Sunday, March 31, 2013

Taiwan III 2nd Half: Frog in a Hot Spring

Paper Dome I by williamnyk
Paper Dome I, swiped from williamnyk on Flickr.
Left the Sun Moon Lake area after that and went to the Paper Dome, Puli (check out Taiwan Celebrity: Paper Dome Dominic!). It was actually a temporary church structure (made of paper tubes and steel by Shigeru Ban) in Japan after the Great Hanshin Earthquake and was subsequently donated to Taiwan after the 921 earthquake. A recurring theme at the Paper Dome is also frogs! -- on mosaics, statues, signs, paintings and sculptures. Perhaps a shrine to Fable Fawg's Taiwanese ancestors. A perfect place to camwhore with its distinct architecture. Also went to see an art exhibition of 'paintings' made from butterfly wings. Sounds a bit macabre.

Paper Dome II

Paper Dome III


Broken Wings

Paper Dome Patrick

Dinner was quite special-- chicken roasted in an earthern jar using lychee wood. A sure fire way to kill vampire chickens. Having discovered that we were from Malaysia, the lady boss asked her Indonesian maid to get the orders from us. In addition to the trademark chicken, we had Wawa vegetable, teamed fish and three cups century eggs. The chicken was served whole. SK donned gloves and ripped it apart, finding special herbs inside. Before serving, our driver Lewis dumped a whole bowl of the chicken oil on it. Oily, but essential as it was chock-full of flavour. The food was good, but we were literally shivering in the restaurant. Cold, cold, cold and foggy in the mountains.



By nightfall, we arrived at Lushan for our hot spring experience. Our luggage went through the long way, while we took the shortcut via suspension bridge to the hotel. The room was large, but old-fashioned. The hot spring wasn't the nekkid kind, it was out in the open. According to the rules, we had to don swimwear, complete with cap (I looked like a nun). The locker area was also exposed, so we had to strip in the cold night air and scramble to the higher pool area. Before going in, we took a shower, splashed our bodies with the hot spring water and washed our feet. The water wasn't as hot as I expected and there was no smell of sulphur. Luckily, it wasn't crowded, just us, a small family and a tall beefy guy. Different jacuzzi options were available depending on which part of the pool you were in. Super strong water jets. We dipped for about twenty minutes before moving on to the hotter herbal hot spring. Basically I felt like a chicken in pot of herbal soup, cause there were muslin packs of herbs in the water. Had to go in bit by bit. Think my balls were hard boiled. Stayed in there for less than ten minutes I think. The last step was the cold water. We watched the beefy guy just dip hs body into the water in one swift move. Didn't flinch. So I went to give it a try. After all that heat, the water felt like it was freezing!!! I tried to pat down my body with the water and slowly put my feet in. Managed up to my abdomen. By then, I couldn't feel my feet! Numbed! Gosh. Supposedly necessary to close the pores after soaking in the hot springs. Did what was neccessary and jumped back down to the locker area. Amazingly, I did not feel cold at all. It must be all relative. Heat and cold sensors all confused.

Hot Springs

Felt really light and my skin felt smooth after the dip in the hot spring. Walking out of the hotel, we were ambushed by the people from the liqour stall opposite the hotel. Specialty of the area's millet wine. Tried many varieties, but we only bought one bottle. Cari makan after that at a local restaurant. Ordered some foods suitable to go with the wine-- fried mini fish with spicy salt, fried mini shrimp, stir-fried pig's intestines and sweet basil omelette. Finished the whole bottle at the restaurant. Felt a bit high after that. Noticed that the town was quite dead though it wasn't that late. Asked Lewis about it the next day and he revealed that Lushan was devastated by landslides some years back, and that cause large tour groups to shun the area. Gradually dying and if disaster should strike again, it would surely be a dead town. Quite a sad fate. Went to bed all warm and toasty that night. And the hot springs must have gotten KH's blood flowing faster... Love the therapeutic effects of the hot spring!

Millet Wine Testing

Mini Shrimp

Friday, March 29, 2013

Screw First, Praise Later

Shout it! by Jimmy Jack Kane
Shout it!, swiped from Jimmy Jack Kane on Flickr.

During a meeting with my client:

BizUser: I think the system should have the capablity to {insert business requirement here}.

MyBoss: For the time being, we do not have this feature.

BizUser: I think it should have.

MyBoss: Er....

ProjectDirector: BizUser, I do not think that this is in the scope of what the system should do.

BizUser: (Starting to protest)

ProjectDirector: I WON'T REPEAT MYSELF. It is not in the scope! (If you are familiar with Dune, it's like the Bene Gesserits employing the use of Voice)

BizUser: (Black face and muttering under her breath)

MyBoss: (Shocked look)

(5 minutes later...)

ProjectDirector: I'm sorry to interrupt again. First and foremost, I would like to apologize to BizUser. She is a valuable member of the team. So far she has asked many intelligent questions, displaying her business and technical acumen. However, when it comes to scope, I still need to control it. I hope you understand. Thank you.

BizUser: (Nods in agreement)

An amazing approach is it not? Cut you off at first to eliminate any argument, then ply you with compliments to get back in your favour. I guess only people of a certain level can play such games. Really an eye-opener. Bravo. Perhaps its in some ancient Chinese strategy text?

I know of an another account manager in my company who screws you in front of everyone, then quietly calls you to apologize after the meeting. More despicable no?

All sorts of people out there...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Taiwan III 1st Half: Sun & Moon

CaishenTemple by williamnyk
CaishenTemple, swiped from williamnyk on Flickr.
BONUS MATERIAL in this super long-winded post (third in the series of many!): Taiwan Celebrities -- Munching Max, Chicken Wing Wilbur and Coin-toss Corey!

Woke up a bit earlier the next morning to visit the nearby God of Prosperity temple just a stone's throw from Taiwan's main Jeet Kune Do Academy (doesn't ring a bell? Think Bruce Lee). Don't think its a common temple back home in Malaysia. On our way out of Taichung, Lewis brought us to Yong He to try their famous soy milk. A peculiarity for me having yutiao dipped into soy milk for breakfast. Even more peculiar was having taufufa made savoury by adding in yutiao, soy sauce and black vinegar. Really an acquired taste.


Next stop was Sun Moon Lake, the largest body of water in Taiwan. Supposedly, the east side of the lake resembles the sun, while the west side of lake well, resembles a crescent moon. Imposible to tell when you're on the ground really and I couldn't even tell from the maps. Hahaha. Lewis brought us for a short spin up the Lalu Sun Moon Lake Hotel, which used to be President Chiang Kai-Shek's favourite summer getaways and is now a luxury five-star hotel. Also went to take a look at The Church of Christ, a greek-style church that was used by President Chiang. At the foot of the hill, bumped into a couple taking their wedding photos. The main activity there was the lake tour via boat. Tourists hop from pier to pier, visiting all the sights. On the boat, there was a short introduction about Sun Moon Lake and they brought us close to Lalu Island, a small island in the middle of the lake scared to the Thao tribe (and was also recently featured in some idol drama).


Syuanguang Temple Wharf

Stopped at the Syuanguang Temple Pier first. Main attractions were of course the Syuanguang Temple and the famous tea leaf eggs (金门阿么茶叶蛋). Nothing to shout about at the temple, but I was lucky enough to catch sight of a cutie-- Munching Max. The picture is self-explanatory. Hehe. Syuanguang Temple is dedicated to Xuanzang, The Monkey's King's shifu and is supposed to contain a bone relic. But from the looks of it, I think its no longer there. KH and I also took the lonely Qinglong Mountain Hiking Trail, but stopped halfway to Cien Pagoda. Since SK didn't tag along on the steep trail, we could paktor for a while. Strangely, KH kept on mentioning about taking me in the forest, must be on his skank To Do list. :P. On our way out, we tried the tea leaf eggs. I was quite impressed by how easily the shell came off. Tasty, but a tad salty for me. Boarded the next boat and ended up at Yidashao, the more commercial area with shops and visitor center. Observed an interesting thing at the visitor center. A bunch of young tourists whipped out notebooks and started going on a rubber stamping frenzy. From that day onwards, I realized that many of the tourist atractions in Taiwan have such a thing, even at famous Eslite Bookstore.

Journey to the West


Munching Max

Walked around town, getting our lunch here and there. The weather had started getting hot, so we shed all our scarves and jackets. Walked into a shopped selling liuli and we walked out with bags and bags of stuff. Goodness. They even managed to persuade us to visit their other two branches in town to get a free ceramic coaster which we did, but we also spent more money. Good marketing strategy. Along the way, we tried the famous Sun Moon Lake Black Tea at Tea 18. Truth be told, I wasn't impressed. Stopped at a crowded stall (a sign of good food) and tried the chicken wing stuffed with glutinous rice (check out Taiwan Celebrities: Chicken Wing Wilbur!). Once again, SK's effort to reduce the amount of pepper nd curry powder fell on deaf ears. Our guide asked us to try the bamboo rice (like lemang), but looking at the huge portion, we decided not to.


Colourful Tops

Chicken Wings

Chicken Wing Wilbur

Nearby, was the majestic Wenwu Temple. Out front was the Stairway to Heaven, 366 descending steps, each representing each day of the year, with famous ceebrities birthdays. On both sides of the stairs were thousands wishing lanterns, each with a specific area of interest, e.g. studies, love, marriage and of course wealth. At the entrance of temple was three statues representing Fu, Lu and Shou, overlooking a large lotus poind. Visitors seemed to be treating it like a funfair attraction by throwing coins into specific bowls to get their wishes (check out Taiwan Celebrity: Coin-toss Corey!). One woman exclaimed:

"Crap! I left school a decade ago and I get "hok yip chun pou"!? (improvement in studies)"

Stairway to Heaven


Fu Lu Shou

Coin-Toss Corey

The patrons of the temple are the Civil Saint of Confucius, the Military Saint of Guangong and General Yue Fei. Intricate stone carvings all over the place and they don't seem done yet. At the back of the temple with huge gilded wood panels lies a shrine where students pray for good results. Stacks of gold paper wrapped with exam schedules and student profiles can be seen on the altar. As we were taking photos there, a HK tour guide came in with her group and loudly announced:

"Those two must be students praying for good results!"





Divine Intervention

Tarzan's Bride

Thank you, thank you. The inner grounds went higher and higher, and the roofs were open for us to get a better vantage point of lake. Unfortunately, it was too glaring for me to get a good photo. Never thought I would spend so much time in a temple. Hehe.

P.S.: Bonus Item-- Tarzan's Bride at Wenwu Temple!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Taiwan II: Lavender Morning, Hakka Afternoon, Fengjia Night

Beautiful & Breakfast by williamnyk
Beautiful & Breakfast, swiped from williamnyk on Flickr.
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.

Wishing Tree


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.



Wishing Houses

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*




Fengjia Faun

Adidas Anthony

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.



Religion On Air