Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy (Gregorian calendar) New Year!

I spent new years eve with Yoh-Yi's family. They have a great view of the 101 and the Flower Expo fireworks from the rooftop of their building. Today I'm just going to make it simple and short. The fireworks were amazing! Two big shows next to each other and the beginning sequence was coordinated with several buildings all setting off in a big bang. It seemed like WW2 and the city was being bombed. I couldn't take that great of a picture of the 101 fireworks as there was too much smoke. But I did capture the 101 building at midnight with the '53 Rollei III. Displayed in all it's glory for the 100th anniversary of Taiwan and 2011 New Year! The walk back home was super crowded even at 2 AM in the morning. It took approximately 1 hour to walk from the top of the stairs of the subway to the gate of the train. distance..100 yards. Soo crazy! I wasn't even at the New Year's party down at Taipei City Hall. I heard it was much worse there! I haven't yet experienced a new year in New York city, but the celebrations must be similar in the madness! Happy New Year my readers! {This post predated after the events of course.}

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Soon Du Booo!

Finally went to that famous Korean restaurant at Shida night market we failed to eat at during my classmate reunion 2 days ago. My friend, Yuki and I, got in before any line started. She ordered the dol sot bi bim bop. and I ordered the soon du bu jjigae. The soon du bu was watered down and pretty bland tasting. Yuki said her's was ok. This officially disappoints me. Are there no good korean places that can serve a good soon du bu? Anyways, walking out of the restaurant, I saw a lot of people ordered a pan of meat on the portable grill. I don't know what it is, but it seems popular and maybe what this restaurant is known for. I shall give it a second chance and order this Korean pan "grilled" meat next time.

Edit, thanks Angela: It's DIY grilled Bulgogi

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shopping for a leather jacket

Today after class, I helped my friend Jerry with his english report on the KMT-CCP revolution. It took a while and his english is much better than I expected. His report is about college level and uses a lot of scholastic words I rarely use. I really had to use my brain on this one. After about one and a half hours, we finally finished. But Jerry had to leave early, so he treated me to dinner at Evans Burger. I had a country fried steak. Never tried that before in Taiwan. It turned out to be so-so. Delicious but still small and taiwanese flavored. Not the real american country flavor to it. Probably missing the deep fry in the week old oil slathered with artery clogging gravy. Evan's burger version tasted almost ...healthy? Afterwards, I did some quick shopping around Shida night market for a [fake] leather jacket. It's getting cold here in Taipei and I need some thicker threads. I found two i liked, one is a little plain and the other has a really high collar (probably too fashionable for my tastes). I'll get some opinions, but the search continues.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dinner with my first semester teacher

Tonight had a reunion with my old classmates and had dinner with our teacher (Eve) from last semester. We ate at a new indian restaurant on the western (not west) side of the Shida night market. Originally Eve had planned to go to a Korean restaurant, but it was closed. It's a very famous Korean restaurant and it constantly has a line. Must visit this next time when they're open, because the last Korean restaurant I went to sucked. Anyways, the Indian restaurant was also very good. They were bit expensive, but still quality. We had a great time catching up and discussing how we don't like our new teachers. Eve was the best :) Afterwards some of us headed to a dessert store and had some red bean soup. We parted ways after that. I hope I can continue to stay in good contact with my old classmates and my teacher. They'll always hold a greater meaning to me here in Taipei.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tron 3D

Hung around with my language partner, Joyce, again today. After a bit of coffee, we decided it was just way too cold outside. So we headed into Q Square mall. Ahhhhh. So much warmer! Well it doesn't take too long to shop through Q Squared. There isn't much men's clothing and nothing of much interest to Joyce. At the top floor of Q Square is a theater though. A rather nice one too.Since Tron was just released, we decided to watch that, in 3D! It's a pretty damn good movie. I don't think the storyline has anything to do with the original storyline. But the movie was action packed and the 3D was outstanding for this movie. I guess it was easier to do so, when the majority of the movie is CGI. The best part of the movie is a sound track. Some say it's just a really long Daft Punk music video, which I see their point. But the music was really really good! I like the electronica-synth beat and Daft Punk have been doing this for a while. I'd recommend watching the movie and youtubing a few of their songs (start with derezzed:)). Great stuff!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas day with pancakes and waffles!

What better way to celebrate Christmas outside of the USA than with pancakes, waffles and Ikea meatballs. My California friend, Bruce, graciously invited us to his home to have a Christmas day lunch special. I offered to be a cook, so i showed up 2 hours early. About 5 of us, were scrambling around figuring out what to do, how to do it, messing up and doing it all over again. I also think there was plenty of Chef's "food tasting" going around. I think the first 5 pancakes made were devoured. Around noon, people started to pour in. By then we had a table of pancakes, waffles, sausages, meatballs, eggs, fruits, orange juice, milk...everything we missed from home. After that, me and a few others started a game of Monopoly. Bruce went into his room for some guitar hero and what not on his Wii. The rest just socialized around the dinner table. I brought my language partner, Joyce, with. I find it humorous to see her in such an odd "american" environment. I think she enjoys the difference though. So much fun! Can't wait for the next one Bruce, Thank you!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hot Pot Christmas dinner party

Today I celebrated Christmas eve with my classmates. We were all invited to Yuki's house after class for hot pot. Her landlord prepared a lot of food for us. Pork, roasted duck, baby carrots, oysters...oh my! We had a great time celebrating together and playing with the landlord's tiny dog. For desert, Yuki made these cute Christmas themed cupcakes. They kind of look like animals trying to escape quicksand. I get to meet such great new friends every semester. I can't wait what new faces i get to meet next semester the way things are going! Haha, great times!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gongguan Billiards

Today, Yuhki and I found a new billiards place within walking distance of our school. It's in the Gongguan district of Taipei. The closest station is Taipower MRT station exit 2. However it is still a good 10 minute walk. The place is on the second floor and has a yellow 9 ball rotating outside. Yuhki thinks the tables are much better at this location. However I think it's a bit more expensive here compared to the Ximen one. But saving on the MRT fare balances it out i guess. On another note, I got my second 100% on the quiz. I'm happy! Finally a 100%, and two of them. I love pairs;)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Billiards 撞球

Today, after class, my classmate Yuhki introduced me to his Taiwanese friend, Jerry. They're both into billiards (撞球, zhuàng qiú). So I called up my language partner, Joyce, for a fourth. After a quick dinner, we headed to Crazy Horse at the Ximen night market. Crazy Horse is on the second level through the video rental room, which I think is part of Crazy Horse. The place is rather large. It's filled with about 30 tables, an arcade section, video poker machines, bar and video rental/rooms. The place rents by the table per hour. So after about three and a half hours of play, we called it a day. Cost...only $340 NT. Divided amongst ourselves, it's really cheap! Tuhki thought the tables were alright though. Maybe slightly damaged due to misuse. I had a great time and hope to return. 'Till next time!

Monday, December 20, 2010


Today I had an appointment with the dentist to fill a hole in my molar today. I chipped a metal filling a two and a half weeks ago eating some food. I think there was an accidental seed in there left by the chef. Normally this would be grounds for some major complains to the restaurant. But it is one of my favorite places in California to eat and it's an isolated incident, so I let it go. So I show up on-time for the dentist appointment. One of the rare times I'm on-time haha. My relative, Yoh-yi helped me find and setup the appointment. The dentist is also a family friend. Yoh-yi told me the dentist's office was freshly remodeled and now equipped with state of the art equipment. The dentist was very friendly and took ten minutes out to show us around the new office. It was so modern, organized and pleasantly fragrant with the scent of imported japanese pine. After the tour, we proceeded to the chair to begin the repair. After a quick examination, he told me it was a simple and quick task. We decided to forgo the local anesthetic and proceed. 15 minutes later, he was done. It was so fast. After the initial drilling I thought he was cleaning the cavity and preparing the filling. But instead he was fixing and molding the new filling already. This is the first time in my history that a dental procedure finished before I expected it to! Usually you're wishing it was finished long before it's actually complete. On top of that, I didn't have insurance here in Taiwan, so it had to be all out of pocket. So he also helped me with a generous discount. I do not want to reveal anything specific on who it was or how much I paid in case it may get the dentist in trouble. He is so kind and generous, that I will definitely make an appointment with him again for my next dental need. Hopefully I'll have insurance next time ;). So they were able to see me, give me a tour and repair my filling in 1 hour. I can't even get my photos developed faster than that.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Taiwanese Christmas party

Today I met up with my uncle (二伯伯). He is my second brother to my dad. We met up at the Taipei Main Station, but had some difficulties finding each other. I always thought of the Taipei main station underground mall, bus station, high speed station and train station as the "Taipei Main Station". But according to him, it's only the big outdoor train (火車) station. I'll definitely have to remember that for next time with him or with anyone else. I must specify the building/section too. This was my assumption and my mistake. I hope he does not think too negatively of me :(. After finding each other, we headed to the second floor of the Taipei Main Train Station. The second floor has many many food venders. The second floor is constructed like a square with an atrium in the center. So you can walk around in a circle deciding on what you want to eat. They have an eclectic selection of food venders catering to what you desire. So if it's too hot or too cold outside and you can't decide what to eat, definitely head to the second floor out of the intemperate weather. You'll find what you want there. I love my Indian spices, so I had some Indian food. MMmmm garlic naan and curry! Afterwards, we said our good byes and I headed over to my taiwanese friend's Christmas party. I think I already said this before, but Taiwanese parties are different. They run on a schedule and have organized activities. Since this was sort of a company Christmas party, there was presentations too. In addition there was also dancing, games/exercise, singing, pot luck and white elephant gift giving (and no alcohol!!). I'll give it to them, it gets everyone involved and there is a lot of participation. However this is a difference in culture that I can't adjust to too well. I feel too pressured to participate in something I'm not really comfortable with. So I still prefer the western culture of people+booze+chatting+loud music. I feel it's more relaxing. Of course if your not proactively social, it might get a little boring. So drink more booze :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Language partner

The school finally assigned me a language partner. And today I met meeting her for the first time. We hung out for lunch and met up with her other friend afterwards. We talked for hours while walking around the 101 Xinyi district. I was afraid my chinese wouldn't be good enough or I'd run out of things to talk about. My other classmates experiences have been on the negative side. They only spend an hour or two and usually part ways when they run out of things to say. So I guess I lucked out and found a new taiwanese friend that I can really get along with. This is a huge plus. She's pretty good at english too. So I can really practice my chinese out of the classroom in a real world situation. Afterwards, I invited my two new friends to my classmates Christmas party. We chatted and drank into the night. She was a little shy with all the english foreigners around, but she handled herself quite fine alone. She also got to get reacquainted with her previous language partner (one of my friends) which was also at the party. Small world! I ended up staying till 1AM. I had to end it early to get some sleep. Due to being an early riser this morning, I didn't get much sleep. So it's been a 28+ hour shindig/drinking/party for me! I still had my book bag from friday and wearing the same clothes because I haven't gone home yet. Exhausted... need rest!

btw this is obviously pre-dated so the blog is on the correct day. :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bastille Cafe and a very late night

Today I introduced my classmates to the Bastille Cafe. Yuki and I were talking about bars with a large selection of international beer. She knew of a place at Shida night market with 25 beers. But of course, the Bastille has over 100. :). So she insisted that we return with our classmates after today's class to fully enjoy the beers. We had such a fun time. We talked for hours and had so many different kinds of beers. I wish I had thought of collecting all the bottles for one shot, but I did not. We probably went through 20 bottles. Some strange flavors and some uniquely surprising flavors, like the gingerbread flavored one. Not a strong flavor of course, but it definitely hints at it. It's like wine tasting, but with beer. LOL. It is called Oerbier nat en straf (Belgium).Also Yuki's favorite was pretty light with a hint of sweet. It's called the Belirium tremens aka "The Pink Elephant". Afterwards, I headed over with Fabien to his girlfriend's house to drink some wine and chat and 7-11 food. 7-11 is such a godsend. Open 24 hours and tons of precooked and frozen food. The frozen food they offer to microwave for you too. I wish the 7-11 in the USA was this convenient. Fabien's girlfriend is so lively and fun to be around. More so when she is drunk...maybe...haha. Anyways, I missed the last MRT train so Fabien let me stay over at his place. We called it a night around 4:00AM. I am very grateful for such a generous friend. To good friends and good times!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Five Dime restaurant

Today I went with my aunt Lai to Five Dime restaurant ( It's a restaurant serving chinese food in a very unique building located near the Jiannan MRT station on the brown line. It is very near the Miramar entertainment center. Which by the way I must visit in the future. Anywho, back on topic. Five Dime restaurant is similar to Rainforest cafe, in that it's a theme restaurant. So think of a chinese version of the Rainforest Cafe. The vegetables wasn't bad, but not spectacular either. However I ordered the grilled ordered sirloin in black pepper sauce (黑椒沙朗牛排) and it was tender! The main attraction, however, is the unique architecture outside and on the inside.The outside is carved with spiral stones and multicolored lights all over the place. The inside doesn't have any straight walls and has similar curved and slanted walls like the exterior. They have a large water feature and tons of artifacts scattered about. The place just looks so eccentric! The photos will describe it better than I can with words. This is a great place for parties as well. Most of the tables seem to accommodate between 6-14 people. If your ever in Taipei, this is a fun place to have a meal at while your visiting the Miramar entertainment center. I'm not sure if it get crowded at peak hours because I went during a weekday evening. But it's a definite unique stop. One hint, the front doors open automatically to sound. Clap on (open)!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Curry hot pot (咖哩香香火鍋)

Nothing out of the ordinary today. Chinese class at the MTC as usual. I also paid the remainder of my tuition so I can continue with my current semester's intensive class. Wouldn't want to be kicked out for a mere 7,000 NTD ($210USD). After class, I headed over to the Shipai night market and found a new personal hot pot place (小火鍋). They have curry flavor hot pot (咖哩香香火鍋). I love hot pot and I love curry. So Curry flavored hot pot, you can't go wrong! soo good!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mr. Onion in Tian Mu

Today, I spent another few hours trying to hack the iPhone again. I made the mistake of selecting "Erase All Content and Settings". I think the wording on this was deceiving. I thought it would just clear the apps, music photos and reset all the settings to default. But NO, it wipes the operating system too. Why would there be a visible option to do that? Shouldn't they have made it a hidden option only revealed by a hidden developer known passcode? Anyways, after a few hours of reading through the internet I was able to re-unlock it through the iPad baseband. They say it has GPS issues, but I tested it and it seems to work fine after the jailbreak. So I lucked out. Afterwards, I grabbed lunch with my Aunt Lai at Mr. Onion in Tian Mu. It's near the Tian Mu square and the 6&6 american specialty import store. So while we were waiting for a table, I walked over to the 6&6 store for some Tabasco sauce. The Tabasco was twice the size, but the same price as my local Welcome mart. Also, apparently the 6&6 has a new name, same owner. I already forgot. They should have stuck with 6&6, it was easier to remember. The atmosphere was american country-like. The wood panel walls were adorned with rustic equipment and old porcelain cups and pitchers. After a 30 minute wait, we got a table downstairs.For $700 I got a set lunch with a lot of food. I think it was main course, two appetizers, drink, dessert, soup and a salad. I got a grilled seafood mix. It was delicious, but nothing to blog too much about. Perhaps I should have stuck with the steaks they had on the menu. Continuing on the negative note, the french onion soup was bad and watered down. For a place with the word onion in the name, I thought it would be better. But to end it on a positive note, the escargot was excellent. I finished all the succulent snails and used the bread to sponge up the remaining sauce. MMmmmm good! And we'll leave today's blog at that.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Grand Palace - Taipei

Today, I went with my aunt to The Grand Palace for a noodles lunch. They are very famous around Taiwan. Apparently a few of the items on the menu were influenced by the royal families favorite. The noodles are pretty darn good. I'd definitely go again, given the opportunity. Afterwards we spent alot of time looking at flowers at the Shilin Presidential Garden. There were tons of rose bushes there. However, these are not just normal rose bushes. They're unique in that there are 100's of flowers blooming all at once and all growing from a single stem. They are engineered to only grown from one thin stem and of course supported by wire otherwise it would collapse. They trim any branches and only allow it to grow straight. The largest bush there was around 650 roses and the stem it grows from was tiny! Like pencil thickness tiny! Anyways, thats about all I can say. I'm not really into flowers and roses. The garden is definitely large and perfect for a long stroll with a significant other if your looking for ideas and don't mind the crowds. Finally, I got my new camera sd1400is shipped in from the USA. Copper color for the win!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday birthday celebrations!

Today after class me and several of my other classmates and MTC acquaintances went to Ximen's Modern Toilet. One of my favorite places to eat. They were very accommodating. I reserved for 6 people but when more people showed up, they immediately made room for the larger party. Being as the place was already packed, I don't know how they managed that. +1 to them. The food is great as tasty as usual. If your not familiar with Modern Toilet, there is a brief description and pictures in my earlier posts 2-3 months back. I just don't get tired of eating beef curry out of a toilet shaped bowl, sipping yellow tea out of a urinal shaped cup and eating frozen yogurt out of a miniature squat toilet. The toilet humor was abundant. It was also the first time for a lot of classmates to eat here, so I'm privileged enough to introduce them to this. I think they'll come back :). Afterwards, we went to a bar behind Ximen red house (西門紅樓). I forgot the bar name, but it's in the middle and pink colored. There are a lot of bars back there. Tons of open tables too. All outside and some under their own umbrellas, in case it rains. They serve food too. Fortunately we grabbed a table under a huge umbrella, because it did start raining as we predicted. I would have never know this place was behind the red house. Most of the time you see the market in front, then stop when it ends. We chatted it up for a while and drank some too. I had some absinthe (Fruko TW). Tastes like peppermint menthol alcohol. It's some pretty strong stuff too at 140 proof. Here's a quote from wiki "Absinthe has been portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug. The chemical thujone, present in small quantities, was blamed for its alleged harmful effects. By 1915, absinthe had been banned in the United States and in most European countries including France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire." The dangerously addictive psychoactive drug part has been greatly exaggerated though. Anyways, back to the evening. We talked for several hours. And I mean several. We didn't leave the bar until 3AM. We got hungry, so we decided to head over to the now empty Ximen night market. The 24 hour McDonald's was still open. I bought some taro pies ($25NT). In America, it's normally filled with apple pie. But the taro is unique to the Taiwan market. We continued to chat a little while longer, until 4AM. Then we called separate taxies, because the buses and trains don't run past midnight. I learned about two numbers to use in order to get a 30% discount on cab fare. You dial 55178 or 55688 from your phone and person on the phone asks your location, destination, name, phone number. They then record all the information for next time. So on your second call, they greet you by your name. They assume it's the same destination, so all you have to do is give them your current location. I've taken a taxi from Ximen before and it costs around $340 NT. This time, with the discount, it cost me $210 NT. Awesome! Very useful for staying up late past the bus and MRT schedule. Well it's wayyy past my bedtime!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's my birthday!

Today is my birthday!!! Another year in the pocket. I'm getting old. But no celebrations today, I have a chapter test tomorrow, so only studying. Partying will commence Friday after class. Yeah, such a shame. But I'm here to absorb as much Chinese as possible, so I have to stay focused. I can't wait for tomorrow after class :D

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New semester, new teacher

So it's been about a week since my second semester started. My main concern about the second semester was with my classmates and teacher. Obviously getting along with my classmates and teacher is important, otherwise it'll be a rough ride. First off, the classmates. I've already had a chance to meet them outside the classroom. Last friday we all went out to a cafe/bar and chatted for a few hours. They're a cool gang I could get along with. Although it'll be tough to compete with the three japanese students since they have an advantage on written vocabulary and reading. Teacher-wise, well I guess everyone is going to have a preference to their first teacher. At first, this teacher used a lot of new words not in our chapter, she doesn't split up the chapter into days and she doesn't give handouts of material we're reviewing in class. I can get used to studying the whole chapter in one day. It leaves the rest of the next two days to review grammar and the vocabulary again. With my previous teacher, there was a quiz everyday. I think I've grown to like this new method. The teacher has also calmed down on the new words. She now realizes that it just confuses everyone if she uses too many advanced words not currently in our chapter. So she's toned that down by a lot in the past 5 days. The only scuffle I've had with her is with hand outs. I've asked her if I could get a printed version of her Powerpoints she uses in class. I work better from printouts because they're more straight forward than what the book says. I can study better with them. At first she said she'd be willing to print out any that I ask for. But the second time I asked, she denied me. Other students even tried taking pictures and she said it was copyrighted and they need to pay her. I don't see her issue with helping her student out on such a simple request. She gives lame excuses like saving paper, copyrights and paying her. Technically I have paid, with my TUITION! Am I wrong to be pissed about this?

edit: Teacher now gives me all the handouts I want. I guess she went home and thought it through. She was being a dick about it because it doesn't follow her style and she should do whatever she can to help her students out.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dinho Shopping District, Zhongxiao Dunhua

Tonight, a friend introduced me to the Dinho shopping district behind one lane adjacent to the Zhongxiao Dunhua main street. I'm not sure if thats the right name, but it's definitely next to the Zhongxiao Dunhua station. The main road has more name brand items and fancy lights, but this area on the side has more Taiwanese brands and a much more unique style. First off, we had to catch dinner. We ate at Room For Dessert. It's a small restaurant but upscale, roomy, clean and quiet. The food was OK. Only a choice of 6 items from what I can remember. But what they're famous for is their desserts, if the name didn't give it away. They have more dessert options than food options. I can't remember any of the names though. Just saying banana cake or apple tart pastry wouldn't do it much justice. You really have to go there for dessert! Probably after you get done with shopping around the Dinho shopping district. Speaking of shopping, there are tons of tiny independant shops as well as larger Taiwanese name brand clothing shops there. And of course what would any taiwanese shopping area be, without street venders for clothing too. I also finally found the Lomography store. OMG, they have tons of cameras in there. I really want one because they're pretty cheap. Hmmm you'll find out on the blog if I get weak and buy one Haha. I leave you with a google image of a dessert from Room For Dessert that does it justice! See you next entry!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Take that... Apple iPhone 3GS!

So I spent about 8 hours total, yesterday and today, trying to unlock the iPhone 3GS. I brought it to a Taipei cellphone store at Shida and they said they couldn't unlock it because of the OS version. So I brought out both my laptops trying to figure this thing out. My first task was to downgrade the OS firmware to 3.1.3 which is what the cellphone shop requested. After surfing the web and researching and attempting it on the iPhone for a few hours, I gave up. Next as a last hope, I tried the idea of unlocking it myself. After a few hours of research and a couple attempts, I successfully unlocked it. Boy, there are a lot of conflicting or outdated information out there about unlocking/downgrading iPhones! Well in the end, I'm just happy that I got it unlocked. Because otherwise it would be a really expensive paper weight here in Taipei. So after 8 hours of going back and forth between my laptops (one for researching, one for testing/itunes), it's unlocked for my niece to use here in Taipei. @Apple, take your "Think Different" corporate hypocrisy and shove it!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Back from America

Just got back from California for my short semester break. The first day I arrived, I had to get dressed for my friend's wedding that same day. The wedding was beautiful and we partied late into the evening. All went without a hitch except for someone dropping their glass of red wine from the second story onto me and my friend talking below. Someone got too drunk to handle themselves correctly! Anyways, the rest of the weekend was a big blur of trying to have lunch/dinner with all my friends as well as getting some chores done. After being in Taiwan for a while I have gotten used to the Taiwanese way of life. Going back really made me see the difference. First off, the entire weekend my stomach was ill due to the change of food. American food really is oily (a different type of oil), fattening and in general felt heavy and filling. By no means do I skimp on the food here in Taiwan, but I just can't eat the same quantities in the USA without getting fat. I think I gained about 3 lbs in just 4 days! Last thing I get to do was drive my Porsche. Man, do I miss driving a high performance car! Of course it wasn't on the PCH, but 30 minutes around the industrial park was fun enough! The roar of that flat-6 accelerating down an empty industrial park at dusk!!! I wish I could bring you back to Taiwan. But alas, time was short and I had to hurry back to SFO for my flight back to Taiwan. See you later California, back to Taiwan!