Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shida Teacher's Day

Today was Teacher's Day for Shida University. A day the teachers designate as their own holiday. So I had the entire day off to do anything I wanted. No, I didn't do anything fun. I just got some errands done and studied my chinese books. I'm saving my energy for this weekend in Kaoshiung. But at least since my homework is done and everything out of the way. I can enjoy a tasty dinner and a movie or two before bed. A few days ago I discovered a local chain (八方雲集) that sells these delicious pot stickers. My favorite is their curry pot stickers (咖哩鍋貼) with garlic dipping sauce. Mouth watering and soo cheap! $5 NTD each!


Monday, September 27, 2010

Finally, iPhone unlocked!

Finally, I got my iPhone unlocked. I dropped it off at a cellphone store near the Zhongxiao Dunhua station. It was dropped off on Wednesday and finished on the following Sunday. Unfortunetly, with the weather being hot and my hands being sweaty and sticky, I must have dropped the $1000 bill I was going to use to pay for the cellphone unlocking. It's probably lying on the Shida night market street next to the tea shop I got my drink at just a half an hour before. I was searching my pocket for coins to pay for my drink. So unlocking my cellphone cost me $1000 + $800. That made me mad with no one to blame but me. $30 USD just gone, vanished! :(

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hiking in Hsinchu

After last night's erhu concert, I headed back with Lucy, Hatuyen to their city of Hsinchu. We made it a hiking day and headed up their local mountain. It's known to have a few spiders that hang above the path. They're supposed to be about palm sized and difficult to see at night. So walking the trails at night means you'll run into them face first. Which is why I won't walk in the front and won't walk there at night! Oh and snakes and bees are abundant there too. Hatuyen is as deadly scared of snakes as I am of spiders. Never the less, it was a well paved path, easy slope, plently of colorful foliage and people. Afterward, we joined my relatives in Hsinchu for an impromptu italian lunch. Relatives everywhere, yay! This restaurant was supposedly one of the best italian restaurants in Hsinchu. It's too bad I had a study group at 5pm that evening, otherwise I could have stayed and enjoyed the city much longer. I'll definitly be coming back to visit on a weekend I can plan ahead and clear. Next week on the 2nd of OCtober though, I'll be heading to Kaoshiung on the Taiwan High Speed Rail with the same group. The entire weekend of fun!

In this picture, at the park (i don't know the park name): Lucy, Hatuyen, Tiffany, Amanda

Step 1: In case of emergency break windows
Step 2: Vandalism will be prosecuted by law Wait..What!? Is this a trick?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Expressive Erhu on the Yellow Earth concert

Today, I got a chance to go to my first concert in Taiwan. Also it's been a very long time since I've been to a concert. I mean, a REAL concert, not a rock band. Out of spontaneity during a walk with friends around Ximending, we heard a single street performer playing the Erhu. From there, we decided to search for a Erhu concert we could attend. I googled it, first result, the following weekend. So easy! So as the days grew closer, we tried to decipher the chinese characters so we could order our tickets online. I finally found out that you can purchase tickets through 7-11's iBon service. Pretty much any ticket you want for anything in Taipei can be purchased from 7-11, 24-hours a day, at any of the thousands of locations. Heck you can almost purchase anything short of a house/vehicle at 7-11. So convienant and no surcharge. Why isn't USA this efficient?

The concert was sublime. The sound was amazing. The music and instrument is so uniquely chinese. You could really hear the emotions and expressions through the Erhu. Having an orchestra of about 50 erhu's just amplifies that. One of my favorites was Feng Tang playing Love from Suite Grand Courtyard of Qiao Family. The Great Wall Capriccio and Erhu Rhapsody were also great. Mom and Dad, maybe you heard of these songs? I wish there was a way to post a video or better pictures, but they did not allow cameras. So these were sneaked in from a small camera. We were still caught and promptly given the X symbol made by the usher's arms. LOL. Oh and the seats were great and so cheap too ($300 NTD). The Ximen MRT station exit 5 puts you right in front of the building. The whole evening was just awesome! If you ever get a chance to listen to an Erhu orchestra, don't pass it up. Better yet, come and experience it here in Taiwan. :)

Oh and after the erhu concert we were still hungry. So being that we were already at Ximending, we walked around and shared food from various food stalls. We even went to my favorite tsua bing (剉冰) dessert restaurant. The one with everyone's signature on the wall. Mine from 2006 and 2008 should be there somewhere. I leave you tonight with a picture of happy chicken monster from a popcorn chicken place right at the entrance of the Ximending night market.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Mid-Autumn festival!

Today was the moon festival or mid-autumn festival. School and businesses are closed and everyone's out. It was a nice and warm sunny day today. The tradition is to BBQ outside. Despite the environmental concerns, alot of people were still huddled together with their family and friends grilling in the streets. The atmosphere was busy and full of laughter. The story of the mid-autumn festival varies, but in general it's the same elements. I'll attempt to tell it in a nutshell for anyone not familiar. A mortal man and woman lived on earth. The man was a skilled archer. At the time, there were 10 suns. The 10 suns scorched the earth, so the Emporer (Yao) order the man to shoot down all but one of the suns. The man did so, and his reward was two pills of immortality. One day his wife found the two pills and swallowed them. Two was too much so she became immortal and floated up to the moon. So now every year, on the eighth month and 15th day of the Lunar calender, when the moon is the fullest and closest to earth, we look up and search for the immortal woman on the moon. Thus explaining the moon cakes everyone eats at this time. I had my share of moon cake and more! Probably too many for my own health. But just for today, who cares! Om nom nom nom. LOL. I'll leave you with one new fact about me that I just discovered today. Tonight, looking through my photos of Miaoli and my family's shrine with my father's sister, we noticed my grandfather's name on the wrong side. If you take a look at the picture, there are two engraved plates. The one on the left is Huang and the one on the right is Lee. My grandfather was listed under Lee. Apparently during the japanese rule, our last name was misfiled or mislabeled as Huang. So my last name is really Lee. Shocking! It's not everyday you learn you have an alternative last name. Brian Lee...?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Break for holiday!

Just got back from dinner with some classmates after class let out. Tomorrow is the moon festival (mid-autumn) so today is an unofficial Friday. We headed over to a Korean restuarant on the westerner side of Shida market. [insert rolling eyes]. I've had better in America. Which is a pretty sad statement. Anyways, afterwards I headed home for an early evening. Loser, right? haha. Well I figure i have some luandry to do and I want to finish my homework early. So it'll leave tomorrow, the holiday, all free to do whatever I want!! I leave you with a photo of my desert. Jelly Mango Icey (加立芒果冰) in a knock-off Hello Kitty cup. LOL

Monday, September 20, 2010

Taiwanese sausage wrap

Today was another droopy day in Taipei. After the typhoon, there was alot of cleanup to do. On the way to class, there are alot of giant leaves (palm leaves, bamboo leaves leaves?) gathered up on the side of the road. So the rain persists making it a dark, droopy walk back home. On the train ride back, I remember that I haven't taken a picture of the Taiwanese small sausage wrapped by big sausage (大腸包小腸). I stopped by the Shilin market to buy some dinner to take home. I couldn't decide what else to get though. steak, oyster noodles, stinky tofu, stuffed chicken, okonomiyaki. So at the last stall, out of indecision, I took home a bowl of mala stinky tofu. It's different than the one I got from the Shipai market. It doesn't have the small black dots in the tofu. Speaking of tofu, as soon as I get home I turned on the TV so I can watch something while eating my dinner. Just my luck, they're having an Initial D marathon. Score!! Next time, for something new, I'll try some Ba-wan (肉圓) or coffin bread (棺材板) or okonomiyaki. You guys will love the coffin bread. Think curry chicken stuffed in a deep fried french bread coffin.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Don't phase me, Bro!

So today was the big day of the typhoon. Besides a few moments of hard rain, it was just the gusty winds. Reports say it was blowing at 60-80mph. However I don't have to worry about any of that inside the condo. The only wall that faces outside, faces a small central courtyard with two more floors above me. So no worries of sideways rain and high winds battering the windows. However during lunch and dinner, I decided to go out to see how the rest of Taipei handles the typhoon. I was suprised to see a few resturants open. People, motocycles and cars were still moving about like normal. So for dinner, instead of eating in, I headed out to the Shipai night market. It was business as usual there. I stood in line for a curry chicken (咖哩雞腿) bento. There was a long line so I had to wait 15 minutes while the winds battered my face numb. Most of the venders just string up a wind block and continue like the typhoon doesn't exist. It doesn't phase them. Meanwhile garbage, plastic stools, chopsticks, egg shells, newspapers and cardboard was flying all over the place. The gusty winds were strong enough to push my body around and catch me off balance a few times. I didn't expect the night market to be open or so busy, so I didn't bring my camera. But I did bring home dinner successfully and take a picture of that. Yum!! Typhoon curry chicken bento! Now where can I find Hong Kong style Typhoon shelter crab (避風塘炒蟹)?

Friday, September 17, 2010

NTNU classmates at TGIF

After yet another long week in language class, we all decided to head out to TGIF@Ximending for dinner. It was an extra special occasion because it was my classmate Florian's birthday on Thursday. Despite the food not coming on time and a few lost in translation orders, we had a great time. The place was packed and loud. The food was OK and fairly priced. We also learned so much about each other. Different professions, future plans and country of origin (of course). But it seems we all share a common educational mindset. Most grew up with chinese influence and culture. Some of them have scholarships, so they have to perform well. But we all agree Chinese is an important language for business. So we're all chasing the top of the class position at one of the best language universities in Taiwan. I've got a lot of studying ahead! :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

First movie in Taiwan!

Today I went with a classmate to see a movie at the Vie Show Cinemas near Taipei Main Station. We saw Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D. It's the first movie outing i've been to during my stay here in Taipei. Pricing is $370 NTD. About $11.50 USD, not cheap. So I won't be going too often unless it's a blockbuster. But it was a good movie. It makes me want a 3D TV now. haha! For dinner I tried to get some potstickers (炸猪鍋貼) or any food from my neighborhood stores. But apparently on Sundays evenings, most of them close. So I walked over to the Shipai night market. They were open. Trusty ol' night markets! The vender recognized me and recommended a new item. So I brought home some crispy pork steak(脆猪排) and fried cauliflower. It was good, but I still think I prefer my stuffed fried chicken breasts. Well back to my studies!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shin Yeh Buffet @ Mitsukoshi building 11A

So today I went with my realtives to Shin Yeh AYCE buffet at the Mitsukoshi building A11 by the 101. It's smaller than the Ming Yao buffet, but the quality is slightly better. It was really good! I'm so stuffed. I still think it's good to experience both. Quality or Quantity? It has the usual items in a asian buffet. Top grade Sushi, chinese food, fried food and delicious delicious deserts! Oh almost forgot, endless Yakult (養樂多). Also they had passion fruit halves. Not a drink, but the fruit itself. Kind of looks alien doesn't it? But Super sweet!

Friday, September 10, 2010

First hell week of class is over!

It was a difficult week. I had to study about 4-6 hours a day for 3 hours of class just to stay afloat. Which means I won't be updating my blog as often as before. Maybe something like once a week. As stated earlier, I was contemplating transfering to the regular classes. But I think i'll stick around for the intesive classes. I'll learn more because they cram more in the same time span. My grade may suffer if I can't keep up, but I don't care about the grade that much. The important thing is to walk away with absorbing as much chinese from these classes as possible. So being that i'm sticking around, I celebrated with two of my classmates after class today. We headed over to Juniors Cafe accross the street. It's a western pub with a billards and foosball table in the basement. I had some Fish&Chips. Oh do I miss western food! Drank a some beers with them, talked, played foos and some billiards for a few hours. Boy the pub nickel and dime you for everything. $100 soda, $10 to use the table lights for 20 minutes, $20 for 20 minutes on the foostable. Afterwards I took one of them into the Shida night market. The night market area seems to be divided into two areas. One side of the street has the western food places with high prices and mainly non-asian customers. The other side, is the actual shida night market. I introduced him to some small taiwanese snacks and drinks. I think he appreciated it. Show him the REAL Taiwan! Unfortunetly after such a fun evening of billards, foos, beer and cigarette smoke and a full week of hitting the books...I now have a splitting headache. I'm going to take a shower, go to bed, and ENJOY my weekend!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Typhoon is coming!

Today is the first day showing evidence of a Typhoon. On my way to class today around 1:30PM, there were very high winds. The winds are strong enough to push on my 170lb body. At least there isn't any rain yet. But I fear for when it does start to rain. Because all the umbrellas they sell here are cheap versions. They don't have the 100mph+ umbrellas the United States sells. So once the high winds and rain combine, umbrellas will become useless and just invert themselves. It'll be a very wet walk to school.

As for my classes, we get quized at the beginning of each day. I was hoping to score a perfect at least on the first few, but I was wrong. Although I practiced as much as I could, I only scored a 90%. Two stupid mistakes. I forgot how to write the number 5. Despite the fact that I wrote it correctly on a previous question. And on my second quiz, I believe I scored around a 96%. I made one mistake with Shi. We were supposed to be writing BoPoMoFo. But I wrote 10. Sounds the same, but not a consonant/vowel. Well I'm taking this as a break, so back to studying.

Monday, September 6, 2010

First day of MTC class!

I attended my first day of Chinese class today. Today's lessons consisted of bopomofo, numbers, simple greeting sentences. The class moves pretty fast. I already know most of what was taught today, which means I have a little headstart or advance on the course material. But I was still struggling to stay on the same level as everyone else. I'm starting to question if the intensive classes are right for me. Once my knowledge buffer runs out, I may not be able to keep afloat. I have 1 week to decide before the deadline. Besides that, my class team won. Losers have to do the extra 10 repetitions for homework. But I'll probably do it anyways for the practice :). Back to homework!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

4 Gorillas climbing 101

I spent the day with Lucy, HaTwin and Kurt. We visited the Chiang Kai-shek memorial and the museum along with it. There was much to see in the museum, including a creepy wax figure of him, his Cadillac limo, several pictures and books and uniforms. Next we took the MRT to Sun Yat-sen memorial. Despite being the "Father of Taiwan", it doesn't look as nice as Chiang Kai-shek's memorial. By this time, it was getting late so we walked over to the 101 and decided to eat in the basement level. The funniest moment was when HaTwin carved Lucy's face into her Yakult/Passion fruit gelato. You must look through the photos here. After lunch, we headed up to the 101 viewing balcony. I must say, viewing from inside through the large windows is much better than outside. The vertical metal barriers and protruding guard rails really block the view outside. Being the funny group we were, we all combined our money to be Enlarged. Think Honey I Shrunk the Kids. We then went outside and hung off the 101 building like giant King Kong gorillas. Kurt fell. Butterfingers!

When we were shrunk back to our original sizes, we headed over to the Ximending night market for dinner at the famous Modern Toilet. Delicious bubbling curry in a toilet shaped bowl, drinks in a urinal cup and choco-poop desert in a squat hole. What more needs to be said? MMmmmmmmm! In a restaurant like this, dirty toilet jokes were inevitable. It was a FUN day!

Oh and I almost forgot. We had Taipei 101 Beer Floats too. Yes, it's vanilla ice cream floating in Taiwan beer. It's like a root beer float, but with real beer. Kurt believes it's going to be the next food evolution. Just you watch, beer floats are going to spread world-wide and be a Taiwan originated phenomenon. Haha. It was kind of disgusting.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tonghua night market

Tonight, I visited Tonghua night market. I do have to say, it doesn't have the same class of traffic the higher end night markets have. So it won't compare to Ximending, Shilin or 101. But there are several clothing venders, and I suspect a better deal there. Food wise, I didn't find anything too unique. But I did find Taiwanese crepe or runbing (潤餅). I'll try it out next time. By 1pm the market started to thin out. Perhaps because it doesn't attract as many younger people as the other markets. Passing by Shilin on my way back on the MRT Beitou Line, Shilin was still rockin' and packed. My neice, Lucy, will be visitin tomorrow so I'm catching an early shuteye. I leave you with a shot of beef noodle soup with the soup seperate (牛肉麵). I visited this restaurant a while back but I don't know how to get back there nor do I remember the name. Don't lick the screen!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Orientation day for MTC and Ximending

Today was my orientation day for new students at the NTNU MTC. All they talked about was how the classes were strucutred and what/where to join supplimentary classes. As much as i'd like to join, the intensive classes are described as high load. Perhaps next semester i'll drop down to a normal class and elect for a supplimentary. After the orientation, they gave us our class schedules and books. There was ALOT of caucasians, about 90%. I feel like i'm back in high school in the midwest haha.

Around 7:30, I headed to Ximending for dinner. Street food mainly. But I was there to walk around and explore. There's an indian restaurant there (don't remember where it is). Modern Toilet (heading straight from entrance, left at the starbucks, head down lane 114). Cheese Steak place (first intersection, take a left, down to KunMing st.). old building with lots of grafiti (next to VIE cinema, west of KunMing st.), a strip of food stalls off the beaten path, the shaved ice store with all the signatures on the wall (easy, straight ahead). I discovered alot of nice restaurants bordering ximending. Ximending is also still confusing to navigate to me. Maybe after a few more visits I'll get the hang of it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Escape from plumber island

Today I had to fix the plumbing in the condo again. Everytime I used the washing machine it would overflow the drains and flood out muddy/soapy water. It kinda left the floors a mess, so before taking on that daunting task, I decided to escape from this disaster for at least 1 hour and get some lunch.

My relative, Hong-Mei and her son, Bob, brought me out to an old food court in a small mall next to Takashimaya. It's called Shi Dong Market. The history according to Bob is, the market used to be outdoors, but now they built a roof over it and that's how it stayed. The first floor is the traditional market and the second floor has two food court "wings". This is where I had some stinky tofu wonton. I think it's the steamed kind, mixed with some mala sauce and peas. Soo good! This is a must try when looking for food around Takashimaya and you don't want to pay department store food prices.

To round out the evening, I headed back to the Shilin night market to try out the curry bbq chicken (咖哩雞) wrapped in roti. It's pretty good, but not amazing. Perhaps the curry chicken is the wrong flavor. However they do redeam themselves with the dough tossing show. The guy out front tosses the roti dough about 20 feet into the air and catches it, much like they do for shows in a pizzeria. I was feeling a bit warm, so I decided to finish with something ice cold. I leave you with a photo of my strawberry, Kiwi, Mango bao bing (刨冰) dessert.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Burritos at Shilin night market?

I had this for lunch. I decided to stop by a local shop for lunch. Of course, again I needed their assistance as I couldn't read anything. I was fortunate enough, that they displayed all their meats in front. So I just picked the meat and they asked be if i wanted rice or noodles and if I wanted any vegetables. I took it home and combined it into a bowl. If anyone could help me name what I ate? LOL. I think it's Char Siu Ròu Mian(叉烧肉面) [Edit: It's Char Siu Mian]. I really do like the taiwanese style Char Siu Niu Rou. The outside is crispier than the usual chinese version I grew up with from Chicago's Chinatown.

Tonight, for dinner I went back to Shilin night market. I had a craving for red meat and I remember the skillet beefsteak stands they had there. Of course again, I can't read chinese. So I just told them to give me beefsteak (牛排). Of course they asked me which kind or flavor? ummm...I speaka no chinese. I just told them to give me whatever. 2 minutes later they gave me a sizzling skillet of beefsteak topped with egg and pasta. Well the pasta and egg is underneath the steak if your looking at the photo. But damn, the plate was SIZZLING! I had to use a napkin curtain to stop it from burning my forearm. It continued to sizzle while I took the picture and about 3 minutes afterwards. Hot and Yummy!

Afterwards I went to the outside section of the night market to shop for a mesh hat. Preferable a Squad hat. Apparently it's a popular brand around here. The venders told me I would have better luck at Ximending, but I did find one shop that sold it. Re:Armed. It was $980 NT or about $30. Expensive...well before negotiation. I also chatted it up with the store employee for 30 minutes. He apparently works hard but only gets 2 days of vacation a month and they cannot be on consecutive days. Aven also needs to ride 30 minutes to work from Taoyuan. Thats a commute.

Finally, walking back to the MRT station. I noticed two unique food stands. First one was a burrito stand. Yes, burritos! Probably with a Taipei twist, but i'll have to find out next time. Second was, what i assume to be, a thai BBQ chicken wrapped in a roti. When i get to try it out, I'll certaily take some photos to share in the delicious bounty. See everyone next time!