Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas berries

Berries after dinner for a healthy Christmas.

Snowball of events

On 02 December 2012, he succumbed to dreams of and cravings for the King Crab. Made a trip to the nearest NTUC Finest at Thomas Plaza and lifted 2 bags of King Crab ($79/kg) out of the freezer. Walked past the fish counter and found Chinese Mitten Crab going for just $7.90 for 2. Wow, few weeks back, he saw them at $23.90 each. Grabbed the last four before going to check-out. Total damage was about $130.

The bags of King Crab were pre-cooked. A quick check on Wikipedia here showed that this was to preserve the value of the catch. King Crabs cannibalize each other when they get annoyed with one another, and dead crabs release toxins in the water which would kill the other healthy crabs. So the fishermen would cook and freeze them, that's why we usually get them as such.

Claw of the King Crab versus the Chinese Mitten Crab. Put 2 teaspoons of salt and crushed some garlic in the water to boil, before steaming the crabs for 10-15 minutes. The Mitten Crab was small, but very sweet. However, everyone seemed to enjoy the King Crab better, possibly for the better meat yield. Of course, the flavor was very good too, the Dad said it was like scallop.

And on 08 Dec 2012, when the littlest brother came back from his Cambodia community involvement trip, they decided to celebrate by cooking the other bag of King Crabs. Only to realize that the Mom and Dad had already taken 2 of the legs days before. Just couldn't get enough of it.

And on 09 Decemeber 2012, after his mandatory physical training session, he dropped by the supermarket and bought some huge flower crabs. Cost about $12 for 4. Same cooking method, garlic and salt in the steaming water. Sweet and delicate flesh. Very affordable too. He would buy another 5 again just few days later. These male ones as shown in the picture are uncooked. How to differentiate the gender? Males have blue tinge on the fringes, while females are red. Also, pointed tail flaps for males, and a broad rounded ones for females (with appendages to carry eggs). But when cooked, they turn orangey-red.


On 16 December 2012, got hives and the whole body swelled pink after getting a very painful bite from a mosquito-like insect. Sent it to its maker, and it almost sent him to his about 30 minutes later. Went to the doctor for a very painful injection from a huge syringe, and till today, the skin of the injection site still feels numb. Got a second opinion from his own family physician and felt more reassured... but that didn't last long.

Seared some Canadian scallops on 18 December 2012 just in case Doomsday arrived before he finished up the food in his fridge. The Mom asked for second. First batch was done with oil, black pepper and garlic, second batch was just oil and black pepper. Too bad he didn't have any butter, but it was still good enough to have people fighting over it.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

23 September 2012 - Taipei Day 7

What should he do on the final day of the stay in Taipei? Enquired at front desk if he could have complimentary late check out, but the staff mentioned that they were fully booked, and he would have to pay by the hour if he wanted to check out late. Doesn't sound logical huh, fully booked yet you could extend your stay?

Anyway, he got up early to get breakfast, craving for oyster vermicelli again. And it just happened that he had NT65 worth of coins. Fated, huh.

Alighted at Longshan station and got a large dose of the yummy vermicelli. Look at those plump oysters... salivating while he's typing this....

It was a very warm day, and he was sweating after the hot broth. Decided to have mango ice again, but the shop was not open yet. Took a few photos of the Longshan vicinity before deciding to head back to take a second shower.

Did he EasyCard refund after returning to Taipei Main Station, and got back NT235 after an admin fee of NT20. On the way back to the hotel, got some sushi (NT39) and a bottle of CC Lemon (NT29) from 7-11 just in case he got hungry later. The cold shower was refreshing.

After check out, he went to the underground maze. Then he got to this pretty cool chic section, Eslite. The decor was clean and not intrusive, felt so much better than the rest of the maze.

Also visited Shinkong Mitsukoshi via one of the exits, probably paradise for shopaholics. Was it 10 stories? Couldn't remember. Wanted to get this pair of Clarks, but he was about to head to the US in about 3 weeks' time. He decided to wait, but unfortunately, he never found this model in that particular area of USA.

Got really sick of the crowds in the shopping belt and decided to head to the airport a little earlier. Picked up a Suntory lemon for NT22 from a 7-11 in the underground maze, and headed over to the bus terminus to buy a ticket (NT125) to Taoyuan Airport.

The place he was before 2 years back. Warm and humid weather made him buy another bottle of green tea at the airport for NT20. Didn't notice it was sugar free and he had a hard time drinking it.

Hungry again after check-in, and got this beef noodle set for NT200. Not too bad, the winter melon tea cold and refreshing, the side dishes were well marinated, loved the edamame. The beef brisket was tender, like how it should. no complaints.

Bought 2 cans of CC Lemon (NT20 each) with his last few coins on request of a friend (for his wife), and then it was tata, Taipei.

22 September 2012 - Taipei Day 6

Found a branch of the Ji Ma Chen (craving for oyster vermicelli) food outlet very near to Zhongshan MRT station, so he decided to take a morning walk from Taipei Main Station through the empty underground maze. Check out the shutter art.

Sea worms?

Looks kiddy and happy.

Favourite kind of scene for him on Giordano's.

There were also many photographs on display nearer to Zhongshan MRT, but the human traffic was getting heavy, so it was difficult to take any pictures.

He was very hungry after all that walking, only to find that the Ji Ma Chen branch didn't open that early. And the branch at Ximending actually served breakfast. Plan B then, took the MRT from Zhongshan to Longshan for oyster vermicelli at Chen Ji.

Got a big bowl of it, NT65. The pork intestine was well marinated, soft and chewy. The broth was so tasty that he lapped everything up.

Went for a little walk afterwards, and found a compass on the plaza just outside Longshan MRT.

Walked in further to visit Bopiliao, a district of old. Gotta thank Google Maps again.

Wooden beams on the ceiling, looks good, but thought that it was bad for fengshui? Just saying.

This part of the walkway looked to be work in progress.

The finished article further down the hallway.

Introduction to the defensive colors during war time. Camouflage huh.

Murals on the wall. Looked like the one on the top right was drawn on a different occasion.

The glass tower in the background juxtaposed with the old brick and plaster buildings, heritage being encroached upon.

Did a 180 degree turn from the picture above, and found a whole row of artists doing their painting diligently. Stepped softly so as to minimize any disturbance to them.

Spotted another artist on the opposite end of the building, painting the same corridor that they were at.

Curious designs on the walls at the back alley.

Somehow this house reminds me of the one that Monkey God turned into to escape Lord Er'lang. Looks mischievous, doesn't it?


Headed next to the market streets. There were 3 around here, as he had read from My Kafkaesque life. Wandered around and stumbled upon Longshan temple. He took a picture of the facade but didn't enter as he's unaware of the proprieties.

This is how you'll know if you're at Huaxi Tourist Market. At the intersection of Guilin Road, nice big boards keep you informed.

Many shops were still closed, and it's good to know that it's sheltered in here. Could escape from the heat a little.

Then the heat got too much to bear, gave him reasons to go for mango ice. Drizzled with both evaporated and condensed milk, this 120NT cold delight was perfect on this hot and humid day. Just that while others were sharing theirs, he had this all to himself. Got a few stares here and there but it was okay.

Feeling recharged, headed to the next stop at Xin Beitou to visit the hot spring attraction. About 40-50 minutes ride from Longshan, and you'll have to crossover at Beitou station.

Finally at Xin Beitou, and Colonel Sanders helped out in telling him which direction to go. Nice old man.

First he visited the Ketagalan Culture Center, which describe about the various aborigine cultures in Taiwan. No photography allow there though. It is along Zhongshan Road, which would lead to the Beitou Hotspring Museum and Thermal Valley.

Next stop was the Beitou Hotspring Museum. Everyone had to trade their shoes for slippers to explore the museum.

Did they play metal with this instrument in the past?

More beautiful pieces suspended in the air.

Walkway beside the bath. Saw something interesting.

Stained glass, apparently these were restored from scratch, thanks to old photographs donated by a resident in the area.

Exited the museum to move on towards the main attraction, Thermal Valley.Taking a look-back at the Beitou Hotspring Museum.

Wooden lampposts exude a nice feel of old.

Finally spotted the signage, Thermal Valley. 

The pungent smell welcomed him. From afar, he could see the steam slowly rising from the turquoise waters.

This rock looked like the head of a turtle which had solidified.

The water source, which was cool. Overhead some people saying that the heating element was at the valley, the catchment area itself.

Sometimes, the wind would blow the steam into his face, and wow, what a smell. Spotted a dragonfly floating in the pool, probably dead.

Helped a pair of Korean girls take pictures with all that steaming in the background. Too bad they didn't offer to help him take his. Boohooo.

Walked along the trail of water back to head back to the MRT. Saw many people wading in the stream, and he decided that he would try it out for himself too. Picked a good spot to rest his back and bag, and had a good warm soak to soothe his feet. It was a little distracting though, with ladies in dresses-too-short sitting on the rocks all around.

Dried himself and continued along the stream, it was a long one. Took a picture of mini-falls.

More of the same mini-falls from further down the trail.

Crossing the road to the Xin Beitou MRT, next destination, Danshui. It was about 4pm, and he wasn't sure if he would have enough time to capture what he wanted.

Alighting at Danshui, he just followed the crowd to the food street. Saw a price that said sausage for NT25, and decided to get one to replenish some energy. Alas, it was a small piece, you get what you pay for. Wanted to get some pepper biscuits at a junction, but the proprietor quoted a wait of 30 minutes. Opted to move on.

Walked briskly and went into this alley that pointed ahead to Mackey St. In the background's Mackay's residence or something.

Some art display around the bend.

Forged ahead and stumbled into Danjiang High School. The building looks western, but the cap at the top looks a little like what they have on Chinese pagodas. Nice garden in the foreground.

Queer shack that seemed to be made of stacked wood.

It also had a very small access door. The designs were reminiscent of Balinese culture, maybe a little.


Random pictures of the pillars.

Aletheia University, successor to Oxford College set up by Dr Mackay.

Quickly wrapped up the picture taking and heading to Fort San Domingo next. Outside the tourist centre were these cute pigeon holes, receiving letters for love, health and wishes respectively.

There were many people waiting for the tram right uphill, so he just proceeded to climb the stairs. His thighs felt really swollen after that. Somehow, he missed out on the fort and ended up taking pictures of the Consular house instead.

Nicely pruned garden walkway, probably helps to keep up the spirits of the occupants.

Went downhill to walk along the coast, in hope of catching the sunset at Danshui Fisherman's Wharf. Along the riverside walk, the sun looked to already be going down, would he be in time?

Walked very briskly with the aid of the wind in his back. From afar, he thought that he had spotted really fat dogs. On closer look, they were pigs chained to the walls. Poor pigs seemed really terrified with all the human and mechanised traffic.

Overtook some people with his trusty legs and managed to get to the wharf when there was still light. This viewing tower is similar to the Tiger Tower that they have in Singapore.

Just in front of the observatory was the half sunken Tamsui Love thingy.

Got onto the boardwalk and took this picture. It wasn't dark yet, just that he was tried to get a more silhouette-y picture.

View of the harbour and Fullon Hotel in the background.


Danshui Lovers' Bridge. Too many people to be romantic for lovers. Can still see the hotel and the mountainous silhouette in the background.


A portrait of the Lover's Bridge.


 Jetty where the river taxi alights and picks up passengers. Brisk business.


 Saw some nice hues in the sky and quickly snapped some.


Doing a look-back. Like the misty background a lot. He never got to know why those 4 legged concrete structures were lying in the water.


More magnificent colors, and this was taken with his mobile.

One with better composition?

Once the sun had set, the crowd started to move off. He sat on the breakwater and enjoyed the wind in the face. Managed to take a night scene of the Lovers' Bridge without the tripod too.

It was late and he had second thoughts about marching back to the food streets of Danshui. So he ended up going for the ferry ride back, costing him NT50 with the EasyCard. The ticket vendor mentioned that buying tickets would have been cheaper, at just NT30.

Back at the old street, decided to buy some specialty for the people back home. Got NT400 worth of tea eggs.

Time to find food for self, but everywhere was crowded. Managed to find a stall with seated and never hesitated. Order ah-gei and and hong you chao shou (dumplings in spicy sauce).

Ah-gei (NT35) was actually just mung bean vermicelli in fried tofu skin and sweet sauce. The vermicelli was delicious on its own, and he thought it would have been better off without the sweet sauce.

The dumplings (NT60)? Innocent looking sauce packed with choking agents complimented the meaty dumplings very well. So hungry that he finished up all the vegetables on the plate too.

While jostling his way out of the crowd of the night market, he got a stick of fried quail eggs for NT20. He's eaten boiled ones before, never fried. Was good with some savoury sauce. Hung around outside the MRT station to watch someone perform singing, and he was really good at engaging the kids. Also saw some games vendors at the open patch, one of them was offering baseball game. His girls (daughters, perhaps) were very proficient with the game, seldom missing a hit.

Glad that he managed to get on the train enough though the whole Danshui area seemed very crowded. It was unlike in Singapore where you would have to miss 3-4 trains before being able to board.

Back in the hotel, he had showered and was preparing to rest when one of his evil colleagues mentioned that he should be having supper. That got him hungry all over again, and he picked up some of the instant noodles packed with meat, some drinks and some mala guan dong zhu (basically items boiled in spicy and numbing soup). The damages came up to NT199, and he slept soundly on a full stomach.