Monthly Archives: May 2010

Chinese Professional Baseball League

The CPBL or 中華職業棒球大聯盟 is made up of the top baseball players in Taiwan. Currently the league consists of four teams that play on a rotating basis in stadiums all over the island. Although some teams are more popular than others in certain cities, teams do not play out of a home stadium as in the U.S.

In 2008 the league was hit with a large game fixing scandal. Two teams folded and several players were banned for life.  Since the founding of the league twenty years ago there have been several high profile betting scandals involving players. These incidents have taken a toll on attendance and league popularity.

The quality of play is similar to about “AA” minor league ball in the U.S. Each team is allowed four import players. These players are often given Chinese names to help draw more local interest. Import players usually come from Japan, South Korea, or the U.S.

One of the best things about Taiwan baseball is the atmosphere in the stadium. Starting at home plate, each fan base sits on the side of their teams dugout. While your team is batting it is constant mayhem in the stands. Fans bring drums, trumpets, noise makers etc. The first game I attended looked like the opposing team had a literal percussion section just going crazy. Furthermore, each team has a ring leader who has a megaphone leading the cheers.

Another cool aspect is the affordability. Tickets start at about $3 U.S. and you can also bring in any food and drinks you want. In the outfield bleachers it is even possible to bring your own grill into the stadium.

Current teams in the league are the Brothers Elephants, La New Bears, Sinon Bulls, and the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions.

Mostar, Bosnia

If you are backpacking through the Balkans, it is a must to stop in Mostar, Bosnia. Mostar, the fifth biggest city in Bosnia, is a great place to take photos, try local cuisine, have a drink, and relax. Most travel guides give rare mention to Mostar, and often suggest not to stay overnight. I would argue differently.

In terms of taking photos, this town has some great looks. The main landmark of the town is the famous Mostar Bridge. During the war, the bridge was shot down in a horrific scene. Fast forward eleven years after, and in 2004, it was re-built. In 2005, UNESCO put the bridge on the World Heritage List. Today, the bridge that I walked on, was reconstructed from pieces of the old bridge that had fallen in the river during the Croat bombardment from the surrounding hills.

Near the Mostar Bridge area, a backpacker kind find anything he wants. The narrow cobble stone streets are lined with small shops, restaurants, pubs, and street peddlers. Around each corner lies a bullet riddled building, which quickly reminds you of the regions complicated past.

Getting to Mostar is basically done by train or bus. I would recommend taking a train, because the rocky terrain severely hampers bus travel down to a snails pace. Several hostels and hotels are within a short walk to the Mostar Bridge and are very cheap.

For video footage of the Mostar Bridge being shot down click here and fast forward to the 4:00 minute mark of the video.

We only got to spend one night in Mostar due to the fact that I lost my passport in Croatia and needed to get to Sarajevo ASAP. To read that rather crazy story click here.

Choeung Ek, Cambodia

The rule of Pol Pot (1975-1979) and the Khmer Rouge was responsible for two million deaths in Cambodia out of a population of seven million. A combination of dissident executions, forced labor, disease, and starvation were the main causes.

Choeung Ek is about 15 miles from Phnom Penh. Here, an estimated 17,000 Cambodians were executed by the Khmer Rouge. The first thing I noticed while visiting the “Killing Fields” was that it was eerily silent. It had the same feel as when I visited Mauthausen, a Nazi concentration camp in Austria. Continue reading