Monday, April 30, 2012

it's official!

It's official I'll be back in the states in October! My contract ends at the end of September but I plan to stay a little longer to travel. As some of you might know the owner asked me to extend my contract for another year. I put off replying her for as long as I possibly could because the decision to stay or to leave was pretty difficult for me to make. I started to worry about getting future employment and if said employment would turn out to be bad or super hard in comparison. A lot of teachers complain about how shitty my school is and how hard it is to work for them but I think our jobs are pretty cushy, especially at the campus I work at. Not to say there aren't times where I just wanna cuss up a storm or bang my head against a wall but all in all it's pretty decent. Also I was feeling pretty guilty because while I was leaning on going home I was getting told by my head teacher that both he and my manager really wanted me to stay.

After thinking about it for a long looooooong time I realized that I probably have nothing to fear. Worst comes to worst I end up leeching off my parents until I can leech off the government. Haha! I kid... I've been in some crappy situations before and I'm sure I can adapt to whatever is thrown my way I just needa make sure I get another job first. So Korea? Japan? Hong Kong? Where to next?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

transportation update!

I NO LONGER HAVE TO KNOW CHINESE TO USE THE BUS! I remember the last time I posted about buses here in Taiwan was this post. Now I know better. Buses do have numbers! Haha. I can't believe I said the bus lines didn't have any numbers on them... Anyways back to why I no longer need Chinese to ride the bus... that is because of the EasyCard! Yes the same EasyCard that you buy to use the MRT line in Taipei, instead of buying a fare token each time. According to my students the EasyCard could be used on the Hsinchu buses starting from February 2012. All you do is tap the card to the machine when you get on and tap it when you get off. No longer will I need to tell the bus driver in Chinese what stop I'm getting off at. It's amazing because sometimes I slip into Cantonese when I say the stop name and the bus driver either doesn't get me or give me shit for it when I say it "properly" in Mandarin. You can reload your EasyCard at any of the convenience markets: 7-11, Hi-Mart, Family Mart, etc. You would think you can reload the card at the Hsinchu Bus Station but you can't. The Hsinchu Bus website doesn't even state that you can use the EasyCard on their buses so this information is first hand stuff - how local of me! Did I mention that the basic fare for the Hsinchu bus rose from $23 NT to $26?!? Ugh those three extra dollars were really crimping my style. Good thing the EasyCard gives me a 10% discount on rides so my basic fare drops back down to $23 again! Haha.

Now moving on to trains. Unlike Japan, different speed trains cost different prices in Taiwan. At first when I was in Japan I thought it odd that a faster train wouldn't be more expensive since it's taking less time to get from destination to destination. However it makes sense because how do you regulate who takes what train. Those turnstiles aren't gonna be like "hey you've arrived here too early for your slow train ticket so please stay inside the station." That is exactly why train lines in Japan charge fares based on distance since you can actually regulate that. I asked my TA in Taiwan how they regulate people using local trains compared to express trains and she had no clue. I ask this because we bought a semi-express train ticket and then rode a local train and nothing stopped us. Apparently some officers patrol the train but I haven't seen any of them check the ticket. Also if you're a foreigner can't you just play the "I'm a foreigner and I don't know Chinese card?" I found out that Express trains sell tickets with seat numbers so people can't just sneak on with a local ticket and expect a seat. However they still sell tickets for standing room to passengers so I could still purchase a local train ticket and hop onto an express train.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

b-b-b-bucket list

Ugh while I was looking up places I needed to see in Taiwan I realized I wasted all those holidays. Those would have been perfect time to go check out the outlying islands of Taiwan. Now there aren't any holidays until October. So I either have to do a rushed trip on the weekend or wait until my contract ends before I check them out. Doubt I'm gonna take more unpaid vacation days off to check out these places.

1. The National Palace Museum
2. Taipei 101
3. Sun Moon Lake
4. Yushan (The Jade Mountain)
5. Alishan
6. Love River in Kaohsiung
7. Kenting
8. The Liushidan Mountain
9. Taroko National Park
10. Jiufen
11. Penghu Islands
12. Hotsprings in Wulai or Yangmingshan
13. Tainan
14. Lukang
15. Sansia for the Pigs of God Contest (bummer I missed this it happened on Jan. 28th)
16. Lantern Festival in Pingxi
17. Green Island
18. Orchid Island
19. Fire and Water in Guanzihling

It seems like I hardly made a dent into my list. Doesn't help that every time I cross something off I add two or more places.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

matsu's birthday

One of the major historical sites in Lukang is the Tianhou Temple on Zhongshan Road. I like how all the attractions in Lukang are situated in close proximity to each other so if the temple is your last stop you can pretty much hit up all the other major attractions on your way. The area around the temple contains a market which is something I find so characteristic of major temples in Taiwan. I guess locals know that the temples attract a lot of visitors so where better to set up your food stall? Its nice because I don't have to go out of my way to eat local delicacies but is also really annoying when the market place is so close to the temple that it blocks the architecture or makes accessing the doors like walking through a maze...

First food sample at the market was deep-fried mud shrimp. I believe the Chinese name translates to shrimp monkey. Don't get the reference to monkeys. It didn't taste like shrimp but more like a crustacean especially since the shell was still on them. Can get it in several different flavors. I chose garlic and original - both were tasty and got pretty addicting after consuming several.
It cost $120 NT for a small bag which is pretty pricey for street food. But I guess that is what happens when you gotta go catch those shrimps by hand or something. Honestly I spend way more money buying food at day and night markets then if I went to an actual restaurant where I can buy one meal and be full compared to having to buy several sticks and bags of food to fill me up.

Another famous specialty is the thin noodle soup. Mine came with pork but the pork was nasty since it tasted like char siu (the red Chinese BBQ meat) but immersed in a thick soup base. Ughh I am not a big fan of thick soups and the sweet meat covered in a semi-salty soup was a gross contrast. At least it only cost $25 NT for a bowl.
Cow tongue cakes are a well known local food item and not because they are made of cow tongues but because they are shaped like one. Shops were selling them everywhere and I see them being sold in supermarkets and such in my area. But I guess if you want the authentic ones you have to come to Lukang. They aren't anything special just egg and flour with some sugar flavoring? It was so unmemorable I can't even recall how it tasted like!
Tianhou Temple is dedicated to Mazu, the Goddess of the Sea, and many temples in Taiwan are dedicated to her.
Due to the smoke from the incense the statue's face has turned black so Mazu is also called the black-face Goddess.
A special practice in Taiwan is the inspection trips made by the Goddess Mazu. Statues of the Goddess Mazu from various temples are carried around to visit other temples, leading followers along the way. This inspection trip allows for Mazu to exchange greetings and blessings with each other and to allow her to learn and relieve the suffering of her followers. A major inspection trip occurs around Mazu's birthday which happened to be yesterday and so I got to see as a visiting Mazu statue from Taipei came to visit the Tianhou Temple.
this worshiper was wailing and sobbing as she prostrated on the floor
these two kept hitting themselves with lit incense!
the visiting mazu goddess
They had a string of firecrackers meters long that almost blew my ears off. I was standing right in the front so the firecracker pieces were hitting the air all around me. So scared I was gonna get hit with the burning pieces, had to turn around to protect my face. Must be super scary for the men carrying the palanquin to have the firecrackers so close to their feet. 

I've been craving tangyuan (glutinous rice balls) recently so I was jumping at the chance to eat at Ludingji Three-color Rice Balls Shop.
small size for $25 NT
Was hoping to find tangyuan so was disappointed to find that these rice balls were just the sweet potato and taro balls I've had in Jiufen. It tasted good but wasn't the tangyuan I so desperately crave!
tofu pudding, rice balls in purple rice milk for $35 NT
This one didn't taste that awesome. Was glad I didn't try to be adventurous and order the purple rice milk just because it sounded unique. This shop had a lot of English information and maps. Bonus!

The Details
Ludigji Three-color Rice Balls
No. 187, Minquan Rd., Lukang Township
tel: 04-7756268
hours: 10:00 am - 10:30pm

Saturday, April 14, 2012

old street, random sights and english fail

I think of all the old streets I've been to in Taiwan, the ones that make up Lugang's Historical Preservation Area are one of my favorites. Not only do the houses look old as in architectural wise, not just broken down old cement blocks, there is also a lot of English signage and information posted around. Unfortunately there was a lot of people so they took up most of the street and blocked me from taking pictures of the cute buildings and a lot of the buildings have been renovated to host shops and restaurants so that also kind of ruin the old street ambiance. On one hand it makes sense that locals are using the old street to earn money but I would really like to explore an old area that still felt old and authentic.
One of the highlights of the old street is this half-side well.
It's actually not a half well but a full one. The other side extends beyond the wall into the private residence of the Wang family. Not every family could afford to build a well so the Wang family had the well built so that their less fortunate neighbors could also get access to the water. There is also a shop that sells flour mush tea which isn't a tea at all but more of a paste. They were handing out free samples which was a good thing because it saved me from having to pay to try this traditional delicacy.
It's been so long so I don't really recall how this flour mush tea tasted like but my mind is telling me something like sesame and I wasn't a really big fan of it. Besides it was super hot that day so "eating" this tea wasn't that appealing. Apparently this place,Yi Gu Zhai Tea House, is known for turning the flour mush tea into a shaved snow version that is supposedly very delicious. Right after the historical preservation area saw another temple which isn't a surprise since Lugang has over 200 temples. The thing that stood out for me about Sinzu Temple was the beams that were wonderfully painted - by far the prettiest beams of any temple I've seen.
Wondered off the main street to check out the Guihua Lane Art Village which wasn't very impressive. Most of the buildings were closed off and there wasn't anyone there but I loved how quaint all the white buildings looked together - so peaceful after the crowds of the old streets.
Nearby was a park that paid homage to Lugang's namesake and its importance as a harbor back in the day.
No real deer to take pictures with but bigger than life size statues of them work just as well especially with boats that are floating on grass surrounded by deer. Lol so random I love it! Now onto the story where I failed my role as an English teacher or rather where the American education system failed me. Lugang besides having a lot of temples is also known for its arts and crafts. Six of the 36 National Artistic Heritage Award winners are from Lugang and are known for making their specialized crafts in the traditional manner. One of these artists is Mr. Wu Dun-hou who is about 90 years old now and specializes in making lanterns.
That is actually Mr. Wu Dun-hou standing at the doorway even though I didn't know it at the time. He had driven away by the time I had crossed the street and entered the shop. Pictures aren't allowed inside the store but I didn't know until Mr. Wu Dun-hou's son told Eamon who translated for me. There was a whole conversation about me being a foreigner but looking like a local which gave me a chance to look around the shop and I even managed to get some stamps for my souvenir stamp book. It was funny cause he thought I meant postage stamps which apparently the shop also sold. They do have them you just need to ask. They also had some information about the shop in English. So here is where the embarrassing part comes in. After talking for awhile Mr. Wu asked me to help him write a sign in English - No Bargaining. Well instead of bargaining I wrote "bargining". Honestly, I have no excuses I even wrote it on my hand and tried to decide which was more accurate but I suck at spelling and I was under pressure to not look like a fool. But you guys have to agree the word "bargaining" is hard to spell right? Right?? I'm only reassured that Mr. Wu would not know that I spelled it wrong. So here are some excuses and reasons behind me "deliberately" spelling it wrong.

1. I wanted it to look like a local spelled it - you know engrish. :P
2. Now if he ever shows the sign to people and anyone mentions it I know it would be my sign he's showing to peoples because I'm pretty sure no one else would give him a incorrectly spelled sign. How awesome if he kept my crappy sign around for a looonng time. ahaha.
3. It's ironic cause I "teach" English
So awesome I got to take a picture with him. I love how awesomely nice everyone is to foreigners. Eamon states that people are nicer to foreigners than they are to locals and I don't know about that but I do know that I've always gotten treated pretty awesomely. Maybe because I can pull out the cute admiring foreigner card who can't speak Chinese but is Chinese card. Mwhaha.

The Details
Mr. Wu's Lantern Shop
312 Zhōngshān Road, Lukang, Taiwan

being traditional in lukang

Lukang has been recently been named one of the top 10 small tourist towns of Taiwan. The other cities on this list can be viewed on CCNGO's website and might have to be added to my bucket list. Lukang has been on my bucket list for awhile now because of all its ancient temples, the city itself has over 200 of them! Of course besides temples there are also a lot of old buildings and streets to be explored. Traditional architecture and handicrafts still exist in Lukang because back in the day the citizens of the town refused to allow major highways or railways to be built. This has allowed the city to escape complete modernization and hence why amongst all the ancient buildings, you'll also see a lot of crumbling homes. Lukang literally translates to Deer Harbor and while walking around I saw a lot of deer iconography - Lukang should be the sister city of Nara! The harbor and the deer are gone now and with the only method of public transportation being the bus, the city went from the second largest in Taiwan to being a "small back water town." I actually quoted that straight from the official Lukang website. Lol nice to see that is how the government views itself, I wonder if they understand the negative connotation implied by using the words "back water." 

To reach Lukang from Hsinchu we took the train from Hsinchu to Changhua which cost a little over 200 NT and then a bus from Changhua to Lukang which cost $53 NT. Apparently I could have used my EasyCard to pay for the bus fare. I'm waiting for the day when the EasyCard will cover all train fares too and not just the trains in Taipei. The bus ride takes around 30 minutes and you'll want to get off when you spot a train station building on your right hand side. The train station is actually the local tourist office. I grabbed a map which was really helpful even though there are English signage everywhere.

First thing I did in Lukang besides grabbing a map was to eat a pork bun. They are apparently well known here and we got ours at this place with a dragon mascot. These stores were everywhere and we would see one every couple of blocks. Each bun cost $18NT. The pork bun or rou bao didn't taste particularly delicious to me, just tasted like every other juicy, yummy meat bun I've had before...
The first place we checked out was the Lukang Longshan Temple. The temple to me is pretty unique in that it's not brightly colored like all the other temples. The woodcarving on the beams and pillars are beautiful and the muted colors just makes it prettier in my opinion.
Next up on the list was Gentleman Lane or Breast-touching Lane. Follow the signage for Mo-Lu Lane and you'll find it. It's a short walk from Longshan Temple. So why is this lane called Breast-touching Lane? That is because this lane was so narrow (less than 70 centimeters at its narrowest) that when a man and a woman would walk through they might touch each others breasts. Haha.
This lane is so narrow that two people wouldn't be able to walk next to each other. Also if someone was heading from the opposite direction, one person would have to back up or do the whole breast touching maneuver mentioned above. Can you said awkward? It got renamed to Gentleman Lane because a lot of scholars ended up settling in this area. Also around this area are a lot of old traditional housing. It was really cool cause it looked like it was straight out of the movies but I can imagine how uncomfortable it must be to live in these small shack-like houses.

if there wasn't a scooter wouldn't it be like i was in ancient china?
I love how the houses here actually look old unlike all the old streets I've seen where the houses just look like all the other houses in Taiwan but are just "older." Nine Turns Lane is another area where you can view older houses. The name is derived from the fact that the people here built their houses in such a way that the lanes curved rather than form straight lines. They built it this way to diminish the power of the September winds (September being the 9th month hence the nine in the name). 

trying to show the curves
The whole day I've only eaten one pork bun so I was pretty hungry so when I saw some samples on a table I leaped on them like I hadn't eaten in a week.
Sad to say these weren't really filling unless I was planning to shove the entire plate down my throat. The above are samples of a famous delicacy in Lukang, the fengyan or Phoenix Eye cake. There were different flavors but I just tried the strawberry, lemon and almond flavors. The almond was the best. The fengyan has a chalky texture and made me really thirsty. I would probably enjoy this more if I had a drink to accompany it but the samples didn't excite me enough that I would actually buy some. Stopped by a little stall for some dessert.
Initially I thought this jelly was just aiyu jelly which is seen in every night market in Taiwan. However my Chinese teacher told me it's a Hakka dessert and is made of sweet potato powder. Apparently there isn't an English name for it so the Chinese name is 粉 粿. It tasted like something I've had before in America I call it "gute foon" but I think that might be Taishanese rather than Cantonese and its a dessert my grandma makes. It took me such a long time to think of the name for that dessert and for the life of me I can't find information about it. Most likely cause I'm not using the correct pinyin to find it and I'm not sure of the Cantonese pronunciation. Arg. Anyways the dessert came with noodles and Eamon says the dish is popular in Taiwan but I've never seen this before...Cost $25 NT for a bowl.

Too much for one post. Stay tuned to see how I brought shame to America and English speakers everywhere!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

pingxi and jingtong

After Shifen, we headed over to Pingxi and Jingtong. On my first trip to this area we only saw Shifen and Jingtong so I was excited to see Pingxi since it is so famed for its lantern festival.

pingxi old street
The Old Street wasn't much of a pleasant sight and all the peoples crowding the streets sure didn't help. All the brochures and such always rave about the old streets in the different cities but in Taiwan they aren't much to brag about when the houses are all made from cement or aren't maintained well. There isn't a huge offering of restaurants here, most every tourist was waiting in line to buy a sausage. I'm not sure if its cause the sausage was famous or cause there wasn't that much of a food selection.

Buddha Rock is a place which overlooks the city of Pingxi and has a statue of Guanyin Buddha for people to worship. You can find the few attractions this city has to offer near Buddha Rock. The Bomb Shelter was built during World War II and is a set of five inter-connecting caves.

The caves don't go in really far and are of different floor levels. Some led into tiny crawl spaces that were really dark. It was fun hopping around, making scary noises to try to scare one another. Look closer at the rocks surrounding the caves where rock carvings of the Buddha can be found.

Head towards the right of the Bomb Shelter and go up some stairs and you'll arrive at one of the other attractions, the Bell Tower. The Bell Tower was also built during World War II and because of its location was used as a guard tower to send warning messages. But now it is a pretty pitiful sight and not that many people bother with the trek up there to view it.

The last attraction, the Eight Immortals Cave was a bit harder to find. There were signage in Chinese that Cody completely overlooked until I decided to take it upon myself to check the other side of the Guanyin Buddha Shrine.

The Eight Immortals Cave consists of a bunch of caves that are connected to one another. They have been converted to little rooms with tables and benches for people to sit in. So cute and rustic! If someone made this into a restaurant that would be so cool. I could see this as a restaurant type thing for weary travelers set in some historical Asian drama.

There was a food cart where this lady had these glutinous rice cakes that she would sprinkle with sesame or peanuts. If that liquid was brown sugar I would have much preferred that instead of the sesame since there was a slight cross contamination with the peanuts and it left my mouth very dried. Still it was good to eat and it was something I've never tried before. I recommend heading to your left once you arrive at the Pingxi Train Station instead of taking the stairs at the back, you'll reach the old street much faster that way.

By the time we arrived in Jingtong it was getting dark so we couldn't see much. Everything looked pretty much the same as it did when I came here last, one long continuous street with not much to offer except for sky lanterns. Most likely everything was closed due to the time. I did discover that if you head right after exiting the train station and keep walking straight and then turn a corner, you'll discover the shop that sells Jingtong's famous chicken rolls.

Can't seem to recall how much one roll cost but it was something like 30-50 NT. The chicken roll is made up of a bean-curd skin that contains pork, taro, onion, carrots and chicken, which is then deep-fried. With all the other ingredients I could barely taste the chicken. It was good but nothing special, I wouldn't go out of my way to order it again. Supposedly this dish was only offered to the gods the 1st and 15th of each month but has now become a tourist attraction in itself.

Since my last sky lantern contained wishes for other people and was so selfless, I used this one to write messages and wishes about my friends. So this one is for you guys :P

Of course there were too many people to mention by name so I took to drawing stick figure faces as a representation of all my friends and family that I've missed since I've been in Taiwan. Can't wait to catch up with you guys so very soon!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

coal miner transformation!

My first trip to Pingxi was during the Lantern Festival, which is probably the busiest time a person could choose to go visit this area. So when the Qingming Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day, the day people go to honor their ancestors at their grave sites, arrived I thought it would be the perfect time to visit Pingxi because everyone would be busy going to worship and we could avoid the crowds. Totally forgot about all the youngins. Of course most of them didn't go with their parents to their ancestors graves (no respect! - kidding). My family calls this "han san" or "walk mountain," not sure if this is the same holiday. I wouldn't know until later that this would be the last holiday I get. The holidays in Taiwan are bunched together and then you end up getting five or six months without any holidays. Ugh so depressing - nothing to look forward to as you trudge through the endless work days....Anyways back to the trip:

The train heading to Ruifang was super packed, more so than during the Lantern Festival! While on the train with my friend Cody I was saying random nonsense and showing off my inferior Chinese abilities. My Chinese consists of asking my students if they like me and if they say they don',t my answer is to call them a liar and say that they really do. Well a boy next to my who was staring at his phone was laughing and I'm thinking to myself this guy knows English because he's laughing to what I'm saying. It was confirmed later when he started talking to us. Very smooth Steven, very smooth.

Thankfully most of the people didn't get off at Ruifang but a large amount did. We were running around trying to get tickets to the Pingxi train because we didn't want to wait in the long line for the all day pass. We just ended up boarding the train without paying and the train station employee was fine with it cause the train was leaving. OR WAS IT?!? While standing in the train I thought about how awesome and efficient the trains in Japan were. Sure it was so annoying when the door closed one second in front of you and they would just zoom away without letting you on but that allowed for their trains to be on schedule. As we stood there waiting for the train to pull away, the conductor kept opening the doors and letting people in. Groups and groups of people would run for the train and the train just kept opening and closing the doors and WOULDN'T LEAVE. It felt like we were there for half an hour just letting the stranglers get onto the train. At least the train wasn't so crowded that we couldn't look out the windows and enjoy the nice scenery.

On our way to the Shifen Waterfalls, stopped by the Coal Mine Museum again.

This time with Cody translating I was able to find out that the museum was up in the mountain somewhere and if you purchased a ticket there, a van would bring you up to the museum. Since we had time to kill I was sure let's go check it out. While riding in the van that was heading up some obscure road we were talking about the possibility of this being a trap and how we were gonna get killed. Thankfully that didn't happen. There is a tour guide but its all in Chinese and all the info we saw was in Chinese too. While the tour guide talked to the other visitors there, Cody and I just wandered off by ourselves, messing around.

coal miners make her swoon!
The following picture is a little NC-17 haha. Look closely. Cody told me to post it up specifically for our new friend Steven.

When I first saw these pictures I didn't really look closely and thought they were just half-naked men working the coal mines. Cody was the one who noticed they had some extra bits lacking on all but the fattest of males. How crazy is it that women worked the coal mines and half naked?!? I thought Asians were super conservative, I wonder how the men acted with all those naked females around them. This picture is specifically for Steven because on the train I had noticed that his cellphone wallpaper was a picture of a sexy female. That led to a discussion that he must watch AV and then to proceed to embarrass him about it and how after meeting so soon we already knew his pervy character. So enjoy the nice naked pic Steven! Haha. One of the main attractions of this place was that you could actually ride in a coal mining tramcar, driven by a Taiwanese granny.

The tramcar didn't go fast and where it brought us wasn't all that exciting. The seats were just planks of wood. The old lady even let us sit and pose for pictures in the driver's seat. Would not have been able to do that if Cody couldn't speak in Taiwanese. Points for getting a different experience from other tourists!

The driver's seat is just the base of the open doorway with a pillow on top of it. Super uncomfortable and despite how big the first car is, the actual space for the driver is miniscule. Afterwards everyone went to watch a Chinese film about the coal mining in the area. I'm only assuming that was what they were watching since it was in Chinese so I didn't even bother to follow them in and watch it. Instead Cody and I discovered there was a dress up section in the back and proceeded to have a blast. I believe this was probably the funniest part of the whole museum since everyone was occupied watching the movie so we had everything to ourselves and could take as many photos as we want.

i'll make a fine coal miner girl!
cody will make a fine crazy lady
Afterwards the driver even dropped us off at the Shifen Waterfalls saving us a walk! Sweet. Got to approach the falls from a different direction.

This bridge offers an amazing view of the train as it speeds past. A lot of people stand here just waving. There is also a vendor or two selling some snacks. This direction is the one that goes along the train tracks which I didn't get to do last time. Last time we walked past the tourist center and up the hill since we were following the arrows. While at the falls I discovered that if you walked down some steps you got a better view of the waterfall.

While in Shifen I noticed there was a lot of Cantonese peoples. I loved eavesdropping on their conversations and then I would respond in my awesome Cantonese. People were shocked and thought I was from Hong Kong. One guy who I did it too asked me to take a picture and said he knew I would do it cause we are "gee gay yun" (the same people) sorry for not accurate pinyin but I don't know how to use it so just sound it out. Haha bow down to my amazing Canto skills! Tried to find the hundred year old rice noodle shop in Shifen (mentioned in the Pingxi tourist brochure) just to discover that the store is only opened on the weekends. Bummer!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

crappy tourguiding in taipei

Shirley, a friend whose teaching in Japan, came to Taiwan to visit! So I met her and Chance in Taipei to play at being a tour guide. Didn't actually do much but it was nice just walking around talking nonsense and eating. My friend Joci had recommended going to Chen San Ding saying that they served the best pearl milk tea in Taiwan. Hearing that it was the best pearl milk tea perked my interest since I LOVE pearl milk tea. Upon doing some research everyone was pretty much in agreement so why not introduce the supposedly best bubble tea to my friends. When we arrived at Chen San Ding there was a humongous line - another testament to how awesome the drink was gonna be. 

Chen San Ding's specialty is 青蛙撞奶 or "frog hitting milk" and isn't actually pearl milk tea since it doesn't have any tea in it. It's a combo of brown sugar, real milk and tapioca pearls. 

One cup cost $30 NT. Funny how the non-Asian person is the only one who could order the drinks. Chinese Fail! Now I have to say the drink was delicious but would I deliberately go out of my way to drink it again? No and I still think pearl milk tea is better. To each its own!

Afterwards we wandered the Gongguan Area to grab some grub where Shirley proceeded to bow Japanese style to all the vendor in thanks. It was funny to see the reverse happening with all her bowing compared to me saying xiexie to everyone in Japan. Then had to bring them to Liberty Square to absorb some culture and not just food. I've been her four times and I can't resist taking a picture everytime I'm here. Since it was almost on the hour we decided to wait to see the changing of the guards. What I didn't realize was that since it was almost closing time the changing of the guards would change to a leaving of the guards...

One of the guards positioned at the doorway was sweating so badly that a security guard or whatever was moping his face. What a crappy job to have especially in the summer where you can't even wipe your face! I would like to see one of them sneeze during their guard duty. Has anyone ever brought pepper or a feather to tickle the guards with? 

Leaving the sanctity of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall surrounded by tourists. I wonder what happens when they finish crossing the square? Do they enter into a van or take the MRT? They were going so slowly that I didn't have the patience to wait for them to hurry up so I just dashed around taking pictures before hustling the others to go. Made a stop at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall for a look at the giant statue over there and an awesome view of Taipei 101. 

Afterwards headed over to Shilin Night Market to get a big ass fried chicken steak. I think I've taken everyone whose visited me to eat this. It's so worth it $50 NT for a slab of meat bigger than my face and also tastes good. Shirley managed to drop off her luggage at one of the MRT lockers after dragging around with her all day. So much cheaper than the ones in Japan but there are a lot of instructions to keep in mind. The lockers don't give change and you only have a couple of minutes to close the door after inserting your money or you will have to add more money in order to close it. It cost around $26 but Shirley didn't close the door fast enough so we had to put more money in. Since none of us had change she put in $100 and then we didn't get any change. We really need to read the instructions more carefully before acting. 

Taiwan is all about eating food on the go. Rarely are there seats at eating establishments and everything can be boxed up. Totally the opposite of the Japanese where people don't walk and eat at the same time. I mentioned to Vinnie that I saw people microwaving their food at the supermarket and taking it out to eat, so they have to walk and eat at the same time. The response: they eat it outside the doors and then move. Haha makes sense since I don't recall seeing anyone munching food as they walked. Of course their food culture is so different with so many restaurants everywhere while in Taiwan food stalls are more common. So today was the first time I've ever sat down while eating at a night market. Since there weren't any seats, we sat with all the university students on some steps, trying to look cool and totally fitting in with our youthful looks.  

Shirley ended up crashing at my place a few days later to catch her early morning flight back to Japan and left me with a bag of snacks! Yay for awesome house guests and yummy Japanese snacks.

She even got me a charm from a temple! So cool I went to so many of those temples and never even got myself one. I keep it with me all times in my wallet so I can remain blessed in its power. Forgot what this one did so hopefully Shirley you'll be able to tell me when you read this post :P Some apparently new flavor of strawberry Hi-Chews, how many variations of strawberry can people come up with? Love those apple sours and the Cereal Pocky was definitely interesting... Only thing that could have made this day better was if Phil had joined us. Instead we laughed about his love of photographing children and our enablement as we stand by and watch not stopping him. 

The Details 
Chen San Ding
12 Lane 316, Section 3, Luósīfú Road, Jhongjheng District, Taiwan
directions: Exit 4 at Gonguan MRT station. Walk straight and then turn left on Luósīfú Road