Sunday, January 30, 2011

Minimal Cafe and Shaorou Sukiyaki

Today I took it easy and went decided to visit the "cat cafe" that my friend Yuki has been so highly recommending. But first things first, I had to pick up the Leica. It's back from repairs and TLC and ready for shooting! We'll get back to that once my first roll is exposed and after I finish my previous roll of 120 through the Rollei. This cat cafe is called Minimal Cafe in the Shida night market. It's at No. 42號, Lane 2, TàiShùn Street, Da-an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106. Lets put it simple. Cafe + 30 lovable well mannered cats + Coffee. It's just so ...CUTE in there.After my quick sammich (sandwich) and a coffee, we went around searching for cats to pet. They're laying around all over the place. Some black, some white, some mixed. Mostly sleeping or walking around. Some on the counters, some on the chairs, some on the tables and some even in the ceiling lights. Yes, they have "Ceiling Cat" there! A celebrity. The cats there are so friendly and maybe a bit sleepy. Maybe we visiting at the wrong time. But while petting some, one black cat jumped up on my nap and started to sleep there.I loved it, and they're so used to humans you can even play with their little kitty paws. All was well, except that I had to make a dinner reservation with my relatives. But I didn't want to disturb the cat napping on my lap. So i waited a good half hour before he woke up, stretched, yawned and took his leisurely time departing from my lap. :) Ahhh the life of a kitty. Enjoy the numerous pictures. Yuki and I couldn't stop taking pictures! Back to my busy life. I met up with Yoh-Yi and her two sons and only daughter to eat dinner at Shaorou Sukiyaki. It's all you can eat. Yummm! Now I know why teenagers line up for this place all the time and you need a weeks advanced reservation to get in. The service and meat was spectacular. Mind you, you have to cook it yourself sukiyaki style, so you must know how to cook good meat. Overcooking it will make it taste bad. They have several different cuts of beef, pork and lamb. Some with more fat, some more lean. They even have sliced cow tongue. All imported from Australia (Taiwanese prefer Australian over American meat). Ohhh, and the dessert! Out of this world! They have a server come by with a japanese white charcoal grill (binchotan). Then he grills some mochi (Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice). It puffs up, then he cut it open like a pouch and fills it with your favorite flavor of ice cream from the Haagen-dazs freezer. Or if you prefer, he'll roll it in peanut powder. Either way you choose, it is absolutely delicious! Come starving, leave fat! I highly recommend this place. Sooooooooooooooo stuffed! Somebody come and roll me home. Additional pictures can be viewed here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

TianMu flea market

Tonight I took a long walk over to the TianMu flea market (天母跳蚤, Tiānmǔ tiàozǎo) to see what it was about. My friend in the states talked about it as well as a few of my relatives. It ended up just being exactly what the name is, a flea market. So basically a lot of people setting up blankets and having a lawn sale of stuff they don't need anymore. For the most part, it isn't anything I'm interested in. I did see a "vender" selling clothes, but mostly just household items and trinkets. I wouldn't visit this again, unless i'm looking for such things. It was certainly busy though. So I guess i'm not that "local" yet. If it has one redeeming point, it had a live band. :) 'Till next time!

Allen & Dickson Diner

Today a classmate of mine recommended a burger place in the Shida market. Allen & Dickson Diner. It's a small place out in the back of one of the alleys. The interior is decorated with old american tin advertisements from the 50's to the 70's. There's also a big surfboard mounted to the wall as well as other trinkets, giving off a coastal vibe. I tried one of their burgers, the house special burger.Oooh! This is the best burger i've had since leaving California. It's better than Evan's burger by far. It still has room for improvement, but it's still pretty delicious. The patty is still not hand-packed, but it's definitely equal to the american size. The lettuce is the big negative. It looks like they just cut a chunk out and threw it in, instead of picking out the flat leaves that would make the burger more "level". The fries are above average. Thick and golden. But it's missing a little of the saltness and crispiness i'm looking for. Still, for being so convenient to me across from my MTC campus, it's a great find. Prices range into the $300 NT with a drink. I've been told of other burger joints nearby though. ie, The Diner, KGB burger, JB burger, 1885 this place will definitely try to hold it's own against those restaurants. We'll see as the battle for superior burger be continued.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Film: Au Revoir Taipei

I picked up my third roll of 120mm film exposed on the Rollei. I also bought a DVD of Au Revoir Taipei by Arvin Chen. It is a really really good movie. I saw the screening for this movie back in San Francisco. I'd like to say this movie inspired me to come to Taipei, but really I had already laid out my plans to come to Taipei before I saw the movie. Never the less, it is was a great movie and it definitely fuels my passion for Taipei. The movie is a light hearted romanic comedy about "Kai, a lovesick young man, who wants to leave Taipei in hopes of getting to Paris to be with his girlfriend. Kai spends long nights in a bookstore studying French, where Susie, a girl who works there, begins to take an interest in him. After one extraordinary night, Kai finds the excitement and romance he was longing for are already right there in Taipei." If your interested in Taipei as I was, I suggest you go out and rent this movie. So for now, Au Revoir from Taipei ;)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Globe of warmth

I finally bought a $1700 NT Infrared Parabolic heater, so I can stay toasty on those cold nights. I tried finding the US branded one that I like so much in the states, but Costco here did not have it. Costco was my last hope. So I went to Carrefour and bought a taiwanese made one. I hope it doesn't break and set me and the house on fire. Did I mention that Costco is extremely busy. There was a line outside of people waiting to go in. Crazy! But I guess they're the only discount place with american products at discount. Afterwards I went with my aunt to a vegetarian all you can eat. The food was pretty good. I don't miss the meat. The desserts were the awesome part though. Vegetarian or meat lover, desserts is something they share in similarity. I can always count on bringing my sweet tooth!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bo Pi Liao near Longshan Temple

A friend introduced me to an "old street" near Longshan Temple. So today we met up at the temple station around noon. Immediately afterwards we headed over to a famous restaurant nearby. I don't remember the name or where it was. Sometimes these traditional places are just hard to remember without a website or business card. There was also an old coffee shop nearby. It's been around for over 100 years. It had an old japanese map of Taipei used during the japanese rule of Taiwan between 1895-1945 (somewhere around that time). Afterwards, we went to Bo Pi Liao "old street" to shoot a few pictures. It's a small one place, only one street. And most, if not all of the stores are empty. But it makes for a nice stroll and lots of photo opportunities. You'll find numerous photographers hanging shooting around there. The only attraction there, is one of the movie sets for a famous asian movie called Monga. It's about an asian gang in the late '70's. Your allowed to walk around the set and take a few pictures.They have the bar room and the mahjong table and the checkers table from the movie. Google it if you want to know more. One last comment..I felt really happy when I was shooting with my Rollei. During my last shot of the roll, a man approached me and start to talk about how the Rollei brought back memories of his childhood, when he too had the same camera. He wondered if 120mm film was still available. I directed him to the photography district. I hope he gets back into it :) Anyways, I'll post the photos of Bo Pi Liao later, as I don't have them with me right now.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Coffin bread

Tonight I went to the Shilin night market to get some dinner and do a little jean shopping. I ended up finally trying out the Coffin Bread. I ordered the lamb. Conclusions...ehh, It's OK. Although the bread was crunchy and toasted, the meaty part tastes normal, nothing too special. It's like eating campbell's soup with toasted bread, but constructed differently. It was so mild, I didn't bother taking a picture. But after dinner, I did find a black and grey Houndstooth scarf in the night market. Just in time to protect my neck from the cold days the Taiwanese weatherman is forecasting. Houndstooth pattern for the win! Recently though, it's been hot. 18C hot. So I've been sweating walking to class. I hope we get some of that cold weather back so I can use my new scarf. Also, I'm more of a cold weather person. Thicker coat and your OK, but too hot and there's just nothing you can do but duck into an A/C'ed store.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Private dining at Din Tai Fong

After class I went walking around behind the school for dinner with a classmate. We just happened to walk to Din Tai Fong at the end of the night market road. Being that this was the original location, there's usually a line at all times, week day or weekend, lunch or dinner. So checking to see if there were any lines for the hell of it, I was extremely surprised to see it was minimal. This is the first time I did not have to wait in line for Din Tai Fong EVER.So we quickly shuffled in through the kitchen and up to the 4th floor. Where another surprise, empty. The first 3 floors were packed though. So throughout our dinner, there was nobody to disturb us. Just one waitress and some peace and quiet with my xiao long bao. Of course, nearing the end of our meal a large group of japanese tourists decided to join us. But for the most part, you could say "private" dining. Din Tai Fong @ original location + Private Dining = WIN!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Toasteria & Salt Peanut

Tonight I met up with another language partner. A new one. Cant have enough right? More opportunities to practice. We ate at Toasteria. This is my second visit, but my first time eating here. Last time I just drank some sangria with my other language partner. Now I know why it's called Toasteria. Most of their dishes are Paninis. Did I spell that right? Pretty good, but kind of expensive for the portion size and simplicity of the food. I guess you pay for the atmosphere and the hype. Next we continued our conversation at Salt Peanut. It's supposed to be a coffee/beer cafe, much like Bastille. But it's smaller and has a different atmosphere. While Bastille cafe has a european art/pub style, Salt Peanut is more British urban back-alley style with some graphitti. As a pleasant surprise, I found a Banksy: Wall and Piece book on their bookshelf and looked through that. I love most of his art work, it's so creative. He really stands out with his creativeness over other graphitti artists that I know. We have Ramp and Stewy here in Taipei. But all they do is write their name over and over. Boring!!!But there is CityMark. Not sure if they're a city sanctioned graphitti artist or if that's actually their name. But it's pretty good. You can see most of their stuff at Ximen skate park aka Theatre Park. Anyways, back to Banksy. His stuff is so profound and unique, he's gone international and has three books out and a movie called "Exit Through the Gift Shop". Anywho, It turned out to be a fine evening, but I had to end it around 9pm and get back home to study for tomorrow's quiz. Snore.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cleaning the bedroom

I finally cleaned up my bedroom. It wasn't as hard as I thought. Almost everything fit into a new plastic storage box I bought at Carrefour. I'm definitely starting to collect more stuff here in Taiwan. If I ever go back to California, I'll have trouble selling/trashing/packing stuff up. I have to remember to keep things at a minimum.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

DongChu district

Tonight I went to the DongChu shopping district near the Zhongxiao Fuxing station. We went into a small fashion mall, kind of like the ones I've seen all over Hong Kong. They're tiny, but usually have several floors of small shop stalls. Filled mostly with women's clothes and cosmetics. But there are a few men's stores, a be@rbrick store and a rather large airsoft store. Nothing of too much interest, all the better because I don't think i'd be able to find my way back.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fish balls and The Pipe, hahaha...

My friend, Yuki, found a place in Gongguan that serves fish soup balls. Yeah, bad name. I'm not sure what the chinese name is. I'm a bad blogger. But at least I took pictures. Afterwards she introduced me to a hidden place under a big bridge near Gongguan called The Pipe. It's a quiet secluded place with a long wooden deck to lounge on. There's public toilets nearby and a restaurant with a live band. The place was empty. I thought it was the rain, but she says even on a good day there is usually no one there. It offers a nice view of a beautifully lit up bridge, the river below it and the contours of the city's high rises as a backdrop.I also discovered a Carrefour and a photo store near the Zhisan MRT station. Carrefour is a french costco type place. Good for future shopping. The photo store on the other hand, poor. Only digital camera stuff and not anything of much use for the hardcore shooter. Definitly not analog friendly. On a positive note, it is employed by cute taiwanese girls. But then it is packed with horny middle-aged male photo geeks ogling them. hahaha

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Better luck on roll two?

Today I dropped my second roll of 120mm shot from the Rollei off to the photography district Konica print center. These were taken on a Kodak Tmax ISO 400. Hope they turn up with a little more grain for that antique effect. However doing some research tonight, it seems that I should really try out some Ilford Delta 3200 Pro. Quality grain, good contrast and push processing to 3200. Unfortunetly, I'll have to import this, no way to find this in Taiwan. This shot is from the second roll. I took it in the rain with an umbrella so the camera doesnt get wet. I wanted to get a sense of seclusion and warmth with a group of guys enjoying some soup on a cold, windy and rainy night. Also I found a nice Italian restaurant near Shida on section 2, JinShan South Rd.It's called Pasta My House I believe. It's on the bottom floor of a building. It's small and quaint with a small menu of 5-6 items. It's cheap and really feels like i'm in someone's home. Even the front door is just a sliding glass door like in a house. The pasta was well made and they offer unlimited hot and cold tea. I really like this place, it really hits the spot. It feels so home cooked :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Back to Gongguan Billiards 撞球

Tonight I went with friends and classmates back to Gongguan Billiards. We went to celebrate Fabien's birthday. But he had dinner plans with his girlfriend. So It was cut short. We'll postpone the major celebrations to Friday. Happy Birthday Fabien!

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Today I went to my friend's business presentation to support them. It's similar to network marketing. Obviously I'm still not participating in this, business wise, but they're good friends and I want to support them in any way. And of course they're fun to be around. :) She coordinated a dance routine for the intro and outro. It was well choreographed and entertaining. In between was 4 hours of speeches in chinese. Let me tell you, it was difficult to follow! Not only was it extremely cold (I think i was sitting under the A/C vent), but they spoke very fast and I cannot understand a lot of their more advanced words. But it's good practice none the less. Afterwards we all headed to Saizeriya for a "taiwanese" italian dinner. I should specify more like Italian fast food. It's pretty tasty, and cheap and you get unlimited drinks. So the cost outweighs the quality :). I'll definitely go back if I need a quick fix of affordable Italian food.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Interior design tour

Today I hung out with Yukiyo again. She had some work to do today. Her job today was to take pictures of the interior design in Q Squared mall (attached to Taipei Main Station) and Bellavita mall (near Taipei 101). So we leisurely walked around and talked and took pictures. She has to do this for her interior design work back in Japan. We ate at the Q Squared mall B3 level food court. However Q Squared still has it's share of nice fine dining restaurants on the ground floor. Afterwards we headed over to Bellavita. The Roman architecture and interior design is very elegant. We also walked around the food court and found some excellent imported Bre cheese. We got a gift along with it. We were joking that everyone should visit this place while it's still around. Due to the fact that everything is so baller expensive there, no one buys anything. How long can this keep up without any business? Apparently the back story is, this mall belongs to the richest family in Taiwan. When the daughter wanted a mall of her own with only her preferred shops, her dad bought and built Bellavita for her. So who knows, maybe they're so rich they'll just keep it running out of their own pockets. Now that super spoiled! Yukiyo said there is a new high rise mall under construction nearby and will be opening soon as well as the new W hotel. So i'll be visiting those two places in the future when they open up.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday...Bastille bar again

After class I hung out with my classmates again at the Bastille bar. This is turning out to be a tradition on friday's. haha. Anyways, the others had to head home early and the night was still young. So Yukiyo and I went to go see The Tourist which she has been wanting to see for a long time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Tonight was supposed to be another night of billiards, but Yuhki forgot Jerry had class this evening. So we just went out for dinner. We ended up deciding on Saboten tonkatsu, just outside of the Taipei Main Station. It's at the top floor of the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi mall (新光三越百貨). Saboten is famous for it's tonkatsu. I didn't actually know I went there until after I got home and took a look at the business card. I've wanted to try this place out after eating the other competition's Tonkatsu at Tonkatsu Koshiya. I definitely still like Tonkatsu Koshiya better. The environment isn't as nice, but it's the same quality for cheaper. If your in either area, you can't go wrong with either though. My first roll of 120mm medium format film has been developed and converted to digital. Only three good ones came out. Better luck next roll :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hotpot 123 (closed)

Tonight I went with my friend, Yukiyo, to try out a new hot pot place. It's in the Shida night market and called 123. Simple enough, heh. My aunt told me about it after she read a good review about it in the chinese news paper. It is indeed good. The flavors were bursting and the price was right. $150NT for the hot pot + the meat and vegetables are separate when served, so it's fresh and not pre-boiled like most of the $99NT hot pot places. It also comes with a free refillable drink. The place is clean and nice. You can also add more ingredients for an extra cost. So it's kind of like a customized personal hot pot. I had the mongolian Ma-La flavor. What can I say, I like my spices! Here's the address, No. 6號, Lane 105, ShīDà Road, Da-an District.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New leather jacket

I finally bought a leather jacket after looking for several months. Of course I saw a few I liked, but not for a student budget. I finally purchased one off a street vender at the Shilin night market. I scouted it out on 1/1, but wanted to think about it over the weekend in Hsingchu. I also wanted to see if the Hsingchu markets had anything to offer. Anyways, short and simple entry, I'm happy and warm now, finally!
Random photo from yesterday that I couldn't fit in. It's Jia Jiang Mien (炸醬麵). Well probably not that authentic because it wasn't very thick and dark. But it was still delicious! Enjoy the photo.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

East Taiwan hot springs

Last night I stayed over at my relatives place. They were curtious to let me stay over. I went with her to the local traditional market. It is unlike a night market where they mostly sell clothes and cooked food. It's more like a daytime market full of fresh produce and meats and fruits. It's usually outside and a lot dirtier than a supermarket. But the prices are cheaper too as long as you can stand the grittiness of the place. Shortly after that, Lucy and Hatuyen showed up at the house. We then headed into the mountains by car to reach the east side of Taiwan. About a half hour drive. We ended up on an old historic street and nibbled on street food for lunch. I bought some small mountain zongzi (粽子) to bring home.They were extremely fragrant and delicious. It had a more smoked and herbed flavor to it. Kind of like being in the mountains :). Afterwards we headed over to the hot springs (泡溫泉, pao wen quan). Another half hour drive east. We found a rather nice one. Relatively clean environment, not too crowded and a boar meat vender opposite the street. $300 for entry all day. That's cheap! They have larger pools of varying temperatures, smaller hot tub styles, private gender separated nude hot springs, napping area, dry and wet sauna and a couple whirlpools. There was still a lot more to offer, but I didn't go exploring that much.The feet get pretty cold walking from tub to tub. If you can get yourselves out there without too much cost, it's definitely a cheap and extremely relaxing for only $300. I don't know if that goes for all the hot springs around the area, but it's definitely cheaper than what you'll expect from the Beitou Hot Springs. Still I'd be willing to pay more and try Beitou since they're much easier to get to. I live very close to the Beitou springs, and it's just a MRT ride away. I can't wait for next time, and there WILL be a next time!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Playboy fashion!?

I took it pretty relaxed today. Well, at least it started slow and relaxed. After sleeping in until the afternoon, I woke up and immediately headed over to the Shipai market for a curry hot pot lunch. Then I went to the photography district to send in my first roll of 120mm film to be developed. This little Konica film developer place a few stores east of the KFC offered to convert it to digital for $150. Then I met up with Lucy and Hatuyen at the Taipei underground mall. We shopped around a little underground and outside in the Tong Lin shopping area. I tried on two leather jackets from the Playboy store. Yes, Playboy. Oddly enough the Playboy brand has a lot of nice and fashionable clothing. Unfortunately also very expensive. Nothing but high class for ol' Heff right? So skipping on the overpriced jacket, we had a quick dinner and did some new years shopping around Shilin. Shilin was slightly more busier than normal. Which means it went from shoulder to shoulder, to a push and shove stand still. It was close to 11 o'clock when we decided to call it quits for the evening because we had to take the Taiwan High Speed Rail train down to Hsingchu. We ended up getting on the last or second to last train out of Taipei. Next post is from Hsingchu!