Category Archives : Travels

The on-and-off the tourist trail places I’ve been, most being in Taiwan.


Waiao Beach, Yilan, Taiwan

Surfing has become a very popular sport in Taiwan over recent years and it should be. Ethnically-speaking, shared genetic, language, dietary, and cultural characteristics have led anthropologists to classify some Taiwanese aboriginal groups as progenitors of the Polynesian family, the fathers of the sport. Geographically, Taiwan is a Pacific Ocean island group with a lot of coastline facing the waves.

And beaches like Waiao.

wpid-Photo-Jul-6-2013-219-PM.jpg

Ramune Soda Factory, Miaoli, Taiwan 1

The last stop on my recent trip through Miaoli County, Taiwan was at the Ramune Soda Factory in Tangluo Township. Those who have been to the riverside markets at either Tamsui or Xindien will better know Ramune soda as marble soda due to odd shape of the bottles neck and the free-floating marble that will lodge in the neck keeping spills from happening when the bottle turns upside down. While the inventor of the distinctive marble-neck bottle was British Hiram Codd, Ramune itself is bottled and distributed by a Japanese company and is considered traditionally Japanese. In fact, ramune is a Japanese-phonetic translation of lemonade as the original beverage was a British-imported lemon-lime soft drink and the distinct bottle design became associated with that flavor.

Taiwan being a country with historical Japanese influence, Taiwanese consider Ramune to be a local drink and there is even a local bottling factory and that factory has a public-tour face.

wpid-Photo-Jun-20-2013-458-PM.jpg

wpid-Photo-Jun-13-2013-554-PM.jpg

Taiyen Museum, Tongxing, Miaoli County, Taiwan

Youve spent some time soaking your feet at the outside Taiyen Ocean Foot Spa and the hot and humid Taiwanese summer weather is starting to get to you. You need to get out of the sun and get in to some artificial lighting and air conditioning quick. It should also serve to keep the kids busy. Well my touring friend, youre in luck.

Contained within the same factory campus as the Taiyen, only a few yards from the spa area, is the Taiyen Museum. Its a small building dedicated primarily to the history and products of the Taiyen company but it also goes into the methods and technology behind how they (used to) collect and refine salt from the nearby ocean.


Taiyen Ocean Foot Spa, Tongxing, Miaoli County, Taiwan 2

Famous locally for its salt products (every kitchen in Taiwan has their short, red cans of salt with the tiny spoon), Taiyen has recently put a public-facing front on its salt electrolysis and packaging factory in Tongxing Township, Miaoli County. Such a move by a local factory is not a new one and in fact is becoming the norm as the increased choice brought by globalization has forced local companies to Innovate new ways to engage local customers and keep their brands in the minds of Taiwanese. This practice has also spread into foreign companies that manufacture in Taiwan, such as Japanese piano-maker Kawai. There have been some civic implementations of this concept as well, such as the Taipei Water Park that hides one of the cities largest water pumping stations at its center.

wpid-Photo-Jun-3-2013-458-PM.jpg

wpid-Photo-Feb-18-2013-530-PM.jpg

Random Encounters: Miaoli County, Taiwan 3

In Taiwan, strawberries are a winter fruit. Miaoli County, which sits south of Taipei, is the center of the strawberry universe. Every weekend dozens of tourist busses leave from Taipei Main Station filled with agro-tourists ready to strip the farms bare of anything with even the slightest red tinge followed by a stop off at the center of Miaoli City for some strawberry wine, strawberry ice cream, strawberries over shaved ice drowned in condensed milk, strawberry smoothies, strawberry candies, … you get the idea. There are even strawberry-flavored corn dogs and Taiwanese sausages.


The Barbie Cafe, Taipei, Taiwan 9

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.

wpid-Photo-Feb-12-2013-517-PM.jpg