in taiwan

the tuned mass damper

usually when we visit a place, there’s one thing people say you “must” do — and in taipei, that is probably climbing the taipei 101 and seeing the city from high above. more than the views though, the big skyscraper has one interesting feature that i really wanted to see: the tuned mass damper! brady from practical engineering explains how it works, on this funny old video:

the thing is just a huge, super heavy pendulum that absorbs the building’s movements to counter the oscillation from winds or the ground motion. there’s plenty of movies on youtube of it swinging during typhoons or earthquakes — including during the 2008 sichuan earthquake we felt in shanghai. 

i think it’s brilliant that they gave it a spotlight and turned into a feature that everyone can visit — hurray for making engineering visible! i often think of how many things like this exist, and how we’re not even aware of them, and of all the work and science that is involved in big and small things. 

oh, and i guess the views from up there are not bad either! :D

birdwatching in taiwan

taiwan barbet

walking around the da’an forest park here in taipei, we saw a lot of people with their big cameras pointed at a little hole in a tree…

so i gathered up my courage and asked a grandpa standing there whether they were all birdwatching. he said “we’re waiting for the five color bird!”, and at my confusion, he picked up his phone and showed me pictures of the taiwan barbet… wow! 😍 we had heard its call before (a loud frog-like noise coming from the trees in the park), but the bird itself remained elusive. with some patience though, we were able to find it… and it is stunning!

most of the body is green and blends with the foliage, but the head and neck feature some really bright stripes of color, including 2 red dots just above the beak. and that call!

we haven’t even left the city and we’ve already seen a few other new birds… i had forgotten how exciting islands can be for birdwatching — even sparrows are a little different here! :)

in taiwan

japanese encephalitis vaccine

japanese encephalitis is one of those diseases that, if you get it, things can get irreversibly bad pretty quickly. the chances of being bitten with the mosquito that carries it and getting symptoms are low, so doctors only recommend the vaccine for longer stays in asia, or trips that involve going to the countryside during mosquito season… but it’s a statistics game, really. knowing that 1 in each 4 symptomatic cases are fatal, i really didn’t want to risk it.

after checking in portugal (and poking a few pharmacies in spain as well), we quickly realized it was not going to happen, and an email to the lab that makes them confirmed that they’re having trouble delivering stock to southern europe… so when we were planning the trip, the thought crossed our mind that we might as well get it in taiwan.  we checked, the price didn’t seem to be that different from what we’d pay in portugal, so let’s book it!

when the day came, things were a little messy… a bit like a paper chase around the hospital! go to the other building of the hospital -> register -> talk to the doctor -> take this paper and go pay for everything -> get the vaccine from the outpatient pharmacy -> come back here to take it… pfeww! it took a couple of hours to go through all the steps, but somehow, we managed to do it. the doctor was young and chatty, perhaps a little surprised to see foreigners on holidays taking vaccines… but he explained everything carefully and even gave us suggestions of places to visit in taiwan. :) the hospital wing we were at was quite crowded with people going about their appointments and exams, but somehow, everything seemed to work. when we got to the hospital’s pharmacy, the prescription was already ready and waiting for us.

the vaccine itself was easy-peasy: super quick and painless and no significant side-effects afterwards. and now we wait a couple of weeks and we’ll be immune for the next 20 years. check! ✔️

in taiwan

taipei manhole covers

ok! so we’re in taipei, and i’m going to try to document our time here like i did in thailand, with one short post for every day. just simple stuff,  whatever has been making us look. and first up, we’ve been looking down at manhole covers!

manhole covers are a form of art in japan, where they have hundreds of different ones on all kinds of topics. some years ago they came to taipei too, with a few commemorative ones spread around the city. for me it’s always exciting when someone has taken the time to make a bit of boring infrastructure less boring and more special, and this is just a great example of that.

i feel like going around town hunting for these, adding them to a collection. the colored ones are great, but even the more simple covers are beautiful here. makes you want to roll some ink over them and stamp them on a t-shirt!