Well folks, I’m finally back from my nearly 2-week vacation in Taipei, Taiwan. It was kind of an interesting trip. It started off with my mom getting severe jet lag almost immediately upon landing at Taoyuan International Airport. Then upon checking in to our hotel, my mom got a nasty cold (which she suspected was the result of sitting on a 12-hour flight full of recycled air & intense air conditioning). She tried to muddle through the rest of the trip, but it was obvious that she was just completely drained of all energy & enthusiasm during the first full week.

By the time the second week came around, my mom was pretty much burnt out from the Taipei city environment & ready to go home. On top of that, my aunt was also ready to head home. She spent most of her days holed up in her hotel room, due to her tired & sore feet. My aunt had originally planned to visit Taiwan, not to take a stroll down memory lane, but to get a cosmetic spa treatment; then she chickened out at the last minute. After that, she was pretty much over her trip & wanted to head back home.

Jian & I had a pretty fun time during our stay in Taiwan, but by the end of the second week, we were also feeling a little burnt out as well & definitely looking forward to heading back to the comforts of our own home & bed (& definitely ready to get out of the constant rain). Of course we didn’t relish having to burst our cozy little vacation bubble, but it was time to face reality & the real world again. We definitely stuffed ourselves silly with good food & some delicious cocktails, & squeezed in a good amount of shopping. We also got a well-balanced taste of Taiwanese culture, historical landmarks, & city living. Here are some of the highlights of things I learned from my trip to Taipei.

things i learned tpe.png

01. The taxi drivers in Taipei are the worst. I’m sorry, but they are just horrible, plain & simple. The taxi drivers are equally rude & mean…& I mean it. (No pun intended.) Here are two prime examples of how badly the taxi drivers suck:

  •  A.) On the day it was raining the hardest, my mom & aunt wanted to go back to our hotel to rest up before dinner with my uncle. My mom was feeling tired from her jet lag, & my aunt was feeling burnt out from department store shopping. They had planned to take a taxi from the giant department store we were at, but when they told the taxi driver their destination, he flat out refused to take them as customers. He angrily told them to get out of his car all while proceeding to scold them about how he did not want to drive all the way to the neighborhood where our hotel was located (which was actually not very far from the deparment store we were shopping at).
  • B) There was one day when Jian & I had planned to take my mom out for a nice Taiwanese breakfast (& let my aunt sleep in). Jian went online & found a small breakfast shop near our hotel to take my mom for breakfast. We originally planned on using Uber, but we decided not to wait for an Uber driver, & tried a cab instead. Here’s where the story takes a nasty turn. First off, the cab driver got upset when Jian didn’t immediately tell him where we wanted to go (no exaggeration). When we told the cab driver the name of the café we wanted to go to, the cab driver claimed he had never heard of such place, & it didn’t exist. Jian continued talking to the cab driver & gave him a specific address. The cab driver then said that that address (specifically the street name) did not exist. Jian tried to describe the location by giving the name of a nearby hotel (or some sort of landmark), but the cab driver continued his “that doesn’t exist” rant saying that neighborhood had nothing. So basically, that cab driver gave us a bullshit story so he wouldn’t have to take us to a neighborhood he didn’t want to drive to. At that point, my mom was extremely annoyed, plus it was raining fairly hard…so she gave him an equally snotty attitude, & told him to take us to a place he would recommend. He then brought us to a nearby shop that was about to close for the day, not bothering to mention that they only operate super early in the mornings & close early (we got there at 10am). When we told the cab driver the place was closed, he ignored us & made us exit the taxi anyway. Jian & my mom were so pissed at that point we took Uber instead to the original café we wanted to go to. The Uber driver was so much more helpful & friendlier. He knew exactly the café we wanted to go to, & even talked about how popular it was.

These two experiences turned us off from ever taking taxi cabs again in Taiwan. From that point on, we exclusively used either the metro or Uber as public transportation.

02. The MRT in Taipei is so easy to use, & such a convenient way to travel around the city. Just like the subway system in Tokyo, the metro in Taipei is efficient, on-time, clean & relatively cheap. Plus, it’s a great way to get around town without having to walk in the rain. Jian & I practically used the MRT the most while we were in Taipei. For certain destinations that were a little too far from a standard metro station, or if it was late at night, or we were too tired, we would then use Uber.

03. Speaking of Uber, this is also a great way to get around town. The Uber drivers are very friendly & easy to talk to. The cars are relatively clean (some cars we rode in smelled like tobbacco &/or beetlenut pulp), & they’re also efficient. Using Uber in Taiwan is the same process as it is in the U.S.. The only thing I would suggest is to make sure you put a travel notice on the credit card associated with your Uber account, so your payments will go through without any problems. Quite a few locals had warned Jian & I about taking taxis, more specifically about how taxi drivers will sometimes scam you by purposely taking a longer route just to get a higher fare. As for our experiences with Uber in Taipei, we were fortunate to have not experienced any scammers (knock on wood).

04. Disclaimer: Looks can be deceiving. The architecture in Taipei, from the outside, looks very outdated & stuck in a 1990s time warp. On the inside, the decor looks quite modern. There are quite a few modern & contemporary structures dotting the Taipei skyline, but for the most part, the city feels a little dingy & past its prime. There’s not a lot of old historical architecture either. Even though Taipei shows a lot of its Japanese influence, it is definitely not as modern looking as Tokyo.

05. Continuing my architectural theme, Jian had made a very keen observation about the buildings in the city. He mentioned that he had noticed that many of the buildings in the city were either giant shopping malls/department stores with huge food courts, or they were hotels. The other third of the buildings in the city were convenient stores or restaurants. During our 2-week stay in Taipei, we were getting pretty sick & tired of seeing the same old boring department stores or touristy hotel chains everywhere.

06. One must-try food when you visit Taiwan is the quintessential shaved ice (& new Korean trend snow ice), especially with fresh fruit. Taiwan’s national fruit is the mango, so the traditional shaved ice with fresh mango (& a scoop of ice cream) is the most recommended dessert. My favorite shaved ice toppings are red adzuki beans & condensed milk. It’s what I’ve known & have eaten since I was a young girl. These shaved ice treats are great to cool you down when it’s hot outside. They’re also just as good to eat when it’s been raining throughout your entire stay on the island.

07. A new trend I saw popping up all over the city was churros. Yes, you heard me. I said churrrrros! Those cinnamon-sugar coated fried sticks of delicious dough. But, wait. These aren’t just any churros. They’re churros formed into the round shape of a doughnut. Two of the most popular shops in Taipei are Street ChurrosChurro’K. These hot & crispy treats come with a variety of ooey-gooey, sweet dipping sauces & toppings. Now that I’m writing about it, I kind of wish I had tried these churro rounds when I was in Taipei, but I was trying to balance out my diet & not eat too many sweets (which I tend to do when I’m on vacation). Plus, all the food we were eating at every meal made me too stuffed to even want to eat dessert.

08. Oooooh! I have quite a few things to say about the emerging craft cocktail scene in Taipei. When Jian & I first visited Taipei four years ago for our friends’ wedding, there weren’t that many places to go chill out & have drinks (like old fashionedsgin tonics). Now, there are more & more cocktail bars & lounges opening up all over the city serving up innovative concoctions as well as the “classics”. The two of us had the best time discovering a few awesome (& some rather unique) cocktail bars. I’ve listed some highlights below.

  • The very first cocktail bar Jian & I visited was called Dig Out. It’s a very small 10-person space, located a few minutes drive outside of the Mitsukoshi shopping square/complex/park. The bar’s atmosphere is very cozy with leather furniture, comfortably cushioned bar stools, with a very rustic, vintage, & wood decor. The bartender we spoke to could speak a little bit of English (& we can speak a decent amount of Mandarin), so we were able to chat with each other & really have a fun time. The bartender was very skilled at twisting classic cocktails into creative new drinks. The most memorable thing for me about Dig Out was that they used little, novelty, dessert spoon sized metal shovels as stir sticks, for a fun & cute nod to their name.
  • One other highly memorable bars we visited was called R and D Cocktail Lab. Started by a French man, you’ll find tons of ex-pats & foreigners frequenting this bar. This place is located on a quiet street, but is pretty roomy in terms of capacity. You’ll definitely find your standard fare of classic cocktails as well as house-made cocktails (on tap), & other delicious libations concocted by the very-skilled & highly knowledged bar staff. The proprietor of RnD, “Frenchie” (as he so nicknamed himself), is very warm & friendly, & he likes to mingle with the guests almost as much as he loves to create delicious, refreshing, yet strong cocktails. Jian & I met a really cool guy named Ben on our second visit to RnD. We exchanged pleasantries (he’s from Chicago, & we’re from San Francisco). He talked about his business trip & first time visiting Taipei, & we ended up giving him our travel guide book. We hope he actually used it, & maybe one day he will pass the travel book on to someone else he meets on another business trip.
  • I never thought I’d end up drinking very boozy cocktails with my retired mother & her sister (imagine Grace & Frankie from the Netflix TV show) while on vacation. My mom & aunt can sometimes be a little “frisky with the whisky”, & other times they are very conservative & will only have a small nip of a glass. On this trip, I was surprised that my mom & aunt happily & eagerly joined us for a drink or two. We thoroughly enjoyed Backyard Jr., a whisky-centric cocktail bar. With over 2,000 varietals of whiskies, bourbons, & ryes, we had a great time sipping our Hot Toddys, Old Fashioneds, High Balls. Of course Jian had the most fun chatting it up with all the bartenders. He always has a way to charm the bartenders & is able to talk with them for hours on end about cocktails, spirits, & the cocktail drinking experience. My mom, my aunt, & I enjoyed the plush decor & soft jazz music, & we all truly enjoyed the food!
  • One drinking experience we had in Taipei that both intrigued us & baffled us at the same time, was when Jian & I visited Wa Shu. I’d call it an experimental cocktail bar. This minimalist bar was started by a Japanese ex-pat, who also happens to be a very strict taskmaster when it comes to keeping his bar staff in line. We heard him on several occassion openly scold his staff for various tasks he felt were not done to his exact standards. Here’s where things get a little confusing for us. This bar doesn’t have a standard drink menu. Instead they have a menu with a list of flavors, fruits, & taste profiles for you to choose from. You tell the bartender what types of flavors, fruits, &/or taste profiles you prefer, & they will create a drink for you. (You can’t just order a plain ol’ martini or whiskey sour.) Also, this bar does not carry standard spirits. All of the spirits they use to make cocktails are infused with some sort of experimental recipe, or some unique herb or barrel wood. It was hard for us to grasp the concept of telling the bartender what flavors we liked because most of the flavors we like, within the spirit-forward cocktails we often drink, were not listed on their menu. It was also hard to describe our taste profile because this bar only makes light & fruity/herbal drinks, but they don’t really understand how to make spirit-forward drinks. Let me just sum this up by saying cocktails in Asia are by far much “lighter” than the “stronger” cocktails over here in the States, & we sometimes struggle with grasping that concept.

09. Amidst all of the tall skyscrapers, shopping malls, & very 1990s designed apartment complexes, there were lots & lots of greenery dotted all over the city. It was surely a welcome sight in contrast to all of the chaos that surrouned us daily. Everywhere you turn, there’s always construction happening somewhere. So, it’s nice when you can find a small park here & there, or when you are able to walk down tree-lined streets. If only the greenery could help lessen the pollution in the city, but there are just too many motor bikes & motor scooters clogging up the streets with their nasty exhaust. On some days when it wasn’t raining, we were able to enjoy taking a stroll in the park, or in the small garden next to a museum.

10. Lastly, I will end this list with food. Oh man, I didn’t even notice this until the last couple of days of our vacation, but Jian had pointed out that all we’ve been eating throughout our entire trip were starch-filled foods. All the vegetables at the places ate at were so bland & over-cooked that we ended up not really eating much of it. Besides, since they were over-cooked, the veggies pretty much lost all of their nutritional value anyway. Most of the dishes we ate consisted of some sort of green onion (a.k.a. scallion) pancake (always made fresh), a rice bowl meal set, soup dumplings, a bowl of noodles, or some sort of steamed bun filled with meaty delights. It was practically rice on top of noodles on top of bread. Towards the end of our trip, Jian & I started drinking more pressed/blended juices just to get the fiber from the fruits, & we tried eating whatever veggies we could (bland or not). We wanted to re-balance our bodies again before flying home as two human-sized dumplings. I think I had the hardest time eating in Taipei. Whatever I saw, I wanted it all. I could not decide which of my childhood favorites I wanted to eat first. On the flip side, I thought my mom & my aunt were going to go buck wild eating all of their childhood favorites (since they actually grew up in Taipei), but they ended up being the most finnicky about food out of our entire group & didn’t really go wild with the food. Jian tried to keep up with my eating habit, but he ended up feeling very bloated & unsettled towards the end of our trip. By the end, we were definitely ready to go back home & eat a classic hamburger.

Well, this is the end of my first Taiwan blog post. If you want to see photos from my trip, you know, to get a better grasp of the time I spent there, the food I ate, the places I visited…please check out my Instagram feed (@mel__senpai). My Instagram feed is my most active social media account, & the best place to follow me & to contact me. Until next time, 干杯!

Today’s song of the day:

“Let Me Show You” by Kero One ft. Azure

let me show you kero one

taipei cover

This will be my second time traveling to Taipei, Taiwan. The first time, I was attending the wedding of my good friends from Seattle, Washington. This time around, I’m escorting my mom & her sister, who after immigrating to America some 35 plus years ago, have never returned to their hometown. This is going to be the first time since leaving the hot, sticky, wet island that my mom & her younger sister will be setting foot back on Taiwanese soil.

Now, to provide a little back story to my family, neither my mom nor her sister were actually born in Taiwan. My mom was born in Shanghai, & my aunt was born in Beijing. However, they both grew up since they were toddlers, along with their 3 younger brothers & single (twice divorced) mother in the city of Taipei. Once my mom graduated from university, she & my aunt both immigrated to America to find better jobs (& eventually start their own families). Since moving to America, neither of them have ever gone back to the place where they spent most of their youth. This will be their first experience after 35+ years or so (give or take a few years), & I’m sort of excited to be escorting them to the place they once lived & held many vivid memories.

These are just a few of the highlights I’m hoping to experience on my second trip to Taipei.

highlights of taiwan trip list

  1. Of course I’m planning on taking many photos, most of which will be for the ‘Gram (a.k.a. straight to Instagram). I’ll try to post my photos on this blog if I can remember, but the best way to stay up-to-date & follow me on my Taiwan adventures is to follow me on Instagram.
  2. Growing up, I had a lot of different Chinese food influences. Since my mom primarily identifies as Shanghainese, I learned to eat a lot of traditional Shanghainese food. However, since she actually grew up & lived in Taiwan for most of her life, my mom had a lot of Taiwanese influences in her cooking, so at home we also were introduced to many Taiwanese dishes as well. (Side note: most of my Asian friends are Cantonese, so through them I’ve learned a lot about traditional Cantonese cuisine & Hong Kong style Cantonese food.) When I go back to Taiwan, I can’t wait to eat all of the delicious foods I had growing up, eating all of my childhood comfort foods like plump sausages on a stick (香腸) with fresh garlic of course, stewed lion’s head meatballs (獅子頭), red roasted braised beef noodle soup (紅燒牛肉麵), & lots more!
  3. The first time Jian & I visited Taiwan, we had researched all kinds of cool restaurants, cafés & bars to try out. We found lots of cool, hipster bars with nightly live music, but we never got a chance to try them. We were too busy helping our friends set up props & decorations for their wedding. This time around, we are definitely planning to take time out of our schedule to try a few hipster bars in Taipei. Jian & I are both amateur cocktail connoiseurs, so we love trying new bars, lounges, & hole-in-the-wall drinking places wherever we travel to.
  4. Ok, this one isn’t exactly a highlight per sè, but it’s going to take up a major portion of our trip. I know my mom doesn’t really need a chaperone in Taiwan. I mean, for cuss sake, she can read, write & speak Mandarin fluently. She doesn’t need me to help her there, but she doesn’t like to travel alone, & it reassures here when I’m there to help her with the little details, like showing her how to use the subway system, or showing her where she can exchange her currency. Since this is my mom’s first time going back to Taiwan, she’s feeling a little insecure knowing that things have drastically changed since her days of living there. Also, with me being the type of person who relishes taking care of others, I myself, am relieved & happy that I get to accompany my mom (& my aunt) & take care of her in any way I can.
  5. On almost all of my trips abroad, I don’t give myself much time to properly enjoy & take advantage of the amazing hotel amenities. It was only on my trip to London where I fully took advantage of the hotel hospitality & amenities, & I enjoyed myself thoroughly. This time around, I plan on using more of the hotel facilities & really take the time to relax & let go of my anxieties. I want to losen up & not be so tightly wound up like a rubber band waiting to snap all of the time.
  6. Oh man, this is going to be a tough one. Every day leading up to our trip, Jian & I have been obsessively checking the weather forecast for Taiwan. As of right now, the weather forecast says that it’s super duper hot right now with a minimum of 60% chance of rain. Every. Single. Day. I have no idea whatsoever on how we’re going to avoid the heat, the sticky dampness, & the rain showers. I suggested to Jian that we spend lots of time inside shopping malls, but he quickly shot down that idea with a big fat NO. He then suggested that we take the subway or taxi everywhere we go, but I don’t know if that’s going to help much with the getting-soaked-in-the-hot-rain situation. I guess this would be the perfect time for us to check out all the amenities our hotel has to offer.

Well, I’m officially leaving for Taiwan tomorrow. I still have a few lose ends to tie up, & a few more items to throw in to (or, in my case, carefully & meticulously pack in) my suitcase. I’m signing off to get back to my suitcase organizing duties… Until then, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

“Up All Night” by BECK


 

my unorganized mind

September has come & gone, & I’ve been pretty busy. Between scheduling visits to see my doctor about the health & maintenance of my lady parts, & family events, & anniversaries (of sorts), it’s been a pretty hectic time for me. I’ve been inwardly thinking a lot latey, & there have been a few key things that have been circling around in my scattered brain.

First things first, this past month officially marked the 5-year anniversary of my father’s death. I rarely discuss this topic to anyone, ever. Ocassionally I’ll talk to Jian, but I mostly keep this topic to myself. This is an extremely sensitive subject within my immediate family, & I have an even more extremely difficult time trying to talk about this topic with any of my family members. I really have to walk on eggshells around my family if I even mention my dad in passing. I wish I was exaggerating on this, but unfortunately I’m not.

This is an especially difficult subject to talk about around my mom because this will just re-open an old can of doubt she carries around with her in her expensive hand bag at all times. It’s hard to pull her out of her cycle of self-doubt once she gets on the Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda train. I also never talk about this subject with my siblings. We just don’t express our feelings to each other. That’s not what we were taught growing up, to communicate & express our feelings between each other.

I’ve tried talking about my dad to my oldest brother, in which we share this biological father together, but he flat out doesn’t respond whenever I mention “dad”. My other two siblings, on the other hand, are too busy squabbling amongst themselves over their extremely strained & estranged relationship with their own biological father. All of them, due to our glaringly large age gaps, I assume, treat me from childhood up until today like I am just the little baby sister of the group. To them, I’m the spoiled, sheltered, coddled baby of the family. So, I’ve learned to stay quiet & shrink into the background.

On the day of the anniversary of my dad’s death, I thought about him long & hard. However, I mostly thought about how I never got to properly grieve over his death. I never got to mourn his passing. From the time my dad was taken to the hospital up until his death, I did what I always do best. I nurtured & cared for others. More than myself, I took care of everyone else. So, while all of our friends & family poured in to see my dad, hold his hand, shed a tear, say goodbye, I was busy making phone calls & comforting those who were agonizing & weeping over the phone. I wanted to break down & cry my eyes out until they hurt, but I held it all in. I wanted to scream & shout & stomp my feet & pound my fists, but I didn’t want to freak my mom out any more than she already was. Because I didn’t want to see my (at that time) fragile mother completely lose it, I held my composure so that I could be her realiable shoulder to lean on. When everyone around me was crying, I kept a stiff upper lip. I’ve now built this hard shell around the topic of my father. I keep everything to myself. I only let my emotions & feelings slip out when I am completely & utterly alone. No one ever asked me how I felt when my dad was dying. Nobody asks me, even now, how I’m coping (or feeling). I’ve grown accustomed to it.


On another topic, I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I will never see eye-to-eye with my sister. We never did when we were growing up together, we don’t now, & I don’t think we ever will in the future. For a brief period of time, I thought my sister & were growing closer as siblings once she started having children. My sister relied on me to help her with the little things like running to the grocery store, or babysitting the toddler kids for a few hours.

Then, when my sister went through the process of her divorce, she grew to become a very difficult person to get close to. She became increasingly controlling in all aspects of her life to the point of overbearingness. It also became difficult to have a conversation with her, even on neutral subjects, for she would get argumentative very quickly.

I always give my sister the benefit of the doubt; I cut her plenty of slack; I give her countless breaks because I know she is struggling & doing her best to be a good hard-working single parent. My sister is struggling to raise her two amazing children, all while juggling a difficult job environment, an overbearing cuss of a boss, & a resistant ex-husband who allegedgly refuses to properly co-parent their children together. While I try to make my sister’s life a little easier by offering to help her in any way I can, she ends up taking advantage of my assistance, & she often tells me that my help is actually not helping her at all. I know my sister has past unresolved issues, extreme insecurities, & a lot of resentment due to her parents divorce (a.k.a. our mom & her biological father) when she was a child, but because she hasn’t dealt with these issues, she unwittingly takes out her resentments on the people around her.

I know she doesn’t mean to project her insecurities & issues on others (myself included), but I can’t help but think to myself sometimes that I should be taken out of her “line of fire” because all of this divorce stuff happened way before I was even born. Why should she take out her resentments & issues out on me, when I wasn’t even born? On top of that, I have no connection to her father whatsoever. I’ve barely met him a handful of times throughout my entire life, & we’ve never spoken more than 1 or 2 sentences to each other at best. I don’t hold anything against my sister. I know these are her own demons to slay, but I can’t help but think that she’s not making things any better by snapping at other innocent people.


The third item I want to talk about is coming from a completely different direction. I want to talk about the dreams I’ve been having lately. I wish I could remember the dreams I’ve been having lately. They’ve been extremely vivid & detailed. For the past several days, I’ve fallen into a terrible sleeping pattern. I’ll try to go to bed at a more reasonable hour than I have been in the past. I really am trying to change my sleeping habits. However, for the past several days I’ve been waking up feeling extremely groggy, exhausted, & like my mind has been on overdrive all night long.

Some mornings I’ll even wake up with a sore back, noticing that I was in such a deep sleep the night before that I didn’t even move or change positions while I was sleeping. My body was frozen into one position all night. I will wake up feeling like I’d only taken a nap & had not really had a full night’s sleep. I can sometimes recall bits & pieces of my dreams in the morning, but mostly all I can remember is that in my dreams there were a lot of action scenes & lots of talking. There was one morning when I woke up & I could remember that I had intense thoughts in my dream, like I knew what my dream-state character was thinking in the dream. I could remember whether I was running or walking in my dream. I could vaguely remember talking to other people in my dream. I remember one scene perfectly, where I was trying to climb a set of stairs in the backyard of my house, & the stairs were crumbling beneath me. I could practically feel the soft wood when I tried to grab the gate door with my hands. That’s how intense & vivd my dreams were.

My dreams lately have been so action-packed, as in I move around a lot in my dreams, & I’m often moving from place to place in my dreams. I also do a lot of thinking & talking in my dreams. There was one day where I woke up from a particularly intense dream. Well, I mostly woke up because my bladder was screaming at me to go relieve myself in the bathroom. However, after that, I fell back to sleep & had yet another vivid dream. That caused me to feel very disoriented when I finally woke up for the day. These past couple of days of dreaming have really messed up my sleeping patterns, & has kind of done a number on my body. Last week, my sleeping pattern was so out of whack that I ended up getting sick. I caught a fever & the chills, but luckily those symptoms only lasted 24 hours. I was back on my feet again by the time the weekend came around. Now, I can assure you that my sleeping patterns have returned to normal. I stopped having such vivid & detailed dreams, & I’m now waking up feeling more refreshed than groggy.


On one final note, I’m excited to tell you all that in two weeks from now, I’ll be in Taipei, Taiwain!! Yes, I’m going on another trip again, but I can promise you that this trip is not for my personal pleasure. This time I’m escorting & chaperoning my mother & her sister, who haven’t been back to the city where they grew up for more than 35 years. I can understand that these two (senior) sisters are reluctant to travel by themselves, so when my mom causally invited Jian & myself to travel with them, we eagerly said yes. Jian loves Taiwain, & I love to travel with my mom & aunt. Also, I like to take care of my mom, & I want to chaperone her so that she will feel safe & comfortable knowing she has someone with her who can help her & keep her company (besides the company of her loving sister).

My mom is feeling both excited & anxious going back to the city where she grew up after too many years of being away. She’s had countless invitations by her friends & many opportunities to go back to Taipei, but she always declined & found an excuse not to go. This time she put her foot down & decided to go back, or else she might miss her opportunity when she gets older & is no longer able to take long flights. I am so excited to be there with my mom as she relives a little bit of her childhood memories. I feel kind of disappointed that my other siblings (the ones that share the same biological mother with me) don’t do these kinds of things for my mom or with my mom. I understand a little that they each have their own obligations in their lives (like difficult work schedules & raising children), in which they can’t just pack a bag & fly off to wherever, but a part of me feels like they’re missing out on important milestones & memorable experiences with our mother that could bring them closer together.

I am so grateful, appreciative, happy, lucky & fortunate to have opportunities like this, especially ones where I can just drop everything, pack my bags & go without a care in the world. I make sure that I take care of my own personal obligations & tasks first, so that I can enjoy these special moments with my family & friends. I can’t wait to showcase my trip to Taipei. I am not going to promise a travel blog this time. I’m really bad at sticking to those, but I’m going to at least try to upload photos whenever I can. Until then, 干杯 (dry cup), everyone!

Today’s song of the day:

“If You’re Hearing This” by Hook N Sling ft. Parson James & Betty Who

img_1717

see or watch

As Jian has been logging in more & more hours on the boob tube, I’ve been winding down, watching less. I don’t know…blegh. I’ve been becoming increasingly uninspired by the television programming lineup over the past few years. There really haven’t been many shows that have caught my interest. Also, I’m trying to make a conscious effort to do more productive things other than just sit on my lazy cuss & watch mindless hours of TV.

I know it’s very easy just to turn on the television & have it running in the background as comforting background noise while you’re off doing things like washing dishes, folding laundry, or writing term papers for school. I am very guilty of doing this, especially while I’m in my kitchen. My parents, especially my dad, insisted on putting a small TV in our family kitchen when I was younger, mostly so that he wouldn’t have to miss a minute of any baseball game during our precious family bonding time, but also so that we could watch the early evening news & popular family game shows (like JeopardyWheel of Fortune) as a family while we all sat at the kitchen table for supper.

That TV in our family kitchen has become embedded into our family life so much so that, as a family unit, we bascially cannot live without it. Every family member who enters our kitchen gets sucked in by the boob tube. At least one person or another will turn on the TV, & it will not be turned off until everybody heads off to bed at night. It’s a pretty sad fact, especially when it seems like this TV has become some sort of social crutch that we unconsciously rely on.

I don’t know how Jian does it, multi-task while he’s watching TV. He can watch videos on YouTube while having the TV running in the background. Both electronic devices have their volumes turned up pretty high (well, high for my standards). Sometimes when we’re all gathered in the kitchen after supper, my mom will be watching some sort of weird Chinese video on her smartphone, & the TV will be on, & Jian will just be sitting in his designated seat watching some random meme video on his phone as well, & all the competing noises don’t even bother him one tiny bit. For me, it’s extremely distracting. I can’t have the TV on while I’m watching something on YouTube or 9Gag.

Man, when I was a teenager I watched everything that was hot in pop culutre during those days. I watched every single show on MTVVH1 (remember Pop-Up Video anyone?). I watched all of the after school cartoons (like Animaniacs, Gummi Bears, Chip & Dale’s Rescue Rangers, & every Asian girl’s mandatory viewing material: Sailor Moon). I used to watch the block of Friday night shows like Boy Meets World, Family Matters, & Step by Step. Then, as I got older, I really got into watching Japanese variety shows & drama shows. I also loved to watch re-runs of old British TV shows on the PBS channel (like Keeping Up Appearances, Are You Being Served?, & Sherlock Holmes). From there, my tastes evolved into watching mind-numbing reality shows like The Vapid Houswives Seeking Attention They Don’t Get From Their Lame Husbands, watching cartoons like Family GuyAmerican Dad, & watching more home improvement shows like House Hunters. Oh…I also loved watching the globaly popular hit TV show Top Gear (but I quickly left the fandom after Jeremy Clarkson was unceremoneously kicked off the show).

Now, there aren’t very many shows that I actively follow & watch full seasons of, with maybe the exception of Outlander (on the STARZ network). That’s one show I really enjoy watching, not only for the storylines, content & costumes/set props/filming locations, but also because there is one very specific actor that I am a huge fan of, & I like to follow his/her acting career. Other than Outlander, I used to watch a lot of The Big Bang Theory, but I forget to follow the show each week, & then when I try to watch the previous episodes using my cable provider’s On Demand service, they make me jump through a cuss load of hoops to watch. Or else I have to buy the old seasons, which I don’t want to. So, I just watch episode clips posted on YouTube by the show, just so I can keep up with the storyline.

There’s not a lot of current shows that I follow these days. I watch a few episodes of popular shows here & there (i.e. Game of Thrones) just to be able to keep up with the “watercooler” banter with my friends, but I don’t religiously follow many shows on TV. I’ve been trying lately to genuinely follow the newly popular cartoon Rick & Morty, but I’m getting more & more turned off by all of the annoying whining/complaining by the Sanchez-Smith family that is the center of the show. I’m rapidly losing interest in this show.

I think this is a good thing, watching less TV. I am, however, watching more On Demand movies & watching more movies/shows on Netflix (but that’s mostly just because I don’t want to waste my paid membership). No, I don’t sit around all day on my flabby cuss, watching movies on a loop. I’ll usually watch a movie while I’m doing some sort of stationary chore (i.e. washing dishes, or folding laundry). I’ll pick a movie to have on in the background, then once the movie is over, I’ll turn off the TV & go about my day as usual. Sometimes, I’ll have a movie on while I’m updating my blog, but that’s a rare ocassion, as the movie will end up distracting me from writing. You all probably know by now that I’ll always have a movie playing while I’m taking a bath. However, I actively try to not watch any movies or videos before I go to bed. I hope that I can continue this trend of watching less TV. I want to be more productive, rather than sit on my cuss for 4-6 hours a day, channel surfing. I don’t want to rely on the television to keep me company. I’d much rather be doing what I’m doing now, writing. And this is where I end my post because I need sleep. Cheers, mates.

Today’s song of the day:

“Go Flex” by Post Malone

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It’s that time again for me to show you another collection of mine. OK, I swear I’m not a hoarder. My house isn’t filled from floor-to-ceiling with boxes & mounds of junk. I’ve got carefully curated collections of hand-selected knick-knacks that have some sort of special meaning or purpose in my life. So far, I’ve pretty much shown you my collection of handkerchiefs & hand towels, & in one of my earliest blog posts on this site, I’ve shown you my box of miscellaneous pens, my XL sized box of stickers, & my box of miscellaneous letter sets. One might think I have a problem with letting go of things I don’t use, like I’m overly sentimental regarding personal objects, but I don’t care. I’m a proud collector of the things that I genuinely have interests in.

In this latest installment of my hoarding denial collection cataloging, let me introduce you to my pin/badge/brooch collection. There have been many pins & brooches that have come & gone over the years, but these are the current pins that I’ve kept in my collection.

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  1. I love this victory pin. This is probably my most used emoji on my smartphone, so I was very excited to get this in a pin form. I also love that this pin could also be the “peace sign”.  So, it’s got multiple meanings.
  2. I don’t usually say the word “legit”, but I stil lthought this was a cool pin. I like how it’s written in cursive, & it sounds like very Cali-casual vocabulary.
  3. I saw this large felt pin at LofT in Osaka & immediately fell in love with it. I love the cute characters acting as boyfriend & girlfriend. This pin was supposed to promote a popular webcomic turned into a fictional novel. However, I can’t remember the name of it or what it was about. I just thought this couple was too cute to pass up.
  4. I am a big fan of Nathaniel Rateliff & his music. I am especially a fan of his band Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. I love their southern, bluesy, alternative-y rock music. They kind of remind me of The Black Keys, which is another rock band I’m a big fan of. I got this pin to commemorate the first time I watched Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats live in concert (just last month).
  5. I haven’t really mentioned this on this blog, but I’ve mentioned it on many ocassions on my Instagram feed. I am a big fan of whisk(e)y & whisk(e)y based cocktails. Yes, I have been known to imbibe a cocktail or two (or three) on the weekends with my friends, & I’ve been known to knock back a few whiskey old fashioneds. I saw this pin at a craft spirits shop, & I had to get it…just for fun.
  6. I attended my first “nerdy” convention, the ID10T Conival hosted by Chris Hardwick (of @midnight The Talking Dead fame). There was a booth there selling pearler bead pins, & these two pins caught my eye right away. I’ve played the Professor Layton puzzle games on the Nintendo DS, & they were fun. I really loved the graphic design/artwork of the Layton video games, so I got these pins to honor the artwork.

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Ever since my first inaugural trip to the fine city of Portland, Oregon I’ve fallen in love with this ice creamery called Salt & Straw. When they decided to open up a location in my town, I was ecstatic. I bought a set of these pins to not only show my love for ice cream, but also for my admiration for this ice creamery.

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Seven years ago I visited the Ghibli Museum in Japan with my friends. We got to watch a short film called Mr. Dough & the Egg Princess. This short film really touched my heart & made me tear up a little bit. I loved the hero character Mr. Dough, but my favorite characters were the royal egg family. The egg princess was so cute. Basically this is the story of a tiny egg-girl who is forced to serve the evil witch, but after a blob of Dough comes to life, she befriends him & both escape from the witch’s home & set off to see the world. This was such a heartwarming story, so I got this set of king & queen egg pins as a little memento of my time spent at the Ghibli Museum, but also because I wanted to get a his & hers pin set for Jian & myself.

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These pins are so random, & I don’t even know why I kept them for so long. When I attended my first Comic Con in San Diego back in 2011, I was so naïve. I grabbed every little freebie & complimentary swag that was being offered. I was taking all of the free posters & pins without even caring what it was about. I picked up the first two pins without even caring what they were. The third pin I got for attending Conan O’Brien‘s special art gallery event for his made up comic book hero called The Flaming C. I got the last pin in Los Angeles when I shopped at the store called General Quarters. The shop attendant let me take this last pin for free after I bought a really awesome eucalyptus candle. I don’t really have anything interesting to say about these pins. They’re so boring & random.

There are two urban streetwear brands from Japan that both Jian & I have been huge fans of since their early days of tiny shops in the back streets of the hip Harajuku neighborhood in the heart of Tokyo. Man, we’ve been loyal supporters & big fans of these brands since the early 2000’s.

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The first brand (which is showcased in the pins above) is called WTaps, a very military inspired brand. The founder of this brand, Tetsu Nishiyama, is a fan of militaria & military history. His brand has branched out from clothing to lifestyle products (like camping equipment & incense burners). Jian & I both love this brand, not really for the military theme, well yes, that, but also because the quality of their products are so amazing & last throughout all the changes of fashion & trends. We’ve each got at least a dozen t-shirts &/or jeans from this brand that have survived countless washing machine beatings over the past 10 years, & they still look nearly as good as the day we bought them. As you can see above, with the exception to the Vespa inspired pin on the far right & the vinyl record symbol on the bottom left, most of these pins are extremely military inspired.

 

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This is the second Japanese streetwear brand I was talking about earlier, NEIGHBORHOOD (a.k.a. NBHD). This brand is also part clothing, part lifestyle products. This brand is more motorcycle/biker inspired, since the founder/creative director of this brand, Shinsuke Takizawa, is an extreme enthusiast of classic & vintage motorcycles (i.e. Triumph, Harley-Davidson, etc.). He even has his own extensive collection of motorcycles, & he displays some of his personal motorcycles at each of his retail shops within Japan. Shinsuke also restores his own motorcycles in his collection.

Both of these two brands (WTapsNBHD) mentioned here are very technical in style & practicality. The quality of their clothing is so good that a lot of the items we’ve purchased over the years have withstood the test of time & repeated washings, & let me tell you that I don’t always treat these clothes delicately. I’m not going out & buying expensive frou-frou detergent for delicate fabrics. I’m only using regular everyday detergent (& sometimes a spray-on stain remover) & an unforgiving washer/dryer set from the late 1990s.

A lot of the clothing Jian & I both buy from these brands have lasted so long, that now we don’t really get the chance to buy as many new clothing pieces. Now we have branched out into getting more of the lifestyle items, like their coffee mugs, incense holders, floor rugs, & other miscellaneous practical items. We used to collect pins from each of these brands every time they would design new sets for the upcoming fashion seasons, but now, we treasure these oldies but goodies which are extremely hard to find now-a-days.

 

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These next set of pins are what I would put in the “just for fun” category. The first two pins are from my & Jian’s best friends. They went to San Diego Comic Con earlier this year (as they do each & every year without fail), & they purposely waited in the long queue at the Peanuts booth to gobble up all of the limited edition Comic Con exclusive products. As a small souvenir, they got us these two pins. (They also got me a Comic Con exclusive Outlander bandana/handkerchief, much to the outwardly-shown ire of many middle-aged Diana Gabaldon/Sam Heughan/Outlander TV show fans, to which I am extremely grateful & thankful to my friends.)

The next pin is a boombox, which I thought could be a cool symbol of the fact that I was born in the 80s decade, & I am a huge music lover. The fourth pin is one that I purchased at a pop-up art gallery for British pop artist Pete McKee. I loved all of his artwork, but wasn’t sure how I’d be able to pack a poster or framed art piece in my suitcase, & I didn’t want to figure out how to pack & ship these items back to my house, so I ended up getting a small enamel pin to commemorate my lovely time in London & to honour all of the phenomenal & eye-opening art I discovered there. I also thought this retro couple riding a Vespa scooter together was very romantic, & that was another reason why I chose this pin.

The fifth & sixth pins are ones I bought in two different stores, but they both carry the same reference. They’re both references to my late-blooming passion & appreciation for cocktails. I never snuck alcohol with my friends when I was a teenager, & I didn’t have much of an interest in drinking when I turned 21 either. It wasn’t until my late twenties when I finally succumbed to my own self-pressure & taught myself how to properly drink alcohol…properly as in learing my limits & trying not to embarrass myself too much. I chose the first of the two pins for its sheer cuteness. I loved the pastel colors & the little cocktail umbrella garnish. I especially loved the phrase “Drink Up” on the bottom of the glass. I’m only a little disappointed that the writing is so small, you’d have to look very closely to be able to read it. The second pin I got because I like to drink Negroni cocktails, but it’s also to commemorate the recently popular event called “Negroni Week” a week-long celebration of one of the world’s great cocktails & an effort to raise money for charities around the world. A few of my close friends work at or own bars in my city, so to honor them & their industry, & to promote charity giving, I wanted to wear this Negroni pin in celebration of a good cause.

The last two pins are sort of a tributary nod to my dad & his background. My dad is from Japan (born & raised), so he has a fine appreciation for sakè. I don’t particularly enjoy drinking sakè, but 99.99% of my family (both maternal & paternal) loves this stuff, especially all of my extended family back in Japan (obviously). So, I got this pin to honor the Japan side of my family.

As for the baseball pin, don’t get upset, but I’m not actually a fan of the San Francisco Giants team. Then why did I get this pin, you ask? Well, at the time, it was during the height of the 2010 World Series, & the Giants were the fan favorites to win the pennant. Almost all of my friends are huge fans of this team, & they’re not happy of the fact that I am a diehard Oakland Athletics fan. I’ve been a fan of the A’s team since birth…well, because whatever dad liked the family had to go along with it, but we did so gladly. I got this pin, mostly because I’m a big fan of baseball (over most other sports, except for European auto racing), & this pin was the most subtle & minimal of all the pins I saw in the sporting goods store. I could support my friends’ fandom of the Giants team & show my love of baseball. On top of that, my dad was such a huge fan of baseball. As a matter of fact, every male member of my dad’s side of the family, all the way down to my nephew’s generation, are all huge fans of this sport. Most of my uncles, including my own father, at one point had opportunities to play professional baseball in Japan. They’ve been playing baseball all throughout their school careers. My grandfather strictly forbade them from trying out for any major league teams, so none of them became professional baseball players in Japan. My dad, however, was able to go to college in America on a baseball scholarship, & he even played baseball for his college team in Texas. That just goes to show how deeply rooted my family is in their love of this sport. A lot of my cousins & nephews all played baseball in high school, & some of them have even won regional awards for their schools.

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This is the last set of pins I’m going to talk about. (I swear I’m rambling too much about nothing here.) I don’t know what propelled me to shop at an urban skateboard & overtly male streetwear shop, but I ended up getting this cool & childlike paper airplane pin anyway. I liked this pin as a nod to being like a kid again & making paper airplanes out of scrap construction paper. The second pin came from a time when I suddenly had an urge to dress more edgy & punk. I thought getting this pirate -slash- biker gang inspired crossbones pin would make me look super edgy & standoffishly cool. Now, I just look at it as a cool Halloween accessory. The very last (but not least) pin is very special to me. It’s a cool leather textured pin that I got in Japan at an iconic & legendary streetwear store that has long since been closed (circa 2010). I really enjoy listening to jazz music, & I thought this pin was so clever combining the trumpet into the word “jazz”. I also really liked the quality of the leather fabric & the metallic silver lettering. Every time I look at this pin, I am reminded of a nearly bygone era & fashion trend in Japan that is slowly fading away.

Most of the underground, legendary & iconic shops that once lined the behind-the-scenes back streets of the Harajuku district have slowly migrated towards the newly revived Shibuya district. Once a cutesy fashion hub for low-budget trendy high schoolers & teeny bopper tweens, Shibuya is slowly becoming the new hub for urban streetwear & avant garde fashion. The back streets of Harajuku, nicknamed Ura Hara, are fading quickly, & most of the iconic shops where you’d see queues lining out the door & wrapping around the street, are now closed. I’m not saying this area is becoming a ghost town, but it surely has lost a lot of its early 2000s charm. In its place are more hair salons, second-hand thrift stores, & consignment shops. Man, I miss the old days of Tokyo, where you’d see all the trendy kids in ghetto streetwear hanging out in the streets. Now all of those places have moved on to the internet or some other far flung neighborhood that’s not easy to get to. I can’t wait to go back to Tokyo & rediscover new places. Until then, cheers.

Today’s song of the day:

“Everclear” (Foo Fighters cover song) by Matt Duncan

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