For auld lang syne...

(That is, Happy New Year!)

It's 2013! Yay!

Wow, it's 2013! I can't believe it; time goes by fast.

Hoards of people taking shots of
Taipei 101. 
I spent my new year's at Taipei 101 to watch the lights and fireworks and be part of the general insanity. There were hoards of people there. Seriously, if you detest crowds or being close to people, this is not a new years destination for you. But it was great to be a part of the atmosphere. It was as if all of Taipei had come to one spot. Awesomely enough, I was able to see everything from a great spot.  Between a small live concert, many food stalls, and people-watching, there was a lot to do in order to pass the time before midnight.
Another crowd shot.
There's Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall on the left.


Black in Taiwan, Part I: Is your hair real?

Even if I'm wearing a hat,
the visible portion of my hair induces comments.
"Who did your hair like that?"

"Is your hair real?"

"Can I touch it?"

"Why isn't it straight?"

"What's wrong with her hair?  It's ugly!"

*hysterical immature laughter*

(Silent reaction which tells all...)

The above are the types of comments and reactions I receive here in Taiwan on a daily basis. I am not exaggerating, in fact I will repeat: A DAILY BASIS. It does not matter what I do with my hair, neither does it matter whether I do anything with it or not. It gets attention with reactions ranging a gamut of speechlessness, fascination, and (dare I say it?) disgust. Obviously I look different, but my hair seems to be one of the different things about me that people fixate on here.


So this is Christmas...

(That is, Merry Christmas!)

This picture makes me
look short!
It is officially my first Christmas away from home in Taiwan, hundreds of miles away from my family. Tomorrow marks four months since I moved.

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and it's odd to be in a different country during this holiday season. Since Christmas is not an official holiday here, I've been doing school work non-stop, even in the early Christmas hours! I've got papers to write and academic journals to read until January. At first, I thought it was depressing, going to classes and doing school work during the holidays. But now, I see it as a transition. My life's changed, so I must get used to the changes! I'm someone who isn't exactly fond of extreme change, but after moving far away and having to acclimate myself to a myriad of new things, I'm learning to embrace it.

Maybe I'm trying to say that I've grown up.  Therefore, this is my first Christmas as an adult.


Maokong Gondola: The best, cheapest way to see all of Taipei!

The sign at Taipei Zoo station.
You can never go wrong with cute pandas!
The gondola line is boxed in gold.
I made my first trip up to the Maokong (貓空) area of Taipei almost three months ago with a friend, yet the memories are still quiet fresh. Maokong is a gorgeous area in the mountains with a breath-taking temple, lush greenery, and tasty food to try.

Almost as popular as Maokong itself is the method one takes to get there - the gondola! It's one-of-a-kind and easily accessible depending on where you're coming from. From Danshui where I live, we took the red MRT line to Taipei Main Station, then the blue line to Zhongxiao Fuxing, then the brown line to Taipei Zoo. Then, after getting off at Taipei Zoo, we walked a short distance to the gondola station.

(Note: We went before the red line was extended, so coming from Danshui you should switch trains at Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall, then again at Da'an and stay on the brown line to the end).
When you see this sign,
you know you're close to the gondola station!


Shaved Ice @ Raohe Night Market

The shop is spacious, even on a busy day.
Since moving to Taiwan, I've developed an affinity toward shaved ice. Previously, I compared two popular shaved ice locations, Xin Fa Ting and Tai Yi Milk King. Since discovering those two, I've become fond of a third location at Raohe Night Market in Songshan (松山).

Unfortunately, I don't recall the name of this night market shaved ice spot, but it is the only one on the main avenue of the night market. Raohe Night Market is centered around two pedestrian lanes; the shaved ice shop is clearly marked on the right side of the left main street; it will be on your right if you enter the night market from the quieter, rear entrance.


Bike ride through Danshui and Bali Township

Recently, I had the chance to rent a bike and take a ride through Danshui and the small township of Bali (八里), located directly across the river from Danshui. It was a beautiful day when I went, around 80F, not at all winter weather! But I wasn't complaining; I had sunshine on my skin, a smile on my face, and wonderful friends which accompanied me.

Taken from Danshui, that's Bali on the other side

We rented our bikes from a shop near MRT Danshui Station. To rent the bike all day (until 8 pm), it's 100NT. But, we got a 20% discount and paid 80NT since we're students. That's only about $2.75! 


Nathan Sawaya: The Art of the Brick

The exhibition sign.
There were so many people attempting to take
pictures by it I was forced to snap on with people
otherwise I would have never gotten a picture!
My friend got a free ticket from work to see Nathan Sawaya's exhibition "The Art of the Brick". I decided I would tag along with her because the ticket price was reasonable at 250NT ($8.33). We went on the second-to-last day of the exhibition s there was a high turned out which made the exhibit difficult to enjoy at times, but the sculptures were amazing.  I mean, who wouldn't enjoy art made from Legos?!

This hand is one of Sawaya's many magnificent
Lego creations!


Face-off: Xin Fa Ting (辛發亭冰品店) vs. Tai Yi Milk King (臺一牛奶大王) !

In Taipei, two of the biggest names in the iced dessert business are Xin Fa Ting in Shilin and Tai Yi Milk King in Da'an.  Unless you go to either one of these shops during a generally low-traffic time (like late-morning on a Sunday) you're going to meet huge crowds, especially on Saturday night when all the young people are out and about.  Although that may sound daunting, the staff at both shops seem to well accustomed to dealing with the high volumes of customers, and although there often are long lines in both places, the wait never seems to exceed 5-8 minutes.

Xin Fa Ting's peanut shaved ice
Tai Yi Milk King's pudding and chocolate ice

Both shops have their own style of preparing their cold desserts, so let's get down to business and compare the two!

(And just so you know - both shops sell more than iced desserts, but I'll be focusing on that since it is their specialty).


Concert Review: my little airport (live at The Wall - Gongguan 公館)

my little airport is nicole (vocals, piano) and
啊p (Ah P) (vocals, piano, guitar).
(Photo from their Facebook page)
Last summer, a friend of mine introduced me to an indie band from Hong Kong called my little airport

I've liked Cantonese music for a while, so I was excited to listen to their songs and was pleasantly surprised by their sound. Their lyrics are a mix between quirky and serious, especially seen through some of their song titles like "gigi leung is dead", "I don't know how to download good av like iris does", "donald tsang please die".

(You can read more about Gigi Leung and Donald Tseng  here and here, respectively.)

Nope, this was not the concert ticket,
it was the flyer, adorably shaped
like a plane ticket!

The concert poster

They clearly put a lot of thought into their music no matter what the tone or language (Cantonese, Mandarin, English, French, or a mixture of two or three) is. So, when I moved to Taiwan and discovered they'd be playing in Taipei, I knew I had to see them!


Getting to Taiwan - The Worst Flights Ever

I looked so enthusiastic about traveling, right?
You know, I've been on many flights to several places over the years.  To Beijing, London, San Francisco, Chicago.  Some were long, some were turbulent, some were delayed for hours and hours (like my flight to New York three years ago).  But none of them - not one of them - were as torturous as my flights to Taiwan!



Moving to Taiwan. How did I get here?

I graduated from college about 8 months ago, and now I'm getting ready to move to Taiwan.  It's a little weird because I thought my future would be so different when I graduated.  I thought I'd be going to law school now or maybe working for the city government, but my goals changed and now I'm going to Taiwan to study English.