Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More Taipei 101 portraits

More portraits from the Taipei 101 portrait series. These are mainly from August, so going back some time. It reminds me very much of Taiwan and I miss the warmth of the place. Wales is absolutely freezing!

The cosmetic girl with a present from King Kong, the musician

The Musician - King Kong

King Kong was the only person we interviewed that we bumped into again. Like the first time, he was sitting outside drinking beer with his band mates.

The Police Man

Things are different in Taiwan, even police men have time to help some hapless foreigners pursue their crazy projects.

The Falun Dada follower

The Falun Dada follower was, surprisingly, one of our favourite interviews.

The Artist

For the interview with the Artist, click here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Travel Through People

Cowboy Lim - the first famous trishaw driver in Malaka

It was simple, NO TRAVEL GUIDE! Also no looking up travel information on the web either. I was going to Malaysia and Singapore, two countries where most people speak English and I’ve been travelling for twenty years, so wasn’t it time I did something different.

Don’t get me wrong. I think travel books are great! They’re motivational and inspirational, encouraging wayward spenders to forsake some excesses and save for a dream holiday. I remember the magic of buying a Lonely Planet to India and reading about rat temples, Shiva and the countless Indian gods, Varanasi, the Himalayas and countless other exotic and exciting Indiapeadia. But travel books can give you too much information!

Mother and son releasing birds on Guanyin's Birthday

Many travellers end up in the same hotels and restaurants, go to the same tourist sights and experience nearly the same experiences because of travel guides. Obviously, this is very sociable and a great way to make friends but most of this socializing is with people from similar backgrounds. Thanks to guide books, many people don’t need to talk to people in the country they’re visiting; hotel workers, waiters and travel agents being the exceptions. Add in modern devices such as Ipods, GPS, laptops, Wifi and this result is multiplied.

Me and Tan Hoon Keong at La salle's St Joseph School

So to inject ‘the need to communicate’ into my travels I ditched the travel guide for a two week trip to Malaysia. I had been there before and I knew that English and Chinese was widely spoken and in general Malaysia was a medium cost and easy country to get around. It wasn’t that radical but the results were, especially in Malacca, the place where I‘ve never been before and had no contacts.

Some school children taking photos at St Paul's Church

In Malacca, I kept meeting people and I built up an impression of Malaka that extended beyond places. The history came alive as different people gave their version of it and not only the history of Malaka but personal history too. I met some people a few times and got taken to places that I think I’d have gone with a guide book.

But the best part was how warm and generous people were with their time.

A woman visiting a temple for Guanyin's birthday

Friday, November 19, 2010

Updates on Strangers

The Gay Man - from the Taipei 101 series

No blogs, no pictures and no updates would suggest that the '100 strangers to friends' blog had died. But this isn't the case.

I've been busy on a collaboration with my good friend Lewis. We foolishly started Taipei 101; a project where we were to hunt down 101 people of different backgrounds and interview them about Taipei. Most of the interview were in Chinese, so they're still mostly untranslated and we've ended very behind in getting the interviews up on the 'Taipei 101' blog. In the end Taipei 101 has turned out to be Taipei 48.

The Spicy Boy; from the Taipei 101 series

Despite not completing this project, it was great fun and we ended up learning lots about Taipei that we didn't know before. Also we both felt that people in general are incredibly nice and tolerant. At first we were surprised at how co-operative people were and then as it continued we became to expect it.

The Betelnut Girl - from the Taipei 101 series

Adding in the strangers from the 'Taipei 101' series, I'm now up to 118 strangers. Also, I took some more strangers on a recent trip to Malaysia. I decided to travel without a travel guide book, so that I'll be forced to talk with strangers. It worked!

The Bin Man - from the Taipei 101 series

For interviews: The Bin Man, worth a read, especially what he says about protecting his wife. The Spicy Boy. The Gay Man

I'll write more about this project in my next post.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Malaysian Strangers


Xinyi, outside the Sun Yat Sen Museum

This post is long overdue. I met these people back in June/July when I went to Malaysia for six weeks.

Two of the strangers are mother and daughter, Jessie and Xinyi. They both work at the Sun Yat Sen Museum in Penang. I learned lots of things there, like Sun Yat Sen was kidnapped in London and that he was a bit of a fugitive, moving around alot and I get the sense that he had a women here and there.

The museum itself is in a beautiful old Chinese townhouse on Armenia Street. The house is very long as frontage was taxable and incorporated several feng shui elements into its design. There's a an airwell that lets in wind and water, satisfying the feng shui as the Chinese believe that water flowing in, means wealth coming to the family and it also cools down the house. The Penang Convention was staged here, this led to the Guangzhou upraising in China and eventually the fall of dynastry rule in China. Pretty monumental historical event, eh.

Jessie and Xinyi

Xinyi, the daughter, is a very cheerful and charming girl. She took me around the museum explaining the history of the man and the place. She speaks English, Malay and Chinese, and works at the museum on Sundays. She thinks Europe is very romantic and its her dream to travel Europe one day - go girl, I'm sure you'll be in Europe sooner than you think.

Jessie, told me about the feng shui elements of the house and showed me a video of Sun Yat Sen's life (probably where I got the idea that he had a few women in his life). Like her daughter she's very helpful and cheerful.


Kheng works at 79 Travellers Lodge in Penang. He's an incredibly kind and helpful man. All the people I met at the hostel loved him because of his consideration to people's needs. I enjoyed chatting with him, especially as he entertained my Chinese.

I have passed a 100 strangers already but I haven't posted them yet. More on this soon.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Penghu Strangers - first week of June

Xu, Guo Zhen, a photographer with 10s of trophies; outside his wife's restaurant on Cimei

Hi everyone.

I've just come back from Penghu, a group of 64 islands off the west coast of Taiwan. I had a great time there despite the wind and cloud, though I do have a suntan. It wasn't cloudy all the time!

Xu, Guo Zhen, is a photographer and helps run his wife's Vietnamese restaurant on Cimei. Penghu's most southernly island. Xu, Guo Zhen, takes photos of Cimei's landscape and nature. He's won numerous awards for his photography and certainly knows what he's taking about. Because of him, I'm taking one of my lens for a clean. He also plays keyboard for 'live' Karakao and has a great knowledge of plants.

If you want Vietnamese food when you're in Cimei, you can follow the ads painted on the walls from the main port in Cimei. They also have Vietnamese coffee, mmmm!!!

Hygeia and Xingyi looking gorgeous on the sunny island of Cimei. Xu, Guo Zhen suggested the composition, one I think works well. (Certainly better than the other two portraits this time round)

Hygeia works on Penghu, studying a special kind of coral that can move with the tide. This species is only found in Penghu and only off the coast of Baisha, near the aquarium. It looks different to most coral, in that it's long and has no branches. She sounded like she loved her job. It's certainly different to working in an office.

Xingyi was on vacation. A friend of a friend put her in contact with Hygeia as she wanted to travel to Penghu. We bumped into her on her last day. She was in Magong city busy buying presents before taking a flight back to Taipei.

Xun,Cha Ya runs Erkan Min Shu, a guest house where people can stay in traditional style houses. Sorry about the portrait, not one of my better ones :(

Xun, Cha Ya is only in his twenties yet he's running a beautiful guest house and he's an excellent cook. We stayed at Erkan Minshu for a night. The rooms and 'houses' are in the same style of Erkan village next door. They looked great and were also comfortable too.

Erkan has numerous traditional houses. It prospered because the people of that village traded Chinese Medicines brought over from China with people in Taiwan. Whilst many places in Penghu have traditional houses, Erkan stood out as most of the homes are still occupied and it feels much more lively than the other old places we visited.

Erkan Village, a village with lots of traditional houses that are still lived in.

Penghu was fun. We also went fishing and took quite a few boat trips. I should've got more strangers but hey,,,, I was on holidays. I'm a bit dispointed that a couple of the portraits didn't come out well. I'll definitely have to rethink my night photos.

Anyway that it's for today. I'll be back soon


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Zonghong, the helpful and informative hike leader

Yesterday, I joined a hiking group led by Zonghong on a hike across Yangmingshan's Fish Road Historic Trail. We started at Huang Creek on the Jinshan side and walked up to Cingtiangang before going onto Jyuansi Waterfall. The weather was great and it was sunny when we got to the highest point of the hike.

The striking Zong Hong has a facebook page for hiking. He leads different hikes and it's free to join (it was yesterday anyway). Zong Hong told me some of the background of the walk we were on. The Fish Road Historic Trail developed during the Qing times to transport 'salty' fish to Taipei. It was the cheapest way of getting fish from Jinshan to the Taipei. The Qing route is very direct, straight up the mountain. Later, the Japanese build another trail following the Qing route but as it for horses, this route zigzags up the hill.

Jeff, a hiker who hiked the whole trail with us yesterday. And he also handed out some nice sushi

Jeff, Longda and Ivy were also on the hike. They walked the whole route. The original route was just up to Cingtiangang, where many of the other people on the hike left.

Longda was on the hike yesterday.

Ivy was on the hike yesterday. Thanks for the chocolate cookies

Sam, is not a stranger but he wanted to get his photo taken.

Sam is not a stranger. He's a hero. This Chinese New Year, when me and my girlfriend couldn't find a hotel in Tainan, Sam came to the rescue. He drove us round for about an hour, until we found a hotel and then he took us out for dinner and paid. That's the Taiwanese for you - great hospitality.

Sheila, the English Tour Guide at Zhongshan Building (presidential palace). She gave us an enjoyable tour of this fascinating and surprising place

Sheila is an English Guide at the Zhongshan Building, a kind of presidential palace in Yangmingshan. Zhongshan is incredible because it is built over a sulphur vent. The 1,100 meeting hall has a sulphur vent between the stage and the seating. Originally pipes were build so that the sulphur could escape but overtime these got blocked up. That means, the floor is now being pushed up by the sulphur and is very uneven. A highlight for me, was sitting on the presidential seat, I felt rather important when I did that. Zhongshan Building is on the back of the $100NT bill. It's definitely worth a visit.

Lukas, we joined him on the Zhongshan building tour. It was great meeting someone from Europe and catching up with the situation there.

Lukas, a software engineer from Poland, was also on the tour of Zhongshan. He has been in Taiwan for about three weeks working on software for headphones. He had been working most of the time and was spending his last day in Taiwan doing some tourist things. He was looking forward to an evening at Shilin Night Market. He was wearing a strange contraption on his finger as he had a snowboarding from last winter.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

18th May Shoot

Raven and Basel looking cool and relax.

It was a hot one yesterday!!

Taipei was roasting but the people were still chilled. Yesterday was significant in that I passed the 50 mark. I'm now up to 54 strangers. I also learned some more Chinese and more about the culture in Taiwan.

Raven and Basel are friends. We talked about how Taiwanese people choose crazy English names. Raven said many people loved to choose names after animals or things they like. Raven's English was good, just as well as he didn't understand my Chinese. Basel works in the shop behind him on the picture.

Jeffery and Sonar out with their bikes. Jeffery was the 50th stranger of the project.

Jeffery is number 50! He's a very lucky guy and I'm sure being number 50 will change his life. Anyway, he and his girlfriend his 'girlfriend' Sonar (Sonja?) were walking their bikes when I met them. They seemed to be enjoying their time and were very relaxed when I took their photo.

Eric outside Family Mart

Then I met Eric, outside a Family Mart. I really confused him with my Chinese but in the end he understood what I was asking for. I'll have to review my Chinese for explaining this project.

Eric and Paint helping out for a day at the blood donor place.

Eric and Paint were the last two people I met yesterday. They were volunteering with 'give blood - Taiwan.' They were holding signs and encouraging people to donate blood. I talked with them for a while. Paint, named by his wife because he likes to draw/paint, was there with his wife and daughter, Susu. His daughter, three, is very cute. Paint, gave me some metal chopsticks to use when I eat in a restaurant. Thanks, protecting my health and the environment. Paint told me there's a movie out on this subject - does anyone know what it is called? Eric normally works at AIG (does Paint work at AIG too?), an insurance company. We talked quite a bit as his English is good and he helped explain about the 'chopstick movie.'

So ends another day in Taipei. Thanks everyone for your help.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

May 15th Photo and first Video

Taking on the world in a Roman Costume. Wei Xin handing out leaflets.

Good Morning Taiwan

Just a quick one today. I met 'Wei Xin'(Is this right?) outside the new place for the computer market. He was wearing a Roman costume and it reminded me of the time I was a Roman with HBO. So I can't resist asking for a photo.

Also, after a year of having a video camera, I've managed to produce my first video of the group Roxymorons.

"My first Video Roxymorons

For more on the Roxymorons,here's their Facebook page

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May 12th Shoot

Chelsea was very chatty and curious. She made my day when she said that I was an artist

Hello Everyone

It was windy in Taipei City yesterday. I like it this way. Yesterday, I met five new strangers around Taipei 101 and Warner Village areas.

Chelsea was waiting for a taxi. She makes clothes for TV stars and was going to return some clothes back to the TV company. She lived in Cambridge for a year so we spoke in English. Chelsea was great to talk with and she asked lots of questions. One was 'How do you choose who to take photos, do you choose happy people or sad one etc?'

First, I look whether someone is busy or not. It's surprising how much people use mobile phones when you look! Happy or sad? I think in general I go towards happier people, simply because I feel they are more likely to say yes and also if someone is very sad, I don't think I'd know what to say to them, especially if I'm going to say that in Chinese.

Sometimes it's good to break the rules!! Taking sweets of a stranger is one of them, but only if they're sugar free. This is Julia, working as a Wrigley's promoter

Julia is promoting Wrigley's chewing gum. She was near the graffiti-ed 'Statue of Liberty' if you want some. They've set up a Wrigley's Bar, so you can sit down in comfort and chew, instead of chewing on the go.

Louise is a fellow photographer. She also has a blog, so I'm looking forward to seeing that. I'm curious what type of pictures she takes.

Louise is a fellow photographer and she was out in full force yesterday, including a tripod. I saw her later taking a photo of an 'advert', I think. Louise has a blog too.

Cindy has excellent English. She was very casual and just let me take some pictures.

Cindy had obviously shopped a lot yesterday and was taking a rest. Her English was perfect because she had lived in the States for a few years. She was very relaxed and didn't take much notice of the camera.

Grass was very much a happy chap. He made a joke about this name but I didn't get it, sorry Grass

Grass was fun to talk to. He laughed a lot and when he wasn't laughing he smiled. He made some joke about his name but I really didn't get it.

Yesterday was a short day on the streets of Taipei. I hope to get out there again today or tomorrow to meet some more 'strangers.'

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May 4th Photos of 'Strangers'

Bob and Fion looking glamorous in a familiar Taipei setting, boy n girl n bike

Hello Taipei!!!

Summer has started and it's hot again, and will be for the next six months. Yesterday, I went around a new area, the area between Fuxing and Dunhua Road, with Zhongxiao to the south.

Bob and Fion were naturals in front of the camera, like models they changed their pose at will but seconds before I talked to them was an even better photo. They looked like something out of 'Rebel without a Cause' - young, glamorous, wild and confident.

George outside his designer clothes shop. George's English is really smooth and it was a pleasure talking to him

George designs clothes and owns a shop as well. He's friendly and enthusiastic, and he took me to his shop Havoc (Daan road, section one, 51 alley, no 39). The clothes have style and look wearable, the type of thing that will get you notice without you being overly conscientious. George told me that his shop doubles as an office and much of the business he does is in exports to Japan, 'China' and Europe.

George was also the first person to say that he'll put me on his blog. So a photo of me and George will be appear here very soon. Thanks George!!

Green was really surprised I asked her for her photo. I don't know why? Anyway, like the hat says - she was. Thank you

Green was to going to a shop when I stopped her. She was very surprised that I wanted her photo.

This is me, Jhang Shu Mei and Pao .... .... They insisted on getting one of me with the Buddha 'Child' in the background

Jhang Shu Mei, Pao ... ... (to be translated), and Shu Hui Lee were manning a truck with a child Buddha on it. Shu Hui Lee told me that by tipping water over the left side of the Buddha, then the right and then the left again, it will help clean my 'soul'. They are all part of a Buddhist organisation (BLIA ?), which is having a series of events until the 9th May, around Sogo on Zhongxiao Dong Road and Fuxing Nan Road (section 1).

They were very cheerful and it was fun learning about how to clean my soul. Though I'm not sure whether I should have 'prayed' at the same time.

Shui Hui Lee, Pao ... ... and Jhang Shu Mei. Shui Hui Lee is pouring water over Buddha

Wang, Ko Wei and Woan, Ze Iunn, Wang, Ko Wei looks very cheeky in this picture. Perhaps it's because he's a photographer too and doesn't like to be in front of the camera. Great Smile Woan, Ze Iunn!!!

I met Wang, Ko Wei and Woan, Ze Iunn on the way home. Wang, Ko Wei was very funny as he didn't look relax at first and then he look away from the camera, like a naughty boy with a private joke. He had a camera, so I think he prefers to take pictures - What's the camera Wang, Ko Wei? Woan, Ze Iunn was a great model with a superstar smile.

Hugo and Flower were relaxing in the back streets. Hugo's very confident and I think this comes across in his picture. I think Flower prefers her Chinese name

Hugo and Flower were the last stangers of the day. They asked whether I wanted English or Chinese names. I feel that Chinese names would be better but I'm finding it difficult to know how to write them. So I asked for English names, which I think Flower felt sad about.

Thanks again to everyone.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Roxymorons - They're no strangers!!

The Roxymorons - Infight

Today's post isn't about strangers that I've met on the street. It's about the Roxymorons, a punk that will be playing all over Taipei very soon. I did some pictures with them recently. They are loud and fun, so go and see them, they really rock!!!


They're band of three, Ben and John are from the UK and Dan is from everywhere. I'll be going to see them this Wednesday. Here's their facebook link.

Ben the bass player, playing drums

To hear them go to their myspace page. Though at the moment, you might have to wait a couple of minutes before the sounds comes through.

The Roxymoron's - Self Defeating

They are playing Wed 5th May at Underworld, details;
◎地址:台北市師大路45號B1 ◎電話:(02) 2369 0103 ◎營業時間:周五六9pm~5am;周日~四9pm-4am;周一公休◎address: shi-da road, no.45, b1, taipei, TAIWAN ◎phone:(02) 2369 0103 ◎hours: weekends 9pm~5am; weekdays 9pm~4am; mondays off◎established since 1996

So maybe I'll see you there.

Friday, April 30, 2010

April 30th Photo Shooting

First couple of the day! They remain nameless at the moment because I didn't ask them


After some positive encouragements from friends about the blog, I decided to go out again today. This time I went back to the area between Dunhua Nan road (section 1) and Zhongxiao East Road. The weather was great today, blue skies and a big hot sun.

Smily Vicky and her mysterious friend.

The sun brought out a lot of couples, smiles and good moods, so it was fairly easy to persuade people to have their photos taken today.

I meet a sweet couple first but as I was too keen to get started I didn't get around to asking their names. It would be great if you can tell me.

Hip couple, Sky and Lin

After that, I met Vicky and the girl with no name. They were meeting their boyfriends (I guess they're your boyfriends, yeah?), who were waiting for them on scooters.

I ran into Sky and Lin, then Ken, but didn't have chance to find out much about them.

Then I met a worker from Vicious Circle but he didn't want his photo taken as he was working, which I thought was very un-punk of him. Still, he had time to tell me that something was happening tonight at Vicious Circle and there'll be plenty of people to take photos of. It kicks off at 8 ish, if anyone is interested.

John's personality certainly matched today's weather, sunny and lively. He's from Hong Kong but is often in Taipei buying computer components.

John is over from Hong Kong on business. He was with his girlfriend but she didn't want to be photographed. He said that he's often in Taipei buying computer parts. He seemed in his element today with the good weather.

This is Ken. He likes music, what type I don't as my Chinese wasn't good enough to find out.

This is Ju. He owns Classic, a designer clothes shop. He also designs clothes. I think he also DJs

Ju is the owner of Classic, a designer clothes shop on Dunhua Nan Road, section 1, 187 alley, no 63. He also designs clothes and I think he DJs, I'm not sure because we were talking in Chinese. Next month, there'll be a party at Huashan were he will be DJing. When I took his photo, he seemed a little nervous but he's actually very different when you talk with him. He's much more out going and chatty.

Playful Shu Hwa and Ken Tzu (sounds like Gen). Shu Hwa has the best type of camera - a Canon

Shuhwa and Kentzu (Gencu - Pinyin?) were shopping. Shuhwa was a natural in front of the camera and played around alot. They complimented my Chinese, which was very kind of them.

Thanks everyone for your time today. It was a great day for meeting strangers. Take care and perhaps we'll meet again sometime in the future