Walk on by

Taipei has an excellent MRT, train and bus network, all accessed with a single card; making journeys around the city really easy. But with Google Maps on our phones; it was tempting to find our next location and decide it would be easier to walk than to head for the nearest underground station. So we did. A lot. In total we covered more than 60 kilometres during our four day stay.

If this had all been on the flat, I could have coped well enough; but hidden away on she who must be obeyed’s itinerary on the second day was a late afternoon walk along the Nangang District Hiking Trail, which comprises several hundred steps up a mountain; allowing “magnificent views of the city” from the top.

If I wanted a magnificent view of a city I would buy a postcard; what I would not do is knacker myself clambering up a mountain. But I love my wife and it’s what she wanted, so up we went. My lungs are not of the best, so I required several rest stops along the way. As I wheezed and sweated, sat on a stump, a young man came past with an older chap. “This is my father, he’s 84”, he proudly proclaimed; clearly having a go at me. I tried to snarl a response but all I managed was a croak.

Some time later, about half way up, we passed the old codger looking the worse for wear. I managed a condescending glance which I hoped encapsulated my wish that the octogenarian would require medical evacuation off the mountain. Whatever, we never saw him again.

Eventually we reached what looked like the top, but wasn’t; and then followed several paths before finding one of many vantage points. It was an hour before sunset and already the DSLR brigade were camped out with their tripods. My wife suggested I might like to claim a spot to take a photo once the sun finally set; but instead I opted for a comfy bench. If I wanted a photo of a magnificent city view, I’d buy a postcard.

The sun set. The cameras clicked, I had had a good rest and was ready to go home for dinner. On the way past the tripods I stuck the RX100 on rail and took a shot before heading down. Saved me the cost of buying a postcard.

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April 9th, 2017|0 Comments

Two looks down the lane

On the streets of Taipei on our first day, and it was no time at all before she who must be obeyed disappeared into a shop for some crucial shopping; leaving me hanging around outside as usual. Fortunately I found my myself next to an interesting little lane. So I took a photo of it with the Leica:

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Then, with my wife still missing, I took out the RX100 and took a digital image. It was only later that I discovered that I had set it to some obscure filter. Silly twat.

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April 7th, 2017|5 Comments

Air Lab sucks

My film of choice is called XP2. Recommended by my guru, Rick@Knees, it is very forgiving as to exposure and it scans well. It’s a black and white film but unusually it is processed as a colour film using what is called C41 processing. The end result of the processing is a slightly purple tinge to the negative; and some very finely grained black and white images.

The processing requirements are clearly stated on the film canister.

But just to be sure, I always reconfirm in my instructions to the lab. So when I sent five films to Air Lab in Bangkok last week, I wrote:

Dear Airlab

Enclosed 5 rolls of XP2

Please:

Process C41
Scan
Return to me via EMS

The results came back yesterday and were disappointing. Here is a shot taken when I was in the UK:

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And here is a shot from the latest output, same camera and both with XP2:

The second shot lacks the clarity of the first, and zoomed in there is a load more grain.

Had a meeting with my guru this morning to discuss what might have gone wrong, and we realised that the negatives were not sporting their normal purple hue.

I contacted Air Lab and told them I was unhappy with the grainy images and that it appeared they had used B&W processing rather than C41. Their response was emphatic; they had used C41.

Back home and I looked out two previous films processed by Air Lab and put a strip from each with a strip from the latest batch.

Fairly obvious which is the latest…

I have sent it to Air Lab but they have not yet responded. Whatever they say, if anything, never using them again.

All this is by way of introduction to say that the Taiwan film shots that I will be publishing look a bit shit. I will pretend I was going for the arty grainy, muddy crappy look.

April 7th, 2017|3 Comments

Modern communication

Pleased to see that the commuters in Taiwan are as communicative as those in Thailand.

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April 6th, 2017|0 Comments

Seeking enlightenment

Pleased to see that the monks in Taiwan are as deeply spiritual as those in Thailand.

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April 6th, 2017|0 Comments

Faster

My first flirtations with the internet occurred when I was living in Brunei more than twenty years ago. It was not, and probably still isn’t, the most technically progressive of nations; but the embryonic wide wide world of web could be accessed via a dial-up service which was memorable for never working on the first attempt and often failing after a minute or so; but it was better than nothing.

Forward to more recently and the internet service in my previous accommodation was not exactly speedy at 2Mbps; and even after several years it did not seem possible to improve it. It also failed on a regular basis, and the breakdown was always “due to a failure in your condo” according to the service centre, although it never was. The cost of this feeble service was in excess of two thousand baht a month.

Things looked up when we moved to our current house where 10Mbps was promised for 900 baht a month; but after installation this jumped to 17Mbps; and it has been rock solid at that speed for the last two years.

But you always want more, especially when Netflix likes 25Mbps to stream 4K video; so when we found out about the 3BB VDSL service; we went down to the local office.

The new service was 200 baht cheaper than the old one, but if we wanted the international feed to not go via the Thailand service, then that would be an extra 200 baht, bringing us up to the same cost as before, except now we would get 50Mbps/20Mbps.

We also had to buy a new modem which the saleslady configured for us. “Take it home and plug it in, in will start working half an hour later”.

I didn’t expect that to be a reliable statement; and indeed it wasn’t; because the service was available the moment I plugged it in. Well done 3BB. A quick worldwide speed test revealed 45/19, which I can live with; especially as it was raining at the time and the soaked bits of frayed cable that carry the signal were probably not at their best.

Wonderful. All I had left to do was sign into the modem to make some changes to accommodate our house alarm system feed. “The access password is on the quick start leaflet”, indicated the documentation. It wasn’t. After much mucking about, she who must be obeyed called the salesgirl who initially advised that it was all set up so we didn’t need to log into the modem. Having had it explained that Mr. Spike was a bit of whizz at these things, and if he wasn’t his son was, it was revealed that the user name was admin and the password was the last four characters of the MAC code printed on the box. Bloody obvious really.

As usual, whenever something seems like it is going well, something always comes along and ruins the experience. Never mind, all good now and I am off to binge on anything in 4K on Netflix.

April 5th, 2017|5 Comments

An absence of phone covers

As is her way, she who must be obeyed was disappearing into shops almost as soon as we had landed, eager to ensure that the spare capacity in our suitcase was filled before we returned home. But one of her shopping needs remained unfulfilled.

She wanted a protective case for her phone, but everywhere she was met with either indifference or hostility when she enquired as to availability. Eventually I had to explain that her Chinese Huawei phone was almost certainly not available in Taiwan, in the same way BMWs were not big sellers in the UK during the second world war.

Taiwan and China have different opinions as to the relationship between the two countries, but both would agree that it is “difficult”.

On the streets you can find examples of anti-Chinese sentiment.

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Judging by the poster, not only do the Chinese harvest organs, they also do it without anaesthetic…

On buildings you could find slogans which probably did not emanate from the Taiwanese government:

Whatever the issues between the two countries, the only impact on us was the inability of my wife to source a new phone cover. Thankfully she compensated by visiting a shop that sold snacks and we departed with a full suitcase weighing 6 kilo more than it did when we arrived. See how we laugh in the face of diplomatic spats.

April 4th, 2017|0 Comments

Temple taxis

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April 2nd, 2017|0 Comments

Oops, she did it again

Sat in the traffic this morning and she who must be obeyed shows me a photo of her father’s car with the front smashed in. Nothing unusual there; her father has a habit of getting drunk and driving into trees. But then there is another photo with the front even more destroyed. Turns out that her little half-sister, who doesn’t have a driving licence, decided to borrow Dad’s car and, lacking any of the skills normally required for getting behind the wheel, inserted the car into an even more solid object.

Father is understandably seriously annoyed with the sister; and has asked to borrow 50,000 baht from us to fix the car, because sure as hell the insurance company is not interested. What do I think?

Red rag to a bull…

My father-in-law is not my favourite person. It’s true he has never been unpleasant to me, and this is the first time he has ever asked us for money; but he dumped my mother-in-law some years ago and has shown no interest in supporting her; which means of course it falls to us and my wife’s brother to keep her fed and clothed. So the idea of giving him (forget “loan”, we would never see the cash again) any funds at all makes me not at all happy. So my thought was that we should let him sort himself out. He has another car for transport, and perhaps he could reduce sister’s allowance to recoup the cash and make her learn a lesson? In short: No.

My wife asked a second question: what would I say if she gave him the money from her savings? I expressed the opinion that I would not be happy, and further expounded on my unhappiness at this whole situation, the request for money, the foolishness of her sister etc. etc. I probably brought Brexit into my rant at some point. I probed for more details but was advised she didn’t know more yet because the whole family was discussing the incident electronically and the full facts were unclear.

While I sat fuming, a photo of her smiling sister popped up on Facebook eating a cake.

“Perhaps I should comment that she is better at eating a cake than driving” I suggested.
“Don’t do that.”
“Why not?”
“April Fool.”

What!!!!!

I wake up every April 1st, remind myself of the date, and vow that this year, this year, she will not catch me out. And every bloody year she pulls something.

Turns out the first crash was father driving into a tree drunk, and the second crash was father driving into a bigger tree drunk. Her sister was not involved. There was no request for money. The photo was a couple of days old and she had been saving it to show to me with the invented story; so she could then sit back and watch me go ballistic as all my buttons were pushed. Respect.

Next year I will be prepared.

April 1st, 2017|4 Comments

Friendliest country in the world

In the period PSWMBO (Pre-she who must be obeyed), I resided in Bangkok, and often spent my evenings with a bottle of wine, a computer, and assorted on-line chat channels where I would amuse myself in conversations with young ladies (at least that is what they said they were). There was one lady in particular I enjoyed “talking” to. She was intelligent, challenging; and when not also amusing herself on chat channels; she was an anesthesiologist. I rather liked the idea of a date with someone whose profession I could hardly pronounce and certainly not spell; so I suggested dinner, and she agreed.

Deciding where to eat was a bit of a challenge as she lived in Taipei; so I told her she could decide on the restaurant, and I booked myself a flight. I liked it when people in the office asked me about my plans for the weekend and I could answer, “nothing much, just off to Taiwan for dinner with an aneastheeesiologosist” (pretty much how I pronounced it, and spelled it).

So we met, and she was as intelligent and challenging as she had been on-line, except with an American accent which I found rather off-putting for some reason. On the plus side she informed me that, using the contacts of her profession, she had had a boob job from the top surgeon in Taiwan; although it would take a further meeting in Hong Kong before I could evaluate his handiwork. For this weekend we restricted ourselves to meals and coffees and walking around assorted attractions, all of which seemed a bit drab because it was raining and also because I couldn’t really concentrate once I had learned of the boob job.

She who must be obeyed is one up on me because she has had two Taiwanese boyfriends, but one down on me in that she has never been to Taiwan. When she suggested a trip, I was reminded of the rain and the general drabness (and the boob job, but best not to mention that), but agreed to give it a go.

Taiwan has been voted the friendliest country in the world to expats (although with Uganda in second place you have to wonder as to the metrics used); and I can confirm that the Taiwanese are indeed individually friendly and helpful. As to Taipei, I was reminded of Japan and Singapore in many ways. Clean, safe, excellent transport system, with plenty of parks and open spaces. Not as cute as Japan, not as ruthlessly efficient as Singapore, more raucous than both; Taipei has some charm as a destination. It’s very popular with Thais nowadays because they can travel there without a visa, and prices are on a par with Thailand. Cheap to get there too. Nok Scoot has very reasonable flights if you don’t mind flying at 0230 from Don Muang and getting up at an ungodly hour to catch the 0600 return flight. I mind, but we did it anyway.

Transportation is a bargain. On arrival we purchased a card which we could use everywhere. A shade over 500 baht got us from the airport into the city, provided transport on the metro system for the duration of our stay (and the Metro system covers Taipei and many outlying areas, like the Bangkok MRT doesn’t), and funded two lengthy bus trips to the countryside. Food is also cheap, although generally too much of it is fried and it is not the consistently wonderful eating experience that Japan can offer.

It was not the drab experience that I recall. On the day before we arrived it had rained all day, and on the morning we left it was pissing down, but while we there it was sunny and warm; ideal weather for taking photos.

Having only recently acquired the magnificent E-M1 II, and being the lucky owner of several accompanying lenses, what a great opportunity to take some shots of somewhere new! But being a contrary bastard, I left it at home…

Also took the RX100, so can dump some images on you while waiting for the return of the processed films.

April 1st, 2017|5 Comments