My attention was drawn to this curious roadside restaurant while riding through Qingjing Farm 清境農場, an exquisitely awful tourist trap located deep in the mountains of Nantou. My Chinese reading ability is rudimentary at best so I wouldn’t have noticed anything unusual if it weren’t pointed out to me—but pictured here is Bin Laden Hotpot House 賓拉登鍋屋, a restaurant named after mass murderer and terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden. I suppose that must be him on the sign—decked out in the customary cowboy hat of his native homeland.
This would remain a mystery except that I have been able to transcribe the characters and look up some Chinese language blog entries about the restaurant. Most are routine restaurant reviews with no discernible discussion of the peculiar name but this business listing contains enough to piece things together. Supposedly the owner sports a beard bearing a superficial resemblance to that of the restaurant’s infamous namesake.
There’s more. The owner is also a veteran of the doomed KMT resistance in Southeast Asia. In 1961 several thousand troops were airlifted to Taiwan, leaving many thousands more behind, some of whom remain in Thailand to this very day. Some of those troops were resettled in Nantou to begin new lives as farmers. The Bin Laden connection becomes more meaningful when you consider what those soldiers were up to in Burma all those lost years.