The week before last I was in the central Taiwan city of Taichung for a work conference. Although it was a work function, I still managed to get out and about a little bit. Well, not much, but we did have a trip to one of the local night markets. We didn’t stay for long because it threatened to rain and our hosts were very worried that we might get wet, so they trundled us off back to the hotel quick smart. But I am never one to pass up a bargain, and still managed to pick up three good quality business shirts and a matching tie for Sam for the princely sum of around AUD20 (NTD600).
Taichung has a bit of a university town feel about it. And consequently, it has LOTS of night markets. The one that we visited is just outside the gates of a private university called Fengchia. But there are many, many other night markets and all are very popular.
Although it is further south than Taipei, the weather in Taichung is a lot less hot and stuffy. It is relatively close to the sea, so I think it must get some sea breezes. Three typhoons hovering in the vicinity threatened to unite and form an uber-united front, but thankfully they sidled off in other directions so did not bother us during our stay.
I did mention that it was a work trip. The highlight was the visit to Taichung Port, where we visited the Taipower Coal-Fired Power Plant. This is the largest coal-fired power plant in the world, and has ten units which have a combined capacity of 5,500MW. Well, I actually don’t know how much that is other than it is a LOT. It is sometimes in the news as being the largest single CO2 emitting power plant in the world with its annual emissions being around the size of Switzerland. The reason that it emits so much carbon is because it is so huge: most comparable power plants only have one, two or maybe three units. And according to Taipower its fuel efficiency is not so bad. It certainly uses a lot of coal, though. It took us around ten minutes just to drive though the coal storage area.
On the more fun side of things, our hosts organised a puppet show for us during one of the formal dinners. Taiwan has a love affair with its traditional form of puppetry (budaixi). When I was studying in Tainan in the late 1990s, it was not uncommon to see the odd performance or two around at temple fairs. And some of my university friends would rush home early to catch budaixi shows on the telly. There is even a dedicated television program devoted to these puppets!
Budaixi is colourful and feisty, with delightfully garish costumes, and quite inventive storylines. The troupe that performed for us was sorry to have had to modify its program to fit in with the safety regulations and height restrictions in the hotel dining room. Usually, their program involves live fireworks, fire-breathing puppets and exploding heads. Still, they were very gracious about allowing their foreign guests to handle the puppets, and even managed a few tricks such as getting the puppets to fire off arrows into the audience.