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 mostly about the scheduling malfunction. I’m currently sitting in the airport in Bali alone coz of a series of unfortunate events. I realized too late that my Taipei trip overlapped with my Bali departure so it was decided that my better half would fly out first and I’ll go join her in Ubud when I came back from Taiwan.
I hadn’t realized that the ticket conditions prevented me from taking the return trip if I hadn’t shown up for the departure.
Yup, the original ticket was on Malaysia Airlines, not a point-to-point airline like AirAsia or I wouldn’t have this problem.
My dear had bought us both tickets to Bali but since I was in Taiwan at the time, I had to buy another ticket from KL to Denpasar (cost me RM 432). I don’t have a problem with this, little did I know that since I was a “no show”, I revoked my rights to travel back on the return leg.
I’ve been travelling quite frequently since I was a kid and never ran into problems like this until the downgrading of Malaysia Airlines (in the glory full service days, you could just about do anything). Maybe all you needed was a small rebooking fee, but with the cost saving measures by MAS, it’s now effectively a low-cost airline with restrictions. It’s definitely not a premium airline anymore.
I assumed that I could travel back on the return flight and didn’t think to do anything until my better half told me she couldn’t check in for me and I wasn’t listed. After talking to a distinctively unhelpful Khairul (“I’m the only Khairul in Customer Service“) in Malaysia Airlines, it turns out that he couldn’t help and I decided to just rebook my return flight using AirAsia.
I managed to get one slightly after my original flight for an additional IDR 1,512,350 – you need to pay in rupiah if you’re in Indonesia while booking online, it’s about RM 504.
This was very late into the night, we had just came back from Venezia Day Spa & Salon in Ubud where the rather misleading Honeymoon Package (IDR 607,000) is the price for one, not for two. At least my better half thought it was for the both of us, I had suspected that it’s just a name and it’s the price per person.
It turns out that the total price was IDR 1,214,000 or IDR 1,358,699 with 12% tax of IDR 145,680. It’s still decent for a 5 hour treatment since 1.3 million rupiah is about MYR 452 and the important part was that she enjoyed herself. I didn’t mind the treatments too, I’m just not used to these kind of things – my first manicure and pedicure.
Anyway, after realizing late into the night that my return flight wasn’t secure, I had to quickly book another ticket back on the rather unreliable hotel WiFi – it took me the better part of an hour before the credit card payment went though.
I’m writing this now from Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali while awaiting for my flight – it’s been a long week with little sleep but it sure was fun though, certainly an interesting past few days. It was great, we needed the break and it made us all the more closer. :)
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:
I had so much fun today. I met up with Lindsay (of yearofthedurian.com fame) and we went to two organic durians orchards, where we ate a lot of durians. I even tried a new one today – the D144 Durian (a hybrid of D2 and D24). I have 10 (!!!) durians (mixture of D24 and D88) and 1 cempedak in the boot of my car, courtesy of the kind people at the durian orchards. Lindsay is flying back to Oregon at 2 am so the fruits all went to me.
Funny story: I was in Penang with my better half over the weekend and went to eat some durians. There was a couple who walked past me while I was sitting there enjoying my Susu Durian and I overheard them talking loudly in Hokkien about an ang mo (Caucasian) who knows a lot about durians and blogs about it while they were inspecting the stall. Haha.
I just came back from sending her to the airport – it’s been quite a long day, I picked her up at 9 am. It was a blast and although we couldn’t visit the third durian orchard that we planned to go to due to time constraints, I actually learned more than a few things about durians today. I also found out that the Bentong/Karak area has a lot of durian stalls by the roadside, all fully stocked in the morning (since the orchards are nearby).
I’ll write more tomorrow, I have to finish some work. We were also on BFM 89.9 just now (the segment isn’t live and wouldn’t be aired yet) to talk about durians. Thanks for organizing everything Lindsay, and for the wheelbarrow lift. :)
1. Had dinner at one of the best restaurants in KL
My better half surprised me with this treat. It’s actually the second most expensive meal we’ve ever had in KL (the first being the Michelin star Le Gavroche chef who came to town) but I thought it was worth it. Delicious appetizers and mains – thanks for booking us dinner at Sage dear.
2. Watched Ant-Man
I’ve been wanting to watch Ant-Man for a long time. We even had passes to the premiere screening but missed it coz I thought it was the next day. Thus, I got ourselves Premier Class tickets (RM 63) at The Gardens to go watch the movie. I had actually wanted Gold Class but my dear thought it was too expensive. It used to cost RM 40 per pax but that’s the price of Premier Class now – Gold Class is double.
It’s still quite an exclusive viewing experience though – the seats are all couple seats, which you can remove the middle partition so you can snuggle up together. That’s actually a *necessity* since the air-conditioning was so cold everyone in the Premier Class cinema was shivering. It’s still better than watching it in their regular cinemas though, this is a more intimate environment where no one talks loudly or uses their mobile phones – the higher ticket prices weeds out most badly behaved cinema goers. Ant-Man was awesome, a nice conclusion to Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
3. Ate escargots and drank Valrhona hot chocolate
We had lunch at a Parisian style bistro/bakery which also serves wine. I had Escargots a la Bourguignonne while my dear had a ham and cheese croissant (Croissant au Jambon et au Fromage). This was our lunch the day we checked in, she also had a Valrhona hot chocolate – we bought a lot of the famous French chocolate a while back, it’s not for kids, their single origin stuff is utterly bitter, in a good way.
4. Walked around the mall
We loaded up with fresh cold pressed juice before spending most of the day walking around the mall. My dear wanted to get a clutch bag and we went to most of the stores in The Gardens and Mid-Valley but couldn’t find one that she wanted. I was secretly observing at what kind of bags she was looking at so I could KIV for our anniversary.
The Sun Kissed Stress Reliever (RM 13) is a mixture of ginger, red apple, pineapple, orange, carrot and grapefruit in a glass bottle. I liked the Nutty Professor Energy Booster (hazelnut, almond, cashew, soy milk, raw cacao, Medjool dates) and 50 Shades of Grey Stamina Booster (Earl Grey team hazelnut, Himalayan salt, coconut, agave necter) too.
5. Chilled in our hotel room
I booked a room as St Giles The Gardens, the best hotel among the 3 at Mid-Valley. I also considered Pullman Bangsar (which has a shuttle service to Mid-Valley) but ultimately wanted to stay at Mid-Valley itself since we were out almost the entire day!
6. Had a hearty breakfast
This was at Antipodean, which my better half wanted to try. It was decent and cheap (relatively) fare but not as good as their original Bangsar Telawi II outlet, probably due to the huge crowd here. We had to wait five (5) minutes in queue while we got seated and that’s considered a very quick seating. The service was good though and I quite liked my order of Eggs Marlborough with Salmon.
I think we spent only 10 hours or so total in our room but it was fun and we got to spend the time with each other during our staycation. :)
I decided to surprise my better half with a night at a local hotel during the long holiday weekend. Yup, it’s our biannual staycation, where we spend a night (or two) at a KL or PJ hotel and chill, eat and shop. My better half suggested Mid Valley this time but I don’t really like Cititel Hotel (although it’s the cheapest option, the rooms reek of cigarette smoke).
Thus, it’s down to St Giles Boulevard or St Giles The Gardens. The latter is slightly more grand, a step up in both standards and price so I splurged a little and went for that. The rooms are significantly larger than St Giles Boulevard (27 sq m) and make the ones at Cititel Mid Valley (18 sq m) look almost like closets.
All three hotels are managed by the same people – it’s supposed to be for different segments of the market with St Giles The Gardens as the premier choice, with larger rooms (38 sq m). I paid USD 116.26 (RM 442.35 per night) for our room and thought I overpaid coz I forgot to switch the currency to MYR. It turns out that MYR was even more expensive at RM 452 so it’s a good thing I have a PayPal account with USD inside.
I almost went for the 72 sq m 1 bedroom suite which is about RM 80 more but I ended up going for a deluxe room instead and the extra cash went towards a single glass of wine (more on that later).
It was a lot of fun, we crammed all the things couples do into a 24 hour period – ate at a restaurant rated as one of the best in KL, watched a movie we’ve missed and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a great and relaxing staycation, plus we managed to stay within the budget of RM 1,500 for everything – can’t wait to do it again! :)
LEGO Friends LIVE is actually products and cartoons turned into real people for a musical. These are the little one’s favorite characters in LEGO! She watches the cartoons religiously and knows all about Andrea, Mia, Emma, Olivia and Stephanie. Her bigger sister is more into Chima nowadays.
Little E was looking forward to seeing the LEGO Friends characters in real life!
We were at Legoland over the weekend and we actually spotted the characters of Lego Friends twice – once when we were having breakfast in Legoland Hotel on the first day and the second time just as we were entering the park on the second day.
Unfortunately, we were in the midst of eating the first time so we didn’t go out to take photos with the girls of Lego Friends and we wanted to get a family photo with a LEGO character the second time and by the time we were done the cast had finished their photo session and walked past us to get ready for their first show.
We could actually enter the Legoland Theme Park at 9:30 am since we were staying at the hotel (a full 30 minutes before everyone) and I’ll write about both the Legoland Water Park and the Legoland Theme Park separately.
I just wanted to talk about us experiencing the first ever LEGO Friends musical performance in Asia!
There’s giant balloons which they threw to us and we bounced around back to them – a nice interactive touch!
It was quite a surreal experience – having watched the cartoons from the little one’s iPad, it took a bit of processing to see real life people looking and dressed up like LEGO Friends characters and *acting* like them too! They each have different personalities which are amped up in the musical performance.
I filmed a video of the sound check, skit, interaction between the real life LEGO Friends and a bit of the start of the concert. I loved how they really got into character – the kids enjoyed it, and so did we! I got the little one a nice purple t-shirt of LEGO Friends too (the bigger one wanted a LEGO Chima one).
We had an awesome time, it’s a good thing we made the time to drop by LEGO City Stage to see this musical. More about our family Legoland trip soon! :)