Friday, July 18, 2008

Flooding in Taichung, Taiwan - Typhoon Kalmaegi

Typhoon Kalmaegi hit Taiwan. To be more accurate, the tail end of this typhoon hit Taiwan and brought torrential rain to central and south Taiwan.

We are right in Taichung City, central Taiwan and not spared. When I woke up this morning, I could not see the road from the window. Since the TV and power were out at home, my hb went down to the apartment lobby hoping to get some feedback from the front desk.

But he could not. The lobby was flooded! The main road - Taichung Kang Road, just outside our block of apartments, was flooded.

This is another picture taken by hb's colleague (courtesy from D. Shu). He is staying somewhere along Wenxin Road, Taichung City.

Thank god, we got back electricity. Since we are "stranded" at home, need to survive on instant cup/bowl noodles for dinner. :(

Let's hope the rain subsides tomorrow and we can get out of the house. Our house is in the mess too since we are in the midst of packing/moving. This explains why we are surviving on instant noodles since I've already cleared my kitchen and fridge.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Alisan Forest, Jiayi County, Taiwan

Some rules in Alisan Forest, Taiwan

Signboards along our short hike in Alisan

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tea enjoyment in Alishan Mountain, Ali Mountain, Taiwan

Chinese Tea + Preserved Plums/Fruits...may not be a traditional tea culture in Taiwan but it is definitely a tea culture that has evolved for some time now.

喝茶配梅子, at Mount Alishan, Taiwan

You can find tea houses over Taiwan where it has become a lifestyle, an enjoyment to taste tea. Snacks are introduced in tea drinking just like how biscotti pairs off with a dose of java or wine and cheese tasting.

See that first photo? Tea in a plunger. Not new but definitely modern. I'm more used to seeing and using a coffee plunger. Anyway, I was expecting high mountain tea of Alishan served in a traditional porcelain spout teapot! -_-

But if served in a teapot, there is a likelihood of getting a tea bag and not tea leaves. I was trying to pacify myself. Oh well, life cannot be too perfect. I rather have good quality tea leaves and sip the tea.

Preserved plums and fruits are quite common in Taiwan. Nibble a few of these plums when drinking tea or after a meal. I was really expecting a few. Too bad the staff was not too helpful (I think he did not know) in telling me the quantity when I asked.

And so, the plums came, in ramekins quantity!

You know, guys are not at all fascinated by preserved plums no matter how excited I can be over the variety. Why no excitement? Maybe you guys can tell me...too metro-sexual? preggie snacks? Tell me, tell me! ^0^

I had to finish two ramekins of preserved plums all by myself, in a single sitting. It's a lot!

Preserved kumquats - 金桔

Another variety of preserved fruit - I forgot the name/variety!

The tea was perfect for afternoon drinking. We asked for three refills of water in the plunger, and had to "doggie-bag" the leftover preserved fruits and plums !

阿里山日出二店, 阿里山日出有大美火鍋店 (Rihchu Store)
Alishan Village, #32
Around Alishan Tourist/Visitor Information Area
Jiayi, Taiwan

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Egg Tarts in Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taiwan

I'm not bluffing you! Your eyes are not bluffing you!

A REAL family meal - chicken, and its "eggs" in the form of tarts

Portuguese Egg Tarts from KFC! You think I'm gung-ho enough so free to smuggle Portuguese Egg Tarts from Macau into KFC, place them side-by-side a bucket of fried chicken and take that picture? I must be having too much time to spare and too many heads to roll.

Do they look authentic ?

Well, there you have it. Portuguese egg tarts in Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Taiwan :D

This egg tart even comes with mochi beneath the egg custard. Can you see it?

KFC, Taiwan offers the classic Portuguese egg tart and other creative tarts such as the one with mochi in it(above). To verify my words, hop over to Taiwan KFC menu and take a look!

And there is a KFC opposite where I am staying :) ....I will go back for egg tarts more so than KFC fried chicken.

So what is there in your country's KFC or Mcdonalds that is really local and only available there? Curious! Curious! I wanna know!

It is not surprising, really. For example, new ideas for McDonalds come anywhere (source: Fortune article, May 2008 issue). You can now have McKroket in The Netherlands, Maharaja Burger in India, Croque McDo in France and a Bulgogi Burger in South Korea. They may make it back to the United States someday, if it makes business sense.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Value set-meals in Taiwan

Some restaurants/eateries offer lunch and dinner set-meal promotions during the weekend. Some do so during the weekdays (usually to boost the otherwise poor business); some do so everyday. It depends on the business strategy of the restaurant owners.

Do set-meals spell trouble - mass-produced poor quality food? Most of the times, maybe? It depends.

The spread is quite extensive. There are dim sum items, sushi sashimi and other Chinese food fare. Here NT328 (~USD10.70) per person:

Super-value or reasonable? You tell me

Quality of food: Not really consistent in all the dishes. Mostly forgettable, except for the prawns. It is delicious and won me over.

Steamed prawns with garlic - I like the addition of glass or cellophane noodles to soak the gravy and essence.

Which do you prefer - set meal or a la carte ? What makes your decision - price, selection, value...or mood? :D

文心路一段538-1號 (大業路口)
Hong Kong New A-Do Tea House
Wen Xin Road Section 1, 538-1
Taichung City, Taiwan

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hong Kong culture - dim sum and newspapers?

The locals in Hong Kong enjoy flipping and reading the newspapers especially during dim-sum breakfast and (I guess) as long as they are not rushed over giving up their seats. Maybe that is the only time they can slow down and enjoy their food and tea :)

What I look for in a Perfect Char Siew Bao ~ Cantonese barbecue pork buns:
- served steaming are at the risk of scalding your hunger-searching fingers when you attempt to touch it
- slightly cracked top in each bun
- soft fluffy "pau" dough, almost sponge cake-like texture
- generous char siew fillings w.r.t the dough (in other words, it cannot be too much dough and nothing inside the "pau" )
- warm moist juicy tasty char siew fillings with right proportions of meat vs "pork fats"
- "pau" fillings should not look too dangerously and artificially red

Luk Yu Tea House

24-26 Stanley Street, Hong Kong
Nearest MTR: Central Station

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Chinese take-out in Taiwan

Package that shows what's inside...

Most of them deliver FREE (minimum order: 2 boxes) and cost ~NT70 (~USD 2.30 based on 9,May 2008 conversion rate) per person per set. Cheap ?

In Taiwan, Chinese take-outs or more commonly known as 便當** (pronounced Bian Dang), literally meaning convenience-meal, are quite similar to the Chinese take-out rice-plate in the United States. It is hard to find Cantonese Chow Mien/Fried Noodles or Fried Rice here where I am staying. Even if there is...99% chance of finding something not authentic. DOH! So I rather choose what they do better - 便當饭盒 . The "contents" of the meal is somewhat similar to the economic rice/economy rice in Singapore...that is rice with meat+ vegetables.

A very typical Taiwanese rice-set. Mostly preserved/braised/stewed food in a wooden box

Taichung Kang Road, Section 1,, # 172
Taichung City, Taiwan

They do it differently here when you asked for delivery. Over the phone, you usually order one main dish (typically meat/fish) - can be braised pork ribs, grilled chicken chop, kung pao chicken etc., and they will pair it (for you) with 2-3 different sides of (really small portions of) vegetables (eg. green leafy, long beans, cabbage, corn kernels, bamboo shoots, onions, preserved vegetables etc). In other words, you get a choice of meat but not the vegetables.

~Less than USD3 per person (lunch and/or dinner)
~FREE delivery to your door step

Why not?

Really a savior on lazy days when I don't even feel like stepping into the kitchen except to open the fridge and get a drink or a ready-snack. Oh, the evil of convenience...I'm falling prey to. But Jeff Bezos, Founder, CEO of did say...most, if not all consumers, enjoy convenience, selection, and low prices. Then, what will stop me in this vicious cycle of Chinese take-out diet? Selection, I guess. I don't know how healthy or unhealthy it can get if I do this continuously.

Time to get back to cooking soon.

** I checked Google translation:
Bento (english) --> 盒饭
便當 --> Lunch
ekiben (english) --> 铁路便当

Why is it that I always get the impression that Bento is 便當 ??

Anyway, happy weekend!


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Bison or bear jam - traffic situation in national parks

Wildlife, such as bison, use the roads often.

Drivers who gaze around at the sights risk running into a "bear jam" where people have not pulled entirely off the road, or simply slowed to a crawl.

We came across a bison jam. Can you see it?

All cars have to stop for bison to cross the road.

Taken at Teton National Park

Monday, April 28, 2008

Taipei 101

We were at Taipei 101 early and could not even get through the entrance. The doors were not opened yet at 9+am. Bummer! :( ...and we could not take the lift. Yes. The lift in Taipei 101 was touted one of the fastest. Too bad...

Before we headed to CKS Memorial, we did not forget to take many snapshots of Taipei 101...from the outside, all angles, different views.

From far

Near the building, yet wanted to capture the height of Taipei 101

Amidst the trees

Another view, another angle

Some facts:
1. Height: 509m/1671 ft - tallest till 2003
2. The elevators (Toshiba) runs just over 60 km/h; taking you up in ~43secs

So remember, if you are planning a day in Taipei, make this Taipei 101 visit from middle of the day or after. You can visit other attractions such as CKS Memorial, earlier in the day, say 9+am.

Related post (one day in Taipei):
1. Take the Taiwan HSR from Taichung to Taipei
2. Take Taipei Metro
3. Visit CKS Memorial
4. Walk around Ximending and have some braised duck wings
5. Tamsui-PartOne from Taipei
6. Tamsui-Part Two from Taipei

Venetian Macau - free shuttle, make use of it

Venetian Macau is located at Taipa, a little out of town. The only tip I have for you is - use the Venetian Free Shuttle as often as you can to get to the Airport, Ferry Terminal, and Sands Casino (on the other side).

From the airport: take the Venetian shuttle bus to our resort. This shuttle operates from 11am to 9pm daily and leaves the airport every 10 minutes.

From the ferry terminal: take The Venetian shuttle bus to our resort. This shuttle operates from 10am to midnight daily and leaves the airport every 5-8 minutes.

From the Sands Macao: From the Sands Macao, you can catch The Venetian shuttle bus every 8 minutes between 10am and 2am.

Courtesy from Venetian Macao

The Venetian at Las Vegas is much nicer :) is less crowded too!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Taiwan High Speed Rail - clean, comfortable and fast

If you are traveling between main cities such as Taipei, Kaoshiung, Taichung etc., the Taiwan High Speed Rail is fast, clean, comfortable, and efficient.

The Taichung station

Arriving train

There are cars for reserved (assigned) sitting and the last few cars (I think from car 9-12) are free sitting. Free sitting tickets are usually 20% cheaper.

An information map and guide of the train

Quite comfortable if you ride long distance, since it is not as bumpy as a 2-hr taxi ride from Taichung to Taipei.

So if you are working on a laptop, the high speed rail is definitely a much better option.

For major cities such as Taipei and Kaoshiung, the high speed rail stations are located near the metro system. However, not many cities have rapid transit (equivalent to Singapore MRT and Hong Kong MTR)

Train facts:
1. Taiwan HSR is modeled after Japan's Shinkansen
2. Top operation speed 300km/h

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose

Some said she wanted to keep the ghosts away from her house because of the many deaths caused by the Winchester rifles. Or she just makes a bad architect?

This is...the Winchester Mystery House.

The door to nowhere:

Stairs to nowhere:

Ceiling where rivets are half-driven in:

Door with no lock:

Macau Travel - Part Two

If you have just one day in Macau, you should visit Senado Square.

You can find Portuguese egg tarts at this compound.

Walk on, walk along. Then you will reach the back streets that will lead you to Ruins of St. Paul. Along this street, you can find more Portuguese egg tarts, the famous Koi Kee Bakery and pork chop bun too!

Famous Koi Kee Bakery. Get some cookies here. They have Portuguese egg tarts too!

Ruins of St. Paul

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Macau Travel - Part One

Pork chop bun 猪扒包. would never have guessed something so simple can be so good. It's just a minimally-seasoned (probably salt and pepper?) pork chop sandwiched in a warm baguette-style bun. Nothing else. No pickles, no mayo, no bacon, no lettuce, no tomatoes. But, IT IS GOOD.

Along the streets from Senado Square to Ruins of St. Paul

Fresh-Water Crab Congee 水蟹粥 . We did not go to the best shops to try this. We would have if we have done our due diligence. Nonetheless, they are almost everywhere. Cooked in scallions and ginger, and just...a fresh water crab, this congee/rice porridge is mildly sweet (must be from the crab) and cooked to smooth velvety consistency.

Stall opposite Holiday Inn, Macau

African Chicken is one of those must-try dishes in Macanese cuisine. I wanted to try this signature dish at SOLMAR along Avenida da Praia Grande but was rather out of place for us to go considering we did not have much time in Macau.

African Chicken in Cafe Deco, Venetian Macau

Instead, we had our African Chicken in Cafe Deco, Venetian Macau. I believe it was a modern twist to the traditional African chicken in which the sauce/gravy is cooked with the chicken. Here, the sauce is served by the side. It's acceptable for me this round, since I have not tried African Chicken before anyway. The sauce/gravy is indeed a BLAST! wOOt! Flavor-bombed with a mix of spices. I wonder if it's a mix of Portuguese, Indian, Malay, and Chinese spices since that is representative of Macau cuisine. Also tried a Pan-Seared Bacalhua (dried cod fish, a tradition in Portugal) dish and Caldo Verde (vegetable) soup. They were both good. Only thing bad - the damage. 2 soups + 2 main courses setting us at USD$72/-

We had to find something to eat before we board our departure flight. Found something nearby where we stayed (yes, opposite Holiday Inn, Macau) and had some tea-cafe-style food.

Beef brisket noodles...and

Ham and spaghetti soup 火腿意粉. I was actually expecting macaroni but it was spaghetti.

Macau - where East meets West, tradition meets modern, the old meets the new. You could see all these aspects in their cuisine and food. How interesting. Though I was not there long enough to immerse in their culture, the food has definitely aligned us.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Second most visited sight (Most visited sight #1 is Old Faithful) in Yellowstone National Park is the Grand Canyon.

We covered the Grand Canyon and the Lower Falls before driving off, back to Utah.

Travel can be hurt by bad credit too

"Fed weights options on crunch"..."Bush to expand help on mortgages"..."...$1 Trillion in Credit Crisis Losses". These are hitting the headlines of tabloids and newspapers almost every other day. It is so dampening to hear. My friend in the Bay Area, California, was telling me the other day that the waiting period for rental apartments back in the Bay Area can be as long as 3 months. What? More people are turning to rent and not buy because they are unable to get a mortgage with a bad credit rating. It may help those with bad credit loans or bad credit credit cards if they know a website in which they can use to compare other products options and alternatives in credit cards and home loans. Yes, there are still credit card and loan options for people with bad credit ratings. You just need to know where to access these sources. Hopefully, these consumers can apply for the right product and start re-establishing a good credit.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Potato, Idaho potato

I found a couple of lost posts in my backlog! They were taken back in our trip to Yellowstone National Park. Since we transverse four states in two days, we could not give Idaho a miss along the route Utah-Wyoming.

Idaho is an important agricultural state, producing nearly one third of the potatoes grown in the United States.

The Potato Expo is closed on Sunday, unfortunately :(

According to folklore, potatoes grow bigger in Idaho than anywhere else because they are fed "corn meal and milk" every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Another better reason for potatoes growing well in Idaho is because potatoes seem to grow better in a light soil, like volcanic ash conditions and this condition exist in Idaho's potato growing areas.

No more travel to shop, I can shop online!

When I travel to Hong Kong or to the US, I just love to shop! It's like paradise to be able to shop in warehouses and outlets. But I am currently "stranded" in Taiwan, I just can't fit into their fashion sense here, thus I have not been shopping a lot. With this shopping comparison site, I can now have a better sense and control when shopping online for shoes, and even handbags.

For example, I just clicked on shoes and the category could be narrowed down to brands such as Nike and Puma; by gender, price range and even shoe type such as pumps, sneakers, loafers and flats. They made shopping less of a pain and the online shopper could have a clear idea of the next product he or she is going to purchase. Yes, ladies' favorite - can also search by material, handbag types and the online stores carrying that particular handbag. How good is that ?