As of the second week of April, just a handful of countries have yet to report cases of the novel coronavirus. One of them is Palau, a Pacific island chain that has had diplomatic relations with Taiwan since 1999.
In early March, when a newly-arrived US citizen showed symptoms of COVID-19, doctors in Taiwan used telemedicine technology to help Palauan physicians take samples from the patient. These were flown to Taiwan for testing; the results were negative.
Palau might so far have evaded a health crisis, but its tourism-driven economy can’t avoid other consequences of the pandemic.
Photo: Katy Hui-wen Hung
“We noticed the impact of COVID-19 very early on, because lots of tourists canceled their trips to Palau. Also, a lot of expatriates left the country. It’s effected nearly every part of the economy, because so many businesses rely on tourism,” says Tina Cheng (鄭欣庭), who helps her parents run 7-EAT Restaurant (美人魚餐廳), one of the most expensive restaurants in Koror, Palau’s largest city. Cheng’s father became 7-EAT’s manager in 2010; the boss is Palauan.
“To reduce expenses, we’ve cut down our hours of operation,” says Cheng, who says that the restaurant is also adjusting its menu to make it more delivery-friendly. So far, spicy fried chicken and sweet and sour pork, both served with steamed rice, have proved to be popular take away items with locals customers.
“Right now, we don’t worry about getting the ingredients we need, but if shipping is disrupted, there will be a problem,” she adds.
Photos: Katy Hui-wen Hung
In the past, 7-EAT catered mainly to tourists from Taiwan and China, as well as other non-locals. The menu includes lots of seafood, but Taiwanese diners especially liked a crocodile dish in which the meat is cooked the same way as Dongpo pork (東坡肉), and not just for its taste. Certain parts of the crocodile’s anatomy, such as palms, are rich in collagen — a natural beauty product that enhances skin elasticity and reduces wrinkles.
Gonzo gourmands sometimes ordered a dish now steeped in notoriety: A soup made with ginger and goji berries, with protein in the form of a stewed fruit bat. Earlier this year, amid speculation that the coronavirus originated in bats, photos and video clips showing people eating bats have been circulating online. Some of these images came not from China — as many people assumed — but from Palau, where 7-EAT wasn’t the only restaurant to offer an iteration of a traditional local delicacy.
Cheng says, from now on, tourists will be too scared to order bat soup. But she points out that locals are still eating it.
“Palauans have been eating bat soup for years, and never suffering any sicknesses as a result,” Cheng says.
On those rare days in Kaohsiung when the air is crisp and clear, the eastern horizon is dominated by a green wall that towers high above the Pingtung plains. This is the ridge running from Wutou Mountain (霧頭山), up to Beidawu Mountain (北大武山) at 3,092 meters. Many make the trek up to Beidawu, but very few walk the top of this wall over to Wutou, and for good reason: it is an unmarked, overgrown death trap with no reliable water and steep slopes full of rotten wood and crumbly rock. Last week, news emerged that a French couple called for rescue
Last week, the presidential campaign of Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) tapped Cynthia Wu (吳欣盈), the granddaughter of Shin Kong group founder Wu Ho-su (吳火獅), as his vice-presidential candidate. Wu and her vast wealth seem to fly in the face of Ko’s claim to be offering new, cleaner politics. She wasted no time putting the peasants in their proper place. Asked last week by a reporter if she would publicly reveal that she had given up her US citizenship, Wu tartly responded that it was an issue between herself and the US government. The following day, when
Hitting tennis balls across a tree-lined court in Thailand’s mountainous north, Connie Chen’s weekly private training session is a luxury the Chinese national could barely afford when she lived in Shanghai. China implemented some of the world’s toughest COVID restrictions during the pandemic, putting hundreds of millions of people under prolonged lockdowns. In the aftermath, younger citizens — exhausted by grueling and unrewarding jobs — are taking flight to escape abroad. With a relatively easy process for one-year study visas, a slower pace of living and cheap living costs, Thailand’s second-largest city Chiang Mai has become a popular destination. “During the pandemic, the
Comedian Xi Diao says he knows he should avoid talking politics on stage, but sharing a family name with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) makes it hard to resist. Even his name is politically sensitive, the Melbourne-based amateur comedian tells audiences, setting up a joke about a group chat on the Chinese messaging service WeChat being shut down as soon as he joined it. The 33-year-old civil engineer gets nervous laughs whenever he breaks a de facto rule of Chinese comedy: Don’t say anything that makes China look bad. To most comedians, that means no jokes about censorship, no mentioning the president’s