An old window in the New Territories

Vintage window in an alleyway in Yuen Long.
Vintage window in an alleyway in Yuen Long.

I discovered another side of Hong Kong 香港 when I stepped out of the MRT at Yuen Long 元朗 in the New Territories 新界 in February 2014. Not far from the station is an old neighbourhood tightly packed with traditional homes, many of them abandoned or in an advanced state of decay. Time seemed to slow as I wandered through the shadowed alleyways that served as streets for the hundreds of residents that called this place home.

I finally got my “high-speed” internet connection working at my…

I finally got my “high-speed” internet connection working at my new place in Tainan city 台南市: 2.5 Mbps down, 0.15 up. I groaned in disappointment when the speed test results came in—but then I remembered that these rates wouldn’t be out of the ordinary back home. I have been spoiled by cheap, fast internet in Taipei 台北.

The timeless market streets of Sham Shui Po 深水埗

The markets of Sham Shui Po by day.
The markets of Sham Shui Po by day.

The market streets of Sham Shui Po 深水埗 seem drab and muted compared to those at the southern tip of Kowloon 九龍. Even at night these streets seem uncharacteristically sedate. I don’t mind—this is part of what makes Sham Shui Po feel so authentic.

If you look closely at this photograph there isn’t anything in the frame that would allow you to date it to early February 2014. It looks like anytime in the last 20 years or so—apart from the compact fluorescent lightbulb on the left. Just think of the mornings that have passed through here before this particular day arrived. People on the streets, vendors hawking their wares. Every day more or less like this one—but all of them different in some inexplicable way.

Scut, a Sass library for the post-vendor prefixing era

These days I have been doing a fair amount of work with Sass, a CSS preprocessor. I have some experience with Compass but haven’t used it for my last few projects. It just feels like overkill—particularly when I am only using a handful of its functions.

Bourbon recently jumped out as a lightweight alternative to Compass. But then it hit me: both of these frameworks concentrate on solving a problem I no longer have: vendor prefixing.

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Electric flower car 電子花車

An electric flower car in bloom.
An electric flower car in bloom.

Electric flower cars (電子花車) are a unique feature of Taiwanese culture. These neon-lit mobile stages can be found near temples and at funerals, particularly in the rural south. Variety performers sing, dance, and sometimes even strip for the entertainment of gods and ghosts alike.

I had a premonition that I would see an electric flower car today or tomorrow. It is the goddess Mazu’s birthday—the culmination of weeks of riotous celebrations all across Taiwan. Firecrackers have been going off every night since I moved to Tainan last week and I caught a bit of Taiwanese opera (or something similar) after finishing up at a cafe on the weekend.

Tonight, after finishing up at that same cafe, I headed out in the direction of Dadong night market. Along the way I heard music echoing through the back streets along Jinhua road and went to investigate. And there it was: an electric flower car in full bloom.

I stayed for a little while to watch the show. Evidently it had just begun—the crowd swelled noticeably as passing motorists stopped in the intersection to enjoy the spectacle. The woman in the photo above changed her costume at one point, returning to the stage in a skimpy purple bikini. The old men up front clapped and howled enthusiastically.

After a few songs a technician jumped on stage to install a free-standing pole. A door on stage opened and another woman emerged, this one in cut-off jeans. She started to pole dance, flipping her hair back and forth, before walking down to street level to shake hands with various dumbstruck motorists.

It was an entertaining sight all right, though not one that I hadn’t seen before. My belly rumbled and I took to the streets again, grinning stupidly.

The mystic island of Pulau Besar

One of my stranger day trips in Malaysia was to the mystic island of Pulau Besar in the state of Melaka, better known as Malacca to most English-speaking people. Situated in the Straits of Malacca, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, the small island of Pulau Besar is steeped in myth and legend. It is also widely considered to be haunted—which partly explain why most of the island is abandoned.

On the wild shore of the mystic island of Pulau Besar.
On the wild shore of the mystic island of Pulau Besar.

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The professional

On the wall in the garden behind Café Flâneur.
On the wall in the garden behind Café Flâneur.

Another day, another cafe in Tainan city 台南市. Today I am at Café Flâneur, a travel-themed cafe filled with European memorabilia. After settling in the boss invited me to take a look at the backyard garden where I noticed this tribute to one of my favourite movies, Léon: The Professional, stenciled onto the wall. Tainan truly is a city of secrets.