Back from Taiwan…

…just in time for the Christmas-New Year Hibernation.

Among the highlights of this annual inspection tour was this rather fetching pair of statues, which relate a sad story. It seems that once upon a time, many many years ago, a local woman fell for a Westerner. He was a Dutchman – but bear in mind that this tale probably predates the modern image we may have of Dutchmen being sensitive New Age guys. Furthermore, he was a sailor. He promised he would return, but, as you have probably guessed, the despicable rogue left the poor girl in the lurch. (In fairness, he might have been eaten by cannibals in New Guinea or something, but the official version clearly implies that the good-for-nothing foreign scumbag skipped town.) So she had a daughter.

The daughter grew into a lovely young lady, who in turn was swept off her feet by a man visiting from overseas (presumably also a sailor, not sure if he was also Dutch, also not sure if her mother had warned her about these people). This guy also then disappears, though at least – it seems – he did not leave the girl with child.

The statues portray the two looking out to sea, heartbroken, waiting for their respective lovers to turn up again. (I’m guessing neither of the cads did – the story would surely mention it.)

Other highlights were the many examples of extreme grottitecture (see recent Tweets). For decades, the Kuomintang dictatorship planned to retake Mainland China and did not prioritize urban aesthetics on their temporary island base. On top of that, Taiwan is pleasingly laid back about municipal planning and design, and free of Hong Kong’s frantic re-re-re-development or the Mainland’s obsessive glitzy vanity-driven infrastructural horrors. This particular region, around Tainan, is even more down-to-earth and unpretentious than the country as a whole. Builders also have some awkward plots of land to work with, as seen with this wedge-shaped house, Claustrophobe Mansions…

I declare the long weekend open with some holiday-reading links: China’s inability to ‘get’ Taiwan’s democracy (relevant also to Hong Kong); a lengthy legal look at Hong Kong’s forthcoming National Anthem-adoration law; the huge amount of land the Hong Kong government conveniently forgets about when fretting about that ‘shortage of land’; China’s new iffy acquisition in Scandinavia; and, for your viewing pleasure, quirky satirical late-60s cult movie Putney Swope (review here).

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7 Responses to Back from Taiwan…

  1. It is not only housing needs that could be met by freeing up under-used military land. I have long thought that the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, instead of squeezing ever more buildings into its constricted campus, would be best served by expanding to part of the nearby Gun Club Hill Barracks land. If we can build a bridge to Macau, spanning the intervening Chatham Road should not be an overwhelming obstacle. Similarly the Baptist University in Kowloon Tong is just across the road from another apparently under-utilised military site.

  2. Chris Maden says:

    The Reuters story on defence land is ill-informed. Defence land is in Hong Kong is governed under the Defence Lands Agreement. This was made between the British and Chinese governments in the run-up to 1997, before the PLA had been reformed, when it was feared that PLA Inc would move in, sell said defence land, and develop like mad leaving a glut of property (yes, really!).

    The Hong Kong vested interests were duly appalled – especially HK Land at the prospect of Tamar threatening their monopoly in Central – and the rest is history.

    Of course, given that the Joint Declaration is now “a historical document,” and given that Britain clearly doesn’t give a hoot about any of the agreements it made back then, there’s little to stop the DLA being trashed.

  3. Joe Blow says:

    Imagine if they had erected a statue for every lass in Wanchai who got knocked up by a sailor.

  4. Still amazed that you,would want to see more Chinese when with your money you could see Russians, Brazilians, real Australians (not the horrid White invaders), nice Black South Africans, Tahitians (non-French speaking), non-Saudi Arabs, Palestiinians, Poles, Greeks, Irish, Inuits and Indians.

    Remember. You are now on the last bend. The final straight is before you. The finishing line is in plain view. There is no second lap.

  5. Joe Blow says:

    The holidays are here and the weather isn’t so bad and y’all know what that means: party time ! Drink with moderation (probably not) and BOYCOTT LAN KWAI FONG.

  6. Din Gao says:

    PLA land usage is governed by the Garrison Law of the HK SAR:

    “Article 13 The Hong Kong Garrison’s military land, if it will not be used
    any longer for military purpose with approval by the Central People’s
    Government, shall be transferred gratis to the Government of the Hong Kong
    Special Administrative Region.

    If it needs part of the Hong Kong Garrison’s military land to be used for
    public purpose, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
    shall apply to the Central People’s Government for approval; and if it gets
    such approval, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
    shall anew provide land and military installations for the Hong Kong Garrison
    in the place consented by the Central People’s Government, and all the
    expenses shall be borne by the Government of the Hong Kong Special
    Administrative Region.”

    SCMP Article from October 2013:

    “Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok on Wednesday dismissed calls to redevelop some military sites held by the People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong into residential housing.
    There have been suggestions that some idle or underused military sites should be rezoned for “community use” or the building of residential flats amid the current housing shortage.
    At a Legislative Council meeting, lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee urged the government to raise this idea with the central government and seek its approval. He said there was a need to do so as several of the military sites were in prime urban areas.
    After the 1997 handover, the People’s Liberation Army took over all former British military sites and the Hong Kong government must get the central government’s approval before it can rezone them for other uses.
    The Shek Kong barracks, for example, was under-used, Fung said, as it formerly had an airport that limited the maximum height for developments there and in neighbouring areas.
    But Lai disagreed with Fung, saying all 19 PLA sites have been fully used for defence purposes since the 1997 handover and the government had no plans to seek the to rezoning of any of them.
    The security chief also said it was difficult to access the level of use of these sites from simply looking at them from the outside.
    “Probably people get such an impression, but they do not see the frequent personnel movements in and out of one particular barracks,” he said.
    The government early this year mentioned that it was eyeing one military site for housing.
    In February, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said the government was “working on” an idea for turning a PLA barracks in Kowloon Tong into a luxury residential site.But no further details have been heard since then.”

    The government’s argument that the land has been/is “fully utilized for defense purposes” is misleading only in respect of its use of the past and present tenses.

  7. Knownot says:

    The Dutchman’s Sorrow

    I was a jolly rogue, my friends, and sailed the Eastern sea,
    And many a gentle maiden there was generous to me.
    Cockily, I thought:
    A girl in every port.

    But I was ever searching for the one that stood apart,
    Who truly eased my aching limbs and warmed my lonely heart;
    On the island of Formosa
    I chose her.

    Her smiling lips, her golden skin, her waving black hair called me;
    Her slender body, small and soft, lithe and strong, enthralled me;
    Her gestures kind
    Soothed my mind.

    One even-tide she spoke to me in manner shy and mild:
    “Mijnheer, do not be angry, I am carrying your child.”
    My loving fingers found
    Her belly round.

    “Tomorrow morn we sail, my love. By contract I am tied.
    At voyage end, a free man I shall come back to your side.
    In less than half a year
    I promise to be here.”

    No sooner had my sea-legs trod the homely Holland shore,
    My noble Prince conscripted me to join his army corps
    For a muddle-head campaign
    Against the King of Spain.

    Not caring why I fought, I fought; and came back from the war
    Very much a lesser man than I had been before.
    Indeed a dreadful cost:
    My left leg lost.

    Around the docks I went. “I can work! I can cook!”
    Every skipper gave me just a short appraising look.
    “Sorry, jack, no place for you
    In my crew.”

    Every ship wants proper men, two-legged proper men,
    And I shall never cross the sea to Eastern lands again.
    Alas, the vow I made her —
    I betrayed her!

    Beside the chilly northern sea, in chilly sunlight’s gleam,
    I hobble by myself — but I am running in my dream
    By bright Formosan water
    With my Eastern son or daughter.

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