Category Archives: Tainan, Taiwan

Mango Heaven

On Thursday, we took a trip to the Yujing district of Tainan, which is the major area where mangoes are grown.  As we stepped off the bus, we passed a roadside store selling mangoes.  The sweet smell was in the air, and I was unaware of how the day would progress.

Mango Shop

Mango Shop

We then walked through the town towards the wholesale market.  Here, they sold a variety of different mangoes.  The main mango that is in season at the moment is the Aiwan mango, also called the Irwan mango, which is close enough to my name meaning that I was approaching mango nirvana.  Apparently, this mango came to Taiwan in the 1950’s from Florida, where I was born and raised.

Mango Warehouse

Mango Warehouse

We purchased a bucket of mangoes for us to eat for the remainder of our stay here.  The cost for about 22 mangoes was 400 New Taiwan dollars, which corresponds to about USD $13.33, which is around 65 cents per mango.  In my local food store, I would pay over 5 times as much and they would not be as ripe.  We then proceeded to the “Mango Ice House”, where they use mango in a variety of dishes.  We had mango bread.  I had a chicken dish with a mango sauce. For dessert, there was mango pie, mango ice cream with mangoes over shaved ice, and mango pudding.  My mouth was watering and I kept eating.  Two days later and I still feel full from eating so much mango.  And I keep eating them whenever I can.  We are in the height of the mango season in Taiwan, and I’m truly in mango heaven eating these ripe and tasty mangoes!!!

Mango Bread

Mango Bread

Mango Pie

Mango Pie

Mango Ice Cream with mangoes over shaved ice

Mango Ice Cream with mangoes over shaved ice

Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

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Tainan – Days 10, 11 and 12

Over the last few days, team Tainan has had several additional meetings to observe and inform.

On Wednesday, we visited the Tainan Police to learn about the CCTV camera monitoring system. The police have 2-way or 4-way cameras installed at intersections throughout Tainan, which do vehicle detection and real-time monitoring. The CCTV system has a 98% accuracy rate at capturing license plates, meaning the police can recreate routes of any car or scooter in the city. The police were, as with all our meetings, very hospitable, and really helped us understand more about what infrastructure is in place in Tainan.

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Following the Police visit, I had the opportunity to speak to the senior staff at the Environmental Protection Bureau. They were interested in hearing more about our observations and projects that IBM has undertaken all over the world.

Ed Brill's Smarter Cities Speech Session

Our dinner Wednesday night was with the economic development commission, who were extremely generous hosts. We ate in a traditional restaurant, with danzai noodles brought in by street vendor, bean jelly served up by cart, and dozens of amazing dishes on the table. The more adventurous meat-eaters among us got to sample pig’s ovaries…but there were many traditional dishes as well.

On Thursday, we had the opportunity to ride the green line bus out to the suburbs. Irv Lustig will write about the “mango mania” we experienced there, but we also made other stops. Our first was to a bus transfer station, recently modernized with an air-conditioned waiting room and new restrooms. In this village, we also took a walking tour to see some baroque-style shophouses, eat street food, and visit a Japanese dojo.

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Our second stop was to another new bus station, where we made some local friends through “selfies” and saw another modernization.

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Dinner was with the cultural commission, after a tour of the beautifully-restored Hayashi Department Store. A return trip to Hayashi is in order for this weekend…

On Friday morning, we visited the T-Bike pilot station in Anping. T-Bike is a city bike program similar to the system in Paris or DIVVY in Chicago. Right now, with an “IC” card – also used on the bus – taking a bike is free. The government hopes to expand the T-Bikes throughout tourist areas of the city.

Tonight we are honored to have been invited to a dinner banquet with Mayor Lai. The dress code is “sparkly” – I can’t wait to see what that means!

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Trip to Alishan Mountains, Taiwan

On the first weekend SCC Team Tainan had the whole of Sunday for relaxation from the hectic schedule of Week 1. As recommended by our local hosts some of us decided to explore and experience more of Taiwan outside Tainan. Irv and I decided to take a day trip to the famous Alishan Mountains of Taiwan. We had booked a car with an english speaking driver/tour guide who arrived sharp at 9:30am. We left our hotel and took three freeways and exited on to the very windy road towards the mountains. Our driver Kevin was a talkative person providing us information about the places we crossed on the way and also shared with us his hotspot as a complimentary service. The road journey was approximately 2.5 hours long and on the drive up the mountain we crossed some beautiful scenes of lush green tropical trees. We were headed to the site of the Alishan Forest Railway, which is approximately 2,300 meters above sea level. Interestingly, the road up the mountains was pretty busy and we passed many tourist buses and cars on the way. It seemed everyone was headed up to the mountains on a weekend day!

We reached our destination around 12 noon and as we stepped out of the car we were greeted by a lovely gush of cool mountain air. The temperature was around 18 degrees centigrade and I was glad that I had carried a light shawl. We were hungry and decided to have lunch at a nice restaurant that our guide recommended. It was a delicious preset meal with hotpot, 5 other dishes, rice and free Wi-Fi service. Post lunch we headed to the railway station to board the train. It was a red train of six coaches that is pulled by a steam locomotive and runs on a narrow gauge. This railway line was previously a long stretch from the bottom of the mountain that had been damaged by a typhoon and therefore only a part of it at the top of the mountain was now being used for tourists. It took only six minutes to reach our destination, the Chaoping station.

Ready to board the Alishan Train

Ready to board the Alishan Train

Next, we headed for the Alishan Forest Park with the tall cedar and cypress trees. The local people consider the Cypress a sacred tree and worship it. There was a sign next to the cypress trees asking not to scratch the tree trunk, probably because of souvenir seekers!! Previously this forest was made up of many ancient cypress trees but due to logging and planting of Japanese cedar trees in the early 1900’s, the number of cypress trees has dwindled down to less than 40. The cypress trees were a glorious sight with their huge girth and height. Some of them were 2300 years old and it was nice to imagine how much history they have witnessed over the years. We were soon playing a guessing game about the age of the cypress trees. The youngest of them was only 800 years old! The remaining stumps of the fallen cypress trees had interesting shapes formed over the years, like the snout of a pig, a heart, an elephant trunk and so on.

Alishan Sianglin Sacred Tree -   Circumference 12.3 metres

Alishan Sianglin Sacred Tree – Circumference 12.3 metres

The downhill walk through the forest was very refreshing with flowers and ponds along the way. We kept stopping to take pictures. Towards the end of the long walk my feet had begun to hurt but I was happy about the good exercise. We headed towards the train station as the last train was leaving at 4pm. The station was crowded with tourists like us waiting for the train to arrive. When the train arrived, I could manage to get a seat but Irv and Kevin had to remain standing for the short 8 minute return journey. Getting off the train we took some more pictures and then headed to our car for the downhill journey. Before moving on, I purchased a bottle of wasabi that is locally grown and is quite cheap compared to the city.

On the return journey we again crossed beautiful views of clouds over the mountains. Our next stop was a local town and we walked along its narrow lanes crossing shops and houses. We also got to see the wasabi plant that was being sold in the shops. We then decided that we had done enough walking and it was time to have something to eat. Kevin took us to a local indigenous restaurant where he managed to obtain a table for us since the owner was his friend. The food was made with local organic vegetables and was really delicious. You could taste the freshness of the vegetables. We quickly finished our dinner and then sat down in the car for the drive back to Tainan. I was exhausted and sat back in my seat to sleep through the return journey.

We reached our hotel around 9pm and it was time to say goodbye to our guide. As we headed into the hotel we reflected back on the day and the beautiful experience of the trip to the wonderful Alishan Mountains.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Irv for enhancing the content of this blog entry.

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The Tainan Social Eating Experience

I thought I’d write a post about the social aspects of eating in Tainan.

Last week, after our first day of meetings, we had a formal dinner hosted by Mayor Li of Tainan on Monday evening. The five of us were seated at his table along with the Deputy Mayor, the General Secretary of the Tainan government and IBM Taiwan’s General Manager. The meal was a 12 course meal and this was our first such dinner in the city. There were 4 other tables at the dinner where other IBMers and government officials were eating. At their tables, each course was served family style. This allowed them to take small portions. However, at our table, we each received individual plates for each of the courses. By the 7th course, I was completely full. This presented a dilemma, as it was my understanding that it was considered rude to not finish what was served to you. The mayor left after the 4th course to attend another dinner, but the remainder of our hosts were still at the table. Finishing every dish. I then noticed that the IBM General Manager was not finishing her plates, and felt safe that I could partially eat each dish. What concerned me more at this point was that I had 3 weeks ahead of me and I could not imagine how I would consume a 12 course meal each night.  Fortunately, that was the only time we had to eat each of the courses as well as have so much food.

On Thursday evening, the Director-General of the Bureau of Transportation hosted a barbecue, which was more of an outdoor buffet.  The 5 of us were seated at different tables with members of the Transportation department.  Being a barbecue, it was time to drink beer.  The beer glasses were about 4 ounces.  The atmosphere is that you raise your glass, say “Gambe!!” and chug down the 4 ounces of beer, and slam your glass down on the table.  At my table was the Deputy Director of the bureau and I was informed that he was the best beer drinker among the group.  So he looked me in the eye, and the challenge was on.  I was up for the challenge.  Then they replaced my 4 ounce glass with a 24 ounce mug.  Fortunately, I did not have to finish the mug of beer each time they shouted “Gambe!!”.  But it was clear to my new friends at the table that I was up to the challenge of drinking that much beer.

My colleagues have also found out that I am a mango lover.  I grew up in Florida with a mango tree in my back yard.  I eat Mango sorbet at home almost every night.  I get mango smoothies. I can never have enough mango.  The mangos in Taiwan are fantastic. We have had mango over shaved ice. Mango over ice I drank a 32 ounce carafe of pureed mango juice. mango carafe I purchased a tub of cut-up fresh mango at the Taiwan night market.  I’ve had our local host purchase more for me to consume in my room.  I cannot get enough mango.  When we have meetings with government officials, they often supply us with snacks, which sometimes are fruit bowls containing mango.  I am in mango heaven.

Tonight, we had dinner with the Bureau of Economic Development.  The table had the largest lazy Susan I have ever seen.lazy susan  Fortunately, the dinner was served family style and I could maintain some portion control.  What was fun was that they brought the dinner in using someone carrying in the food like a street vendor. food service The conversation was fun, and the food was excellent.  These experiences have all added to the pleasure of being in Tainan.

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Tainan – Days 8 and 9

After some weekend rest, Team Tainan was right back at it on Monday and Tuesday for additional meetings and learnings.

Irv Lustig was excited about our Monday visit to National Cheng Kung University:

On Monday, we visited the Department of Transportation and Communication Management Science at the National Cheng Kung University.  The department has four concentrations:  Transportation Management, Logistics Management, Transportation Technology, and Telecommunications Management.  Some of the professors were familiar with IBM ILOG CPLEX, an IBM product for which Irv Lustig was one of the original developers over 20 years ago.   The department also teaches courses in Operations Research, which is the area of Irv’s Ph.D.  The Operations Research area is a core foundation for much of the research done in the 4 concentrations in the department, and Irv enjoyed discussing this topic with the chair of the department.

Ed’s additional observations: Many of the University Professors have studied abroad and speak very good English. We did not have to work through our translators to understand and ask questions. After the meeting, we had a tour of the campus, which features several exceptional banyan trees and an 1880s steam locomotive.

On Tuesday, we started the day at City Hall in the Traffic Control Center. We learned a lot about the information systems available to citizens for the City Bus System. After an impressive lunch nearby, we visited one of the bus companies and took our first collective bus trip on the Tainan blue line. Some regular passengers happened to board our bus, and a student sat down next to me. He was very shy around all our handlers and photographers and translators and the bus company dignitaries , but he took my business card and sent me an email later – which he admitted was the first time he ever wrote an email in English. Impressive!

On Wednesday, we will begin to compile our recommendations as a group, which will initially be reviewed at the end of this week with the city government. We are at the halfway mark of our trip!

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Traveling by city buses in Tainan

This entry is from Dr. Hari Madduri:

We have been here in Tainan since last Sunday and things have been hectic. Today is the first day I got some free time for myself. My plan was to visit the three important temples representing Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Thanks to the Tainan Tourism Service officer, I already had the maps and knew which bus to take.  I augmented that knowledge with a few more suggestions from the concierge at the hotel. In particular he suggested  that  I buy “an all-day bus pass” since I wanted to get on/off the bus several times. He wrote “all-day pass” in Chinese on a piece of paper for me to present to the bus driver. So far so good.

I walked a little from our hotel to the Tainan Train station and waited at the 88 bus stop. It wasn’t at all hard to find the right bus stop and wait there. I also found that they had LED displays of expected arrival times of different route buses.  It said 6 minutes for my bus number 88. By the way, they had two displays — one in English and the other in Chinese. I thought it was pretty good.  I waited for 6 minutes but the bus didn’t arrive at its scheduled time of 11:25am.  it finally arrived around 11:37am. Not bad, I thought.

I got into the bus and showed my Chinese slip to the driver as my concierge suggested. The driver said something. I presented more money thinking it was not enough 🙂. Then the young man behind me who I had talked to earlier said that the driver doesn’t give those all-day tickets and I had to get it from a counter at the bus stop (i.e., that’s the translation for what the driver said). I was worried that I would miss this bus and the next one was an hour later. The young man said that he would hold the bus for me. I ran to the bus stop’s ticket counter and got the all-day pass in less than a minute and got into the bus.

The bus took a long time to get to the Confucius Temple. I struck a conversation with young couple (probably in their 20′s) sitting behind me, and I asked for some help. They didn’t speak much English, but the girl was more friendly and tried to help. I found out that they were visiting from Taipei and she didn’t really know the area well. She first told me that I already missed my stop but later checked with the other passengers and came back and told me that I was ok. I knew I was ok, but just wanted the local help. I took the opportunity to do my opinion survey on Tainan Buses. I asked her why she preferred to take the bus while many Taiwanese just rent a scooter and drive around.  She told me that it is very hot and she prefers the air-conditioned bus!

I got to the Confucian Temple, took some pictures.  I was impressed that the Tainan rulers recognized the value of education and wise men guiding the State several centuries ago. I noticed that some students were praying and writing yellow slips and hanging them on a big board. When I asked the ticket clerk, she told me with a smile that it was for exams 🙂.   May the God of examinations look kindly at these students 🙂

I then wanted to go to the Tiantan temple which was on the same bus route but 2-3 stops away from the Confucian temple. Since I had a good 35 minutes before the next bus 88 at 1:35pm, I decided to explore the street market opposite to the Confucian temple. It was an interesting narrow street with vendors on both sides. I bought some fruits to eat for lunch. This nice street market had trees on both sides for shade and also had overhead hoses spraying mist to keep the shoppers cool. There were many interesting things but I didn’t buy any.  I then returned to the bus stop around 1:25 and waited for it. I then saw another couple that was also visiting Tainan from somewhere else.  They too had gotten off 88 at this Confucian temple with me and were waiting for the next bus just as I was.  In the conversation with the man, I found out that they came from Taichung by Train and wanted to tour Tainan by bus. When asked why he didn’t prefer to drive here, he said he didn’t know the city well and hence preferred public transportation. The couple looked like they were in their late forties or mid fifties.  While we were talking, the time was 1:40pm and the bus hadn’t arrived. My watch moved to 2pm. No sign of bus 88.  The gentleman I talked to suggested that I ask  in the next store. It was a bike-renting shop.  I asked if he spoke English, he said yes and when asked how far the Tiantan temple was, he said it was within walking distance and he even gave me a map.   I used the map and started walking to the Tiantan temple.

I overshot by a street or two and had to retrace my path. Anyway I finally got to the Tiantan temple. The problem was that the map was in Chinese and street signs pointing to the temple entrance were in Chinese. Needless to say that that caused me to overshoot and ask for help. Anyway, I learned a couple of things about ancient temples in Tainan. Sometimes they are in the middle of a block and hence not visible from any street. You just have to find the right alley that gets you there. Of course, the sign at the alley is in Chinese and if you don’t know the language here is a clue: Look for colorful balloons hung along the alley way. If you follow those balloons, you get to the temple.

While getting lost and searching for Tiantan temple, I found that the Chihkan Tower (and temple) were not too far from there. So, after visiting the Tiantan temple, walking through another alley and discovering the colored balloon paths, I walked towards the Chihkan tower. On the way I saw an interesting Martial God Temple.  This is apparently a temple for a hero and his ancestors. I then went to the Chihkan Tower. Even though we visited this on Friday as part of our program to meet school children, I wanted to visit this again and take some pictures. I did that and started my return journey. Luckily this time, I didn’t have to wait long. I got to the bus stop in front of Chihkan tower and wondered whether I should wait for 40 minutes for the next bus or just call it quits and take a taxi to the hotel.  Luckily the bus #99 arrived in less than 5 minutes. I was very tired because of the heat and walking. I got into the bus, showed my all-day pass and sat down.  I struck a conversation with a gentleman that sat next to me (he looked like a senior citizen). I asked him where he was from and he answered that he came from Taipei and he was visiting Tainan as well. I asked him why he preferred the bus. He said it is free for him (he showed me a card) and is convenient. There, another data point. Senior citizens love to travel by buses!

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Tainan, Taiwan – Day 6

Today team Tainan had an action-packed day, courtesy of the Tainan Department of Tourism.

We started today at the National Museum of Taiwan History. Our English-speaking tour guide described the history of this island and its people, starting from indigenous aboriginals through the present day. This modern museum tackles all of Taiwan’s history in its permanent exhibition, along with temporary displays about baseball in Taiwan as well as the many markets around the country.

Taiwan Museum of History

From there we went on a boat tour of the “Green tunnel” mangroves in the Taijiang Ecological Culture Zone and visited the Dazhong Temple. Lunch followed in the Anping district, with piles of heavenly seafood and fresh greens appearing one after the next at a crowded neighborhood spot.
Prawns cooked at the table

In the afternoon, we started with a tour of the soon-to-be-opened Chimei Museum, then went across the road to the 10 Drum Art Percussion Park. The drum ensemble performed five rousing songs of precision percussion, bringing back old memories of my marching band days. But the band members were never as artistic as these high school students!

We wrapped up the day with a visit to the Tainan Garden Night Market. The market offered quite a variety of food and snacks, everything from steak on a stick to fried grasshoppers (I don’t think anyone went for that). We also were a little put off by the pungent stinky tofu. The busiest stall was the braised chicken feet, there were at least 20-30 people waiting at all times by that one. But we stuck to simpler dumplings, rice balls, and meat on a stick while enjoying mango ice and a little shopping.

Tainan Garden Night Market

Near Anping, Tainan

 

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