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Today it’s raining pretty heavily (& steadily, I might add). It’s a perfect day to sit down with a big cup of coffee & hammer out a blog post. So, guess what I did before I went to Taipei? Well, while Jian was busy looking up all the different places we could stop to have food &/or cocktails, I was busy researching various stationery shops I could visit to grab some supplies for my ever-growing horde of arts & crafts supplies. I love getting stationery & craft supplies whenever I visit Asia. I find them more functional & cuter (& sometimes more affordable) than the stuff you can find in the States.

Man, I think I’ve already talked about this a couple of times before, but it’s so much more affordable to go on a stationery spree in Asia & bring back my haul than to buy all of the same stuff on the internet or at an import stationery shop here in the States. For example, if I want to buy a sheet of stickers, they’re usually marked up $1 to $2 dollars more than if I just wait to go back & visit family back in Asia. As much as I make it seem, I don’t actually travel back to Asia very often. So, I don’t really make big hauls like this that often. I try to keep the things I choose very functional & practical. I tell myself over & over to only choose the things I absolutely need, but sometimes I don’t listen to myself, & I end up purchasing a few frivolous items as well.

So, are you sitting down? Do you have time to read this ridiculous post? You might want to grab a comfy chair & something to drink. With my ability to go on & on & on, you’ll probably be here a while.

Let me start this off with Paddington Bear. I’ve loved this little illustrated, Britt-y bear ever since I was a young child. If you’ve seen my Instagram feed, then you’ve probably seen my stuffed Paddington doll. I used to love watching the children’s program on the PBS channel & reading the books. I don’t know the exact story as to how I came to possess this delightful bear, but I believe my brother brought it back as a souvenir for me when he took a trip to London. I’ve always cherished this bear & took gentle care of it. It’s because of this furry Brit that I’ve grown to love orange marmalade & baths. I also love London!

I love collecting postcards. I’ve probably got over 300 that I’ve collected since I was a teenager. These two were kind of one of those frivolous purchases. I know I don’t actually need them, but I couldn’t resist getting them when the graphics on the front include two of my favorite themes: Paddington & London. Each of these postcards cost $1.50 USD, so I didn’t feel to guilty “splurging” on them.

I love writing myself notes & reminders on paper. I find it so much more practical than setting a reminder or calendar alert on my smartphone because for one thing, I tend to neglect regularly checking my phone for notifications. Also, I can’t press the “snooze button” on a paper note. I can tape these notes anywhere they’d be most visible (& hard to ignore), like on my bathroom mirror, or on top of my car keys.

I have a lot of little generic blank notepads & Post-It ™ pads, but what could be cuter than a Paddington Bear themed notepad?? Shinzi Katoh is one of my favorite illustrators, & I love all of his products, but those products are so incredibly expensive to buy where I live. Don’t even get me started on buy this stuff on the internet. The prices are usually double the retail price. This notepad only cost me $3 bucks, & its got lots of pages, so it’s well worth the effort to get it.

Oh my gahhh, what is this hole I’ve dug myself into with these cute-as-cuss hand towels?!?! I think I swore up & down last time that I wouldn’t add to my pile of hand towels, but I was lying (mostly to myself). How do you expect me to resist this cuddly brown bear? And beefeaters? And Union Jack flags? Annnd Paddington’s suitcase filled with jars of delicious marmalade?! Well, this guy came home with me anyway. I love this & cannot wait to use it.

November is calendar & planner/diary/journal season in Asia. Every bookstore &/or stationery shop will have at least two shelves stocked floor-to-ceiling with these guys. I love buying calendars in Asia mostly because of the variety of functionality, sizes, shapes, & themes. Paper calendars are my favorite way to write down important dates & upcoming appointments. It helps keep my life organized in a fun way. Plus, I love decorating them with stickers & my poor attempts at drawing.

The best part about Asian calendars are the large squares in which you can write things down. It really irks me when a calendar page has a large graphic that takes up ¾ of the page & the actual dates are written in small letters at the bottom. I like calendars with larger spaces for you to write things down. This calendar has a quirky theme of polar bears, penguins, & panda bears doing random everyday things. My favorite part of this calendar is how clear & concise the numbers & months are written.

Ok, so this calendar is not exactly mine. I know what I just said about these types of calendars, but this calendar is not for writing down information. This is just a generic calendar that will be placed in a common space in our home, mostly to accommodate my mom. My mom is always occupying our common space, & she’s always grabbing the calendar to look at dates. I always put a calendar every year in this common space for my mom to use. It’s become a fun tradition that I get her a new viewing calendar every year. She likes to wait & see what designs I get each year.

I got this calendar at a new home goods shop that recently opened in Taipei called Niko And… . This shop was so fun to explore. We got there right when they first opened, & it’s such an inviting store. One-third of the store is a craft coffee shop brewing fresh pour-over coffees & espresso drinks with delicious fresh baked pastries. The other third of the store is dedicated to young men’s & women’s fast fashion. The last third of the store was all housewares & miscellaneous goods. That’s where I got this mini calendar. Jian helped me pick this out. He liked the colorful illustrations of everyday objects.

I got this Snoopy calendar for the home office desk where the family PC resides. My family & I are big time Peanuts fans (maybe we’re Snoopy-philes), so I thought this would be cute on our shared workspace. There were a few Snoopy calendar choices, but I chose this one because it looked the least busy, yet still colorful & whimsical. I also went for the large squares style, so we could all write shared family events & appointments if we wanted to. You know, on an unrelated note, I always wanted a beagle dog when I was a kid. I specifically wanted a white one with black ears & a black patch on the rump, but I heard those breeds of beagles don’t exist, so…we don’t have a dog.

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I’m trying to learn how to stamp. I go to the arts & crafts store Paper Source, & I get so envious when I see their handmade-by-the-staff greeting card samples. I always wished I could make a greeting card with stamps, but I could never get the stamp pattern/graphic to look straight, or get the letters to match up. Then, while I was browsing the shop Tools to Live By, I saw this stamp printing kit. I grabbed this kit, thinking that I could make a lot of envelope labels. (I don’t like my sloppy handwriting anyway.) I don’t think you can clearly see in my photo, but this kit comes with both sets of Uppercase & Lowercase alphabet letters, as well as numbers & basic punctuation marks. I’m so relieved that this stamp comes with various plates as guides, which make it so much easier to stamp words in a straight line. I can’t wait to use this kit on future correspondence!

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This is not quite a stationery related item, but I did get it at the stationery store Plain Stationery & Homeware Café. It looks & feels quite generic & flimsy (being that it’s made of lightweight plastic), but it’s very practical & useful. After all, it is an emergency whistle. I used to have a generic metal coach’s whistle on my keychain that was given to me by my mom, but somehow I lost it. I’ve always thought that it is good to carry a whistle, so that I can signal someone (or make a loud noise/distraction) in case I get in a bad situation. I really like the sleek look of this whistle & how slim it is, so it fits perfectly on my keychain. Also, don’t underestimate this whistle. While it may look flimsy & small, it produces a nice loud sound when used.

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I love coffee themed stationery, & Tools to Live By had a ton of them. I tried to only choose the items I thought I would get the most use out of. One of those such items was this octagonal notepad. I love the minimalist design with a simple navy blue graphic on the cover. I especially love the phrase written on the cover, “Great ideas start with coffee”. I tend to agree with that statement, which is probably why I’m slightly addicted to coffee. As I’m writing this blog post, I’ve already started using this notepad. The paper has a nice weight & thickness to it. The sheets are thin, but not too thin that pen ink will bleed through. I tend to jot down a lot of little notes & numbers when I’m sitting at my computer, especially when I’m trying to copy or remember a color code to use on Photoshop. This is a great notepad for just such a use!

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Circling back to my blurb about stamping, I got these three miniature stamps. They’re so tiny it’ll probably be hard to see the image once it is stamped, but I’m determined to improve my stamping skills. I got these three stamps at Plain Stationery & Homeware Café, & when I saw them I had so many crafting ideas flowing through my thoughts. One idea I had was to use one of these stamps on the corner of an envelope or card & draw something around it. I still haven’t decided how I’m going to use these stamps yet, but I’m excited to try them out.

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Let’s get to the meat of the haul…the stickers. First off, these are three random decals I got from various places (listed in the photo). The first two decals (the holographic decal from United Arrows & Sons & the angry Donald Duck decal from Faith) were free. The round decal with the campfire only cost me $0.75 cents USD, & I got that one at Niko And… . I’ve already started using these stickers & have plastered them all over my belongings. One of these decals I’ve already affixed to my beloved crafting box that I’ve named Trevor. What can I say? I like to put stickers & labels all over my personal objects.

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I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say once again that I’m not particularly fond of flake stickers (a.k.a. individually die cut stickers). They’re often too small & thin, & it’s hard to peel off the backing. However, I found two sets of flake stickers that I thought  were too cool to pass up. I have a set of stickers on my phone’s photo editing app that’s of random middle-aged men working out & doing various weird athletic poses. It’s called Middle-Aged Sports Club. Those stickers are so hilarious to use every time I’m editing a photo for Instagram. These flake stickers totally reminded me of those guys on my app. It cracks me up every time I look at them. I also love how each guy has a random name. Even thinking about it now makes me chuckle.

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One of my favorite Japanese foods is お握り(a.k.a. rice balls). My aunts back in Japan make the best rice balls I’ve ever eaten. They’re able to make the rice so fluffy & delicious. I’ve made rice balls on my own before for my mom’s friends, & I was quite proud of them, especially since they all said they really enjoyed them.

I saw these flake stickers of various rice balls, & I fell in love with them. I’m kind of disappointed that the pickled radishes, though, look like rolls of gold coins. They’re supposed to be lines of sliced pickled radishes (& yes, the radishes are a bright yellow color when they’re pickled). My dad loved pickled radishes, but I don’t particularly like them. However, like my dad, I do enjoy the pickled plum..but only when they’re mixed with rice. Alone, pickled plums can be too sour for my taste, so I like eating them in rice balls to cut down the sour taste. On another note, the steam pots of rice don’t look like what they’re supposed to be unless you really look at them closely. The wooden rice paddles look like deflated khaki balloons. I think my favorite sticker out of the whole set is the rice bowl. I particularly love the raw egg at the top of the rice. It’s so cute!

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I’m terrible at keeping promises to myself. I said that I wouldn’t buy any more washi tape, but I ended up getting more. Oh my cuss, I have to tell you something about washi tape. In Taipei, washi tape is so popular. They’re at every bookstore & stationery store. When I visited Eslite Bookstore’s flagship store, there was a whole room on one floor dedicated to only washi tape in various sizes, patterns, & every color imaginable. There’s even tape sizes large enough to be used as gift wrapping paper. I was so overwhelmed at all the varieties of washi tape, & I was determined at the start of my trip to not cave in, but once those happy endorphins start coursing through your body, you can’t help but feel very itchy to grab all the cute things you see & plop them in your shopping basket.

As you may recall, I said earlier that I love coffee related stationery, so when I was atTools to Live By, I picked up these two washi tapes that were exclusively designed by the shop. I thought I might not be able to get these patterns of washi tape anywhere else (online or otherwise), so I snapped them up without even giving it a second thought. When I saw the fruits & veggies washi tape, at first I thought the pattern was rosette flowers with lose leaves. It wasn’t until I actually started using the tape (yes, I’ve already used it) when I finally noticed the pattern. As for the roses with stripes, I just loved the vibrant colors. Most of the washi tapes I have are solid colors with no patterns, so this one seemed like a good choice to round out my selection of paper tapes.

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I also hauled a bunch of sticker sheets from various stationery stores all over Taipei. Since I got new calendars I wanted to get stickers I could use on my calendar, like labels & infographics. I like adding sticker details on my calendars to fill up the blank squares, & to make my upcoming appointments look at least somewhat appealing.

As for the two sets of neon animal stickers, I don’t know exactly why I chose them. It’s like the “shiny nickel” effect happening here. When you’re on your way to do something specific, but you see a shiny nickel off on the side & divert your attention to go after the nickel. That’s what happened here. I was looking at one section of the store when these guys came into view. Thus my attention was averted, & I ended up bringing them home with me.

One of my favorite illustrated characters from the San-X brand is the adorable sock-wearing black kitten Kutsusitanyanko. Whenever I see a new set of Kutusitanyanko stickers, I get them. This is probably my favorite set of stickers out of the bunch. In my paper crafting projects, I probably use my Kutusitanyanko stickers the most.

Finally, I got a sheet of Mount Fuji stickers. Every time I see a set of Mt. Fuji stickers, I always waffle on whether to buy them or not. This time, I decided to get a sheet once & for all. When I look at them, I am reminded so much of my dad, who used to hike up the trailways of Mt. Fuji in Japan with his Boy Scout/Eagle Scout troop. My dad was the troop leader of his Eagle Scout troop, & they often hiked up Mt. Fuji & camping around the area. My dad used to tell me lots of stories when I was a kid about his hikes up Mt. Fuji with his troop, & those stories have stayed vividly in my mind even until today. Oh man, I love to hear all of the adventures my dad went on when he was living in Japan.

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I love getting birthday cards & random greeting cards in Asia. The varieties are endless, & the designs are much cuter than anything at Hallmark. Plus, they’re sometimes cheaper. Well, I know the pop-up cards are cheaper. Most of the pop-up cards here in the U.S. can cost anywhere between $6 to $10 USD for one. These two pop-up birthday cards I bought in Taipei only cost me $7 USD for both.

Whenever I travel back to Asia (as in Japan), I like to stock up on all sorts of greeting cards & share them with my mom. We have a large family with lots of birthdays throughout the year, & we both have lots of activities on our schedules that might require a nice card for the host(ess). I’ve already used one of the cards from this stack (I used the coffee card to send to a friend). That shows you how often I use greeting cards.

…And here is my pièce de résistance. I always look for new pen styles & ink colors when I go stationery shopping in Asia. I mostly look for styles & colors that are hard to find back at home. For example, 4 years ago (the last time I visited Tokyo), was the first time I saw the Pilot Frixion Ball Gel Ink pens. I bought a few of the pens along with the ink refills. I didn’t see this series of pen in the U.S. until 2 years after I had already bought my pens.

This series of pens that I bought (shown in the photo above), the Zebra Sarasa Gel Ink Clip, is pretty common. You can easily buy them online or at the import stationery shop, & they’re approximately the same price everywhere. However, when I go overseas I try to look for the limited edition colors or sets (like the Kumamon &/or Japanese Culture sets shown in my photo). I saw these pastel colors & could not resist them. I don’t see these colors very often in the stationery shops where I live, so if I see them elsewhere, I will snap them up quickly.

This will probably be the last of the Zebra Sarasa pens that I will buy for a long time. However, I’ll definitely get more ink refills. This series of pen is my favorite, so far, to write with. The pens come in various thicknesses from super thin (0.3mm) to heavy thickness (1.0mm), but the best part is that even if you use the super thin pen, the tip will not scratch or tear the paper. Also the ink does not bleed through, & the gel ink writes smoothly without patchiness or blotchy ink spots.

Well, this pretty much concludes my stationery haul post. That was as long for me to write as it was for you guys to read. I hope I made some sort of sense somehow. I tend to over explain sometimes, & Jian says I use too many examples to explain something simple. Like I’ve mentioned before, if you want to see more photos & get real-time updates on all my travels & adventures, you can follow my Instagram feed. Until then, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

“Brick Yellow” by BLAZO

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.

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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 husband & I were so excited to visit Taipei for the first time, we definitely were planning on going nuts with our camera & take tons of photos.  Here are some of the best highlights of our photo album.

Yes, graffiti is everywhere.  It’s not really a shocking thing in most countries, but we were still excited to see street art throughout the city.  This type of art really amazes us, & these big murals are so cool.

Like I’ve mentioned before, my female friend who got married is from Taipei.  She was showing our big group of friends around town, & as we were walking to the subway station, we passed by this small shop selling funny t-shirts.  All of us thought these two shirts in particular was very fitting for the occasion.  The first shirt on the left says “My husband is the greatest”.  The second shirt on the right says “My wife is never wrong”.  Our group thought it would be funny to buy these shirts for our friends who were getting married that weekend, so they could wear them on their wedding day.  Alas, they begged us not to get them, so we didn’t end up buying them.  It would have been a funny story if we did get those shirts!

It was very interesting to see new/modern buildings mixed in with the older/traditional buildings.  The city itself is quite clean & orderly, however, the older buildings feel a little run-down & worn-out.  This is quite a dramatic contrast against the vibrant background of the bustling cityscape.

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.

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Apparently @oasis wrote my fortune cookie fortune. 🥠
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#DontLookBackInAnger #song #TrackName #Oasis #90sband #RockBand #legends #BandsOfInstagram #FortuneCookie #fortune #message #funny #LOL #lunch #PandExpress #FastFood #LineCamera They say the devil’s water, it ain’t so sweet. You don’t have to drink right now... 🎵
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#WhenYouWereYoung #song #TrackName #AliceMerton #WalkTheMoon #FosterThePeople #Weezer #TheKillers #NotSoSilentNight #OracleArena #Live105 #Oakland #SF #SaturdayNight #InShotApp #concert #music #fun #BestNightEver #FavoriteBands #HappyHolidays #BandsOfInstagram #latergram @thekillers @live105 It’s funny how you just break down, waiting on some sign... 🎵
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#ReadMyMind #song #TrackName #AliceMerton #WalkTheMoon #FosterThePeople #Weezer #TheKillers #NotSoSilentNight #OracleArena #Live105 #Oakland #SF #SaturdayNight #InShotApp #concert #music #fun #BestNightEver #FavoriteBands #HappyHolidays #BandsOfInstagram #latergram @thekillers @live105 My sign is vital, my hands are cold... 🎵
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#Human #song #TrackName #AliceMerton #WalkTheMoon #FosterThePeople #Weezer #TheKillers #NotSoSilentNight #OracleArena #Live105 #Oakland #SF #SaturdayNight #InShotApp #concert #music #fun #BestNightEver #FavoriteBands #HappyHolidays #BandsOfInstagram #latergram @thekillers @live105 What are you waiting for, a kiss or an apology? 🎵
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#RunForCover #song #TrackName #AliceMerton #WalkTheMoon #FosterThePeople #Weezer #TheKillers #NotSoSilentNight #OracleArena #Live105 #Oakland #SF #SaturdayNight #InShotApp #concert #music #fun #BestNightEver #FavoriteBands #HappyHolidays #BandsOfInstagram #latergram @thekillers @live105 But I hear those voices at night sometimes... 🎵
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#Spaceman #song #TrackName #AliceMerton #WalkTheMoon #FosterThePeople #Weezer #TheKillers #NotSoSilentNight #OracleArena #Live105 #Oakland #SF #SaturdayNight #InShotApp #concert #music #fun #BestNightEver #FavoriteBands #HappyHolidays #BandsOfInstagram #latergram @thekillers @live105

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