2013 – My year in review

2 01 2014


Started the New Year off last year riding bicycles around Taipei with a tiny band of friends that included my neighbor James – he and I had hosted Christmas as our lovely Chad and Margot had just welcomed baby Reilly into the world.

james and alita xmas

By January I realized I was going to be leaving Taiwan and moving back to Canada. Poignant. February almost swallowed me whole into it’s great grey guts so my roommate Justyna I took off down south on a camping road trip and to visit Roman’s hostel outside of Dulan.

roman hostel camping bisha bisha

March brought excitement with the warmer temperatures and trips to Fulong beach outside of Taipei.


By April and Spring Scream I was ready for a solo south island tour by scooter to say good bye to friends.

Stayed up many nights til dawn with old compadres talking and laughing and crying.

darin karen and i

Helped a pal with his bar. Got some crazy women to join me in a Girls Gone Weird photo shoot.

girls gone weird alita

girls gone weird cat

girls gone weird sway

girls gone weirdgirls gone weird sarahgirls gone weird karen

Got to be a back up dancer for a band I adore. dancing with collider

Dulan and Sarah Joy’s birthday and time alone to reflect. I spent my entire adult life from the time I finished University living abroad. I would be returning to the West in summer. I had only lived there as a child, or a student. Fear, excitement, and nostalgia are a potent cocktail. I got a tattoo of Taiwan in the shape of a tribal feather.

alita dulan ocean

taiwan tattoo

May I spent sorting the minutiae of my life, thousands of decisions: what to keep, pack, ship, what to donate, recycle, give away, sell. Overwhelming memories contained within the physical items. Going through Rock in Hose stuff with the girls was a trip down memory lane.

rih orgasm

The angel of Lorena offering to take all the donations, in the end some 20 bags. I got hit by a truck while riding home from work on my bicycle one day and Daryl and Cindy from Luxy found me and took me to the hospital. It made me grateful to be alive and took away a lot of the stress of leaving. Leaving vs. Living is a no-brainer.

Finally went shrimping with all my funny boys.

shrimping 1

shrimping 2

My birthday in June, my last birthday in Taiwan, again at the pool party where I had celebrated so many. Marcus playing tunes as I danced in the tropical rain with Kathleen and Anja, water streaming off our heads, faces gleaming. Marika had left. Lesley had left.  So many of my friends had left over the years, and so many more would leave as the years went on.

pool party

Frantic packing, shipping boxes, Jenna checking up on me to make sure I was staying sane – the first person I told I was leaving as it meant I could no longer be her bride’s maid in October.


Hanging on the roof with the boys and Stef, chilling out and laughing and knowing soon it would be no more.

james roofstefboys on roof 1

bank girls

Then July – my last days. The woman at the juice stand came out and hugged me when I said I was leaving. The couple at my breakfast stand did, too. My bank tellers bought scarves for Sally to keep her warm in the Canadian winter. My students showered me with gifts and cards and tears. My boss of 10 years did nothing. Ha ha.

Then the wedding of my friends Jay and Joey, and one of the best – and last – afterparties of my life.

Saying good-bye to my Taiwanese friends was especially hard, a night with Sarafina and little Hwei in a hweihotel, laughing in the pool. Dinner with my Jenny and Jade-Lillian, three radically different versions of what it means to be a woman.

jenny          jade jenny me


And one of the most heartrending goodbyes was to my friend Matty who is only half way through a 15 year prison sentence. For years I have brought him food and had a 20 minute visit every month or 6 weeks. I say “See you on the outside, buddy” and break down crying outside the prison. I can’t wait to meet up with him in Canada when he is once again the free man he is meant to be.



I couldn’t bear the last Saturday night in Taipei so I ran away with my favorite – or as they say in Canada, favourite –  band Collider to Taichung for the night. And on Sunday a small going away gathering of good friends at Bobwundaye. After so many big going away parties this time I had no heart to plan a bash – because this time was for real. But the people who came to say goodbye I look at now in the photos of the night and have a special place for.

going away party me dan macjenna tom kathleen steve me me and marcus
me sarah carleentom graydan towelhawkscanlon and i



Ran to Thailand for two weeks of bliss on a beach that has also become one of my homes, being able to spend time with my Kay bird.

thailand baykay fluff petra me

thailand yuan

Then back to Taoyuan airport to meet one of my oldest Taiwanese friends, who put me up in a fancy hotel and brought my cat to me.  A few hours sleep and then Sally and I on the airplane to Canada.

cheries northside placeLanding in Edmonton and my friend Naomi picking me up – it’s a daze. My sister’s house in the north end, then heading 4 hours north to my parent’s acreage.  Sitting around the kitchen table, the campfire, talking and relearning each other. A family medical emergency and 6 weeks of worry.

The shock of the cost of living, the cool nights, the lack of public transport, the spaciousness and skies and clean air. Walking my sister’s dog.  Trying to reestablish my identity –the slow process and red tape of Canadian bureaucracy: to get a SIN card, prove my identity, change bank accounts, get Provincial ID, a learner’s license, Things I think will take a day taking a month.

Feeling cut off living at the edge of the city with my sister, no car, so far from everything.

The search for work. The lack of response. I begin setting up photo shoots with a three pronged carrot from my mom’s garden because I am bored. carrot motorbike

And yet – every day – a kind of joy, a breath of clean air both literally and figuratively. Then finding the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood, in the end getting the house only because we had mutual friends, “Oh, I know someone who lives in Taiwan…” – “Really? Who?”

124 street house

Hooking up with an old flame.  Getting flirted with and not realizing that was what it was at first. Chatting with anyone, everyone, people on the bus, cashiers, servers, strangers. Rediscovering my English vocabulary at the same time I discover how little I know about living as an adult in Canada.

Meeting Taiwan friends and festival people at the Edmonton Fringe Festival, watching some of them in a play, beers and food and Frisbee with others. An old friend, the husband of an old friend offering me an interview, and then a job. Training to teach computers. Dusting cobwebs out of my mind and stretching mental muscles. Finding the library! Getting a paycheck. Drinks with my first group of girl friends from Uni, reconnecting. Taking my friend Naomi’s son Giorgio to walk our dog Lilah. lilah giorgio

Meeting old friends from Taiwan and through them new friends, musicians, a campfire, the kind of get-to-gethers I was used to. Live music!

Dating. Dating some more. Feeling desirable, wanted, beautiful, acceptable. Dislocating my knee and starting the long process of physiotherapy.

cherie kurtis me halloween me vanessa halloween

A wonderful Halloween – a night out with my sister and her boyfriend, a house party with friends of friends, and a night out with my Taiwanese friend Vanessa – I help her do her first ever costume (“I want to be pop-art”). Quit Smoking!!!

Watching Jenna’s wedding video with her via Skype and crying.  And using Skype to stay in touch with Lisa Page, my most long term Taiwan roommate, and another member of Yanji house, Tina. Comparing notes with Lesley. Breaking down on Facebook after bout of homesickness for Taiwan and getting an outpouring of support from around the world.

Learning through trial and error and a series of winter coats just what winter gear really meant. Remembering the mysteries of snow and ice, and shoveling.

winter burka shovelling alita

Asking my musical collaborator on my love song for Taiwan, Formosa 101 to donate any money I made on the track to the Taiwan orphanage and AIDS hospice Harmony House, and getting an email from him – Xuan, aka Shiuan Liu, saying he would more than double the donation.

Then, an invite to write an article for a magazine – which will be my first of the new year.  Setting up a burlesque workshop with a group of awesome women in the new year.

A Christmas party full of amazing women, again an old friend, and hopefully some new ones. bitchmas

Meeting a man that made me want to give up the others.

My first Christmas with family in many many years.

A Boxing Day party with my women from University, old friends, an old flame.  Connecting with women I love.

My first interview since moving to Canada, finally re-entering the writing world!

Then New Years Eve chilling out in a Jacuzzi with a very chill gentleman. Going to a small gathering of old friends for a party and circling one of our flock who has received a horrible diagnosis and is beginning a terrible and dangerous quest for survival this year.

And feeling grateful. So very, very grateful to have so many homes in this world, and to be welcomed back into my first one.  Grateful to be living with my sister who I adore. Grateful for those I left and for those I have come back to. Grateful for this one little life as Alita.

cherie and I

Reasons I’m Happy to be Alive

6 05 2013

Near miss tonight, got hit by a minivan and only needed some stitches!

Reasons I’m happy to be alive (in no particular order):


  1. -beaches
  2. -good fun making out and sex
  3. -oral sex particularly
  4. -kissing
  5. -picnics
  6. -bicycle rides
  7. -laughter
  8. -red wine
  9. -being with people who are funny and charming who also like me

10. -my cat curled up next to me in the night

11. -mountain drives

12. -walking in nature

13. -sand castles

14. -phosphorescent plankton

15. -knowing my family loves me

16. -chocolate

17. -ice cream

18. -pizza

19. -fourtwenty

20. -flowers

21. -butterflies

22. -notes from children that say “tank you fro teching me speling”

23. -smoothies

24. -floating in the ocean

25. -sunbathing

26. -the smell of my perfume

27. -going to water parks with my friends’ kids

28. -my friends

29. -my sister

30. -stars

31. -live music

32. -dancing

33. -writing when it flows

34. -good grammar

35. -hula hooping

36. -red lipstick

37. -tattoos

38. -handsome men

39. -beautiful women

40. -squirrels

41. -dolphins

42. -birds

43. -traveling the world

44. -Indian food

45. -organic produce

46. -when seeds grow into plants

47. -pain killers when you need them

48. -new toothbrushes

49. -fundraising for charity

50. -children

51. -all the animals

52. -really tiny frogs

53. -walking under trees on a quiet sidewalk

54. -good books

55. -funny movies

56. -amazing art

57. -black things

58. -painting a wall

59. -the color gold

60. -candles

61. -baths

62. -massages

63. -clouds with light behind them

64. -mist coming over the mountain

65. -bubbles

66. -costumes

67. -cool patterned tights

68. -knee socks

69. -pretty lingerie

70. -nail polish

71. –breathing

72. –love

73. –being loved

74. –being held in someone’s arms

75. –random smiles

76. –helping people

77. –being helped by others when you really need it

78. –singing

79. –writing lyrics for songs

80. –mushrooms

81. –orchards of fruit trees

82. –good teeth

83. –glitter

84. –snorkeling

85. –hot springs

86. –snow angels

87. –learning new things

88. –making people laugh

89. –meeting talented people

90. –cooking

91. –baking

92. –making lotions and potions

93. –sewing something old into something new

94. –brushing my hair

95. –finding that perfect thing second hand

96. –old things that still work

97. –green technology

98. –taking good photos

99. –interesting rocks

100. -gratitude ❤

Formosa 101

31 03 2013

This is my love song for Taiwan, you can listen to it for free here on Indievox http://www.indievox.com/song/41286


Lyrics/Vocals by Alita Rickards

Composer/Music by Shiuan Liu (Xuan)


Temples beaches mountains cities

Scooters hotsprings markets and parties

On la isla Formosa

Betel nut and whisbey

Buddha and cola

Qipao dress with no stretch

Nuns in Mandarin collars

And Whitey teaching English to make a dollar

Scooters seat five and old men learn to jive

with Taichi in the park and kids playing after dark

ROC is rocking me from 101 to shining sea

Spring Scream to Luxy

Wufenpu to Xinyi

Kenting to Taipei

Southern tip to Danshui

Hot spring to highway

Live band to DJ

High Speed Rails and mountain trails

From Hualien to Taoyuan jail

Kaohsiung  and Taichung

and Tainan and Biashawan

and Dasi and Fulong

and Green tea and Oolong

We keep on keeping on

Green Island and barking deer

massive gay pride if you’re queer

knee socks and killer tights

and we’re pushing step by step

towards equal rights

night market

taxi cabs

hip hop

grafitti by Dabs

and nightclubs where we get down

Waakao ’bout what’s up downtown

We’ve got good friends on the weekends

if you come up too fast you gonna get the bends

Gotta dive deep gotta make ends meet

If you fall better land on your feet

This is Taiwan

the one and only one

Where we make the fun

12 pointed star sun

Freedom to speak out

against what goes wrong

Freedom to freak out

and make this song

Freedom of assembly

Freedom of speech

Low taxes

and democracy

and fireworks on the beach

Yeah I said fireworks on the beach pow pow

Flash mobs, and squid on a stick

Acupuncture, so you don’t get sick

We’ve got Ghost month

Chinese New Year

Moon festival

And Taiwan beer

And Pijiu and Mijiu

And the best part

Is not living in fear

Cause I walk these streets without living in fear

Bingalong girls and Buddhist monks

Indie electro house and funk

Opera, puppet masters, farmers in peaked hats

Karaoke in taxis and alley cats

I’m drinking champagne on the rooftop

That I bought from 7-11 at midnight

Kickin heels with Rock in Hose

Burlesque stars in saucy clothes

Kneesocks and we rock

Firespinners, business folks,

Tattoos and western jokes

Incence at the temples

Burn money for the uncles

Typhoon days and


Phosphorescent plankton

on beaches after dark’s come

Stars swirling all around you,

stars swirling in the air

You heard about the Taiwanese?

We’re free and so at ease.

Free to make money

And free to walk these streets

This is Taiwan

the one and only one


Just drew a little comic strip about breaking up in the modern world

12 01 2013

Just drew a little cartoon about breaking up in the modern world


My 2012

12 01 2013

I can’t believe I didn’t blog at all in 2012. I don’t know what happened there but I guess I got busy then distracted then just forgot about it all together. But I got sent my year in review and 5000 looks were had at Alitaworld while I was gone. Thanks, guys! So I’m going to try to blog once a week in 2013. We’ll see how that goes. Here is my 2012 in review:

My 2012:

kissed under the fire works by Taipei 101 in the first seconds of this year

found love, enjoyed it a lot

had a lot of good sex, bubble baths, and dancing

did fund raisers with many friends including Rock in Hose and raised $1000US for Spark Circus

became passionate about second-hand goods by doing those fundraisers and seeing the joy of women indulging in guilt free, affordable, non-wasteful shopping

watched the video of our sold out final shows with Rock in Hose and an extended crew of amazing artists and back stage masters and laughed and laughed with my girls and boys and felt so proud of what we created and accomplished in our time together

volunteered for 7 weeks with Spark Circus and did twice daily shows for refugees at the Thai-Burma border

went to my first Spring Scream in a decade without performing but was able to sing along in some sweet ass jams in the campground

lost love

got over it

got over it in part due to a visit to Hualien to see a good friend who took me to nature where I reveled in being alive in a river pool and lay on rocks and let the sky in my eyes and healed

and fell in love again that same weekend with my little kitten who I named Salvation, but is known to all her friends as Sally

worked hard and saved money

Oooh, a bad one: started smoking periodically but ended up right back in it and have been unable to sustain non-smoking – but will in 2013!

had one of the best ever visits home to see family and friends in Canada in the summer – really bonded, really appreciated and was appreciated, so much love

got stronger, healed my back, and was able to mosh at Dinosaur Jr surrounded by my boy crew who I also love and who also helped me through the end of my relationship and in my recovering days by just being their gentle, fun selves, and playing music and youtube videos

wrote some good stories

saw a lot of great gigs

had to say see you later alligator to a close friend who moved to Hawaii, and am looking forward to visiting Hawaii, Singapore, Spain, and Canada in 2013 to see my diaspora’d peeps

ran my first ever second-hand clothing shop at Daniel Pearl Day (and learned though I am passionate about second-hand and loved having a shop, I will never miss bands at a music festival again to run a booth, and if I’m 90 and say I can, ignore me and wheel me up to the front of the stage for realz.)

grew a squash on my roof accidentally and had a dinner party and cooked it for good friends

finalized the decision making and research on two very important (secret) goals that I want to accomplish in 2013

was a unicorn for gay pride and Halloween, not an ironic-hipster unicorn but a REAL one

volunteered at an orphanage in Taiwan for the first time

visited my friend in jail throughout the year when I could and helped raise money for him at Merry Matty Eve

nurtured my cat back to health with some great vets’ help

hammered nails out of a wall in my living room and plastered and sanded and painted it

learned to bake really really yummy things

hosted xmas for the first time ever

developed a passion for and learned to make various chemical-free beauty products (lotions, eye cream, lip balm, lip gloss, bronzer, dry shampoo, sore-muscle balm, eyeliner, makeup remover, hair glosser, deep moisturizing mask for hair/body/face) using all natural ingredients like organic coconut oil, almond, avocado, and rose hip oils, cornstarch, honey, cocoa powder, charcoal, beeswax, lanolin, and essential oils and no nasty chemicals

was able to see my newest little friend, miss Reilly, who just turned three weeks old

on the day before new year’s eve (her actual birthday) celebrated the birthday of a good friend who I have known for 1/3 of her life now, and love

learned to enjoy spending time by myself this year, and gained a lot of self-respect, self-acceptance, and self-love, which makes me enjoy and appreciate my life, friends, and family more and want to make them chocolate cupcakes with cinnamon-chocolate-cream icing

My motto for 2013, courtesy of Russell Brand, in response to the question “Do you want to be better than everyone else, you wanna be the best, the funniest?”:

You cannot define yourself in reference to other, external co-ordinates. You must define yourself internally in relationship with another, higher en’ih’y, Think of yourself as a manifestation of some higher thing , some higher frequency. This is the visible realization, and you know that, because you can’t see atoms, can you, and you certainly can’t see the forces that hold the atoms together. There, in the micro-quantum world, Richard, lie the answers to everything. We can’t understand it with our logical, rational minds, but we feel it intuitively. Get yourself in alignment with that stuff, and you beam like the sun.

“Jeepers creepers”

Yeah, man.


19 11 2011

The Chingchuan Children's Choir photo by Steven Vigar (Up Against The Wall)

The Wufong Project (五峰計畫) Fundraiser Auction: Restoring Hope

By Alita World


This afternoon a series of performances will culminate in a fundraising auction and raffle held by The Wufong Project (五峰計畫), featuring photography and art work by Aboriginal children of the Atayal tribe (泰雅) of Hsinchu County (新竹縣).

The Wufong Project founder, Californian Malinda Schultz first became aware of the tribe after seeing the Chingchuan Atayal Children’s Choir (清泉桃山國小合唱團) perform at Peacefest, an annual music festival.

She met up with Father Barry Martinson, a Jesuit priest who has lived with the Atayal people for 35 years, who she describes as “a great leader in the community” and told him of her desire to raise money and awareness for the Chingchuan Village (清泉村) school.

The Wufong Project was created with the aim of educating the children to develop their creative and technical skills. Proceeds from the sale of their artwork will be used to raise part of the NT$2.1 million needed to establish a Community Center to showcase the Atayal culture and traditions, hold classes, and sell handicrafts.

“This community center could be the start of a rebirth for the village,” said Father Martinson. “Its renovation could provide a new source of pride and self-help action for the villagers.”

Located in the beautiful mountains of Hsinchu County, the village is becoming a destination for travelers. The tribe is best known for weaving and hunting skills and for traditional facial tattooing, popularized by the movie Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (彩虹戰士: 賽德克巴萊) about the Aborigine rebellion during Japanese occupation in the 1930s. A renewed interest in Aboriginal cultures is bringing an increase in tourism to the area. The establishment of a Community Center will create a source of income for the tribe.

Schultz and Peacefest organizer Sean Kaiteri brought together volunteer photographers, artists, performers, videographers and documentary editors who hail from around the world to teach the children how to shoot photos using disposable cameras.

Foreign residents of Taiwan from Russia, Canada, America, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand held workshops for the children. After the basic photography workshop, the youngsters were given disposable cameras and spent two weeks capturing images of their surroundings: landscapes, portraitures, and still-lifes.  A second round of art workshops taught the children to express themselves in various mediums.

The resulting artwork and photos will be auctioned this afternoon, following a series

of performances from 2pm to 5pm by the Children’s Choir, and the Chingchuan Atayal Break Dance Team (清泉泰雅霹靂舞團). Renowned singer-songwriter and Aboriginal activist Inka Mbing (雲力思) will perform and there will be a screening of a short film about The Wufong Project by Verity Macintosh and Tobie Openshaw. “This project is driven by people who are willing to go the extra mile,” said Openshaw, who also is also a volunteer photographer with the group.



What: The Wufong Project (五峰計畫) Fundraiser Auction: Restoring Hope

When: Today from 2pm to 5pm

Where: The Pavilion of Aroma of Flowers (為台北花博公園風味館) in Taipei Fine Arts Museum Park near Yuanshan MRT Station (圓山捷運站)

Admission: free

On the Net: www.thewufongproject.wordpress.com

40 Things I Love About Taiwan

24 06 2011

Sunset sky at Biasha Beach near Taipei photo by ©alitaworld

Alita World’s Why I ❤ Taiwan Top 40:

  1. The people here: some of the friendliest, most helpful people you will ever meet anywhere in the world. Hands down.
  2. The frontier spirit, particularly in the south: five people on a scooter, betel nut girls, custom-designed vehicles, street vendors, independent businesses, shops set up in any available nook, people gambling on card tables at the side of the road, electric wire mayhem, DIY freedom.
  3. 24-hour activity and convenience: restaurants, cafés, convenience stores, bookstores open around the clock.
  4. Taipei’s growing cosmopolitan feel: Russian ice-vodka bars, sushi restaurants, upscale department grocery store delis, wine bars, Eslite bookstore, etc.
  5. Taxis: affordable, available, efficient, fairly honest, prepared to go on a cross-country trip if required, and you can drink in the cab.
  6. Taipei 101. Simply beautiful, and the best view of the city on a clear day.
  7. FREEDOM: Democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, social activism, marches, protests, Tibetan Freedom concerts, artist’s freedom of expression. THIS IS TAIWAN, NOT CHINA. See our artists criticizing the gov’t? Well you’ll see them tomorrow, too, because they won’t be locked up.
  8. State of the art technology and design. Taiwanese engineers, inventors, and designers are winning awards world-wide. We have city wide internet access in Taipei as well. The future happens faster in Taiwan.
  9. 7-11: where you can pay your phone bill, do your banking, affordably ship a package anywhere on the island overnight, get a latte, fruit, salads, and sit at a counter to eat/drink/read the paper.
  10. Job opportunities for foreigners teaching English for a decent wage with full benefits and an Alien Resident Card, in a country where education and educators are respected.
  11. 6% tax, most of which you get back as a tax refund, which a friendly, English-speaking government volunteer will help you apply for free of charge, without having to wait.
  12. Other opportunities for expatriates as DJs, artists, writers, reporters, columnists, actors, directors, models, burlesque dancers, musicians, vocalists, tap-dancers, graffiti artists, graphic designers. If you want to do it and you are good at it you can find a way here.
  13. Affordability: housing, food, entertainment, travel, accommodation, are all very reasonable. You can live like a queen here, have brunch at a fine restaurant, take taxis everywhere, buy a new outfit, go out for dinner, go dancing, and end it by drinking champagne (okay sparkling wine) on a tropical beach – and you can do that every weekend!
  14. World class health and dental care, which covers 90% of any costs, and pharmacies where you can get anything you need without a prescription and without paying through the teeth.
  15. Hot springs. All over the island. Public or in your own private hot tub, from free to luxurious, some with massage jets and some just in a rock pool in the middle of nowhere.
  16. The naked lady spa. I go to Lady Eliza. 350NT gets you 12 hours with hot and cold pools, saunas, steam rooms, a restaurant, lounge, and nap room (with the air con cranked and big down comforters), complimentary robes, towels, toothbrushes, hair dryers, cold cream, etc. You can even spend the night.
  17. Massage. Full body, foot, reflexology, deep tissue, oil. Even as part of your hair wash and style, you get a shoulder and neck rub.
  18. Chinese medicine, cupping, acupuncture. Will sort out life-long back problems that Western medicine can’t touch. Affordable, effective, and holistic.
  19. Parks: located all over the cities, with sitting areas and play areas, beautiful landscaping, trees, flowers, ponds, fish, ducks, playgrounds, sports’ areas, walking and running paths.
  20. Bike paths in the river valleys and around the country, with widespread bike rental available.
  21. Green initiatives: world class constantly expanding public transport, construction site fencing covered with vertical gardens, tree planting along roads and boulevards, rooftop gardens, wind power, solar panels.
  22. The MRT. Listed as one of the world’s top metro services for four years in a row. Clean, cheap, fast, efficient, wide spread. Makes Taipei instantly accessible. Kaohsiung’s metro stations are amazing as well, beautiful soaring glass architectural structures that give it the feeling of Vancouver or Sydney.
  23. The High Speed Rail. You can get from one end of the island to the other in 1 hour and 45 mins, for NT$1500 (that’s 50$US). It used to take 5 to 9 hours, depending on traffic. It’s as convenient as getting on the metro, and you can prebook your tickets online.
  24. Fruit and vegetable gardens in and around the city, independently grown and sold by small-scale farmers. Flower markets, gardening centers, bedding plants, all widely available and affordable.
  25. Street side food markets and organic stores in every neighborhood, selling fresh locally grown produce, fish, seafood, eggs, meat, poultry, baked goods, without the “farmer’s market” prices in the West.
  26. Night markets, free markets, flea markets, black markets. What you want is here, you can afford it, and you can even bargain that price down a bit.
  27. Restaurants: a dizzying array of Indian, Thai, Western, Italian, Burmese, Halal, Vegetarian, Vegan, Vietnamese, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Korean, check out the Hungry Girl’s blog for a wide list of options.
  28. Taiwanese seafood restaurants. These deserve their own category. You can feast on tender squid, plump shrimp, crispy soft shell crab, sashimi, whole fish, juicy clams, and beer for about NT$300 per person. Or for vegans they’ll make gung-pao tofu, sweet and sour tofu, water spinach, sweet potato leaf, eggplant, you name it.
  29. “Weird food”… that you come to love: squid on a stick, tea eggs, salty egg, rice triangles, stuffed bao-tze, fish with the tail and head on, poultry with the head and feet on, shrimp with sweet mayo and candy sprinkles, tofu skin (mmm), hell some even come to love stinky tofu.
  30. Random art. Within a block of my house in each direction are: the Tun Hua Eslite “bird cage sculpture”, the Civic Blvd and Tun Hua “zebra crossing sculpture”, and the Yanji Street “cupping hands sculpture”. Art IS everywhere in Taiwan.
  31. Cultural festivals and holidays: with days off, parades, fireworks, and incredible costumes and rituals, Taiwan always seems to have something going on: Chinese New Year, Lantern Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Ghost month Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, Matzu’s festival, Tomb Sweeping Day, and that crazy one where people wear helmets and get bombed by fireworks.
  32. Film festivals: Golden Horse, Urban Nomad, and other small festivals celebrating and sharing local, expat, and foreign works.
  33. Live music. There are so many bands it’s impossible to keep up with them all. In particular, Taiwanese girl bands rock my world. There is every kind of music you can imagine, from blues and jazz to electro and death metal. Expats have also contributed greatly to the live scene and many have cut their first album here. Taiwan rocks. [Unfortunately the government seems determined to destroy Taichung’s music scene and has closed down the heart of it when they shut the doors of 89K].

    Rocketgirl at Spring Scream 2011 photo by ©alitaworld

  34. Crowd at Spring Scream 2011 photo by ©alitaworld

    Spring Scream – the actual Spring Scream, not the culmination of events including all the raves and beach parties. Spring Scream itself, the gathering of200 bands on 7 stages at Oulanbi Lighthouse set up by Wade and Jimi where musicians and music fans from around the island join up to camp, dance, eat, play, and rock the ROC.

  35. Clubbing, outdoor electro festivals, parties. Luxy deserves special mention for bringing so many international acts and for fostering the careers of so many locally based talented DJs. It’s also beautiful inside, like three clubs in one, with luxurious accents and great dance floors (though the staff need retraining).
  36. You can drink outside. Many convenience stores have tables and chairs set up under umbrellas outside, or you can share a bottle of wine in a park, or have a cold beer on a beach. You can put a cocktail shaker in the basket of your bicycle. You can walk around wearing one of those hats with two beers and a straw and enjoy your day. You can have a damn drink at an outdoor festival. Cheers to Taiwan. Gan bei!!
  37. The geography. It’s such a tiny island but Taiwan has it all: gorgeous gorges, volcanic rock sculpted landscapes, lush jungles, rolling hills, misty mountains, and a stunning coastline.
  38. The beaches: whether it’s Biasha north, the beaches of Kenting area, Fulong, Biasha south just outside of Taipei, or one of the lesser known strips of white, black, or golden sand and achingly blue water, huge waves or calm seas, there is no doubt you are on a tropical island.
  39. Green Island. Special mention for my favorite place so far: a 40 minute ferry away from the mainland is an emerald jewel where you can ride a scooter around absorbing the beauty of cliffs straight out of Lord of the Rings, bathe in natural hot springs, eat fresh sashimi cut straight from a huge fish and placed on your tongue, or enjoy world class snorkeling.
  40. Safety. This is one of the safest places in the world. There is not much violent street crime, random shooting is almost unheard of, there are very few homeless people or crazy people and begging is almost non-existent. I stopped carrying pepper spray after living here for a year and haven’t carried it since (unless I was going to India or North America).