In Taipei

What Was

What Was

Many years back, there was an island called YiZhou.

In modern times, this is called Taiwan

In 1885, the Qing Dynasty designated Taiwan as the 22nd province of China. Needless to say, the Taiwanese have never accepted this. However, whenever I have spoken to someone from Mainland China, they all talk of Taiwan as part of China.

In 1895, the Qing Dynasty ceded control of Taiwan to the Japanese, who then ruled it until 1945, until the end of World War II.  As per some Taiwanese historians, close to 1 million Chinese came to China with Chaing Kai-Shek when he fled to China, when his party the Kuomintang fled after being defeated by the Communist Party of China. It seems that Chiang Kai-Shek was only to accept the “Japanese surrender” in Taiwan, and not to cede control to China, or to him.

Apparently, in 1978, the PRC changed it’s policy towards Taiwan, from one of confrontation, to the “One Country, Two Systems” policy. This is a predecessor of their policy in Hong Kong.

The Chinese White Paper of 2000 AD stresses that Taiwan is a part of China

The Taiwanese believe that they were granted independence in 1945, by the UN, by adopting Charters 77 and 76.

Now, I may have got wee bits of the details of the history wrong, but I do not think that I am incorrect on the essence.

 

Taipei_1So, forget politics for a while, and focus on the people. In the two or three times that I have been to Taipei, what I noticed was that, while the people look like the people from Mainland China, and speak the same language, they are different culturally. Like Hong Kong Chinese, the Taiwanese have stayed with the traditional Chinese script. I am studying the simplified script of the Mainland, and I find this freakishly hard. The traditional script takes my head off.

However, while the script was simplified on the Mainland in order to spread literacy, the Taiwanese believe that the beauty of the language and the culture is preserved in the traditional script. They believe that the true meaning and beauty has been robbed, or lost, when the script was simplified.  When I was in Bangladesh, I also discovered that the for independence started when the West Pakistan Government wanted to impose Urdu on the East Pakistanis.  The fight to preserve the cultural and intellectual heritage of Bengali lead to the fight for independence, and to the formation of Bangladesh.

Language does have a very bug impact on the culture of a people. This cannot be denied. However, it goes deeper. The Taiwanese believe that even though Taiwan was a part of the Qing Dynasty’s territory from the mid seventeenth century, their “genetic” purity was maintained to a large extent, especially because the Qing did not encourage intermingling.

I found that the differences between the two does exist, but is subtle. I shall leave it at that.

The Taipei 101, featured above, was the world’s tallest tower for a while, and this did not sit well with the Mainland Chinese. The Financial Centre in Pudong was constructed, to pip the Taipei 101. The Financial Tower is also called The Bottle Opener by the skeptical and sarcastic public.

I also found that the Taiwanese are comfortable with the blend of the old and the new. I leave you with the photo below to illustrate this.

Taipei_2

Royal White

The Royal White Tiger. Singapore Zoo

The Royal White Tiger. Singapore Zoo

I love tigers. They are some of the most beautiful creatures that I have ever seen in my life. Sadly, I have only seen them in zoos, and not in the wild. Yes, whenever I have seen them, I have marveled at their almost unearthly grace. I remember reading “The Tyger” when I was little. It was, for me, one of the most amazing poems that I have ever read.

The sad question that I always ask myself is, will the generation that comes into the world as my grandchildren have the privilege to see these magnificent animals, or will they have to content themselves with pictures? Now, if I take this from a “Darwinian” perspective, animal and plant species come into the world, and die out when their time is done. Theoretically, we as humankind are merely fulfilling the philosophy of survival of the fittest? Have we not used our intelligence to make up for the comparative weakness of our bodies, to allow us to fashion implements to capture, kill and skin whole species? If we take this view then we are entirely justified in killing tigers, crushing their bones for medicines, using their penis in a soup to increase our virility, and to use their skin to help us look good and fashionable.

Yes? How many agree?

Personally, I disagree with that argument. Poaching is terrible. Carnivorous animals kill for food, not for virility or fashion! The killings sustain other species, and ensure that the species being killed develops. The balance of nature continues if allowed.

Now, it seems that the Sumatran tiger is close to extinction.

In China – Harbin – I have seen experiments where they have cross-mated a lion and a tiger to breed a “Liger”. Yes, a “Liger” A Siberian Liger.

There is a poacher in India called Sansar Chand, who has been in jail since 2005. Due to a travesty of justice, the courts have refused to charge him under the anti-organized crime laws. As a result, he may go free. As per the report I read on Zee News, Sansar has killed 250 tigers; 2,000 leopards; 5,000 otters; 20,000 wild cats and 20,000 wild foxes.

This man may be freed on bail to continue his murderous ways.

 

We – as people – can be unfair and blind as times.

So, the next time you go to a zoo or a safari, do look at the birds and animals with the realization that unless we start to protect and respect our environment, and our fellow flora and fauna, they may very well be buried under the relentless march of concrete.

At The Singapore Zoo. I am better with animals

Orang Utan. Singapore Zoo

Orang Utan. Singapore Zoo

Singapore, to me, is a little bit of a funny place. It is a place that, when I did not live there, I found to be very clean, very good for shopping, but a bit boring. Then, I moved to Singapore, and I discovered that it is a great place to live. It is, in fact, one of the few countries where I would willingly move back to. It is an extremely easy and friendly place to live, and is genuinely multi-cultural in many ways.

But, this is sadly not a blog post about Singapore. I must say though, I regret not photographing the city extensively when I was there.

During my stay in Singapore, I refused to buy a car, and I found it remarkably easy to move about the place with public transport. We took the train to Jurong, and from there, a bus to the Zoo. The Zoo is laid out well, I must say, and it is nice to wander around the place, gawking like silly twits, at the animals inside. I am not sure if the animals really appreciate the hordes of visitors, but I guess that they are used to us strange creatures by now. The cuddling Orang Utans really did not think too much of us, as they went about their business, cuddling happily

Polar Bear. Singapore Zoo

Polar Bear. Singapore Zoo

 

My son loved the polar bear. They are fascinating creatures, really.

The White Tiger. Singapore Zoo

The White Tiger. Singapore Zoo

And of course, my favourite animal, the Tiger. But, more of him another time.

And so ends, a rather inane blog entry!

I am bad with the names of birds – At The Singapore Zoo

At The Singapore Bird Park

At The Singapore Bird Park

I am really bad with the names of birds. I am also bad with the names of flowers. Having said that, one of the places that I have always enjoyed visiting in Singapore, is the Bird Park. It’s quite a fun place to be, and despite the humidity of Singapore, you can walk around the place fairly easily. I was pretty intrigued by the fellow above. He had this look about him that was rather dignified in a crabby sort of way. He gazed at us with some sort of disapproval, as I looked at him and clicked photographs. Then finally, realizing that his indignant looks were not getting him anywhere, raised his wings in a gesture of disgust, as though to say, “Away with thee, base mortals. Away with thee and thine shameless curiosity. Let me stay in peace and quiet.”

At The Singapore Bird Park

At The Singapore Bird Park

 

This young fellow ( the guy above) was quite happy in his fine feathers, and did not deign to turn his face towards us.

At The Singapore Bird Park

At The Singapore Bird Park

And finally, this gentleman with the crown. There was something quite regal about him, and I must say that I quite liked his plumage, even though I would not wear that plumage myself!

 

A Cruise Or Two

TheCruiseShip

This is a blog entry, to be honest, to fill an empty space. Okay. It is not as bad as that, but, it is not an entry where there is going to be something that is spectacularly philosophical. I have been on these cruises two times, out of Singapore, and they are a decent way to get away from the madness of daily life. The only thing that I was a bit worried about, was that we had to give up our passports at the time of boarding the vessel. I was worried, but luckily, we got them back. The Star Cruise does have some good systems in place!

A word of advice, if your pocket can take it: take a cabin with a window. Not that you will spend too much time in the cabin, but it is better than having an internal one where you feel as though you have been stuffed into a matchbox. It does give you the option of sticking your feet over the balcony, and watching the moon, as the moonlight plays on the waters of the night sky.

In general, I think that the cruises are designed to keep you out as much as possible. This way you keep stuffing yourself with ice cream, and other assorted crap – making you fat, and making Star Cruise rich! If you are on a budget, then eat at the main restaurant, the price of which is included in the fare. The food does not present such tasty fare, but since the cost is included in the fare, you can’t complain!

DuskBut then, sometimes the sun goes down, and you find yourself in a tranquil mood. This is a great moment, as you prepare for the end of the day. It is indeed a wondrous moment, when you realize that every day, the sun goes down in a different manner from the day before, and you realize that the sunset the next day will be completely different from the one that you are watching now.

The sun goes down, and the ship prepares for the night games. Movies, shows and all that is fun! I must say, that the crew on these cruises really work hard to keep the people entertained, and to keep them together when they go on the few land excursions that you can opt for. So, that is life indeed. A week when no cell phone bothers you, no mobile phone bothers you, no e-mail bothers you.

As long as you don’t get sea-sick, and you allow yourself the pleasure of a moment of silence, then you can watch the sun as it lights up a passing boat.

SunOnTheBoatThen, you realize that life can be very simple indeed.

Then, you realize that life can be very good indeed.

 

Crazy Family Ride

Family Ride

I will come back to my adventures on the Indian Highways.
But, here it is: the crazy Indian highways.
We almost chased this man and his kids as they zipped down the road and, as we passed by, I managed this blurred shot
No helmets.
Potholes. What the hell? Is this sanity, or sheer madness?
Or, is this compulsion that drives them all?
A mixture of it all, mixed with a sense of fatalism.
Que Sera Sera.. whatever will be, will be.
Indian Highways Zindabad!
Oh, Zindabad means, “Long Live”

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