Four DragonsTonight we blew off a bunch of fireworks and gave out tons of hong bao to our cousins. There were about a dozen little kids running around with sparklers and pockets full of red envelopes as the rest of us drank tea and attempted to blow our fingers off. This shot was my favorite – tried a little camera toss to catch the trails of the sparks flying around.

Earlier we went up to a place called Lover’s Harbor (։∫∫Ȇ≠) which was north of Kaohsiung on the way towards Tainan. It’s a little resort area with a harborside theater and restaurant, places to walk around and enjoy the scene, and tons of stalls selling everything from barbecued squid on a stick and lemonade to kiddie rides and Taiwanese puppets. There were several Binlang Xi Ci along the way, but alas no good opportunities for a photograph.

Two things I’ve found remarkable on this trip about Taiwan. One is that the city transformation of Kaohsiung from a polluted, industrial city to becoming one of the world’s most attractive and exciting metropolises, is truly an amazing feat. When I first came to Taiwan, I was told that the Love River was a cess pool of filth running through the city, and now after an enormous cleanup it is a gorgeous waterfront lined with parks and high-rise condos, and it is dotted with sailboats. The city streets are mostly in good repair or getting there, and some very interesting storefronts are springing up. Rail improvements are the most interesting improvement, with the HSR connecting the north and south parts of the island in less than 2 hours, MRT system to bring commuter rail to the entire city, and major renovations in many of the rail stations. Also highly interesting are the huge number of incredibly nice-looking high-rise condos going up all over the city. They look majestic.

The other thing I’ve noticed is a clear increase in the number of persons who are seriously obese. Ten years ago, everyone I met was either burly, svelte, or as skinny as a toothpick. But now, skinny is no longer the norm, and expanding waistlines are commonplace. The encroachment of McDonald’s, refined flour products, and the like is on it’s way to doing the same damage that it has done to America. We were talking about this today – it is definitely a phenomenon that is diet-related and definitely a recent trend. One thing that I have to say I actually appreciate about my celiac disease is that it forces me to avoid most junk foods and keeps me from incessant snacking. Especially in a place like Taiwan where there is absolutely no gluten-free labeling on anything, and you can assume that there’s wheat-based soy sauce on just about everything. They have never heard of celiac for the most part, so everything I eat here is homemade. Yes it sucks in that Taiwan is one of the best gastro-tourism countries around, but I like at least that most of the unhealthy stuff is off limits to me anyway…

Speaking of food – we stopped by this organic fruit stand near our house today and bought some fresh-squeezed orange juice. Oh my god it is so delicious. If I ever move here, I’m buying a place as close to that shop as I can.

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