work in animation, particularly as backgrounds in movies or music videos like soda green (蘇打綠)’s 小情歌. 

Address: 松山文創園區1號與2號倉庫之間柵欄
On a fence between warehouse 1 and warehouse 2

Huashan 1914 Creative Park murals by Alex Face and Ben Horton (2015)

Mardi by Alex Face 

Bangkok-based Thai street artist Alex Face is famous for Mardi, his iconic three-eyed kid in a bunny suit (said to be inspired by his daughter). He brought his character to Huashan 1914 Creative Park, where it can be spotted in the fetal position and entangled in tree roots on the No. 9 Banyan wall, one of the last remaining relics from the former factory ruins. You can also find the ever-disenchanted Mardi in other spots in Taiwan, such as Ximending, the Treasure Hill Artist Village, and Tainan. 

Fish Out of Water by Ben Horton

Completed over four days in November 2015, American artist Ben Horton’s ‘Fish Out of Water’ depicts a pair of Taiwan’s endangered grouper fish. I don’t have much to say about this one, but I really like it a lot. 

Address: 華山1914文創產業園區 九榕壁(近華山後方大草原)
Huashan 1914 Creative Park near the giant grass field at the back

Taipei Artist Village mural by Brendan Monroe and Candy Bird (2014)

American artist Brendan Monroe and local Taiwanese artist Candy Bird teamed up to create a large-scale dream-like mural at the Taipei Artist Village in June 2014. Surrounded by lush greenery, the four-story-tall mural mixes Monroe’s hypnotic black-and-white landscapes with Candy Bird’s orange-toned characters. 

Address: 台北國際藝術村 台北市中正區北平東路7號
Taipei Artist Village No. 7 Beiping E. Rd., Taipei, Taiwan

Graffiti at Ximending

Graffiti and street art are everywhere at Ximending. Local and international artists alike have made their mark in the labyrinthine alleyways. Areas that might have been written off as unwanted urban eyesores—had graffiti not intervened—are now crawling with teens armed with selfie sticks.

You’ll find the mark of many artists who participated in Pow! Wow! Taiwan here in Ximending, but I wanted to point out one place where those works have disappeared: the former 幸福大樓 at 昆明街46號 . The mixed-use building lay abandoned for years until it was bought up to be converted into 城市商旅 (City Suites hotel). The inaugural 2014 Pow! Wow! Taiwan plastered the building with art, including the beautiful but controversial four-story-tall mural of Jasper Wong’s wife (女飛頭) by Kamea Hadar. Other artists included Reach, Jeffrey Gress, Mr. Ogay, Bobo, Debe, Seazk, Dzus, Easy, Yok and Woes. The building and the art were demolished earlier this year, according to the nearby doorman we spoke to. 

女頭飛 Flying Woman Head mural. Building now demolished. Photo by Pow! Wow!

女頭飛 Flying Woman Head mural. Building now demolished. Photo by Pow! Wow!

Mr. Ogay graffiti in Ximending at 昆明街46號. Building now demolished. Photo by Pow! Wow!

Mr. Ogay graffiti in Ximending at 昆明街46號. Building now demolished. Photo by Pow! Wow!

Graffiti in Ximending. Building now demolished. Photo by Pow! Wow!

Graffiti in Ximending. Building now demolished. Photo by Pow! Wow!

The above is just a handful of Pow! Wow! Taiwan murals we saw around the city before we ran out of time. There’s a lot more in Taipei, especially at the Taipei Zoo. I might make a part two rounding up the other murals in the city. You can see more works Pow! Wow! completed in their Mural library and you can support their work through their online shop

Also, kudos to Kevin for being such a good sport about biking around on a really hot Taipei day :D

Follow Pow! Wow! Taiwan on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PowWowTaiwan
Pow! Wow! Main Website: http://powwowhawaii.com/

Taiwan BJJ Championships

taiwan bjj championship

Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ) is, and probably will always be, a big part of Nathan’s life. Persistent back and knee issues from previous injuries has made him “retire,” but—and this will sound familiar if you know anyone into the sport—it’s a love and obsession that’s hard to beat down (though thankfully he’s stopped single legging me). 

So when his friend Tyler flew over from Shanghai for the Taiwan International BJJ/No-Gi Championship last weekend, I was excited for him. Nathan didn’t compete but he did get to coach, and also rolled with Tyler at the beach. I’ve been to competitions with Nathan before (he actually met Tyler at a BJJ competition, probably in Shanghai) but it’s always nice to see him surrounded by the sport he loves.

taiwan bjj

If you’re not familiar, BJJ is a martial art that focuses on grappling, or ground fighting. It’s tough on the body and is very technical. Despite what some may think, it’s not a bunch of meatheads rolling around on the ground. It actually pays to be nerdy since analysis and tinkering with techniques and positions is how you become better. Personally, I kind of get a kick out of watching two guys choke each other out and then hug at the end of a match. No hard feelings, just good sportsmanship and good vibes. 

As always, I created a mini video of our time at the No-Gi tournament. It’s a hodgepodge of a video. The first half is about the competition, but I also included clips from an attempted hike to Yuemeikeng Waterfall (月眉坑瀑布) and our time at the beach in 外澳.

People from all over Asia flew in for the Taiwan International BJJ/No-Gi Championship, which is why it’s kind of weird that they chose to host it in a basketball court. They put out mats for just three matches at a time and the mats kept coming apart. Anyway. Here are some pictures:

A lot of competitors came from the same school: Danimal BJJ in Tainan and Kaohsiung. They all wore matching rash guards. 

A lot of competitors came from the same school: Danimal BJJ in Tainan and Kaohsiung. They all wore matching rash guards. 

Tyler won silver in the 30+ advanced open-weight division.

Tyler won silver in the 30+ advanced open-weight division.

taiwan bjj
BJJ for all ages...

BJJ for all ages...

Nathan said this guy, Rodrigo Caporal, is the best guy at the tournament. 

Nathan said this guy, Rodrigo Caporal, is the best guy at the tournament. 

If you’re in Taipei and interested in training BJJ, Nathan recommends PMA BJJ operated by Chris Ng. 

The next day we went to go hike Yuemeikeng Waterfall in Jiaoxi but it didn’t go exactly as planned.

A brief preface: if you don’t like bugs, especially big spiders, and you go hiking in Taiwan’s jungles, you’re gonna have a bad time. And Tyler did. He has acute arachnophobia, which we didn't know about before the hike. 

golden orb spider

In Taiwan, we have these big black spiders called 人面蜘蛛, Giant Golden Orb Weaver (Nephila pilipes). They’re among the largest spiders in the world (the biggest in Taiwan), and the females can grow up to 20 cm (7.9 inches). Interestingly, their male counterparts are only one-tenth of that size; if you see a little red guy hanging out, that’s the male. These spiders are venomous, but not lethal, and they like to spin their webs in the canopies…often right above where you walk. 

So Tyler tried to be a good sport about the arachnophobia but it got to him pretty bad. We were in the middle of river tracing when we decided to turn back. To be fair, I also led us astray because I put my directions on Google Maps (I thought it’d be smart to create a map with the GPS coordinates) but then once I lost signal I couldn’t access the map. Yes, smart, I know. We probably could have traced the river to the waterfall eventually, but it’s all good, we’ll go back soon.

Tyler ended up taking a dip in the spider-free weir pools. It’s actually illegal and you have to climb over the gate to get down but all Taiwanese do it and I don’t think anyone enforces the rules. I didn’t get a picture of this, but I thought it was funny how he attracted a captive audience of Taiwanese (both here and elsewhere). He’s a friendly guy. 

We ended up going to Waiao to hit the beach. There are a lot of surf shacks on the road leading up to the water, but the waves were so tame there was no point in renting surfboards. Just a heads up, this beach has black/brown sand and it is scorching hot in the sun so keep your shoes on until you reach the water. 

Nathan wrestles with Tyler in the ocean. 

They later traded water for more solid ground to grapple.

Matching shoes! Can you guess which ones are Nathan's? Haha

Matching shoes! Can you guess which ones are Nathan's? Haha

After we got back to Taipei I thought it’d be a good idea to eat dinner at Addiction Aquatic Development (AAD) because I love that place and Tyler really likes sushi, so I figured it’d be nice for his last meal in Taiwan. Unfortunately, I’ve never gone there at night and didn’t really think about the fact that the takeout sushi shelves would be next to empty by 8 at night. In retrospect, I probably should have taken him to a night market, although Nathan would have refused to eat most (all?) of the food there (night markets have a lot of fried foods and unhealthy but delicious snacks, plus he’s pescatarian). 

So there we were at Addiction Aquatic with our silly matching Taiwanese grandpa sandals, and only 1,000 NTD to spend between the three of us. Unless you get the take out from AAD, eating there is really pricey. 

We ended up sitting at the outdoor barbecue place with the silent black-and-white film Metropolis projected on white tarps behind us. We didn’t have enough money on us so our pickings were pretty slim. Tyler and I got the scallops for 242 NTD ($7.6) each. Nathan got a somewhat better deal with his salmon that cost 20 NTD more. Lesson learned: no more going to AAD after dark.

Oh and we introduced Tyler to the betel nut girls! Kind of. We originally thought that he said he was interested in trying betel nut and we were both really interested in watching him do it (sorry Tyler) since it was right outside of our place.

Sausage Social at Songshan

sausage social

I went on a “sausage-sampling odyssey” today. No, not a sausage fest—a “Sausage Social.” Is it as weird as it sounds? Yes, but delightfully so, and it was pretty impressive. Hosted at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, Sausage Social is a one-day edible installation pop-up and cross-disciplinary venture between British experiential design studio Bompas & Parr and Taipei-based multidisciplinary design consultancy Alice Wang Design.

The Sausage Social was set up like a mini night market with eight booths and included food, games, activities, and more. 

The Sausage Social was set up like a mini night market with eight booths and included food, games, activities, and more. 

For a bit of background: Sausage Social isn’t just about wacky, delicious art installations made out of sausages; it’s one of the many events by the British Council and Alice Wang Design’s The Food Project, an initiative created as part of World Design Capital (WDC) Taipei 2016. Thought-provoking food design, especially that which gets people talking about ecological sustainability and health is a major theme throughout the whole program.

One of Taiwan's first major news anchors and respected journalist 盛竹如 (Zhu-ru Sheng) introduces the event.

One of Taiwan's first major news anchors and respected journalist 盛竹如 (Zhu-ru Sheng) introduces the event.

Changing the way people talk and think about food is an ambitious goal—but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun along the way. Sausage Social reimagines the traditional Taiwanese night market experience, with the addition of British influences, and some strange and playful interpretations of the beloved sausage. 

The Sausage Symphony. It plays music when you touch the sausages placed around the globe. 

The Sausage Symphony. It plays music when you touch the sausages placed around the globe. 

Holographic Sausage, a magnetic darts game where the player tries to hit the bullseye of a spinning sausage wheel.

Holographic Sausage, a magnetic darts game where the player tries to hit the bullseye of a spinning sausage wheel.

There were eight stalls set up, bisected by the amazing Sausage Symphony, an interactive globe sculpture that plays music when you touch the different sausages around the world. There are different kinds of sausages to eat, a sausage-imbued mist to inhale, games, alcoholic “meat shots,” and even a Sausage “Selfie” booth. So weird! So fun!

Watch a short video of the Sausage Social: 

“Inspired by Taiwan’s rich culinary history and with a touch of British seasoning, Bompas & Parr’s sausage-based experience seeks to re-enchant the market as [sic] both the center of culture and a portal to a new world through beguiling storytelling and design,” write the designers. “Each artistic, theatrical, and culinary offering is drawn from universal food experiences and globally celebrated ingredients.” 

Serving up Sausage desserts with Taiwan beer.

Serving up Sausage desserts with Taiwan beer.

Sausage ice cream. This was my face before I actually tasted it. The flavor is a bit strange!

Sausage ice cream. This was my face before I actually tasted it. The flavor is a bit strange!

Meat Shots: Baked bacon cups with Shaohsing rice wine shots.

Meat Shots: Baked bacon cups with Shaohsing rice wine shots.

Sausage stamps!

Sausage stamps!

Sadly, Sausage Social is a one-day event. But if you fancy more fun art (and edible) installations, you’re in luck. The World Design Capital is still going strong and you can check their website for more event times and dates. The Food Project is also showcasing Edible Tales, an exhibition about art projects from around the world raising awareness about food waste, the future of food, and health and wellness. It’s quite interesting; I recommend it. Entry fee to Edible Tales is 80NTD and it’s open every day until July 30.