Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 3 Taiwan Travel: The Motion Emotion

I guess I was missing for a bit, somewhat...
I've been having tech issues with my Taiwan photos and I've been having a 'life' ;P
No, not all that grand and exciting as you'd imagine.

So on the third day of my Taiwan trip, I was starting to feel a little nudge in my little heart that I missed home. As one mentioned in the past, travel, for most- be it conscious or unconscious, is a journey to appreciate home. I woke up on Monday and I've missed cooking a gamey and juicy NZ scotch-fillet glazed with button mushroom and port wine reduction from Portugal. I then realised that it would be a little while until I could step up to my own kitchen again, I had 3 more months to 'appreciate' home.

If there is a natural sightseeing place I'd recommend near Taipei, I would say it's Wulai. 'Natural' in Asia is not what an imagination would yield. Anything that's natural in Asia will be fully developed to its full commercial purpose, that's just because we're Asian.

The abuse of nature, however, is relative to the culture and the officials on duty. I like how Taiwan still keeps up with the almost-ideal zen of commercial nature.

To get to Wulai, you'd take a subway trip to Xindian and jump in to 849 bus to Wulai. When I say 'jump', I mean that in a literal sort of experience. The crowded bus trip is so fiercely brutal that you'd start to wonder about 3 things: the skills of Michael Schumacher blessed through the bus driver within each narrow and cliff-bearing corner he tackled, the unanticipated pleasing moment that I was kite-surfing in a tight-with-elderlies and gracefully aircon'ed bus, and the safety of my well-being; sanity included. The 40minute pole dancing rodeo was decorated with lusciously deep green scenery as we ascended through the altitude.

Arriving in Wulai, it was, still, hot. Heck, I was glad to get off the bus.

So why Wulai?
Why don't I start with a teaser that the place is pleasantly filled with all things Taiwan-aborigines; food too!

I can safely say that this shop is beautifully located in the vicinity of Wulai village entrance. The lady gave away free, but substantial, sips of jelly in citrus and locally-grown sugar cane breezeful drink.

She gave away sips of heaven everyday...

Lots of curious-inducing things were on display at the village, but it was too early on the day for a pre-climb feast. About 2km, uphill from the village is where you want to be.

The choice is left to you whether you'd use the limbs you have or the miniature train marching on top a relic Japanese colony train track. Walking up, I prefered to have the choice of any season other than summer, since it seemed that there would be more waterfalls to be seen during the rain, and I would stop brewing melanoma daily. Another option I wasn't crazy about, Wulai's a nice place for hot water bath. However, the solitary waterfall was a photogenic gem, you'd be able to catch your bits of nostalgia memorabilia in one shot of thousand words.

A cup of sweat later, it was a time more climbing, fully assisted with machine. The touristly-priced gondola ticket pictured a trip in autumn or spring will/may be the optimal time to catch the blooming cherry blossoms at its vulnerably eye-feasting peak.

It's still a worthy of experience.

When observing anything at a different angle, a mind sometimes twists the heart. I am not talking about the more you see a girl, the more likely somewhat your mind likely to wander to subconsciously liften her attraction; I'm just saying that I've walked pretty far! Look at that village, I was there a few steps ago?!

Off the gondola-up, I was greeted by more waterfalls. Again, the thought of romantic and beauty never left me that summer was not the magnets of those. It was quite obscure on what to do next when you reached the top, but through the maze of a run-down establishment, you'd be greeted by ambiantly matching sets of stairs.

And then...

Man-made beauty can invite a lot of... men,

...who may have a few bucks to spare in a 3/4-star hotel.
But rarely those men who can afford the bucks, can afford the time.

The 'time' that the soul invites everything within the surrounding, the moment a little jewel of ponders struck like a 'ding' sensation accompanied an image of a globe of light turning on, like how I might see why Koi fish is highly prized: how it may live up to hundreds of years, how I used to breed a few dozens of them as a little pet-loving boy, how they moved gracefully like a gentle Chinese woman dressed in a meticulously elaborate robe and dancing for her life to be wedded as one of her king's hundred wives, how... you know touchy-feelly 'bla bla bla' like that.

And the 'time' when I could try out the true capability of my Canon S95 powershot point-and-shoot camera. The more I use this compact camera, the more I fall in love with its limit.

If you're feeling peckish, when your mind play a little game of 'whether I'm hungry or bored', try the 7 km trek around the top of the hotel. It's full of probably-for-youth-camp hurdles.

At one crossing, you can choose how to test your agility in multiples of ways.

I chose the one of top, I got stuck in the middle. I can't remember how I actually made it out.
Like I said, if you have spare cash, there's a nice place nestled on top of the Wulai waterfall that's waiting to embracing you with your conveniently Asian-commercialised adventure.

When journeying to a different country, many people like to experiment with a different personality. Most people would know a typical office-bound Englishman who speaks in thick Oxford accent in urban Sydney metropolitan bars because of the advantageous individuality it entails, and of course, when he'd head home to Manchester, he would swing the absurdly thick ozzie accent to... shine out the 'unique personality'. A whiteman's identity crisis? or pathetic attempts to be loved... a dilemma to have attention...bla bla bla.
Well for the next hour, I was a little kid, walking and balancing my whole body on a narrow road pavement, and sucking on mango cordial popsicle.

The aborigine history seemed to be in my childish notion, based on their native art: the odd colour combination, the primitive symmetry-inspired shapes and the repetition.

Hey! What!?!

Longan tree?!?!!!! I never seen one before.

Of course, the inner naughty-boy-who-loved-to-steal-a-few-rambutan-from-the-neighbour's-tree could not resist such opportunity! Threw out my half eaten popsicle, for a piece of FRESH longan! Best trade ever!

Anyway, back to the Wulai village, back to the time, back to food...

Pork, especially the belly, was a popular sights presented to my Monday visit to Wulai.

So as the anonymous alcoholic brews.

What's that you say!!! Mochi!!! (Yes, I am a cold-blooded mochiholic!)

What I love about the mochi here are
1. They're soft like a pretty girl's lips, or any other anatomical bits that should be appropriately soft.
2. The base looks brown because the sweetener is from a locally-grown sugar cane!
3. They have melon flavours :D :D :d :D
4. 100% recommended!

Lonely Planet is synonymous with giving me a random, undiscoverable, and highly-likely disappointing hints for places to eat and stay. I guess there are great exceptions, like...
Taiya Popo, 14 Wulai Street

You can see from the English version menu (after miming my impression of ' no no wopu ce tau...(I don't understand)), that this place is a Mecca for the hungry heart! It's also a traditional aboriginal foodie spot. Bamboo shoot... hmm... fish... hmmm.... shrimp... hmmm... fish and shrimp...hmmm a combo... bees... hmmm.....

If an old man can take it, I'd be a wuss not to dunk in.

My Charlie Chaplin skills awarded me sips of the three interesting chilled drinks on offer: ginger and dark sugar cane, bitter tea/random leaves brew, and...

... this white sour, sweet and a little cheerfully salty drink. I say it's some sort of fermented dairy product, though, I hardly see cows around Wulai. It's akin to uncarbonated Korean 'Milkis' or Japanese 'Ambasa' or Indonesian 'Calpico', but this is a little more tasty and fresh. (100% recommended)

Stir-fry pork, basil and garlic. Other than a typical tough Asian meat, I truly love this simple bits of comfort. (100% recommended).

Skip the steamed rice, try this sticky rice with mushrooms steamed/charred in a bamboo, cracked open in front of your table. The aroma sent me on an imaginary historical trip of China. (100% recommended).

Deep fried bees tossed in a sesame, leeks, fried basil and probably MSG based seasonings. This is surprisingly an easy-eat. A westerner may describe it as a popcorn experience, but as a chef, it's almost ditto to deep fried seasoned soft-shelled crab, minus the seafood aroma and the dreaded visual effect. It tasted very very Korean... (200% recommended).
I will return to Wulai if I ever slide back in to Taiwan, that's how good was my box of sweet moments.

Last night (Day 2), Megan (from the lovely tea shop) told me that National Palace Museum is a 'must' and 'no 1' place to visit in Taiwan. I am not sure if she was hinting anything, since she was actually working there as well, but I like Megan. ;)

The museum consisted of three massive buildings that displays countless excellent historical craftmanships. The collections are so huge, they can't fit everything on display all at once and thus alternatively re-displaying different collections across the year. Unfortunately, no cameras allowed. They have allocated a person to watch every single room for cheeky buggers like me.

Megan was right. It was a true feat of Taiwan, even for non-museum go-ers.
My favourite part was in the donated area, 3rd floor, turn left as you get in, look at the middle set of display and on the right section, there's a piece of wine serving vase that looks very French and renaissancely sexy (plump and curvy). Ow! and they have good selection of souvenirs... and the stylish, high-tech and wonderfully clean toilets too!
The fact that it was beautiful and I didn't get to 'accidentally' struck a moment with Megan, derived a strong impression that I probably had taken the signs to an over-optimistic-somewhat-narcissistic delusional level. ;P

If you are heading to a popular spot in Taiwan, a good rule of thumb is to follow the lions. They usually guide you to a place worth securing... with a pair of lions.

Touching base to the centre of Taipei, I realised another one of my Westernised evolution. Even though I had been walking all day, I still love the stairs. I just feel that they are good for you and the world. Queuing up for escalators in Taiwan/Korea/Japan/other idiosyncratical place is like wrestling for a government subsidised rice in the mist of 1998 Indonesian economy drastic crisis.

Another thing I like in Underground K mall (located in the Taipei Main Station), is this stationery shop. They have chic collections of inspiration blanks. I bought a few linen book covers, though Jacqueline @ socuteithurts seems to blow away the standard of linen book covers.

My third day of beef noodle soup fell out of my optimistic aspirations. The fiercely macho twang about the restaurant is very inviting, especially with all the ('wrong') recommendation from Taiwanese friends that it's better to stay on fancy looking places. The beef was dry, the noodle was instant, the soup was sad.

Going up above the underworld, you'd be seen a minute being amongst the many students who had finished their school and waiting for elevators to transfer groups of motivation-drained minds to the level of tutor-the-hell-out-of-my-Asian-brain.

That's f%ckin' dedication there!
Still wonder why Asian kids are smarter?
But... I don't know... if the queue is that long, why not take the stairs...?

Having a camera whilst travelling is like an itch for someone to take any frozen bits of visual memories, regardless of its personal significance. Like the building above...

Taking too many random pictures with Canon S95, brings out the worst feature of the camera, the life of battery. Shows up really well on top, the last picture I took before my camera gave away.

That's OK! I still got my cheap as Samsung phone to cover me.

It's OK rite...? It says National Taiwan (presumably) Normal University
(No, it's not blurry. It's you who's tipsy!)

Night 3, Night Market 3, Shida Night Market.

If you are a girl who is hard to pin-down, which literary covers all women with ovary aging between 13 and 30, then Shida is a 'reasonable' place for you to visit. Trust me, your shopping experience here will definitely brings out a lot of interesting 'reason' to whomever is the poor bugger financing you. In other words, this is a nice place for young gals to shop for urban Taiwanese classy dresses at decent prices. (Sorry guys, this is not a place for you to spend for yourself).

If it's any consolation, it may be a great place to pick up 'normal' chicks, since it's located right next to that 'normal' uni. I'm a little unconvinced by the fact that this baby cookies stall is packed with university girls though. Well...what is 'normal' anyway?

As I previously mentioned, there are yummy foods everywhere in any night markets in Taiwan; most of which you'd find repetitively. And so, on top my dead camera, I didn't have much to share about Shida.

Except, my best bite.

This place, right in one of the entrance to the market, may have the best dumpling in all of the night markets of Taipei. My stomach is rumbling in synchrony with every punch of the keyboard letter at this current point of time. If you like to wash it down with something fun, try Green tea Yakult drink, for a truly refreshing and inspiring wave of joy dancing on your tongue. Just go to a bubble tea place over in Shida market. Both are 200% recommended!

I'm in to dry French film noir.
I like how life is not always exciting and full of explosions.
I like how the ending can be disappointing.
Doesn't this whole experience ring a bell that it's what it is: 'life'?
Yet in the cocktail of life, you may stumble upon the perfect moment, like Audrey Tautou smile.
A smile that's made with an anticipated Neverlasting joy, but left an everlasting dent of bliss in the heart.
For that real 'life' smile experience, try Shuanglian station.
It's where the delicious run down solitary restaurants are encircling. It's where the Tea shop (in day 2 post) is. It's manythings (a new word I invented today), like a group of silent elderlies sitting in the closed underground Shuanglian station mall and a bunch of kindergarten graduates screaming as they run for their roles in hide and seek. Sitting in the middle are tasteless pricey art?work of fish.

Does it get drier than that?
Lets take a look down the dry lane...

Nope! It got better!
Many of Taiwanese youngins are born in to a world of hip hop dance. It was 9 p.m. and you see teenagers (boys and gals) turnin up their boom-box and dominating the 10 available gigantic mirrors to practise their art of anatomical synchronisation. There weren't any Timberlake, but the spirits were sacriligious.

Nearby the Shuanglian Station, I hopped in to a random run-down but unusually crowded place and ordered a bowl of noodle (is it Tiger noodle???... 'Meow').

I wasn't sure what it was, but it was the 'no 1' on the menu, spicy fermented beancurd noodle with ground sesame sauce?
Damn it was 100% recommended.

If you have any electronic issues or wants a new electronic, it would be foolish not to get it sorted expertly and cheaply right in the heart of Taipei. I thought a second battery would be a wise investment for my Canon S 95.

There is a collection of camera shops located closed to Taipei main train station, heading towards Ximen outdoor mall area. At 3 US dollars a pop, it was cheaper than a New Zealand orange juice. Just like that my camera was revived to present to you: Ximen!

I wouldn't say that Ximen is a night market. It had 'civilised' stated all over my actively acquiring-image mind.

Girls definitely wear milkshake thick make-up there. And you'd see lensless glasses in outrageously dense proportions. On a random note, I met a girl, who bursted and jumped me, giving me a longlasting intermittent mental re-imagination during and after seeing her, from her universal ways of explaining the art of massive reproduction with her slender fingers. Yeah... I was too poor to pay (for her creativity and AIDS).

Ehem! Some food in Ximen are attractive looking too. But I had tried crab soup in Keelung, I had a limit to my tasting quota so that no (child?) food got left behind.

Ximen's not too far from where I stayed, Taipei Garden Hotel. Across the hotel, you'd find a 24 hour carrefour.

Pretty awesome, except that they've got no nail clippers, sunblock or small scissors.

So I guess, I would just swim and brew myself with the sun rapping the hell out of me, without a condom, leaving me dry and brown. Just like the pungent eggs available on every 7/11 in Taipei (which is quite a lot of eggs).


  1. In Burma there is sticky rice in a bamboo shoot put in fire to cook. You are right aroma is unlike you taste before may be because of charred combine with bamboo's inner lining skin give you tension or al-dente effect in your mouth. Hang in there Little Hungry Heart!

  2. Great post-from the wonderful back to nature photos all the way to the photos of the inner city night life. The sweltering heat can put a damper on things, so try and stay cool and enjoy the visit.

  3. envious of the good food you had in taiwan. ah, i miss taiwan. i just wanna go back there again!

  4. Great pictures - I love the waterfalls and the greenery. Except for that one blurry picture - I couldn't be tipsy coz I haven't been drinking.

    I went "Eww" at the plate of bees. Although it sounded like something I'd love to eat (soft shell crab you say?) but I wouldn't be able to get past the look of it. You're certainly adventurous with food.
    You HAVE been having a LIFE! Good for you!

  5. your taiwan trip looked hella fun! and ohhhh that bamboo rice and stir fried bee does appeal to me so. thanks for sharing! hope youre having a great one, wherever you are! =)

  6. My hands were seating when I was looking at some of your photos. I don't know if I would have been able to ride on the gondola. Beautiful post of your trip. No bees for me please, I'm allergic!!!

  7. I really appreciate your blog and thanks for sharing.

  8. So different from anything I have ever experienced. Looks amazing! That are of the world is on our must go to list!

  9. Wulai certainly has breath taking natural scenery, can't take away my eyes frm the gushing water fall, it's beautiful!

    The mochi somehow looks different frm wht I hv in my country... it looks more like some sort of savoury dish, but from your description, it sounds really tasty, lol!

  10. Love all the nice photos of Taiwan. Hope my next trip would be Taiwan! Love the scenery and Food!

  11. This one post is better than all the Lonely Planet guides I've read and misguided me all these years. Love the food, adore the scenery and the accompanying psychological analyses. Oh, now I see where you got your longans from! Thanks for capturing that moment as proof :-).

  12. Gorgeous photos! My husband is from Taiwan and we still have tons of family out there. I've been bugging him to plan a trip for awhile but after seeing this we are so going next summer!!

  13. Woah... majorly long and educational post. I liked looking at the deep fried bees :)

  14. Great post! The mango popsicle looks really delicious! Thanks for showing us all these great places. Please continue to share your travel stories when you're in Korea too, I've never been there and am interested to see it from your angle :)

  15. Beautiful waterfall I like but not that plate of fried bees even if it's 300% recommended. Haha
    Talking about stealing rambutans from neighbour's trees brings me back to my childhood days whereby we'd our own rambutan trees and always 'stole' a few whenever my parents weren't aware. ;P Considered myself 'lucky' that I lived in those kampong houses for the first 5yrs of my life before moving to high-rise flats and those was my happiest childhood days. ;)
    People nowadays are just to lazy to take the stairs and they'd rather queue & wait, esp when they aren't in hurry. For me, I'll take the stairs bcoz I just hate waiting even if I've the whole day to waste! Haha

  16. i have a s95 too...great camera but since its new-ish i havent noticed the bad battery life!
    ur photos brought back so many memories for me...been to all the places u mentioned (but not all the food uve tried...not as adventurous esp with the bees :P) i used to live near the nat palace museum so used to go there everyday! are u travelled out yet?

  17. @Katherine,
    It's just how I tasted it on day 3. It was a love at first bite. If I have extra time and cash to spare, I'd love to visit Burma.

    Yeah, the coolness is comin to Seoul in the recent days. I am glad it does, hope you'll the enjoy the pleasant coolness too! Thanks!

    Come back la! I'll join you, if you buy the ticket.

    So... breakfast and tipsy huh? Hahahaha!
    The bee is an easy eat, just the look ay. Thanks for the lovely wishes.

    You know what bro: We shud meet up sometime and eat some good stuff ay! Cheers!

    Allergic? That's not pleasant. I am glad that you like the journey.

    It's a must go, and done, for me. I wish you've got to find your ways to step on the journey.

    It's one of the nicer waterfall I've seen in the world and it certainly the easiest to get too.
    The mochi is pretty good and you should try it one day.

    I think Taiwan will be right up your taste. It would be a great treat for you.

    You love the proof, don't you? It's my first time to see a longan too.
    Lonely planet can be leave you like that sometimes... alone and lost. Hahaha!

    Ouu ouuu... don't go in the summer. Try spring or autumn, it would be so much more romantic and cooler. I am sure your hubby will be the perfect guide tho.

    Hehehe. Thanks! Try it one day!

    @Pei Li,
    Thanks! I think the mango popsicle is more delish in principle and its deeper meaning, since it's just a cordial base icy.
    Korea from my angle? It would be strange, I am still lost in my own home...

    Can you still steal rambutans in Singapore? It's a rarity nowadays ay. And Kampung in S'pore? Is there still any?
    Considering most Asians in Asia aren't fat, I guess it's OK to take the moving machine, but I reckon stairs are faster option.

    hello s95ers! ;D
    Yeah, the battery is a not as good as most other point n shoot but the quality compensate for everything. Besides for 3 dlrs, that's nothing for a longlasting satisfaction.
    I am well out of Taiwan now, in Seoul, my 2nd genetical home. The museum is a definite treat for the curious mind, especially with the lovely decor!

  18. Beautiful pics...or whatever I can get to see. Slow connection, taking ages to load. Eyewwww....bees! Ah we have sago worms to match. Wanna come and try? LOL!!!

  19. Well, IF we happen to see any rambutan trees but instead, mango trees are more commonly seen now and there're a few of them just right below our previous flat. Some people really picked when it's ripe. No more now after the last one, Kampong Buangkok was torn down but you still can find them in Pulau Ubin, an island in the Straits of Johor, separated from mainland Singapore by a 15-minute bumboat ride. I've never been there before tho and speaking of this, I should bring my gals there to show them the fun kampung life! ;)
    Asians kids are getting fatter and fatter now! To ctrl this, school canteens are restricted to sell unhealthy fried and oily food. Those over-weight kids need to attend fitness programs in sch/Ministry of Health.

  20. We are nearly camera twins! I use a Canon S90. I want the yummy drinks and melon mochi. And it looks a little confronting, but I might also try a deep-fried bee.

  21. @Arthur,
    Yeah, there are lots of picts from Taiwan. I guess I had a good slice of travel there.
    I'd love to try sago worms!

    Going with a boat and that far, I don't think it's called a steal, more like a hefty buy to swallow. Hahaha!
    I think kids, esp boys, should be encouraged to be naughty. So they'll just run around burning calories away. Hehehe.

    S95 low-light ability is a good addition though. But it is a truly awesome camera ay!
    Do try the bees if you get the chance, it's an experience well-received!

  22. I have never been to Taiwan. Now seeing all your pics of the placed you visited and the food you eat, get me itchy feet! hehe.. Thanks for the vitual tour!

  23. Who needs Lonely Planet. You're such an amazing tour guide! I'm very intrigued with the deep fried bees. Sounds strange, but if you say it's delicious, I trust you.

  24. gosh i haven't been here for a while, and definitely am enjoying the read. "They're soft like a pretty girl's lips, or any other anatomical bits that should be appropriately soft." -.- hahaha. love the sound of the rice steamed inside bamboo. everything looks amazing!