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History & Culture

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The Taipei Tai Chi Experience

If you’ve spent any time at all in Taiwan or China, you’ve probably seen Tai Chi being practiced in parks, usually in the early morning by anything from single practitioners to large, semi-choreographed groups. For the past month or so I’ve been practicing Tai Chi myself three mornings a week, and I thought I’d use this week’s column to share my experience. As I’m not an expert (indeed, after four weeks of practice I feel as if I know less about the subject than I did before I’d started), I’ll clip a quick paragraph from  Wikipeida’s Tai Chi page before getting into my own humbling (and yeah, sometimes humiliating) insight about Tai Chi. Tai chi (taiji), short for t’ai chi ch’üan (taijiquan; 太极拳), is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. The term taiji refers to a philosophy of the forces of…

Happy Birthday, Red Room!

As Northern Taiwan cools down, sun-seeking Taipei-ren head down South for the weekend, and that was my plan for this one. It was a great plan, one which included snorkeling with sea turtles down on Xiao Liuqiu island off the coast of Pingtung. But as the old Chinese saying goes, Jì huà gǎn bu shàng biàn huà (計劃趕不上變化), or “plans cannot keep up with change” (special thanks to Business Development Specialist Ann Lee who sits across from me in the office for providing that one – I was originally going to go with the Mexican saying “if you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans). To make a long story short, my partner Stephanie wound up having a crucial university exam rescheduled for the weekend, so out the window went our southern trip. But spending the weekend in Taipei isn’t a bad thing, and especially not the coming one,…

Guanyin, Snakes & History’s Ghosts: An Afternoon on Turtle Island

All photos credit to Stephanie Huffman and Candace Chen Though the form for which the island is named is readily apparent from angles further north and south, from Toucheng pier due west, Turtle Island looks more slug-like than terrapin-shaped. A small and curving rock covered in green, the island – like all points on the horizon – grows larger and more distinctive as our boat draws closer. There are about sixty people on the Blue Whale, all wearing bright orange life jackets and hoping to catch a glimpse of the dolphins sometimes spotted frolicking around the island. The boat takes its time along the island’s southern end, a steep hill dotted with carved outcroppings. “Are those lookout points?”, asks Stephanie. I point to the long, faded green barrel of a cannon just sticking out of one of the outcropping. “Among other things,” I answer. As with many of Taiwan’s outer…

There’s never been a better time for GLBTQ travelers to come to Taiwan. Arguably Asia’s most progressive country (Taiwan’s military struck down sexuality-based discrimination way back in 2002),…

The ghosts were out in Keelung

We heard it before we saw it, the fireworks, chanting and singing. Before we’d even left the highway tunnel marking where the jungle-filled mountains between Taipei city abruptly becomes the bustling harbor city of Keelung we were being greeted by cacophony. It was well past sundown, but the festival was only starting to heat up as we walked the crowded sidewalks. Floats from various temples and neighborhood associations paraded through the streets. It was crowded despite the fact that we were still several blocks from the Keelung Miaokou Night Market (which is, even on a slow night, crowded by Western standards). My partner Stephanie and I were traveling with Chelsea Pearl, a blogger from San Francisco on assignment in Taiwan. MyTaiwanTour had arranged most of her tour around the island, but having not experienced the Keelung Ghost Festival before, Stephanie and I decided to tag along.    Some background…

6 things to do in Taipei that should be on every visitor’s bucket list

There’s no shortage of things to do in Taipei’s dynamic capital city, but if you’re only here for a short time and need to winnow it down to six must have experiences, these are our picks:   1.Looking out over the city from Taipei 101 It’s impressive, iconic, and represents the spirit of Taiwan in more ways than one. Visiting Taipei without checking out the view from the top of Taipei 101 would be like visiting NYC and not heading to the top of the Empire State Building. The green tinted glass exterior recalls a stalk of bamboo, uniting the island’s agrarian past with its high tech present (while simultaneously paying homage to both). Though the structural design, which mixes elements of flexibility and rigidity is a practical necessity, the design also symbolizes the resiliency of the Taiwanese people to bend without breaking, to adapt to all circumstances,…