Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Apr 03 2007

Another Bitan Weekend

Prince Roy, exiled from Spicy Girl’s SOGO shopping odyssey, came down to Bitan on Sunday along with Mark to enjoy the summer-like weekend weather. We met up on the bridge, as usual, and walked along the relatively mouthbreather-free upper sidewalk to the ferry crossing. There we boarded the brand spanking-new ferryboat, larger, cleaner and made of fiberglass, replacing the creaky old wooden boat they had before. The sparkling new white-and-blue boat’s metal railings even sported four bright orange life jackets (capacity was eight people), which, oddly enough, were made in the People’s Republic of China, complete with instructions written in simplified characters.

Accompanying us on the new ferry were two of the punter’s friends. They stayed on the boat, relaxing and chatting with the ferryman. One of them was sucking on a plum lollipop.

We disembarked on the other side and bought some drinks at a local watering hole set up in what looked like a container car, and proceeded to walk across the plain through the bamboo fields. A yellow dog followed us up to the border of its territory, where it spotted another dog, whined a bit and retreated. The air was fragrant with the scent of spring blossoms. It always amazed me that I can find such a rural atmosphere minutes away from my front door, yet downtown Taipei is 20 minutes away on the MRT.*

We walked to the Haihui Temple, where we looked out over the river at Zhitan and its strange Americanesque street layout. Mark wondered at the inscriptions on the balcony wall, which had “donated by” and the name of the donor written in red letters on each section. We puzzled over one character, which turned out to be simplified. I suppose the author didn’t have a thin enough knife to carve the traditional character.

We walked on, PR and Mark talking about investments, and all three of us dissing various dissable bloggers, including ourselves. The road wound through cargo containers made up as homes, with little gardens and barking dogs, as well as an open-air karaoke session. I was surprised to see a brand-new house; I’d been told that construction was illegal there. No doubt someone has sufficient connections in the area.

The mosquitos were beginning to bite by the time we made it back to the ferry. The two friends were still in the boat, still sucking on lollipops and chatting merrily with the punter. He’d told me before that the two ferrymen usually divide the day into two shifts, but I’m not sure exactly when his shift began. This time more people crowded onto the boat, surpassing the stated carrying capacity, but nobody paid that any mind. We had life jackets, after all!

PR’s ultimate goal that day was to have a meal at Rendezvous, so that was our next destination. We got a high table with a nice view of the river and spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking and chatting. I had the risotto this time rather than stuff myself with pizza, and it was delicious.

As the evening was getting on, PR and Mark decided it was time to go, so I said farewell to them at the foot of the bridge. After they left to catch the train back to town, I stood looking out across the river at the lighted buildings on the other side and watching the people coming and going across the bridge, trying to remember what it felt like when I was still living in the city. Eventually I walked back home, on the way taking a picture of one of the local strays lying in front of the gangster KTV palace, surrounded by the detritus of the street in such a way that it looked as if the sleeping dog was being watched over by an array of scooters, plants and traffic cones.

*For all of you considering moving down here, this does not mean that Bitan is a great place to live! It is in fact a nasty, crowded, smelly place with awful traffic, blaring karaoke, packs of stray dogs, a high crime rate, mouthbreathing tourists, noisy construction, scooter gangs and racing ricers, gangsters, random fireworks and no sidewalks. It is also mostly pan-blue, and few people speak English. There’s no Wellcome, no Blockbuster or Asia1 or any DVD rental places at all, and it’s a NT$300 cab ride from the city if you miss the last train. Plus we’re chock full at the moment. No vacancies! Sorry!

posted by Poagao at 3:19 am  


  1. I know! Bitan sucks! Don’t go or buy houses there! No parking space!


    Comment by Anonymous — April 3, 2007 @ 2:55 pm

  2. And I still maintain being able to pull out an anecdote about your ferry punt totally smacks down the ubiquitous cabbie stories that westerners learning Chinese arm themselves with like 成語.

    Comment by Prince Roy — April 4, 2007 @ 1:55 am

  3. btw, I went into exile quite willingly.

    Comment by Prince Roy — April 6, 2007 @ 9:41 am

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