Miscellaneous Blog Posts

Taiwan side story 2 – Taichung sits about in the middle –

As I reported in the last article, I took the high speed railway from Taipei to Taichung.

I’m not enough of a train geek to keep talking about the ride, but it was good, smooth and fast. The purpose of the trip was to see some bicycle-related factories in Taichung.

It’s basically like landing at Narita, taking an excessively long bus ride to Tokyo, checking out a huge exhibition, talking business, then head to Osaka to breathe in some actual factory atmosphere (we are here now).

The factory visit stories are actually kept secret here for secret reasons, but there are other things to be experienced on trips.

Wherever it is in the world, boys cannot help stopping by certain places.

The hardware store.

Great surprise, as expected, about the weird Japanese text on product packages.

Of course, I didn’t just go there to look for something to laugh about. Who said hardware stores are where you find the trends in the industrial reality, well it was me. What I saw there was, similar to Japan, mixture of standards and price competition.

In the bolts section, inch-sized ones occupied it. It is because they are the majority in the construction industry, I was told. On the other hand, what was written on tape measures beside metric measurement was the Japanese Shaku measurement. For one thing it originates in China and has been vastly used all over Asia, and for the other, there is the direct influence from Japan from when it governed Taiwan. It actually was a stunning similarity to Japan that different units are still being used although the metric scale is the only official one.

In the U.S., for instance, the majority would be the imperial ones, whether you are in the bolts or rulers section. In bicycle industry as well, some American brands (like Profile Racing) swear by imperial bolts, making it hard to find replacements in Japan. But if you step north across the border, metric and imperial scales coexist in Canada. As there are a lot of instances of imperial measurement in bicycles, partly due to it having been the European standard unit back in the day, and partly due to the direct influence from the USA in genres like BMX, Canadian tape measures come in handy quite a bit in my experience.

I saw another example of how hardware stores can help out bike riders. In the USA, lawnmower chains are typically sold in hardware stores for pretty cheap pricing per length. Back when thick chains were the fad in BMX, you could just drop by one of those stores and get some 41 chain if you resided in the States.

Back to Taiwan, another similarity to Japan was that the electric plugs were the same as Japan. So I thought about getting some extension cord, but decided against it because it didn’t seem cheaper. Just like in Japan, there must be the kind of price competition between hardware stores, home electric stores and 100-yen shops with different strategies regarding the balance between quality and price. Though Taiwan is an industrial country, there is no competition against China if the focus is on price rather than quality, hence no price difference with Chinese products wherever you buy it, Taiwan or Japan. And if you buy proud Taiwanese products, it may work well but may not be cheap.

Just like in most countries in the world, Japanese cars are common. They drive on the right side unlike Japan, but some vehicles are beyond the level to care about which side the steering wheel is on.

It surprised me quite well when it made a sharp u-turn in a crossroad just because it missed the entrance of the construction site.

At the end of such a day, I found a cool athletic thing in a park.

It’s just what it seems. It was pretty hard to let go of your hands and keep swinging both legs in the same stride. I loved the challenge, but cut it short because I knew I was looking suspicious doing it alone. Got a movie that no one should ever see either.

The night walk goes on.

I was really impressed when I saw this shrine just along a backstreet. It was beautiful.

And there is a dog, even in the 24-hour long-distance bus terminal.

So I enjoyed the townscape, visited some factories, and headed home.

Taking the 4am bus, wondering when I’ll be traveling with serious businessman baggage. The beer in this shot is nothing but a joke compared to the friendship bottoms-ups with the great factory crew the day before. The sign reads “Flying Dog Bus”, characterized by the awesome old lady at the desk who helped me with bus details with little English, some written communications and a smile.

Tao Yuan Airport in Taipei is clean and nice as always.

So this is how my Taiwan trip ended in joy.

As soon as I landed in Chitose, this is what I did.

My bike and snow obstacles for the first time in a while.

The only problem this time was the bad weather; my stomach doesn’t work well when humid. It stopped raining only on the last day. In that sense, coming back home was the best thing, back to where it RAINS very little. Doing business with the whole wide world while riding bikes in Sapporo, this has got to be my dream life.

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