Travel Archive

  • Bursting the bubble: a taste of Taiwan in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter

    Bursting the bubble: a taste of Taiwan in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter

    The following piece appeared in today’s Taipei Times. When Jorge Cheng (陳賢文) set up shop in Barcelona in 2013, he had no idea he was riding a Taiwanese wave. “There were already eight drinks shops, which we didn’t know initially,” says Cheng, owner of Zenzoo, a Taiwan-style bubble tea drinks store just off Las Ramblas, […]

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  • A little bird in the hand

    A little bird in the hand

    Folk taxonomy in Taiwan is marked by genericism. Rodents of all shapes and sizes are mice; the most diminutive of raptors ascends to the rank of eagle; and, bound by their spots, leopards are branded cheetahs (“hunting leopards”). One such catch-all that has perennially confused me is xiao niao – literally ‘little bird’. In my […]

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  • The throat singer of Zhuzihu

    The throat singer of Zhuzihu

    Though the blooms will be around for some time yet, this weekend is the official end of the Calla Lily festival up in the Zhuzihu (竹子湖) area of Yangmingshan (陽明山). Although I’ve lived in Beitou District (北投區) for over a decade and ridden and hiked around Yangmingshan countless times, there are still quite a few […]

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  • The mystic and the dictator: the National Palace Museum’s debt to Russian painter Nicholas Roerich

    The mystic and the dictator: the National Palace Museum’s debt to Russian painter Nicholas Roerich

    An edited version of the following piece appeared in today’s Taipei Times. Aside from some low-key events in Europe and Latin America, yesterday’s Universal Day of Culture passed in the same way as previous installments: unremarked. Despite the lack of fanfare, the mind behind this occasion played a role in protecting of some of the […]

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  • Jammeh revelations are a reminder about need for transparency in Taiwan’s aid

    Jammeh revelations are a reminder about need for transparency in Taiwan’s aid

    The following op-ed appeared in today’s Taipei Times. Months after assuming the presidency of the Gambia in 1996, Yahya Jammeh made a bold foreign policy maneuver, cutting ties with China in favor of Taiwan. No observer of Taiwan’s diplomacy under then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) would have been laboring under any misapprehension as to the motives […]

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  • Carried on the wind: the fascinating heritage of Kinmen’s emigres

    Carried on the wind: the fascinating heritage of Kinmen’s emigres

    The following piece appeared in today’s Taipei Times. For centuries, Kinmen attracted immigrants. An early name for the island was Xianzhou (仙洲) — the land of immortals. While locals claim this refers to Taiwu, the island’s highest peak, said to resemble a reclining deity, it suggests a favorable living environment. Indeed, Kinmen was once flush […]

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  • Taiwan’s ‘buhaoyisi culture’ falls victim to a Dickensian curse

    Taiwan’s ‘buhaoyisi culture’ falls victim to a Dickensian curse

    The following piece appeared in today’s News Lens. In literature’s hall of shame, few characters have caused such revulsion as Uriah Heep, the antagonist of the Charles Dickens novel “David Copperfield.” The feigned humility and malevolent obsequiousness of David Copperfield’s nemesis have made his name a byword for sycophancy. In some ways, Heep’s kowtowing makes […]

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  • Lost tribe: where are the Ketagalan in Taipei’s Ketagalan center?

    Lost tribe: where are the Ketagalan in Taipei’s Ketagalan center?

    The following article appeared in Guanxi magazine:  From the top of a hill in Beitou District, Guanyin’s benevolent eye cuts through the sulfurous fug. The Goddess of Mercy is a ubiquitous presence at places of worship in Taiwan, but her role as the resident deity of Puji Temple – one of Taipei’s finest colonial relics […]

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  • China’s new ‘softy power’ could spell trouble for Taiwan

    China’s new ‘softy power’ could spell trouble for Taiwan

    A series of ridiculous incidents picked out by Taipei-based Swedish journalist Jojje Olsson highlight a disturbing trend that has emerged over the last few weeks. With a couple of Hong Kong security guards becoming the latest to put Neymar to shame with their theatrics, Olsson observed on Facebook that falling to the ground and/or (literally) […]

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  • The cog that slipped: Chiang Ching-kuo’s Russian odyssey

    The cog that slipped: Chiang Ching-kuo’s Russian odyssey

    This is the original text of a piece that The Diplomat ran as the lead article in the October issue of their magazine. Although the editor was nice enough to give me this slot as it gave me more space, I still had to hack away mercilessly to the get things down to just under […]

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