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this is not a dream

I am continuing my previous post with more photos of my first trip to Portland, Oregon.  There was so much to see (& do) I wish I could’ve captured every single moment in a photo.  Here is my summary of my trip, in photos…

 

NATURE!
There was so much foliage around us.  It was so amazing, as though an urban cityscape was dropped right in the middle of a lush forest.  I loved taking in all of the tree-lined streets & beautiful flowers.  Seeing all of the different colors of plants & flowers, it was like a unicorn pooped a fantastical rainbow over the fair city of PDX.

 

CRAZY ART!
The great Bridge City is well known for all of its funky art glory.  I tried to take as many snapshots as I could of all the interesting art I found along the way.  Some were cute like the music quote (“You can’t touch music, but music can touch you.“) from the Regular Show or the “Keep Calm and Eat Donuts” quote from Blue Star Donuts.  Others were beautiful like the “Keep Your Chin Up” mural or the two framed art prints in our hotel room.  There were also a few unusual, yet cool ones like the bicycles sculpture, the cardboard station wagon & camper, & the crack pipe application warning sign.  Look!  We even saw a graffiti drawing of Pedo Bear!  Don’t even ask how I know that Pop Culture/Anime cartoon character…

 

MORE NATURE!
When I say more nature, I mean it.  Every street was practically lined with trees from beginning to end.  Every lamp post had a hanging flower pot.  No matter where you look, you just can’t escape the greenery.  It really softened the rigidness of the metropolitan city.  It wasn’t all boxy high-rise office buildings, sleek glassed apartments & quaint retail shops.  All of the flowers & greenery really made you feel at ease amongst the hustle & bustle.  There are plenty of parks & parklets strewn about the city, so you can take a break & unwind after a day of hitting the hard pavement.  We also happened to arrive just before the 2014 MLS All-Star Soccer/Fútbol Tournament.  So there were MLS (& especially PORTLAND TIMBERS & Adidas) decorations all over the city! (I was so disappointed that we were leaving the day BEFORE the All-Star game…so, I had to bring home a Portland Timbers t-shirt from the Providence Park Stadium shop.) Can I get an ‘Amen!’ for the hottie Tim Ridgewell, please???

 

ARCHITECTURE!
There was so much beautiful architecture to look at…a feast for the eyes~!  I am not very knowledgeable in architecture or design, but I do appreciate cool-looking buildings & well-crafted design.  I absolutely fell in love with all of the apartment buildings surrounding my hotel.  Semi-tall buildings constructed of steel, glass, brick & wood with a minimalistic look, that’s my type of architecture.  That’s what I like.  I’m cool with living on the 10th floor of a glass box, as long as it’s overlooking the city skyline or a park (& not facing a brick wall or overlooking a dingy mall parking lot).  I was just in awe every time I walked down any number of streets & admired all of the buildings, especially the apartments.  It almost made me want to drop everything & move to PDX straight away…ALMOST.  I also loved how some of the streets in the Pearl District had deck-lined sidewalks.  It kind of made me feel like I was walking on a beach.  Also, I had to visit the Heathman Hotel.  I’ve heard about it through a book series that I recently read. (Yes, yes, I know that book trilogy is becoming a clichéd joke, but please give me a break!)  I just wanted to see if the description matched what I had read, & it did…but also I received many recommendations to have drinks at the Heathman Restaurant & Bar, & they make really delicious cocktails…a perfect place for some pre-cocktail cocktails before you hit up Pepe Le Moko or Kask for some even more delicious pre-dinner booze BEFORE you partake in your evening meal.

 

AND EVERYTHING ELSE!
And finally…the last bits of odds & ends from my trip to Portland.  I’m a bit out of sorts as I finish this post, so I’m just going to make a few bullet points.

  1. Powell’s city of Books is the best place to hang out at 11:30 at night when you are slightly tipsy from “hitting the bottle” since 3pm in the afternoon.
  2. I not-so-discreetly took a snapshot of the 2 really handsome & attractive baristas from Barista (the coffee shop).  This was taken at the NE Alberta St. location. (If only I could whistle…)
  3. Salt N Straw Ice Cream is probably one of the best craft ice creameries I’ve ever tried.  I’d have to say it’s no.3 on my list of favorite craft ice creameries.  My no.1 choice is Humphrey Slocombe from San Francisco, & my no.2 choice is McConnell’s Ice Cream from Santa Barbara, CA.  I don’t really care for the liquid nitrogen made Insta ice creameries.  They’re like the “flash fashion” of the dessert world.
  4. I just had to put in this one tiny little Portlandia reference.  This is a nod to the Tina & Lance “Cacao” sketch from the show.
  5. I saw this really cool “Welcome” sign in Japanese on the door of a sushi restaurant.  It was a nice little touch.  The sign says 「いらっしやいませ」(Irasshaimase) which literally translates to “May I help you?”, but in this context it means “Please come in”.
  6. One night we were sitting in the patio section of Clyde Common eating our dinner when we spotted 2 luxury cars parked out in front.  A couple of guys had rented them for a party, I’m assuming to impress their girlfriends or to possibly try & get laid later that night.  Everyone that walked by, even the partygoers, stopped to take multiple photos in front of this Lamborghini.  I’ll admit, it is a pretty luxury super car.
  7. However, I prefer this R8 over the Lamborghini, hands down.  Performance-wise, the R8 outdoes the Lambo, & I think it looks better than the Lambo, but everbody notices the glitzy Lamborghini first.  I am an Audi fan through-&-through.  Well, I am a slight VAG (Volkswagen Auto Group) fan.  Both Lamborghini & Audi are under the VAG umbrella, so…they’re both pretty awesome cars.
  8. My 6-year old nephew (who lives in Los Angeles) is a HUGE NCAA College Football fanatic.  I don’t even know how he got into college football (maybe from my brother & his dad), but he just loves anything related to football (even the NFL).  He knows more facts & info about college football than most adult men.  My nephew could impress the guys at ESPN for sure.  One of his favorite teams is the University of Oregon Ducks…. So needless to say, I had to rush over to the Ducks Store to get him a few souvenirs.

 

That’s pretty much all from my travels to Stumptown, Bridge City, PDX, Portland… Until next time.  Cheers!

Today’s song of the day:
“Fluorescent Adolescent” by Arctic Monkeys
IMG_8369.PNG

During our stay in Taipei, we stayed at the AMBA Hotel.  It’s a really hip, urban & minimalist hotel located in the very popular 西門町 (Ximending) neighborhood on the west side of the city.  For me, this hotel was the best in terms of amenities, service, location, proximity to public transportation, etc.  I love being smack-dab in the heart of the bustling downtown area of any city, so this hotel was perfect for my taste.  One might think that the hotel may be quite noisy, since it is in the middle of such a busy neighborhood, but to be honest, I couldn’t really hear much outside noise from my hotel room on the 9th floor.  I was planning on taking a ton of pictures of the hotel (& my room) while I was staying at AMBA, but I got so busy with my friends & kept pushing it aside until the last day.   Then on the last day, I just happened to catch a bug of some sort & got really sick.  Luckily the illness only cost me one and a half days of vacation time.  These are the few pictures we took of the hotel…

  1. When you walk into the lobby on the 5th floor, as soon as you exit the elevators you are greeted by a large Tofu-Oyako mural hand-painted by the DevilRobots team.
  2. On the other side of the lobby, facing opposite of the front desk reception booth is the dining area & cafe complete with a hip coffee bar.
  3. Also in the middle of the lobby, under the atrium skylight is the community seats where you can eat your meal from the dining cafe.
  4. Near the elevators is another hand-painted mural of the Ximending skyline.
  5. Next to the Tofu-Oyako mural was this big “5” sculpture, which I assume is for the 5-year anniversary of the hotel (?).
  6. I completely forgot to take pictures of our room, so I borrowed one of my friend’s photos to show a sample of the sleeping area.  The rooms are quite compact, but still highly functional.
  7. There is always a valet at the ground floor elevators to escort you to the lobby on the 5th floor or to help you with directions.
  8. Also on the ground floor was a bakery with outdoor bench seats & patio tables.
  9. The bakery served lots of sweet treats (such as cupcakes, New York style cheesecake, etc.).
  10. In the morning, we would always converge with our friends at the bakery.
  11. There was a really cool 3D moving art piece in the lobby, right next to the lounge.
  12. Speaking of the lounge (Legacy), my husband & I had a few drinks there one night.
  13. The lounge had a swanky, modern, urban vibe.  The lounge often hosted many live performances on the stage.  The backdrop of the stage was covered in denim fabric.
  14. There were many types of hip sofa seats & plush couches scattered about the lounge.
  15. One of the walls were covered in stereo speakers & amplifiers.  This was one of the coolest art installations I’ve ever seen.
  16. Finishing off the night with a “Whisky Old Fashioned” cocktail.

Since I didn’t get to take any pictures of our hotel room, I made a little mock-up drawing of our room layout:

Please excuse my poor drawing skills.

Please excuse my poor drawing skills.

I had so much fun on my trip.  I don’t even know where to begin.  I started my vacation with the intention of blogging photos of each day, but *pffffft*, that obviously DID NOT happen.  Every day was like a whirlwind, & by the time I had gotten back to my hotel room, it was extremely late & I was exhausted.  My two friends who got married had a beautiful wedding (with a few very minor glitches).  I have never experienced a half traditional Taiwanese , half Western mixed wedding before, & my friends pulled it off wonderfully.

One part that really amazed me was that my male friend was asked to sing a song during the wedding reception.  According to my female friend (who is Taiwanese), it is part of a newer type of wedding tradition where the groom is required to prepare & choreograph a special song (of one’s own choice) & sing to the new bride.  I was so happily surprised to see my male friend, who is usually quite shy, get up to sing in front of the entire wedding party.  He chose to sing a popular/well-known Chinese pop song, & he sang the lyrics in Mandarin…which was a feat by itself, since my male friend mainly speaks Cantonese & English & was not very familiar with the Mandarin language until he met his new bride.  He was really great with the choreography too!

Overall, all of us as a group had a really awesome & memorable experience in Taiwan.  For some of us, it was a first-time experience.  For others, it was like visiting familiar territory.  I didn’t go as crazy with the food eating as I had initially thought I would.  However, I DID go a little buck wild with the shopping.  I really wasn’t expecting to do that much shopping in Taiwan.  I gave myself a budget (I did stick to it) & had planned to spend a majority of my shopping budget in Japan…but I could not resist all of the cute stationery popping up around every corner!  I ended up purchasing quite a bit of postcards, greeting cards & sticker sets.  (Yes, I was a bit of a naughty girl.)

I have a special use for all these things, I promise!

I have a special use for all these things, I promise!

Here’s a quick rundown of all the things that happened on the Taiwan leg of our Asia tour…

A glimpse at the food we ate:


01. Won Ton soup noodles
02. Ramen Kagetsu Arashi (花月嵐拉麵) – tonkotsu ramen with onsen egg
03. Japanese beef curry with rice
04. Lion Head meatball (獅子頭 – shi zhi tou)
05. Locally farmed organic chicken with sliced green onions
06. Mini soup dumplings (小籠包 – xiao long bao)
07. Rao He night market – a very popular fried bun filled with minced pork & veggies
08. Fong Da cafe latte – this place is very famous & has been open since 1956!
09. Ice Monster red bean shave ice with ice cream & condensed milk
10. Ice Monster (very popular) mango shave ice with mango sorbet
11. All-you-can-eat hot pot – side A = spicy broth, side B = mild broth
12. You can choose up to 3 types of broth for your hot pot!
13. We celebrated our dear friend’s birthday with a tiramisu Mille Crêpe cake!
14. Believe it or not, Taipei is known for some really good Japanese sushi spots. We topped off our sushi extravaganza with some Negi Toro hand rolls.
15. We visited a 50+ year old beef noodle soup shop to have 紅燒牛肉麵 (hong shao niu rou mian – red roasted beef noodles).
16. Yes, we also tried Shanghainese food in Taiwan. This was some good slow cooked beef with some veggies in a delicious broth.
17. Didn’t get enough veggies yet, so we ordered a steamed cabbage dish
18. Shredded chicken noodle soup
19. Shredded bean curd served cold
20. Small river shrimp with a special vinegar sauce for dipping
21. The best thin rice noodles I’ve ever had at the 阿宗麵線 (Ah Zong Mian Xian – Ah Zong Noodle Line) food stall. No tables, no seats. Everybody just stands around the shop & eats on the sidewalk. You can add your own fresh mince garlic or special hot chili sauce.
22. A plate of duck with a bowl of soup noodles at 鸭肉扁 (Ya Rou Bian – Duck Meat Slice). I found out recently that the meat is actually wild goose, not really duck.

 

MORE PHOTOS AND INFO TO COME…

Well everyone, our short trip to Tokyo has come to an end.  We are now in Guangzhou, China visiting my companion’s relatives.  Since pretty much everything Internet-related is banned here in China (even Word Press), I’m not sure I’ll have much opportunities to post regular entries.  So, I’ve decided to just wrap up my series of Tokyo travel entries with a photo highlight reel of our last days in the land of the rising sun.

We got to experience a lot of different architecture, like this Hotel Gracer with it’s amazing striped façade.

Stopped by the Nissan showroom in Ginza & got to see this custom-made GTR designed specially for Olympic Track & Field gold medalist Usain Bolt.

I made a trip to my favorite clothing brand’s flagship store in Ginza. 12 floors of shopping heaven! For me, it’s UNIQLO all the way…

A common ritual whenever I visit Tokyo is to have an afternoon cake set. In this picture, I had a tiramisu cake with a drip coffee.

My must-have food while in Tokyo is the famous Mille Crêpe cake. I can never get enough of this cake, & I never miss an opportunity to have a slice (or two, or three).

Speaking of cake, I finally got to try the very famous HARBS cafe. What a delight!! This picture was taken at the Lumine 2 shopping mall in Ginza.

I tried their Crêpe a La Carte cake with layers of chocolate, custard & whipped cream filling. The slices were huge…just the way I like it.

My companion ate the Mille Crêpe cake, with banana, cantaloupe, kiwi & apple fruit filling. This was an interesting mix of fruits & custard.

Oh & speaking of cafes, we stopped by Akiba on our last full day in Tokyo & just happened to pass by the official AKB48 cafe. For those of you who don’t know, AKB48 is an extremely popular female singing group from Japan who sing mostly anime-genre songs. They are considered an idol group, as each band member is a pop idol among all of their super fans.

We also stopped by the Gundam cafe, which was right next door to the AKB48 cafe. In case you don’t know this one either, Gundam is a very popular, very legendary, very long-running robot anime series. (This is like the equivalent to Robotech.) Not only are the various anime cartoons/movies popular, but the DIY plastic model hobby kits are also extremely popular all around the world. I have also made a plastic Gundam model kit myself.

Also got to experience some extravagant architecture all around Tokyo. Here is the Bvlgari (Bulgari) store in Ginza. It has a diamond-like snake wrapping around the storefront like a diamond necklace. The snake is one of the animal symbols of the Eastern zodiac. In the Asian community, 2013 will mark the Year of the Snake.

We also got to experience a lot of Christmas decorations being displayed all around town, like at this Cartier shop (also in Ginza), which looks like a wrapped gift. It seemed a bit odd to us Americanized folks to see Christmas decorations so early on, but I guess since the locals in Japan don’t celebrate a Thanksgiving type holiday, right after the Halloween decorations are being put away, the Christmas stuff goes up immediately.

Well, that’s it for now.  I’ll try to post some pictures of my stay here in China.  So far, there hasn’t been much things of interest to see…unless you like pictures of mega shopping malls & high-rise apartments that look like they came from a cheesy 1990s movie set.  Otherwise, cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love to constantly change the desktop background wallpaper on my laptop & my cell phone.  I guess you can say that I’m kind of a fickle person, & cannot settle on one favorite background image & stick with it.  So, I’ve decided to share, yet again, my latest background images for my two best friends: Esteban (my laptop) & my cell phone (which I have not yet named).

(Esteban) laptop background image

cell phone Home screen

cell phone Lock screen

*This is a picture of my nephew & niece.  I’ve blurred out their faces as they are too young, & I would like to get permission from my sister first before posting their full photos here.

As a bonus, here is the background image for my tablet device:

tablet Home screen

tablet Lock screen

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Found a pair of conjoined twins in my basket of berries.  This is rare. 🍓🍓
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