So, Peter hit the road to visit the country, where Ballycotton toured successfully in 2001 and the record label Jingo Digital Inc. already sold a significant number of Ballycotton's records. Taiwan!
First it should have been a trip to explore the country and the people, but Peter informed Jingo Records and asked them to organise some radio interviews in Taipei to promote the new CD and the video. The company's people did their job very well, so Peter got a full schedule for two entire days.
TAIWAN – GENERELLY
After a nineteen-hour flight you arrive in a country, where you are not able to read or to understand one word.
Although English seems to be very common, you don't find any markers or signs written in English. Also most of the people do not talk or understand English well. So I had to use my Chinese… Ha ha, just kidding.
I was very happy that Erica I-Ting Chiu, a dear friend and former tour assistant of Ballycotton, picked me up at the airport in KaoHsiung. She did all the communications and organisations during our trip, what luck.
Well, the facts that the island of Taiwan is 394 km long, 144 km at its widest point, with a population of 23 million using Mandarin-Chinese and Taiwanese as main languages, high living standard, elevation peaks up to 4000 meters, some national parks, the most poisonous serpents, monkeys (formosan macaques), and also appears as a kingdom of butterflies, and offers a variety of tropical fruits, and that Taiwan is the homeland of various aboriginal tribes, these facts you can certainly find in every travel guide. But I want to write about some special topics:
Taiwanese people are basically friendly and supportive. However, my first experience at the airport snack bar was no perfect example. This guy was unfriendly, reluctant and unwilling.
But its true, people in Taiwan are very nice. And communicative. At our place you'll rather try to solve problems or do research to answer questions for yourself, in Taiwan they don't bother. You only have to talk to the next fellow and you will find out everything you want to know, like the best way to reach your destination or the opening hours of the next supermarket. Actually very comfortable, I think I'll form a habit of that at home ...
By the way, I only met five non-asian guys in two weeks. Certainly they were Americans. For sure people believed me to be American too, and my "I am from Austria" has been misplaced classically to Australia ...
I particularly noticed a special kind of greeting habit. It's not like we are used to. Although I shook hands with some men, I still don't know if it's common or if they did it because I'm a "long-nose" and they were being friendly to me. Normally people stand face to face and wave with their hands. Again and again.
There is no tipping. Not at the hotel, not at the restaurant, not in the taxi. Very acceptable.
REFUSE DISPOSAL SERVICE
Something I already miss is the lovely automatic melody of the garbage trucks, to inform the people that they can bring out their garbage. There are two kinds of melodies, I heard them both. It's like a never-ending plague.
At least fifteen times I crashed against elevator-doors, before I noticed that there is no sensor. It's definitely necessary to stick a finger on the "Open"-button, otherwise the doors will shut with or without me trapped in between. Well, to follow the subject: I experienced the elevator in Taipei101, the highest building of the world (508m). It reaches the top level (at 400m) in 37sec, which means a speed of about 1000meters/min (60km/h). Impressive! And you don't feel any vibration inside the cabin, only your ears are going crazy...
I drove in Taiwan. Even in the city area. It was not difficult at all, because you have to act without scruples and with full attention.
There are two scooters per person and you will find all these on the street at the same time. 1-4 people are sitting on one scooter carrying 1-8 bags. With five cars at the crossing there are about eighty scooters. There are special tracks for the scooters, which makes the whole thing a little bit more organised, but definitely only a little bit. It's very common for you to meet such a scooter suddenly face to face on your track, of course at night and with no lights on.
There are rules, but nobody cares. This creates a certain kind of freedom, and I soon got used to it. That means: Turn round at any time you want and wherever you want, and if you drive in the third lane and suddenly have to turn right, just do it, no signal necessary. I saw approximately 10.000 dangerous situations, but no accident. Fact is, that all drivers are totally crazy and don't take their own lives too seriously.
„Leave me away“ says the sign with the cobra. Aha :-). I didn't face a cobra, as I didn't see any of the mostly poisonous snakes. Also the monkeys avoided meeting me, well, I can deal with that. And to be honest, the cold and humid weather was not conducive to an open-air meeting.
What you can see in the mountains on the eastern part of Taiwan is a tremendous natural spectacle. The Gorge of Taroko by itself is worth the journey. The wonderful birds, the extraordinary butterflies, Taiwan presents itself as one of the world's nature paradises.
Also concerning the stray dogs, which are as friendly as the residents. And not forgetting the mosquitos, also very hospitable. They didn't bother me, but Erica ...
About the plants I have to say, that at the first view, I did not perceive anything special but on closer inspection I realised that I didn't recognise even the smallest flower. In short, it's pretty different to Europe. You can find eg. treeferns, betel nut palms, bamboo and figtrees.
In Taiwan there's eating around the clock. I was fascinated. Especially the variety and the culture of eating at the "round table". The rotating part of the table is being continually crammed with tons of food and here we go! I was fed several times, and I'm still asking myself if it was because of hospitality or because of mercy.
As soon as you believe it's finished, new plates arrive. The clearing of the table happens until after the guests have left. That means you can see the traces of the endless orgy until the end.
I always thought that I would be able to use chopsticks. That was basically right, but from the point of being correct conduct, my style has been questionable, as I soon learned. Well, I have been taught how it works. So now I always lose the things I "caught" with the chopsticks and food falls onto the table, but now it's considered elegant.
The quality of food is generally good, but you should be somewhat open for experiments.
The majority of Taiwanese people are Daoists. There are many gods and goddesses, and they select one for each topic and occasion. In front of the houses there are fireplaces, where the people burn "ghost money", counterfeit money which they buy with real money (at least for a good exchange rate). Obviously the ghosts don't care.
It's also remarkable that the temple-guard is sitting inside in front of a noisy and screeching TV. I was really surprised, can you imagine this scene in a church?
And once there was a kind of private karaoke show on full blast just outside a temple. Hmm, oh well.
For two days Erica accompanied me officially as a translator. We met Amy and Hensen from Jingo Records at a Starbuck's Café in Taipei. In Amy's small car with the important label "Attention! A princess is driving this car" we drove weaving in and out and honking through the traffic chaos. Mostly we jumped out of the car in the middle of nowhere, just to follow Hensen who ran straightway into a building, checked in with the doorman and leading us to the radio stations, where we met Amy again who had already got rid of the car.
The very first interview was at ET-FM. My host was CoCo, famous for her tough political interviews, but in my case was very easy on me and discuss the music, she was mainly interested in my single status. Still after the show ...
The next location was Taipei Sheraton, where we had this modest lunch buffet which I already mentioned (just to remember: 3km of food, all you can imagine...). In between I talked to a journalist from China Times about Ballycotton.
It was not a typical interview, because we were all busy with the food.
Afterwards we had an extensive program. First a quick interview with Eric Chang at IC FM, then a comfortable and detailed interview with Jie Wen Hwang (The Broadcasting Corporation of China, BCC), which took ages, so that Amy and Hensen were becoming severely nervous, gesticulating desperately behind the studio's window pane, because we should have been on the way long ago to a live interview at the Police Radio Station.
Exhausted (after racing and honking through the traffic again) we finally reached the station which broadcasts traffic information and news 24 hours a day. My host was Robert (A Guo), the star of the station. And because Amy and Hensen were wrong with the timing we finally arrived early enough and everything was alright. The interview was great fun.
In the evening there was a dinner with the chairman of Jingo Digital Inc., Steve Chen, and with all of the important company contacts. Finally I had met them personally!
The dinner was a continuous stream of food delivered to the "round table" and I was glad to know how things worked. So I was not really surprised as Steve started to fill my plate.
Well the one and only word I know in Taiwanese is "hotala" which means, like the Chinese word "ganbei", "empty the glass!". Steven was very amused, and it led to the fact that we drank the next five rounds of beer with only one sip per glass. Finally my comment that there would be another interview afterwards saved me (fortunately the interview was cancelled later).
The evening program was a ride in the already mentioned elevator up to the brandnew Taipei101, a building of 500 meters height from where you could see over the illuminated city as if from an aeroplane. Very impressive. Steve took me to that place with his driver in luxurious limousine and Hensen and Zoe accompanied me.
The next day some early interviews had been cancelled, so we met Amy and Hensen again at noon. They took us to Jingo's office, where Mark and Zoe showed us all the departments and led us through their offices. Afterwards I presented our documentary video and negotiated a new license agreement for "Eyla".
The afternoon was again filled up with appointments with hosts. We were at UNI Radio and I had a very good live interview with Sharon (Yue Chi) and a second one with a piece of paper, because my host Sih-Li was ill and had written the questions down.
After that, back again to Police Radio Station, for a live interview with Lily and at last back to ET-FM, also live, with a host, who knew all of Ballycotton’s CDs, and has been enthusiastic about our music. He gave me the chance to play almost the whole new album Eyla. He also has a Weblog, where he promoted us well and where people could give their reactions to the interview. Super...
In the evening Erica and I were invited to a relaxed dinner with Amy, Hensen, Mark and Zoe, where I saw the Hot Pot for the first time. It’s a kind of stock pot with a built-in coal-burning stove.
At last my friends from Jingo Records took me for a walk through a special place with trendy fashion shops and music stores (where I could find Ballycotton’s CDs everywhere).
A wonderful finish after two busy days. I really embraced the guys from Jingo Records after that short time together, and I certainly will meet them again, when Ballycotton makes another tour of Taiwan.