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British man who tattooed Taiwan on forehead releases book

Paul Farrell releases memoir on his misadventures in Asia entitled 'Taiwan Tattoo'

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Front cover of "Taiwan Tattoo." (Paul Farrell image)

Front cover of "Taiwan Tattoo." (Paul Farrell image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A British man who gained notoriety for tattooing Taiwan on his forehead, among other incidents, has released a memoir about his adventures and misadventures across Asia over the past 17 years.

In his book titled "Taiwan Tattoo," Paul Farrell covers his most infamous moments, including his hurling of a "Molotov cocktail," serving prison time in Kaohsiung, the controversial facial tattoos, and being bludgeoned by Chinese mafia in Cambodia. The book is also an account of Farrell's other "bizarre, odd, and interesting encounters" in Taiwan, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Australia.

Farrell, who has lived on and off in Taiwan for 14 years, first hit the headlines in the country when he was seen on video hurling what was described by local media as a "Molotov cocktail" at a convenience store in 2015, an incident which eventually landed him in a Taiwanese prison for arson for six months. In the book, Farrell claims he was attempting to create his own fireworks and drive away evil spirits.

His description of his time in a Kaohsiung correctional facility provides insights into the conditions for both Taiwanese and foreign prisoners in Taiwan. For example, he claims that during his entire six months in prison, he was only given recreation exercise in the courtyard twice.

In 2017, Farrell first made international headlines when he tattooed the traditional Chinese characters for Taiwan (臺灣) on his forehead and a Taiwan independence flag on his chin. In his memoir, Farrell wrote that while "drunk out of my skull" he found a 24-hour tattoo shop to get the markings to prove to his foreign friend his true dedication to Taiwanese independence.

According to Farrell, his fateful trip to Cambodia's Sihanoukville was originally part of a plan to teach for a short term at a local language school before taking a full-time position in Phnom Penh. Farrell had already encountered a large population of Chinese construction workers, tourists, and gangsters with whom he had spoken openly about Taiwan's political status.

However, on the fateful evening of May 27, 2018, Farrell chose to visit a bar and sit down at a table next to a group of Chinese men who "looked like they could be Mafia." He then made the nearly fatal mistake of taking off his hat, revealing his Taiwan tattoo as he introduced himself to the Chinese nationals.

One of the Chinese men then shouted in Mandarin "Taiwan, China! In response, Farrell retorted "Taiwan, Taiwan!" He writes that was when "all hell broke loose" and he soon found himself getting "pummeled from every direction with fists, pool cues, chairs, and metal bars."

Farrell described the harrowing encounter on social media and admitted his regret about getting Taiwan tattooed on his forehead and warned other travelers to be careful when in Cambodia. A few days later, local police detained him and threatened to charge him with "defaming the nation," unless he recorded a scripted video denying that Chinese had attacked him. He followed their instructions, and fled Cambodia to Vietnam after he was released from custody.

The author, who is currently teaching English online for a Taiwanese company in the Philippines, told Taiwan News that he was finding it hard to get work at international schools because of all the viral news stories and rumors about his exploits, "so I thought I'd write the book to get the facts out there as so much misinformation online about me and tell my side." Farrell says that 50% of the proceeds from book sales will go to a trust fund for his daughter in Taiwan and the other 50% will go to a Taiwanese friend who is translating the memoir from English to Chinese.

British man who tattooed Taiwan on forehead releases book
Front cover of paperback version. (Paul Farrell photo)

British man who tattooed Taiwan on forehead releases book
Back cover of paperback version. (Paul Farrell photo)