Monday, March 17, 2014

Okinawa and Taipei - Day 10 (again!) - Back from the future!

Arriving back at 8am, the trip from the future comes to a close.  Got home, took a shower, then went to bed.  Woke up at 5pm… :P

As it got later on into the night, I was feeling hungry.  But with nothing in the fridge, and too lazy to make anything, I decided to go for some omakase sushi at I Love Sushi.  It was the perfect plan because I wanted to check if my car would start up, to avoid finding out tomorrow morning and needing to figure out where to find a car to jump it with.  This place was just the perfect distance to get some juice into the car :).  Plus, I haven't eaten raw fish for a few days.

Ended up not being able to sleep until very late - probably because of my 8 hour morning-afternoon nap…

Back from the future, gearing up for next week, which will be work work work.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Okinawa and Taipei - Day 10: Last Meal…

Final Meal in Asia…
Breakfast @ Airport
Total Spent: NTD 550 = ~18 USD
Lil dragon dumplings and Oolong tea - The lil dragon dumplings was very disappointing here :(.  Should have ate outside before the checkpoint instead of the food court

Beef noodle - wasn't that great either

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Okinawa and Taipei - Day 9: Mao Kong and Snake Combo

Last day in Taipei, the plan was to go south to Mao Kong for some tea experience.  Before that though, we would go for some lil dragon dumplings at this place the whale shark Taiwanese girls recommended us to go to.  This place was good.  It was really stuffy though as they didn't have A/C, so I was basically sweating as I was eating the dumplings.  Turns out there were two places next to each other - and we went to the original :)

After a yummy lunch, we proceeded to go to Mao Kong.  Upon arriving, it didn't look like a tea place, but a Hello Kitty advertisement.  Everywhere there were giant pictures of Hello Kitty.  It was cute, but if I didn't know better, I thought we were at Sanrio.  Now that I think about it, there was not Hello Kitty souvenirs to buy though.

Nanjing ding
The night market where the famous snake combo was located was a bit shady, but worth it. 

One each of snake blood (capsule), snake bile, and snake venom (smallest)- and a bowl of snake soup. ......
Summary of What was Eaten Today:
Lunch @ 明月
Total Spent: NTD 890
What we had:
  2 orders of lil dragon dumplings
  Pot stickers
  peanut black sesame mochi
  drunken chicken
  onion oil fried pancake

Dinner @ ???
Total Spent: NTD 165
What we had:
  Tea egg (NTD 10)
  Rice, egg, tofu (NTD 90)
  Yodule green tea n green tea bbtea (NTD 65)

Night Market
Total Spent: NTD 350
What we (I) had:
    That famous snake combo!!! (Blood, gall, sperm, soup)

Total for the Day: 890 + 165 + 350 = NTD 1,405 = ~$47 USD

Friday, March 14, 2014

Okinawa and Taipei - Day 8: Beitou Hot Springs

For today, we headed up north for the Beitou Hot Springs :).  But before that, we needed food, so we went to a famous beef noodle place to try it out.  Then had mango ice for desert down the street.

My first time to a hot spring that I can remember.  So I was pretty excited.  Original goal was to go the Grand View Resort ( as this one that supposedly had a private room with a view that you can soak in sulphur goodness.  There were quite a few hotels that had 'in house' hot spring tubs that you could check out for a couple hours, use, and then leave.  But alas, after walking up a bunch of switchbacks, apparently they were full :(.  So then we started walking back down and came across 春天酒店 Spring City Resort.  This turned out to be sorta like a spa thing, where for 800 NTD per person, it was a 'public bath' with 8 different types of baths. 

The notable baths were:
  • One that was cold water with rose petals in it (this one didn't have sulphur in it - so wasn't hot spring water)
  • One that was super hot, so it was super refreshing to jump in the cold water one after soaking in this one for a bit
  • There was a section where it was just a hot slab - so worked as a nice butt warmer
There were also 'artificial' waterfall showers, and a few other pretty common ones - though all had sulphur in it. 

Easily spent a couple hours here …. Oh how I love just lounging and soaking around.  I swear my skin was mucho better after that!

The best part was, there was a free shuttle back to the station that runs every hour (and we just caught it)!

With a nice relaxing afternoon, the next stop was another night market, this time the 繞河 night market.  But before that, took up CS buddy's recommendation and tried out  度小月.  Super yummy noodles.

At the night market …. ate more :)
Summary of What was Eaten Today:
Lunch @ 永康牛肉麵
Total Spent: NTD 740
What we had:
  小菜 (pickled cucumber, pig ear)
  'muni' 牛肉面
  steamed spare ribs

Desert after Lunch @ 芒果雪花冰
Total Spent: NTD 370
What we had:
   Fruit shaved Ice
   Red and Green Bean Puffy Ice
   Mango smoothie

Dinner @ 度小月
Total Spent: NTD 880
What we had:
    3 Bowls of Noodle (we had one of each)
    Small clam (Served Cold)
    Long yuan Pudding
    Slices of Goose

Night Market @ 繞河
Total Spend: NTD 150
  QQ Egg (NTD 25) - this was really yummy.
  Oolong honey tea (NTD 40) - loooove oolong bbtea
  Red bean bread (NTD 15)
  Grilled Corn on the Stick (NTD 70)

Total for the Day: 740 + 370 + 880 + 150 = NTD 2,140 = ~$71 USD

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Okinawa and Taipei - Day 7: Eating Every Hour

Goal: Eat something once every hour…

First stop: National Taiwan Museum
Thought it would be about the history of Taiwan - but apparently it turned out to be a lesson on Darwinism and evolution of plants, and animals.  Pretty cool exhibit but not what we were expecting.  For 20 NTD though, can't really complain.

Also left myself a little note in the booklet there…. If you ever see the line below, that's from me!
"Present me leaving a note for the future me.. But the present me is actually in the future!  Woah!..."

Second Stop: Shilin Night Market
After quite a few more snacking, we proceeded to go to the night market in Shilin
This was pretty fun - since we got to eat a bunch of stuff here.  The best was the first thing I got, which was the whole squid!.. Mmmmm.. See below for a summary of what we ate.

We also ended up buying some tea.  Some Ginger Tea (NTD 170) and Normal Tea (NTD 280).

To round off the night, we had one final meal at one of the Ding Tai Fungs (the one by MRT: Zhongxiao Fuxing).  I mean, what is a Taipei trip without trying one of them!  For kicks, ordered more or the less the same thing we would have here, so that I could compare.

Summary of What was Eaten Today:
Lunch @ Noodle place next to hot pot:
Total Spent: NTD 960
What we had:
  麻油雞麵線 x2
  An intestine medley

For snacks (so we meet the food every hour goal):
Total Spent: NTD 140
What we had:
    Coffees near National Taiwan Museum (NTD 65)
    Snack near National Taiwan Museum - 豆漲 x2, 油條, 曉餅 (NTD 45)
    Snack near the Subway Station - 胡淑餅 (NTD 30)

For Dinner @ Shilin Night Market
Total Spent: NTD 570
What we had:
  Grilled Squid (NT 100) - This was delicious.  One of my favorite items I ate in Taiwan!
  Duck Wing (NTD 30)
  Bubble Waffle (NTD 20) - Which is < $1 USD!!!... In North America it is at least $3!
  Oolong tea with tapioca (NTD 40)
  Crab (NTD 150)
  Taiwanese Beer (NTD 50)
  Sausage (NTD 60)
  Aloe drink (NTD 35 )
  小籠包 (NTD 70) - Wasn't that good.  I am beginning to think that there are only a few places with decent XLBs…
  Marinated tofu and egg (NT 35)
  Winter melon bubble tea (NT 30)

For Dinner #2 @ Ding Tail Fung
Total Spent: NTD 898
What we had:
   The picture says it all :)

Total for the Day: 960 + 140 + 570 = NTD 1,670 = ~$56 USD

… To think that first night hot pot was NTD 1661… AND this was the amount we spent on food for two people for a WHOLE day!... Mmmmmm….

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Okinawa and Taipei - Day 6: En route and Arriving in Taipei

Last day in Okinawa and it was a windy one.  We went to KFC in Okinawa (because I just had to :)) - and there was rice balls being served. 

We also made some purchases at Don Quiote - a bottle of Mount Fuji sake, and some candies and chips

We arrived back in Taipei towards the evening, and took a bus out of the airport which would drop us 0.5 miles from our hotel.  The hotel (called FX Hotel) was pretty nice.  Very new décor and trendy looking.  Room was pretty big and the bathroom was pretty cool.  It was also very near the subway so super convenient!  They also offer free umbrellas for loan (since I guess it rains a lot in Taipei?)

For the first night that we arrived, we had a hot pot dinner.  This ended up costing 1661 NTD.
It was yummy, but not sure if it was ~$55 USD yummy.  But with very few places open and being super tired, this was alright.

Side note - my back's been hurting.. I wonder if it's because of too much walking in the last two days?

Summary of What was Eaten Today:
Dinner @ Hot Pot Place by the FX Hotel
Total Spent: NTD 1661
What we had:
    Different plates of beef, duck and vegetables.  Pictures are worth a thousand words… .. .
Total for the Day: NTD 1,661 = ~$55 USD

Note: This was the most money we would spend in a single meal in Taipei.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Okinawa and Taipei - Day 5: Naha Day 2 - Kokusai (Mashiki Market) and Shuri Castle

With the wedding all behind us, now is the time for tourist me and date time :).  We first went to the Kokusai market and started picking things to eat.

We had the Conch Sashimi (Tsubugai), the 'real' Irubaja, grilled shrimp and also the Sea Snake Ramen.  That was lunch :).

Then we headed towards Shuri Castle by train.  We had tea time there too!

For dinner, we went to shabu shabu.  Pork is pretty famous in Okinawa, so we thought we try it out.

They did cash only so we couldn't order much since we didn't have too much cash on hand.  We dug deep and was able to afford beer though by combining our coins :).  This meal was pretty $$$ - the going rate was about $5 a slice of pork.  I guess high class pork is just lost on me.

After that, since I was still pretty hungry, we walked around and found an izakaya.  Upon seeing they take credit card, we went in and sat down.  Even though we were in the more tourist portion of Naha, it turned out we had found a local izakaya, as the menu was all Japanese and the waiters only spoke Japanese.  The menu had no pictures this time. So we ended up getting the server to read out what the things were (especially the fishes - and we knew what they were!).. Lol.  At one point, the guy even pulled out their iPhone to show us what the menu item was by pulling up a dictionary.

So we ended up ordering a bunch of stuff, including a $3 sirloin steak on a sizzling plate :D.  Yuuuummmm.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Okinawa and Taipei - Day 4: Aquarium Day and Naha Day 1

First Stop: Aquarium
After breakfast, we headed up to the Aquarium, where I saw all the fish that I wanted to eat :).  There was also a big tank that had a bunch of fishes.  Taking picture through the glass yielded somewhat decent results.  In some ways, it was even nicer than scuba diving!

Also saw a dolphin show, which was pretty cool.  Can't think of when I last saw such a show.

Next stop: The UNESCO Rubble site
This was a site where there used to be a fortress and shrine of some sort.  Walked around - turned out to be a pretty quick walk.

On the way back, finally had my juicebox sake in the van!  It was surprisingly good.  Law and me felt like such delinquents, trying to hide it from the driver (even though I think he blatantly knew what we were doing).  I wonder if such a thing is legal in Okinawa to do?

3rd Stop: Naha
By the evening, we made it to Naha.  We first started off by eating some Okinawan noodle near our hotel.  The place was pretty dive-y, but the noodle and price was excellent.  After that, we went towards Kokusai street to track down BJ + company.  Taking a pit stop along the way, I got a chance to try the famous goat sashimi - another Okinawan specialty (and of course, a bunch of other food :P)
Note to self: always have goat sashimi with sake - it's a whole different level with it.

Joined BJ + folks later and pints of beer later, back at hotel.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Okinawa and Taipei - Day 3: HHH's Wedding

HHH wedding day.  Missed the actual walk down the aisle cause I was stupid.. Lol - but did get to the reception on time, and made the after party. 

The after party was at a place where the entire floor was booked out.  So baller. 

Fun times of drinking and chatting.  The food was pretty good there.  Had a lot of awamori's throughout.

Congrats HHH!

(Had a snack between the reception and afterparty.. hee hee hee)

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Okinawa and Taipei - Day 2: Whale Shark Diving

Woke up this morning to do one of the most anticipated things while I was here - Scuba diving and swimming with a Whale Shark!  The scuba diving was pretty nice.  Got to see stingrays swim around from a far and also played with an octopus :).  Saw some of the fishes I ate from the night before too … kee kee kee.

[Details in Dive Log...]

Because we were certified divers, we were able to go inside the net to be up close and personal with the two whale sharks.  The other group of people could only snorkel from outside the net to see the whale shark.  The dive masters/tour guide did bring the whale shark close to the net at times so the snorkelers get the experience too!

But inside is just that much more exciting.  At one point, one of the dive masters let me wave the bag of plankton in front of me, so the whale shark came by and ate it.  Gobble gobble - its mouth was huggge!  Needless to say I got really close to it.  I should also mention that we were in there for about 20 to 25 minutes.  During the dive I thought It was pretty short because based on the tables, at 30ft max depth we should be able to be in the water for 40 or so minutes - so I felt cheated.  On returning to the surface, I started reading some of the pamphlets and what not and realized it wasn't 30ft, but 30 meters… lol.  So that explains why the dive masters told us to stay in the middle and not the bottom of the net, and also why we were only in there for 25 minutes or so.

After scuba, we went to have some lunch at a local Okinawan supermarket like place by the pier.  I am really liking the different types of seafood and variety to choose from.  It is sooo fresh!  We ended up at the table with these Taiwanese girls who was here for a bachelorette party (they were the snorkelers people).  We needed up sharing the food that we got and so got to try quite a lot of stuff!  Yummmmy.

For dinner, we ate at the hotel (it required a reservation, and I can see why).  Very cute presentation of food.  Though I was still hungry after it all.

The menu:

With that, I am now officially in the future!

Friday, March 07, 2014

Okinawa and Taipei - Day 1: En route to Asia Day 2

For breakfast, I had my first set of lil dragon dumplings before flight in the Taipei airport.  It was pretty yummy!


Arriving at the hotel, we ate a quick snack and then planned what we would eat next!

After talking to the receptionist, for dinner, we ended up a little bit off the hotel to a local restaurant, where the menu were all in Japanese and the servers didn't speak English at all.  So we ended up randomly ordering off the menu - we first pointed to all the ones that had pictures, then got adventurous and started picking random things off the menu.  Pretty good outcome though :).

Editor's Note: The Irubaja would become my favorite sashimi for this trip.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Okinawa and Taipei - Day 0: En route to Asia

First time flying back since I left in '92!  Though not reaching my birthplace, this is getting pretty close to it.
The airplane food wasn't that great, but at Narita, did sneak in some sashimi

Landed in Taiwan, stayed nearby the airport before heading out in the morning to continue towards Okinawa. Grabbed a quick bit at the hotel.  We have arrived in Asia!