Traveling around Taiwan surprised me in a lot of ways. Almost none of my preconceived notions about the country proved true, in every positive way in which that can be interpreted. While a somewhat reserved culture by nature, there is an undeniably quirky side that pokes its weird and oftentimes awkward head up from time to time. One of the best examples I saw involved the many randomly placed statues around the country. Well, statues isn’t the right word, very large figurines is probably better. They were cartoon depictions of a nearby activity or attraction, odd but endearing installations that I came to love. They reminded me of the Australian proclivity to building oversized replicas of things (Australia’s big things – Wikipedia); there’s no reason for them really, they’re just fun. Here are a few of my favorite weird Taiwanese statues I found during my trip.
1. Soup Dumpling Boy
I found this dumpling creature outside the world famous Din Tai Fung dumpling house in Taipei. Because, you know, nothing says delicious food like a large, creepy dumpling that has come to life, complete with a basket of his family for you to eat.
2. Rice Twins
Chishang, located in the plains of the Eastern Rift Valley is famous around the country for its rice production. In fact a morning spent biking around verdant rice paddies was one of my favorite experiences of the trip. As I started my bike ride though, I found these two mascots outside of a rice processing facility. Not sure of their purpose exactly, but they certainly do look happy!
3. Modern Toilet
Taipei is home to many strange cafes, so many in fact that I plan to devote a separate post all about them. One of the most famous of these specialty restaurants is Modern Toilet, a commode themed cafe. The decor and the food are all influenced by, well, the toilet. Is it gross? Yes, without a doubt, but you can’t deny that seeing this guy outside the front door wouldn’t draw your attention.
4. Fish Feeder
This one isn’t as strange as the others, but I did find it amusing. The grounds of Chihkan Tower temple complex in Tainan are a beautiful example of finely detailed Chinese gardening. Set amongst the statues and shrubs is a pond, stocked full of fish. Normally one would see a standard fish feeding device next to the pond, its ugly industrial edges taking away from the natural splendor surrounding it. Not so in Tainan. Instead they built this statue to surround the fish feeder, a test tube of pellets is deposited for a small fee. This is the proper way to integrate oddly sized statues, a way that is complimentary and makes sense.
5. Winter Melon Kid
The original capital of Taiwan, Tainan in the south is known locally as the city of snacks. Food isn’t just something to consume, here it’s an art form. Of the many specialty food and drink options is a delicious iced tea made from winter melons and the best place to get it is at Two Silver Cents, the last remaining traditional winter melon tea shop in Tainan. While slurping this delicious treat on a hot, humid afternoon I noticed this statue in front of the store. It’s of a boy holding a winter melon over his head. I don’t understand it on any level, but it did in fact make me smile. Maybe that amusement is the real purpose of these strange statues?
What are some quirky things you’ve found on your travels?