juillet

C’est juillet! Every year when July swings by, I always feel an extra bit of excitement because it’s the month of my birthday. Haha, self-absorbed much? Actually, it doesn’t matter if it’s my birthday or not because I don’t really celebrate it then or now, and more often than not it is just another occasion for me to have an excuse to shop for myself since no one will buy me those gifts that I want. :p

And it’s only natural that I note people around me who share the same birthday month. In my family including myself, 3 of 5 were born in July, how’s that for a majority? And in my group of friends who I still keep in touch with other than wishing them Happy Birthday on Facebook once a year, there is more than a handful who are July babies too. Over the years I have also discovered 3 other people whom I have met through the course of work or otherwise, who were born on the same day as me, with one having the exact birthdate. Yes, same year too!

So anyhow, that was just self-indulgence talk above, not that anything on my blog isn’t. I was just thinking back to the Taipei trip and thinking how low maintenance I can be when it comes to food (note the quick qualifier), because I can really just survive on cafe food anywhere. When I was in Brisbane last year for a 2-week trip and spent a week on my own, I could just have a coffee and sandwich for meals anytime. If there are convenience stores nearby, all the better because they become the best place for me to go to for food/snacks/anything.

Taipei was great because like a lot of other Asian cities, there is an abundance of convenience stores. Of course I think the best is Japan, where there seem to be at least one on every street, but even in this supposed not-so-centralised part of Taipei I was able to find at least 3 stores in the hotel vicinity. They always have a lot of promotions going on instore, so I’m always buying a lot of stuff from these shops. Taipei stores are rather into the environmental friendly regime because from years back when I visited I realised they charge you for the plastic bag for your purchases, so I will try to remember to bring along my own grocery bag or dump everything into my bag. Singapore stores should seriously consider making people pay for plastic bags so that we will be more disciplined to bring along a grocery bag each time.

There are a lot of interesting/cute stuff in the stores and I always spend an inordinate amount of time browsing through the food items and deciding on what I should get. Hello Kitty yogurt doesn’t necessarily taste better than other brands but I just thought the bottle looked cute and yes I am a closet cute-stuff-lover. I have a lot of cutesy stuff bought from overseas when I shop even though I don’t really use a lot of them; maybe I just love to shop and somehow being overseas justifies buying anything so long as they appeal to me at that moment (and provided they don’t cost an arm or a leg). 

The hotel that I stayed at gave me a plate of fruits (apple and kiwi) on the first day I checked in. I took the apple and left the kiwi because I didn’t have the necessary utensils/cutlery to cut/eat it. The next day they gave me a pack of Japanese crackers, which I found was so random, but it was good! They replaced it with an apple again the next day, and over the days I got another pack of crackers and a biscuit/cheese pack too. At the end of each day when I get back to the hotel, I’d check what they had left for me, haha.

Just a picture of a late dinner I had one night after coming back from the office and not knowing what I want to eat, I ordered the safest sandwich, i.e. Club Sandwich, from the cafe near the hotel, and I don’t know if they felt bad for making me wait too long while they prepared the sandwich but they gave me a complimentary cup of mushroom soup that went really well with the sandwich at the end of the meal. How do you eat Club sandwich if you do? I always dissect my sandwiches and eat them piece by piece, bread and fillings separate, because I don’t know how to take the whole thing and shove it into my mouth like how burgers are supposed to be eaten.

I thought it was going to rain when we went to Shilin Night Market on Saturday, as you would probably think from this picture.

I took the photo while my colleagues were queueing to buy the fried chicken chop, but it didn’t rain eventually and it was still extremely hot and humid without the sun that we were all sweating as we stood at a side and ate our food. I think mid-year is too warm to visit Taipei to properly have fun and do all the things like eating/shopping at night markets. I’d want to go back there again when the weather is better, so if anyone is keen do let me know! It’s no fun going to a night market alone because then I won’t get to eat a wide variety of food.

And if you’re a July baby, Happy Birthday to you, whether you are a Cancerian/Leo. 🙂

Murals

Is that what we call them, murals? I know if they are on the ceiling, we call them frescoes but on the walls?

Anyway, I was passing through this station, which I believe is Zhongxiao Fuxing (well, I could be wrong because I don’t honestly recall), transferring from one line to the other, and there was this part of the station that had a lot of graphics on its walls.  

They were all really nice, some nicer and more whimsical than the others of course. There is another station on the blue line (板南线) called Nangang (南港) I think, that had graphics by Jimmy, one of the rather popular comic artiste in Taiwan. I didn’t stop to take photos, because these pictures were snapped while I was on the escalator descending to the train line, but there were a number of people armed with DSLRs snapping away.

Again, when I look at the train stations in Taipei, they remind me of Tokyo once more. Maybe it’s the long distances that I have to walk when I am changing from a line to the other, but in Singapore transiting between the various lines can require quite a long walk as well, and the feeling is totally different. So I can only attribute it to how Taipei takes after Tokyo, vice versa, whichever applies.

Check out how interesting their single trip “ticket” looks like! I cannot remember but I thought it used to be just a ticket like how our TransitLink card used to be? This is the first time I’m getting a plastic token like this, and I was totally clueless how to get through the gantry with it. Apparently, you just scan the token at the same place where you’d scan the Easy Card (our equivalent of the EzLink) to get in, and to exit the station, you drop the token into a slot and the gates will open. Cool, isn’t it? I only tried this once because my card ran out of value and I didn’t want to top it up but didn’t also want to return it for a refund because I thought maybe I will want to have a holiday in Taiwan soon!

I like taking the subway in the Asian cities that I visit, not so much because I enjoy squeezing with lots of people but because it’s a chance to experience the commuter traffic and get lost in the crowd easily since colour-wise I’m not too much different from them. On stretches of the ride that are in the open you even get to glimpse into areas of the city that you will perhaps not get to see otherwise either because there isn’t anything there for visiting, i.e. residential areas.

Seeing people get on and off the train is just like life isn’t it?

taipei walker. my way.

Not the magazine (I think there is one by that name but no this is not it), but basically a series of pictures for that first day in Taipei.

Early morning breakfast at the airport.

Sunrise at Changi.

Cloud-surfing. Nice view, but too glaring to watch on a prolonged basis.

Arrived on a hot and sunny Wednesday afternoon, greeted by the friendly pick-up service provided by the hotel (it’s a cheap thrill, to try to identify my name on the various whiteboards held by the hotel staff when exiting customs), and zipped off in a nice comfortable van that took about slightly less than an hour to reach the hotel.

See the very tiny Taipei 101 in the distance? One of the rare high-rise buildings.

The hotel room. It’s pretty spacious and generally comfortable but my uninterrupted sleep could just be due to the fact that I have been feeling very tired recently. I still only sleep about 5-6 hours a night but some nights I managed it straight through from the time I first close my eyes. A rare feat for me when I’m not at home.

Very empty train on a midweek afternoon; so different from ours don’t you think? Our trains are almost always crowded, but it could also be due to me taking the train from the very first, or if you would prefer, the last stop of the line. It got more crowded as it went along, but there were still seats available.

My favourite brand of donuts by far, I think they taste even better than Krispy Kreme!

And here you go, a closer view albeit a silhouette, of the Taipei 101. I have yet to go up on it to get a view of the city, so maybe the next time I visit Taipei, I’ll put that on my list of things to do!

I don’t think I’ve tried to draw parallels before because the last time I was here was 2007 when I still have not seen Japan so many times. But after speaking to a local colleague, I realised that indeed there are some similarities between the Japanese cities I have been to (except Kyoto probably) and Taipei. Obviously there are also the differences, but as you walk along the streets or see the streets and residential buildings from the trains, I can’t help but feel a sense of similarity. I didn’t get enough of the city on this trip because it was just too hot to do anything outside of aircon. So yes, I think I will probably return someday for more of the food and sightseeing.

at lightning speed

I know an entry with just words and more words is really boring. Even I find it boring to just write without showing anything visual but there are not many photos to post. It’s too hot to take any pictures, and besides it’s really all about whatever nonsense I eat when I am out, rides on the 捷运, and the various air-conditioned malls that I seek refuge in from the merciless heat outside.

The weekend passed really fast. I didn’t do much on Friday evening even though we didn’t finish work that late; we got back to the hotel by 7-ish or 8, then I headed out for dinner with my colleague. We went to this dumpling place near the hotel, and we ordered 汤饺子 which was really beef dumplings in soup, even though I was expecting something like 小笼包; anyhow we also had this 葱油饼 that was pretty awesome, not too oily but with the nice fragrance and crisp taste of spring onions. 

Saturday was a hot, hot day in Taipei. I went out early in search of some shops where I had on the shopping list, and maybe because the weather was bad, or maybe it was because I was walking around looking for the address, but I ended up feeling like I had gone to the gym and done 5km on the treadmill. At the end of the day, even my legs felt that way, but I managed some of the shopping. In the evening, the colleagues and I caught the hotel shuttle to 士林夜市, where we walked about and had some food. Probably I should be thankful for the weather and also maybe because there were other people around, that I went back without buying anything, because I really shouldn’t.

Sunday was spent pretty much walking about. Thought about looking for 永河豆将, but I gave up eventually because it would entail a fair bit of walking about on the outside under that sun, so instead I went for more comfortable options.

Over the weekend, I thought that 忠孝敦化 is quite a cool place to shop at, similar to the likes of Harajuku, Hong Dae (or somewhere else in Seoul) but perhaps on a much smaller scale. But it was a lot of walking along the back alleys and poking your heads into this corner and that, that I also gave up because I would combust if I had continued. It’s definitely better to visit Taipei in cooler months, as well for cities like Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong and etc. with a temperate climate, because they don’t cater for hot weather 24/7. In Singapore, most places tend to be air-conditioned because the weather is hot all year-round, except for a few rare days where the temperature drops a few degrees due to continuous rain but it would still be humid and uncomfortable.

So maybe I will see Taipei again sometime in the near future, though it wouldn’t really be that near because I don’t have enough of this thing called annual leave to make it here within the same year.

it’s been a long time

It has been really long since I last visited… which was way back in 2007, almost 4 years ago. Even though when they asked if I have ever been here and I replied with a yes, followed by a few times, they were rather surprised.

It isn’t surprising really, considering the relative proximity of Singapore and Taiwan, flight time of 4.5 hours is not too long for a vacation.

I’m roasting here. Even if I had experienced only the end July weather in Taipei, which was rather unbearable, hot and humid without a lot of air-conditioning unlike in Singapore, coupled with rain and possibilities of typhoon during that time, it was bad. So far, it has been really warm here but still dry, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. As much as possible, I’m choosing to stay in airconditioned places, which explains why I have yet to visit the night markets for my dose of the delectable local food. I wonder if I will get to do that, because I really do not like heat, food or no food.

But even trying to stay indoors can be challenging. I took a train to the Taipei 101, yay to saving money instead of hopping into the ubiquitous yellow cabs plying the road, and was immediately reminded of the long way I had to walk to get to it, without aircon. This time was a little better; I get to work a short distance underground to Eslite, then came up and walked a while to Mitsukoshi, where I occasionally ducked into its various complexes to cool down and have a donut, then finally making the final crossing to the 101. It’s sounding like some arduous obstacle course but seriously the heat can be unbearable. It made me so tired, together with the walking of course, that by the end of the day when I got back to the hotel and retired for the night, I fell asleep the moment I closed my eyes.

But the sun rises ridiculously early here. Yesterday morning I awoke with a start when I thought I overslept because outside it looked so bright and sunny… and when I checked the clock on my phone it was just 5:15am. Wth.

This week was a little bit better, because I spent the mid-week travelling and then shopping in Taipei (yippee), then worked my ass off on Thursday, well sort of, and now am taking a tiny break. Back to work soon; I’m drinking too much coffee here but they seem to have much more to offer in terms of coffee although these 2 days I’m sticking to my usual, and even there they have a wider choice of merchandise!

flash from the past

I am beginning to lose hope, in things too many.

Anyway, I shall post something happy. I don’t have my portable hdd with me now, so make do with what I have – some photos taken during happier times. Not much narratives now.. probably do them in future.

A very puffy me in Osaka this March, there for a short trip with jade while I was visiting Tokyo. It actually got pretty warm there at some times, due to the heat from the blazing sun, however, in the mornings and nights, it was still rather cold.

osaka

Then earlier on, in January this year, I went on a short holiday to Hong Kong/Macau. It was another cold season that I thoroughly enjoyed even though there wasn’t much to shop because SG just doesn’t have a climate that suits the kinds of clothes on sale. Anyhow, yes yes, I know I’ve been to HKG umpteen times since I first visited in 1997, but it is easily one of my favourite holiday destinations, and this year I have been there twice already!

hk

And going back further in time to November 2006, on a trip to Taipei with Wy and Joanna. Although it wasn’t as cold as the other times I went (except for this July when it was effing hot), the temperature was rather comfortable. So there! That’s how I look when I still had long hair, how different is that and now?

collage_taipei