Monday, October 31, 2011

fruits from the exotic land of taiwan

My sis was clamoring to try some "exotic" fruit while in Taiwan, stuff that she couldn't get while in America or the Netherlands. When we went to the night market in Zhudong, she bought some fruit from a vendor that cost a lot. It was like $200 NT for like two pieces of fruit. Ripped off much??? She left it out for a couple of days and this was the result...

cherimoya or buddha's head
Thanks to Oliva for telling me that the buddha's head is also called a cherimoya. However when I looked up pictures of cherimoyas very few actually looked like the kind in Taiwan so not sure if its accurate. So this Buddha's Head was so ripe that it basically bursted apart and was so soggy that it fell apart in the bag. I told my sister to try it even though I didn't think it would taste good because who knows how long it was open for and I also didn't want her to waste her money. She tried it and didn't like it. Haha. I swear its actually not bad, I guess you just have to catch it at the right moment of ripeness.

pitaya or dragon fruit
This fruit is more commonly known as dragon fruit. There are different types with different coloring. The one we have, red meat and red skin, is the Costa Rica pitaya. The taste was very bland very different from what I expected with its bright coloring. So bland that after a bite we threw it away. Not sure if it was too ripe since it had some liquidy parts in it...

Bought some bags of chips created by 7-11 with some Gummy candy. The garlic steak potato chips were yummy but I didn't taste the garlic flavor. The chips tasted more like pepper chips than anything, maybe that was the steak portion of the chip flavor. The plum flavored potato chips were nasty. The first couple ones tasted a little sourish. After you eat a lot more in one go the chips start tasting like ketchup, sweet and soury. I would not recommend this to anyone. Aren't chips suppose to be salty? I did not get that at all from this bag. At least I tried a flavor that I wouldn't have found in America. The Gummy choco ball is some flavored gummy wrapped in chocolate. Don't recall the flavor of gummy but the white chocolate gummy is more delicious.

Did you know that to call the police in Taiwan you dial 119?? That's mighty similar to ours in America isn't it? Also the only english language radio station here is FM 100.1.

hsinchu and zhudong x2

I regret telling my sister about eating really awesome shanghai dumplings at Din Tai Fung because then she kept insisting that we go. Her second weekend here I brought her to check out downtown Hsinchu and to eat at Din Tai Fung. The first time I was there, Yvette brought us there and I had thought that it was located in the basement of SOGO mall which is right next to the train station, just like all the other Din Tai Fungs we saw in Taipei. However it wasn't there and we had no idea how to find it after walking all around the East Gate shopping area. This day there were students everywhere selling flowers for a charity. We finally bought a rose from one of the students as a way to find directions to the restaurant. They didn't give us accurate directions but the fact that we had a rose already prevented other students from pestering us. One rose for $100 NT. Better have been a good cause. We were anxious to reach Din Tai Fung because my sister had arranged to meet a couchsurfer there for lunch. Well we finally got a map from a hotel and she told us where to go. Good thing I'm good at reading maps even if the streets are in Chinese. We finally arrived at the restaurant but we didn't see the person we were suppose to meet. We were an hour late and thought that the couchsurfer left. Turns out he overslept and stood us up!

instructions for how to eat a xiaolongbao
We ordered a steamer basket of pork xiaolongbao. One basket consists of 10 dumplings and cost $190 NT! Super expensive. If you want pictures of the dumplings you can check out pics from my previous post. Since that wouldn't be enough my sister also ordered a bowl of noodles.

fatty pork noodles
I honestly stick to the fact that besides the xiaolongbao everything else I've tried isn't good. The noodles were really bland. Fatty pork on rice is much more delicious.

I'm not sure if anyone remembers when I first visited the Hsinchu City God Temple where I showed a statue of an old man and believed that this was the one couples prayed to for love. Well I brought my sister to see this statue so that she could pray to protect her love. Haha. Her first try at throwing those red half moon pieces gave a disastrous result so she threw it again and her wish was granted.

sister's wish is granted
The statue is of Yuo Lao, or the old man under the moon and supposedly if your wish is granted it meant that you would find your match. The story of Yuo Lao goes like this. During the Tang Dynasty, a young man called Wei Gu was walking near the city of Song and saw an old man reading a book in the moonlight. Wei Gu asked the old man what he was reading and he stated that he was reading the book of marriages and it was his duty to tie a red cord between husband and wife. Wei Gu asked to see who his future wife was and was shown an old woman carrying a three year old girl. Wei Gu, not believing, asked his servant to kill the little girl. Years later, a high official gave his daughter in marriage to Wei Gu. The woman was very beautiful except for a little scar between her eyebrows. When Wei Gu inquired about the scar she told him that she was stabbed long ago by a man near the city of Song.

So since my sister got her wish granted she took a piece of red string. I'm not sure what you are suppose to do with the red string but I guess it symbolizes that she will find her match in life. Well I tried wishing this a couple times and it didn't work. Yuo Lao obviously realizes I have no plans to marry and therefore no match for me. Sorry mother but the gods have destined me not to be able to fulfill your wishes of me being a dutiful woman.

passionfruit slush
I finally ordered a drink besides pearl milk tea. The passionfruit slush includes the seeds and it was annoying to have to spit them out everytime I sucked one up in my straw. Apparently you're suppose to chew and swallow them. The seeds made this drink look super creepy like there was frog eggs floating in my drink.

Then we headed over to the East Gate where we saw a lot of students dancing there.

dancing at east gate
The boys at the bottom of the picture were krumping! It was cool to see them krumping and getting into each other's face. We sat there and watched them and soon many people followed suit and sat down to watch too.

Later we headed over to the Zhudong night market to grab some grub. I really like this night market because it's big enough to have a variety of stalls but also not super crowded like the ones in Taipei.

steak over noodles with egg
 Most stalls don't have any seats since you're suppose to just take it to go. However there were a couple of stalls that sold this "steak" exclusively. All the stalls that sold this had their seats filled to capacity. We had to hover near people who were done in order to jack their seats once they got up. This meal was super delicious. I loved the sauce! My sister was talking about this meal for days afterwards and I'm sure she considers this the best dish she had while in Taiwan. I hadn't planned to eat such a filling meal while here because I'm a firm believer that at night markets we should buy a whole bunch of small eats to try everything we can. So I just managed to stop at one other food stall...

indian food!!
There was a stall that had indian food! I was so excited to see something else besides Chinese food that I had to make a stop at this stall especially since this is the first time I've seen it here in Zhudong. The only bad thing about this stall is that it only has samosas and nann and no actual curry. The white circular thing on the table is my nann. They spread it over a stone or something and place it in the "oven" the thing with the lid over it. I ordered a garlic nann and it was pretty flavorful. Definitely will try the samosas next time.

garlic nann

Saturday, October 29, 2011

clubbing with my sister

After the awesome time I had clubbing the first time I went, my sister really wanted to experience it too. One of my co-workers birthdays passed and so we celebrated at P.L.U.R in Hsinchu which is the same place I went to last time. P.L.U.R stands for peace, love, unity, and respect. So cheesy. This club is free for foreigners and thankfully too because this night was not as fun as the first time I was there. How fun the club is really depends on the music being played and at this club it depends on what theme night is occurring. A lot of people had glow in the dark face paint and glow in the dark clothes on. I had no idea what the theme was but there was a lot of house music being played. I was not feeling at all and randomly they would play one pop song instead of distorting it with a techno beat. Like the previous time I went where they had peoples boxing there was also a show at this one. This is how I found out that the theme was Tron like the movie and hence all that house music made sense.

tron "fighters"
This boy and girl duo was doing fighting stances with light sabers and light fans. They also had another performance at the bar area...

fire show
One of the bartenders was flipping and juggling lit bottles of alcohol and this was the show clincher. I love all the performances that happen during clubbing time. Sorry for the bad quality of the photos, they are image captures from videos I took in the club.

My sister and I weren't enjoying the music at all. The couple of times they played some top 40's we would dance. All the dancing was inhibited by the fact that my eyes were constantly watering. I was rubbing my eye every couple of seconds because of the combination of smoke and dry eyes. It was horrible and we didn't stay all that late. Although I didn't get my booty shake on (well all that much) we did the dance I like to call "give me a little space bitches" where we basically went crazy with our arms flailing it every which way to create a circle around us. It was fun just dancing crazy and have people look at us. We blend in physically but dance wise we stand out!

Right outside of the club we were taxi jacked by a bunch of men. Not seeing a taxi and being super hungry we remembered spotting a McDonalds down the road so we walked there. The best thing about not having to be super dressy is that we could wear low maintenance shoes which made all the walking possible. I discovered that the club wasn't very far from downtown Hsinchu at all. Thankfully McDonalds here are all 24 hours and this was the first time I've been in one since I've been in Taiwan. They didn't speak and English and large fries are so small here. In the case of fries, larger is always better!

Friday, October 28, 2011

chiang kai-shek shilin residence

My sister really wanted to buy some candy to bring back as souvenirs and I remember spotting a place near the Shilin MRT stop. The candy store's name is called Sophisca and apparently is a candy store chain that's everywhere.

If you look closely you can see candy thats packed in condom boxes, pads, chinese medicine, syringes, bras, panties, etc. Not only is the packaging unique, the candy is shaped like that too...

Can you see all the different shaped chocolates? I bought one of every dirty shaped chocolate because I like the gimmick. Haha. The chocolates itself taste funky. I wouldn't buy them again but the brightly colored gummies are yummy and it was nice to find a shop that sold candy. The sad is I haven't found candy stores that sell by the pound. I really want some unique candies but most everything I've seen are from somewhere else like America or Japan. Since we were already at the Shilin station I told my sister we should check out a touristy location and so walked over to Chiang Kai-Shek's Shilin Residence. The place was super big and its free! I like how most everything that is touristy is free in Taiwan. We didn't really go around that much since we had to leave for Hsinchu today and had limited time. I didn't really take any interesting pictures at this place because the one place I wanted to see which is the actual house itself was gated off. I think its only open to the public at certain times but I can't read Chinese so who knows.

me and evo in front of some random fish statues
We spent most of the time trying to find Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing chain, while in Taipei. We kept passing by people who had their shopping bags and we knew it was located in a SOGO. We ended up going to the wrong SOGO and had to trek all over the place just to reach it. When we got there, there was so many people because today was 10-10-100 and apparently October 10th is like Black Friday in America. Lots of things were on sale. At Uniqlo things were pricy even on sale and the stuff they had was not pretty. They had a whole bunch of winter coats and plain t-shirts. Totally my style if it didn't cost so much for just a t-shirt. We felt those poster ads they had everywhere lied to us since they were pictures of people wearing brightly colored stuff and all I saw in the store was white, cream, grey, or black clothing. One good thing was that we found this little vendor who sold what I believed is called Lollypop Ice from an ice-cream chest.

my sister modeling the lollypop ice
Lollypop ices are thicker than ice cream and super creamy. We got the mango flavor. When we finished eating it we immediately wanted another one. Too bad we had walked too far from the mall but we seriously considered walking back just to get another one. This ice cream lollypop cost $40 NT.

Since we hadn't eaten anything all day I told my sister there was a mall at the Taipei Main Station where there supposedly an awesome food court. Well we went to the wrong one because we headed to the Underground Mall which doesn't really have much to offer so we settled for some curry.

curry with egg over the rice
If you're ever in Taiwan never order the apple juice or apple cider. I've had it on several occasions and it's nothing like what we have in America. It has a very strong alcohol or fermented taste to it. The fruit juices in bottles are super funky and most of them don't contain any real juice. I would stick with fresh juice from vendor stalls.

I have an EasyCard for the Taipei metro so I don't need to purchase a ticket every time I ride the MRT. If you end up buying a single trip ticket, it comes in the form of a token.

MRT single-journey ticket
You scan the token at the turnstiles before you enter the station platform. When you arrive at your destination you just drop the token into the slot at the turnstile before exciting the station. I like how they use plastic tokens instead of paper tickets. So environmental! The same thing for parking lots!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

liberty square at night

We woke up super early so that we could move over to our hostel, the Cat's Pajamas, before we had to meet up the rest of my co-workers to go to Jiufen. After getting ready I got a call that said our trip was going to have to be cancelled because of all the rain which would make it super unpleasant and none of us wanted a repeat of the staff trip. What really irks me about Taiwan weather is that its sunny all week and then the weekends it rains. So we got to the hostel super early and it wasn't even check out time so we just sat there using the internet waiting for the hostel workers to wake up and start working. Yes all the hostel workers were crashing in the common room downstairs, apparently they had partied too hard. While sitting there this white guy comes in and starts speaking mandarin to me. I tell him sorry I don't understand mandarin and he continues to speak in chinese! Later he goes in English sorry I'm drunk I need some water and wanders off. My sister and I just looked at each and was like WTF does that guy even stay here?!? He comes back and we hit it off and end up going to lunch with him and his friends. Swedish people! We were trying to figure out what we knew about Sweden but everything turned out to belong to Switzerland except for Ikea. This is the reason why I love hostels because you end up meeting such cool people that you would never have had a chance to meet if you were staying at a hotel. I was actually very sick this day and couldn't keep anything in my stomach. After lunch we just passed out for a couple of hours.

When we woke up I was feeling a little bit better and so brought my sister to Liberty Square which I've been to before. This place is pretty at night with everything lit up. I recommend seeing it both in the day time and at night!

Liberty Square a night
chiang kai-shek memorial hall
As we were heading over to go inside the doors started closing. I was attempting some jumping shots but my sister has super shaky hands and everything kept blurring. Afterwards we went to Shilin Night Market. The crowd and the smells of all the different foods quickly made me feel not so good again. I had to end it early but I did introduce my sister to candied strawberries. This day turned out super uneventful. I blame my sickness and the fact that it was pouring rain the entire time.

lol a fb shirt?!?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

taipei round three!

Since I didn't know what my sister wanted to see while in Taiwan I waited until she was here before making any decisions. The first weekend my sis was here was the Double Ten Holiday weekend and Taipei was super packed. We booked three separate hostels and had each of them cancel on us. They each said they didn't update the website and so didn't have any room for us. Apparently there was a lot of walk-ins due to the holiday weekend. Well my sister and I were freaking out because we needed a place to stay and didn't want to make the trip back to Hsinchu and then go back to Taipei again, even though it would be cheaper than staying at a hostel. So we sent out an emergency S.O.S to the couchsurfing (CS) community and as we were on our way to Taipei we got a response. If people don't know what couchsurfing is, its basically a website where people can sign up to offer a couch or a place to stay. You don't have to host, a lot of people just meet up for coffee or are couch crashers. A lot of people actually responded to our cry for help but a lot of them responded really late at night which wouldn't help us when we needed a place to put our stuff but nonetheless was pretty awesome. I had actually tried couchsurfing when I was going to Europe but never got any responses so was pretty disheartened with the website. I'm glad the CSers in Taiwan are so much more friendlier.

So our CSer had a son who I guess was forced to show us around. Haha. He was pretty cool and spoke perfect English because he was born in America and came from San Jose. Pretty coincidental that he came from a place that was so close to my hometown. So my sister was going on and on about going to Modern Toilet because she had heard about how the restaurant was toilet themed and wanted to sit on the toilets. I had already gone but she kept nagging me and so I had to go again. Apparently there are two in Taipei and we went to the one located in Ximending this time. Thankfully Marcus (CSer's son) was there because there was no way we would have found this place without him. Ximending is a big shopping area and is known as the Harajuku of Taipei so I'm guessing this is where the things in fashion can be found. The modern toilet in Ximending is way bigger than the one in Shilin with multiple floors and was way more crowded too. This is probably due to its location in Ximending and more accessible to tourists than the one in Shilin.

Yunnan Chili Chicken Spicy
I ordered the same dish I did last time since I liked it and I'm the kind of person who eats the same thing over and over if I like it. When I venture out and try new things I always regret it. If you look at my previous post, even though I ordered the same dish there is actually a difference between the presentation and what came with it. I much prefer my meal at the Shilin location. 

toilet sink
This toilet sink was right next to our table so was pretty disturbing...

After spending some time shopping in Ximending, where we used Marcus as our translator and bag holder, we went over to Lungshan (Longshan) Temple in Manka District. This temple was mainly a Buddhist Temple but over time has also incorporated Taoist and folk deities. Apparently a lot of temples in Taiwan do this but since I'm not familiar with these beliefs I really can't tell the difference...

Longshan Temple
I wanted to explore and check out all the halls but Marcus and Evo were bored and didn't want to join me. So uncultured! There was a huge crowd here and a bunch of monks were chanting. The crowds added to the determent of exploring this place. Near by is the Bopiliao Old Street which is the only preserved old street in Taipei from the Qing dynasty. There are a whole bunch of old pictures and exhibits in the building but they were all in Chinese. Evo and Marcus being uncultured ppls just wanted to sit and rest so I wasn't so motivated to look at everything. The streets are decorated with art work from local artists and the street was the setting of an award winning Taiwanese film Monga.

Bopiliao Old Street
pretty artwork
A whole bunch of co-workers were planning to go to Jiufen, a pretty village in New Taipei City, the next day so we met up some of them for dinner at Shida Night Market. As usual the night markets were packed with people...

Shida Night Market
The crowds in Taipei are always so intense. This is maybe why I'm not as big a fan of the night markets here. This day instead of eating xiaochi, small eats, from the stalls we had some korean food at a little grungy restaurant.

korean food
This Korean food wasn't the food I expected. I'm really craving some korean pork bbq. This meal was ok. Me and Chad split the bill, $600 NT for 5 people. As if this meal wasn't enough, saw a little stall selling puff pastries with custard and had to get one.

puff pastry with custard

Introduced my sister to shaved snow for the first time! She really loved it. Mangos with syrup and condensed milk. I've noticed that shaved snow here melts really fast and doesn't keep its form for that long. The shaved snow I had in LA kept its shape until the very end. After a couple of minutes the shaved snow melts into a puddle of sweetness.

mango shaved snow

Thursday, October 20, 2011

my first taste of stinky tofu!!!

So as some people may know my sister Evo came to visit me in Taiwan. I blame her for my lack of updates because instead of writing in my blog I have to clean up after her and entertain her. She actually told me to mention her in my blog. That is the reason she came to visit because she wants to be immortalized in the internet world. Well she is staying for three weeks and her visit is almost over. Yah I'm hecka behind.

So the first thing I took her to was the Erchong Night Market which happens only on Thursdays. I've never been myself but a whole bunch of co-workers were going after work and had invited me. It was a good day because my last session of the day was cancelled so I was able to go home and pick my sister up and then ride the bus back since the night market is only a couple of blocks away from the school. We were the first ones to arrive since everyone still had to work. It's been a real trial trying to feed my sister. First of all I never eat around my neighborhood because I'm always at work and then we have food delivered to us at school. Second when I do eat out I always have someone who translates or who can speak the language order. So now here I am with my sister in tow demanding to know what to eat and what everything was and I had no freaking idea. The few attempts to try was sad since by the time she got here it was super late at night and most everything was closed or sold out. So I got her some skewers, similar to the ones I had in Zhudong, because that is literally the one stall where you don't need to know any Chinese to be fed.

Evo fell in love with the beans and wanted some more skewers at the Erchong Night Market. The Erchong Night Market is super tiny and is located in an empty lot. We had already walked around two times before discovering there weren't that many options when my co-workers arrived. We sat down at a little stall and prepared to try new things.

páigǔ or spare ribs
Ok honestly when I looked at this dish I was getting super excited because I thought it was ox tail meat minus the soup. My grandma makes an awesome ox tail soup and the meat is super tender and you eat it with soy sauce. This wasn't anything like that and I'm not exactly sure if its beef or ox but it wasn't tender...I love how the stall wraps all the bowls in plastic bags so they don't have to clean. Very efficient.

Update: Apparently its pork and not the steamed spare ribs I like.

oyster omelet
Oyster omelet is well known in the Taiwanese night market scene. Apparently they use mini oysters and not the oysters I'm use to see which is in those big half shells. I thought they were clams because they were small in size and looked like clams. Well I had a taste and I didn't like it either. The sauce was funky and the consistency of the skin of the omelet which isn't made entirely out of eggs as the word omelet implies was weird too. Had a taste to try a new thing but wasn't very satisfactory.

stinky tofu or chòu dòufu
In Taiwan stinky tofu is commonly served deep fried, drizzled in a sauce with pickled vegetables.
Depending on where you go in Asia to eat stinky tofu, it will be served differently. Even though I've known of a stinky tofu place in Chinatown in San Francisco I never had the slightest interest in trying it out. Here in Taiwan I'm being all adventurous and trying all these "new" things I would never try back home just to say I've done it. I keep saying I will try stinky tofu but every time I pass by a stinky tofu stall at a night market I just can't get past the smell. This time my co-workers ordered it and when stinky tofu is cooked the smell isn't as strong. My sister and I decided to try it together just to say yes we've had it! Well the first taste of the stinky tofu didn't actually taste bad it tasted just like deep fried tofu except I don't like the taste of tofu so it wasn't that awesome. I decide to have another bite and that's when I literally felt stench of the stinky tofu in my mouth. It wasn't pleasant and I didn't continue eating any more. At least now I can say I've done it and would only recommend it if you want to cross it off your list.

While we were eating one of my TA's asked me how we were planning to go home and we said by bus. She told us the bus stopped running at 10:30 pm and when she told us it was already 10:33 pm. We hustled over to the bus stop thinking that if the bus left the last stop at 10:30 we would still be able to catch it. Well we stood at the bus stop for 30 minutes and no bus showed up. A creeper in a scooter did pass us by 2 times and stared at us. It wasn't even the fact that he would pass by and make a U-turn and come by again. It was literally 10 minutes or so before he would pass us again so he had to be making a detour somewhere. The third time he passed us, he stopped and handed my sister his number! He proceeded to say something in Chinese to her and of course she responds and English and he leaves with a confused look on his face. I'm surprised he didn't realize we were speaking English since we were speaking super loud and being our typical obnoxious selves. I say bravo to that man because really I didn't think Asian men had the courage to actually approach women let alone give a stranger their number. So kudos to you sir and maybe more Asian males should be following his lead! I tried calling my taxi guy just to be told he didn't have his car that night and then had to call for some back up. Apparently since we were in such a small little city there weren't any taxis nearby and so my good friend Chad offered to pick us up. We three-way rode a scooter which was pretty awesome and something I probably would never had the chance to do since that really only happens with children.

a peek at how I live...

Got a little mini beef hot pot...

The big block of tofu was blargh. I hate tofu. I believe the thick squares near the tofu was pig blood. It was gross. Also there was a square with ox blood and rice mixed together. Not tasty. Actually besides the lettuce, beef, and a small amount of noodles in this bowl I didn't really like much. There was a lot of "unique" stuff in here.

So I never got to show you my bathroom so here it is.

my shower room
There is no bathtub so I guess its a shower room. As you can tell the whole bathroom is the shower area. My apartment bathroom is unique from others I've seen in that I actually have a shower curtain that separates the toilet from the showering area. On a plus side this setup allows me to clean the floors at the same time so my bathroom floor is super clean. On the negative its annoying to have the  whole floor wet and also to have hair all over the place. Floors are definitely easier to clean than a bathtub so kudos for that! Other apartments that don't have shower curtains separating the toilet have a box to keep the toilet paper from getting wet. Also buying a new shower curtain is becoming super difficult. All the nearby stores only sell really tacky ones with like fish and flowers. Just discovered that Ikea is here. I will be saved!!

what is this?
So there is this big white box above my toilet. I didn't really give it much thought in the beginning. When I first moved in I was basically taking cold showers. At first I thought it was because I had to share my hot water with the whole apartment and I just happened to pick the time when the hot water had ran out. This happened for awhile until I finally realize that there must be some heating mechanism. Had to make a fellow teacher of mine showed me how this thing work since everything was in Chinese. This brought back memories of visiting Megan in Spain and having to heat the water with gas. At least this one is electric...

I ended up buying a Taiwanese brand of toothpaste with all these Chinese characters on one side. When I flipped it over I discovered it had an English name...


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

are we crazy???

So after a long day of visiting random places to replace all the hiking and biking we were suppose to do, we were finally able to rest in our hotel rooms. A bunch of us hung out together cracking dirty jokes and just "bonding". Well a subset of us got down to playing deuces or big two in Chinese. Taiwan has some funky rules for playing deuces so I implemented American rules. In Taiwan the smallest suit is the clover, followed by the diamond, heart then the spade. Also when placing a straight, it can't be combined with other hands like full houses. They have never even seen a flush! They only recognize straight flushes... I tried to play a flush down and everyone ganged up on me like I was making shit up. I hadn't played deuces in a long time but I was sure there was such a thing as a flush. The Americans who were in the room and who were consulted didn't back me up at all.... They didn't know how to play deuces but I'm like dude this is a poker hand and they didn't believe me. I was forced to not play my flush and lost the game. Then I wikied it later and I was like seriously people need to get educated! So mad!!

The next day we went to visit the Cilan Sacred Trees Garden. Cilan refers to the trees and orchids in this area and how they grow together. This place was actually part of the original plans except we were suppose to do it a day earlier but due to landslides that blocked the road it wasn't accessible earlier. The whole time we were here it was pouring rain. All of us had umbrellas or flimsy plastic rain "coats" that kept us from getting completely soaked..

rain rain go away
This park is known for having a lot of old trees mostly cypresses and red cypresses. Some of the trees are a couple thousand years old. Depending on how old the tree was they were named after a famous person from that time. For example we saw a tree named after Confucius. The tree I loved the most was aptly named the Man-Tree...

man tree! insert dirty joke here
Only a few people in our group choose to walk up a steep slope to see this tree. The path was basically washed away by the rain and only a scatter of rocks gave us any traction to keep going. I asked the tour guide who only spoke Chinese how they dated the trees since they obviously didn't cut them down and look at the tree rings. The answer I got back was carbon dating. The fact that I knew what carbon dating was and was trying to explain to a friend how it worked actually made me feel like my college degree wasn't a waste. I felt so smart! It's nice to know I haven't forgotten everything I've learned while in college because most of the time it feels like I've retained nothing but burns and scars from work.

pretty scenery
The fog was nice because it made the forest seem very mystical but it did limit how far I could see into the forest. So you know how in Taiwanese dramas if a girl and boy are walking around somewhere most likely a park or something naturey, the girl will usually trip or fall over something. In those scenarios the guy will usually catch the girl and they will share a moment which will later be the building point of their relationship. Obviously my life isn't going to be any Taiwanese drama since when I fell not only was I not saved by anyone but I slipped on some rocks and then landed into a flow of water. Good thing I was wearing those hideous yellow rain ponchos or w/e that kept me from really feeling the water.Seriously the whole time we were there I was wondering if we were all crazy hiking around in the mountains looking at trees that no one cared about while it was pouring rain...

While there our head teacher bought a local snack and shared some with us. Super delicious!

sesame and green onion cookie

The drive to and from the park offered some great photo opportunities of the Lanyang River. Too bad the rain obliterated the view and I had to take pictures around the rain drops obscuring my shots...

lanyang river
For dinner we had Chinese food as in mainland and not Taiwanese. I didn't take any pictures because my principal sat down right next to me and at this point I was getting pretty disappointed with the restaurant dinners. The food in the beginning of the dinner was kind of ehhh. What saved the meal was the watercress and the stir-fried beef at the end!

NiuSeBing or cow-tongued biscuits - honey flavored
These biscuits are a local snack from Yilan which I bought for my sister when she comes to visit me later. They are named cow-tongue biscuits because apparently they looked very similar to cow tongues which I wouldn't know since I don't see many cow tongues. The ones I bought are manufactured instead of being hand-made. I had some of the hand-made ones but they tasted worse than these.

Monday, October 17, 2011

tourist traps in yilan...

After the National Center for Traditional Arts, we went to the Luodong Forestry Culture Garden. A couple minutes after we arrived it started raining. We still proceeded to walk around and I'm not sure what we were suppose to be looking at there was a lot of greenery. Luodong was known for its logging back in the day. Apparently they cut the logs high up in the mountains and would use the Lanyang river to transport the logs down into the log pond at Yuanshan in Yilan.

storage facility for the logs
Of course the river can't do all the work.

old train
The site of this park is where the logging railway met the Yilan train back in the days and they have some of the old trains here. A lot of people were using the train as shelter from the rain. Basically the one hour we had here was spent hiding from the rain. I just read my kindle the whole time. Later on a little museum opened up and there was a lot of models of the logging industry back in the day.

Later we went to the Mary Leu Fine Art Carving Gallery which really felt like a tourist trap location. There was a video in the beginning which was all in Chinese and I just put on my "oh of course I understand Chinese face" and did a lot of nodding. The gallery was pretty amazing and no pictures were allowed but I'm a rule breaker so no one could stop me especially since there wasn't any security peoples just some cameras.

jacket made of wood
This was my favorite piece at the gallery. If you take a closer look at the piece you can see all the detail that went into this. It actually looks like the fabric of a jacket! Included in the price of a ticket was a free beverage. I choose the lotus tea which is suppose to make a person beautiful. Right if this tea made people beautiful you think you would see it being sold at all the makeup counters or whatever. Anyways I thought that since lotus was a flower it would taste something similar to rose tea. Boy was I wrong. The tea was bitter and I couldn't even finish all of it.

lotus tea next to a fish bowl
I sat at a table that actually had a fish bowl set into the table. The fish bowl only had one little fish in it and it would surface to the water at any area you blew on. The lid of my teapot actually converted into a teacup which was pretty cute. The area where we drank our tea was basically a shop that sold amber, sculptures and tea. Totally reminded of all those stores I was forced to stop at when on a tour of China. The next stop was another tourist trap. It was just a place that had lots of plants for people to buy. A lot of tour buses were here also and I'm sure this place striked a deal with those tour bus peoples to get them there. I really enjoyed the section with all the orchids. Very pretty!

purple and white orchids
Working those special effects on my camera. Haha. Instead of going to all these random places I would rather spend more time at the National Center for Traditional Arts. I hate how the rain keeps starting and stopping here and ruined my weekend.

Now on to dinner:
platter of meat including abalone
Abalone is very expensive and considered to be very healthy. I had one but i didn't find it yummy at all. These meat platters are very similar to the ones I've seen in restaurants during wedding receptions.

yellow chicken and squid with veggies
All the dishes were served on even bigger dishes with elaborate decorations. One of my co-workers even took the big shell home with her! I'm not a big fan of yellow chicken but I was seriously considering eating it because I didn't think there would be any meat at this dinner. Totally ate all the mushrooms in the other dish.

some kind of sweet bbq sauced ribs, shrimp, and potato cubes
Not sure if those cubes were fully potatoes but even tho they look crispy and solid, on the inside it was gooey and didn't exactly taste like potato.

ribs and water spinach
So the veggies are called water spinach and have hollow tubes instead of stems, was super delicious. Not really a big fan of the ribs. I wish they had some spare ribs!

coconut tapioca dessert with a side of guava
I loved this dessert! I had so many bowls of it. This dish had white tapioca balls or sago balls in it. The juice was very sweet and was coconut flavored. Guava was delicious was usual. In Taiwan, soup is served at the end of the meals with the dessert instead of at the beginning like in Cantonese restaurants.

I've been on the hunt for some almond jello since I had some at the Taiwan Costco. People here don't even know what jello is! I guess that makes sense since Jello is actually a brand of gelatin but they call jello here pudding... Almond isn't popular here at all and besides Costco I haven't been able to find it. In Yilan we walked to the night market near our hotel and randomly stopped by a stall that sold almond jello! It had started raining and so we didn't continue on to the market and just headed back after buying the jello.

almond jello
The almond jello I make is more delicious but this wasn't bad. Glad to know I can buy almond jello here. This made me happy :D