Taiwan’s Betel Nut Beauties – Scantily-Clad Girls Peddling Nuts on the Side of the Road

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If you ever happen to visit Taiwan, you might be greeted to the sight of scantily-clad women in neon-lit glass kiosks by roadsides, waiting for men to pull over. Well, they’re not what you think!

These women are ‘Betel nut girls’ who peddle small snacks of tasty, stimulative betel nuts wrapped in betel leaves. They dress provocatively to attract potential buyers, but nuts is pretty much the only thing they sell.

The main roads are filled with around 60,000 such phone booth-style kiosks; they’re so much a part of the nation’s identity that they’re actually featured on old tourist guides. The women who operate the stalls are usually from poorer families, but according to news reports, the job pays more than housekeeping, waiting tables and other conventional jobs.

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Taiwanese Man Has Been Waiting for His Date to Show Up for the Last 20 Years

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Unwilling to accept that he was stood up, a Taiwanese man has reportedly been waiting for his date to show up for the last two decades! 47-year-old Ah Ji is now a permanent fixture at Tainan train station, where the love of his life promised to meet him all those years ago. It’s unclear whether the girl in question was his lover, or if they had arranged to meet for their first date, all we know is that he went to the station expecting to see her, and has never left since.

In the initial years Ah Ji was always seen hovering over a large staircase, as though ready to greet someone. After a few years of waiting he moved to a side door next to the exit station, from where he stares at passengers’ faces every day. The man is so heartbroken that he has taken to a life of hunger and homelessness at the station.



Dogs with Perfectly Square or Round Haircuts Are All the Rage in Taiwan

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A bizarre new dog grooming trend in Taiwan has dog owners giving their pet pooches square or round haircuts. Canine hairdressers all over Taipei are up to date on the special technique required for these eccentric makeovers.

“It came about because people were always looking for more impressive haircuts, and somebody came up with the idea of shaping the dog like a hedge,” parlour owner Tain Yeh says. It started with a few people opting for these haircuts and sharing their pets’ photographs online, after which the trend caught on. Thousands of pet owners are now approaching salons, asking for their dogs’ hair to be cut in geometric patterns. Some are actually doing it simply to gain more likes and shares!



Taiwanese Man Left with Almost No Memory Keeps Notes of Everything So He Doesn’t Forget Who He Is

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Chen Hongzhi, from Hsinchu county, in north-western Taiwan, suffers from a unique condition – he can’t remember anything for more than five minutes. The 25-year-old literally has to start his life from scratch every day. So he writes down every single thing about himself in a diary, in order to keep track of everything that goes on around him.

Hongzhi’s amnesia is the result of a serious head injury sustained during a car accident when he was 17 years old. After spending months in intensive care, his body finally recovered but the span of his memory was reduced to only five minutes. This means that he continually forgets pretty much everything that has happened between five and ten minutes ago.



Man Sues Mother for Breaking Promise to Let Him Marry Her 8-Year-Old Daughter When She Came of Age

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A heartbroken Taiwanese man is suing a teenage girl’s mother for breaking a promise she made 11 years ago. The man, a 32-year-old school teacher at the time, had fallen in love with his 8-year-old student. He became so obsessed that he managed to extricate a promise from the child’s mother that he could marry her when she came of age. Believing that the mother would keep her end of the deal, he spent several years supporting the girl’s family financially. And now that she hasn’t, he’s taking the family to court.

Over the years, the man has spent over 900,000 Taiwanese dollars (that’s about US $30,000) on the girl and her family. He completely covered her tuition and living expenses, and took her out on various occasions. He also paid off the mother’s outstanding debts. Some news reports also provided photographs in which the girl and the man appear to be quite close. It looks like he truly considered her to be his future wife (although they looked more like father-and-daughter). But nine years later, when the man checked the 17-year-old’s Facebook profile, he was in for a very rude shock.



Taiwan’s Notoriously Dangerous Beehive Rocket Festival

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When I light a firecracker, I make sure to run at least 10 yards away before it pops. That’s how terrified I am of the noise and sparks. So when I watched a video of Taiwan’s Beehive Rockets festival, I was quite shocked. These crazy people deliberately run into bursting firecrackers. They dance in clusters as hundreds of crackers go off, allowing the sparks to rain on them. Like I said – crazy!

The Yanshui Beehive Rockets Festival is one of the oldest folk festivals in Taiwan and the third largest in the world. It has been celebrated for over 180 years in the southern district of Yanshui. Its origins date back to 1885, when a cholera epidemic had gripped the district. Due to primitive medical facilities, the disease consumed thousands of victims. Locals lived in a state of fear and prayed to Guan Di, the god of war, to save them.

So what exactly is a Beehive Rocket? Essentially, it is a multiple launcher of bottle rockets. Thousands of bottle rockets are arranged in rows in an iron-and-wooden framework that looks like a beehive. When the contraption is ignited, the rockets shoot out rapidly in all directions. A deafening, bee-like buzzing sound fills the air. The dazzling explosives whiz and whirl across the sky and into the crowds of dancing people surrounding the beehive.



Taiwanese Ice Cream Shop Sells Pig’s Feet and Tofu Flavored Ice Cream

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Snow King, an ice cream shop located in Taipei, capital city of Taiwan, serves more than 70 flavors of fresh, homemade ice cream. There’s nothing unusual about that, I agree. But wait till you hear what these flavors include.

The shop, in business since 1947, boasts of carrying the most unusual of ice cream flavors. Over here, you can get a lick of Sesame Oil Chicken, a dollop of Pig Knuckle, and even a scoop or two of Taiwan Beer. The family-owned business is now being run by the third generation – 33-year-old Kao Ching-feng. “At Snow King, you get the tastes that Taiwanese know,” said Kao. According to him, customers keep coming back for the local flavors and old-fashioned style. They like visiting in large groups, so they can sample a scoop each of all the flavors.

The most famous specialties at Snow King are Red Bean and Watermelon, preferred by the locals. Tourists from Japan like to try exotic flavors like Lychee and Peach, while customers from Hong Kong want Curry and Wasabi. All these unusual ice cream recipes are the brainchild of Kao’s 87-year-old grandfather. He had founded the business out of his savings from selling ice cream on the streets of Taipei. Kao says that his grandfather liked to challenge himself and spent years tweaking flavors to his satisfaction. Some of his best flavors came from trying to accommodate his older, diabetic customers. That’s how he invented with Snow King’s range of savory ice creams.



Ultimate Latte Art: Taiwanese Cafe Prints Your Portrait on a Cup of Coffee

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If you’ve ever wanted to drink your own face, now’s your chance. Taiwanese cafe chain, Let’s Cafe, uses a special latte printer that creates portraits of customers directly on their delicious caffeinated drinks.

Let’s Cafe is a chain of small kiosks offering “fast but good coffee” to shoppers on the go all around Taiwan. Faced with the challenge of competing with larger more established cafe chains, they had to come up with a truly original gimmick in order to attract customers. Let’s Cafe needed something not even big players like Starbucks could compete with, and they found it in the ridiculously accurate coffee printing machine. All users have to do is upload a photo from their mobile phone to the coffee dispenser machine and after the cup has been filled with the caffeinated beverage of their choice, the incorporated printer uses edible ink to sprinkle their photo on the milk foam. While talented latte artists do a great job of creating beautiful designs using rudimentary tools and a steady hand, there are certain limitations to their techniques, whereas this coffee printer is able to produce photo-realistic images.



Military Kindergarten Toughens Up Preschoolers with Marine Drills

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At the Albert Kindergarten, in Taichung, Taiwan, children aged three to six don camouflage outfits and take part in a mandatory exercise program modeled after marine drills. Their parents hope the rough training will prepare them for the hardships of life, but there are those who criticize the preschool for pushing the kids too hard and exposing them to injury.

For one to two hours a day, the children enrolled at Taichung’s Albert Kindergarten perform a series a series of physical exercises inspired by military drills. Principal Fong Yun believes Taiwanese kids lack confidence and courage compared to youngsters from other countries, so over 10 years ago she teamed up with pediatric professor Chen Yi-hsin to develop a special program that combined military drills and gymnastics to boost their physical and mental strength. Yun is convince her training will help the students deal with hardships like tough college admission exams, job hunting and even marriage. Many Taiwanese parents seem to share her beliefs, as all the classes at Albert Kindergarten are full and parents drive from over half an hour ever day just to drop their kids off here. The children climb ladders, do handstands, backflips and all kinds of other exercises that even hardened marines sometimes find difficult. In order to graduate, they must prove they’ve mastered the entire routine by passing a challenging test.



Houtong Cat Village – How a Few Purring Felines Saved a Dying Community

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This is the story of how a few dozen cats managed to save an entire community just by purring and looking pretty. Houtong was just another dilapidated mining town in the mountains of eastern New Taipei City, but everything changed when the felines came and livened up the place.

Houtong used to be one of Taiwan’s most important coal extraction sites, up until the 1970s. Then, oil and electricity took the place of coal, and the town suffered a steady decline. At one point it was reduced to a train stop along the Yilan line, one that most travelers ignored, and that forced many of its younger residents search for better opportunities elsewhere. The population of this defunct mining town dwindled from around six thousand inhabitants to a couple  of hundred, who struggled to survive. But their fortunes changed in 2008, when a cat lover who goes by the name “Palin88” organized a series of cat photography events in the mountain town. He and his friends posted the photos online, and got an overwhelming response from fellow feline enthusiasts. As they shared the photos on forums and social media sites, Houtong welcomed more and more tourists eager to photograph the cats themselves, or simply watch them roaming through the town. Nowadays, Houtong is known as the Cat Village, or Taiwan’s Cat Mecca.



Weeping for Strangers – The Professional Mourners of Taiwan

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In Taiwan, staging a dramatic funeral for relatives who have passed away is of the utmost importance. So, to create the proper atmosphere, wealthy families hire professional mourners who cry, sing and crawl on the ground to show their grief.

Taiwan’s “filial daughter” phenomenon emerged during the 1970s, when sons and daughters left their families to work in the city. Transport was limited, so if one of their parents died and they couldn’t make it back in time for the funeral, they would hire a filial daughter to take their place and lead the family in mourning. For some Taiwanese, showing grief in a dramatic fashion is the highest reverence for relatives who have passed away, because funerals are considered the most important times to honor one’s family. But not everyone has it in them to shed tears and show their pain in public, so to help create a grieving atmosphere, they hire professional mourning daughters. They chant, dance and wail, warming the hearts of the audience and helping them release their emotions. Crying on command isn’t easy, but professional mourners, like 30-year-old Liu Jun Lin, say it helps to really get involved in the event and consider the family that hired them their own. “I just imagine that I am part of the family and I fuse myself into the occasion,” she says.



World’s First Official Barbie Cafe Is as Pink as You’d Expect

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As if Asians didn’t have enough pink in their lives, from all those crazy Hello-Kitty-themed venues, now there’s an official Barbie Cafe in Taipei, Taiwan. And yes, it has dolls, themed foods and more pink than most men can bare.

January 30th witnessed the inauguration of the world’s first official Barbie Cafe, in one of the busiest shopping districts in Taipei. The iconic doll’s maker, Mattel, licensed Taiwanese restaurant chain Sinlaku to open the themed cafe in hopes that it will promote Barbie as a fashion brand. Iggy Yip, senior manager of Mattel’s Greater China division, commented: “We picked Taiwan because theme restaurants are very popular and successful here. We are very confident that the Barbie Cafe can promote our brand image.” Indeed, the island is home to a number of unique restaurants and cafes, including one modeled after an A380 airplane, a cardboard restaurant, and even a popular toilet restaurant. But there is a special relationship between Taiwan and Barbie, as this was where the popular doll was originally manufactured, before production lines were moved to mainland China and other parts, to lower costs. In 2009, another Barbie restaurant was opened in Shanghai, China, but it closed down two years later, after it proved unsuccessful.


Sick Gambling in Taiwan – Betting on When Terminally Ill Cancer Patients Will Die

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A macabre gambling trend has taken off in Taiwan’s thrid largest city of Taichung. Doctors, nurses and even the families of terminally ill cancer patients are placing bets on when the sick will die, for the chance to win three times the wagered sum.

It’s sick what some people will do for money. According to various news reports, a sinister gambling trend has sprung up in Taichung, Taiwan- people are actually making bets on how long incurable cancer patients in the city’s hospitals have to live. And we’re not talking about isolated cases of morally-challenged gamblers looking to make some money through any means possible, this is a full-fledged underground industry industry worth over $30 million. On a single Taichung street there are over 60 so-called “senior clubs” posing as charity organisations for the elderly that are nothing more than gambling dens challenging punters to place their bets on whatever cancer patient they think is the most likely to die within one month. What’s even more disturbing about this practice is that doctors, nurses and even family members of the terminally ill patients are also eager for a piece of the action.


Taiwan’s Carton Restaurant, Where Everything Except the Food Is Made from Cardboard

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Located inside the Carton King Creativity Park, in Taichung City, Taiwan, the Carton Restaurant is a unique eatery where everything from the furnishings, to the decorations and even the plates are made from corrugated cardboard.

Unless you’ve actually been to Taichung, I assure you haven’t seen anything like the Carton King Restaurant before. Except for the food, the waiters and some cutlery, everything inside this place is made from cardboard and paper. It seems almost impossible, but you actually sit on cardboard chairs, sip drinks from cardboard cans, and eat your food out of cardboard bowls at a cardboard table. The food is pretty average, according to the reviews I’ve read, a bit on the pricey side, but that’s to be expected considering the amazing venue it’s served in. What’s great about this place is the recycling potential. In case anything breaks or becomes damaged, it’s simply recycled. That was actually the point of the whole Carton King Creativity Park, to show the real power of paper and cardboard, and convince people it can be used for a lot more than generic packaging.


World’s Most Generous Vegetable Seller Dedicates Life to Helping the Needy

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You’ve probably never heard of her, but Taiwanese vegetable seller Chen Shu-chu has done more for the needy than many of the world’s rich and famous. Earning a modest living selling vegetables at the market, the Asian hero has so far managed to donate over $322,000 to various charities.

“Money serves its purpose only when it is used for those who need it,” Chen Shu-chu once told a newspaper, and throughout the years, the dedicated philanthropist made sure her hard earned cash was indeed used for the right causes. Inspired by her own difficult and impoverished childhood, Chen decided to dedicate her life to helping those less fortunate than her. Even though she earned a modest income selling vegetables in Taitung County’s central market, in eastern Taiwan, the 61-year-old led a frugal life and donated almost all of her money to charities. You’d think there wouldn’t be much to give away, but Chen Shu-chu has so far made substantial donations, including  $32,000 for a children’s fund, $144,000 to build a library at a school she attended and $32,000 to a local orphanage where she also offers financial support to three children. In total, the world’s most generous vegatable seller has so far donated over $300,000, and she’s not planning on stopping.


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