CAAMFest37: Love Boat: Taiwan – Q&A after SF Premiere

It was my great honor to attend the San Francisco premiere of the documentary Love Boat: Taiwan at CAAMFest37:

“Fearless, inventive and outspoken are a few words to describe CAAMFest37 Spotlight Honoree Valerie Soe. From the 80’s to now, Soe’s films and video installations have been a benchmark for Asian American feminist activism and experimental storytelling. CAAM will proudly showcase Soe’s newest documentary, LOVE BOAT: TAIWAN; a feature-length documentary, looks into of one of the longest running summer programs in the world.

LOVE BOAT: TAIWAN revisits the program’s participants and explores the history and popularity of this well-known program, sponsored by the Taiwanese government, which takes place every summer in Taiwan.”

Ever since writing my blog post about my experience on the Love Boat in the summer of 1993, I had always hoped a documentary would be made about this iconic program. So I’m glad that as a producer, an interviewee (very brief interview …) and archival video footage provider of the trip, I was able to experience the San Francisco premiere of the film to a a sold out theater and see the crowd’s enthusiastic reaction to the documentary.

Afterwards, there was Q&A with the Producer/Director Valerie Soe, as well as interviewee Kristina Wong, and others involved in the film, including yours truly.

The film has one more film festival in Taiwan to “premiere” in May, then plans for distribution are still up in the air, but Soe will probably be making the film festival and college tour of the film in the near future before hopefully wider distribution plans.

If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, here’s you chance to see what the documentary is all about:

I’ll be sure to blog about the documentary’s wider release – hopefully online – in the future.

Love Boat: Taiwan Documentary Premieres in LA, SF, and Taipei in May 2019!

As I had blogged before, I had attended the “infamous” ‘Love Boat’ back in the summer of 1993 after graduating from college. I think every Taiwanese American has heard of the ‘Love Boat,’ so I am so happy that finally a documentary about the program is finally being release (disclosure: I am a producer, interviewee and provided archival video footage for the documentary).

Love Boat: Taiwan will be premiering in Los Angeles, San Francisco and then Taipei in May 2019:

“San Francisco, CA – April 13th, 2019 Filmmaker Valerie Soe announced today the premiere screenings of LOVE BOAT: TAIWAN at two of North America’s most prestigious Asian American film festivals. Saturday, May 4th at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and Friday, May 17th at CAAMfest (Center for Asian American Media) in San Francisco. It will also screen in competition in late May as the Closing Night film for the Urban Nomad film festival in Taipei, Taiwan’s premier indie film festival.”

The Love Boat has a rich history and many famous alumni have passed through the program over the years including US Congresswoman Judy Chu, buzzfeed’s Justin Tan, and singer Wang Lee Hom. Although it started out in 1967 as a small cultural program, over the years the Love Boat eventually became harder to gain entry into than many colleges. There was no marketing budget and the Love Boat’s popularity stemmed from its word-of-mouth reputation. LOVE BOAT: TAIWAN explores the ways that the government of Taiwan used this unique “soft power” program to promote Taiwan around the world which permanently affected the lives of many Asian Americans.

You can purchase tickets at the links above. There will also be afterparties.

You can check out the film’s website for more updates – or join the facebook page  to learn more.

Taiwanese Americans Cannot Hold Their Liquor

When I saw this article on 47% of Taiwan’s poulation lacks alcohol-metabolizing gene posted on Facebook and read the details, I laughed, since it is pretty common that Asians often do get the “Asian flush”.  ALDH2 is an alcohol-metabolizing gene and if you lack that gene, you don’t metabolize alcohol so easily:

bar_full_of_liquor_bottles“The percentage of people with ALDH2 Deficiency, also known as the “alcohol flush reaction,” in Taiwan is the highest in the world at 47%, said Che-Hong Chen, senior research scientist with Stanford University’s Mochly-Rosen Lab, during a seminar the university jointly held with Taipei Medical University on Tuesday.

The deficiency is common in ethnic Han Chinese people living in coastal areas. The percentage is 35% in China, 30% in Japan and 20% in South Korea. Taiwan’s indigenous people groups do not lack the gene.”

I always thought that Koreans had a stereotype of being the biggest drinkers in Asia, but now I can understand why – they have the highest percentage of people who can hold their liquor.

There’s a downside to lacking that gene if you drink – if you drink on a regular basis, you increase risks of mouth, throat and esophageal cancers by 50-fold over people with the gene!

Traveling Taiwan: Leaving Taiwan (Part 24 of 24)


All too soon, my two week trip to Taiwan came to an end, and before we knew it, we were heading to the airport to fly back to the States. Our drive over to the international airport in Taoyuan at least had a beautiful sky view from the freeway.


When we got to the terminal, our EVA Air check in was a flurry of Hello Kitty, complete with lounge, terminals, and Kitty flight attendant.

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Traveling Taiwan: Baguashan Buddha

Baguashan Taiwan

On our way back up to Taipei from southern Taiwan on the bullet train, we made a quick stop in central Taiwan to check out the Baguashan Buddha. It was a cloudy day and the afternoon light was on the wane, but as a result, we got a spectacular view.

Baguashan Taiwan

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Traveling Taiwan: Fo Guang Shan Temple (Part 22 of 24)

Taiwan Fo Guang Shan Temple

If you didn’t already know, in Hacienda Heights, Los Angeles County, California sits the largest buddhist temple in the western hemisphere, the Hsi Lai Temple, aptly named to mean “Coming to the West Temple”. It’s a major community center with workshops, summer camps, Chinese school, daycare, and even its own university. There’s also a vegetarian buffet and a tea house on site as well as a museum. The whole place is quite beautiful, and every time I visit, there always seems to be a soft breeze floating through the place no matter how hot the heat wave hitting the Southland.

So when I went to Kaohsiung, I had to stop by the Fo Guang Shan Temple, which is basically the main base buddhist organization that Hsi Lai Temple sprouted from. The place has a sort of grandiose ancient aliens feel to it. Luckily, we were there on a cloudy day, which really gave the place a celestial ambiance.

Taiwan Fo Guang Shan Temple

Although there was no photography allowed in some places inside, there was plenty to photograph.

Taiwan Fo Guang Shan Temple

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Traveling Taiwan: Lotus Pond, Kaohsiung, Taiwan (Part 21 of 24)

Taiwan Kaohsiung Lotus Pond

My family lineage actually comes from south Taiwan (and South China further back), and Kaohsiung is my heritage city on my mother’s side of the family. One of the must-see attractions of the city is the Lotus Pond, which is a large lake that has a series of temples built on it. We stayed at a hotel right next to the Lotus Pond so that we could do a hike around it first thing in the morning on our own before another Taiwan Tour Bus charter took us to a less central destination later that day.

Probably the best way to start off the morning is with a hearty breakfast complete with man tao bread.

Taiwan Kaohsiung Lotus Pond

The Pond itself really adds a nice feel to the area with its mirror view of the city and the temples lining its shores.

Taiwan Kaohsiung Lotus Pond
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Traveling Taiwan: Alishan Tea Farm Hike (Part 20E of 24)

Taiwan Alishan

Taiwan overall is a tea lover’s paradise. If you didn’t already know, I’m quite the tea lover. So being able to go on a hike up and around tea farms was a special treat.

Taiwan Alishan

Enjoying the beauty of tea farms and the idyllic mountain environment makes it pretty easy to understand what makes high mountain tea so delicious on a poetic level. It’s as if the leaves are infused with the very beauty of the wind, water, air, and land of this otherworldly environment, and somehow that is infused in the taste of tea grown there. Now, when I drink my favorite Taiwan high mountain oolong or green tea, the taste is more magnificent as it now evokes the elegant views and zen serenity of the place they came from.

Taiwan Alishan

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Traveling Taiwan: Alishan Old Train Station (Part 20D of 24)

Taiwan Alishan

When Taiwan was handed over to Japan by China, the Japanese found lots of desirable wood on Alishan mountain and promptly began to build railroads to support the logging industry they established here. Luckily, the logging fell out of economic favor over time and tourism became the top priority, which meant that this little train station has been preserved, and visitors can experience the train station and the little boom town village around it with a nice historic ambiance. Think something between Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away all in one place.

Taiwan Alishan

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Traveling Taiwan: Alishan Sunrise (Part 20C of 24)

Taiwan Trip 2013 Monday Tuesday 300

I’m more of a night owl than a morning person, but there are definitely things in this world worth getting up before dawn for, and the Alishan Sunrise experience would have to be one of those.

We were pretty bummed that the train up to Alishan was out of commission due to typhoon damage repairs, but the ride on train up to the Alishan sunrise look out point made up for that a bit.

Taiwan Trip 2013 Monday Tuesday 292
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Traveling Taiwan: Alishan Zhou Cultural Center (Part 20C of 24)

Taiwan Alishan

In Hawaii, they’ve got that Polynesian Cultural Center, which on the one hand is a way to educate people about some of the culture and history of the various polynesian people, but at the same time, it reeks of colonialism. There’s just something about putting a people’s way of life into a living museum that’s just too much like a zoo. I mean, can you imagine coming to Los Angeles and visiting a Los Angeles Cultural Center where you can eat the actual food that Angelinos eat, see what real Angelinos wear on display, and watch re-enactments of the cultural myths and legends us Angelinos tell? Imagine a luau-like meal with In N’ Out burgers served while “native” people dressed as hipsters re-enact the latest Avengers movie on stage. Ridiculous right? I’d feel really insulted by a stereotype-generating machine like that.

Nevertheless, in the post-colonial economy and environment, it provides jobs for the the local community, and it can even support new artistic works that modernize old customs into new forms to be passed on to a new generation. For example, the last time I went to the Polynesian Cultural Center, I watched the production “Ha: Breath of Life” which is supposedly based on a common story shared across many of the Polynesian cultures. The show was really stunning and well put together and provided not only jobs but a forum for new and meaningful cultural expression.

Cultural centers are quite the mixed bag, so when we arrived at the Alishan Zhou Cultural Center, I tried hard not to roll my eyes at the amusement park feel of the place, but at the same time, I did learn about Zhou culture and history at their museum and, by visiting and purchasing goods at the place, I was supporting the actual Zhou people descendants who were employed at this Cultural Center. So the whole thing wasn’t half bad.

It also helped that the Cultural Center itself was beautiful and had a gorgeous view.

Taiwan Alishan

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Traveling Taiwan: Mountain Drive to Alishan (Part 20A of 24)

Alishan Taiwan

As I began looking through my notes and pictures on the trip to Alishan, I realized that I couldn’t cover everything in just one post, so I’m going to share it as a sub-series (hence the part 20A–it will go up to F). It was just too much, and that’s really a reflection of how much there is to do on Alishan mountain. This place has got tea farms, cultural centers, old towns, historic sites, a million scenic spots, and all sorts of nature climbs and hikes. It would be a dream come true if I could spend a few months hidden up here, checking out a new attraction every day while spending nights writing back in a mountain cabin under the canopy of night forest and starlight. No way I would get bored.

Alishan Taiwan

As a teenager on the Taiwan Love Boat program, they took us on a tour of Taiwan, and one stop was at Chitou bamboo forest (Xitou Youth Activity Center), which is also up in the central mountains of Taiwan, and I was so enchanted by the place that I wrote it into my novel as the gateway through which the main character enters another world. There is seriously something magical about Taiwan’s mountain forests.

Alishan Taiwan
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