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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

Ok. So, I want to tell you another story about another possible celebrity sighting while I was in London. So far every person I’ve told this story to does not believe my story whatsoever. I wouldn’t expect people to believe my story right away, but I am completely convinced that I saw that guy. Which guy, you ask? Well, grab a cup of coffee, settle in, & let me tell you all about this seemingly impossible celebrity sighting.

You most likely will not believe me. In fact, I am certain you won’t believe me at all. How could you? This celebrity that I sighted is practically unknown around the world outside of Europe & the Middle East. This celebrity is Turkish, & I’ve mentioned him in a blog post a few months ago. I don’t even know how to pronounce his name, but it’s spelled: Kivanç Tatlitug. He was once a big time model in Paris before returning back to Turkey to become a huge TV & movie actor, a national idol & heartthrob.


I first heard about him from watching one of his subtitled TV dramas on Netflix. There have been a lot of Turkish movies & TV dramas popping up on Netflix within the past year, & one day I was browsing Netflix in search of something in the romance genre to watch. I kept seeing this guy’s war-era TV drama popping up on my “suggested things to watch list”, & his face was front & center on the thumbnail image, so that attracted me right away (for obvious reasons). Secondly, I was attracted to the show based on the show’s description. Since that time, I’ve watched this TV drama 3 times. Hey, I won’t deny that Kivanç is nice eye candy for the ladies. 

Anyway, after watching his TV show on Netflix, I decided to do a Google search on him. I found out that he had recently gotten married at the end of last year in Paris to his long-time girlfriend. From reading about his wedding & public information on the internet, I found out that he & his new wife often frequent Paris & London (he still owns a separate flat in Paris). I know it looks like I’m grasping at straws here, but hear me out. I could have sworn I saw Kivanç leaving my hotel in London. Kivanç has distinct facial features & body shape/posture, so even with his shaggy hairstyle & a full, thick beard, it would be relatively easy to spot him. Also, his wife is pretty recognizable as well. Then, when you pair them together, it’s pretty easy to spot them in public.

So, I went out in the morning to grab a quick breakfast before going about my day. I was walking back towards my hotel when I spotted a swanky-looking Audi A7 sedan parked right at the hotel entrance. I’m a huge Audi car fan (I own an Audi of my own), so that’s why I immediately noticed the car. Immediately following, I saw a scruffy man & well-put-together woman walking out of the hotel. The driver of the Audi sedan, which I assume was a hired chauffeur, quickly got out of the car & began putting luggage in the boot of the sedan. The woman quickly kissed the scruffy looking man & headed back inside the hotel. The man proceeded to get into the car. 

I had to wait for my pathway to clear before I could continue walking, so that afforded me a decent amount of time to get a good look at the scruffy gentleman & his lady. I knew immediately that it was the Turkish actor I discovered on Netflix. I kept on walking as though nothing had happened, then proceeded to act like a completely star-struck fangirl in front of Jian. Yet again, Jian had no clue as to who I was talking about. The more I tried to explain about how I recognized the Turkish actor, & how I found out about his TV drama on Netflix, the more confused & disinterested Jian became. 

I admit, what guy wants to hear a woman ramble on & on about some obscure male actor? If I’m not talking about a swimsuit model with big boobs like Kate Upton, or some hot actress like Alexandra Daddario, or Anna Kendrick, or Jennifer Lawrence, Jian will most likely tune me out. He doesn’t want to hear me fangirl over some random sighting of a Turkish actor he’s never heard of in his life. Also, Jian is a hard person to convince, especially when it comes to sightings of famous people, even more so if it’s a famous person he doesn’t recognize. He did not for one second believe that I spotted Kivanç Tatlitug (let alone his new wife) in London. I’ve told other family members, like my sister-in-law, who also didn’t believe me right away, since the way in which I know if this actor is a bit of a stretch. Yeah, I will admit that this isn’t six degrees of separation. This is more like sixteen degrees of separation, but I don’t care what others say. I truly believe that I saw Turkish model/actor Kivanç Tatlitug on the street in London. 

One of the biggest things I should point out is that the hotel I stayed at: the EDITION London, is extremely well-known for celebrity sightings. One of the factors for Jian choosing this hotel when we first booked our trip was because he had heard that model Cara Delevigne frequented the bar at the famous restaurant Berners Tavern at our hotel. Also, on one of the nights we were drinking g at the Lobby Bar at our hotel, we had also overheard from another American hotel guest sitting next to us that celebrity chef Bobby Flay was staying at the hotel at the same time as us. That bolstered my belief that Kivanç & his wife could have been staying at our hotel. I am sure of it, even if nobody else believes me. I am sticking to my story & that is all I will say. Until next time, cheers mates!

Today’s song of the day:

“Cold Cold Cold” by Cage The Elephant



I never knew I’d fall in love like this. I never knew how closed-minded I was until now. I used to be so set in my ways & opinions. I always stood my ground on my opinion that Tokyo was my most favorite city in the whole world & no other place could come close in comparison. Man, I really proved myself wrong on so many levels during this past trip to London. London completely blew my mind away & has quickly become my new favorite city in the whole world. I know that’s quite a bold statement to make, but I cannot stress enough how much & how strongly I’ve fallen in love with this incredible city!

First things first, I would like to address one small elephant in this blog post. Jian doesn’t do tourist traps or stuffy museums, but he wholeheartedly went for it on this trip. I guess it helped that all of our friends, who at one point in their lives lived in London, strongly encouraged us to take advantage of the free admission at museums & soak up all the rich British history. Another interesting thing I wanted to note, Jian was the one who was most looking forward to eating & exploring all the food options in London, but came back feeling a little disappointed with his food experiences. I, on the other hand, was not expecting too much culinary-wise. I was excited to try a few traditionally British foods like fish & chips & meat pie, but otherwise I was mostly hoping I wouldn’t get sick on this trip since sometimes I can get a sensitive stomach (e.g. my first trip to New York). However, I was the one who ended up having the most fun eating my way around London. I mostly loved all of the food we ate, while Jian had a few critiques here & there.

I wish I had taken a few more food photos, but I’m not one of those exasperating “foodies” (I detest that term) who takes a hundred trendy food selfies at restaurants & food trucks. I can’t stand it when people, especially from my generation, spend more time artfully arranging the food & taking photos than actually enjoying eating the mother cussing food. I will say there was one incident when Jian & I were eating supper at a seafood restaurant, & a group of middle-aged women from Hong Kong were not only behaving obnoxiously but also being downright inconsiderate to the other diners at the nice restaurant by walking around their table taking flash photography (with a creepy plastic toy doll) & talking loudly. Jian was about to turn around & tell these ladies in Cantonese to stop taking photos, but by that time we were nearly done with our dinner & he didn’t want to start a fight with feisty middle-aged Cantonese women who won’t back down from confrontation. Other diners had asked the waiter if he could politely ask the ladies to turn off the flash on their smartphone cameras. These ladies were extremely inconsiderate, & im glad we left before they could annoy us even more.

I truly enjoyed our food experiences in London, even though Jian was disappointed at times. We really got to try a variety of foods which kind of surprised me because I was expecting that we’d eat more pub food, but there were so many culinary choices just around our hotel alone that we had no problems choosing a place to eat. There’s still a lot of food I would love to go back & try, but I think what we had was a goog first time exploration of food.

  • We ate Japanese ramen twice at 2 different places. First at Bone Daddies Ramen Bar, then at Shoryu. Bone Daddies was one of the meals that really let us down. We were not happy with the ramen at all. The broth was bland & the noodles were mediocre. The only part of the ramen I liked was the grilled corn I added to my ramen. Shoryu on the other hand was a hands-down winner. Our friends were seriously pushing us to eat there, so we caved in & took their recommendation & was not disappointed. The ramen chef at Shoryu came directly from Japan to open up his first International restaurant, & it was a success. I have to say though, the hitting of a taiko drum every time someone walked in to the restaurant was a little cheesy. Other than that, the ramen was pretty good.

Hakata-style ramen from Shoryu

  • Sticking to the topic of noodles, we also ate Vietnamese Phở for lunch one day. There is a hip-looking Vietnamese restaurant one block down the street from our hotel, & we passed by it several times before actually eating there. There was one day when Jian was seriously hungover from overly drinking the night before. I was feeling the effects of the alcohol as well, but was by no means hungover. (I don’t know how I managed to avoid a hangover while Jian had a nasty hangover.) All we wanted was a nice, hot plate of comfort food to ease Jian’s hangover symptoms, so we opted for a bowl of Phở. Jian was disappointed with his Bún bò Huế, saying it was too salty, but I thoroughly enjoyed my regular Phở. I’m not really a fan of the Northern Vietnamese thick noodles, but it was a good cure for all the crazy antics we got up to the night before.
  • We also ate traditional pub fare at a place where I forgot the name, but apparently it was located in an historical building that was built from the 1800s. Jian got what he wished for & had the quintessential bangers & mash, while I had a steaming hot chicken pot pie. We washed that down with 2 pints of beer & rested our tired feet after walking all day. The food was hearty & gave us our second wind back so we could head out for a night of bar crawling.
  • We ate fish & chips at a pub (Princess of Wales, I think that’s what the place was called) on one of our first full days in London, right after I recovered from my short allergy spell the day before. We shared a small platter of fish & chips along with a pint of pale ale for him & a pint of cider for me (because I love apples). I love how the cod batter was crispy but didn’t taste greasy. I was nervous before the trip that I’d end up eating too much greasy fried food on this trip, but I was lucky enough to adjust my eating habits.
  • One of our favorite meals was at a restaurant called Blacklock. I would probably call this place a modern chop house, definitely a carnivore’s paradise. We ate so many different types of “chops” at Blacklock, we ended up eating there twice on our trip. Also, the cocktails were only 5£, so there’s that too. The chops were perfectly cooked, & they come in different sizes, so you can eat a variety of meats without stuffing yourself silly. They had small 3oz portions they called “skinny chops” that most diners ordered a platter of them to share, so Jian & I did just that. We had a varietyof beef, lamb, & pork cuts plus a side of beef drippings chips (a.k.a. French fries cooked in beef gristle). The beef drippings chips were by far the best French fries I’ve ever eaten in my life, & I can say that with complete confidence.

 

super yummy menu from Blacklock

  • Who knew that we’d end up eating Scandinavian open-faced sandwiches in London? Well, we also didn’t expect to visit London during one of the country’s most important holidays: Easter. On Easter Sunday, most shops & restaurants were obviously closed, except for a few Sunday Roast places which requires advanced reservations. However, we found one Scandinavian deli, called Scandinavian Kitchen, that was open for lunch, & we wanted to eat something light so we’d have some energy for the day but also an appetite for dinner & supper. The open-faced sandwiches were amazing. I could not believe how much caviar they put on their smoked salmon sandwich!! I mean, they put a heaping dollop of delicious caviar! In America, caviar is extremely expensive. It’s also considered a high society, upper-crust delicacy, not meant for the lower-crust masses. So, when I saw how much caviar this deli used on their extremely inexpensive open-faced sandwiches, I was blown away. Although this was a casual, on-a-whim lunch, this was one of our most memorable meals…props to the caviar!
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example of Scandinavian Kitchen’s open-faced sandwiches courtesy of Yelp.com

  • On our very first day, touching the soils of London, we ate at a restaurant called Mac & Wild. It was very basic British fare, but it was so well made, it was Jian’s most memorable & most favorite meal of our entire trip. We shared a cup of beef broth, which Jian vividly recalls came in an actual mug, & it was a broth made from beef bones & slow cooked for 48 hours. I ordered a grilled polenta dish & Jian ordered a lamb dish,  up it was the cup of beef broth that really made the meal special. I was having really bad allergies that day with a runny, sniffling, stuffed up nose & low energy, so a cup of soup was just the ticket to help me recover faster.

exterior of Mac & Wild

  • Remember when I mentioned those annoying ladies taking personal photos at the seafood restaurant? Well, how about I talk about that seafood restaurant instead? It was called Wright Brothers, & it was the best seafood we’ve had in a long time. I mean based on the value, it was well worth the stuffed bellies & food coma. We paid 59£ for a deluxe seafood platter which included: razor clams, snails w/ shell, mussels, clams, langoustines, shrimp w/ head, oysters, & a whole crab. According to London Yelp standards, this place is supposed to be expensive, like $$$$ (4 dollar signs) expensive, but look. Jian & I are from San Francisco, California where the price of everything is eye-popping expensive, so these prices did not seem that crazy to us. We had a great time feasting on this culinary explosion from the sea. Then, we were just insane enough to order a side of pomme frites (a.k.a. a fancy French term for fries/chips), which we could barely eat because we were already stuffed to the gills. Oh God, I just realized I wrote a lame pun there.
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the deluxe platter (a.k.a. seafood explosion) at Wright Brothers

  • Oh I just have to mention my new favorite bake shop called Crosstown Doughnuts!! Once you have a doughnut (I don’t like to say “donut”) from Crosstown, you’ll NEVER go back to Krispy Kreme, or Dunkin, or Voodoo, or Blue Star, or Mr. Holmes ever again. I know that’s an awfully bold statement to make, but I will proclaim it proudly, here & now. I am a huge fan of doughnuts. I’ve been eating them ever since I was a little kid & my mom would bring home a box of a dozen doughnuts from Happy Doughnuts (a former chain shop in the Bay Area). After Krispy Kreme’s popularity skyrocketed, Happy Doughnuts closed a lot of their locations, & I never found a doughnut shop that I liked after that. It wasn’t until I took a trip to Portland, Oregon, when I found a renewed love for doughnuts. No, I did not go to the severely over-hyped Voodoo Doughnuts (just one look at their photos & I knew there’s too much sickly sweetness in their kitschy doughnuts). I went to Blue Star Doughnuts, & I was so surprised at how much I enjoyed eating doughnuts. I was never able to find a comparable doughnut in the California Bay Area since then. Mr. Holmes Bakehouse is pretty close I guess. They do have a good quality doughnut batter, but it wasn’t until I traveled halfway across the country, when this doughnut changed my life forever. So fresh, so delicious, & not overly sweet. I really wanted to eat Crosstown doughnuts everyday for breakfast, but Jian wouldn’t let me, so we only ended up eating there twice. I did, however, manage to stop by there on the day we were leaving & grab 2 more doughnuts to bring back home. Yes, folks. I was so in love with these doughnuts, & so determined, that I hand-carried these 2 doughnuts (one classic glazed & one chocolate truffle) on the plane & brought them home with me. I was so surprised that not only did these doughnuts maintain their shape, but also their freshness. I didn’t eat the doughnuts immediately. I put them in a food saver container & ate them 2 days later. It sounds gross the way I’m describing it, but let me tell you, they were still good days later.
  • Aside from eating whole meals, we also ate many delicious snacks along the way. One such snack that blew our minds came from a Jamón Iberico butcher/deli shop 2 blocks down the street from our hotel called Enrique Tomas Jamon Iberico Shop. Most places in the United States (like an artisanal butcher shop, Spanish restaurant, or even Costco) that offer this fatty, salty, delicious cured ham treat sell a few slivers for nearly an arm & a leg. This specific cured ham charcuterie is muy caro! For example, my brother took my mom to a Spanish restaurant in San Diego for her birthday. He ordered the Jamón Iberico,  & SIX slices cost him $300 USD!! My mom nearly fainted at the price. Costco, the giant American megastore also sells this jamón in a slim, 5oz, shrink wrapped package for $26 USD. On our trip to London, we kept walking past this jamón deli everyday & promising ourselves that we would eat there at least one time before we go home. Jian & I are huge fans of charcuterie meats, especially Jamón Iberico & prosciutto, so it was only a matter of time before we ended up at this place,  which was packed from floor to ceiling with different types of jamón & different cuts lining the display window enticing our senses. One late night we were walking back to our hotel to retire for the evening. Lots of shops had already long since closed & many restaurants were also preparing to call it a night. We were walking by the jamón shop when the guys working there noticed us staring from across the street. They shouted at us to come inside & grab a few slices. I was all for it, but Jian stopped me saying that we shouldn’t bother them if they were closing for the night. The 2 guys said they didn’t mind staying open for us, so we ran across the street to grab a late night snack. We chose a cone of jamón bits, & to our shock, it only cost us 7£!!!! What in the world?! Did we slip into an alternate universe where everything was affordable priced?! We paid for our delicious ham, profusely thanked the gentlemen who were so kind to stay & chat with us for a bit before closing. We brought our special ham back to our hotel, plopped our tired derrières at the Lobby Bar counter & continued our late night with some phenomenal cocktails to pair with our cured treat. Not only because of the extremely affordable price, but also because of its sheer deliciousness, I will never forget this experience for as long as I live.

Photo courtesy of Yelp.com

  • Have I ever mentioned how much Jian & I love to drink coffee? We love this artisanal craft roast coffee movement that’s popular right now, but we will also patronize big box chain Starbucks, & if need be will grudgingly drink instant coffee. We wouldn’t call ourselves coffee snobs, even though we hail from San Francisco, one of the epicenters of the artisanal coffee roasting trend. However, we do appreciate a good quality coffee bean roast. Of course some of the best & most memorable/life changing coffee we’ve ever had was in Portland, Oregon. We probably had coffee at least twice a day when we visited Portland. We also bought several bags of beans to bring home. How could you not drink coffee in Portland when you’re right at the heart of the artisanal coffee trend, with the likes of Heart, Barista, Coava, Stumptown, Sterling, & many more of coffee roasting’ greatest hits. We’ve also had some pretty good coffee in Hong Kong at Omotesandō Koffee & The Coffee Academics. We’ve also tried coffee in Japan right at the start of their craft coffee movement at notable places such as: Streamer Coffee, Identity Coffeebar + Gallery, Little Nap Coffee Stand, Be A Good Neighbor. Who knew we’d extend our craft coffee tour in London with some awesome coffee from Soho Grind, TAP Coffee, Caravan Coffee, & shops like Flat White & Kaffeine. Oh man, every morning we looked forward to having breakfast with a hot cuppa joe. Jian’s caffeinated drink of choice is usually a macchiato, & I like to drink lattes, but we both fell in love with flat whites (not necessarily from the shop Flat White). Flat whites are my new favorite espresso drink. My favorite part about drinking coffee in London is that their coffee cup sizes are the exact same as in Asia, especially Japan….small. A regular cup size of take away coffee in London is still slightly smaller than a child/junior/short size in America. I love that because it’s so much more manageable than the average small cup size back home. For example, when I order coffee at Starbucks, I always choose the child size, which they call a short size. I still can never fully finish this cup, & by the time I reach the bottom, the coffee has already become soggy/watered-down & cold. The coffee sizes in London are small enough that you get just the right amount of a caffeine fix to power you through the morning & the spdrink stays hot until you reach the bottom of the cup.
  • One of the last meals we ate before we had to pack up our suitcases & head home was a nice little chain restaurant called Burger & Lobster. From what I’ve heard, this restaurant started in New York City, but they’ve opened a few locations scatered around central London. We ate at the Harvey Nichols department store in the exclusive Belgravia district/neighborhood. Jian ordered the traditional lobster roll, while I went for the more meatier whole lobster. Both of our lobster dishes came with a cup of refreshing mixed greens salad & a side of French fries. The lobster was delicious, & you probably don’t already know this but I am a huge fan of lobster. I mean, it’s my favorite type of seafood. However, I’d definitely say my favorite part of the dish was the super creamy clarified butter sauce that came with my lobster. The eatery gives you a hearty portion in a gravy boat perfect for dipping your lobster meat, or for slathering your entire plate in a fatty, buttery gravy. I thoroughly enjoyed eating my whole lobster. It’s my favorite way to enjoy lobster, but I dislike when the shell is too hard to crack. I was having a really difficult time cracking my lobster shell, mostly because the shell, especially the claw, was so thick. It was quite literally as hard as a rock. I was almost tempted to ask for a hammer/mallot, or just place the claw on the floor & smash it with my foot. But…I perservered & kept going. Eventually, after soaking my figertips in clarified butter, I was able to finish my entire lobster from head to tail. If I ever get a chance to go back to New York, I would really like to track down the original chain of Burger & Lobster, if they’re still around in the States.
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photo courtesy of Yelp.com

 

 

I will sum up our London food exploration by saying I had a great time eating my way through London. Jian, however, was quite dissatisfied & unenthused about the food. He felt some of the food we ate was a bit too salty or bland. Not very many dishes wowed him, except for the bone broth soup from Mac & Wild & possibly the seafood platter from Wright Brothers. Let me just say in Jian’s defense, that he’s not a picky eater, but he is hard to impress. I, on the other hand, am a picky eater, but I’m not hard to impress, usually. I went on this trip with the preconceived idea that I would not find very many things that I would like to eat. I was putting doubts in my own mind, making myself think that there would be a lot of weird or exotic food that maybe Jian would want to try, but I would not be interested in. That was not the case, at all. I pretty much loved all the things we ate (except for the Bone Daddies ramen). There are a few places, like Yauatcha, The Breakfast Club, The Duck & Rice, & Blanchette for example, that I’d like to go back & try.

Stay tuned for more of my London vacation blog! This food exploration was only the begining… Until then, cheers mates!

Today’s song of the day:

“Friendship (Is A Small Boat In The Storm) by Chicano Batman

friendship is a small boat in the storm.jpg

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