Green Island: mopeds, snorkeling, and deer meat

•August 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

After work on Friday, I rush over to the Taipei Main Station to meet up with two friends as we prepare ourselves for the five and a half hour train ride to Taitung. I had purchased our tickets earlier that day at lunch, but was only able to secure one seat for the three of us, and we would get a second seat about three hours or so into the ride. Needless to say, we were preparing ourselves for a long ride of standing and feeling hungry (none of us had enough time to buy food before reaching the station). As luck would have it, we are seated next to two sets of little kids who are jumping, yelling, or crying all throughout the trip. The first few hours pass quickly as we chit chat about our weeks, share funny anecdotes from our past, and then I hear a faint, “Excuse me” from a man pushing a cart. A FOOD CART! We quickly purchase a bag of vegetable crackers, and three boxes of food. Unfortunately, we would have to wait until we reached a larger station to get the food, since that was when they would be made. After we devour our food, we are now far along the route, that the seat next to ours is made available. We move the hand rest up and make it a loveseat, which we try to jam all three of us into. This was the most uncomfortable ride ever, no matter how you readjusted, someone’s elbow or should or body would be pushing up against you; however, we were all so exhausted it didn’t matter and we all proceed to fall asleep. The next time I wake up, our other friend Gloria is calling me, she says a group of them had hopped on a train at Hualien (about three stops before our ultimate destination). I realize, we just passed that station and ask her which train she is on. We figure out that we had all inadvertently gotten on the same train! We meet up and proceed to take over a section of the train! We start to play a word association game called “Contact” and are probably the loudest group on the train. We are just having the time of our lives, shouting out clues and guessing words. After we get off at Taitung, we still have another hour before our other friends who had left from Taichung and Kaohsiung arrive, so we go to the 7-11 and purchase a deck of cards and some drinks. We immediately begin to play the game Kemps, where each person has a partner and you are trying to collect four of a kind, and then signal to your partner. It got so competitive, that everyone was watching everyone else and not really paying attention to their own cards. Shortly afterwards, everyone arrives and we are whisked away by three taxis to the hostel for the night. We are greeted by Eddie, the most inhospitable person I have ever met. He was not only rude and obnoxious, but passive aggressive and sarcastic too. He would brush aside our questions, and talk to us as if we were little children. Everyone was not having any of it. We cooked up a late night snack and all the girls went to sleep. All of the guys decide to play Spades and cook up burgers since all of us were still pretty awake. Well, most of the guys were interested in burgers anyway, Chris became the classic case of falling for peer pressure. He didn’t want to eat the burgers at first, and didn’t want to stay up, but once all the other guys had enthusiastically agreed, he too begrudgingly said okay. By this point it was already 5 AM and our ferry in the morning was at 7:30. Eddie had warned us, “I’m leaving at 7:15 for the pier. If you’re not here, I’m leaving you. I’m a busy man. I have to make my facial and spa day. I’m rich, unlike you.” This is just a taste of the hospitality Eddie showed us this weekend.

As we head to the ferry, I start to get a bit nervous. I know I get seasick and I heard this boat ride would be extremely choppy. Luckily, Jackie had seasickness medication. I pop a pill, but was still not ready for this boat ride. We walk onto the ship and realize the only seats available are the first three rows. We quickly grab whatever seats we can, and the boat proceeds to dart forward. It feels as if the ferry is flying over these waves, and your stomach is in a perpetual drop (the feeling you get at the top of a roller coaster ride). After 10 more minutes of this craziness, all the boys move to the back of the boat to continue our Spades game. We get through one round and immediately, everyone but Daniel is done playing. We find an empty spot and lay down on the ground. Surprisingly this made the ride a lot more bearable and I proceeded to fall asleep. When I wake up, I notice that everyone around me has gotten up and we had reached Green Island!

Arriving @ Green Island

We disembark and find the moped rental agency Eddie has arranged for us. We had decided earlier in the day that Daniel, Chris, Brian, Alice, and Tiffany would be driving the mopeds, with everyone else riding in the back. When we get to the place, he checks our US Drivers Licenses and gives us 5 mopeds. We all fiddle with the ignition and the gas, not really knowing how to get a moped started. The owner keeps asking if we know what we are doing, which we all quickly respond, “Yes, yes of course we do.” Unfortunately, he began to question if the girls could actually moped, and quickly took the bikes away from both Tiffany and Alice. Which meant, for the duration of the trip we would only have 3 mopeds, the rest of the group was given bicycles. We get over the initial disappoint with this turn of events, and set off to scrounge up some food. Tiffany and Grace spot a sign that says, “Vegetarian,” so we all head inside. We notice that the restaurant has 鹿肉燴飯 (deer meat over rice) and 鹿肉小龍包 (deer meat steamed soup dumplings). Everyone, besides the two vegetarians, orders all the deer meat they can. The meat turned out to be better than I expected, it was definitely gamey, but not as tasty as lamb for sure.

Deer Meat over Rice

Deer Meat Dumplings!

After lunch, we still have around a few hours or so to kill before we go snorkeling so we decide to practice moped-ing in what appears to be a circular track across from our hostel. Since I do not know how to ride a bike, Tiffany offered to teach me! It definitely was quite the adventure, as I hop on all shaky, and she holds the handlebars for me like a mom. I would start biking and roll into her each time, so I decided to venture off on my own, and started just trying to balance on the bike. After about ten minutes, I was shakily riding around the track! Afterwards, we realize we still had a little time left so Brian, Chris, Alice, and I decide to hop on the mopeds and explore the island a bit further.

Chris and Gloria on the moped

Initially we are told that it would take over an hour and a half to traverse the whole island, later we learn that we are able to make the entire loop in forty minutes. Our initial trip out, we make it down to the white, sandy beaches on the southern tip. All along the ride, I bust out my digital camera and try to take some shots of the beautiful scenery. All the plants are so lush and the beaches are all beautiful expanses of sand with the waves crashing against them. By this point we feel like we’re pretty far, and book it back to the hostel. We are greeted by our instructor and are all ready to go, except Daniel and Grace are missing! We find out that they have a flat tire down near the beach and the moped rental agency sends out someone to bring them back. We all meet up at the beach and head into the water. Our instructor has a string of life preservers tied together, which we hold onto to while snorkeling so that he could pull and guide us along the water. At first, the water was pretty shallow and we were only able to see small fish darting in and out of the rocks; however, the rocks suddenly drop off into a massive ocean floor. We are greeted by hundreds of fish swimming around in schools, some of my favorite being a black fish with a long protruding nose (which I now refer to as the Pinocchio fish) and a rainbow colored slender fish. The instructors would throw small pieces of bread throughout the water to attract the fish; it was pretty amusing seeing all the fish swarm the floating bits of bread. My one complaint about snorkeling was the amount of people all gathered in that one area. It seemed like there were 30 groups of people all converging on that one location and constantly bumping into each other. People would shout “塞車” (traffic jam) over and over as you were being bombarded by legs and arms of the millions of people around you. After what seemed like ten minutes, but was actually closer to 30 – 40 minutes, we come out of the water, change out of the wetsuits, and are back on the road for another adventure. The girls and the guys split up to go shopping and exploring around the island respectively. We first load up on drinks at the 7-11, each picking up two Super Supau, which then lead to the nickname of our moped gang: Super Supau Supercrew. The first spot we stop at is a local prison. Green Island used to be home to multiple prisons as it is an island off the coast of Taiwan, so basically the Taiwanese equivalent of Alcatraz. Since rain was starting to pour down, we make our way over to a gazebo like structure just beyond the outer walls of the prison, snap a few photos, and just wait out the storm.

Chris and I in front of the prison

After about ten minutes, the rain dies down and we head out. As we are leaving, the guards from inside the wall spot us and yell, “You’re not allowed to be there!” Apparently, this was still an active prison and we had gotten too close to the outer walls! With that comment ringing in our ears, we blast off into the beauty that is Green Island. All along the trip I am snapping photos from the back of the moped. We spot a gorgeous shot of some rock formations off the coast, and pull off to take some quick photos.

Super Supau Supercrew

Looking closer at the beach below, we notice the outline of people down below and see a path going down. All of us wanted to go down and explore further, but realized the time crunch we were in, as we had to be back by six for our BBQ dinner. We make a mental note to come back the following day and are on the road again, determined to make it around the island before dinner. Realizing we only have twenty more minutes, we vow to not make anymore stops and go straight back to the hostel….and then we see “Sleeping Beauty” a natural rock formation that resembles a sleeping girl.

Sleeping Beauty

We can’t pass this up, so we run down the “Little Great Wall” and take in the scenery while posing for some quick photos.

Little Great Wall

Green Island Coast

At this point, we hop on the mopeds and go full speed towards the pier and home.

Sunset!

Riding into the sunset!

Apparently, our time management skills are amazing as we pull into the restaurant right at 6. The girls come back with their haul of clothing from their shopping spree and we BBQ on the rooftop while watching the sunset over the water.

Chowing down on BBQ while watching the sunset

It turned out to be a pretty fun meal as we would throw everything on the grill and sauce them up like crazy, much like our first night during TTT orientation.

BBQ grill

That night we all went our separate ways and had numerous mini adventures: moped practicing while carrying a dog, meeting friends from Nauru, sharing lobster with locals, watching shooting stars, chatting in the rooms, and biking to Family Mart throughout the night for more drinks. The original plan is to not sleep at all and make our way over to the hot springs to watch the sunrise; however, everyone decides to sneak in a few hours of rest before then and pass out for about two hours. Our plan to wake up and leave by 4:30 so that we can shuttle everyone over to the hot springs does not happen, as we all pull ourselves out of bed at 5. At this point the sun is starting to rise and we make our first trips over to the hot springs. The boys start to shuttle people over in mopeds, while some of the girls start to make the bike ride over. This place is actually on the other side of Green Island, so it’s pretty impressive that the girls were riding over at 5AM in the morning. Eventually, all the girls leave their bikes by the side of the road as they get a ride on a moped for the last stretch. By the time we make it to the hot springs the sun is already peeking out, but is being covered by clouds. We end up enjoying the hot springs for a few hours and just people watching. All the girls take a lot of pictures of the scenery, them in the hot spring in every combination of people possible.

Boy band pic at the hot springs

As it starts getting later, the guys get start getting hungry and head back to the hostel for a bite to eat. We pig out 玉米農湯, 蘿蔔糕, and 煎餃. Then we hit up the 7-11 one more time to pick up some guava juice before we head out on our last trip around the island. We pick up Gloria, Alice, and Grace from the hot springs and drive around the island in the reverse direction.

3 man moped

Green Island in all its glory

Snapping pics on the moped

This time we made sure to save enough time to explore the rock formations, so we take the windy road down. The first thing we spot is a cave to our left, so we make our way over. On our way, we stop to climb up a rock formation to pose for some more shots and then go explore the cave.

Exploring the caves

By now, time is kind of tight so we gun it all the way back in order to make our ferry ride at noon. We return our keys, take back the bikes, and prepare ourselves mentally for the ferry ride from hell. This time around, the trip was so much better! Since there was no back area to lay down in, like our first boat ride, we end up going below deck into the bottom level. There are no windows here, so you can’t really see the waves crash against the boat and since we were all so exhausted, I pop in my iPod headphones and knock out for the next hour. Once we arrive back on the main island of Taiwan, we taxi ride over to the train station and hop on the next Express train to Taipei! Thus ending an epic weekend in Green Island!

A little piece of heaven in Chunan

•July 23, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This past weekend, a group of TTT interns decided to make the trip to 竹南 and learn how to surf. (Yeah, I had never heard of this city before either). But this turned out to be quite a weekend of amazing adventures, bonding with new friends, and partying with the locals.
After work on Friday, everyone leaving from Taipei was supposed to meet up at Taipei Main Station and head over to 竹南 together on the 7:20 train. I had looked up all the schedules made sure we were on the Express train and that everyone knew where to meet up. GUESS WHO WAS THE ONLY ONE TO MISS THE TRAIN? Well to be fair, I had a pretty amazing day at work as you can see from the previous post, but it was still sad to have to ride the 1.5 hour train ride alone…well what was supposed to be 1.5 hour.
At about the halfway point, the train just stays at a station. At first I don’t even notice because I popped in the headphones, found a corner to lean against and closed my eyes. After about ten minutes, I realized we were still at 鶯歌. I ask the lady next to me what the situation was, and she looks at me blankly, but the man next to her explains that there is some situation on the tracks between 桃園 and 鶯歌, and that we’re going to be stuck here until it gets cleared up. Great, so now I’m on the train that left 40 minutes after my friends, it’s not an express (which means it’s a longer ride by about 30 min), and now there’s a delay. I proceed to fall asleep, and end up grabbing a chair as the crowd thins out after each station. Once I sit down though, I immediately fall asleep. After who knows how long, I wake up and discover I am at a station I have never heard of. Luckily, I get my bearings together and realize I’m about a stop or two away from my destination, so I pack up and wait patiently. Once in 竹南, I call a cab and tell him where I want to go. He takes me down some narrow alley, through a shady tunnel, and drops me off in what appears to be a dark alleyway. Welcome to 假日之森 (aka SPOT). I immediately hear the loud roar of partying in the house right next to where I was standing. As I wander around in the darkness trying to find the source of the noise, a lady approaches and asks if I was staying there. I said I was with the group of people that had just arrived today, and right away she says, “let me bring you to the party!”
I literally had no expectations for the place we were staying, all I knew was we were going to a place I had never heard of and surfing. Daniel, the man planning this whole trip, even made a point of asking me if I was okay with sleeping in less that comfortable beds, which I said yes. But man, the place we stayed in was nice! It had two queen sized beds, two twins, and a futon that pulled out. It was a two-story house, fully furnished and decorated wall to wall with surfing memorabilia.
Back to the party, everyone is in the courtyard outside, singing, dancing, and having the time of their lives as they mingle with the locals and the two random white guys also staying at Spot. By the time I arrive, most of the beer is gone, and all that is left is rum. I grab a drink and start to catch up! I go outside and start chatting it up with the lady who brought me in, and the owner, Tony. Let me just take a moment here and say how much Tony Fish rocks! He was by far the most helpful and accommodating guy ever.
I turn my back and all of a sudden, Tony is bringing over another flat of beer for us to enjoy. This starts off another round of beer pong, GO BEARS! There was a lot of Berkeley cheering going on from Christine, Gloria, and I. (The two Cornell kids tried to chant too, but failed). Surprise of the night, Jackie is quite the sharp shooter at beer pong. There were so many funny moments that night: playing with a dog and a baby, when we all kept pounding on the bathroom door, wondering who had locked themselves inside and the sudden realization that all 7 of us were standing in the living room. Brian freaking out at Gloria curled up in a ball in the corner, then locking himself in one of the bedrooms. Eating delicious ramen at 2 in the morning. After all these hours of craziness, we all end up crashing on a bed and knocking out.
Christine and I wake up pretty early the next morning and see the mess we had made. We go downstairs and the floor is sticky, the paper towels we had thrown at the spilled beer had all disintegrated, there was a beer pong ball next to the toilet, and ramen boxes were everywhere. Chris wakes up shortly after and we end up relaxing in the bed and just chatting, while we wait for everyone else to wake up. Soon after, Kandy and Tiffany arrive and everyone gets up pretty quickly. At this point we are all starving and pretty dehydrated from all the alcohol we had consumed the night before. We remember that there was breakfast included in our package, so we go off and find Tony who directs us to the café at Spot. We order 9 meals and wait for the food to arrive. When he brings over the first three orders, the guys reluctantly hand it over to the girls at the table, who graciously allow the boys to eat the food first. Not waiting another moment, Brian, Chris and I devour the plates in front of us. I feel like by the time the next set of dishes came out, we were already done with our meals. We all wait around and relax while Jason Mraz blasts over the speakers, the perfect accompaniment to a beach trip. As people finish eating, the girls all don’t finish their meals and would periodically announce, I’m done you all can have the rest….and all four forks from the guys would shoot out to take whatever scraps were left! These meals were pretty fantastic, it had a salad, some hot dogs, salmon butter spread, toast, etc. After we had filled up, it was around noon, and we told Tony that we were ready to head out on the water for our surf lessons. He motioned to our server, a super toned Asian surfer named Xiaofan, and told us he would be our instructor. Daniel, Gloria, Jackie, Brian, and I all suited up (wet suits that is) and took our boards down to the beach.

Group Pic on the Beach

In our wetsuits with Xiaofan

Xiaofan and our two other instructors have us lay our boards on the sand and practice the three moves, swimming, propping ourselves up using our forearms, and standing up on the board. Throughout the lesson, Xiaofan explains positions that were more relaxing and what to do while waiting for waves…lesson being surfing is a lot of waiting and relaxing. Then he explained how to get rid of cramps by massaging your body. At this point we were all itching to get in the water so he had us swim out and then back to the shore. The waves must have been too much for Jackie, as she immediately starts feeling sick and returns to rest up in our room. The rest of us continue practicing the various positions and start to try and stand up on the board while our instructors pushed our boards to give us some speed. The non-swimmers in the group had placed bets on who they thought the first person to stand up would be, whether a small girl with a lower center of gravity or a more athletic guy. We all had varying levels of success, and by the end of the day we were able to get on the board a little more consistently. At one point Daniel, Gloria and I were riding side by side…until Gloria’s board got on top of mine and she lost her balance. After our lesson, we offered up our boards to the others so they could try surfing too and we also played with Tony’s paddle board, which looks like a surfboard that you use a paddle to move around with. We had a lot of fun with that board, and at one point even rode it like a canoe to get around. By this point it was getting pretty late, so we headed back to the room to shower up, as we pass the café, they asked if we were going to get lunch since it was included in our surf lessons, so of course we said a very enthusiastic yes! Being out on the water for so many hours really causes you to build up an appetite. After we eat and clean up, the boys venture off with Tony to pick up food for our BBQ that night, while the girls stay back and clean up the mess inside the house. It basically looked like a frat house the morning after a party. The guys all hop into Tony’s van and he drives us to a local fish market on the pier. I was immediately blown away by how much selection there was. There were buckets on the ground full of squid, shrimp, eel, and every fish imaginable. We make a quick pass and start forming a game plan in our heads. We decide to be adventurous and buy a swordfish; we point at the bucket marked 100 NTD ($3) and make a point of asking for the big one on top. The owner scratches his head, and we tell him again, please give us the one on top, to which he responds, the whole bucket of 9 swordfish is 100 NTD. This changes everything and we start to realize how affordable everything really is. Then something stops us dead in our tracks, we spot a hammerhead shark in its own bucket marked for 100 NTD. We toy with the idea and laugh about it, and finally decide that we all should try grilling the shark. We pick up some squid and piranha-like fish to round out our meal.

A sea of fishes for us to pick from...

Sunset at the pier

Next stop is the super market. After buying massive amounts of fish for around $10, we enter the super market where regular prices were used. We picked up BBQ sauce, some more drinks for the night, chicken, steak, and veggies for the girls. This trip turns out to be way more expensive than we thought, but all the stuff was necessary for a legendary BBQ.

Mini-shopping carts

The boys return victoriously from the shopping trip and begin to show off all our purchases: 40 beers and a hammerhead shark! While we wait to get the BBQ started, Chris, Daniel and I have an epic Jenga match with the loser having to shotgun a beer. This goes on for 15 minutes or so, with each person eliciting cheers based on school: Jackie and Daniel cheering for Cornell, Christine, Gloria, and I cheering for Cal, and the rest supporting Chris and UT Austin. Right as I feel like I’m about to lose, Chris knocks over the stack on his turn and takes his punishment.

JEEENGGA!!!

As it starts getting dark, we all move out into the open courtyard where Tony shows us to the grill. We load up the grill with charcoal and Brian tries to get them all lit. The funniest moment was Brian holding a hair dryer next to the coals to get them hot enough.

Hairdrying the flames

After the coals caught, we all start unloading the food and throwing it onto the fire. We start out with the piranha fish and some of the mixed vegetables. Tiffany finds a brush on the side and we load up everything with the BBQ sauce. At this point we start blasting music over the speakers and popping open some beers, the start of an amazing BBQ if you ask me. All the food turns out to be delicious, although the fish had a ton of bones you had to sift through. We all danced in the courtyard, making fools of ourselves, while munching on food hot off the grill. Towards the end, the locals, including our surfing instructors and Tony, came by and joined in on the fun. It made it a really fun kickback just having everyone lounging around and enjoying each other’s company. As the night gets later, the locals started busting out their beer and gaoliang too. Tiger offered me a shot of gaoliang from a small container with a cute tiger painted on it. The picture was so deceiving as it turned out to be super strong! We also decide it’s time to bust out the hammerhead shark. Not knowing what to do, we fillet it and then throw it on the fire adding some vegetable seasoning we had found in the kitchen. Daniel and Tiffany bring back some limes they scavenged and we squeeze them over the finished product. Not expecting very much from this meat, we all crowd around and each get a bite. Surprisingly the hammerhead shark was pretty good, it was juicy and a bit rubbery, but definitely better than originally anticipated. With such positive responses we get everyone partying with us to sample the shark and most are quite surprised by how tasty it turned out to be, so we throw some more fillets on the grill.

Legendary BBQ

Our grilled piranha fish!

The whole gang with Tony Fish

As the party outside starts to die down, we move back to our party shack and begin teaching our new friends the American game of beer pong. They all seem to be having a good time as everyone is either playing the game, chatting outside, or just moving to the music. At around 3 AM everyone calls it a night and falls asleep.
The next morning we all wake up rather late, Tiffany and Chris had slipped away early in the morning since they both had prior obligations. So the rest of us decided to take a swim in the water. Afterwards, we ate a quick breakfast and Daniel, Jackie and I rented a skimboard, while Brian went out surfing again. Skimboards are smaller than a surfboard and glide or skim across a thin layer of water, so right after a wave hits the shore is the perfect time to skimboard. Tony told us to go down to the beach first and he’d send an instructor shortly, so naturally Daniel and I tried to learn it on our on. He immediately throws it on the ground and it just sinks into the sand and stops….not a great start. After ten more minutes of trial and error, mostly falling on our butts, the instructor arrives. He shows us the correct positioning and how to throw the board so it coasts on top of the water. This was by far the most fun two hours as we kept trying to hang on and do tricks with these boards.

Skimboard gang

Xiaofan and his abs of steal

I go into the water and pull Brian over. Since he has his own skimboard at home, he shows us how it’s supposed to be done. That guy goes super far on a skimboard! By this time it is late afternoon, so the people heading back to Taipei pack up and head out, but not before signing the wall of the building with sharpies. We wanted to forever leave our mark at Spot! and thank them for such a wonderful weekend!

端午節

•July 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So for the first time in a long while, I was actually in Taiwan to celebrate one of the major holidays in Taiwan. The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the death of 屈原, a high ranking minister during the Warring States period of Chinese history. After falling out of favor with the King, he committed suicide in a local river. One of the stories goes that in an attempt to prevent the fishes from eating his body, the locals threw 粽子 so that the fishes would eat that rather than his body. This started the Chinese tradition of eating 粽子 on 端午節.
So to celebrate this year, I was fortunate enough to be able to catch the dragon boat races.

Dragonboat!

GO GO GO!

Even though the sky was a bit overcast, there were crowds of people watching supporting the various teams. The event lasted all weekend, so you could definitely get your fill of watching four of five teams racing to the finish. The Taipei government had also planned performances and set up food booths lining the area, so everyone could get some tasty Taiwanese street food as well.
Afterwards, we had a large family lunch at my Aunt and Uncle’s house where we ate homemade 粽子that my Aunt had made.

delcious home-made 粽子

We also drank some 雄黃酒, another Dragon Boat Festival tradition. It was a pretty amazing spread of food. It was also really nice to get the extended family all in one room. I saw so many relatives that I normally don’t get the chance to visit, since I am in the US.

淡水, 士林, and 師大 oh my

•June 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’m pretty glad I took pictures of my adventures, or there is no way I would be able to piece together what I have been doing these past few days.

Another day last week, I want to say Tuesday? I ventured out into 淡水, a part of Taipei that is right on the water. It is full of little food stands, carnival style games, and has a night market-like feel to it. It’s a ways out, the end of the line on the MRT, but definitely worth the trip.

I pretty much followed the water and explored a lot of the little shops. Scored a hat for 100NT. Later my dad asked me if I had bartered with the lady in the store, but I don’t really know how I would barter down from $3. That was already lower than the prices I had seen at other night markets, by about threefold.

I always tried to take some artsy shots of the landscape and some of the locals. Don’t really know if I succeeded, but these were some of the nicer ones from my time there.

Old man fishing in 淡水.

Lone bird on a boat.

And of course, I saw multiple stands selling stinky tofu, so how could I resist not getting some of this Taiwanese delicacy. To be honest, I haven’t found an amazing place to get stinky tofu yet, all the places I’ve been to, it’s only been alright. I am still on my quest for that epic piece of stinky tofu!

Stinky tofu, the Taiwanese treat!

At night, I went out into 士林 night market. It really brought me back to last summer when I lived 5 minutes away from here. I couldn’t help myself, so I ended up buying food from multiple stands, including 水煎包 (pan-fried buns) and 油飯 (sticky rice).

I had already been drained from the day, so I kind of halfheartedly explored the stores. I was looking for a watch, but wasn’t really in the mood to haggle, so I decided that I could wait until my trip to Shanghai.

Taipei 101

•June 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As you must have noticed, I have seriously fallen behind on writing in this blog.

Last week, I was able to meet up with one of my former Loveboat counselors, Evelyn. She was kind enough to take me to grab some food near her college, National Taiwan Normal University. We went to this new Italian place that had recently opened up, and afterward grabbed a frozen yogurt. Apparently, that craze has hit Taiwan as well.

Mango frozen yogurt with Evelyn!

Then, I spent the rest of my day visiting various sites around Taipei. I felt like I needed to make an obligatory stop to Taipei 101 and its surrounding department stores.

Taipei 101 in all its glory.

I stopped by the local Starbucks, hoping to use the gift card I had brought from America. Unfortunately, that was a no go. But on the plus side I did get to try their Black Sesame Green Tea Frappuccino, which was awesome. I’ve got to say, I am always a sucker for green tea flavored things. Another must have is the Green Tea McFlurry. American consumerism with an Asian twist, delicious.

Black Sesame Green Tea Frappuchino with 101 in the back

Since it was a rainy day (again!), I ducked into a local book store and read a little while waiting for dinner. My dad met me near an MRT station, and he took me to Skylark加州風洋食館. I always feel pretty conflicted being in Asia and getting “California-style” cuisine. but none-the-less this was not like anything I’ve ever tasted in California. I got a pumpkin soup, a sizzling plate of rice and chicken, and an apple crisp for dessert. It was good, but there’s just always something off about Taiwanese cooks doing “American” food, I think the flavors were just a bit more muted.

More Taiwan stories to come… By my estimate, I am about a week behind on this.

Taiwanese Clothes

•June 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

While wandering through Taipei the last few days, I finally bought my first few pieces of Taiwanese clothing. I always hold out at first, and then end up splurging on some items. My first purchase was a brown cap while I was in 淡水.

Last summer, I came back with a pretty awesome hat, so I was on the look out for another one to sport this summer. It comes in quite handy when my hair becomes too long or after a really bad hair cut. I just can’t seem to convey to them how I want my hair cut. They just keep staring at me, when I tell them I want it shorter.

My second item is a Pizza Cut Five t-shirt. I really wanted to get one last year, but I wasn’t willing to spend $30 on one, which doesn’t sound like much, but comparatively in Taiwan, it’s pretty dang expensive. This time, while I was in New York, New York, I noticed that the Pizza Cut Five section had some shirts on sale for 580NT ($18), still not great, but a lot more affordable.

Next time, I plan on hitting up the night markets and trying to score a wallet and a watch. Last time I went, I was too lazy to really haggle for better prices, so I ended up just pigging out on street food and sweets. More on that later….

Taiwanese photography and…more rain

•June 3, 2010 • 1 Comment

The past few days have been kind of a blur. But before I forget, mosquito bite count: 6. Just my luck that I always end up with one flying around my room at night when I’m defenseless.

Yesterday, my dad showed me around the Taoyuan train station. We grabbed a quick bite to eat of Singaporean food, something I’ve never tried before. The flavors were a little mild, but still good. Afterward, we went to my favorite donut shop in Taiwan, Mister Donut. I will sneak a picture next time I go in since you are technically not supposed to take pictures inside. I got a chocolate almond ring; AMAZING. Then, we came back and watched Invictus. I had heard mixed things about it, but I decided it was at the very least an entertaining sports movie.

On Sunday, my dad volunteers at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, so I went along and checked out the exhibits. We took the train into Taipei, so I could learn how to ride it on my own.

@ Taoyuan Train station

After getting off in Taipei, we stopped by a well-known dumpling shop for some pot stickers and dumplings.

鍋貼 (potstickers)

It was good, but the potstickers were a little on the bland side. Then off to the museum! All in all, they had some pretty interesting photo galleries in their permanent collection. There was an extensive photo gallery from aboriginal villages, Shanghai in the early 1900s, early Taiwan, etc.. The one I wish I could’ve taken a picture of was a billboard for Darlie Toothpaste (黑人牙膏). Except in the picture if clearly states the brand as Darkie Toothpaste, oh racist Chinese people. There were some really interesting semi-abstract paintings done in a blue, gray tone that I enjoyed.

Taipei Fine Arts Museum

After trying to be semi-cultured for the afternoon, I ventured off on my own again and decided to finally hit up 西門町. Just my luck, it started to rain again. But there were still a lot of people around since it was still the weekend. I played some more of the claw game, as you can see my collection is growing.

西門町

Claw Machine Army

Grabbed some snacks on the street and shopped a little. As I only had about 600NT ($20) in my pocket, I couldn’t really shop all that much, so I made some mental notes of things I might come back for later.

Although, more often than not I will have buyers remorse in Taiwan. I always have to remind myself, “Would you wear that in the US?” But sometimes the pricetag is just too tempting, When a t-shirt is less than $5, it’s hard to listen to that inner voice.

As the day came to an end, we headed back for the train station and back to Taoyuan. While waiting for the bus to go home, we bought some 嫩餅, which my dad explained as eggrolls that were not fried, but to me it looked more like a burrito. And then we came back to the apartment to rest.

嫩餅 (Unfried Eggroll?)

 
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