The Barbie Cafe in Taipei, Taiwan is not the first Barbie-themed restaurant in the world but it is the first Barbie-themed restaurant in the world officially licensed by Mattel H.Q. In El Segundo, California. The obvious question is Why Taipei?. Themed restaurants are very popular in Asia in general and seem to be especially popular in countries like Japan, China, and Taiwan. In China, enforcement of intellectual properties and trademarks is ridiculously lax making it a poor environment in which to open a business that relies on its branding as a selling tool. In Japan, the market has matured (and might even be called glutted). While theme restaurants are popular in Taipei, there is still room for new players here. It also helps that one of the most popular restaurants in the city is the Sanrio-approved Hello Kitty Sweets, which has remained popular for some time. In demographic terms, they appeal to the same pie. And guess where the Barbie Cafe is located? Its less than a block from Hello Kitty Sweets, so Mattel is well aware of the demographics.
What do you do if you are the village one train stop down from a very popular tourist-trail village? You come up with a hook to snag some of that tourist traffic. In this case, Houtong Village sits on the next stop past where anyone going to Pingxi to float some paper lanterns or Shifen to see the waterfall would exit.
The hook they came up with? Cats.
Ximen Market (a.k.a. Hsimen Market, Ximending, ???, Hsimenting, etc…) has been a shopping center in Taipei since before Taiwan was a country. It was first designated as a shopping district by the Japanese during their rule of the island prior to World War II. For Chinese or Japanese-language linguaphiles this explains the ding character, which doesnt make a ton of sense in a Chinese context because it is a direct transfer of the same character in Japanese (cho), which does make sense. There have been shopping or entertainment venues in Ximen for over a century including the Red House Theater, which has been standing since 1908 and still stands.
A few months ago, one of the dogs I take care of developed cancer and passed away. She wasnt my longest-lived pet (Spree is still alive & kicking) but special in that she was rescued when my children were infants. My intention was for my twins and the dog, Kiki, to grow up together. Her death was soon, sudden, and was especially hard on my now 7-year old twins. After some discussion in which there was no dissension, we decided to have Kiki cremated and her ashes mixed into the soil of a tree at a relatively nearby pet cemetery.
A couple of months ago I reviewed what I believed (and still believe) to be the best stylus for the iPad (and one stylus that was complete crap). Since settling on a stylus that I was comfortable with I decided to move on and experiment with some of the more popular drawing apps available for the iPad. To be honest, I really dont have a favorite. They are all good in some respects and lacking in others. Therefore, Im going to structure this article as a series of mini reviews, spelling out where each app shines and where each falls short for me.
I meant to post these earlier this week, but I have had some Reality things that have kept me busy until now. While the other photos were taken the first day of typhoon Saola as the tropical storm was heading in, these were taken on day 2 when the bad weather was on its way out. Because the typhoon had crossed the protective mountain buffer, the rain was a bit more steady. Fortunately Saola had lost much of its power by then, so going out was just a matter of having an umbrella handy.
This is the final set of photos of typhoon Saola (2012) from the perspective of Taipei.
Taiwan is the constant target of typhoons, especially from mid-July through mid-September (a.k.a. Typhoon Season). Thankfully, the city of Taipei is protected on the weather-ward side by a mountain chain that transects the island north-to-south like a scoliotic spine. It takes quite a powerful storm to cause Taipei any significant property damage. Typhoon Saola didnt pass muster.