Friday, April 18, 2014

Taiwan Day 2: Jianguo Holiday Flower and Jade market, Longshan temple, Ximending, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and Shilin Night Market

Day 2 begun bright and early in Taipei despite a cloudy start that did not hinder our mood at all. When in Taipei, do purchase a MetroPass for ease of transportation. The card costs NTD100 which is refundable if returned to the MRT service desks or at selected convenience stores. Top up as much as you like and from memory, you can use this card to make purchases at 7-11s as well (a bit like Hong Kong).

We headed off to the jade market for a quick look and despite not buying anything, it was an interesting sight. Nobody haggled us to buy their items and best part was taking pictures were not a problem. This place was not difficult to find but bear in mind that you have to walk past the no-photography flower market zone prior to arriving here.

Nothing that we were keen on so we took the MRT to Longshan temple. Lots of signboards pointing us to the right direction. And you know you are within a temple zone when you see heaps of traditional temple items being sold in shops (items for praying/ offerings to the temple) and of course, traditional displays like red lanterns, deities and so forth.

There are a few restaurants to drop by for lunch but we were probably more drawn to nibbling some Taiwan made baked goods. The astonishingly huge size of each bun was a rare sight and it was cheap too. Kept us filled until dinner time, only wished I could have tried more flavours :9

Longshan temple was built in 1738 by Chinese settlers for worship purposes and have since then, survived war periods and constantly undergoes renovation to maintain it's glory. The carvings on the walls were extraordinary and until today, a lot of religious activities are still conducted in this temple. Definitely worth a visit for a glimpse of the past.

Up next, we took the train to Ximending aka Red House Theater, another historical site but this time, established by the Japanese for theater purposes. There is a mini exhibition inside the building, free of charge:) Ximending is also known to be a popular place for shopping and from personal experience, it appeared to be a trendier place for the younger generations to hang out in. Even my Taiwanese friend's friends frequented this place for the latest fashion trends and unique food outlets.

However, there was nothing that appealed to me that time (and the fact that I am heading back to Kuala Lumpur for a massive shopping spree) and so, we headed off to our next location, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall.

Again, this place was not difficult to find thanks to the wonderful signboards in the train station. Coming here on a Sunday afternoon was probably not a good idea, as you can see. The place was packed full of people!

We wanted to watch the changing of guards service which happens on an hourly basis but sadly, a large crowd of people beat us to it so we could barely see anything. Not that youtube doesn't have it so don't be too disheartened if you don't get a view. On the flip side, the view from the top is pretty breathtaking:)

For dinner, we headed to Shilin night market for a taste of Taiwan. Yet again, this place was packed full of people during the weekends. I was told that this market had transformed into a more touristy outlet and prices are slightly more expensive compared to other night markets around Taipei. Nonetheless, it was a good first impression of the popular night market scene.

A lot of food stalls to choose from and each of them look equally tempting. We walked around the place and bought whatever we felt like eating but be warned, most of the food served here were deep fried/ fried although you can still find some healthy options around the market. It is a very big place, trust me.

One cannot go to Taiwan and not taste their fried chicken (I reckon it's a big fillet of chicken) which is deep fried and then tossed in some garlic and chilli powder, ready for consumption. Food packaging here is surprisingly neat despite the hustle and bustle happening all around. No spillage at all! Also worthwhile trying here would be their oyster mee sua noodles. Pretty yums for a cheap price:)

Take the stairs down the market and you will find another dimension of food stalls but this stalls provide seating for diners. Customer turnover is pretty quick although shop staff don't rush you to finish off your meals like in busy Hong Kong enterprises. The food tasted pretty much the same between every stall, it was just a matter of finding one that has comfortable seating for us. To sum it up, the food was edible but wasn't too yums for my liking.

So after a little feast in the night market, the gang and I headed back to our hotel for some much needed rest. Will  blog about day 3 soon!:) Happy easter, folks!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Taiwan day 1: Airasia and Fu Hau hotel

For my first blog post about my trip, I think it would be wiser to dissect it down to what we did on a daily basis so that I can provide more detail about the trip rather than rush through my narrations. So let's begin...

I booked my flight tickets through AirAsia as it offered a good price for travelling from Adelaide to Taiwan, despite having to transit over in Kuala Lumpur for at most 40 minutes. The seats were comfortable and there's plenty of leg space for the sister and I. Ordering our food when we booked the tickets saved us a few dollars and we figured, might as well have a bit of food onboard rather than starve throughout the journey.

No entertainment or blankets provided on board but you can easily purchase it from the flight attendants. Alternatively, bring a reasonably thick cardigan and wear long pants/jeans to prevent yourself from freezing on board. A few passengers brought their laptops/ ipads to keep them entertained. The sister and I spent our time chatting to pass time.

So if you are wondering how's the food like on AirAsia, it's pretty yummy despite costing a bit more than what you get from your favourite restaurant/ cafe but mind you, it will stop your hungry tummy from grumbling. Also comes with a small bottle of water. We have upgraded our meal and had an additional slice of brownie and apple juice but it's not necessary.

Picture above is chicken briyani. Was yummy for something that's being served thousands of feet up in the sky.

Chicken teriyaki, on the other hand, was decent but after tasting the other dishes served on AirAsia, it's probably not my first pick :p

Nasi lemak is a must have. Been recommended to try it out by my friend and after sampling it, I give it my stamp of approval. You get a few pieces of chicken, sambal, half a boiled egg, peanuts and fried anchovies on fragrant coconut rice. Order this and you will not regret it!

Whisking through Taoyuan's international airport was a breeze. Clean and efficient probably best describes it. After picking up our luggage, we caught a taxi to our hotel, Fu Hau Hotel. Not all taxi drivers understand English so I would recommend obtaining the chinese characters for your hotel's accommodation or anywhere else you intend on going, just in case. Pronouncing it differently can worsen the situation.

From memory, the three of us paid NTD1,300/ $aud48 but you can definitely save cost by catching the train. At 11.30pm, we couldn't be too fussy though :/

Fu Hau's hotel receptionist was very accommodating and spoke good English so it simplified our check-in process. Got to our room and admittedly, it is smaller than expected. Beds were fairly large for us and snacks and bottled water were provided. Gotta love their attention to detail:)

Not surprisingly, the sister was starving after our long flight from Adelaide to Taiwan and she insisted on exploring the nearby 7-11 convenience shop downstairs. Most 7-11s serve ready made food that one could easily pick and go as well as a wide range of instant noodles.

So that was day 1 in Taiwan. Will be blogging about the next day soon;)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Preparing for an overseas trip

I am finally back for a sort of long 2 week overseas trip yesterday morning and have since then, rejuvenated myself with lots of rest ie 10 hours of sleep! Seeing that I travel rather frequently these days, I thought it is only appropriate so share a few tips on packing and planning for a self-guided trip. Fingers crossed you will find some of these tricks applicable to your situation.

Planning a trip:

1. Determine how many people you are travelling with. It will help with booking flights and accommodations.

2. Scout out the cost of plane tickets and hotels/ hostels that suit your budget. If you are on a very tight budget but still want to have a good time, you can start looking into these things about 8 months prior to departing. Some hotels offer early bird bookings.

3. Always get to know the country you are visiting. Weather, language, currency, transportation, food and sight seeings are just a few factors to take into consideration. Ultimately, this eases the packing phase. If you are in a guided tour, you can probably skip this part as the tour guide will inform you beforehand. I have googled many government tourism sites, travel blogs and youtube videos just to gather information on what I wanted to see and what to expect.

4. As always, obtain a good map of the city/ town that you are in, if possible. I find that some maps may not be as clear as I wanted it to be so I spent a fraction of my time (and internet connection) using GoogleMaps to determine how to get to a particular spot and what's the timeframe. Very helpful tip if you do not want to waste time. If you are a wanderer like me, you can spend time wandering around the area..who knows what you may discover!

Packing for a trip:

1. Gather your essentials early or at least, prepare a list of things to bring weeks before the departure date. This prevents the "oh crap I forgot" dreaded moment.

2. Know what is vital to surviving the trip. My list includes having a passport, wallet (cash and credit cards if necessary), mobile phone, plane and accommodation itineraries, plug adaptor and camera. The rest are pretty much replaceable if your luggage goes missing or if you forget to pack them. You may want to bring an extra camera memory card if you are taking heaps of pictures or perhaps a spare battery. I kept my passport, itineraries and extra cash in a separate pouch bag to reduce confusion.

3. Bring sample facial wash/moisturizers/ body baths if you have any. This lessens your baggage weight whilst still keeping you clean.

4. Wear clothes and shoes that are practical. A very important tip that gets overlooked by a lot of us. That sexy black dress and killer stilettos in your wardrobe won't do you any good if you are spending most of your time outdoors and walking. Sneakers and skinny jeans are your best bet if you really need to look fashionable. I often wear shorts, depending on the climate, as it is easy to dress it up or down and it does not weigh a lot. I gravitate towards structured shirts for a polished, effortless look and jackets/ cardigans with zip pockets (less likely to get pickpocket-ed unnoticed).

5. For the girls out there, I recommend bringing eye and lip palettes. It is so much easier to lug around. I have been using my Maybelline brown eyeshadow palette on numerous trips which gave me a natural look in every photo. Lip tints are also good as you won't need to touch up as often.

OOTD 1: green colour shirt with metal collar and brown eye makeup. I wore a fortnightly type of contact lens for cost purposes. Wore this shirt with my skinny jeans.

Take 2: printed shirt with brown/purple eye make up. Wore this shirt with a pair of shorts.

Bring a bit more cash on hand just in case you go overbudget.

My trusty Adidas sneakers that looks fashionable and comfortable. I highly recommend a pair of these shoes if you squirm at the thought of wearing unglam shoes throughout your trip!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chocolateria San Churro

I am rarely a chocolate person but the previous few weeks had proven otherwise and strangely enough, I have not reached the can't-handle-it stage yet. The last place on my itinerary would be San Churros in Chinatown. I have been to the San Churros in Rundle Street before but for convenience sake, Chinatown's a much more do-able spot for me.

There are quite a few options to choose from which did not make my job any easier. One can opt for chocolate-y cakes, ice cream, fondues, parfaits and the list goes on. Seeing as I am on a churros craze at the moment, I steered towards that path whilst quickly shutting away all the other options. Perhaps another time?

Chocolate macaron ~ I have wanted to have their chocaron (macaron dipped in chocolate) but my order probably got mixed up and I ended up with this fella. Not too bad, decent me thinks.

Peanut butter besos ~ I am a huge fan of peanut butter inspired sweets and this was no exception to the list. It was rich, decadent and very sinful. But heck with that, I would definitely order this again and I could easily down this within 5 minutes.

Churros with milk chocolate and dark chocolate ~ The churros here are a bit more bigger than I had expected. It is prepared upon order and thankfully, had no signs of being burnt whatsoever. A nice treat to have on a warm day and if you are here with about 3 other people, why not order the large churros platter? Nibbles and small talk seems to be my kind of thing these days;)

p.s: apologies for the meh picture quality. I would love to whip out my normal camera but due to time constraints, this won't be possible until I get back from my trip. On the flip side, be on the lookout for another travel diary blog post:)

Chocolateria San Churro on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 22, 2014

December to march mobile uploads: food, product haul, clothes, places

This has got to be one of the most overdue mobile uploads. I must have been overly boggled down with other blog posts that I forgot to include a snippet of my life here...well, not that it really matters anyways but there are some nice pictures from my weekly wandering around Adelaide:)

No.5 houses this uber addictive coffee bean chocolate and in my opinion, you simply cannot miss this place if you are in Hahndorf.

Rundle Street has always been known as a slightly more posh part of Adelaide. Lots of dessert cafes and yummy restaurants located on this street.

On days when I feel like having rice, I must have bibimbap, one of my favourite Korean rice dishes that has a few ingredients perfectly arranged in a bowl. Bottoms up!

Gelatissimo will always be one of my go-to gelato places in Adelaide. Various flavours to choose from and most of the times, friendly staff service:)

Connoisseur ice cream is indeed for the gourmet foodies out there. It is about $2 more expensive that some of the other ice cream ranges but at times, you can grab a good bargain if it's on special in your local supermarket. The exotic flavours are seldom on special but they are worth a try if your grocery budget allows it:)

One cannot go to the Adelaide's central market without squeezing in time to visit the market bakeries. Delight yourself in either a croissant, danish pastry, mini tarts or even traditional sweets like balaklava.

Most of you should know by now that I love clothes. This item from Saints and Secrets in Myers was too pretty to resist but sadly, I doubt I'll be wearing it anytime soon due to lack of events in my dairy =/

Bing Boy is easily spotted in most food courts and for about $8, your food will be freshly prepared in front of you in less than 5 minutes.

Coffee talks at Bar 9. Favourite place to have brekkie for special occasions or when I feel like having something sweet for brekkie:)

Vietnamese bahn mi aka bread roll. It's usually a baguette shaped bread that is stuffed with pickled vegetables, roasted meat (chicken or pork) and given a good squirt of chilli sauce. Finger licking good and ideal for those on the go.

I am obsessed with this forever new heart blouse!!

Vietnamese pancake atNghi Ngan Quan, filled with loads of vegetables such as bean sprouts, lettuce, pickles and slices of meat or prawns. Very filling and probably not something to order if you are a small eater.

Black star pastry's rosewater watermelon cake third attempt. So much better than the previous two attempts:)

Macarons and mimco freebies. I love my life.

Green tea cookies with bits of white chocolate.

Notice how good the watermelon cake looks? I managed to bake the dacquoise layers at the right temperature and put a lot of effort into grinding those almonds!!

A day in the kitchen.

Was at crown plaza adelaide for some company dinner bites. Yummo!

An autographed cook book by Callum Hahn. Happiness overloaded.

Was at Pho Han to satisfy a craving for Vietnamese cuisine.

And to sign off from today's post, a selfie of your's truly in a Zara ensemble. Love Zara but if only they had more choices here in Adelaide.