Sunday, October 31, 2010

XinSheng electronics mall

Today I headed over with Momoko to the Xinsheng electronics mall. She needed an external DVD burner. I also met up with Jason to pick up my flash color correction kit for my camera. All three of us browsed around the mall for a good hour or two trying to find the cheapest price. Momoko ended up with a cool pink External DVD burner for $1290 NTD. Afterwards, I was hungry and we found a local tiny shop and ate a plate of You Fan (油飯). Directly translated, oil rice. It's the same content inside of a ZongZi (粽子), but without the bamboo leaf wrap. And for people that don't know what Zongzi is, it is made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings (peanuts, fatty pork, mushroom, egg yolk) and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. Next Momoko and I hung around Ximending shopping and killing time with alittle homework at the big Ximending Starbucks. At 7, we met up with most of our classmates to have dinner with Nico aka Su Ming at Watami Ximending. He had cancelled his classes and will be heading back to Germany. He has been struggling to balance both work and chinese class. But he determined that his work was a higher priority and we all understand that. We all wish him good luck and hopes that he will come back to Taiwan, where we will be greeting him with friendly arms.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Movie Scarethon

Today, in the spirit of Halloween, me and a few of my classmates had a horror movie marathon. Everyone brought their own food, snacks and drinks and movies. I contributed the first movie, Daybreakers. Which by the way, was pretty good! Not exactly horror, but maybe alittle scary and definitly action packed and bloody! Next Momoko contributed Ringu. It's an older japanese movie about a cursed video tape. Once you watch it, you'll get a phone call informing you, you'll have 1 week to live. Then at the end of the week, a creepy dead girl will crawl out of the TV and kill you. 3 of us got a phone call after the "video" was played in the movie. Really! Of course it wasn't the dead girl calling, but perfect timing. Haha! After watching Ringu, we took an intermission for dinner. The 5 of us, went out for a family style hot pot. We walked around the neighborhood and found a hole in the wall family restaurant. The place was disorganized, loud and full of laughing and smiling faces with little children running around the table. A real "family" taiwanese hole in the wall joint. So of course the meal was not only fun and delicious, but super cheap. One big hot pot, four side dishes of meat for $160 NTD person. With our stomaches full, we headed to my favorite local tea shop and got drinks. Of course, I got my Yakult icey. Back at the house, "Kiwi" Andrew contributed the next movie, The Social Network. OK, it's not a scarey movie, but it does have Justin Timberlake in it. ok ok, we really just wanted to end it on a high note and not be freaked out walking back home late at night through empty train stations or dark Taiwanese alleys. It was really fun and I got alot of requests to host another one!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crispy, fried and spicey chicken!

Pretty much most markets have this. But the only one I see a line for is the one at the Shilin night market. I don't know what the chinese name is for it, but the company that cooks it, is Hot Star Large Fried Chicken. They're not kidding about large. For $45NT, I got a massive foot-long breaded chicken cutlet. Despite the bones you have to pick out, it is heart pounding artery clogging crunch-fest. At least for me, it was so good and felt so heavy in my stomach, I dare not try it again. But that doesn't stop the 50+ people lining up for this every night.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hsinchu day trip

Today I returned to Hsinchu, Taiwan to visit my neice again. I didn't have plans today nor did I have any time constraints this time. So I headed down after doing some homework early staurday morning as well as some on the train. I met up with Lucy and Hatuyen in front of Ching Hua University. From the Hsinchu HSR station, I used the #2 free shuttle bus and should have gotten off on the second stop. But the bus listed it as the third stop. So I got off 1 stop later and had to take a $100 NTD cab ride 3 blocks. haha! I'll know for next time. We had some lunch at a japanese restaurant with a beautifully designed interior. Afterwards, we hiked around a large university on our way to 18 peaks. But Hatuyen had a dinner meeting and it was getting close to dinner. So we killed off the rest of our time walking around the Hsinchu Science park. It's a nice place to hang out, read a book, snap photos or go jogging. Afterwards we joined up with my cousin and aunt to eat some Chengdu hot pot. Yes, the one with a wall split down the middle to seperate the two flavors. We had mongolian hot pot (東北酸菜火鍋) with chinese sauerkraut (suān cài, 酸菜) and Szechuan or má là (麻辣). Soo good! [Warning, bad iPhone photo, I didn't have my camera with me] I just can't find a personnal hot pot place around Taipei that has the má là flavor. Afterwards, with a full stomach, we all headed back to my cousin's home and let our dinner sink in aka relaxed in the living room. After a crappy cold, rainy and windy (typhoon) past few days, I was so content with some hiking in the sun and a satifying dinner. ahhhhh! See you readers next time.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Today I paid my tuition for the coming up Winter semester and went to the Taiwan Immigration Office to get my Visa extended. I could only get it extended to Dec. 4th, 2010 and must return again before Dec. 4 with the same 3 paperwork to extend to January 18th. I'm sure there was some sort of mix up. But the guy behind the counter said thats all I could extend it to, and I won't be able to get a ARC card either. Basically i'd have to leave the country. This doesn't sound right. This means it isn't possible to stay in Taiwan for more than a 6 month period to study at a school. Either way, at least it buys me time to straighten things out since my 90 day visa end Oct. 22 (in 4 days). Or even just get my citizenship and throw the whole stupid student visa/ARC crap out the window. While waiting for my ticket number to be called, it really occurs to me that I love living in Taiwan more than the first day I arrived. I've been told that 3 months is the honeymoon period, so to say, for your emotions to wear out. By 3 months, most people would start missing "home" and have regrets. So I'm still as happy and motived as I was day 1. I still wake up every day loving where I am, what i'm doing, and even going to class. I love learning Chinese. My wish is to continue into a 3rd or 4th semester or however long it takes me to be fluent in reading/writing/speaking/listening. I have no regrets and I have no longing for my american home, Taipei is my new home!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The planets align

Again, I've been told that I have the best teacher at Shida University. She's concurrently working on her Thesis and teaching our class. She's certainly one of the more accomplished teachers at our school. And I have heard from other students in other classrooms that their peers are not as diverse and their teacher isn't quite as organized or helpful. And it's almost unanimous that Shida University's MTC chinese program may be the best in the world. Taiwan is also one of the best cities to be in, in my honest opinion. I had the option of Beijing since they are considered the neutral chinese accent, but it definitly doesn't compare to Taipei's city life. So I cherish this rare occasion when all the planets have aligned. I have the best teacher at the best Mandarin university program, with the best and most diverse classmates, in the greatest & liveliest city in the world. It does not get better than that!

Friday, October 15, 2010

House Warming Party!

Tonight I was invited to a classmate's (Florian) house warming party. It's not his house, but his girlfriend's newly purchased condo in Taipei city. They seem very happy with each other and very close. It wouldn't suprise me if they got married soon, and I'm happy for them. Further on in the evening, we started to get into a deep conversation about how great Taiwan and asian culture really is. The chinese really have raised their children to be honorable, respectful, responsible and driven. It's normal for a teen to be taking night school after school as well as summer school in the summer. The educational culture is far more advanced and demanding compared to America. And the fact that Taiwan has very little crime that the news has to exaggerate minor crimes just to makes things interesting. And in a city so dense with people, there is hardly any litter. Taiwan doesn't even have many trash cans. Thats one thing I have to complain about, I can't find a trash can when I need one. Yet, the streets are clean. In America, we're so lazy, our trash doesn't even make it to the bin because we're too lazy to walk the extra 10 feet. In addition, the Taiwanese people are so helpful and kind. Many times, I've seen citizens give up their seats to an elderly or handicapped person, help an old lady accross the street, pick up and return someone's wallet, take 5 minutes to walk a lost stranger to their location. Every day makes me love Taiwan even deeper. It's awesome here!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fatty Pork Gua Bao (Taiwanese burger)

Tonight I discovered a Gua Bao(刮包) stand in the Shida night market. It's on the first wing to your left when you enter via the main entrance. I remember my parents always ordering this at restaurants in the states. They had four flavors i think, but I'm not sure. I stopped him at fatty pork(肥肉). The steamed bun was soft and fragrant. The pickled vegetables were crunchy and sour. The fatty pork was hot, soft and fatty! The way it should be. I think there was also some sweet peanut(Huāshēng, 花生) paste in there too. But I think they forgot the cilantro. Isn't Gua Bao supposed to have some cilantro? Anyways, It was still very delicious for only $45 NTD ($1.20 USD). féi ròu guā bāo 肥肉刮包.

Monday, October 11, 2010

RT Mart aka Taiwanese Walmart

So a friend introduced me to RT Mart today. It's like a Taiwanese version of Walmart. Big, lots of variety and at cheap prices because they have a lot of turn around. Although it is somewhat hidden behind some buildings on Lane 312, Section 2, BaDe rd. I finally found some disinfecting wipes for the house. Something I was not able to find at your my local Welcome or Watsons or 7-11 or Cos-Med. Oh and I was able to find Vanilla mint and Orange Listerine. No need to import from the USA. Right before the checkout stand, we found the snack isles. Four to fie isles to be exact. One for japanese candy, one for american candy and chips, one for traditional chinese... NO need to go further once you find the japanese isle haha. Meiji, Glico, Lotte oh my! I couldn't go home without bring some back. A chocolate Koala here and a strawberry Pocky there. Total $55 NTD for both or $1.60 USD! So cheap! These are so expensive in the states.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Takoyaki!!! They usually sell this all over the place, but it's not taht easy to find. This one was from Shida night market, but i definitly saw it at Shilin night market too. The one at Shilin tastes better though. According to my japanese classmate, it's not the traditional way of serving it either. The Shilin one doesn't include Nori seasoning, while the Shida one does. But both offer wasabi sauce which is a big No-No (Sacrilege!). I'm still not sure which one I prefer more, so I'll just have to eat try it again, over and over. Lucky me! Takoyaki!!!

OKso the picture isn't that good, you can't see the takoyaki underneath all those bonito flakes. If i get a better picture later, I'll replace it :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Coconut raisin delicious!

I was alittle hungry for some taiwanese pastry this morning. Taiwan has alot of pastry shops all over the place with lots of varieties. More than you'll find at a local Sheng Kee bakery in the states. So I found this coconut raisin buttery goodness for $25 NTD (80 cents USD). If I find any more notable ones I'll post it up.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kaohsiung, part 2

On Sunday we headed over to the Zuoying Lotus pond. Well actually it wasn't sunday, but I forgot the order I visited it since I'm writing this on Tuesday. The lotus pond was a cool sight to see. There are all these temples along the water with elaborate animal and buddha statues. One really really big buddha. A pair of animals, tiger and dragon, large enough to for you to walk through. If your visiting Kaohsiung, this is a definite stop. And while your using the MRT trains, stop by some of the famous stations that exibit art. Like the dome of lights at the Formosa Blvd station and the Central Park station courtyard.
While talking to some of the other people we met at our hostel, they suggested Shousan mountain (壽山). This mountain is known to have many macaque monkeys that are very familiar with humans and get very close. They even heckle with tourists for food. So keep your wallets and food close and secure. We got to the mountain and found it to be much more unpaved and steeper than we thought. Towards the peek, it was pretty much climbing, not hiking. Worst of all, we didn't see any monkeys, which was the whole point. Perhaps we got the wrong trail.
This trail was very narrow, dangerous, steep and we only saw a few people along the way. Not very easy going and touristy. We climbed it for about 2 hours and I was sweating buckets. After getting back down the mountain, we headed over to the Kaohsiung fisherman's warf for lunch. They have alot of nice and reasonable priced restaurants along the waterfront. We chose a greek restaurant since it was the first one open at that late of a lunch hour. After that, we headed over to the Former British Consulate at Takao. It too, like the lighthouse, has a great view of the harbour, but from the opposite side. It's apparently a very popular place to be as it was busy with visiters and mainland China tour groups. There's a large cafe in the courtyard out back and offers a stunning view. We stayed there to watch the sunset over the pacific ocean (or South China Sea). And with the sunset, I conclude this day's blog. See you next time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


So this weekend I headed down to Kaohsiung. I took the Taiwan High Speed Rail (高铁) to Hsinchu to meet up with Lucy, Hatuyen and Kurt, then head down to Kaohsiung. In total the ride is about 2 hours. Taipei to Kaohsiung is almost the entire length of the island. But it is the full length of the rail from the first stop (Taipei) to the last (Kaohsiung). Tickets were kind of expensive, by Taiwan standards, at $3000 NTD round trip. On our first day there, we went to Cihou beach. There were many bodyboarders there. I wonder if the waves are big enough to surf in the early morning hours. Kaohsiung also has a ferry to carry you accross the harbour. It's a nice ride for only $15 NTD. We also stopped by the lighthouse. Up in the hills and on the edge of a cliff, it has an excellent view of the city. After that we went to the famous Liuhe night market. It was definitly big, but most of the stalls served the same food. Most the stalls were food and there are limited store fronts and not many clothing merchants. It's one long and wide street. So overall not that great compared to what I get around here in Taipei. It does have one redeaming factor. They have breaded and fried King Oyster Mushroom (杏鮑菇). So it's crispy on the outside like fried chicken. The in 杏鮑菇 Taipei is still good but the oil just heats it up, it doesn't have that cripy skin that breading gives. After the night market we headed to Tuntex sky tower observation deck. Another disappointment. You can't go outside, the windows were dirty and there isn't much to see other than the view. We ended the evening with a boat ride down the love river. It's a nice slow 30 seat boat ride down the river illuminated by riverside cafes and lights on bridges. It's a relaxing boat ride with a speaking tour guide. So it's not a romantic boat ride as the "Love" river would imply. But the riverside bars, cafes, dining spots would be better for a more personnal time between friends than a 30 seat boat ride. See you Sunday.