Thursday, December 31, 2015

Biz Trip - Taiwan Beitou 28-Nov

28-Nov-2015 Saturday, my only free day from work. I had half a day before I rush back to my hotel for check-out at 1pm and catch my flight home. I planned to visit Beitou, a place I've heard so much about but have never visited. It was only 30minutes by train from  Taipei central. One of my vendor have accepted my invitation to go exploring. So we met at Sogo at 6:45am for our half day tour. We took the train to Taipei Main Station and changed to the red line all the way to Xinbeitou station where we transfer to a small train that will bring us to Beitou. The above picture shows the Xinbeitou station.
This is the map of Beitou. Initially I was wondering whether I would have enough time to explore everything in half a day. But we actually managed to clear everything by 10am! All we took was 2 hours! And that includes getting lost here and there!
Beitou was beautiful! It was like a small Japanese town, with all the greenaries and onsens. It was a pleasant walk through the park and up the hill. It made me miss Japan a lot, and I guess it was a substitute of my Japan holiday I could have. 

Beitou is famous for its library, its hotspring, and its thermal valley. I will post an entry for each in the next few post. But first, something I like taking photos of, unique pothole covers!

Beitou (北投)
Xin Beitou station

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Biz Trip - Taiwan Bookstore

When you don't really have time to shop, 24 hours bookstore and convenient stores are like your best friend. Every morning, and late at night, they are always there for you. Ladies and gentlemen, Taipei's greatest place is surely the Eslite 24 hour bookstore! And there is one about 15minutes walk from where I stayed. I visited it twice while I was there this time round. Once to check out the place, and 2nd time to purchase some books. The branch I visited only have one level, which was different from the multi story branch nearer to Taipei 101 I went to last time. But it will have to do.
While I was there, they had this horror book festival on, and I was so thrilled to see that! The whole section looked like a nightmare! I was tempted to buy everything! Cause they were selling Japanese horror manga translated into Chinese! But I wasn't going to spend my money on books I knew nothing about. So I did my research after my first visit, and went back again a few days later at around 6am. You should have seen the look one the contractors' look when they saw me walking in with my vagabond look and hair uncombed, walking straight to the horror section too, lol.

 Here are the 3 books I got from there. Gudetama or fun. Uzumaki to see why it's such a cult classic (it comes in 3 volume, but I only got the 1st one). And another horror book rated age 18 and above. I wanted to get my money worth! Lol. Needless to say, I've read them all. Gudetama was a waste of money as the one I got from Kinokuniya was much more worth it. Uzumaki was not really scary like a ghost story kind of way, but it does creeps up on you after reading it. Its not scary when you read it, but the content just kinda sits in your conscientiousness and slowly sips into your reality. I don't mind getting the other 2 books just to complete the series. It was definitely unique! The RA18 book was a shocker for me. It was pure brutality, yet I find some of the stories hilarious. This is one book I can't pass it on after reading it cause people would surely judge me for reading such kind of books, lol.

I also got a postcard to send back to my parents. Every country I visit, I always try to send a postcard home. It was a great souvenir and my parents enjoy reading about what I have been up to. 
And something not related to the bookstore, but related to manga, is this cool site I found at Sogo top level! They have a kinda treasure hunt on Attack of Titan. I thought it was quite cool since I've seen both the movie and have read part of the manga. Here's a clip to share. The only reason I went to watch the movie was because of the smaller titans that look so frightening and typical Japanese horror yet cute in a sick way. I trouble enjoyed the 1st movie although my brother hated it. The 2nd movie was a bore as they concentrated more on the colosseum titans which I didn't like so much. I'll just leave you with this clip then... happy watching :P

Eslite 24 hour bookstore
Eslite  Official Website
Attack on Titans (進撃の巨人)
Uzumaki (うずまき)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Biz Trip - Taiwan Howard Plaza Hotel

When you're traveling alone, it is always nice to bring something that reminded you of home. So accompanying me this trip is Brown and friends! My toiletry set given to me by my brother! He won it in a Line contest. He won it twice! Aren't they just adorable??? You need things like these to cheer you up in life sometimes! This and caramel corns! Together with me is also the cotton cat bag that I made. (I can't believe I haven't blogged those awesome handmade bags I made yet! Soon! I promise!)
Above is a glimpse of what my hotel looked like. I think I stayed 10th floor? or 12? or 16? Can't remember. Sad. Anyway, it was quite a nice hotel. Breakfast was included, and they had two floors serving it: one for western, one for eastern. I went alternate between the two floors. The western omelet was delicious, and they have bananas and smoked salmon there. The eastern was also my fave with the delicious porridge, and rice with baby eels! Yummy! I have a hearty breakfast every meal, almost 3 servings without fail cause my breakfast is after my hour long morning walk.
 It was near Christmas, so the hotel was decorated in a festive mood. I hope I get to stay at the same place again next year. The room was extremely comfortable cause I get the whole bed to myself, and it came with 4 fluffy pillows and one bolster. There was a pool there, Jacuzzi and gym too, but I didn't visit any of those. Too lazy to pack swimsuit, and too lazy to do laundry after exercising. What I really like about the room were the selection of books available in the room! These are type of books I would pay money for! Sadly I was too tired to read it. I wonder if they are complimentary? Maybe I should ask next time. Would really love to bring them home to read.
 Above are photos I took on my last day. I knew I was going to miss the bed most, lol. Next to it is my luggage and bag. I travel light as a backpacker. Actually, this is the very first time I own a luggage. I had to purchase it just for this job. Given I choice, I rather backpack and dress like a vagabond (which is what I look like whenever I change out of my work clothes.

Just before I checked out, I redeemed my welcome drink (the irony of it), and drank it at the bar overlooking the pool. It was a relaxing drink before flying back to Singapore. It is sad that I didn't get approval to go for  my holiday in Japan this year, but I guess the business trip would have to do. I guess if they make me travel more, I wouldn't mind so much about not taking my holiday. But still, I need to visit Japan twice in 2016 to keep that promise to myself. Looking forward to an exciting year ahead!.

Howard Plaza Hotel

Monday, December 28, 2015

Biz Trip - Taiwan Ximending 22-November

22-Nov-2015 Sunday was the day I reached Taipei to start my business trip. It was actually one day after my JCS Exam -_______-""" But I was determine to forget about whatever that was and just concentrate on Taipei! I love traveling alone. But for this trip, I had two colleagues accompanying me. Above is me and my colleague from another department having our first meal together at a (roll-eyes), Hakata Japanese Ramen shop. No comments.
Anyway, I abandon him after the meal and headed to Ximending. I was suppose to meet my colleague from Singapore who happen to  be on holiday there. She stayed near there and we agreed to meet at 8pm. I didn't actually met her till 9pm due to no communication on the phone! Long story. But since I was there, might as well explore the place! So I walked around the buzzing place. I know that lots of people (especially youngsters) like Ximending, but not me. I don't really like the place cause I find it kinda depressing. 7 years ago I actually stayed here one night while transiting in Taipei, and it was depressing as hell when the lights go out and the shops are closed.  The accommodation there (translate to hostel for me), was pretty thin and lean as well. Everything about this place just shout out money and youth, and I hated it. 

But I did enjoyed eventually meeting up with my colleague at around 9pm and we went for a drink at a place nearby. On the menu it says order 2 beer and you get 1 free! So we did, plus fried mozzarella cheese (yummy!). I wanted to leave by 10:30pm, but it was so fun just hanging out that we only left after 11pm. By the time I reach my hotel, it was almost 11:45pm! And it was only my first night here!


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Biz Trip - Taiwan (22-Nov to 28-Nov)

After changing job in June 2015, I was fortunate enough to get my first business trip to Taipei in November. The last time I visited Taipei was in 2008 on a holiday, and even then, I hardly spend much time in the capital city itself, opting instead to spend most of my time in the outskirt hiking around. Can't say I like city life much, so the only thing I was really looking forward to was the half day at the end of the trip where I plan to travel out of town and explore!

The above pix shows Taipei 101 in the early morning around 6:30am when I was out on my daily morning walk around my hotel, and Taipei 101 on my last night when I took a walk to the nearest night market from my hotel. It was a full moon night and quite cooling. I was glad I venture out even though I was tired from the last day of work. Shown also is my fave bubble tea that you can order from office on a daily basis in the morning, and it is delivered to the office just before lunch time. The one I tried was Iron Buddha latte, super smooth!
From my hotel, which I will write more about in another post, it is within walking distance to the nearest mall, which is Sogo. They have like 2 or 3 Sogo near the crossroad. It's only a 10 to 15 minutes walk from the hotel. And because it was cooling at night, the first photo made me felt really Christmasy. The second one was taken on my last morning in Taipei, about 6:45am when I met my vendor at the train station to make our way to Beitou (another post, I promise!). I like the tree and the building behind it being taken together in this one shot. East meets west.

Maybe I should I explain a bit about my daily habit there since you keep seeing photos taken in the wee early of morning. Being a travel bug as I am, the only reason I adore business trip so much is because of the chance to explore a new location. And because I had to work from Monday to Friday from 8:15am (where we meet at the lobby to take a cab to the office), to probably 9pm when we reach our hotel after dinner, I didn't have much time to explore. The first few day, I actually explore the city area from 8pm to sometimes up to 11:45pm. Buy being a female explorer, night time wasn't exactly the safest time to go wondering around. So my solution? Explore in the morning! So I try to wake up around 5:30am daily, and went for a walk around the neighborhood from maybe 6am to 7:30am. After which I will rush back for breakfast and head to the office. So the above photo shows some of the cute shops I saw in the neighborhood, but was not really open, or was too early for me to go in. I actually wanted to try the Hello Kitty bubble tea, but it doesn't open that early. Maybe next time. 
Taiwan is also famous for its night markets, but I actually only managed to drag myself to one on the last night I was there. Even though exhausted from work, I drag myself out around 8pm, and walked to the nearest night market two train stations away. Yes I walked. The weather was cooling enough, and I was already putting on too much weight from all the eating and not exercising. I told myself that on the last night, I will eat nothing much street food! It was a fun night, and I got more than enough food on my own that I couldn't even finish everything.
 Above is a photo of Taipei Taoyuan airport taken before I left Taipei. Hello Kitty is very popular there, and it look so cute too! Can't wait to be back in January 2016 for my follow up workshop with Taipei colleagues. I hope I'll get to explore more and see the Chinese New Year ambiance of Taiwan!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

White Rabbit

The White Rabbit was a place that I wanted to visit ever since I heard about it. But I don't know why it took me such a long time to actually step into the place. Anything that is related to books are always a place I like to visit, and this one is linked to rabbit holes and matrix and gardens and churches, a recipe for Cordy! And so I managed to persuade my husband to bring me there for our 11th wedding anniversary on a beautiful Sunday morning.
 We actually wanted to try the set lunch there, but was told they only serve brunch on Sundays, which is kind of a bummer to me. The breakfast selection wasn't that wide, and since they were link to the Black Swan, I ordered a burger for my brunch. (I stopped eating burger after I got food poisoning once in a German restaurant, but Black Swan started my burger eating days again). My husband ordered a breakfast set with all those meat platter he loves, and a cup of girlie tea.  The tea came with a rabbit biscuit which I thought was such a nice touch!
 And the above is the result of me playing with my food :)  Look how the rabbit goes! Hahaha. We had lots of fun playing with it, and it was a perfect ambassador for the restaurant. Kudos for that special touch. Simple yet effective, and made me as a customer really happy about it.
The White Rabbit would be a place I would love to have my dream wedding if ever did have a chance to have one. Although I'm Chinese, I can't stand Chinese weddings (except for the food obviously). I prefer fairy tale like wedding settings, of elves and fairies and gardens and blue skies and beautiful ray of sunlight. And this was just the place.
There was a wedding ceremony going on, so we took some photos of the settings. And the garden outside look so relaxing too! And the way the decorated it made me kinda misty eyes of a garden wedding I never had. If only there was a river or stream nearby, and maybe a bridge or cottage or two.....
Happy 11st Wedding Anniversary to me and my hubby!!!

Alice in Wonderland
White Rabbit
Black Swan

Friday, December 25, 2015

Ikoi Japanese Restaurant

Continuing on about my rant about my Japanese exam, I actually promised to do a few things if I were to pass my exam. Beside the books that I would buy from my previous post, I also promised my Japanese colleague who helped me correct my composition that I would treat him coffee if I pass (he said he would treat me sake if I fail lol). I also promised my brother that I will treat him to a Japanese meal. So that is how we ended up in Ikoi @ Miramar Hotel instead of our usual Yamada.

Above picture shows the entrance which was pretty impressive. And below is the picture of what it looked inside. I was very impress with the deco as it made the place looked very charming.
And the plates laid out was very pretty too!!! Although my brother said the service was going to be slow, and we already noted no salmon head or soft shell crab or gyoza on the menu, the ambiance more or less made up for it. Plus it was quite affordable too, at SGD39++ per person.

Below are some of the dishes we tried. I love the fact that they have bacon in the menu. My fave is cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon. The other two is sausages and crab stick which was also surprisingly nice! They were also very generous with the sashimi, especially the salmon which always come in double portion when we ordered a set. We managed two set that is served in a boat plate. The sushi was also served in a nice plates, and the prawn tempura was also nice! There were some dishes that were also served complimentary stype: salad sticks, edamame, a type of seafood serve in a tea pot, and claim miso soup which was very nice! I also like the cawamushi, salmon porridge, and the ramen although I was very full after that. And everything was served in beautiful plates! I think its a great place to have a slow lunch and enjoy the ambiance. I would definitely come back for the charm! At the end of the meal, they serve us slices of pears imported from Japan that they were selling for SGD10 for two. It was like the sweetest pear I ever had!
 The buffet lunch is available from 11:30am to 2pm I think, but by 1:30pm we were done. They also gave us some recycle back as they were celebrating their 15th anniversary. Everything about the place has a nice touch to it! I think I'll bring my husband back here for our January birthday celebration.

Here's a snap shot of their lunch menu in case you need to plan your eating adventure. I do highly recommend this place. But if you are looking for salmon head, go to Yamada instead. They have very nice softshell temaki and gyoza there, and the price is slightly higher there. 


Thursday, December 24, 2015

JCS Intermediate Level (Year 2) Exam Period

2015 was my second year studying Japanese in JCS. And it was so much tougher than year 1. So much so that I was really really scared about passing my year end final exams. My brother got me like more than half a dozen Daruma for my safe passage in my Japanese language journey. Above is the picture of my two Daruma, one with sight showing I have pass Year 1 Elementary, and one half blind accompanying me while I struggle with my Year 2 Intermediate. 

Even though I started studying months in advance, the fact was, I have been slacking since the second half of the year. So no matter how much I tried, I knew I would barely get by. I told myself that to reward myself, I would get the below Gudetama(ぐでたま) Comic in Japanese from Kinokuniya the day I finish my exam regardless whether I pass or fail.

Well the day came where I finished my exam, but my mood was terrible cause I suspect I may have failed my grammar paper and my interview as well. The only thing I was sure of scoring was my diary composition which I got my Japanese colleague to mark for me prior to the exam :) But no matter how sad I was, a promise is a promise. And one should always keep one's promise, especially if it is to yourself! So I got the comin, costing around SGD20.70. It is super cute! And I am trying very hard to read it! It is better than the Chinese version one I got from Taiwan one week later. 

 Anyway, after the exam, I went for my Business Trip to Taiwan and tried to forget about the bad feeling that I had. I told myself that if I pass, I would get 3 philosophical book shown in the picture below for myself. They are available from Kinokuniya, and cost around SGD12.40 each. They look so cute! I actually got them even before my exam result came as my friend lend me her Kinokuniya card when we were meeting up, and I just couldn't resist any longer. Sure I felt guilty about buying those books before the result was out, but at the back of my mind, I was already prepared to retake the paper if I failed.

Interestingly, the result was out one day after I got myself those books! Rejoice! The result was worst off than my first year by a large margin, but to be frank, I was just glad that I passed at all! I was so sure I would fail 2 of the items, but ended up I almost fail (but DID NOT!) my grammer, and my kanji! OMG, how could I almost fail Kanji is beyond me. It's not that I don't know Chinese. But then again, my Chinese is pretty shitty as well. I also did well in my listening, interview, and of course my composition :)  Overall, I pass, and that was the most important thing. 

I will be registering for my Advance Year 1 next Monday 28-Dec-2015, and I have told my Japanese colleague that I will start talking to him in Japanese next year onwards :) 2016 is going to be a challenging year ahead!!!!

And so the green Daruma got it's sight, and now a pink half blind Daruma has joint the journey :)
Here's to another year of sleepless Friday night, 2.5hours of Saturday morning sacrifice, and year end sick-in-the-stomach experience all over again! The worst is always the interview!!!! But next year, I plan to ace it cause I have the whole office to practice with! I have no excuse to fail!!!!

Daruma Doll  (達磨)
Gudetama (ぐでたま)

Kafka On Tthe Shore Play

1-Nov-2015 was a special day. My good friend Justin got married. It was the first time I attended a wedding without knowing anyway (sine we were such old friends that  never keep in touch much). I did know the photographer though. But anyway, it was also the day I watch my first Japanese play! And it was a Murakami, title Kafka on the Shore. I paid SGD60 per ticket, and treated my brother to the play. It was extremely interesting.
 I've read Murakami before (since he was so mainstream famous), but I became a fan of his after reading "The Wind Up Bird Chronicles" due to some personal reasons. However Kafka was highly recommended to me by one of my Generation Terrorist Forum friends. I like the story very much too, and it gave me one of the item on my bucket list! Which is to bath in the rain one day :)  I wonder how free that feeling would be like. I wonder how that would ever be realize....
The actor and actress of the play was interesting too. Dialogue was in Japanese with English subtitle.  The stage itself was amazing and almost magical! Perhaps they were trying to achieve the surreal-ness of the strory. The play was done in a very unique way, with moving stage pieces, and man dress in cat suit that looks surprisingly convincing. There was also a mysterious kid that appear from time to time, and of course Colonel Sanders, Johnny Walker, Tamura, Kafka etc. The most shocking part of the play was they actually acted out a scene of a man having sex with a prostitute. I was quite stunned!
Here's a picture of me after the play. I only post my pix on this blog if I'm really happy about whatever I'm posting. Soon you will realize that 2015 was a great year, cause I'll be posting many more pix of myself. Probably because I've slimmed down, and probably because my hair is finally beginning to look like a proper girl's hair..... But that's another story all together. Coming up soon if I have more free time to post!

Until then, here's a promotion clip for your viewing pleasure

Kafka On the Shore
Haruki Murakami

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Subscription Box Craze

Hi again! I just realize that my last post was like 10 months ago! So sorry for being away so long. Life has been very full for me lately, and I'm having the time of my life! But now that its the year end, and what's with so much holiday around, I finally have some time to catch up with my blog again. So I'm just going to go through the photos on my phone and document what I have been up to for the past 10 months. And even then, that would be far off as I've too much back log to clear. But never mind, let's just take it one post at a time!

 To start off, LOOK! Such a colorful photo of Japan's caramel corn! In 3 exotic flavor! (Cheese Cake, Sweet Potato, and Toasted Apples). Yummy! This does not include the more main stream flavor of Chocolate, Original, Matcha, Toasted Almonds, Vanila, and goodness knows what else. Yes. I've made it my life's mission to try all the flavors available!.
 Ok, enough of that crap. Next! Subscription Boxes. In case you don't know what are those, they are boxes you can subscript on a monthly basis like magazines for a fixed amount of money. You don't have much control what you will get in it, but it usually follows a certain theme. There are many times of subscription boxes available in the world. It is basically giving someone else money to buy you a gift monthly. Sounds pathetic but it's true!

The subscriptions are usually expensive, for example, small boxes can be around SGD13? To big boxes ranging to SGD30 for something like what you see in the photo. And that's just for junk food from Japan! They also have boxes with gourmet food, beauty box, wine, organic vegetable, pastry, games etc.

Anyway, being the cheap skate as I am, I didn't want to commit to let a stranger send me a box that might potentially be damaged, and may contain food I may not like. So I decided to try an experiment. I decided to have a budget, say SGD20 to make one subscription box. I pick Japanese Snacks as I was deprived of my annual trip to Japan by my new Japanese boss this year (the irony).

I went shopping at Daiso, at Japanese alcohol shop, and Cold Storage. And the two boxes is my end result, I gave one to my brother. Each box cost price is around maybe SGD11 to SGD13, and it is a huge box too!
Items found inside includes: Instand Ramen, can drinks (juice and tea), Snow Biscuit, Jagabee Potato Chips, lots of Ramune candies ラムネ (ugh), mini chocolate and candy, and Japanese drinking snacks.

Not  bad eh? So this is why marketing doesn't work on me. I'm too cheap to fall for fancy ideas. I rather make my own!

That's all for now! Next post coming up soon!

Here is the youtube from Animeman that started the above experiment.

27-Dec-2015: Add on after the first publishing of this blog, I found the photo of my very first attempt at a subscription box! At a budget of SGD10, I got this junk which none of them taste any good! Lol. Lesson learnt: subscription box are not meant to be practical, they are meant to be fun and make you happy!

Tohato Caramel Corn
ラムネ Ramune