Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Taiwan May 2008 Part 3

I have officially reached the end of my patience with posting day by day, so from now on I'm just going to do the highlights.

Pippin, my lovely teddy who follows me everywhere. He had a nice time in Taiwan too =)

This is taken atop the 狮头山, or Lion's Head Mountain in Miaoli, which Kimble brought us to climb. The mountain is full of temples build in a variety of style and period.

Somewhere in Miaoli. It was a lake with a little stone island in the middle, and the locals fish there.

Moving on! I have to say, Taiwan has a fantastic train system, even if it is a little hard to get to certain areas, and is probably impossible to navigate if you can't read or speak Chinese.

And our next destination: the scenic 日月坛, Sun Moon Lake. That place is amazing, very beautiful, very relaxing, great weather. Best way to go around is to rent an electric bike. There are also many small, family-run hostels there, generally of excellent standards and good value, especially during off-peak seasons.

Next stop: Alishan, one of the most famous destinations in Taiwan. I'm sorry to say that it was quite a disappointment, at least for us. We had the most appalling luck. This is a picture of the view from the top of the mountain at around 5am, right around when we were supposed to be able to catch a spectacular sunrise. But due to the heavy fog, and the impatient train who wouldn't wait, we left without catching a glimpse of the sun.

The famous Alishan ricebox, which tasted like crap.

Redeeming features of Alishan: truly spectacular trees, so tall they seem to reach into the skies.

Moving on: to 绿岛, Green Island! Hands down, my absolute favorite destination in the entire trip. Relax, we didn't take these little boats to the Island =) The ride was bumpy, and yes, I threw up. Eating breakfast before the ride was a very bad decision. Standing on the deck, instead of sitting inside, seemed to make the ride more tolerable.

I loved EVERYTHING about Green Island [except for the proprietor of our hostel, who was a little evil. Don't stay at Jack's!]. The gorgeous seasides, the sleepy, peaceful little town, the close-knit small town community and the friendly population. I'll be seeing you again, Green Island.

Something unusual: seaweed iced dessert! Tasted very normal, actually, except for the addition of stringy seasweed, which has no taste. But still very cool. Did I mention how much I adore this place?

A short distance from Green Island is Hualian, a coastal city. First night there, we visited a night market by the seaside, at the 南滨公园 [Nan Bin Gong Yuan].

Part of our dinner

Watermelons were in season while we were there, and gigantic watermelons could be seen everywhere. Fresh, juicy chilled watermelon will be offered in every household you visit.

Another famous destination: Taroko National Park. Again, not quite what it's made out to be. And, please don't go up there without an exit strategy. The guidebook may say that you can flag down a bus off the park, but I can tell you from personal experience that is not viable. We had to hitch-hike out of the dame place.

Freaky kid who picked us up in front of the night market and followed us around, trying to sponge food and games off of us.

Game machine with cigarettes as the top prize!

If you are in Taiwan or going to Taiwan, and you are reading this, please help me eat an extra helping of breakfast and Soybean milk =(

Saturday, September 27, 2008

September Daring Baker's Challenge

FINALLY, a savory challenge!! Thank you, Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and co-host Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl, for this great challenge! I've never made crackers before, and it was an interesting challenge =)

This being an incredibly busy month, and I mean crazy CRAZY busy, even more then usual, [MAD MAD school stuff, trip to Cambodia, etc], I didn't do anything fancy with this challenge.

For the crackers, I went with salt and paprika. I liked the crackers well enough, though, as some other daring bakers have noted, they are more hard than crispy. Still, I adore the way they puff up in the middle sometimes, reminding me of a particular kind of tapioca chips I used to snack on as a kid =)

For the dip...well, I have to say I winged it, and had no real idea what I was doing. What I really wanted to do was make a seafood dip, but since it was a vegan challenge, I went with an eggplant dip. And all I really had was an eggplant.

So making process went as such:

1. Roast eggplant, remove flesh and dump into blender.

2. Add juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tb olive oil and blend.

3. Taste, freak out, and add a multitude of weird stuff like more oil, a bit of honey, some paprika, more salt, and walnuts [I know, wth was I thinking?]

But, all in all, thankfully, no food went to waste, and the dip came out edible, though not great. I'm just glad I finished the challenge =)

To see more fantastic lavash crackers and amazing dip ideas, visit the daring bakers blogroll!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Taiwan May 2008, Part 2

Day 2/Taipei

After a good night's sleep at Michael's place, we started the day with a traditional, good old fashion breakfast, Taiwanese style, at a good old traditional breakfast place.

First great dicovery on the trip: Taiwan boasts the best, and I mean the BEST, soybean milk in the WORLD. From this day onwards, one of my life's tragedies would be not being able to drink this wonderful drink everyday.

See that rolled up thing in the background? Another wonderful Chinese invention, a breakfast rice roll with a crispy oily lovely piece of fried bread, and various other tasty morsels like egg, ham and meat floss rolled up inside. YUM.

And then, under Michael and Po Po's capable guidance, we began our tour of the amazing Taipei.

First trip on the Taipei equivalent of the subway/MRT:

Then the bus,

And we are at the great National Palace Museum of Taiwan.

Where the view is incredible,

And where we had fun making asses of ourselves taking bizarre photos

I didn't take any photos of the exhibits, but the size of the musuem is incredible, and I would love to have days to explore it. The 2 hours I had really didn't do it justice.


Pig's tongue, which is delicious. A strange but lovely texture, firm yet silky at the same time.

Then some famous temple. No idea which, I think its the Long San Shi [Dragon Mountain Temple?], they all look the same, and I'm no stranger to temples anyways.

And then, since it costs a ridiculous amount of money to see the tallest building in the world right now, the Taipei 101 building, Michael found us an alternative:

To view Taipei 101 from atop the mountain/hill, Xiang Shan, or Elephant Mountain.

Up there, not only did we get a magnificent view of the building,

We got a magnificent view of the city as well!

Next, time for dinner! And of course, we headed for another night market. Hint: its THE famous one this time!

Yup, its the famous Shilin Night Market. We ate the famous stuff, and they were nice, but not as fantastic as everyone makes them out to be. Still, a dinner at a night market beats hand down, for me, a dinner at some stupid touristy restaurant, so it was good. There must be a zillion pictures out there of food from Shilin, so I won't waste my time. And this concludes our second day =)