Tuesday, February 28, 2012

peace memorial day

The 228 Incident was an anti-government uprising in Taiwan that was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang government. The 228 refers to the date the massacre began, February 28, 1947. An estimated number of deaths range from 10,000-30,000. This event marked the beginning of the White Terror by the Kuomintang in which Taiwan was held under martial law for more than 38 years, the longest period of martial law at the time. It's weird to me that there is a Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei and probably other memorials dedicated to him in Taiwan, when so many people were killed or disappeared during his rule. The day now is recognized as the Peace Memorial Day and there are monuments in Taiwan dedicated to those who died that day. I need to check those out for sure.

I did nothing for my four day weekend. Absolutely nothing! I had plans but they all fell apart due to the stupid raining that occurred the entire four days of break that we got. So ridiculous. I hate the rain. I hate how during the week it is so sunny or at least clear and then when its the weekend, the rain keeps pouring down. So the entire weekend I just sat at home video chatting with friends and family back home and watching a lot, A LOT, of tv shows. Also there is a leak in the wall in a corner of my room. The water condenses on the walls and then gather at the base and then spread all over my floor so I have that to deal with. Yay...

Since this holiday falls on a Tuesday, the government allowed for Monday to be taken off also so citizens get a four day holiday. However unlike America, Monday is not a holiday and has to be made up. So that is why this coming Saturday (March 3rd) everyone has to make up for the fact that they got Monday off, this includes students who are required to go to school on Saturday. I can't imagine this every happening in America, telling students they had to go to school on a Saturday! Can you imagine anyone even taking that seriously? I wouldn't mind working on a Saturday if it wasn't for the fact that if I had known about this sooner I wouldn't have booked my flight to Japan that day. So now instead of losing out on five days of pay, I lose out on six. I deem that super BS. I wasn't notified beforehand that Saturday was to be a makeup day where I was required to work and because it's an official government day I get punished with less pay. Ugh whatever I'm just going to enjoy that fact that I only have to work three days next week and then I get two weeks of vacation in Japan!! I'll be staying with friends, one I've been friends with since middle school and haven't seen in ages! This trip will allow me to see if I would like working in Japan because it is definitely one of the places I considered working in.

I did a whole bunch of research on this trip and there are a lot of resources online. So much in fact that it was kind of overwhelming. I didn't know what to check out first and there was so much information about every facet of Japan from travel destinations to transportation. Just doing my research on how to get around Japan was giving me a headache since there isn't only public transportation but also private companies and then having to compare and contrast which one had better deals or which train went which destination and how much. Good thing they have such detailed guides on how to purchase tickets or even how to get on a bus since it is so different. Apparently in Japan people board at the back of the bus and exit from the front, which is also when you pay. Good to know. Both my friends live in the Kansai region which is where I'll be spending all my time, no plans to Tokyo - maybe next time, so I did some research on what kind of rail passes I should get. There are a lot of them and I suggest doing some research to see which one fits, some are only available for purchase outside of Japan. I settled on the Kintetsu Rail Pass which is a private railroad company and cost me $1550 NT. After conversion rate it is actually more expensive than if I had purchased it in the US ($49) or in Japan ($3700 yen). However you can only purchase this rail pass at the Kansai International Airport which I wasn't going to. The pass is pretty good for the price since it covers five days of unlimited travel on Kintetsu trains and I can exchange vouchers for up to three rides on the limited express trains. So the whole deal is that you end up purchasing a voucher for the rail pass in your own country and upon arriving in Japan you exchange the voucher for the actual rail pass. Well the only places that sold these vouchers were in Taipei, since it is the closest major city next to me. I woke up at 8am to head over to Taipei by HSR managed to get there by 10am and then managed to get to work by 12:30. Thank god for the HSR which made it possible for me to make a trip to Taipei in 30 minutes or there would have been no way I would have been able to purchase the vouchers. They were closed on the weekends and don't open till 9am.

In case anyone needs to plan a trip to Japan here are some websites that I found super helpful.

Kintetsu Rail Pass - I believe for my two week stay only in the Kansai Region that this rail pass was the best deal. I was debating on buying two so both my weeks would be covered....

Creative Travels - where you can purchase travel passes in Japan
5F, No. 137, Sec 2, Nanjing E. Road, Zhongshan Dist. Taipei City 104
tel: 02-2506-2566 (there are people who speak English)
hours: 9:00am-5:30pm they are closed for lunch around 12-1pm
directions: Take the MRT to Songjiang Nanjing and take exit 7. Immediately upon exiting the station make an about-face and at the intersection turn left (without crossing the intersection). Walk straight down Nanjing E. Road and it will be on your left hand side.
website: http://www.ctt.tw/index/default.aspx  (only in Chinese)

Hyperdia - this website gives detailed information about train timetables, routes, prices and transfers you would need to make from destination to destination; I used it to calculate if purchasing a rail pass was worth it and I will prob use it later to know what times trains are leaving

Japan-guide.com - a lot of information on what sights to see around the Kansai Area

There are a lot of information out there about Japan. In addition to the above I also used Wikitravel websites for each city I wanted to visit, which would then link me to other websites. There are an abundance of maps, suggestions, walking tours, and tips regarding different cities in Japan. So overwhelming but nice to have that information available!

Monday, February 27, 2012

getting educated in beitou

On a random Sunday a couple weeks back I went to Taipei all by myself. I used the MRT without having to check the map or look for directions. Am I on the way to becoming a local?!?! So exciting. Having read my friend's blogs and what foreigners are called in the native language, I realize I never stated what they say here and that is wǎiguórén. I actually thought wǎiguórén was for "white" people because I've never had it directed at me before but when we were with Chance I heard people saying it around him. Haha. Anyways I was in Taipei to check out the Taipei Lantern Festival, another post on that later, but since it's better to view the lanterns at night I had time to check out Beitou during the day. I really picked Beitou because Daisy Day, a scrapbooking store, was located there and I wanted to check out all the museums and stuff that were closed when Erica, Phil and I were there. I've been in desperate need of scrapbooking supplies and I am so frustrated with the limited amount of stuff I did bring with me. Arg!

Is it weird that the first thing I usually do when I know I'm going to a new place is to look up if there are any scrapbooking stores I can go to. The funny thing is that most scrapbooking companies are American so it is cheaper for me to buy it in America instead of going somewhere international to buy it for an inflated price. Daisy Day is one of the only actual scrapbooking stores I could find any information on. I was pretty excited and the store is beautiful. I had to take these pictures super sneakily...

Daisy Day has a wide range of items but a lot of them are from prior seasons and nothing that I saw wasn't stuff I hadn't already seen before. The really expensive price tag put me off on going crazy. I'm definitely going to go back. I just wish the prices weren't so expensive, more expensive than America. If only international shipping wasn't so expensive...

I ended up only buying three items which came close to 700 NT which translates to $26 USD! OMG I just converted the prices... WTF was I thinking?!?! Ugh it might be cheaper just to have shit shipped to me. I'm not sure what is happening to me but I find myself buying things at prices I would never pay for in America. For example $2 USD for Pringles when I wouldn't even pay $1.50 for them back in the US or $90 NT for a notebook which roughly comes out to over $3 USD. I would never have bought a notebook for that much back in the States. I'm not sure what is going on where even though in terms of USD I don't make that much, but I'm willing to shell out NT for items that I would never have been down with buying if I had to pay its equivalent in USD. Back home I use to think of purchases in the amount of time I had to work in order to pay for that item, a pack of stickers = a little less than an hour of work at minimal wage, etc etc. But now that I'm getting paid monthly and in such a large sum that the small amounts of hundreds or so for an item doesn't seem to register... I should start sending money home so I'm not tempted to buy frivolous crap with it. I can't believe i spent so much on such a small amount. Ugh I might not go back to Daisy Day if those are the kind of prices I'm paying for items that are worth way less back home. Why did I choose a hobby which is virtually unknown of outside of western countries?!?

After Daisy Day I caught the train to Xinbeitou which is where most of the touristy stuff are, I made sure to ask the lady at the information desk if the museums and stuff were opened since I didn't want to make an unnecessary trip. First stop was the Ketagalan Culture Center which is all about the indigenous people of Taiwan. There were videos of different tribes dancing or playing musical instruments which was pretty interesting. No pictures were allowed so I spent a lot of time avoiding being caught while I took pictures. I didn't get that much but I did manage to get some of the display that showed the different outfits worn by the different indigenous people in Taiwan.

A lot of the information on the indigenous people was posted on boards scattered around the building and it was also in English which was nice. However how boring is it to just go into a building and just stand there reading boards so I didn't really learn much and since they didn't let me take pictures I couldn't even take pics of the information and read it at my leisure at home. I really wanted to take videos of the videos they had of the various dances performed by the tribes people but there was a security camera there...

Next stop the greenest building in Taiwan, the Beitou Branch of the Taipei Public Library.

This building has a bunch of features that makes it an Eco-friendly building. This article goes more in-depth about the building. Some of the more interesting things I read was that the wood used to build this building was sourced from North America because logging is banned in Taiwan and forests in Southeast Asia weren't managed in a sustainable manner. Also the sloped roof is used to collect rain water that is used to flush the toilets! Pretty neat. I stepped inside the library and it was spacious and very stylish. If only more libraries were like this.

The Beitou Hot Spring Museum used to be the Beitou Public Baths one of the biggest public baths at the time in East Asia. The building contains a unique mixture of Western and Eastern architecture.

western architecture

The big bath on the bottom floor. Apparently the arcades and columns surrounding the bath is suppose to simulate the Roman baths of ancient times. The entrance is on the second floor so after taking a bath you would go back up and relax in the lobby.

The lobby was built in the Japanese style with tatami mats on the floor and sliding paper doors! So pretty, I really love Japanese architecture. I like how in this one building there was a whole bunch of architectural styles to be found. Most of the information in this museum is only in Chinese, the only thing I found in English was one hallway that detailed the history of the hot springs in Beitou. Random artifacts scattered throughout didn't have corresponding English information.  

Finally found the Puji Temple! I had to ask someone because like last time after following the directions, I apparently passed it without seeing it. That is because you need to climb up some stairs and the temple is actually hidden from view. If you are following the signs and you see a giant rock on your right hand side, climb up the stairs and go through the fence and keep climbing more steps and you'll be there. The Puji Temple is so special because it is a temple of the Shingon sect of Japanese Vajrayana Buddhism. It is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy Avalokiteshvara, who serves as a guardian spirit of the hot springs. The temple from what I could is really small but I didn't really get to explore because when I was there some ritual was happening and all the monks were chanting in front of the altar.

This day was actually pretty hot and I ended up having to carry my thick jacket everywhere. I saw a lot of people dipping their feet into the Beitou stream and at first I thought it was because the water was hot, coming from the Thermal Valley and they were trying to get a free hot spring experience. I dipped my hand into it and the water was cool so people must have just been trying to cool off, it was that warm of a day. Weather in Taiwan is so freaking crazy!

I hadn't eaten anything all day and it right about the time the night markets started opening so I headed over to the Shilin Night Market. Man I need to go to night markets earlier. It was so nice to be able to walk without being shoved or with small little steps. The only downside is that everything wasn't opened. Grabbed a chicken steak which was so huge, larger than my head. It didn't seem that enormous last time I had it.

It was so large that it couldn't be held up with just one hand. The top half actually flopped backwards and almost broke off! What was disturbing was there was a bunch of plastic containers that formed the walls of the stall that contained marinating chicken. These were huge plastic containers that contained an enormous number of chicken steaks. None of this was refrigerated and it seemed like those containers of chicken were just going to sit there the whole day until the stall either ran out or closed up shop... That was a little disturbing - good thing I arrived early so my chicken steak wasn't sitting out in the open for hours. Haha just discovered Beitou is part of Taipei City so I guess in my previous visit to Beitou where I stated I was bringing Erica to Phil to New Taipei City was a lie. Oops.

The Details
Daisy Day - Scrapbooking Store in Taipei
1F., No. 69, Zhongzheng St., Beitou Dist. Taipei City
tel: 02-2897-0017
directions: exit the Beitou MRT Station and make a right across the street, walk straight a block and the store will be your right hand side across a little open plaza space

Ketagalan Culture Center
No. 3-1, Chungshan Road, Beitou, Taipei City
tel: 02-2898-6500
hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9am-5:00pm; closed Mondays and National Holidays
admission: free
website: Ketagalan Culture Center

Beitou Branch - Taipei Public Library
hours: Tuesday-Sunday 8:30-21:00, Sunday-Monday 9:00-17:00; closed the first Thursday of the month

Beitou Hot Spring Museum
No. 2, Zhongshan Road, Beitou District, Taipei City
tel: 02-2893-9981
hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9am-5pm; closed Mondays and National Holidays
admission: free
Be warned you will have to remove your shoes and wear slippers to enter the building.

Although the street names are spelled differently, it's the same street. Basically once you exit the Xinbeitou District just walk straight along the street right next to the park. You'll end up hitting all the buildings in the order I posted about them.

finally some dim sum!!

I've been craving Cantonese food like mad. Cantonese food is the food I'm most use to and typically what I eat most. So coming here to Taiwan just to discover that not only is their cuisine not like what I eat at home but Cantonese eateries aren't popular here was such a bummer. So weird since Hong Kong is only a couple hours away by plane... What restaurants that do exist are also pretty pricey. A couple weeks ago I went with Eamon to grab some dim sum. We arrived at some dim sum place in Hsinchu, have no clue what the address is but it is near the 1 bus line.

They had ran out of a lot of things because at this point it was already 2pm, way past yum cha time. I didn't really care as long as they had my favorite: spare ribs! Eamon had no clue what I was talking about with yum cha and I'm not sure if it exists in Taiwan. This was the second time Eamon has had dim sum - so sad! It is always so weird for me when people tell me they've never had dim sum. Back in SF everyone has had dim sum. I've introduced quite a people back in San Diego to it and they all really love it, cause come on how can hate it?!?

The menu was super limited and they had a bunch of weird things that I've never seen in a Cantonese restaurant. Too bad those people couldn't speak Cantonese it would have been nice to finally order myself instead of just sitting there idly with this blank look on my face.

Is it just me but is paying almost $3 USD ($80 TWD) for each dish pretty pricy?!? Back home I never know how much each dish costs since they just stamp your paper and I never go eat dim sum with just two people. Also each steamer basket only contained three instead of the usual four.... Frustrating. I only ordered the stuff I know and like, super minimal and I was still hungry afterwards...

har gow or shrimp dumpling
cha siu bao or canto bbq pork bun
paigu or spare ribs
first time i've ever seen these - rice wrapped around meat ball
free sago dessert
The dim sum was ok, it's got nothing on what we have in SF. I ordered two baskets of spare ribs because I told Eamon I wasn't going to share and if he wanted some we better get two baskets. Even after that I really wanted to just eat his also... The sago dessert I was actually very happy with because whenever we go to Jumbo Seafood Restaurant in Sunset (our fallback resto) they always serve red or green bean desserts and I'm always yearning for this white one. I believe it might be coconut but can't be sure. The rice ball thing wasn't good - had a funky taste to it. They had ran out of cheung fan or rice noodle rolls which was a bummer. I usually base on how good the restaurants are by the texture of the cheung fan noodle skin. It was nice to finally eat dim sum again but for the price (a couple hundred NT) I expect something better.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

i'm almost middle aged...

So today I turn 24. First I want to thank everyone for all the birthday wishes, especially the people back home who wished me happy birthday without relying on Facebook to tell them. Since Taiwan is ahead of America, people actually had to know it was my birthday before FB reminded them. Nice to know people haven't forgotten about me. Also I dread being older....

So what did I do for my birthday?? Nothing. I went to work and now I'm at home writing a blog post about my birthday. For the past couple of years I haven't really done anything big for my birthday except Vegas for my 22nd and that is because my birthday usually happens during midterms. To even get people to all go to dinner was difficult, let alone having a big shindig for it. Also I'm not much of a planner so dinner is usually what happens. Well with everyone I know getting out at 9:30pm, I wasn't expecting anything to happen. I did make my kids sing me Happy Birthday so there is that. Haha. Well I was working with one of my kids when my head teacher and fellow friend said we needed to talk. He had heard that kids were saying that I swore in front of them in class... I was bitching up a storm I was like WTF I never do, I swear but not in front of them, and I was all ready to launch into a tirade when I entered his classroom. Then I see the other English teachers there and I'm like really there's a meeting going on about my behavior!?!? WTF!!! Then I see the birthday cake. Good one, they got me and I was so relieved. Everyone else was laughing because they had heard me launching into my rant about my ungrateful students who lied about me.

My birthday cake was a mousse cake, the mousse flavor looked like cookies and creme, with strawberries and chocolate. Pretty and yummy. I haven't eaten a birthday cake on my birthday for awhile. We discontinued birthday cakes in our family because everyone wanted to stay skinny. I didn't want to get stuck eating more than half the cake so we stopped since it would be wasteful just to eat one or two slices.

The cake was given to me by my manager, along with a little present. Their niceness makes me feel guilty because I've been offered an extension of my contract but I'm kinda leaning towards refusing it. I don't hate my job and I'm always constantly talking about how easy and stuff I have it here compared to what I had to deal with in America but I can feel that if I stay here longer, the little things will start to bug me. Right now I still have 7 months left in my contract and who knows how I feel about my job then. Also I really want to work in other countries and not just stay in Taiwan. Sure I like Taiwan and everyone here is super nice and friendly but I can't see myself living here permanently or for an extended period of time. The thing that makes me worried is that if I reject their offer, how long will it take me before I can find another job?? It's harder for me since I am Asian and a lot of jobs won't hire me because of that. I also don't want to stay in America for a long time because it will give my parents more time to pressure me into going back to school. I don't look forward to sitting at home and doing nothing while my friends are all at work or in graduate school. I really thought that by the time I was 24 I would have life figured out and know what kind of path I want to take. *Sigh what do you guys think? Should I renew my contract and stay in Taiwan longer or should I take my chances and try to find another job later on down the road. The bummer about this is that no one looks for English teachers so far in advance so if I want to find a job I will need to start looking in June or July. Another option is staying in Taiwan and working for another school. The problem is that they won't start hiring until later. Decisions, decisions, decisions....

I'm gonna leave this post on a brighter note by recounting some adorable stories of my kids.... So at my school age doesn't factor into the equation of what class you're placed into, it's based on your English ability. This works and doesn't work at the same time. So in a beginner class you could have a 13 year old and a 6 year old, learning the same stuff and taking the same tests. I wonder who will have the advantage here?? Anyways in one of my level 2 classes, A34, a boy was repeating all the words I was saying and so I said "Good-bye Pretty Teacher" and he said it and goes "NOOO!" when he realized what he said and ran away. Later on another student is leaving and he goes "Good-bye pretty teacher!" without me coercing him to! So touched!

In my beginner classes which usually has a whole bunch of 2nd-3rd graders they love to say "Teacher so bad & Teacher so crazy!" Well one time I go "Teacher so fat?" and a girl says "No Teacher so tall and thin!" and a boy next to her goes "so cute!" and a boy further down goes "so pretty!" You can imagine with all those compliments I was literally in heaven and gushing all over them. It is such a rare moment when they will even speak to me nicely but to say nice things about me was unheard of. I guess those are the moments that help all the teachers get through the crappy micro-management and red tape the schools like to make us go through. Too bad the nice treatment didn't last long, they reverted to their "teacher so bad" saying too soon for my liking.

Monday, February 20, 2012

rueifong night market

Before we headed back to Hsinchu we had to visit the Ruifeng Night Market. While the Liuhe Night Market is touted as the tourist night market for Kaohsiung the Ruifeng one is definitely a better venue. The market is situated in what appears to be an empty lot instead of on streets and there is a huge variety of food, clothes and games found here. At the Liuhe Night Market there was really only food stalls and it covered only a couple of blocks. We got there relatively early so the makeshift lanes between the stalls were mostly empty. Later on it got super crowded and since it was all small makeshift lanes we couldn't avoid the crowd by just walking out into the street or into store fronts to get some respite from all the pushing. I recommend going a little earlier just to escape the crowds and it was cool seeing the vendors set up their stalls. Right at the entrance of the market Chance bought these deep fried balls of what I assume is sweet potato since that is what it tasted like.

I'm not a huge fan of fried dough so this was just meh to me. However the slightly sweet taste of the sweet potato left you wanting more. A couple of stalls down Phil finally got to buy the braised pork rice he was whining about. This is probably his 5th bowl of fatty pork he's had since hes been here.

I bought some candy from this vendor that sold by the weight. There was a lot of interesting candies in the mix and some of them were pretty familiar...

Those Mentos are meant only to be sold in Indonesia...flavors included Rasa Cola (no idea what Rasa means but it just tasted like cola), Rasa Lemon Soda, and Rasa Strobers Soda (wtf is strobers?). The sour candy is reminescent of War Heads but the sour powder on them didn't last long. The Sweet Drop in the upper left corner taste like Milkfuls if anyone has ever heard of those. Best thing about this stall was that they let us sample some of the candy before buying it. I love samples!! I bought some more popcorn chicken but they weren't as good as the one near my house. I gotta say with me buying popcorn chicken from all the night market vendors around Taiwan, I do not recommend it. It just taste as flavorful or as fresh. The ones that have actual stores selling popcorn chicken seem to do it much better. Also because I haven't learned my lesson, I bought some more green mangos. They didn't allow you to sample them and they are still expensive $100-$200 NT for a measly bag. I haven't had any good ones after the initial times I've tried them. They are probably going out of season but I just can't resist buying them when I see them. 

Now moving on to the games. Phil loves them and doesn't mind spending money on them so it is fun to watch him do it. First up ring toss game and I believe he did manage to win one drink. Phil or Erica correct me if I'm wrong on this.

Phil is a pretty good shot and managed to hit all the balloons. I think you only get a big prize if you paid to shoot all 10 balloons rather than just 5. He might have gotten a small prize but I have forgotten. The game in the bottom picture consists of you trying to catch fish with a paper net. He caught two fishies and gave them to a random little kid in the market. Can you see Phil using fish to lure little kids to his side? Unfortunately that image comes too easily to mind. Phil likes taking pictures of cute kids. He took a lot of them while on this trip. Sad to say there were a lot of kids he didn't deem good enough for him to bother. Sorry kiddies you're better off! Phil also likes taking pictures of random strangers, of random crap, of garbage, of anything really. The ones I hate in particular are the unflattering pictures of me or the ones that are really close up to my face. Bleugh! There are also a lot of pictures with us covering our face, why we didn't just punch him to stop alludes me.

The last buy of the night for me was this place that sold seasoned crab. There were a couple of these vendors so I just chose whatever was closest to me. They sold them in increments of $100 or $200 NT. You could choose claws or the body. I went with claws because I would get more bang for my buck and I believe the claws usually have more meat in them.

The meat was delicious! So wonderfully seasoned with garlic. The flavor reminds me of the crabs we would eat in Cantonese restaurants. This is the type of crab the restaurant in Cijin should be serving, where the body and claws actually have meat in them. I don't know if its just me but I feel like the night markets in Kaohsiung are pretty expensive. Most items go for $80-$100 NT and I have to plop down at least $200 NT to feel full. A bowl of noodles or rice at a small restaurant would be cheaper. Later that night we headed back to the HSR where Phil bought some french fries from McDonalds. We eat here way to much. Anyways I asked them for salt and I'm guessing salt packets in this country is a novel idea because I have never seen them. Instead we get this....

We had one box of fries. She gave us half a cup of salt... Well this about wraps it up for Phil and Erica's visit. Sad to see it has taken a month to write it up. I can honestly say this was one of the best trips I had with friends, everyone was just so chill. Both Erica and Phil are people I consider my close friends and we don't talk everyday or even frequently but when we get together it feels like nothing has changed and I could talk to them about anything. I'm lucky to say that most of my friends fall into this category which is nice since I know nothing will change between us when I finally go back home. To sum up this trip I will list what we usually talked about: constipation, taking deuces, Phil's obsession with children, ripping people a new one, Phil and I threatening to sexually assault one another while Erica stood by with her iphone and Chance tried to avoid us, our obsession with eating, our frequent usage of the word "like", etc etc etc. I was just relieved to finally make sexual innuendos that people got right off the bat without me having to explain them. Where is the fun in that? Also finally people who play deuces correctly! The Taiwan version is wack and the Americans here don't even recognize a flush. WTF?!? Also it was nice to play deuces with people from nor-cal because I've been playing Pusoy in so-cal and it's not the same. Thanks Erica and Phil for coming to visit me! :D

The Details
Ruifeng Night Market
Take the MRT to Kaohsiung Arena Station Exit 1, then walk straight for 5 minutes and you've arrived

Sunday, February 19, 2012

lotus lake: where we'll walk till our legs fall off...

Phil is a mosquito magnet. I always see mosquitoes flying towards him. So it was just my luck that Erica had the foresight to call dibs on the couch at Chance's apartment. Now I was rooming with the mosquito attractor and there was a mosquito in our room. Does anyone else hate the sound of bugs flying near your ear in the dark?? We managed to kill that mosquito but apparently there was another one lurking in the background. Good thing Phil's blood is so delicious because I manage to escape without any bites. Haha. I remember when I first arrived in Taiwan I got bit so much and now I hardly get any. Chance was telling us how he gets a lot of bugs in his apartment especially because of his kitchen. He even gets geckos! I would not be able to handle geckos or any big bugs. Once again I'm thankful I didn't get an apartment with a kitchen because I would not be able to just go to sleep and let the geckos roam which is apparently Chance's method of dealing with the critters. Ugh shivers!! So anyways after a blissful night's sleep with a buzzing mosquito, Chance brought us around his neighborhood to grab lunch or rather breakfast, our first meal of the day.

left to right: chinese chives, cabbage, and spicy dumpling
korean style spicy guotie (potsticker)
Each dumpling or potsticker cost $5-6 NT and we ordered 56 altogether! My favorite dumpling was the cabbage which also had pork meat, it went great with the soy sauce and chili paste. The spicy dumplings were just the dumpling version of the korean style potstickers. These weren't as great as the spicy dumplings I've had before. After that we went to get more milk tea cause Phil wanted some. Phil has drank milk tea almost every single day he's been here, sometimes two or three times a day (or in a hour). He drinks them super fast. We would be drinking our milk teas and literally after two sips, you would see Phil's cup is empty. He can drain half the cup with one looooooong sip. Crazy. We rode the MRT but I have no idea where we got off since we were just blindly following Chance around. I understand now why Brendon had us take a taxi to Lotus Lake since it is far from the MRT exit and also because you have to walk quite awhile along the lake in order to reach the most touristy thing. It is such a long walk that we opted to take a taxi back to the MRT station rather than walk it again. Let me just say that the taxis don't charge the additional 30% for Chinese New Year and their base minimal starts off at $80 NT. WTF is the minimal in Hsinchu $120 NT?? Even Taipei is cheaper... BS!

This area of the lake isn't as populated so it was quiet and serene.The building in the distance is the Confucius Temple. Most of the halls were closed off and peeking through the windows I saw what looked to be classrooms. The buildings that had their doors opened were blocked off so I guess visitors could just take a peek but not touch. I just saw altars topped with wooden tablets dedicated to Confucius' ancestors.

Erica didn't check out the temple with us because she wasn't feeling so well so she just took a nap outside. We attempted to do some jumping shots but none of them came out perfectly. Most of them involved me jumping awesomely and then having them ruined by Phil or Chance. Chance won't be jumping in any of the jumping shots because of an accident that occurred the night before. We had to make a 7-11 run for water because Chance's apartment isn't hooked up with a filtered water dispenser. I cringe thinking about how much money he needs to spend on water. So while on this little trip, Erica, Phil and Chance were running to the 7-11. I have no idea why they were running but I know I wasn't going to. Later on I see that they've stopped and here I am thinking that they stopped to wait for me but that wasn't the case at all. Apparently Chance had pulled something while he was running and was now limping. Phil walked like a pirate wench, especially with his jeans rolled up. I need those pictures Erica! We basically checked out all the temples, pagodas, and pavilions located around the lake. However I didn't post a picture of the North-pole Pavilion when I went with my sister so here it is.

This is the statue of the North-pole Hsuen-tien Sharn-ti god and is placed on top of the North-pole Pavillion. The statue is 24 meters in height and according to their information packet is the tallest god statue over water in southeast Asia.

Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. We make awesome presenters don't we? Again there was a huge holiday crowd. A piece of advice: instead of climbing up the steps of the Dragon Pagoda, go up the Tiger Pagoda. Most tourists climb up the Dragon Pagoda since it is the first one and won't bother climbing up the tiger one. The view is excellent and we were basically alone the whole time allowing us to get some awesome photos without unwanted tourists in them. I even saw that the highest level of the pagoda, which isn't opened to visitors, held an altar that I hadn't noticed before. Chance didn't know about the North Gate so I once again took up my role as tour guide and showed them the gate and part of the wall. Perfect time for some more jumping shots or just posing for Chance.

Sucks that Chance hurt his leg. This photo would have been perfect if he was jumping too. You can see he made an effort by doing a mini hop. A for effort! I'll be blogging about the rest of the day in my next post but just wanted to end this one by stating that Phil and I are high maintenance. Not high maintenance in the actual sense of the word but in the way that both of us consume the most time on the trip. There were many times where we would have to wait for Phil to do something either taking pictures of strangers or of little kids (more on that later), or talking to a salesperson who did not get the hint to stop, or even just putting on his shoes. There were even more times where they had to wait for me to collect all my stamps, to take pictures and to hit up every information booth to grab brochures. While I was trying to think of a way to write this I was thinking man Erica is so chill we never have to wait for her. Then it hit me! Of course when we were shopping! We waited awhile with Erica to try on shoes. So I guess in our own ways we all have our things we gotta do that everyone else must sit through but what made this trip awesome was that we all took it in stride and just made jokes and laughed about it. Yay for awesome friends! To check out the other monuments around the lake that I didn't post pictures of please check out my previous post about this place here.

The Details
Kaohsiung Confucius Temple
400, Lian Tan Road
Free Admission

North-Pole Pavillion
No. 169-1 Lian Tan Road, Zuoying District
tel: 07-585-6961
Free Admission

In order to get to Lotus Lake you can take the MRT to the Zuoying Station and walk 30 minutes or exit the station and take the Bus No. 31 or Red-51.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

kaohsiung - cijin, lantern festival, and liuhe

Cijin District Part Deux...Caught the ferry over but this time the line was so much longer. If I thought weekends were crowded, it was nothing compared to the holiday crowd. As like everywhere else in Taiwan,  a lot of the streets were taken over by the Chinese New Year markets. Besides walking around and eating seafood we didn't visit any of the tourist spots around the island. I brought everyone to the same restaurant my sister and I went to last time because I knew there was an English menu and the food I had last time was amazing. This time not so much... I blame the hordes of people for the lack of quality in the food served to us.

steamed shrimp... we wanted stir fried ones...
clams... delicious as always!
cabbage because they ran out of water spinach
small ass crabs
I think the only dish that wasn't a complete disappointment was the clams. We wanted stir-fried shrimp which is what I had last time and tasted amazing. The steamed ones were blah and the dipping sauce for it wasn't good. We ordered the cabbage to just get some veggies in us and to help make things flow easier. They were out of water spinach, the best veggie here, and I'm sad I couldn't introduce that to Erica and Phil. The crabs were super expensive, I believe two for almost $1000 NT. This wasn't the kind of crab that had a meaty body but the kind where people just slurp up the innards. Disappointing since none of us are those intestine appreciators, we wanted meat and it was not delivered! The meal was super expensive, I forgot how much but it was a lot probably around $1400 or so. Ugh totally not worth it. Note to self don't eat seafood at Cijin District during the holidays when the crowds are ridiculous and the quality of food goes way down. At least the food was fresh and you could taste that in the sweetness of the seafood.

After walking around the market areas and checking out the beach, we headed back to the ferry. The line for the ferry to go back to Kaohsiung winded all the way down the island near the base of the Cijin Lighthouse. If you've been to the island you'll know how far down that is. To pass the time we played some games like listing capitals of countries and shoe brand names. I lost quickly in both. Now if it was scrapbooking companies and products I would have OWNED! We managed to grab some shaved snow outside the Gushan Ferry Terminal, it was decent but nothing extraordinary.

We wanted to get mango or the strawberry one but they ran out of them both so we got the mix fruit. The mix fruit included tomatoes...Gross. $50 NT for four makes it a pretty good deal. We played word games over dessert and continued playing them as we headed to our next destination, the Love River where the Kaohsiung Lantern Festival of 2012 was being held.

Since it was the first day of the Lantern Festival all we really saw were the lanterns made by students and the vendors set around the lantern area. I believe all the lanterns above were made by students! Pretty amazing considering kids made them. A lot of the lanterns were eco-friendly having been made out of recycled bottles or cans. As if we didn't do enough walking today I was still hungry and we decided to head over to the Liuhe Night Market. Nothing at the market really stood out to me but did buy some nasty stale tasting popcorn chicken and what looks to be an Asian burrito.

This cost $80 NT and was ok but nothing amazing. I think there was a sweetish soy sauce or something in here that make it taste kind of weird. Also managed to buy some pineapple that were ok, Erica's choice of asian pear or apples were way better. I guess I wasn't as interested in the Liuhe Night Market this time around because I already tried most of their famous things and this market is small. Phil did get his first taste of stinky tofu and he LOVED it! Haha not at all. Took a lot of photos documenting his face change and disgust. To read about my prior visits to Cijin Island and the Liuhe Night Market click here and here respectively.