In a further effort to show what my current living arrangements are, I’d like to show the second Russian doll in the series that decrementally charts my exact position, and describe my current city, Hsinchu.
This will by no means be an exhaustive document of all the delights and detritus that Hsinchu has to offer. There may be people reading this who have lived here for 5 years or more and any attempt to show Hsinchu in its entirety will fall woefully short. I will, however, do what I usually do: select photos that go well with ready-made sneering, snarky observations and try to pass this off as wit.
Hsinchu is tiny. After a year spending all of my free time in Shanghai (population: 23 million) and working in the relatively small Chinese city of Wuxi (population: 6.3 million) Manchester felt pretty small in the summer. Gone are the days when a sheltered faux brummy walked around the Big Joke lost in its vastness. London is no longer big. Taking all this into account, Hsinchu is still tiny (population 415,000).
There is one major city centre (or ‘downtown’ as I am loath to call it) with city centre stuff: traffic, good coffee and the seemingly ubiquitous shop selling some variation of £10 tops, electrical items and cute, plastic, soon-to-be-in-the-bin shit. On the opposite side of the city there is an area that plays the role of a secondary centre with much the same stuff (worse coffee, cheaper food) built up around the point of Hsinchu’s being, Hsinchu Science Park.
This is the back-end of the world’s largest independent semiconductor foundry, TSMC, located in Hsinchu Science Park (HSP). Yes, you might swoon and gasp at the outrageousness of an independent semiconductor foundry but it’s not all glitz and glamour down at TSMC. Having no knowledge of semiconductors at all I guess they help to make those phones you all need as an excuse to not make eye contact with strangers, because heaven forfend you might have a real human experience. If you were going to do a tourist trip around the significant places in Hsinchu, this would be the beginning and end.
As much as I deride it, the HSP is the reason I have a job. My school’s unofficial name in the American Eagle system is the Science Park Kindergarten and the majority of the parents work in or around it. As I mentioned previously, the area surrounding HSP and my school is quite busy, I wouldn’t go as far as to say vibrant but you can get a lot of good, affordable food. In a previous post I mentioned a surprisingly friendly French man who runs a crêpe place.
I haven’t seen this Eiffel Tower outside before or since and I just happened to be here to take a photo of it on the day it appeared, honestly, he isn’t that much of a cliché… It is called Uncle FiFi’s everyday though. The crêpes are great and cost about £1.60 but they quiver and shrivel up like a crisp packet in an oven at the sight of this colossus…
Those of you with a wide knowledge of geography and world cultures may have been able to spot the subtle references to the country of origin of this man and his food. No chicken tikka masala or mushroom balti here I’m afraid, this is Indian food. We’ve given up using the menu now after previously ordering one curry and the chef’s special each time and always being a bit disappointed with our choice. We just ask him what he wants to cook and let him get to work.
There are limits to Hsinchu’s culinary delights though.
As the eagle-eyed (or Scottish) among you will have realised, this is a battered sausage, but not just any battered sausage. This is a very cheap, rubbery frankfurter that has been battered once in cornmeal to make a corn dog. While many would have stopped at this point considering the masterpiece perfect, beyond improvement, this guy didn’t. Just to batter again would have been child’s play, to batter it again and stick chips to the side of it… Inspiring. It is a shame that they are fries and not proper chips but I’ve come to terms with it. Would you tell Michelangelo, upon completing the Sistine Chapel, that he missed a bit? Just sit back and admire.
I haven’t tried one, I vomited a bit in my mouth when I saw it.
Sorry to reference a previous post again but, as some of you will know, I have been cooking quite a lot recently. Becoming a veggie has forced me into it and I’ve learnt a lot about creating my own flavours and not relying on jars or meat to provide it for me (instead I rely on the internet). In my quest to feel confident in the kitchen this place makes my life much easier.
But its being here makes all of our lives much, much worse. We don’t shop here too much though as the two of us struggle to get through two loaves of mozzarella before it goes bad.
My conscience buys its food here.
It has wandered through the market on many occasions and has found the best vendors for particular fruits and vegetables. Sometimes it has to go to particular people for an item as it knows theirs is best and/or cheapest. It feels at home in the marketplace and people know it. Simultaneously it knows that in shopping here, it is doing a good thing for the local area and people and the planet as a whole.
I shop here,
and my conscience doesn’t fucking shut up about it!
The aforementioned tour of the significant parts of Hsinchu would not include the city’s only museum.
This Hello Kitty monstrosity is the Hsinchu Glass Museum. I enjoy a good museum just as much as the next person (providing the next person enjoys museums) which is why I haven’t been here. I can tell you nothing more than that there is currently an International Glass Festival taking place that I have on good authority (me) is vapid shite.
I hope this hasn’t seemed too negative about Hsinchu as there are things that I love about it. The city isn’t special in any way. The food is ok, bars are plentiful but average and the people are a mixed bag. The surrounding countryside is beautiful though. I’ve been up into the mountains on a few occasions but at those times, I was without a camera as I left my charger in Birmingham.