Grand Taipei is a relatively new cafe, restaurant and tea house (that’s what they call themselves) in Sunway Giza. If you thought it looked kinda familiar, you’ll be correct. There was a place called Taipei Taipei inside the mall a few years back. It didn’t do well and closed permanently. The old Taipei Taipei has been relaunched as Grand Taipei but the chopstick covers still has the old name.
This spot seems to have bad feng shui or something. There has been a lot of different bars and restaurants at this exact spot which shuttered and got replaced by a new one. The latest to try is the ex-Taipei Taipei from inside the mall. The interior looks really nice – there’s an old movie projected to the walls, vintage furniture, jukebox, and a small stage.
Taiwanese Style Pork Chop with Rice (RM 15.90)
This is their signature dish! Grand Taipei does a mean pork chop rice. There’s a large slice of savory and delicious pork chop on top of a mound of rice. The rice isn’t just plain rice but mixed with minced stewed pork (what the Taiwanese called kou rou). There’s also a triangle of vinegar tofu which balances out the dish with a bit of acid, as well as vegetables. It’s pretty good, reminds me of the food I had in Taiwan.
Brown Sugar Red Bean Milk Tea (RM 9.90)
This is Taiwanese milk tea but with red bean instead of tapioca balls. They have a tapioca ball style bubble tea version for RM 8.90 too. It’s better to order the “RM 8 Business Lunch Set” which allows you to choose a drink and provides you with a daily side dish (pickled cucumbers shown above) so you save between RM 1 – RM 2 on your drink and get a small side.
Grand Taipei will have familiar food if you’ve been to the old Taipei Taipei. They specialize in pork chop rice and they’re pretty good at it. The pork chops are fried to order and it’s served hot. I like how they have multiple sourish sides (pickles, tofu) coz the oily pork chop can be a bit hard to stomach after a few bites and the acidic dishes help cleanse your palate. Lunch for me cost RM 23.90 which isn’t bad for the amount of meat they serve.
Yup, I got an opportunity to pet a dolphin in Yehliu Ocean World in Taipei, Taiwan. I actually did it twice, once in front of the crowd and the other time during a behind-the-scenes tour. It was a remarkable experience, dolphins are a lot more intelligent than cats and dogs, and they’re one of the few creatures in the world which are self-aware (like us).
The show started with sea lions. This is a male and female pair trained to perform various tricks.
They can even play basketball!
They called for volunteers to come on stage and I was the first to offer myself.
I got a peck on the cheek from the sea lion for my trouble. :D
It felt very nice.
The show at Yehliu Ocean World also incorporated clowns (a Russian duo) and synchronized swimmers.
There was a man who remained resolutely immobile throughout the entire show, even when the sea lions and dolphins came on stage but excitedly clicked away with his smartphone the moment the Russian girls in their swimsuits came on stage. He nearly fell off his seat in his excitement, which I found puzzling. I wonder how his wife (who was sitting beside him) felt about that.
The dolphin show was the highlight of the session.
They asked for a volunteer from the crowd to come on stage and interact with the dolphins. Naturally, I was the first to put my hand up (again).
There is a floor mat with disinfectant which you need to step on before you can go on the stage. You have to use liquid hand sanitizer before you can touch the dolphins too. I was also told that dolphins do not have good eyesight (which makes sense considering they use sonar to communicate) so I have to exaggerate my movements.
I was trained to use my hands to direct the two dolphins to jump – it was quite an unforgettable affair!
The dolphins are capable of flinging themselves a remarkable distance up from the water.
One of the dolphins even allowed me to kiss her (!!!).
I was taught to bring her up using my hands and she used her flippers to balance herself while I came over on her right flank and nuzzled up against her side. She felt wet and smooth and slippery.
I felt very privileged to be part of the dolphin show.
We also got a backstage tour after everyone had left. I realized that I shouldn’t have volunteered for the dolphin show since we got *another* chance to touch the dolphins. I didn’t know or I would have let someone else in the audience have the opportunity.
The practice training session was going on and we were beside the dolphin trainers while they worked.
It was a wonderful chance to see how the dolphins and trainers interacted up close.
We also saw the frozen fish food storage where the dolphins are fed frozen fish as a treat during summer. This is also a backdoor for their medication – apparently dolphins don’t like taking pills and thus vitamins, supplements and meds are inserted into the body cavity of small fish before being fed to the dolphins.
The guide also led us through the secure on-site pharmacy. You’re lucky I don’t read Chinese. Haha.
One of the trainers even gave us a detailed dolphin anatomy lesson.
All the dolphins here are bottlenose dolphins – the ones you’ll normally associate with the word “dolphin”.
That’s how the dolphin show is done. It’s very interesting stuff!
I managed to get a photo taken up close by the Yehliu Ocean World photographer while I was hugging the dolphin. :)
The majority of mooncakes here are from Taiwan. I was there before the Mid-Autumn Festival and bought all my mooncakes from I-Mei’s flagship shop in the middle of Taipei.
They’re mostly Taiwanese style mooncakes with flaky pastry shell but there are some of the classic mooncakes too, however all of them are made in Taiwan unless stated otherwise.
I had actually planned to get all the mooncakes from Taiwan. I thought it’ll be nice to give out mooncakes from Taiwan – it seemed like the ultimate souvenir, although I did buy other gifts too. It was a very busy trip and I couldn’t find time to get out, until my very last day, when Diana took me out at 10 am in the morning to a shop that sells mooncakes.
You can get mooncakes at 7-Eleven and the airport but for the former, you have to order in advance and the latter are commercialized stuff and I’ll rather go for a local producer and this place fit the bill perfectly!
The friendly people there even helped me pack everything and explained what each mooncake was (granted, I spent quite a lot) so that was good, considering I don’t read Chinese.
Pork Floss with Mung Bean Taiwanese Mooncakes (NTD 630)
This is really good! I would give this Best of 2015 due to its unusual savory-sweet mix. I love how the pork floss interacts with the sweet mung bean paste and I really enjoyed eating this gem. I had specifically gone looking for a savory mooncake after hearing about it from Diana (our Taiwanese liaison).
I was slightly taken aback when she asked me if I was looking for sweet or savory mooncakes. “Savory mooncakes? Whatever do you mean?” I asked. It turns out that pork floss mooncakes have been around for a while and the award winning combination with mung bean and the Taiwanese pastry skin is quite common here.
This box cost NTD 630 (about RM 85).
I-Mei Specialty Mooncake Selection 2015 with Premium Gift Box (NTD 750)
I got this one for my better half. It has a nice painting on the front of the box showing the exact street where I bought this mooncake from in the early days. I-Mei has been around since 1934 and they came out with a commemoration box where they commissioned someone to paint the street scene of their flagship store in Taipei where I went to.
This has a mixture of Taiwanese style mooncakes, Hong Kong style mooncakes and a selection of Taiwanese pastries (pineapple cake etc). It also has a wonderful Taiwanese mooncake flavor – dates and walnuts! It also appears in the previous box above (I think) as well as the one below (in the Hong Kong skin) and it’s a wonderful flavor!
I Mei Hong Kong Style Mooncakes (NTD 900)
This is the most expensive selection in their shop and I got in for my dear’s parents. It’s all Hong Kong style baked skin mooncakes but they’re all made in Taiwan. There’s a HUGE mooncake (200 grams) in the middle which has a pineapple filling as a tribute to its Taiwanese heritage but the others come in a variety of flavors including chocolate, walnut and Medjool dates.
I got to taste the pineapple filling and it was really good.
I thought the walnut and date filling is really awesome too (but no one else did). In fact, I’ll say the single yolk date filling Taiwanese mooncake is my second favorite this year.
I also choose a very interesting pack which had dried scallops and XO in a mooncake but for some reason it wasn’t packed and I wasn’t charged for it. I suspect this happened when we switched from a longer box to a flatter one and before it was tabulated and sealed so I didn’t realize it. Oh well.
Teochew Pure Green Bean Mooncake (RM 9.50)
This lard filled mooncake is from Setapak Teochew Restaurant. It’s been around since 1912 and they’re using their time-tested recipe. It’s a lot of lard (can smell it as soon as you open it) and decidedly (and proudly?) non-halal and there’s a certain charm to old school mooncakes like this, much like the Foochow mooncakes.
It’s quite good, although the lard smell/taste is a bit overwhelming and the filling is a little too sweet for today’s standards.
My better half got this for me. She knows I love mooncakes (especially unusual ones) and thus brought this home one day. It’s the Petite Collection which contains 5 hand-crafted ice cream mooncakes. Each set has:
White Chocolate Mooncake with Mango Ice Cream
Strawberry Chocolate Mooncake with Summer Berries & Cream Ice Cream
Milk Chocolate Mooncake with Chocolate Ice Cream
The first one is the best and the “rarest” e.g. each mooncake configuration will have 1:2:2 ratio with the White Chocolate with Mango Ice Cream being the smallest number. Their Deluxe Collection also has the same kind of ice cream mooncakes, but with 2:3:3 respectively.
The Strawberry Chocolate Mooncake with Summer Berries & Cream Ice Cream is very refreshing too but my dear liked the Milk Chocolate Mooncake with Chocolate Ice Cream, which tasted like the Mother’s Day ice cream cake from Haagen-Dazs I got earlier this year. This is also the same mooncake we featured in TumblingMinis. :D
Like I said, most of the mooncakes this year were purchased during my trip to Taiwan and are made in Taiwan. We both thought that the Taiwanese style pastry mooncakes were much better than their attempts to make a baked skin mooncake. I loved the pork floss with mung bean mooncake and the walnut and date mooncakes came in a close second.
This was what we had for our final dinner before we all left Taiwan. Cross Straits Club (known locally as CS Club) is a rather swanky place in the middle of Taipei.
Braised Shark Fin with Abalone
I thought it was really good – everything was hidden underneath that piece of cabbage. Please, spare me your PETA rhetoric, I’m really not interested in being evangelized to when I’m not going to convert. Shark fin tasted good in this dish. Full stop.
King Prawn in Superior Soup
This dish is quite misleadingly named. I’m sure the Chinese is more descriptive. It’s actually the best one of the night – a huge big head prawn in beurre blanc (very buttery!) paired with hand made pasta. Blew my mind.
Stewed Osso Buco with Burgundy Wine
Yup, what are we doing eating a Milanese dish in Taiwan? I don’t know but it was delicious! I loved how fork tender and juicy the osso buco was. There’s a lot of melt-in-your-mouth cartilage too.
Vegetables with Dried Scallop
This is some kind of crunchy root vegetable but deceptively some of the white bits are actually mushrooms. Nice surprise.
Steamed Fresh Fish with Tofu
I love fish so this is a winning combination! I like the whole piece of tofu under the fish too, since we didn’t have rice, the tofu does a nice job in absorbing the flavors.
Xiao Long Bao
There are two pork xiao long bao and the odd one with prawn roe on the top is filled with truffles! I love the truffled xiao long bao, the earthy stock that came out when you piece the skin into your soup spoon was good.
Seasonal Fruit Platter
A very nicely arranged selection of fruits. I like how CS Club portions their dishes individually, it’s thoughtful for them to think as a diner and make the appropriate cuts and slices to make your dining experience better too.
Sweetened Hashima with Crystal Sugar
This is also known as hasma, the dried fatty tissue near the fallopian tubes of frogs. It’s not frog sperm, contrary to popular belief, it’s the complete opposite. Tastes wonderful in a dessert.
Cross Straits Club also has a London style red telephone booth which they sealed up and filled with water and fish. I thought that made for a unique entrance feature. :)
This is the highest data package I’ve seen out there. I use up a lot of data every month, especially since cloud computing (Google Drive, Dropbox etc) makes it easy to upload everything when you’re out. I also went for two trips this month (Taiwan and Bali) so the high data quota has been great for me since my lifestyle demands a high data package and this is the crème de la crème of high volume requirements.
2. No misleading advertising
I’ve seen all sorts of shenanigans by telcos with regards to data. Some advertise a high amount but in actual fact it’s a combination of WiFi + 4G LTE (not just mobile broadband e.g. 4G LTE) which is frankly falsedeceptive misleading. There are also “unlimited” plans out there – they just don’t bother telling you the network is so bad that you can barely load Wikipedia, much less something more graphics intensive.
3. Unlimited calls
Yup, I no longer have to choose between high voice or high data. I can have BOTH!!! This package allows me to make voice calls to ALL networks for as long as I want. Its true unlimited calls, which is a good thing as everyone is on a different telco nowadays. It’s no longer dominated by one or two and what’s the appeal of free calls within your network when you can have free calls across *all* networks for a low price?
4. Share Internet with your tablet
I know a lot of people who own multiple devices – I’m one of them. In the past, telcos would upsell you on another “data only” SIM card where you’ll have to basically pay for another SIM card with its own data package which you might not finish and can’t transfer. Those days are over. You can share data and get up to two SIM cards with your main line for just RM 10/month so your 3G/4G tablet can have its own number – allowing you to make calls and send text messages while sharing the 7 GB pool of data in the main line.
5. No unnecessary stuff
I’ll be honest and put this out there – when was the last time you sent an SMS? With Whatsapp, WeChat, LINE and other mobile messaging apps, gone are the days when we require text messaging packages. It looks good for marketing when they can offer you 3,000 FREE SMS (just imagine the copy – 3,000 THREE THOUSAND FREE SMS!!!!!!1111111oneexclaimationmark) but who uses that stuff nowadays? I only get marketing/spam and credit card/bank notification SMSs now. I receive but I don’t send. Just pay for what you need, in the off-chance you time travelled 15 years back and needed to text someone (with SMS) and use Whatsapp like a normal person.
6. Free Internet roaming
I travel quite a lot. I’ve been to two different countries in this month alone so I quit the RM 38/day (or more) data roaming charges habit and jumped on the free Internet roaming bandwagon. Well, there isn’t a bandwagon per se coz this is the first telco in Malaysia to offer this AFAIK. The 50 MB/day I get while roaming is perfect – just the right amount for all the Hearthstone games, Instagram photos, and Facebook vacation albums I play/post/upload when I’m overseas.
7. Just RM 70 per month
This is the real kicker. You thought I was paying out of my nose for this kind of data, calls and roaming privileges right? Nope, I just pay RM 70 per month, which is just RM 2 more than what my tablet alone used last time (and I can use Internet sharing for mine now so I don’t need another package for my iPad).
What kind of sorcery is this? What am I using and where can you get it, you say? U Mobile mate, I’m using the Hero Postpaid P70.
Sun Link Sea is a large highland forest park located 1,600 meters above sea level in Nantou. It’s also known as Shanlinshi (杉林溪) and a very welcome respite from the heat of Taiwan. You know the song that goes Alishan di gu nian? It’s an ancient tune that describes the virtues of the maidens of Alishan, one of the handful of Chinese songs I know.
You can actually reach Alishan from Sun Link Sea Forest and Nature Resort – it’s on the way as you pass by Xitou, and there’s a footpath you can walk though. That’s what makes Shanlinshi so popular with day trippers. The air is so fresh and cool that you feel invigorated just from breathing it in.
It was around 18 degrees Celsius when we arrived, the temperature dropped even further at night, so you might need a coat if you’re sensitive to chilly environments. It’s like Cameron Highlands, but a lot colder.
Despite having a reputation as an overnight destination before people go to Alishan mountain resort, there are a lot of things to do here and the food is great! You can reach Shanlinshi from Sun Moon Lake in 1 1/2 hours. We stayed at the Sun Link Sea Hotel – the fresh air paired with the cool temperature (it was in the low teens) made everything better. The Nantou area is also famous for their tea.
There is a lovely botanical garden here. You can see butterflies fluttering around the flowers as well as various specimens of strange and interesting plants, including a flower that grows in the middle of a leaf:
Fascinating, eh? It starts out as a seed and becomes a bud before it blossoms.
There are two waterfalls at Sun Link Sea (it’s actually a corruption/Romanization of Shanlinshi) which I affectionately dub the twin dragons. They are Chinglong Waterfall (青龍瀑布 or Green Dragon Waterfall) and Songlong Rock Waterfall (松龍岩瀑布 or Pine Dragon Rock Waterfall). You’ll see Songlong Rock Waterfall first, and see it you must, for it’s the *most beautiful* sight in Sun Link Sea!
Songlong Rock Waterfall looks like a scene that came out of a postcard. It’s a picture perfect sight with the mist and spray from the waterfall framing the stones in the middle of the lake. This is the start of a long nature trail – you can go to the higher Chinglong Waterfall, the stark Shui Yang Forest, and the curious Tien Ti Yen as well as a variety of other natural attractions from 1-4 hours.
However, if you don’t have time, you can just do the circular route that brings you into the hole in the middle of the mountain (a little like Tian Ti Yen, the Heaven and Earth Eyes which are depressions in face) and back out. The photo op from here is magnificent since the recess allows for high contrast photos with reflections.
The steps can be a little slippery here though. The dripping is caused by water coming down from high up the mountain. I nearly slipped and faceplanted once while attempting to take a photo.
You can also come back via the stepping stones but only if you’ve been religiously following your daily recommended intake of calcium since slipping would be a little disastrous here. Heh.
There are a lot of cultural totems here too, and you can see stars at night due to the elevation and lack of light and pollution. I enjoyed my time in Sun Link Sea, if you’re heading to Alishan, you might want to consider dropping by to check out the unique and beautiful gifts of nature here.
Oh, before I forget, let me do an introduction. This breathtaking carving of rock hard wood was erected here as a symbol of fertility by Taiwanese aboriginals.
This was one of the places I was looking forward to visiting in Taiwan. I’ve heard much about the Taiwanese aborigines, although I’m only familiar with the Amis and wanted to know more about them. It turned out to the one of the highlights of my trip!
I can’t say it’s THE HIGHLIGHT of my trip since it’s just my second day in Taiwan but I was totally blown away by the Amis performance. It’s a courtship ritual dance and it starts with the girls slowly trooping down from the back of the open courtyard to meet in the middle with their male counterparts.
You won’t regret watching this 5 minute video coz I certainly was very proud of being in the right place at the right time at the right angle to capture everything from beginning till end.
Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village is actually a theme park that has several components to it – there’s literally something for everyone, from the European Village to the Amusement Isle, which is an amusement park and waterpark rolled into one. It’s like having multiple attractions and rides that appeals to both young and old in one place.
That’s exactly what it is – a place for everyone. Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village opened in 1986 and is originally a cultural village for people to observe and experience a Taiwanese traditional tribal lifestyle. That was why I wanted to go. It expanded to be a lot more than that to capture a larger audience for just NTD 780 (about RM 100) for adults, which gives you access to everything.
There was an actual, real-life Amis woman who dressed up and gave us a commentary throughout the day. I thought that was awesome, coz she spoke English well and she was a veritable fountain of knowledge. Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village actually has two places that tells the history of the Taiwanese aboriginals via rides.
The first is at Dynamic Movie and called Time Travel – Discovering Sun Moon Lake. This is one of those motion 3D simulators which has intense levels of gyro action and alarming tilts. It’s fully animated and it’s a production that’s completely done in Taiwan! Stuff like this is usually imported, so a locally made rendering makes it all the more meaningful and it tells the story well – just more geared towards the younger ones.
The other is a beautiful medley of theatre and interactive elements called ILLUSION FUSION. The show started with two girls coming together…
…and segues into a man shooting down the sun (more about that later), people chasing a white deer etc.
It’s The Origins of Taiwan in abstract form and I think theatre lovers would totally dig it.
I really enjoyed it but I wouldn’t have understood the symbolism if I hadn’t watched Discovering Sun Lake Moon earlier. You can say both serves their purpose, I would definitely go for the 3D motion simulator first to get the mythology straight before delving into the heavier Illusion Fusion.
There are a lot of roller-coasters and water slides around but I skipped all that to delve into the proper Taiwanese aboriginal history. Yup, even UFO Adventures, Taiwan’s tallest free-fall ride at 85 meters.
There was a poll on who wanted to go and I went for Taiwan’s first cable car system instead, the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway. The significance of this cable car is in the name – you actually descend down (or up, depending on where you’re coming from) to the aforementioned lake.
The legend about how Taiwan started goes like this. There was a group of hunters who saw a white deer and wanted to kill it, chasing it to Sun Moon Lake. However, they didn’t catch it but they settled down here instead. These were the original inhabitants of Taiwan – the Amis and other Taiwanese aboriginals.
It was nice to see the beautiful blue lake and you can even go on boat rides if you want.
There was also a ceremony where we were blessed with fire and had to “jump” over a flaming pit to get rid of bad luck, the traditional Taiwan aboriginal way.
I love the interactive portions, I did it twice, once for real and once for the camera…does that mean I reversed my good luck?
The Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Museum was very interesting too – everything has both Chinese and English descriptions, even the digital screens, so I could understand the history and culture behind the Taiwanese original inhabitants.
They also own the largest collection of real Paiwan status wood lintels in Taiwan! It’s quite impressive to see all the ancient artefacts and learn about the culture of the 19 recognized tribes of Aboriginals.
I decided to spend more time at the actual Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village and caught a couple of shows, including the natives’ flagship song. Naruwan actually means “Hello“. You’ll hear this multiple times as the people there greet you in this format.
Try and catch all the performances if you can, they’re the best thing about this place. I managed to get involved in an impromptu dance where a Taiwanese girl came over to grab my hand to join the circle of dancers.
I was trying to get the dance right, kicking and switching stances when prompted when one of the guys (who really is a Bunun – one of the Aboriginal people of Taiwan) handed me a drink. It was their version of fermented rice wine and I drank it. Surprisingly fruity, it was good. I was wondering why they didn’t grab children to join in the dances until I realized it was alcohol. Haha!
That was a lot of fun and it made for a great photo op – thanks to the resident Amis for taking the photos. I highly recommend coming if you love visiting a country to learn more about the cultural elements. :)
Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village
555, Nantou County, Yuchi Township
Nantou County, Taiwan
This is the traditional 您好 post that I make each time I visit a new country. I arrived late at Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei, Taiwan and all of us made the 1 1/2 hour drive down to Taichung. I was quite surprised to see that the airport had an excellent feature – video cameras pointing towards the people exiting (on both sides) so you have visuals of arrivals.
I have been to quite a lot of countries and never seen this feature – Australia, New Zealand and Europe (from England to Georgia – the places I’ve been to anyway) don’t have this. It’s very nifty, you can see the faces of people coming out on a big screen on both flanks with overlapping coverage.
I tried to get something from the vending machine too. I like to check out the vending machines in places I go to, every country has something different. Unfortunately, all I had was notes (it’s coin/smartphone only) and I didn’t want to keep everyone waiting so we made the long drive down to Yamay for the night.
I’m staying at Fullon Hotel Yamay in Taichung. It’s a good thing that everything has been arranged in this trip. I would have to book hotels otherwise, which is a constant source of stress, as my better half can tell you. I ponder excessively over what hotels to stay in. You can compare hotel rates and find cheaper deals though the HotelsCombined search engine before planning your holidays. I just found out about it and it automatically checks prices at several of the popular hotel booking sites to see which offers the best deal!
My room has an awesome view too!
Next up was dinner – it was pretty awesome, first meal in Taiwan and we had a 12 course veritable feast. Delicious!
I’ll post more about the trip soon. Taiwan has great free WiFi coverage in most major cities and that’s how I’m able to post this. Check out my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for live updates!
I’ll be getting a Taiwan SIM card so I’ll be able to update and access my social media while I’m away. I hear they’re quite affordable, something like NTD 300 for 5 days unlimited data. Catch you on the flipside – I’ll update again tonight. Meanwhile, I can be reached via: