Friday, September 30, 2011

taipei continuation : maokong gondala

In Taipei near the zoo is the Maokong Gondola which has three stops. The cost depends on which stop you get off. We got off at the last stop, Maokong, and that cost $50 NT one way. You can use your Easy Card (Taipei's metro card) to pay. We didn't wait in line but there were people waiting. They were apparently waiting for the Crystal Gondola experience which is a gondola with a glass bottom. I didn't know about that or I would totally have waited, maybe not I'm not very patient. I'm not sure if they have to pay more but if it costs the same I would totally do it again just to push how afraid of heights I could be. This gondola actually reminds of the one I rode in Hong Kong except I don't know why but I felt like I was so much higher in this one.

gondola super high above the mountains
I think the best time to go on this gondola ride is around 4-5pm just because there is still daylight so you can enjoy the view and also see the sun set! After spending a couple hours up in Maokong you can also get the night view. Both are amazing.

Doesn't it look like I'm parallel to the sun?!? So freaking awesome. I definitely recommend doing this if you are visiting Taipei. So Maokong means either "cat's hollows" or "no cat" in Chinese. It was originally named "niao kang" in the local Taiwanese dialect and became the "maokong" that is used today. The name comes from the fact that the rocks in the stream beds were of varying hardness and so over time the water eroded certain areas of the rocks so that they have holes in them. The appearance of the holes looks like cat scratches or paw prints or something. I didn't actually walk all the way to the area so didn't get to see this. Bummer. I actually didn't know there was so much stuff to see in this area until I got the area brochure after leaving. Maokong is known for tea drinking so of course we had to do some of that!

all the things you need to drink tea minus the tea leaves..
So I don't know if you can see the cups nestled next to the yellow napkin packet but right next to the cups are two smaller cups. Those cups can seriously just fit your thumb finger and is so that you can pour a little tea into it just to savor the smell of it. Apparently the first batch of tea is emptied and used for smell in case the tea leaves aren't clean. A small ass container of Four Seasons Tea cost us $300 NT. So the proper way to drink tea is to use a clay pot because it enhances the flavor of the tea. How will I ever go back to drinking tea in Chinese restaurants?? Maokong is going to make me into an even more snobby tea drinker :P So put the tea leaves into the small little clay pot which literally only held like 2 small itty cups of tea... After steeping the tea for 1 minute you pour the tea into the clay pitcher that has the silver strainer on top of it. This is so that you can get more flavor and use of the tea leaves if its not constantly in water while you're drinking. Honestly I was so thirsty at this point having ran out of water a long time ago and not being able to find a milk tea shop to fulfill my thirst that for the first six cups of tea I just chugged it down like some uncultured tea drinker. After I finally stopped being so thirsty I sat down and enjoyed the delicious tea to awesome views such as this one...

can you see taipei 101 all the way in the distance??
buddha temple!
The first buddhist temple I've entered since I've been here. Can you see how different the architecture is from the other temples I've been to? I knew this was Buddhist because there was a giant Buddha altar! The door in the center is apparently only for gods to enter and that is why it is blocked and we can only enter through the side doors. Nice to know. Good thing I didn't try to step over the blockade.

fountain show!
There was a fountain show rght next to the gondola building in Taipei. The show occurred every half hour and I totally waited because I missed the magic fountain show in Spain and totally regret it. The show lasted for 15 minutes and the play of water and music went along together very beautifully.

Monday, September 26, 2011

a day in taipei!!

What are potstickers? Potstickers are potstickers! I was thinking how different can potstickers be from the ones I've had at home. Boy was I wrong...

potstickers and soymilk
Potstickers are skinny here! Not at all like the round ones I've made and eaten at home. The darker colored one contains korean flavored meat. The potsticker didn't actually taste like korean bbq meat but was very yummy and spicy. The less dark one is just pork meat and wasn't that great. Always drinking soy milk with every meal. I still think the soy milk could be sweeter.

Took a bus from Hsinchu to Taipei. We got the student price so a one way ticket cost $105 NT. The first stop is the Hsing Tian Temple which is devoted to Guan Yu.

Hsing Tian Temple aka Xingtian Temple
Guan Yu is depicted as a red-faced bushy black beard general. Apparently his stories are passed down in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. If you're Asian enough you should know this story! There were a lot of people there waiting in line for "monks" that would sweep sticks of incense all around the person's body to cleanse the person's body.

Outside the temple there is an underground passage filled with fortune-tellers. I didn't go down since I didn't shake the sticks and didn't really want my future be told again. Did that in Hong Kong and looked where that turned out...

Being a super tourist I had to hit up all the touristy spots. The next place to visit was the National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. This place was super boring and its actually like a bunch of galleries and auditoriums and stuff. I only went to see the the bronze statue of Sun Yat-sen. Outside the building there were a whole bunch of dance crews or just students hanging out and practicing their dancing which was kinda cool.

sun yat-sen statue
Doesn't this statue remind you of another famous one in America? Right in front of this statue was a honor guard that stands immobile. They change every hour but this place was so boring I left as soon as I took a picture. One great thing about the location of this place is the amazing view it has of the Taipei 101.

taipei 101
The Taipei 101 building is the second tallest building in the world. I didn't have a chance to check out the building or the view from the observation view. I will try to do it next time. The next stop was Liberty Square which contains the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, National Theater, National Concert Hall, and the Liberty Square Main Gate.

National Theater, Main Gate and the National Concert Hall
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Inside it there was another giant statue with an honor guard. One of the guards was standing in the sun and he was sweating badly. I felt so bad for them because they didn't have any air conditioning unlike the honor guard in the other memorial hall.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

food and fruits of Taiwan

So being in Taiwan I have the chance to eat some local fruits that I haven't even seen in America unless its in a drink form.

passion fruit
This ugly looking thing is the delicious passion fruit. When I first saw this I was just like what the heck could it be. It looks like a monster's mouth filled with slime. Even though this looks pretty revolting it actually tastes like passion fruit green tea tapioca! Haha.

buddha's head
This weird looking fruit is called the buddha's head. When I got this I thought someone was trying to make me eat a rotten piece of fruit. The outside is a moldy green and when you poke it the sides deflate like its rotten... I seriously thought it was a nasty prank. Apparently that's just how the fruit is. Then I was like this thing is split open and everyone was telling me "oh you can eat it now." Em I'm not sure about anyone else but when there's a hole or the fruit is split open you don't eat it because it implies that a bug or some insect was in it or that its dirty and has been exposed to the elements. Being split open for a buddha's head means its time to eat it? Ok Taiwan peoples. The fruit is pretty delicious. I can't describe how it tases like but each white wedge has a big black seed. You're suppose to tear off a huge chunk and suck out the white wedges and then spit out the seeds. I just stuck my fingers into it and riped out the meaty chunks with my hands. Classy I know.

pudding in syrup and sweet tofu
Near my apartment is a place that sells "desserts." I got the sweet tofu or dòufu huā which tasted like the stuff I have in America. What makes it "Taiwan" is the addition of taro and yam cubes which are yummy. The pudding I think was mango flavored in some sugar syrup. The syrup had a taste of chocolate in it. Mine was definitely better.

lǔròu fàn (fatty pork on rice) with tofu and century egg
The fatty pork was delicious and is a typical Taiwanese dish. I don't know why it has to be fatty pork instead of just regular normal pork. I guess if it wasn't fatty it wouldn't be so delicious. The tofu is covered in dried shredded pork. I don't like tofu unless its the sweet kind so that was whatever to me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

clubbing in taiwan!!

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of my first clubbing event in Taiwan because I didn't want to carry me camera around with me. Since I was going with co-workers and in Taiwan and I didn't bring clubbing clothes with me, I dressed dressy casual instead of skanky skank. Well forget the conservative image of Asians because girls going to the club were wearing super skanky dresses. I felt overdressed. Haha. Eamon wore shorts and he couldn't get into the club. So we had to wait for him while Chad went home and got him some pants. Haha. The club was playing some awesome music. Lots of old pop music and Lady Gaga. If only clubs in America played this kind of music. We partied until 4am! There was a boxing ring in the middle of the dance floor and since the theme of the night was boxing night, the djs would randomly stop the music so that volunteers could box each other. I thought that was so weird and I just wanted the music to start up again. In Taiwan the police apparently go into clubs and check ids. This happened twice, the music stops and the ugly lights are turned on and they stop selling drinks. Every time the police came to check ids it would take like 30-40 minutes before the dancing could resume. This was super annoying. Good thing my id wasn't checked. They don't check foreigners. Haha. Although I do look like a local but one of the teachers is a whitie. She was very popular with the locals. People kept taking pictures with her. Also foreigners got in for free! Awesome I had to bring my passport. So annoying. I remembered those days from college when my drivers license expired and I had to cart my passport everywhere and made Matt carry it in his pocket. My passport would be damp when I got it back..

Anyways back to the clubbing. Most of the locals weren't even dancing. They just sat there smoking and drinking. I hate the fact that they can smoke in the club. My hair smelled like smoke afterwards and even after I showered the smell was still there! I don't get why the girls dressed all sexy just to sit in the booths. Americans could totally show the Asians a thing or two about how to dance skanky. I saw a "lapdance" where the girl was literally just bouncing up and down on the guy. Haha. Also their version of "grinding" involves a lot of space between the bodies. Oh American friends if you came with me to the clubs I'm sure we would put on quite a show! 

mid-autumn festival in taiwan

Of course I didn't just eat wonton soup and dumplings for the moon festival. I checked out the Hsinchu Du Cheng Huang Temple also known as the City God Temple. Right outside the temple is also a lot of food stalls. This is where while lining up for food I saw a super tall Asian. I came up to his shoulder and I said something along the lines of wow so tall in Cantonese with a "Mandarin" accent. He turns around and talks to me in Cantonese! Haha. He was in Taiwan for school and I told him I was there to teach. Pretty cool. Is this way to meet guys in Taiwan?

The temple has the elaborate carvings I've seen on Hakka temples and belongs to the Tao religion. I've been wondering why I haven't seen any statues of the Buddha or whatever in the temples I've been visiting and now I know why. That and I've never seen such elaborate roofs on temples I've seen in China. It's a whole different religion. I'm wondering if Hakka temples and Tao temples celebrate the same beliefs since the temples have the same elaborate roof carvings and are also brightly painted.

This deity is the one couples pray to I think. Right next to it was a bulletin board with all these marriage photos. I threw those red half moon pieces in front of this guy and my wish didn't come true. No boyfriend for the foreseeable future. Thanks a lot deity!

There was this box full of red string bracelets next to the deity. I wanted to get one but SOMEONE stopped me! I have no idea why I can't get one. I will ask. Maybe this is only for couples or for someone whose wish gets granted when you throw those red piece. Can I say couple-ism?!?!

The lighted structure on the right hand side is the East Gate. Hsinchu used to be surrounded by a wall and a moat with 8 gates. The Japanese destroyed all the gates but this one. It now sits at a very busy intersection. There are tunnels below the street that leads to the center or you can do what we did and run across the busy intersection when there was a pause in the traffic. I didn't know that all the watered areas around the area was part of the moat. I just thought it was part of a park or something. It was too dark to take really good pictures but it was very picturesque. I think there are like fishes or something living there because I would see the water ripple all of a sudden.

the star of the show!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

moon festival!

The moon festival or better known as the Mid-Autumn festival only remains in my mind because of the moon cakes people are always talking about eating. I've never liked moon cakes so it has always been a meh holiday for me. Especially since the past 5 years I haven't been home to celebrate with my family. I don't actually recall looking at the moon during this time at all. The Mid-Autumn festival is a big deal here in Taiwan. The Mid-Autumn Festival fell on Sept. 12th this year and so I didn't have to work on Monday because of it! I love the fact that being in Asia I get to celebrate and have days off for Asian holidays rather than trying to cram it around school and work.

So the story associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival revolves around Houyi and Chang'e, the Moon Goddess of Immortality. I'm not sure if people have ever heard the story where there was a time when there were ten suns in the sky causing things on Earth to die. Well Houyi was the archer who shot down all the suns but for one of them. He was rewarded with a pill of immortality that he hid in his house. His wife Chang'e found it and swallowed the pill and flew up to the moon where she lives to this day. The story goes that once a year, on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Houyi visits Chang'e on the moon. This is why the moon is so full and beautiful on this night.

I know in Chinatown during this holiday there are street fairs and games but in Taiwan people celebrate by spending time with their family and having barbeques on the street. Their barbeques are different in that they don't have elaborate barbeque grills or anything just a place to hold some coal and a mesh surface to hold the food up over it. After every store closed for the night I would see all the employees hold a barbeque right in front on the street.

who says you need a bbq grill to bbq?
Since I got not family to bbq with I went to eat some wonton noodle soup with some dumplings.
wenchou wonton noodle soup
a side of dumplings
10 dumplings for $8NT!! So cheap but I think there was like a minimum order of like $100NT or something or I would definitely just order like 20 dumplings and be full for less than a dollar USD!

condiment station
In every restaurant I've eaten in, in Taiwan, condiments are located at a different table. This includes eating utensils too. Not only that but there are no napkin dispensers at tables. Instead napkin dispensers are attached to different locations around the restaurant on the wall. So you literally have to walk around in order to eat your meal or to clean yourself up. How smart to make it so that I can't just be fat and lazy and have to move around just so I can eat my meal. This also includes refills on drinks. If there are waiters or waitresses they will only bring you the first cup of water or beverage. Afterwards if drinks do have refills like free water you would need to go to the condiment station to get your own. In the beginning when my cup was empty, I was wondering why they weren't bringing me my refills. Now I know. No tips = service yourself. Haha

Monday, September 19, 2011

teaching english in jhudong / zhudong

I've never really talked about my job which actually takes up 40+ hours of my time a week so I thought since I'm at work on break I might as well take the time to update everyone on how it all goes down. Not only have I never thought I would be a teacher but I felt bad for my teachers when I saw how crappy their jobs were. Haha I'm sure none of my friends looked at me and was thinking teaching material for sure.

Anyways here at my school I teach a range of students aging from like 7-8 years old to 14-16 year olds. The age doesn't necessarily correspond with their level of English. I like to be in control so I was totally thinking I would be one of those strict ass teachers that just has everyone listening to me because really I can't stand disobedience and observing the previous teacher and how the students were acting all crazy and not listening to her was something I couldn't stand. But you know me I loved to be liked. Haha. So I really didn't think I could find a combination of both where I was in control and still liked. But according to my principal when she observed my classes I manage to do this. Of course when shes observing me I felt like my class was freaking out of control and was making me look bad and that I was going to get fired for my incompetence.

I teach mainly younger kids, a whole bunch of my classes are new so they are fairly young. The constant need to be energetic is draining me. This coming from someone who is always freaking bouncing around and people ask me if I'm high or taking drugs. No doubt about it teaching English to students who don't even understand the basics is difficult but I'm actually having more fun than not. In Taiwan I'm allowed to say stuff like "Teacher is going to kiss you if you're bad!" Can you imagine that happening in America? I would be sued and labeled a pedophile for sure.

 I just finished teaching a class full of trouble makers who constantly speak Chinese and won't listen to my every word. It gets super frustrating and I just want to swear the whole time. Sure the kids are super adorable but really that adorableness only carries so far when you have a lesson plan you need to go through and they are distracting the other kids. Surprisingly I don't swear around the kids and everyone was so worried that my constant swearage would carry over to my classroom. I think it helps because honestly I say the same English words over and over because they can't carry a conversation so when can I inject swear words?

With my older kids its all about trying to get them to participate and not be such butt heads. I hear comments like "Teacher you are so crazy" or "Teacher you are so fat!" Kids I just love them... It's good to know that I'm not the fattest thing around in Taiwan or their comments would really hurt. But really besides my butt I'm losing fat everywhere. Say good-bye to what boobs I did have because that is going away. In a perfect world the fat would disappear from where I would want it to or go to the right places. With the older kids I think it really helps that I'm Chinese and I can understand their culture and know what its like to be Asian and celebrating Asian holidays and traditions. A lot of times I use that to relate to them and have little mini discussions which I think is harder to do if you have no understanding of Asian culture. I told my principal that I thought I wouldn't be able to make the kids participate and she said that she believed in me because I got the quietest guy at work to talk and if I could do that I could handle any kid. Haha. It's true as I was telling my friends I must be a quiet guy whisperer!

In a nutshell I'm actually having a really great time teaching here. I didn't think I would do a good job since I never had any experience besides tutoring which is not at all the same. This job made me realize that multitasking with 10+ kids is super freaking hard and that I can't juggle as much as I thought I could. It also made me realize that I do have a knack with kids. Kids might say they only like me "so-so" but honestly I'm the bomb and they know it. Haha. Here's to hoping that my whole time here in Taiwan is just like this!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

more yum yums in my tummy!

Time for some more Asian snacks from Taiwan!!

Nothing too distinctive about these chips. The garlic potato crackers were barely garlicky. Disappointment. Char Grilled Ribs flavor didn't taste like ribs more like a weird version of bbq flavor.

I bought this soda ice bar popsicle because I liked the fact that it was blue. It tasted pretty good but I believe its just regular sugar flavoring since I can't seem to figure out what soda it could possibly be.

Damask rose tea. This drink felt like I was drinking rose petals. Very delicious! Makes me wonder if eating rose petals would be so delicious. That's my purple helmet in the background. Even if people don't own scooters, they still have helmets. People would always ask me if I had a helmet even if I don't have a scooter. I thought this was strange until I realize a lot of people don't carry extra helmets with them and since it's required by law its good to have one when you are riding on the back of other peoples scooters.

Pringles are thick here. This flavor isn't very spicy at all. I miss hot cheetohs... The cans are also smaller here. When I notice things like this I realize I'm so American. I want everything to be super huge and humongous!

Taiwan pancakes! I really hate breakfast type foods. Never been a fan of pancakes or eggs. Taiwan pancakes are more to my liking, a thin shell with filling. I got a pancake filled with mushrooms and ham with hoi-sen sauce. Accompanying this meal is a cup of soy milk. This soy milk was more delicious than the one I had last time that left a nasty after taste.

a day in zhudong or jhudong

After lunch I was forced to hike amongst the trees near the Zhudong school campus. I remember I was too afraid to go near it because all the cicadas were making such a loud noise that I got freaked out. Up in the hills there was a cute little swing!

a swing perfect for two!
awesome view
The temple in Zhudong was celebrating its 200 year anniversary so there was a lot of activities going on to celebrate it. Religious ceremonies and Chinese opera.

the robes are so colorful!
At one point I think they threw money out into the audience and all you see were old people bending over trying to pick up the one dollar coins.

chinese opera in front of the temple
In celebration of the temple anniversary, red lanterns were strung throughout the city. The audience was full of old people. When we entered everyone stared at us, maybe cause of our youth?

mango shaved ice!
I had another chance to eat shaved ice. This one is actually shaved ice but tasted way better because of all the mango chunks. In addition to mango, there is also condensed milk and mango pudding. This shaved ice was good but still not as good as the one in LA.

winter melon tea with lemon
So the Zhudong campus school serves a lot winter melon soup during lunch times. I've had winter melon soup at home of course but Eamon mentioned that there is also a winter melon tea. This comes from a chain that specialized in teas and such but my cup had way too much lemon so I could barely taste how winter melon tea is suppose to taste like. Apparently its good for your health. I would never have ordered it on my own since I can't read Chinese.

grass jelly
So I've had grass jelly in America and its usually eaten with rock sugar syrup. Taiwan grass jelly is way more fancy than I've ever seen it. This version has condensed milk, taro and yam cubs, and some flavored ice. This was really yummy and yay again to new things!

This whole time I was speaking English and I just realize how the whities in Taiwan must feel when people stare at them. People kept giving me looks and it was cool in the beginning but after awhile it got seriously annoying.

I found some new flavors of Hi-Chews! The peach flavor is good and the orange soda one just tasted like orange flavor. The local Taiwan flavor is the candy version of the candied strawberries I had at the night market. It was pretty good but not more awesome than like the kiwi or lychee flavors.

zhudong night market!!

Had lunch with a teacher who helped me find my apartment and treated him to coffee. I ordered a panini and it wasn't what I expected.

i got mushrooms and ham or something

I went to the night market in Zhudong again. This time I finally managed to walk the whole length of it. Went with a friend and so we split a lot of the food, this allowed me to try a whole bunch of different stuff without spending a lot of money! Yay!

coffin bread
Coffin bread is similar to bread bowls and mine was filled with curry chicken. It was ok but was too filling so I only ate a couple of bites. I needa leave my stomach empty for other great eats!

eggs on a stick!
 Me: What kind of eggs are they?  Friend: Bird eggs! Me: Most eggs come from a bird! What bird is it?? Friend: I don't know Me: You're so helpful...

So this wasn't anything special, just like fried eggs on a stick but mini sized.

fruit juice with real chunks of fruit
small sausage wrapped in big sausage
This one consisted of a grilled sweet pork sausage wrapped in a grilled sticky rice sausage. I did not like this one at all. I'm not a big fan of sausage in the first place but a sweet sausage?? No thanks and the rice and sausage combo was not good. 

candied strawberries or tanghulu

So remember those nasty hi-chews that I had before. Well these are better than the real versions of that hi-chew candy. The strawberries are encased in this red syrup that is really sweet. This stick cost me like $50 NT. I played the ring tossing game while trying to eat this at the same time. Haha. The ring tossing game is where you try to throw rings around items and if you throw it around an item you get it as a prize. Neither my friend or I managed to get anything, though we did get super close to it. Fail!

soy milk
Awww look two straw in a cup. How romantic. Haha. Not really. Anyways this soy milk was fucking nasty. After I drank it, it left a nasty taste in my mouth and then I got a stomachache. Not as good as the vitasoy kind thats for sure. Actually nothing can beat the soy milk my old roomie Jacqui use to make fresh for me. Those were the good days and the best soy milk I've ever had!

continuation of the shaved snow hunt...

I'm still trying to find shaved snow as good as the one I had in Los Angeles. This time it was actually shaved snow and not shaved ice. Since I went to get it so late there was no more fruit so it was just flavored shaved snow.

I got the mango flavored one. It was tasty but without the fruit I can't judge how much more awesome it could have been. The LA one is still better I'm sad to say.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

mosquitoes here are way more lethal...

So I've been bitching about my mosquito bites for awhile now. People told me I have an allergic reaction to them since my bites were so swollen. I've never had such swollen bumps from mosquito bites before but apparently mosquitoes in Taiwan are crazy.

These bites are so sexy! The swelling is gone now but I have scabs all over my arms from the healing of the bites. I seriously have never scabbed before from mosquito bites. Either that or I've never seen them since bites usually occurred on my butt. Haha.