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A basket full of small squid

Ephemera

Taiwan’s Only Geometrid Moth

Taiwan’s only geometrid moth
A close look at Taiwan’s only geometrid moth.

Yesterday I breezed through the small town of Èrshuǐ 二水 in southern Changhua 彰化 to scope out some historic sites on my list. One of these sites, the old Ershui Public Hall 二水公會堂, is located next to a wide expanse of unkempt meadowland, evidently a breeding ground for Taiwan’s only geometrid moth. There were hundreds of brightly-colored, iridescent moths flitting around the overgrown ruins—and many more locked in an embrace on whatever flat surfaces could be found. After coming home last night it didn’t take long to puzzle out the name of this species of moth: Milionia basalis pryeri, a subspecies of Milionia basalis only found in Taiwan 台灣 and southwestern Japan, particularly Okinawa. There appears to be no English common name but in Chinese it is generally known as chéngdàizhīchǐ’é 橙帶枝尺蛾; roughly “orange-banded moth”.

Alien Underworld

Chiayi alien underworld
What wonders will be found in this strange place?

I haven’t spent much time in Chiayi City 嘉義市 over the years so I somewhat arbitrarily decided to stop there one night in February 2017 while making my way north from Tainan 台南. Hotels are cheap and regular train service is about half the cost of high-speed rail so I figured it wasn’t costing me much to take it slow. After enjoying some famous turkey rice in one of the main tourist night markets I wandered around to reacquaint myself with the layout of the place. Not far from the traffic circle east of Chiayi Station I noticed the entrance to an electronic gaming den with an amusing name: ET歡樂世界, literally “Extraterrestrial Happy World”.

Departure Time

Time to go
The hands advance, time moves forward, and I’ve got a plane to catch.

Five in the afternoon and it’s time to split. I’ve had an interesting time here in Manila—and a good day of work here at Toby’s Estate—but I’ve a plane to catch. Timing my departure is difficult due to the threat of absolute gridlock on the way to the airport. My plane is scheduled to fly just after ten but I rather arrive early than succumb to a last-minute panic. Time and tide wait for no man, nor do commercial flights. (And as chance would have it my flight was delayed by nearly two hours and I didn’t leave the Philippines until close to midnight.)

A Defender of China

We are your friend
An unusual sign in front of a restaurant in northern Hsinchu City.

On the northern edge of Hsinchu City 新竹市, about halfway between Nánliáo Fishing Port 南寮漁港 and the massive Hsinchu Air Base 新竹空軍基地, you’ll find a small restaurant by the name of Old Lù Beef Noodles 老陸牛肉麵. Such a shop might not catch your eye were it not for a curious turquoise signboard perched on an easel out front. Hsinchu 新竹 is home to one of the highest densities of military dependents’ villages in the nation so it comes as no surprise that it would be advertising military village cuisine 眷村美食. What is rather unusual is the hand-painted adaptation of the May 16, 1938, edition of Life Magazine, originally subtitled A Defender of China, appearing here with the messages We are your friend 我們的你們的朋友 and We are fights for freedom 我們是為自由而战 (with that last character a simplified form of 戰). The pot of noodles and chopsticks are a creative addition.

Sad Elephant

Abandoned elephant slide
An elephant slide abandoned in the basement stairwell of a commercial building in Zhubei.

I found this sad elephant while tromping around the commercial building that was once home to Jīnbǎo Grand Theater 金寶大戲院 in Zhúběi 竹北. I was not able to evade detection and sneak into the old theater but this discarded playground slide I found in a basement stairwell made the attempt worthwhile.

Mantis Mirror

Mantis on a mirror
Stranded on a scooter in the rain, a mantis praying for a friendly stranger to come along.

I left home today and almost immediately noticed a mantis on the mirror of a scooter parked near my place in Xìnyì District 信義區, Taipei 台北. This afforded me an opportunity to snap a rather unusual self-portrait, as you can see. Right after taking this photo the mantis surprised me by jumping onto my pants and crawling up to my shoulder. It soon disappeared out of sight, though I could feel forelimbs brush against the back of my neck. Not wanting to possibly crush it by accident, I wandered down the street until I found a row of trees where the mantis gracefully disembarked. If I were to anthropomorphize this resplendent creature I’d say it was in some distress on that scooter and gladly took the opportunity to hitch a ride to the relative safety of what nature remains in this highly urbanized area, a service I was happy to provide.

A Close Encounter With An Atlas Moth

An Atlas moth perched on a chair in Taoyuan
An Atlas moth perched on the leg of a chair at a Hakka restaurant in Taoyuan, Taiwan.

Last week I went out for a day of exploration with Josh Ellis who brought me to the excellent Lǎotóubǎi Hakka Restaurant 老頭擺客家餐廳 in Lóngtán 龍潭, Taoyuan. This restaurant is operated out of an old farmhouse (or sanheyuan, a traditional Taiwanese courtyard home) so I wandered around to take a look at each room before our meal arrived. Stepping out into the courtyard an employee gestured toward a giant moth perched on the leg of a chair. I had seen Neil Wade post one just like it on Facebook a few days prior to this so I wasn’t exactly surprised—but wow is it ever large!

Giant Bird Crossing at Taida

Watch out for giant birds
An amusing sign on campus at National Taiwan University in Taipei.

It was hot as hell this afternoon so I smartly cut through National Taiwan University 國立臺灣大學 in search of some shade while on my way to one of my favourite working cafes in Taipei 台北. NTU, better known as Táidà 台大, has a beautiful main campus in the heart of Dà'ān District 大安區 that offers some respite from the busy city streets that surround it. While riding along one of many tree-lined laneways I noticed this absurd sign by the roadside. The text reads dòngwù chuānyuè 動物穿越 (“animal crossing”), jiǎnsù mànxíng 減速慢行 (“slow down”), with nary a word about giant birds, much to my disappointment. I’m not sure if this is a student project or something official but either way—it’s awesome! I wonder now, is this meant to depict the herons commonly seen in parkland around the city?

Mondrian Parking Garage

Mondrian garage
An oddly-decorated parking garage in Taichung.

Living in Taiwan 台灣 affords ample opportunities to encounter elements of western culture filtered through an eastern lens. Here we find the distinctive artistic style of Piet Mondrian decorating the entrance to an underground parking garage in Taichung 台中. High-brow art on a carport? Well, whatever. There aren’t any rules or conventions to be followed around here!