Zhongli Bowling on Wednesday nights

amateur vagrant things to do in zhongli taiwan taoyuan bowling zhongmei road

Nearly every Wednesday night in Zhongli, you can find a big group of foreigners and locals bowling together at the lanes on Zhongmei Road.

Many of them play in the official Jungli Bowling League. Anyone can join, but you have to commit to being there every Wednesday for the length of the season (there are two per year). If you miss more than two weeks…you turn into a pumpkin or something. I don’t know. No one is begging me to be on their team.

If your team wins, you get a prize.

amateur vagrant things to do in zhongli taiwan bowling league 2016 flyer

Alternatively, you can just show up on Wednesday nights and linger until someone assigns you a lane.

BYOB if you want to drink anything other than regular Taiwan Beer. But how cool is that? There’s a 7-11 just across the street, full of icy cold ones.

amateur vagrant things to do in zhongli taoyuan taiwan bowling lanes

As with all these activities organized by Zhongli foreigners, some people take it very seriously. You can usually identify them by the way they thump their chests and feel the need to explain themselves when they don’t bowl a strike.

Many others view the weekly bowling night as a different venue for drinking with the same people.

I take the extreme position that bowling actually interferes with consuming beer, so I’d rather just go to the bar. Except I don’t drink during the week (anymore).

It’s NT$240 per person per game. The shoe “rentals” are free. You literally walk behind the desk and get your shoes yourself. Wild!

Anyway, it’s a lot of fun and an excellent way to meet people.

The Yilan Beer Place

amateur vagrant things to do in zhongli taiwan taoyuan kinds of draft beer

This was a lucky find for us!

The Yilan Beer Place is a franchise. The first time we enjoyed a lovely spirulina beer, we were in Jiaoxi City, Yilan County, famous for its hot springs. We got our cold beers and then stuck our feet in a pool of warm water where hundreds of tiny carp nibbled at our toes.

The original Yilan Beer Place in Jiaoxi in Yilan County
The original Yilan Beer Place in Jiaoxi in Yilan County

The fish-nibbling part was enjoyable, but yeah, definitely weird. These little fish just eat the dead skin off your feet. It tickles at first, then it feels nice. Or maybe that was just the beer…

Knowing that those fish would have been happier in colder water kind of put a damper on it for me, too. But, as always, I digress…

The Yilan Beer Place in Zhongli is a little bit off the beaten path, as in it’s not near The River, where everybody’s social lives intersect. It’s actually very close to the Xinming Night Market, which is still within walking distance of River, if you’re not lazy or injured. (A taxi will probably cost NT$100.)

The Yilan Beer Place is actually called 麥田現釀啤酒, which means like “Wheat Field Fresh Brewed Beer”, which is why we call it the Yilan Beer place.

The Yilan Beer Place in Zhongli does not have tanks of fish that will nibble your feet, but it does have the same selection of beers: barley (regular), wheat, rye, and spirulina. The barley and wheat beers are tasty in their own right, but we usually opt for the rye or spirulina. Although it’s black, the rye beer is surprisingly light on the palate. I think a lot of us might expect to encounter something dense and formidable like a Guiness when we see beer that dark, but it’s fun and has a hint of chocolate. I personally like the spirulina beer: It’s green, and who hasn’t had a good time drinking green beer? And it’s actually really fruity and nice.

amateur vagrant things to do in zhongli taiwan taoyuan yilan beer place spirulina green beer and rye beer black

You can order beers in pints, pitchers, and 1500 c.c. towers, or what we would call a “yard of beer” in the States (a yard being about a meter in length/height). There is also a really extensive menu of pan-Asian bar food, including Korean chicken wings, Thai shrimp cakes, Malaysian satay skewers, and the local marinated soy beans.

I loved the Korean chicken wings here, but lately it seems that the recipe has changed. The last two times, they weren’t as sweet and sticky, and frankly, just not as good as they were all the times before. I want my Korean chicken wings sweet, spicy, and finger-lickin’ good! However, they now come with fries. Obviously some kind of compromise was made.

Korean chicken wings
Korean chicken wings

There are lots of other good things to eat here, and plenty to drink.

J's favorite boneless chicken bites
J’s favorite boneless chicken bites

Sometimes, this place is dead quiet, and I’m afraid it might disappear overnight like so many restaurants do here. But then sometimes, every table is taken, which is as it should be. I like having such a good spot so close to our house.

amateur vagrant things to do in zhongli taiwan taoyuan yilan beer place drinking some beers

The Big Pig Festival

amateur vagrant things to do in zhongli taiwan summer fall autumn pig big festival hide

I went to the Pigs of God Festival (Big Pig Festival) for the fourth time this year. This festival, held in honor of the Chinese god Zushi, only happens once a year, in on the sixth day of the first month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, but many people argue that is still too often. For the celebration, pigs are force-fed until they are obscenely, incredibly obese, and then slaughtered. The meat is distributed to family and friends, and possibly sold. I have heard that politicians sometimes sponsor the pigs because they are supposed to bring good luck. Continue reading “The Big Pig Festival”

Daxi Old Street

amateur vagrant taiwan things to do in zhongli take a scooter trip to daxi old street
A quiet weekday afternoon in Daxi

Daxi Old Street is just a 30-45 minute scooter ride outside of Zhongli, but arriving there will transport you many decades back in time. That’s what every laojie, or “old street” is supposed to do: take you back to a simpler Taiwan where the narrow streets weren’t crowded with SUVs and good food was one of life’s highest pleasures.

There are lots of old-fashioned buildings along a brick road, many tofu restaurants, street-food vendors, tea and coffee shops, souvenir shops, a big temple, a small temple, and a view of the river. At night, you can watch the sunset there, and when it’s dark, one of the bridges lights up and the lights change colors.

Continue reading “Daxi Old Street”

Mentholated cooling powder beats the heat

I picked this up at RT-Mart on a whim because I liked the funky vintage can.

amateur vagrant taiwan cooling powder to beat the heat and humidity

I got quite a shock when I used it, though, because the powder is mentholated and it gives you a pretty sharp chill when it touches your skin. I kind of liked it on my chest on the stickiest days, though. Continue reading “Mentholated cooling powder beats the heat”

The Bay City Rollers

From the very excellent essay The Magic Merge by Tracy Rose Keaton in Frequencies, Volume 1 Fall 2012 p.56-59:

The Scottish foursome The Bay City Rollers were the little neon-pink tulips that rose from AM radio’s utopian soil, and every girl wanted more than a whiff. […]

The boys ascended from their black car, so pale and slender, their shoulders narrow, and their hair ornately chopped-up in beautiful plumage. They wore plaid pants in gleaming red and green, with their little hipbones jutting out…These men were like girls, bird-like and frail. They looked like me, except with weenies. Where was their daddy, I thought. […]

The birdmen bobbed up and down, perpetually smiling. Suddenly girls were appearing on the stage, wrapping their bodies around the young men. Big dudes ran out of the wings, unwrapping the young girls from the birdmen’s bodies and carrying them off the stage. There was one girl after another, and sometimes we would be only a couple feet away from them as they were dragged offstage.

I will never forget the girl who required four men to carry her off. She was spasming, her pink baby-tee pulled up around her chest to reveal soft white rolls of fat, her sad little face knit in anger and disappointment. “I JUST WANT TO TOUCH THEM! I JUST WANT TO TOUCH THEM!” she wailed over and over.

Are you going to come to an unpaid meeting on Saturday morning?

this is how i feel when you talk about my working without your paying me
this is how i feel when you talk about my working without your paying me

Are you going to come to an unpaid staff meeting on Saturday morning? 

No.

We’ll take everyone to lunch afterwards.

Nope.

I am a part-time teacher at your school. I am only there for four hours on Fridays. I only teach two classes. Combined, I see only 12 students every week. I always come early. I often stay late. Continue reading “Are you going to come to an unpaid meeting on Saturday morning?”

The River

amateur vagrant things to do in zhongli taiwan the river bar

This is how long ago I moved to Taiwan: When I got here, there were no smartphones. Facebook wasn’t even a thing. If you wanted to make friends, you had to find a place with other people in it and make yourself appealing.

Since 1997, the best place to make friends in Zhongli has been The River. Legend has it that some of the people you’ll find there have been occupying their stools lo these twenty years…  Continue reading “The River”