BONUS MATERIAL in this super long-winded post (second in the series of many!): Taiwan Celebrities -- Fengjia Faun and Adidas Anthony!
Breakfast was not part of our package at Athena Ming Shu, so we had to walk out to find food at the nearby breakfast joints. Lewis provided us with several options and we chose to eat at Good Morning! Beautiful & Breakfast. Gotta love their English. More about that later. This joint serves up 'Western' breakfast-- sandwiches and what not. Reading materials include newspapers and tabloids with stories showcasing KTV girls singing topless. Beside the breakfast place was a gym and its interesting to note that the glass windows were all plastered with pictures of hawt topless men. That's motivation for ya. Back at the B&B, we checked out and boarded our carrier. Won't be back to Taipei until Thursday!
As we made our way to Hsinchu, Lewis asked whether we wanted to see Pinang Xi Shi, a "profession particular to Taiwan, undertaken by scantily dressed, young females on the roadside displaying their bodies while selling Areca catechu" [wiki]. Of course we weren't interested. If Taiwan had the A&F version, I would have said yes in a heartbeat. But since we were there, what the heck. Lewis stopped by a shop and opened the window. Out bounced a girl with bad foundation, crooked teeth and sporting some cleavege. Paid NTD50 for a box of betel nuts. Stopped at the next shop and Lewis bought us several cans of hot Mr. Brown coffee. She looked worse than the first girl. Anyway, the hallmark of the betel nut shop is a neon sign in the shape of a fan. And one can see this sign all over the place. The betel nuts were packed into a box similar to playing cards, except that it was emblazoned with a bikini-clad woman. In case we bared all over his cushion, Lewis handed us tissues and a plastic cup. I fished one betel nut out and chewed on it. Lots of juices. Neither KH nor SK tolerated it. Spit it out almost immediately. When I found it a bit dry I spit out the hampas. Quite a weird affect it had. My chest felt weird and I could feel that my face was warm. Quickly drank some coffee to clear my mouth. But that feeling stayed with me for more than an hour.
Didn't take long for us to arrive at the Hsinchu chapter of Lavender Cottage. When we arrived at the remote hilltop cottage, it was drizzling and super cold. Luckily there was a heater at the entrance, but that was just a temporary respite. The whole place was full of greenery and had a rustic feel to it. First of all, we rushed to the loo where the urinals had an open air concept. But that wasn't cool in the current weather condition. There was a wishing tree where you could hang your wishes on it. Just fold out a box, write your wish and put in a stalk of dried lavender. KH and I did not write anything, we just held it in our hands, thought of what we wanted and tied it to one of the branches. By that time, our fingers were already feeling numb and I was wishing for gloves. We pressed on and admired the beautiful scenery, but we only saw a few sparse bushes of lavender here and there.
Desperate for warmth, we ran into the cottage which was actually a restaurant. Went upstairs to order some hot tea and snacks. Had firsthand experience of the Taiwanese service staff sing-song. Don't know why, but they seem to need to speak in a cute-sy, melodious manner. Ordered lavender-horse tail tea, oatmeal biscuits and cake. Delicious and with good presentation. Asked the waitress where was the lavender farm, and she said that what we say out there was it. Opps. In my heart I was expecting for something like in Provence, France where the it was purple as far as the eye could see. Oh well. Time to move out in the cold again. Not a very big place to explore. Lastly we explored the gift shop and walked out with some lavender goodies.
Next stop was Neiwan Old Street, which is a bustling old street mainly populated by the Hakka. The first thing we did was to find a nice Hakka restaurant for lunch. After asking one of the locals for pointers we went into the crowded restaurant. Ordered their set lunch which consisted of cold chicken, stir-fried pig intestine, stir-fried bamboo shoots, roast pork, bittergourd soup and complimentary lui cha. Their idea of lui cha is quite different from what I'm used to. Very much like a cup of blended multi-grain drink. That's all. And another interesting observation about Taiwan-- their love of all things disposable. Paper rice bowls, bamboo hashi and I had to drink the bittergourd soup from a paper cup. Having filled our bellies, we explored the rest of the street.
There's a railway station there where loads of people line up for a ride, a Catholic church, an old cinema converted into a restaurant and a comic museum. The back of the cinema was like Medusa's garden, with statues of movie characters-- King Kong, Spiderman, ET and Mogwai. Bought some mui choi from a roadside stall and boy was it yummy (SK stewed it with pork belly after we got back). Also tried their famous multi-coloured vegetable paus. The skin was was chewy and sticky, just the way Taiwanese like it. And their term vegetable actually refers to preserved vegetable. Not to my liking. The ginger lily rice dumpling was also a let down. Last thing we did before we left was walk the suspension bridge. Nearly froze on it. Can't believe there were kids running around in just a T-shirt and jeans.
The lodging for the night was at J&I Fengjia Beautiful House, Taichung. Very compact, but it was clean and cute. Each room had an internet-connected desktop and WIFI at the common areas.
Entertainment for the night was Fengjia Night Market, right beside Feng Chia University. Just walked out and there it was. Was hoping for loads of cute undergraduates, but I was a little disappointed. Dinner was from the multitudes of stalls. Just needed to stake out where the students went. Tried some blowtorch ribeye, pork cutlets, BBQ live shrimp and more bubble tea. Also checked out some of the stores and several cuties caught my eye! Check out Taiwan Celebrities Fengjia Faun and Adidas Anthony! Adidas Anthony looks so flawless. *Drools*
Walked around and got a little disoriented, so we stopped at a sizzling steak shop.
SK: You only have three items on your menu?
Boss: I've been selling three items for more than ten years. If it was lousy, I would have gone out of busines years ago!
True to her claims, the sizzling pork chop noodles were great. Perfect on a cold night. And she was quite chatty after discovering that we were tourists. I was more interested in her cute son (unfortunately no clear shot and he smokes). LOL. Beside the shop was a bakery called Rose Pie and we stopped there for another spell. Weird, sponge-like pies that had pastry puff rather than the normal crust. Went back to the night market after that bought some garlic-chili fresh-water prawns to go with our bottle of Moscato. Back in the room, I watched TV while SK and KH went for a foot massage nearby. Surfed through around 100 channels, 10 of which were religious channels featuring dhamma talks from monks, nuns and Taoist priests. According to SK, the massage was less than satisfactory, but at least we had our litte wine party to compensate.