Thursday, July 31, 2014

spirited away alright

I have been so fascinated with the old gold mining town called Jiufen in Taiwan that I started watching the Spirited Away animation again.

Apparently Hayao Miyazaki visited this quaint little seaside town, spent some time at the teahouses, and got his inspiration for the highest grossing film in Japan to date. There are many bloggers sharing their fascination with Jiufen, and one even made side-by-side comparison of actual photographs with scenes from the animation.

That got me listening to Joe Hisaishi's compositions again. Highly recommend this, especially if you've watched any of Studio Ghibli's animes. You don't have to be an orchestra fan, nor even understand the lyrics in the pieces. They somehow stir the heart and bring warm nostalgic feelings.

Joe Hisaishi in Budokan - Studio Ghibli 25 Years Concert

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

traipsing in taiwan p3

I was not trying to take a shot of Taipei 101, so I was surprised this spontaneous shot by Aishah came out like this!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

traipsing in taiwan p2

Since Aishah wanted to pamper herself this trip, she booked us quite a good hotel. As we were sharing, I didn't quite mind, especially after looking at the great reviews Ambience Hotel received. Located less than 1km from 3 Metro stations, it was pretty convenient.

I arrived late Friday night, but felt rather energised upon seeing that there were a few convenience stores and some restaurants within walking distance. In fact, my first impression of Taipei was that it resembled downtown Kuala Lumpur. I'm thinking probably because KL has its roots in being a Chinese mining town, the architecture and layout looks more practical than pretty. The look and feel were so similar even Aishah commented it reminded her more of Muar. If the signboards had also English and Malay and maybe Tamil words one would have thought we were back home.

Ambience Hotel seemed to be a hit with Japanese tourists, since they had Japanese-style toilets with the works. As for me, I was happy enough with the breakfast that came with the room. Pity my poor stomach who had to revert to simple Milo after treating myself to proper breakfast during that long weekend.

After all, I needed the energy for all the long walks around the city under that sweltering summer heat. But I think I overdosed on soy sauce on my last porridge!

Some of the reviewers found this strange, but on alternate days there is a live performance during breakfast. On that particular day, I was seated right in front, so you could say I felt like he was performing just for me.

One of the main reasons I chose Taiwan was for the food. I was hoping Taiwan would have better Chinese food than here. I got exposed to Taiwanese food through the Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks in MV, so I was looking forward to trying the real thing.

This pork noodle reminded me a little of wan tan mee, soup version back home. This was in the purportedly famous Jiufen Old Noodle Shop (九份老面店) which had people queueing up to have a taste of its noodles. I must say I love the soup though.

One of the first things I noticed was that scooters were in abundance compared to motorcycles. When I met up with Kenny who unexpectedly brought me on a ride on his scooter, I had the opportunity to ask him the reason. Since scooter had more space for belongings, this was more popular, and hence the main manufacturer decided to build these more. Guess it made sense, as I watched a suited guy remove his coat, folded it and put them under the seat, and then hung his briefcase below the dashboard.

I felt Taipei was pretty safe, even as we walked back to our hotel late at night. However there seems to be a lot of CCTVs in many places, even more than usual. There's one here at the entrance just above the seats allocated for the needy. I wonder if that's why these seats are usually empty even during rush hours.

When we got on a really old crickety bus to outskirts Jiufen, there were at least 2 CCTVs in the bus! These 2 were in front, and then I noticed a 3rd one at the back of the bus. Then I wondered, if that helped in getting people to behave.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

traipsing in taiwan p1

There's really so much happening recently with airspaces and flying that I really must thank God for His protection and providence.

Since I could only book my flight quite close to the date, Peach Airlines didn't turn out to be so cheap after adding the necessaries. I was a little hesitant on going with a full-fledged airline, because I've been so used to traveling on shoestring. The blessing in disguise was China Airlines is under the SkyTeam.

This time I was given a pass to the Korean Air lounge, which made me realise each time I get to experience various lounges in the KIX airport. Tucked at the far end on the 3rd Floor, the ambience is a little closer to the first lounge I tried, nothing fancy but quite comfy. There were Korean instant noodles, but I didn't want to spoil my appetite for dinner later.

The day before I flew to Taipei, I was really saddened to hear about MH17. I've been on that similar route many times for business, so I can really sympathise. Not just because it's such a tragedy, but also the fact that Malaysia Airlines is still struggling with MH370 on top of other management/financial woes.

The day before I left Taipei, I heard about the incoming Typhoon Matmo. As I was packing that morning, I could see it was drizzling and windy outside. When I arrived at the airport, I noticed flights that evening were mostly cancelled. (It was only tonight that I realise that a Taiwanese plane crashed due to turbulence probably caused by the typhoon).

As I was checking in, the lady at the counter issued me a pass for the China Airlines lounge. I'm convinced the nicest lounge exist in the home country of the particular airline. With dim lighting and hushed tones, it felt a bit elegant. Couldn't help but notice many Asian businessman-type clients enjoying the lounge, catching up with email and winding down after a business trip. I was hoping there would be some massage chairs like in the Incheon airport transit lounge.

I just had to order the famed Taiwanese beef noodle. I've already had my first portion with Aishah, but I wanted to make sure I ate enough not to eat anymore! There's nothing wrong with beef noodles, just that it's not my favourite. I must say I love the soup though :D

To top it off, I also got myself some dumplings and pao. There's no proper dimsum place in Japan, and my next fix would only be back in Malaysia.

I guess I'm rather happy I got to stuff myself a bit this trip. But a bit disappointed I did not gain (visible) weight!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

summer getaway here i go?

By the time you read this, I should be off to another foreign land, trying to take a little break from everything.

Don't get me wrong, life is still going on at full speed especially at work, and the grit ain't over yet. But a grrl's gotta need some downtime before she can get up again.

Hopefully, I'll be able to fatten myself up a little, meet up with some old friends, and try to find out for myself why this country I'm going to has been raved on by so many who's been there before me.

Gah, but there's the million and one things I have not done yet! The laundry, the packing list, the garbage to be thrown out, vacuum the floor, recharge my camera battery, and I still have to take a conference call at the airport before I fly...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

godiva to be shared

What joy it is to be able to share life's blessings with those who need it more.

I thought it was too luxurious to try to finish these Godiva pralines all by myself, so I brought it to our Bible Study group to celebrate Ako-san's graduation from nailist school. She also congratulated me for being offered a permanent employee contract (after 3 months of uncertainty). Amidst the trials each of us were going through, little blessings shared meant a lot more than the value of the gift itself.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

that bread in broth thingy

I wouldn't have known what this was, or even thought of trying if I hadn't gotten it from Waka-san. I had kept this in my larder for some time, thinking I'll give myself a treat or when I really really need some midnight snacks.

宝の麩 (たからのふ) - Literally translates to treasure of breadlike food made of wheat - which I'm guessing is the brand/product name!
ひとひら - means petals - which is the shape of this breadlike food
ふやき御汁 (しる) - Should take it to mean to be soaked and become soup, broth

Since it was kinda late at night and I was hungry (meaning impatient to try to understand every single kanji on the packaging), I glanced through the instructions, roughly understanding what needed to be done. I mean how difficult can instant food be?

So I opened the little sachet, poured out the powdered broth and put this petal-like bread into a mug, and filled it with hot water. I waited for a little while to see what would happen. Then I went back to the instructions, and realised I had to make a hole on the bread!

I think I was supposed to do this before pouring the hot water. Nevermind, so I poked it with a fork instead. Slowly, some bits of green came out, and the bread petal became softer as the holes enlarged.

As the bread started to lose its shape, I realised there were some other things inside! Little pink petals started to appear as I tried to open the hole a little bit more. So this is what the "treasure" meant!

I was really delighted with this surprise petal bread in broth thingy. The Japanese are so creative in making pretty little treasures. Later I found out that there are more of such broth under the same brand Takaranofu. But now I'm wondering why my broth does not look like theirs?!

Friday, July 11, 2014

port island beach p3

Ako-san obliged my request to visit the "beach resort" again. This was the end of June just before the warm weather start to get humid. Sumiko-san could not join us as she had to return to take the dogs out for a walk. Maybe I can get my furry therapy in Kobe instead..!

It was still a bit chilly though I was all dressed in beach attire - that's an 8-year-old Uniqlo top which I can't bear to throw away because it reminds me of my humble roots in Niigata >.<

We purposely sat on this bench, and managed to ask a passerby to make sure he take us with the coconut tree in the background.

Ako-san really loved the polariod shots, so I gave her one as a souvenir. I have these in front of my study table to remind me of His grace. Just when I least expected, He enveloped me with warm hugs and little things that work like the proverbial chicken soup.

Friday, July 04, 2014

the round papaya eaten

I finally had to cut open that round papaya in the fridge.

Lesson learnt : Put papaya in the fridge after it has been left outside for awhile to ripen. If not, according to my dad, the fruit would not have a chance to mature naturally, its growth somewhat stunted.

To be honest, I'm not sure if this exotic fruit would eventually taste like those back home, but having a taste of something so familiar really made me happy! Looking at this papaya reminds me of sweet little blessings ^.^