Saturday, September 30, 2017

Biz Trip Taipei - Eva Hello Kitty Flight

As you may I know, I was supposed to fly back to Singapore on 29-April after my business trip to Taipei, but as 1st May was a holiday in Singapore, I decided to extend my stay one more night in Taipei. Eva Air was kind enough to change my flight for me at no cost to a Sunday morning flight. I was just happy to have the chance to run around Taiwan for one extra day. I remember the last day there, the hotel has arranged a uber to bring me to the airport, and I checked out at 7am. They even pack my breakfast for me, and the driver who was a rather good looking young man drove me to the airport with Jay Chou music playing through out the way there. I didn't speak a word to him cause he was so good looking. I had my breakfast which the hotel had packed for me at a quiet corner of the airport and proceed to check in. While waiting to board my plane, I noticed that when the plane pulled in, people started to go to the viewing window and taking photos. I also went over, and saw the famous Hello Kitty airplane! I also took some photo and went back to wait for boarding. And then, it finally hit me! I look at my fellow travellers, and some of them were actually holding a Hello Kitty boarding pass! Mine was the boring normal pass. But we were both at the same gate, so what does it all mean??? Did Eva Air changed my flight to a Hello Kitty flight for free??? Woohoo! I couldn't believe my luck!

When I board the flight, I even ask the flight attendance was this a Hello Kitty flight, to which he dryly replied yes. I was so excited! But this was Eva, not ANA or JAL, so yes there were Hello Kitty stuff around, and they were cute.... but something was just missing....  Anyway, above is my seat, with hello kitty pillow and headrest protector. If you look at the inside of my bag, I actually have my laptop bag with me, and it's Cinnamon Chan sanrio themed laptop bag which I sew myself! He finally met his friends on this flight! Hahahaha.

Everything was Hello Kitty, so I took as much photo as I could. I was flying Economy Class. They gave us Hello Kitty tissues, and Hello Kitty packaged peanut and seaweed as snacks.

When lunch was served, the cutleries are also Hello Kitty themes, but they were made of plastic-like materials. Sadly the food was not Hello Kitty themed. That would have been a nice touch if it was. Anyway, after the meal, I kindly ask the air stewardess whether I can keep the cutleries. One of my colleague had told me that she has asked before in her previous flight and didn't get to keep them. But I couldn't just give up without asking could I? So I asked. And she said yes! So I quickly kept them in my bag in case another stewardess decided against it! 

All in all, it was an enjoyable trip. I may not be visiting Taipei any time soon since my project has ended. My project was recently launched in India as well. So now I can only look forward to more trips to Vietnam, and hopefully other more exciting new countries in the near future.

Until my next business trip! I still have backlog of India's trip to write about, which is like a year behind! I visited so many places in India that it's going to take a while before I get the chance to upload everything! Slow and steady now! See ya!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Biz Trip Taipei - Souvenirs!

This post is on all the weird things I buy on my trip. I'm not much of a shopper, but in this trip, I managed to buy 2 tops. So extending one more night in Taipei was really worth it! Above is the famous milk tea that Singaporeans are crazy over. They have rose flavoured milk there! So I tried one. The bottle is so pretty! I kept it and took it home. I used them to store pre-packed tea leaves and actually have a total of 3 now at home. They are also a whole lot cheaper in Taipei. 
Above are Taiwan beers. I love my beer in a bottle, chilled. The can one I think is honey beer. Never heard of honey beer before, so I had to try it. To be honest I didn't get enough to drink during the karaoke session the night before. So while shopping for my groceries on my last night, I was having a beer craving and decided to get two of these. Drinking Dino was there to save the day and help me open up the bottle. 

This trip was rather fruitful, not only did I managed to get some clothes, I got ankle socks cause they were so cute! That's what happened when you have too much time on your own and wander into shops because you don't feel like going back to your hotel yet. And that Kumamoto bear is actually bags of tea. I thought they would be individually packed, so that  I could give them out as souvenir. Sadly they were not, and I still have them at home sitting at the kitchen counter....

Some common thing I always get when I am in Taipei: Chinese Wine Instant Noodles. I am totally in love with this instant noodle. It comes with chicken bits, but I always throw the meat away and put fresh chicken when I'm cooking them. I love the smell of the Chinese wine, and the taste of the Mei Chai they put in it. I'm trying to cook it fresh from scratch, but have not succeeded yet. Until then, I really wish they are sold in Singapore. The second thing is mixed grain rice. These are cheaper in Taiwan, so I always grab either one or two kg home whenever I'm here. I mixed them with white rice when I'm cooking them, so a 2kg pack can actually last very long for me. Last thing is condense milk in a tub. I find this so much more convenient than the tin version they sell in Singapore. I use these for waffles, coffee, ice creams, toast, bananas, eat them out of the tub etc. Condense milk always reminds me of my grandma somehow...

I got these set of liquor in Jiefun cause the bottle looked so pretty and the flavour so interesting. I gave one to my brother, one to my husband, and one to my colleague who was kind enough to lend me his train card and sim card which was extremely useful when I was working. I kept one for myself.
I also got this pair of geta (japanese slippers) from Jiufen. They cost slightly over SGD20, making them the most expensive slippers I own. And I only wear them in my house! But I've always wanted to own a pair of these, and at SGD20+, they were considered cheaper than their counter part found in Japan which cost around SGD35 the last time I was there. I super love them! They actually look great with jeans, but I only wear mine in the house and really treasure them. I would even oil them when I'm oiling my legs. They make me feel somehow more elegant. It was a great buy! No regrets!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Biz Trip Taipei - Jiufen Mysterious Tea House

Told you I saved the best for last. Look at this beautiful photo of a tea house/restaurant. It looks like it is going to collapsed anytime. Or like some mad person build it with ply wood whenever they can find it, and building it up one level at a time. It look straight out of a fantasy world! And it was at the end of the old street and further up a slope. For such an enchanting place, it was surprisingly quiet. I wasn't even sure if it was open when I stumble upon it.

This is the front entrance of the house. And for some unknown reason, I walked in. I just gotta find out what is inside, right? I've come this far. My life may be in danger, but I sure as hell wasn't turning back without at least walking in here and finding out what this place is. Lucky for me, I can read very basic Mandarin, and the red text on the stone outside says make your way to the 2nd floor. Okay! Up more wooden stairs I went and along beautiful wooden corridors, and still no one to be seen....

This is the second floor. All tables were empty. There was clearly a counter area to place your order, but it's kinda hard to do that when there is nobody there. I walked around a bit and took photos of the beautiful interior. All the while wondering what the hell this place is.

It obviously looked like a tea house. Maybe even a restaurant..... The above photo is the inner hall of the 2nd floor....

Above is the counter where nobody was there to attend to you. Look! Another minty green antique fan! I found a menu here and proceed to take a look at it. They serve tea set. They serve food. Nice. The price was ok for me. I was hungry. I was thirsty. But still, nobody to be seen. Finally I decided to go up one more level and this is what it looked like.

It was an open air roof top, and it looked right into the view of Jiufen mountain and sea. There was a gentle breeze blowing in the air, and the air was so fresh. I saw two caucasian men drinking Taiwan beer at one of the table and thought to myself they can't possibly be the owner of this place. But at the same time, it was a happy sight cause it meant this place is open for business! I just sat myself at one of the table and just enjoyed the view. Couldn't care one bit if I was trespassing or not, or whether it was dangerous to be there on my own. Couldn't care less with a view as beautiful as Jiufen right before my eyes....

Finally, like what felt like forever, an old lady walked up the stairs and serve the only other table that was occupied. I quickly made my present known and followed her downstairs. Seeing that I was Chinese, she proceed to spoke in Taiwanese to me. Since it was similar to Hokkien, I could understand. And when I couldn't understand, she couldn't be bothered either and continued to speak to me in her native language. I managed to order fried rice and a pot of tea. She told me at this time of the year, they only serve cold tea. Okay..... 

After ordering, I went up to the roof and sat there doing just nothing. Watching eagles flying. Watching butterflies. Watching tourist and traffic on the streets far below. Watching the village life. Watching the world goes by. My food was served after like 30mins. I slowly ate it. The cold tea was refreshing. Both cost me around SGD20 or more. It was expensive, but it was totally worth the experience of dining here. I stayed there for a full 2 hour on my own. The cold breeze was extremely pleasing for me. A couple appeared and sat briefly but the wind was too cold, so they made their way to the covered 2nd floor. I had the whole place to myself when the caucasian guys left. Peaceful. Calm. And just heaven. And then a bunch of Taiwanese ladies came up and talked so loudly that I quickly finished my tea, paid my bill (with some difficulty since old aunty has disappeared again), and left to wonder the old streets of Jiufen. By that time, it was almost 1230pm, and the street was so crowded that it wasn't fun anymore. So I just bought some souvenir and left by bus and headed back to Taipei. 

Still, it was the most enjoyable part of my business trip. I've finally made it to Jiufen. And I would love to come back again another day and stay the night. To view the magical night scene one day. Sometimes I wish I have someone to share in all my odd adventure, but I guess it's hard to find someone with a common interest as myself. My husband is never interested in travelling, preferring to stay home and work instead. But I still considered myself fortunate enough to be able to travel and seek out all these wonderful experiences. It helps that I don't really mind travelling alone. At times, I even prefer to travel on my own. Some people find this strange. But this is my life. I will continue to do the things I love. Their opinion can keep them at home. The world is too fascinating to be bothered with what people think of me :)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Biz Trip Taipei - Jiufen Pottery House

Right next to the tea house downstairs, there was a pottery shop and pottery workshop. I went inside to explore around. It was like a studio, and everything was beautiful there, the light, the colour. Best of all, I was always alone in the shop. So I took full advantage of it and took photos of almost everything!

Like I said, downstairs were mainly pottery. Tea pot of the finest ceramic lined the walls.

A whole pillar of pottery eat cup can be seen here. I love pottery plates, bowls, cups etc. Mainly I love Japanese pottery, but if they are well made, it doesn't matter where they are from. There is something very earthly about pottery. The touch of it, the texture of it. It brings one down to earth, cause after all, it is made of earth....

There were so many mind blowing art piece downstairs that I didn't even bother to consider buying anything cause nothing would do justice to anything I bough here. Everything was just beautiful.

Even a spiral stair case was so beautifully decorated that I took a photo with it, mainly of the minty green and white color of it that made me so happy seeing it. I even have photos of the back alley with vases and plant that looks like art, but for the sake of keeping this entry shot, I'm only selectively showing you some of the prettier photos.

The above are coloured ceramic tea sets. I've never seen such colourful tea sets because because I though drinking tea was always a solemn activity. But the above collection really brightens up my day. The pastel colour is so cute. I didn't buy it. Probably too expensive. Couldn't remember.

Further back there was an entrance to a pottery workshop. They held classes here, but there was none planned for that day, bummer. But I wondered in anyway and took a look around. There were two guys inside talking and drinking tea. They noticed me, but didn't pay much attention and went back to their animated chatting as only tea can make you do. I sure miss a good tea drinking buddy. One that I can drink tea with and talk about life.....

I saw a row of antique fan in minty green colour on the clayed colour floor and couldn't help but snapped the above photo. Aren't they just beautiful? They reminded me of my very philosophical vegetarian guy friend whom I enjoyed many long bus ride chatting to when I was doing my post graduate.   Sometimes when you're a married lady, your guy friend tend to keep their distance from you. This can be rather sad, especially when I can related better to them than I do most girlfriends. But such is life. Guess I was meant to live a loner life...And THAT is what too much tea does to your brains!

So I'm just gonna leave you here with more photos of pottery cat teapots! Cause nothing makes the world okay again faster than these guys! My journey in Jiefen is not over yet. I still have one more magical place to visit which I have save for last!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Biz Trip Taipei - Jiufen Tea House

One of the thing you must do when you go to Jiufen is to have tea at one of the tea houses there. They can be found easily enough, but which to go to is a challenge. Most cost around SGD20 for tea and some snacks. The above one, found in the centre of the old street seems to be the biggest one and looks the most expensive. So I went inside to have a look around.

It was heaven inside! Just look at the photos here! Any tea drinker's dream come true. I love tea. Not the wester English time of yellowish brown stuff (no offence), but the light yellow scented white tea, or beautifully brown pu er, oolong or iron buddha, and even lightly green matcha tea, germaicha, or my current favourite is houjicha. I love eastern tea. And this was tea heaven to me. 

I love the ritual of drinking tea. I love the comradeship, the chess playing and calligraphy and poetry that comes with tea drinking. I guess deep down inside, I was pretty much Chinese. And I was all ready to spend some money here. But sadly, the customer here was surprisingly cold. Maybe it's because they are so famous that they don't really need to entertain a hooligan dressed tourist like myself. Although I showed interest in the tea set and tea, nobody ever came to entertain me. And when I walked nearer to the actual tea house, a lady promptly came over to tell me that I can't enter as it was for customer only. Probably the place was too expensive for me. But it was a beautiful shop, so instead of being offended, I suck it in and act poor inside, asking if it was ok for me to look around and take photos because it was so beautiful. Surprisingly she said yes, and even told me I could make my way downstairs for more things to see! So I went downstairs....

What greeted me was even more amazing! A line of pottery cat teapot sat there sunbathing as I walk down the wooden stairs to the floor below. The above photo is one of my favourite. At first I thought they were just pottery cat. But when I looked closer, they are actually teapot! Aren't they just adorable?

And downstairs, a beautiful tea living room greeted me, with koi pond and miniture waterfall etc. If I'm ever so rich, I would love to have a living room just like the one shown in the photo below. It was so calming. I could have sat there the whole afternoon sipping tea. It was amazingly beautiful that it seemed strange that nobody was there but me. Was these meant for special occasion only? I would never know.

And when the sunlight hits the stone ,or wooden structure, or water, everything just glitter like magic.  I was so in love.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Biz Trip Taipei - Jiufen Old Street

Jiufen is famous for its old streets, cobbled stoned narrow alley with shops and tea houses lining both side. Above is a photo of me taken just before I enter the old street. As you can see, convenient stores have found their way here as well. Thank goodness there were no Starbuck spotted yet! Anyway, off we go inside! I think I reached around 1030am? So it was still early for most tourist although I initially wanted to get here earlier. But due to the partying last night and not getting back till 3am, considered myself even lucky that I managed to drag my sorry ass here at all! 

The old streets were really narrow. And you can eat your way through it. Fish balls, snacks, bubble teas, desserts of sweet potatoes and taro balls etc. It was a hit among the tourist who pours in here around noon time. I know because when I was headed back at around 1230pm, it was so packed that I could hardly walk through. Word of advice, either come here really really early, or stay the night. Which incidentally, the night view here is suppose to be magical! Next time! Promise!

I took a shot of the above photo because it has a Malaysian flag in the shop. Yay! Malaysia Boleh. The hanging chicken shown doesn't look half bad either. But like I said before, Taiwanese food and me just haven't gotten to a comfortable level yet. So I actually didn't eat anything on the old street at all. Not even a single drink!

Biscuits, souvenirs were everywhere. It was rather touristy if you ask me. Catered to the usual tour bus people. I wasn't interested in any of it, so mostly I just walked pass the shops. I did bought two things from here: a geta (Japanese slippers), and some souvenir liquor for my friends and family back home. More on that when I reach my to-buy blog entry.

Most of the shops were quite beautifully decorated. Kinda fairy tale like, like this one shown in the above photo here, selling cloth dolls. 

Smaller tea houses were everywhere. I wanted to try one, but I didn't know which to pick. I did however managed to enter into one of the most beautiful tea house I ever saw, but due to bad customer service, I didn't purchase anything there, but ended up in another more magical tea house instead! More of that coming up!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Biz Trip Taipei - Jiufen

I guess technically this is still considered part of my business trip to Taipei although I have already completed my work. I extended my stay in Taipei after seeking permission from my boss, and since the change of flight was free, I moved to a cheaper hotel on Saturday early morning, and rush over to Sogo area to catch the bus to Jiufen. Above is the map of Jiufen area. There is a direct bus there from Sogo, and it is pretty cheap. I caught an early bus there, and it took around an hour to get there, going pass beautiful scenes along the way. It was a nostalgic ride, with beautiful bridges that made me homesick for Japan. Listening to Ken Hirai all the away in the bus also added to the atmosphere. I was on an adventure on my own again, and although it felt lonely, it was peaceful and calming at the same time. 

As the bus climbs uphill, and we headed nearer to the sea, above is the view you get when you near the old town. The view was spectacular. The reason I wanted to visit Jiufen was because of an anime call Spirited Away. The scenes from that movie was based on this small ancient town. So it felt like a magical place which I just had to visit. And since it was just a bus ride away, I just knew I had to go.

I was not disappointed. The view of the small town was enchanting. Slope filled with wooden old houses, some converted into traditional tea house where you can go in and drink tea. The price was kinda high to drink tea in one of these tea houses, but there is a 7-Eleven there where you can just go in, buy a drink at the usual price, and sit at one of the high stool that looked out into the same beautiful view! Who said travelling was expensive obviously have not spend much time exploring! I call bullshit on that!

There are many people still living in this small town, so you can see houses spread across the hill side. It has a very old feel to it. And I bet there are great hiking trails here as well. I was quite tempted to walk into one, but reminded myself that I haven't prepared myself for any hike today, and had no idea where those ancient trail lead to. Maybe next time.

Clear signs showing you where to head, which wasn't really necessary. Just walk where you like. It's a small town. Not much chance of getting lost! Highlight of my trip here which I will blog in the new few entries are: Tea Houses, Pottery House, and a magical tea house with nobody inside. Stay tune!


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Biz Trip Taipei - Karaoke @ Party World

Here's another surprise detour on the very last day of work. I was planning to join another colleague to the night market after work, but as Murphy would have it, we hit a production issue and I had to stay back until it was resolved. It was a Friday night and I felt really really bad that my Taiwanese colleagues had to stay back with me to finish up the work as they needed to lock up the office after me. But thankfully I managed to finish around 930pm. As we were leaving, they ask if me and my vendor would like to join them for Karaoke. I said yes since I've always wanted to go Karaoke in Taiwan. I was surprised that my vendor said yes as well. So off we went on a cab to Party World.
When we arrived, some of them were already singing away. We haven't had dinner yet, so I was really hungry. Thank goodness Taiwan Karaoke has a restaurant-like menu! They had everything! From finger food to noodles, to rice, to even street food like braised intestines! Lovely! I was very very satisfied with the menu selection there!
Some of my colleague have bought some hard liquor. The white label one has an alcohol level of almost 60%! I got the chance to try around 2 types of hard liquor and mainly Taiwan Beer served in really tiny glasses that I felt like I was back in China. There were two casualty from all that drinking, but I went back to my hotel and had another beer on my own after that, lol. It really gets to me sometimes that I don't get drunk. But for the sake of my kidneys, I usually try not to over drink even though I really like fine hard liquor.

Here's a photo of me with some of my colleagues and vendor during the karaoke. I didn't sing much as my Chinese songs are limited. But I really enjoyed the Taiwanese song they sang cause it was so rock! I love rock music, cause it has so much passion. All my Singaporean friends usually just sing damn depressing love songs. But Taiwanese sing rock, dance, rap, and best of all - rap in Taiwanese Hokkien! I felt proud that they are proud to be Taiwanese! It was a very memorable night for me. Thank you very much for inviting me along! I got back to my hotel around 3am, and slept at around 4am! I had to check out early as I was going to JiuFen and wanted to catch an early bus there, but at the same time, I had to change to another cheaper hotel since my business trip was officially over the next day, Stay tuned for my adventure in Jiufen!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Biz Trip Taipei - Zhi Char

As this was my 3rd trip to Taipei, I've made some friends among my colleagues and vendor. I was thrilled when they invited me out to a local place for dinner cause I knew I would be eating good food at a local ambiance location. And from the photo above, I hit jackpot! This place was quite near where our office is via train or taxi, and it was a girl's night out with my Taiwanese girlfriends.

Above is my first time eating rice with minced meat in Taiwan. They are famous for it, but this was the first time I tried it. It was delicious! I had two bowls of it. And my Taiwanese girl friend had seconds too! I knew I was in good company when the girls are not afraid to enjoy their food! And if you look behind, there is a plate or a rather pale looking fried cabbage. I didn't know why my colleague would order such a boring dish, but when I bite into them, OMG, they were so sweet and fragrant and crunchy! Why is it vegetable always taste so much better outside of Singapore? Super super love it. I would have been happy if that was the only two dishes I ate that night and no! There were more! For 4 ladies, we did order a lot, even if the serving was rather small. 

Above is my favourite of the dish ordered, pig intestine with chives stuffing. I thought I've died and gone to heaven. I would have given this dish a Michelin star if I could. Super super lovely! 

We also had bitter gourd chicken soup. This was the first time I ate white coloured bitter gourd. The soup was nice, although I suspect there were some ginger in it. But there was a touch of chinese wine inside it, so I was ok. But with so much good food on the table, it seemed senseless to fill my stomach with so much soup. The sinful looking peanut dish in the photo is actually fried baby squid with salt and better. Needless to say, delicious! If only I had a cold beer then....
We also ordered big head prawn cook in the same salt and pepper flavour. They were also delicious!
But a part of the lovely food, what I enjoyed was the lovely company of my Taiwanese girl friends. Although I can't really understand mandarin that well, and stayed quiet mostly in their conversation, I can understand enough to appreciate it. And I find that they can talk about any topic without being taboo about anything, something which I miss in my Singaporean friends who are always politically correct and never speaks their mind. I find Taiwanese much more often, much more comical, much more warm. 

One of them visited Singapore recently, and I took the trouble to meet up with her and my other Taiwanese colleague who is working in Singapore. It was just as fun. I missed honest conversation, especially with girlfriends cause seriously, I am short of girlfriends, what with me being in the IT industry and growing up with a brother and spending my holidays with my male nephews...