Taiwan's capital Taipei has terrific night markets. Twenty minutes on the city's excellent metro gets you into bustling back lanes where you can pay a hawker three or four dollars to fish a live prawn from a bucket. The hawker will then move the prawn to a bucket of alcohol to kill it, thread it up on a bamboo skewer, turn on a domestic hair dryer to fire up some smouldering coals and grill your catch.
The markets are great, but Taipei's June weather offers roasting 35 degree days with three-showers-a-day humidity that scarcely abates once the sun goes down.
So please understand once you've been to the night markets a couple of times, finding an air-conditioned dinner venue is excusable.
Especially on State of Origin night.
Origin makes it into Taipei on Setanta Sports, which cost US$15 a month for an online stream of just about every professional Rugby game on the planet, League or Union.
The city also has a pair of rugby-screening sports bars called Brass Monkey, which takes the Setanta feed.
The Brass Monkey back story starts in 2002 when the Taipei Baboons rugby club took an end of year trip to Bali. On that trip two members spent an evening chewing the fat about topics such as the absence of a good sports bar in Taipei.
But that conversation took place in the Sari Club, one of two nightclubs where bombs went off later in the evening. Five Baboons didn't make it back to Taipei. But the bar's founders did and so did the idea of bringing a good sports bar to Taipei. In 2008, the first Brass Monkey opened in downtown Taipei. And eight years later I found the second branch next to my hotel on a night I just didn't feel like braving the heat to get more of those beautiful night-market prawns.
Brass Monkey piped in Rabbits, Sterlo and the boys, minus most of the pre-and-post-game ad-extenders-posing-as-
Plenty of locals were in the bar, but before long they figured out whatever was on the main screens was a weird expat thing. The bar sorted them out by turning its smallest screen on to French Open tennis.
The remainder of the crowd was a familiar expat cocktail. A couple of Maoris lads who'd spent time in Queensland made it in, complete with wives and kids.
Another table featured two Aussies who live here and work in finance, plus a mate who has lived in Australia and so knew what he was in for. The other four on the table were locals watching their first game of league and digging deep into their English vocabulary to dredge up words describing violence and brutality.
A few other Australians in town for the annual Computex technology conference also shuffled in, but the bar wasn't full and definitely wasn't heaving.
But it was pro-Queensland. The perhaps forty-strong crowd got loudest, for longest, when the Maroons did well.
So while Origin One was not an advertisement for Rugby League, and had precisely zero power to convert the novices in the Brass Monkey, it seems Origin's most important ingredient -- blind Maroon loyalty -- has already found a tiny niche in Taiwan.Suggest a correction