Monday, 19 December 2011

only in taipei

So, before I forget... BELATED MERRY X'MAS to everyone! :)) How was your Christmas?

Boy has it been a hectic past week. Well, not so much hectic in the rushing around sense but I've started on revision for my end of year exams (which have EVILLY been placed in mid-January, effectively leaving me and my classmates with a really half-baked holiday season) and... it's not been good. I've been very much distracted by almost anything that isn't studying. First it was dishing out Xmas cards to friends overseas (because Singpost had such a great promotion ;p), then it was rushing around repairing Canon items that seem to be breaking down at the same time, and now that people have returned home from overseas for Christmas, it's always a must to meet up with friends and relatives. How can anyone get any studying done when there are so many other more enjoyable things to do?? Oh, and I somehow have a knack for discovering awesome online shopping websites at the most inconvenient and unnecessary times. :P Apart from that, I'm pretty much past the initial deadline my friends had given me for editing my Taiwan photos so partly out of guilt, and partly out of very fond memories of those times, I decided to go through more of them tonight.

As the title of this post goes, to me, these things can only happen in Taiwan. X)
(and just so you know, it's quite photo heavy! a lot heavier than anticipated) 

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1. At the Tao Yuan International Airport, there were reading glasses of varying degrees provided for people who needed some help in filling out their immigration forms. I just thought this was so dang cute and considerate! :D 
2. I've never seen bicycles kept like that. How'd they all get up??? 
3. Left: Mysterious staircase we happened to pass by around the Shi Fan University area. Right: Donut on an Eiffel Tower?? But with a little sign below that says, "I'm Real!". 

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4. Wandering around a night market in the daytime. Not particularly happening. :) But that's what you get when you're at tourist unsure of the time when things start happening. 
5. Milk carton display! 
6. Fried minced meat/veggie dumpling from a street stall if I'm not mistaken.

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7. Dimsum being sold in a bakery! Can you believe that? :D Such a genius idea. And sooo comforting on a cold wet rainy taipei morning to bite into a steaming hot piece of siew mai/bun. 
8. And it just so happens that that bakery was 30 secs away from our hotel.

9. The land of Bubble Tea. (psst, notice Sandra's lovely manicured nails? We made it a point to very subtly position our then newly manicured nails into many photos.) 
10. Bottles of milk tea sold in Seven-Elevens. They were REALLY good. Why can't they have that in all Seven-Elevens, starting with the SG ones??

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11. Soooo many of these Daiso-like stores selling almost everything you need for a low price. I would probably get all my Xmas ornaments from there if I actually lived there X)
12. Oyster Omelet from a night market stall. NOT my fav because of that strange sauce they splashed on top of it. I still say that the SG ones are the most delicious; if you have the luck to eat from a good stall.
13. One of the many dogs we saw in Taipei. This one was out enjoying the cool night breeze at the night market.
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14. Just had to take a photo with that gorgeous mural on the wall of a small store at the Shi Fan night market in the background. It was by far, my favorite night market. :D So many little boutiques that we didn't manage to check out because that place was just a maze. 
15. One of the more typically well-dressed dogs in Taipei.

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  16. Just thought I'd add this in since it's only in Taipei that we walked sooooo much and were way too tired to step into the Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall. Though we did manage a couple of jump-shots. 
17. One of the closest we got to the Taipei 101 building. Due to the rain every day and almost each night, we never made it up to the top of the building because of all that fog. And we had some serious night market traipsing to do. 


Yeah, ok am now pretty much peached out. Today my classmates and I had a 12 hour marathon revision lecture. YEAH, I'm still coming to terms with that figure. It really helped that it was by one of the nicest, most dedicated Profs so I was too busy admiring him (only because he's so dedicated and patient XD)(I've come across too many not-so-nice-tutors to not (outwardly) appreciate an awesome one when I see one) to really fall asleep. But still. 12 hours.

Can't wait to graduate and not have to take another exam in my life again. :( I can't understand how people make it to consultant/emeritus prof (and the works) level without seriously losing all their hair.
And also, can't believe 2011 is drawing to a close. It just feels like there's a lot more that I want to do... or perhaps reflect on slowly and quietly before the new year begins. But I have a feeling I'll just be revising (or attempting to) through the new year, which is a rather depressing thought because we should all take time out to stop and smell the roses and all that eh? So do you guys have any New Year plans at the moment? :)
xx off to sleeeeeeep.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

through the rain, night markets, milk tea and cafes

Just came back from a week in Taiwan. All I can say is...... SO MUCH FUNNNN! :D I love love love spending time with this group of friends (and we've been together since primary/secondary school) and thankfully, we're all pretty chillaxed people on holiday so setting alarms at 8 really means waking up at... 8.30 and leaving at 9??? Heh. The only unfortunate point would be that it simply wouldn't stop raining in Taipei when we were there! :( We ended up traipsing streets and touristy spots with our umbrellas which REALLY made important things like taking photos a littttle harder than usual. But when we got to Taichung there was our dear friend Yueh, whom we'd been looking forward to meeting for ages and a ton of SUNSHINE. I really miss the Taichung weather now. After our plane landed in SG and we were walking from the airplane to the arrival gate, Cheryl, Sandra and I looked at each other and unanimously chimed, "It's too hot!!". But, I'm getting ahead of myself. There are a ton of photos from this trip and as my friends will probably barge their way into my house and personally remove the photos from my laptop if I don't have them all ready to be sent to them by Xmas day, I need to get started. ;p So here's a teaser/short little collection of photos of the trip.
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(Taipei and Taichung, Dec 2011)

More details of the trip will be in later posts. :) But let's just say it involved a lot of walking through light drizzling rain with our umbrellas, drinking lots of milk tea, going to a night market almost every night (and doubling back for the one we liked the best, eventually!), finding our way to quaint and gorgeous cafes that we'd manage to find on the internet (thanks Siang, for doing the cafe research!), eating and eating and eating tons of street food, spotting many dogs decked out in winter-wear... and really loving the 7-11 convenience stores that very incredibly, have warm food and drinks and microwaveable meals. 

And just a couple of things that struck me (and the others, perhaps) during this trip to Taiwan:

1. Taiwanese taxi drivers are sososo nice. All the taxi drivers we met were incredibly friendly and helpful, and once they recognized our Singaporean Mandarin accents, they proceeded to recommend us places we had to visit in Taiwan... other Singaporean students/visitors they'd met before... their advice on which night market was the best (taking into account our age differences as well)... one even regaled us with a short tale on an Egyptian customer he'd once had, how large her eyes were, how PURPLE (yes, he used the word purple O_o) her skin tone was, how nostalgic he was of those moments when he'd met her... Yeah, they were real charmers, these cab drivers. 

2. Taiwanese 7-11s are hands down, the BEST I've been to! Ok so maybe I've only been to 7-11 in a few places, but if you compare them to the ones in Singapore, we have so much to learn! There's nothing like coming in from a wet and cold afternoon outside, only to be warmed up by a can of heated soya bean milk and microwaveable rice ball/beef noodle soup set. And along those lines, the best place to be at when you have 6 hours to kill in wee hours of the morning while waiting for a flight home, would be 7-11.

3. 24 hour bookstores are the way to go. We went into the Eslite bookstore and I wanted to just keel over and die in book heaven. And that was at 12.30 am after our failed trip to erm the club. ;) 

4. The key to attracting customers to enter your store at the night market (which is probably as cramped and as small as the next 500 ones before and after), would be to strategically place an adorable kitty cat on the floor in full view of passing customers. Because believe me, if they happen to be female, there's a very high probability they will go in there squealing, eager to pet the cat, and will end up browsing the store's items eventually. 

5. Circle Scarves are the BEST piece of winter clothing to pack along for a trip to a cold place. It keeps you warm, acts as a neck accessory so you really don't need to bother about necklaces and the like (since there's no space there anymore anyway), allows you to hide your hold hands underneath (no need for gloves then!), AND provides a great cover for the camera that's hanging down your neck. Big big plus! 

And, on a more reflective note, 

6. We are meanest to the people we love the most. We all agreed this was probably one of the more meaningful statements to be bounced about (the rest of it was frivolous Cityhunter chatter hahaha) and well I had to put it here. X)


In the meantime, apart from busying myself with editing all those photos (and forcing myself to come up with some form of a study schedule because of year end exams that have been cruelly placed after the New Year in mid January :(( sigh), I shall be having fun reading some 幾米 (Jimmy) books that I got at Eslite, the awesome Taiwanese bookstore. Reminds me of the time long ago when I was half decent with my Mandarin. Used to be a huge fan of his work (the illustrations are really gorgeous, if you haven't already seen them before!) but I hadn't kept up with his books for a number of years. He's the same author who wrote and illustrated the book A Chance of Sunshine (向左走, 向右走) that was eventually made into a movie (which totally bombed! but the book is fantastic). I always feel guilty thinking about how my Mandarin has deteriorated to such abysmal levels. :( I wonder how people manage to stay effectively bilingual/multilingual because it's so hard maintaining a level of competency...even in one language, really. 

So yes, more photos coming soon. :) And am soooo looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. Staying up for a 6am flight is pretty darn tiring. 


Saturday, 10 December 2011


Hands down, one of my favorite places to have tea at. I can't quite recall when I discovered this place (probably sometime earlier this year) or why I decided to even venture near the counter but then again, who can resist NOT going to have a closer look at a place so awesomely named?? Reminds me of my Akazukin Cha Cha craze days in the not so distant past. 

Basically, it serves all things Matcha. My absolute favorite has to be OChaCha Silk, which is an amazing blend of Matcha and Soy Milk in genius proportions and warmed to sipping perfection. I've not really tried much else on the menu (because there simply has been NO NEED TO!) but there are a TON of options ranging from hot drinks to iced to ice blended as well if I'm not mistaken. And they even serve desserts (which do look pretty tasty) and simple dishes like ramen, rice bowls, porridge etc. I must've taken a gazillion photos of this place with my iphone but they've all kinda disappeared in the freaky unknown depths of my laptop.

(isn't the takeaway cup adorable? I think the plastic 'plug' to insert into the hole in the cover is absolute genius!! no need to worry about it losing its warmth or the risk of it spilling while you walk.) 


(yes, I'm just super pleased with my cuppa')

I love how this place is always quiet and peaceful. I love how the service staff is extremely friendly (my mum, channeling the social butterfly aura that comes from my Ahpo, even made friends with one of the gals) and are always ready with a smile. I love how whenever I take a sip of warm matcha + soy milk tea, I get to enjoy moments of pure, unadulterated inner peace. For those first few moments especially, everything is suspended. All there is, is a good, comforting drink. 

I suppose not everyone would keel over and wax lyrical in this manner about it. After all, my mum and Donald have both tried it before and while they like it, it's highly unlikely that any of them would describe it in this blissful way. Which probably goes to show that your state of mind the very first time you take a sip of that drink (or bite of that sandwich/slurp of that soup.../glimpse of that boy!) makes all the difference. A variant of the way first impressions count. If you were feeling incredibly relaxed and comforted by that very first sip, chances are, you're going to associate that drink with all the similar feelings of wondrous bliss. And then that could very well become your buffer for life's glitches. I've gone to OChaCha many a time after a terrible day at school or feeling hot and bothered or absolutely shitty... and whenever I settle down at a table, breathing in the steam from that mug of matcha and soy milk, everything feel a million times better already. 

So... if I haven't convinced you to give it a try... you must be an unfeeling beast!!! :P But seriously, it's a great place for a break from the shopping. Any places you know of that make you feel the same way too? 

And before I forget: 
290 Orchard Road, 
#B1-25 The Paragon, 
Sat–Thu: 9am – 9.30pm 
Fri: 9am – 11pm

Sunday, 4 December 2011

oh my happy belly~

These weekend was just one long major food fest. Apart from sleeping in, feeble attempts at gymming and cracking open my textbook for about 2 seconds, the rest of the time was spent going someplace to eat and the act of eating itself. Donald and I managed to cover quite a few places - Papa Palheta for coffee, Cat Socrates just out of curiosity (and what a great find!), Keisuke Tonkotsu King for ramen... and we ended up going to our favorite Salted Caramel not just once but twice. SIGH. <3 Food is such a blessing.

More on those other places another time. For now, it's Salted Caramel again, with the two king flavors of Chocolate Stout and Horlicks + TimTam. :))



Isn’t the Cookie Monster poster adorable? They aren't selling that, unfortunately. Because I did ask. I think it’s highly possible that at that moment, I planted the thought of selling all Salted Caramel related merchandise in their heads. Maybe in 3 months time there’ll be all sorts of Salted Caramel paraphernalia for sale and when they're reeking in their thousands for this great business venture, I'll give them a knowing smile and yes, be very gracious about it.


 Possibly the biggest fan of Chocolate Stout flavored ice cream. Honestly, it just tastes like BEER ICE CREAM to me. O_o Give it a try, perhaps with your eyes closed and try telling me you don't think that's the case.


 Notice the awesome chunky bits of Tim Tam? :) Makes it soooooooo unforgettably good. (PSST! For some reason these two awesome flavors are NOT ALWAYS available. So I do think it really depends on your luck! :( I went with another group of friends once and lo and behold, BOTH flavors weren't available that day. So... good luck!)


 Happy with all that ice cream in my belly. There's too much good food everywhere. <3 

Now to press on for the week ahead. ROARRR.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

dreamers and realists

This week, I watched Twilight: Breaking Dawn. I know half of you are about to puke in your seat while the other half will get a glassy-eyed expression from thinking about the Cullens (or Jacob; whichever team you're on) but I must admit, this movie turned out to be a lot better than expected and a LOT better than Eclipse. :) I first got well, semi-hooked on the series after watching the first Twilight movie and I do think on retrospect, it was largely to do with the pretty awesome soundtrack it had. This 4th movie featured some really amazing songs and I started checking the out the minute I got back home. Possibly my favorite song (that was also featured in the first movie!) -- American Mouth, Flightless Bird by Iron and Wine. I could wake up and fall asleep to this. X) That said, if anyone who can enlighten me on the true meaning of this song's lyrics, I'd be truly amazed and grateful. Sigh. I just think it's the perfect song for Edward and Bella and how sweet is it that it was played at their prom and at their wedding?? Ok, the gushing teenage girl in me shall


Now this next song, Turning Page by Sleeping at Last is THE song to listen to if you just want to curl up in your bed...and possibly shed a few tears of emotion. It's a pretty incredible song and everytime I hear it, something inside simply swells up with emotion.


Apart from that, I've also recently managed to change the lens on these glasses for myself. A month or so ago I had the WORST illness ever and I've managed to make a pretty dramatic story telling out of it after having regaled people with it numerous times. But to cut the long story short, there was a looong fever and eye inflammation that resulted in my having to use dilating eye drops for a period of time which totally screwed up my near vision. Ended up getting a pair of degree lens. Now that everything's back to normal, I figured, might as well make full use of the specs and change in a pair of clear lens, no? :) I've come to think of it as a new accessory, not unlike a necklace or jacket or scarf.


While I really just want to spend my time sitting at a cafe, reading or listening to music or really not doing very much at all but taking it slow... there's a week more of work to be done. Then it's a short break before the final push for the end-of-year exams which have horrendously been placed after the New Year. -__- But there's also stuff to enjoy and stuff to look forward to. Today, I ended up watching the entire show of The Incredibles on youtube and thoroughly enjoyed watching cute little Dash outrunning all the evil minions, all the while with his smug and confident face. >:D 

Had a good weekend so far? 


Dimsum at Victor's Kitchen

Recently went to a fantastic dimsum restaurant for lunch with my very awesome clinical groupmates. We skipped a lecture in the afternoon(SHHHH) and braved the stifling humidity and hot noontime sun for it but really, when it comes down to a reasonably priced and very tasty dimsum lunch with friends versus... 3 hours in class half-drooling and lapsing in and out of consciousness, which memory would you rather have?? >:D


Victor’s Kitchen 
91 Bencoolen Street #01-21 
Sunshine Plaza Singapore

Here's Victor's Kitchen which, apart from the hefty number of positive food reviews plastered on its walls, is an otherwise unassuming restaurant tucked into the deep recesses of Sunshine Plaza. I'd heard about it previously but it always seemed to be packed with people that I never felt the urge to stop and try it out. This time however, we were all under the influence of one of my friends who swore that the dimsum was one of the best in Sinapore he'd ever tasted. And he knows his food. >:)

While I didn't have my camera with me on hand at that time, I did have my iphone + Instagram! :)

Row 1 
Left: Cripsy deep fried beancurd skin rolls. I have no idea what was inside; possible some veg and shrimp and minced meat, but it was GOOD. Each bite was hot and crispy.

Middle: Milk tea! I've never seen it served in this manner before :D but it certainly makes it unique. Highly recommended by my friend. I myself, had iced lemon tea which reminded me a lot of the iced lemon teas you get in HK cafes where they add many thin slices of lemon into the tea (unlike say, some places that merely serve a single slice on the rim of the glass...for decorative purposes), making it pretty authentic.

Right: Pretty decent Chee Cheong Fun. I've never been a huge fan of it but this one had a nice sauce you could dip it into.

Row 2 
Left: Glutinous Rice with Sausage, Chicken...and other ingredients. :D This one's a must! We each ordered one and thank goodness we did, because otherwise we might not have gotten full fast enough from the individual dimsum dishes. I'd recommend ordering this as well, since it does act as a staple for the entire meal and while I can't remember all that was in the glutinous rice dish that made it so tasty, I remember there being hefty chunks of meat and very tasty glutinous rice that you could spend a long time chewing on because of its stickiness.

Middle: THE famous Golden Egg Yolk Lava Buns. Voted one of the best in Singapore if I'm not wrong. And mannnn they were good. A combination of sweet and salty in a hot molten yolk pasta that spilled out on the first bite. A must-try!

Right: Just a picture of the carnage after we got through with everything.


After that, even though we were pretty much bursting with dimsum, we still wanted dessert so we ended up going to THE original Rochor Beancurd House :D. For those of you who don't know, there's even a second floor above this place for customers to eat at. A good place to go to on weekday afternoons since it's pretty quiet and you get the almost all of the space on the second floor to yourself before they chase you out (which they didn't, for us!). Ice cold soya bean and beancurd is possibly one of the best desserts for a hot afternoon. 


Our attempts at a self-taken "Family Portrait". :) 

Honestly, I think most of the time the equation goes: 
overall meal experience = 40 % food + 60 % company.