Friday nights in Shinying became “party nights”, where we would do something a bit different or special, all tied in with the Taiwanese culture and this gave us the opportunity to meet yet more local people. I’ll now comment on our first Friday night in Shinying, where we had a barbecue for dinner, went ten pin bowling, went to the local pub and also indulged into the Far Eastern culture of KTV: Karaoke TeleVision! Life on a Shinying Friday begins around 8 pm, with Neil finishing work and us meeting him there and straight for dinner…
The barbecue in Shinying is not just a novelty or a one-off – its open every night, is round the corner from Neil’s Flat (rather 6 doors down!) on Sanmin Street and contains that unique Taiwanese and Shinying collection of food. Its a simple basic market stall. Two grills in the background, two workers, a large barbecue and the “shop window” if you like – basically the trays at the front where you choose your food before they barbecue it. The selection is vast for such a small street corner barbecue. Here is just a few of the choices (they’re almost all on kebab sticks): chicken hearts, chicken bum, goat, lamb, pork, seafood circles, squid, octopus, beef, rice and garlic sausage…many many more. There’s a photo up there somewhere, which doesnt actually do it any justice. The smell of the barbecue is amazing and the best thing is the price.
FRIDAY NIGHT BARBECUE…SHINYING:
Each kebab sticks costs either 10 or 20 dollars (generally this is average for these types of night barbecue stalls) and you can pick and choose which ever and how many you want. I normally went for 6 kebab sticks, of mixed variety. You simply put them in your basket and hand them over and the guy cooks them while you wait. You can have them well done, with added spice or salt, or just as they are. 10 New Taiwan Dollars is about 20 pence sterling by the way, so the full barbecue meal ends up being around £1.20 per person. An absolute gift! I also bought a few beers for Neil and I from his local “supermarket”, aka a large room with fridges, strange writing and enough food to keep the locals happy. Beer and barbecue on a hot street corner in central Shinying. If life was ever as surreal as that before, then I don’t remember it. Neil is one of my best mates and the very fact that he invited me to Friday night barbecue on its own is enough to keep me smiling for years. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Friday night than this one, and the night was still young and plenty more surprises and “moments of silliness” ahead. You know these are the moments where I find my heaven in life.
BOWLING IN SHINYING:
On this particular Friday night I opted for Chicken hearts and pork mainly. It was the first time I’d had the chicken hearts and they were something special. Neil recommended them and they were great! I wasn’t so keen on the rounded fish shapes, but then seafood was never my favourite type of “meat” (although this did change a bit recently I must admit to loving the lobster, shrimp and fish in Taiwan). We ate the barbecue at Neil’s flat that night and got changed before heading to meet Eva. Eva works in the clothes shop close by, and she finished work at 10 pm. Then it was off to “a night at the bowling!” The Bowling Alley wasn’t too far and when we got there we were also joined by Binh. Binh is one of Neil’s friends from work. She is also an English teacher at Shane English School, and comes from Denver in the USA. Suddenly by mistake we had an international olympic style bowling competition…featuring England, Estonia, Taiwan, USA and Northern Ireland. At the bowls, Neil and I had another beer (a 330ml tin of Taiwan Beer) and we got ready for ten pin bowling! I hadn’t played for a long time. Played before in Northern Ireland and in England. We had a lane to ourselves in the first game. It was great fun! After the barbecue this was part two of our four part Friday night. After a vallant effort by myself, I still came last in Game One, the scores being:
Binh (USA) 94
Natalja (Estonia) 93
Eva (Taiwan) 91
Neil (England) 81
Jonny (Northern Ireland) 78
BOWLING VIDEO 3:
BOWLING VIDEO 2:
Never fear though I was back with a bang in the second and final game. In this game the scores changed a wee bit, but Binh was clearly the best out of all of us, winning both games and scoring a massive 122 in the second game, cruising the USA to victory in the Official 2009 Sinying Random Bowling Tournament. I was very pleased to take home the Bronze for Northern Ireland! The scores in game two were:
Jonny (Northern Ireland): 110
Neil (England): 87
Natalja (Estonia): 51
Eva (Taiwan): 108
Binh (USA): 122
Therefore the overall scores were:
1. USA – Binh – 216 (GOLD)
2. TAIWAN – Eva – 199 (SILVER)
3. NORTHERN IRELAND – Jonny – 188 (BRONZE)
4. ENGLAND – Neil – 168
5. ESTONIA – Natalja – 144
That was the first two parts of our first Friday night. Next up was the local pub. Neil’s favourite pub in Shinying, which I have mentioned before and will mention again, is the “Ocean Every Day” pub near the main park in Shinying. Its a great wee name for a pub and I can see why Neil made this his local during his time in Taiwan. I would have done exactly the same. The landlady/head barmaid there is the delightful “Jen” or “Jane.” They got Neil his own special glass and every time he enters the bar he is greeted by warm smiles, real happinness and genuine customer service. He feels at home there. And I did too. We’d been in once before on the first night for a few quick beers and ended up eating pig skin, trying a free shot of sweet stuff similar to a Singapore Sling (2 weeks later I’d actually be in Singapore though, having a “real” one). On this particular night, I met the bubbly character of Caparzo. A Taiwanese guy whose English speaking was incredible. A guy with personality and heart. You certainly felt you had a new friend when you met him. I had, and I’ll hopefully e-mail him soon and keep touch. It was also while sitting down with Caparzo that we met a pretty Taiwanese lady wearing an Orange Top. She worked in the local spa and swimming pool and came over to introduce herself to us. They’re not shy these Taiwanese. They have a genuine warm nature to them. You’ll feel it instantly with 90% of Taiwanese people you meet.
The lady was called Shalke (my pun about a German football team went abegging, but for the unamused grin of Millwall Neil, whose mind surely focused on a “soccer” team from Bermondsey in London rather than any comical references to a lesser known German team…) Shalke. The reason Shalke came over was because she recognised Natalja and I straight away. Of she would. In a city full of Taiwanese, without ever a foreigner of “Why Gorran” to stare at, she had met us two before. About 4 days previously on a spare afternoon we had called into the local spa for a swim and sauna session! The random foreigner and celebrity status was something I was revelling in. Shalke was probably thinking “you all look the same to me.” And she’d have been justified. Shalke went back to her mates, but it was nice of her to pop and say hello and raise and glass to us. After this we also met Hong or Hone. Another local Taiwanese guy. We gathered round a big table in the pub and were chatting, getting to know one and other and having fun.
Then we decide to play “Dice”. As Neil says it was a great way for him to learn Chinese Mandarin in the first instance. Having to learn basics like the numbers 1-6 (dice numbers to play the game). Its basically a game or truth or lies. Each person has 5 dice only they can see, hidden under a cup. You start by claiming how many of a certain number each person has, as a total for the table. For example shout “6 fives.” The next person either ups the ante and goes to 6 sixes, or 7 of another number OR they call you a liar. In which case everyone lifts up their cup and a count is made to see if they are indeed a liar. The person to lose each turn takes a sip of their drink (or whatever you decide on, thats what we went for). And so it goes on. I’ve got a wee video from that night playing “Dice”:
PLAYING DICE GAME IN “OED PUB” SHINYING:
Soon though it was unbelieveably about 2 am and Caparzo alerted us that the KTV – Karaoke Television place closes at 4 am and we needed to head there soon. Two of the guys were driving – Joi and Caparzo. They kindly agreed to take us there and we all would have our own booth for karaoke together. Thats the way they do karaoke over here. They take it very seriously. They put effort and soul into their singing. They hire a small private booth for their mates. They are mad on karaoke and on the most part it is not a public booth. It would make me look out of place, a far cry from those immature days dancing on stages in Bournemouth Bars yelling “Sing along with the common people, sing along and it might just get you through…” Here I wouldn’t get away with such a nonsense impersonation of the crazy man Jarvis Cocker. I used to revel in the singing of banging Pulp singles which seem locked sadly in that 90s era now. Even an IRA bomb alert in Belfast city couldn’t return my brain to those days. They’re gone. Here we were in a private booth in KTV Bar in Shinying, Taiwan. Comfy settees, a book full of Chinese songs, a television with images and words and 2 microphones. We were finishing our Friday night doing Karaoke TV!
Neil and I sat in the middle looking in vain and in desperation at the very small “English” section of the Karaoke booklet. As the talented Caparzo sang his way supremely to many a Chinese hit, Neil and I struggled to find any English songs we knew. Mainly Boyzone and Britney Spears believe it or not. Eva Jun is an excellent singer. Our new Taiwanese friend has a beautiful voice and as Neil and I both admitted “we’re out of place on the X Factor here.” We finally found a few songs to do. I went for Venus by Bananarama. A song I always liked, though in reality “best of a bad bunch” here. “SHE’S GOT IT!! YEAH BABY SHE’S GOT IT!!” I screamed in this small room. Loving the KTV experience but falling short on vocal talent. But hey its all a bit of fun isn’t it? Neil and I then felt the need to duet a Michael Jackson classic. In the few months after his death, we rammed our way through “Black or White.” It made the song feel good again. A great song. We probably destroyed it. Sorry Jacko. We tried…
A KTV VIDEO:
ANOTHER KTV VIDEO, Jonny Blair butchers “Venus”:
THE WONDERFUL VOCALS OF EVA JUN AT KTV:
After that Neil and I tried to reclaim some stardom by attempting to sing “Hey Jude” by The Beatles. You know that worldwide classic? Well it wasn’t by the Beatles and although it resembled Hey Jude, this was in words only. This cover version of McCartney’s penned hit was a slowed down version and Neil and I tried to fit our lyrics in, but it was in vain. Its pretty obvious I didn’t give up my day job for this. On that out of tune note, the KTV session was over! But Neil, Joi and I decided to stay awake a bit longer (it was 4 am) so we headed back too the still open “Ocean Every Day” pub for a final beer before my first cup of hot tea in Taiwan. We finally left the pub around 7 am. I enjoyed my rose petal tea for breakfast with a pork and egg roll. The Friday night had been something special, in 4 equally exciting parts. A few hours sleep could be had before we were off on our travels again. Kaohsiung was the venue for our presence next, as I’ll have written about at some point…
THE FRIDAY NIGHT IN SHINYING IN FOUR PARTS:
PART 1 – BARBECUE
Who went – Jonny, Neil, Natalja
Cost – £1.20 plus drinks
PART 2 – BOWLING
Who went – Jonny, Neil, Natalja, Binh, Eva
Cost – £6 plus drinks
PART 3 – OCEAN EVERY DAY PUB
Who was there – Jonny, Neil, Natalja, Eva, Caparzo, Hong/Hone, Joi, Shalke, Jen
Cost – £2.20 a beer (600ml bottle)
PART 4 – KTV (KARAOKE TELEVISION)
Who was there – Jonny, Neil, Natalja, Eva, Caparzo, Hong/Hone. Joi
Cost – Unsure as Caparzo covered it. We’d estimate around £10 per head including drinks and unlimited karaoke for 1 hour 10 minutes.
ENJOYMENT FACTOR FOR A FRIDAY NIGHT – 10/10.
If your life gets any better than this, e-mail me: