THE inspiration for the hit movie You Are The Apple Of My Eye started with an innocuous change of seats in a classroom in a school in Changhua, Taiwan.
The seat-changing student involved was none other than the movie’s director, Giddens Ko. His film was based on his semi-autobiographical novel, The Girl We Chased Together In Those Years.
Ko’s former homeroom teacher, Mr Lai Ping-huei, 63, was the one who arranged for the talkative Giddens to sit in front of class monitor Shen Jia-yi – who later became Giddens’ object of affection.
Recounting the incident to mypaper, Mr Lai, who is now the school’s principal, said: “Giddens was a very lively student, but also very noisy. Even when I assigned him to a seat along the wall, he could still manage to talk – to the wall.”
Never did Mr Lai imagine his actions had “unknowingly sown the seeds” that would blossom into puppy love, and then the storyline for a box-office hit. Not only that, the movie – which was largely shot in Changhua – has breathed new life into the county. These days, even Ko’s alma mater, Ching Cheng High School (No. 200, Lin Sen Road), is listed as a must-visit for fans of the movie.
And here’s the good news: The school is open to the public during certain hours (See sidebar). Paying homage to the movie, I sussed out the filming locations so that readers could see Changhua in a new light – through You Are The Apple Of My Eye.
I first visited the Lai Fa Cai Bai Li Student Uniform Store (No. 136, Guang Fu Road) to get souvenirs. Since the award-winning movie screened last year, the shop’s owner, Mr Luo Han-feng, 48, said that many “fake students” have patronised his shop. There, their aim is to buy Ching Cheng High School uniforms – the very same ones that were worn by the characters in the film.
Mr Luo said: “Diehards will go to school to take photos while wearing the uniform. Some even go as far as to request to have the names of the protagonist Ke Jing-teng or his crush Shen Jia-yi, sewn onto the shirts.” The bestseller at the shop is the dark-blue tote bag emblazoned with the school’s emblem, a more practical buy – not to mention a good deal at only NT$100 (S$4.25).
Mr Luo revealed that some visitors buy as many as five or six pieces each, and the highest number that he has sold in a day to movie fans was 40 pieces. Ask him what should be on an Apple fan’s itinerary, and he points to two filming spots – Lao Dan Ah Zhang Meat Balls (No. 144, Chang An Road), and the Giant Buddha.
The meatball store was where Ke Jing-teng and his buddies dug into the gooey Taiwanese delight – a large dumpling filled with bamboo, mushroom and pork, all wrapped up in a starchy tapioca dough. At Ah Zhang Meat Ball, I spotted tourists armed with guidebooks, posing cheerfully with life-size cutouts of the characters displayed prominently at its entrance.
Thanks to the movie, the store’s business has risen by about 10 per cent, said the owner’s wife, Madam Chen Yan-feng, 64. Since I was in the vicinity, I popped by a nearby store to have a taste of the quirky Cat Mouse noodle (No. 223, Chen Lin Road) – clear noodle soup with shrimp and meatballs. The dish’s name originates from the founder’s Taiwanese-dialect nickname – “mouse”, for his nimbleness and small size. The next filming spot needs no introduction – Changhua’s landmark Giant Buddha statue atop Bagua Mountain.
The 22m towering icon appeared with fake zombies in a comical scene in the movie. Just as Ko’s romance flick transported me back to the good old school days, my Changhua trip had me basking in wistfulness. After all, as principal Lai puts it, “every boy has a Shen Jia-yi in their heart”. Similarly, every girl has a “Ke Jing-teng” in their heart.
VISITING the filming locations ofYou Are The Apple Of My Eye inChanghua is easy with theTaiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus –Lugang Route.
Board the shuttle bus fromthe stop outside Exit 5 on thefirst floor of the High Speed RailTaichung Station.The movie’s main filming site,Ching Cheng High School, is open to the public from 5pm to 6pm on weekdays, 4pm to 6pm on Saturdays and 8am to 6pm on Sundays.
Take along your air ticket and hotel-confirmation details to theTaiwan Visitors Association Singapore (30 Raffles Place, #10-01 Chevron House) beforedeparting for Taiwan to redeem Taiwan 7-Eleven discountcoupons for a free coffee, Slurpee, a one-day Wi-Fi card
and more (while stocks last).
In this 21st instalment of a 26-part series, my paper explores a quaint mountain town
THE rural town of Pinglin in south-eastern New Taipei City is worth a day trip, especially if you’re aching to see more of Taiwan outside Taipei.
David Bowden experiences a heady mix of history, architecture and beer in Qingdao
A cruise down the Danube River gives Arul John lessons in history, art and architecture
Dewi Sriwahyuto checks out the top three places to enjoy the sakura season in Okinawa