Friday, June 13, 2008

My marvellous miscellany

There will always be a few stubborn photographs left over that refuse to lend themselves to inclusion in some kind of photo-narrative. This problem may be overcome with resort to bundling them together under the thematic umbrella of being random or miscellaneous leftovers. Now that an unnecessary and long-winded introduction has been constructed we can move on to a commentary on the images themselves. Wonderful.

Journey to Monkey Mountain
Taiwan is home to a single indigenous species of monkey, the Formosan Rock Macaque. There are about 250,000 of them on the island and they typically live at elevations between 500 and 1500 metres although they have been found living as high as 3,000 metres in the central mountain range. Some months ago we took a trip on our scooter towards the central mountain range. We just kept going until the incline got more dramatic and then we decided to pull over for a break. Just before we were about to stop we saw a monkey on the road and it hardly flinched as we putted past. We had found our way to what we think was the "Monkey Mountain" that we have heard others talk about. The monkeys seemed to be concentrated around a large, long shed containing a few makeshift shops and a crowd of tourists. It became clear that the tourists were here to see the monkeys which must have lost some of their fear of people as they would come and sit on the ground or the roof of the shed, or anywhere they liked, having learned that people would throw food at them. Once we got over the novelty of having wild monkeys wandering around semi-oblivious to us, it got pretty old quickly and we were soon ready to be on our way.

This here be scooter country
We can't afford to buy a car to get us around the province but who needs the four, impact-absorbing walls of a car when you can accelerate yourself along the street at high speeds on a motor scooter. For the majority of the population and certainly the majority of foreigners in Taiwan, the motor-scooter is the way to get around; From one city to another or from your apartment building to the 7-11 half-a-block down the street. Yes, it is common enough to see somebody mount their Jockey 125 and accelerate for all of five seconds before decelerating to a stop and dismounting having reached their destination. The motor scooter is such an integral part of Taiwanese traffic that there are often lanes reserved for scooters (as in the image above).

Golden Beach
Beach - yes; Golden - no. For a boy who grew up close to the unpopulated, clean, white, sandy beaches of the south-west coast of Australia, Tainan's premiere beach comes as something of a disappointment. I am sorry to say that the local authorities do help things by failing to organise some kind of beach-cleanup. The beach is littered with countless bamboo poles, the remnants of a gazillion bamboo pearl-bed rafts that are used in pearl farming of the freshwater mussel that produces the pearls. As a side note, until relatively recently these freshwater mussels were considered pests by fish farmers because they could invade a farm pond and compete with the fish for oxygen and nutrients. Golden Beach is also littered with all kinds of fishing-related garbage from large blocks of foam to fishing tackle. Then there are the take-away tea cups and other food packaging. Lastly (as if I just created definitive categories of Golden Beach garbage) there are the miscellaneous odds and sods that somehow find their way into the sea and are then washed onto the beach (toys, random bits of wood, tyres, etc) , or the others that never left the land but still ended up at the sea-side (more toys, more random bits of wood, and more tyres, for example). Besides the garbage, the beach is a medium-grey colour that just reminds me of... sorry... dirty beaches.

Cyclist calm in face of certain disaster
I'm sure that if this were me, having ridden my bike over the edge and about to plunge into the river, I would have let go of the handle bars and been flailing wildly in a vain attempt to put as much space between the bicycle and myself as possible. Thus I respect the mettle displayed by the silhouetted man on the cycle in the image. He must have been one tough hombre.

One size fits all average-sized people
This disposable, plastic raincoat cost me NT$30 (about AU$1) and gave me the appearance of a man for whom fashion remained an enigma rolled up tightly inside a mystery. I had been riding my bicycle to work for months with barely a raindrop falling on me and was long-overdue for a severe drenching. I was finally forced to purchase some kind of plastic to protect me from the rain.

Style versus Content
While the smaller canals in Tainan may not be the kind of waterways that inspire reminiscences of Venice or Amsterdam, their utility inspires the movement of fishermen to, from and along the canals and the culturing of pearls. I have a feeling that the bamboo racks in this picture might not be active. There is a sense in Taiwan of an increasing awareness of the state of the environment. I saw an article recently that said that 24-hour convenience stores in Taipei would no longer be able to give away disposable, wooden chopsticks with food as of this week. On the other hand I read another article that summarised the result of a survey of indicators of environmentally-sustainable behaviours with the observation that in the past two years Taiwan had moved AWAY from environmental sustainability. That's a shame because this is, on the whole, an interesting and beautiful island.

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