{Behind the Blog} Xander from Primitive Culture // Taiwan Famous

Primitive Culture is one of the most inspiring blogs I read, with food, travel and style insights from globetrotter Xander. He has also just started another blog, Taiwan Famous, chronicling food exploits in his new home. Not only does Xander have a penchant for street eats and local produce, but he seeks out cool cafes wherever he travels, making him something of a kindred blogging spirit of mine! Here’s more about Xander:

Where do you live/where are you now?
I have just moved to Hsinchu, Taiwan. It’s about an hour South of Taipei (though only half an hour by high speed rail), with some big city benefits, but a nicely relaxed pace of life.

Hsinchu Night Market

What are you currently…

I’ve just started reading “This Side of Paradise”, which will, sadly, be the last new F. Scott Fitzgerald novel for me.

…listening to?
I’ve always had a fondness for old music—I love Big Band. Lately I’ve been playing a lot of goofy happy songs by Doris Day, and moody latin numbers by Xavier Cugat. I’m also just now getting into Podcasts—I love how a relaxed hour of listening can fill me up with so many new ideas. I especially love This American Life and The Splendid Table.

While I was in the States recently I finally caught up on watching the rest of Six Feet Under—I still can’t get over what an amazing show it was. It might have ruined me for TV forever—no show could ever be as good.

With so much great, cheap street food around in Taiwan, I’m not cooking too much lately. But I’m excited to be getting a new kitchen soon (we’re still apartment hopping), and to start stocking it with produce from local markets and shops.

Hsinchu is a great city for eating local Taiwanese food—it’s especially famous for xiao chi (“little eats”). We’ve discovered some great spots recently—we just found two different places that make delicious duck noodles. My favorite snacks right now are zhua bing, flaky pancakes studded with scallions, and baotze, steamed buns filled with pork.

Not enough, really. With summer in full force I’d love to be mixing some gin and bitters, or maybe a gin fizz, but no apartment means no bar yet!

We were in the states for a few months before moving to Taiwan, and I loaded up at some of my favorite stores. I really miss American Apparel, J. Crew, and H&M—but at least I brought a heavy suitcase with me from the states. I mainly loaded up on clothes in shades of peacock and navy blue. Wearing navy blue is a new thing for me—I used to have to wear navy blue as part of a uniform at Catholic school, so for years I hated the color.

We’ve been traveling since January, and I’m getting excited about the idea of having an apartment of our own again, so I’m already figuring how I want to decorate it, what we need to get, what the layout will be… We might have found a place that is just what we were looking for, so we’re hoping to sign a lease soon. It’s a really funky old ‘60s Chinese style place—it looks like something out of a Wong Kar Wai movie.

…obsessed with?
Muji! I wish I had a salary high enough stock my entire apartment with streamlined Muji furniture, but as it is I’m making do with some new Muji bags and clothes. I’m also dreaming of a trip to Japan, partly so I can visit one of the mythically huge Muji stores…

My other obsession right now is my new dog, Japie (an Afrikaans name said like Yaw-pie). Neither my husband or I are dog people, but we’ve always talked about getting a French bull dog some day. Then just after we got to Taiwan, we met someone who was trying to find a home for one… we met him, totally fell for him, and now he’s my sole topic of conversation.

Favourite cuisines?
We found a great Vietnamese place today, a total hole in the wall, and I was once again reminded of what an amazing cuisine that country has. The cool, herby flavors are especially fantastic for summer—a banana flower salad and a glass of lime and soda sounds like the ideal lunch to me. Conversely, I have some very American tastebuds—well made pizza and hamburgers are two of my favorite foods.

Fresh produce in Vietnam

Favourite travel destinations?
Hanoi is one of my favorite cities—great for shopping, eating, taking in culture, and relaxing in cafes. I also think Cape Town might be one of the best destinations in the world. After living there for a year, I don’t think I want to go back full-time, but as a get-away it’s perfect: beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and some excellent cafes.


Next trip planned?
My parents are coming to visit soon, and we’ll be heading off for a few days in Bali, then heading back here so I can show them a little of Taiwan. I’ve never been to Bali, but I might actually be more excited about Taiwan—it’s a fascinating island, and there’s still so much of it I haven’t seen.

If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where and why?
I’m so eager to try living in the US again, especially LA, my favorite city in the world. But I’m also vaguely curious to try living in the South for a while, to explore some swamps and learn more about the fantastic food…

Who/what inspires you?
I am definitely a city person, and the closer to downtown I can live the happier I am. But I’m also really inspired by nature—right now the lush greens of Taiwan’s bamboo forests are filling up my sketchbooks. I love studying the forms and shapes of animals and plants.

3 of your must-read blogs?
Despite sort of being a ‘travel blogger’ I don’t actually read many travel blogs, unless they have a focus on food or style. More than just reading about people going places, I love reading about what people are eating, where they’re enjoying coffee, or what they’re wearing or making.

I love Readymade Magazine, and they have a fantastic set of blogs—my favorite is their food blog, Feast, which always has great ideas for what you should be eating.

I’m also really into David Lebovitz lately. I know he lives in Paris, which is obviously quite a bit different from Taiwan, but reading the culinary explorations of a fellow expatriate make me want to get up and go search out some interesting local ingredients and dishes.

And though its admittedly a little girly, Design*Sponge is one of my favorite daily reads—especially now that food and entertaining seems to be getting expanded coverage on their blog.

Thanks for inviting me to participate!


Thanks Xander!


5 Responses

  1. Alexander Santillanes August 31, 2010 / 12:02 pm

    Thanks so much for inviting me to participate! I had a lot of fun answering the questions. And I’m so impressed that you can blog while taking care of a new baby! She’s adorable. X

  2. niamh September 1, 2010 / 10:39 am

    I’m an erratic follower of Primitive Culture – the photos are always amazing. Great to read some more!

  3. whitney September 4, 2010 / 7:07 am

    Excellent stuff with wonderful information! I’m new here and loving the post! Thanks for sharing this great info!


  4. whitney September 4, 2010 / 7:08 am

    Nice post. I enjoy this post gorgeously with all of my friends. Really nice.


  5. Angela October 26, 2010 / 9:02 am

    I love your blog!

    And, I have really been enjoying your Behind the Blog series. As a newbie Saigon Expat from the States- I appreciate all the great tips you bloggers have to share.

    Thank you so much!

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