April 13, 2012 § Leave a comment
April 7, 2012 § 2 Comments
Two weeks ago, my friends and I decided to go to Jiufen. I have heard a lot of good things about it. However, what really got my attention is knowing that it was the inspiration of the setting of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Most of the people who had been reading my entries would probably be well aware of my fascination with old streets. I just like having that nostalgic feeling once in a while. I had been to Dasi Old Street last year but Jiufen is relatively more popular and interesting.
How to get there:
1. Ride the MRT’s Blue Bannan Line and get off at Zhongxiao Fushing Station.
2. From the station, head to the bus stop and ride the 1062 bus headed to Jiufen. The fare is aroud 102 NT.
Upon entering the winding streets of Jiufen, I noticed that there were a lot of people speaking in Japanese, locals and Japanese tourists alike. Having plenty of Japanese visitors in Jiufen, it’s no wonder that the place would have establishments catering to the Japanese tongue. My friend and I ordered some Takoyaki from this small stall. I miss eating Takoyaki and I have to say that the best one I’ve tasted was still from Little Tokyo in Makati, Philippines.
It was cloudy when we came to visit Jiufen. Actually, I was thankful it was cloudy and not raining. The trip would have been such a hassle if it rained. This was the view from Jiufen. Honestly, this view reminds me more of Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo than Spirited Away.
Going around the streets, we saw some interesting things, some are bizarre, even. There was a place with creepy masks hung on the wall, a shop that sells grilled snails (could it be escargot?), and a lot of carved black stones.
A remembrance I got from Jiufen would be my carved stone charm. It only costs 50 NT , inclusive of the black stone, carving labor, and the strap. The owners of the shop seem to be a husband and wife tandem. The man carves designs (depending on the client’s preference) on a stone that the customers choose from a pile inside the store. After carving, customers bring the stone nextdoor for payment and strap attachment which the wife is in charged with.
One of the places that I adored while in Jiufen was this shop. It sells painted clothes and other crafted things. It gave me that feeling on finding fulfillment in simple things. I thought this place was really beautiful.
Whenever I go to some place new, I always want to taste their food. One of the things my friends and I really love eating is shaved ice with soybean curd and glutinous balls. We had it for afternoon snack!
My friends and I spotted this place in one of the streets atop Jiufen. At first, we were wondering what kind of place it was because it wasn’t selling anything. Later on, we discovered that it’s a place with a lot of old stuff. People can take pictures inside, wear some costumes, and do whatever they like. We paid 20 NT to get inside.
I am grateful that I am able to find friends to share my wanderlust with. I am hoping to see more places and experience more adventures in the future! Cheers!
March 25, 2012 § 5 Comments
Time flew by fast. I’ve been a student here in YZU for almost 6 months now. I’m loving Taiwan so far; the people are really kind and the environment is not too stressful. I just have to agree with my cousin about what she dislike about Taiwan, which are the freezing cold and rainy weather, and the language barrier. It’s difficult to go around if you can’t communicate well with the people. I’ve been particularly challenged in ordering food, which requires one to mark the name of the foodon a paper menu. At first, I did not even plan on recognizing the characters, I thought it was just not possible. But as time passed, I felt like I need to be able to recognize the characters just in case I wouldn’t have any Taiwanese friend around to help me order. I wanted to be more independent in some ways. My friends here are really nice, they are taking care of me well but I don’t want to be a burden to them. However, there’s one incident that I felt so helpless, that I needed to call my friend.
One night, I decided to ride the bus and go to 中原 Chung Yuan Night Market alone. I was particularly craving for Sweet Potato Balls topped with Parmesan powder that night, and thought that I should reward myself for studying the whole day. Chung Yuan Night Market is chaotic and I guess that’s why it is very charming. There are food stalls and clothing stores everywhere. My friends and I usually go there to buy small presents whenever someone’s birthday is coming. I always go to Chung Yuan via scooter, which my friend drives. On that night that I went to Chung Yuan, I was certain that I could go home by riding the bus again. I just had to wait on the bus stop, and it will pass by my home. After shopping, I already got bored and decided I should be heading home. I was just in time for the next bus home, I thought. But 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour has passed, the bus still did not pass the bus stop. I got worried because I did not know how else I could get home if I don’t ride the bus. Although I had an option of walking 3km home, I still waited and waited some more.
Good thing my Taiwanese friend, Judy messaged me on WhatsApp that evening, telling me about our teacher who’s on TV. I informed her about my situation, which is the reason why I can’t watch the TV at that moment. Without hesitation she offered to pick me up and take me home. When she arrived, we decided to shop around for a bit and have some dinner. My heart was full of joy and relief! I really felt grateful that I am surrounded by kind and helpful friends here in Taiwan. It’s also one of my motivations to learn Mandarin, so I can communicate with them more beyond basic English.
Pardon my lengthy tale. I rarely share these kinds of stories here but today I thought I wanted to share some stories of my experiences as a student here in Taiwan. Below are a few of the interesting photos I took while I’m here.
1. Milk Tea
Before coming here in Taiwan, I was one of the few people who got addicted to milk tea. My brother would always buy some for me when he goes home from school. Now, living in the country where it all began, I feel like I’m in milk tea paradise!
2. Taiwan’s Weather
This shot was taken while I was waiting at the bus stop after my Chinese class in Chung Yuan University (中原大學). It was windy and rainy that day so I had to wear my rain boots! This is the first time that I met Kuya Bus Stop , a guy that my cousin and I usually ride on the bus with on the 1:15pm bus to YZU. I’ve always just smiled at him, maybe next time my cousin and I should talk to him. He seems like a kind person!
Update (2014): Kuya Bus Stop turned out to be a Veitnamese, whose sister is married to a Taiwanese. He’s also taking up Chinese classes in Zhong Yuan University.
3. Travel Stamps
Another thing that I love about going around Taiwan are the travel stamps. These stamps are usually located on tourist spot entrances. I just love collecting these prints! The photo below shows the stamps I took when I visited Pingxi in New Taipei County.
4. Yuan Ze University
Alas, my picturesque school. 🙂
5. Les Enphants Factory
A few weeks ago, my good friend invited me to go to the Les Enphants Factory as part of her class activity. They were allowed to take one friend and she chose me to go with her. Les Enphants is a children’s apparel brand. I got this cute elephant stuffed toy (which I stuffed myself) from the DIY shop of the factory. I got this for free so it’s really awesome!
6. School Library
7. LGM (Little Green Men) Paradise
I absolutely adore these Toy Story characters and I feel so happy to find a lot of stuff based on them here in Taiwan!
That should be it for now! I’m so excited for our Hualien trip over the Spring break! I’m going to write about it soon! 🙂
March 7, 2012 § Leave a comment
After almost 2 months of spending my “Winter Break” in the Philippines, I’m now back in Taiwan for the Spring semester! The weather is still cold but it’s not as cold as it was from the previous months. I like spring better than winter because to be honest, I’m getting sick of wearing so many thick clothes at. Speaking of spring, what better way to enjoy it than to see wonderful flowers coming into bloom! Last weekend, my friends and I visited the Yangmingshan National Park in Taipei to see the Azaleas and the Cherry Blossoms.
How to get there: From the MRT’s Red Line, get off at the Taipei Mainstation and head to the North Gate 2. Outside that gate is a bus stop. Ride the bus 126 going to Yangmingshan. (Fare 15NT) Get off at the final stop.
Photos by James Ong
January 8, 2012 § 4 Comments
Hello 2012! Happy New Year to everyone, especially to my subscribers! I feel ecstatic to make my first post this year. This post is special to me because: first, it’s my first time to spend the New Year outside my country, and secondly, I got to experience parts of Taipei that I have not been to.
My friends from YZU invited me to spend the new year with them, which I gladly agreed to. The plan was to go to Beitou and have a hotspring bath. Before getting to Beitou, we decided to have a bit of food tripping in Shilin Night Market.
1. Shilin Night Market
I really like Shilin because it’s a very lively place; you can have endless choices of foods to try. We availed a lot of foods including fried stuff from this Japanese stall. We ordered a skewered fried mushrooms, tomatoes, banana w/ chocolate, etc.
After eating baozi (meat-filled bun), fried pita-like flour, egg, and cheese, and a few other more street foods, I went inside a fashion shop because I wanted to pay for a yellow beanie that I saw on display. As my friends and I went inside, we saw this cute, mild, and huggable St. Bernard! He was so adorable.
It’s not my first time in Shilin. Last September 2010, I have visited Shilin Night Market with my family and some friends. Back then, the new Shilin Market (shown below) was not yet present. It’s a structure that housed some clothing, toys, and food vendors. Since it’s relatively new, not all the spots inside were filled yet.
2. Beitou Hotspring
It’s both funny and unfortunate that my friends and I missed seeing the fireworks at midnight to welcome 2012. It was because we were inside the car on our way to Beitou when the countdown happened. We were tuned in on a radio program and we were counting down inside the car, trying hard to look outside for a sight of some fireworks.
We had a few choices on the spring resorts we’re going to; unfortunately, the first 2 were all full. Apparently, New Year’s Eve is a good time for them to hit hotspring baths. Needless to say, the cold winter makes one to want to dip in hot water too. The photo below is the third spot on our list. Unlike the first 2 we planned on visiting, it was a public bath. It did not house rooms or private areas for certain groups to have all on their own. Imagine the dread I felt when they told me we had to come in completely naked. Yes, naked. The males and females had separate baths, but either way, it was initially very awkward for me.
Entrance fee: 200 NTD
This was a shot I took as I explored the nearby establishments around the hotspring bath. It’s like an old Japanese street with food establishments. The overall ambience of the place is very soothing.
We spent the night in one of my friends’ house in Beitou. I felt happy to meet her parents and to have some fun inside the house with the group. We played cards until 6 in the morning and woke up late in the afternoon the very next day. That next day, we decided to explore Taipei before heading back to our school which is in Toayuan county.
3. Yang Ming Shan (Yang Ming Mountain)
Seeing the view from the mountain is very relaxing. It was bitterly cold and windy that night we came but I still found the view wonderful. My friends said that if the weather was better, the view is more beautiful.
Having gone through a dizzying descent from Yang Ming Shan, we arrived at Tianmu. My friends told me there are people who set up their own stalls and sell their own things every weekend. Some of them are 2nd hand, some are the things they make themselves. I found it very amusing.
After going around the shops, we decided to have a good New Year’s meal. They wanted something expensive since it’s the New Year. I really love how my friends love eating. I think I eat a lot but all of them beat me at it! That being said, we chose to dine in a Korean restaurant, which is also in Tianmu.
It’s my first time to encounter this dish (shown below). Sadly, I do not know its name since it’s written in Chinese. I have been eating Korean foods in the Philippines and in Korea but I have not tried this dish before that day. The lady who managed the shop cooked it in front of us and it was very delicious. She says the food that they offer in the restaurant were MSG free. All the flavors that they created were from fruits like apples, etc. I was amazed it was possible to do that.
We loved the Korean dish so much we decided to eat it again, this time for my last dinner before heading home here in the Philippines for the winter break. I really appreciate how my Taiwanese friends are taking care of me and making me feel welcome. Oh, I miss them already!
December 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
Christmas away from home was a challenge that I faced last weekend. Celebration of the Yuletide season in Taiwan is very different from the Philippines where it’s celebrated from the “ber” months until around mid January. Christmas in the Philippines is really something that foreign people should experience. I tried not to dwell on thinking that I’d have a sad Christmas here because it won’t be of help to my situation anyway. It was a good thing my cousin and I decided to go to Taipei on Christmas day to go shopping and just spend the day having a bit of fun.
We boarded the MRT Blue (Bannan) line and alighted at the Zhongshao Fuxing Station. Here, we roamed various malls, including Sogo, K-Mall and Shinkong Mitsukoshi. Inside K-Mall, we found a spot called Gundam Base Taipei. In front of the area, you will see 3 huge models of gundams. I am not very familiar with all their names but I thought they looked so cool so I had to take photos. Here are some of them:
Apart from the 3 big models, there are also glass shelves which encases plenty of other gundam models. On the other half of the place, boxed models, coloring supplies for the models, and other toys are displayed too.
Outside Sogo, a number of people were crowding around this cute golden retriever in a reindeer costume. I thought he was really cute and behaved sitting there, biting on a basket. I feel a little sad for him though because it’s so cold outside and he had to pose like that. I bet the crowed got him a little anxious or stressed.
I am not really planning to post this here because it’s not really a planned destination to feature but I feel that I need to share even small coincidental discoveries such as this one here in this blog. Also, it’s near 2011’s end, I thought it would be better if I make one more post before 2012.
I am planning to visit Taipei this coming new year and try out the hotsprings in Beitou. I will update this blog about that too. Happy holidays!