Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Raining Cats & Dogs

Dinner at Stanley’s

A few posts ago we introduced our new friends Stanley & Vicky and mentioned that Stanley owns a Malaysian Hot Pot restaurant.

It didn’t take long for Stanley to offer us an invite and on Monday this week we agreed that we would have Stanley & Vicky at our apartment for some snacks and drinks, but not before we went to Stanley’s Malaysian Hot Pot for dinner.

The restaurant is located just a few blocks from the Kaohsiung Sky Tower (“85 Floor” called by locals) and it is a mere 1 km from one of the local MRT stations. Seemed to us to be easy enough to navigate our way there on foot.

It was raining pretty hard when we left our apartment but it was manageable. Good thing we brought both our umbrellas! Unfortunately, it seemed that with every step we took further and further away from our apartment there was someone up in the sky pulling a lever further and further open until we found ourselves in the midst of a torrential downpour!!!

A brief respite traveling from one MRT station to another was much needed but any hopes we had that the rain might have let up by the time we emerged was quickly scuppered... it had only gotten worse!

The rain was so hard that after a few minutes our umbrellas had become completely saturated and the water started dripping through our umbrellas directly onto us. With the tops of our bodies becoming increasingly wet and our feet well and truly drenched, it was only our middle torsos that had any semblance of being dry. Of course, with water slowly trickling down from our heads and creeping up from our toes, this wasn’t going to remain the case for long.

After walking about 9 blocks we agreed it would be best if we asked for directions. Of course Amanda had suggested that we ask for directions after 6 or 7 blocks but I really felt like I needed those last 2-3 before I was certain that we were lost. Turns out I was right, those last few blocks really did prove that we were lost!

A very kind clerk at a Family Mart (7-eleven’s arch rival) kindly helped us and ordered a cab. I showed the cab driver the business card that Stanley had given me and we were then driven just up the street about 4 blocks. We were so close after all.

Stanley and his sister, Anna, greeted us as we arrived at the restaurant and we were certainly given the “royal treatment”. We were seated at a big family table near to the kitchen and Stanley recommended a number of dishes that he thought we might like (see pictures below). Stanley’s mother shortly after we sat down had asked Stanley to tell us to move to the other side of the table to that she could see our lovely faces... flattery gets you everywhere! The food was delicious!! Seriously the best pickled cabbage we have had since we have been in Taiwan. While eating we met and talked with Stanley’s mother, sister and nephew. What a kind, welcoming family!

Amanda and I will definitely be visiting this restaurant again soon. Personally, I don’t think I will be satisfied until I have tried everything on the menu at least once.

After dinner Stanley took us to pick up Vicky and then we headed to our apartment. On the way there we stopped by the side of a night market and Vicky went to pick up some very authentic Taiwanese snacks that we brought back to our place. We were able to try fried tofu, fried pork, fried yam, fried chicken skin and fried duck blood rice cake. The last of these snacks is where lots of rice is soaked in duck blood until it turns a little firm and then it is cut up into cubes and deep fried (see pictures below). All the snacks were very tasty... even the ducks blood rice cakes!

Gifts from friends

In Amanda’s last post she forgot to mention that at the Dream Mall on Sunday Milton and Jenny gave us some cookies and some mangoes that Milton’s grandmother grew in Tainan. We ate these over the past few days and were very happy to have had them. Those mangoes were a real treat having been picked so ripe and so recently. The fruit here is excellent and is definitely something we will miss when we come back to Canada. Thank you Milton & Jenny!

Singapore booked

Amanda & I will be flying to Singapore on July 15th and staying there until the 20th. We are both very excited about the trip and will be spending the next few days putting our exact itinerary together. I’m especially excited because a work colleague from Shell that I haven’t seen in a long time is now back working and living in Singapore (his home turf). It will be great to catch-up and see how he is doing.

This doesn't do justice to how hard it was raining.
Brett, Stanley, Stanley and Amanda!
Foreground: Dried bean curd with seaweed (?) and green onion. / Background: Pork with noodles in a soup. Very good!
Tendons with noodles, green onion and peppers. Pickled cabbage at the top left and iced black tea at the top right. The Chinese believe that black tea is actually more red in appearance and so it is called red tea (hong cha) in Taiwan. I am quickly becoming addicted to tea!
Satisfied customers!!!
Here there is fried pork, fried tofu and something that looked like french fries but was actually some kind of fried fish product.
Fried chicken skin and fried duck blood rice cake.
Amanda nervously samples the fried duck blood rice cake. We both enjoyed this and would have it again but definitely not for the faint of heart.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hello Dream Mall!

Today we got together with Jenny and Milton for some more language exchange – and some shopping! We went to Kaohsiung’s Dream Mall, which is not only home to the Hello Kitty Ferris Wheel but is also the largest mall in Southeast Asia. It was also the perfect climate-controlled environment for us to spend the day in on account of the unbearable humidity blanketing the city this weekend.

We had a huge and delicious Japanese lunch in the food court. It was nice to have some Taiwanese guides to help us understand some of the Asian fast food we were looking at. Fun fact: Kaohsiung Airport Catering Services has an outlet there! Jenny and Milton were not fazed, but it certainly came as a surprise to those of us who are more accustomed to the vacuum-packed “meals” served on the airlines we’re familiar with. There were lots of people ordering from there, so it must be delicious!

We practiced more Chinese while we ate, then went for a wander around the mall. We barely scratched the surface! I’m already eager to go back. We visited a popular bookstore franchise not unlike Chapters back home… the chief difference being that all the books were in Chinese and bound “backwards”. We bought some “Learn Chinese” DVDs featuring the films of Ang Lee, one of Taiwan’s famous exports! He grew up not far from Kaohsiung in a place called Tainan.
The Dream Mall is apparently a popular tour stop for musicians, actors, and other entertainers for performances and autograph sessions. We were not disappointed today when we caught part of a traditional Chinese music and dance performance. Beautiful women danced around the stage balancing stacks of ceramic, water-filled bowls on their heads! Unreal. Despite the beautiful cultural offerings and lovely air-conditioned shops, my favourite sight at the mall was a stall selling mini-cupcakes. That’s been one of my major Canadian cravings and I’m looking forward to going back for some!

It was a great day and I learned a lot. All the practice Brett and I have been getting this month has really been helping our Chinese, and we’re looking forward to putting some of our new words and phrases to use. I don’t know what we’d do without all our new Taiwanese friends offering us tips on food, Taiwan survival, and Chinese grammar.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lucky 2011!

Yesterday was a pretty good day. We met up again with Stanley and Vicky! They drove us to a beautiful cafe on the side of a mountain overlooking the ocean - not bad for a Friday afternoon. The view was breathtaking and I think it actually made Brett a little homesick for the coast of South Africa. We practiced English and Chinese over giant portions of iced coffee. I didn't think I understood S & V properly when they told us they'd ordered "bowls" of coffee, but sure enough out came our drinks with ladles and small serving cups - our friends had also had "Brett" and "Amanda" written in syrup on ours! The other bowl said "Lucky 2011". So sweet.

Stanley told us all about monkeys in the mountains stealing people's food and cameras. He said a monkey had once taken his food! He had also seen a monkey holding some random cellphone! Milton also told us when we last saw him that if we go hiking with him and Jenny we can't take anything a monkey would try to steal. Based on these reports as well as what our host from Hamasen told us, it's become clear that monkeys could prove to be formidable opponents if we stumble onto their turf.

After coffee, we headed down the hill for some beef noodles. These have become my favourite food in Taiwan. I could eat them every single day. We also paused long enough before inhaling our soup to take photos this time, so enjoy! We practiced saying "beef noodle soup" with Stanley and Vicky so I hope we can impress our friends Milton and Jenny tomorrow by trying to order in Chinese! We also practiced saying the names of our new favourite drinks - "shi gua niu nai" and "mu gua niu nai" - or watermelon milk and papaya milk.

Exciting news! Brett doesn't want me to brag about this, but I'm very proud of him! Anyone who's looked at the blog has seen his awesome photos, and recently he started uploading some of his favourites to this website called Panoramio. Panoramio is the site where users submit pictures to be used on Google Earth, and tons of Brett's photos have been picked up! So weird to be looking up places in Kaohsiung and see photos by "brettboje" pop up! Unfortunately you can't search by username on Panoramio but they're all photos you would have seen anyways on the blog. I guess I'm just so happy for him that strangers all over the place are seeing his photos - one of his night market pictures from Beijing has already been viewed 100 times! Yay Brett!

PS - Brett, with his usual cynicism/pessimism/skepticism combined thinks this is nothing to be lauded as "any bloody idiot can get their pictures on Panoramio" according to him, but I still think it's great!

PPS - He's not always so grumpy. I think it's all the atmospheric pressure changes we've been experiencing this week what with the passing of typhoon Meari.

We agreed to meet Stanley & Vicky by the Central Park MRT Station Entrance / Exit.
The four of us shared two enormous bowls of coffee. One read "Brett Amanda" & the other read "Lucky 2011".
Amanda, Brett & Vicky!
The view from the coffee house.
Brett & Amanda
Stanley & Vicky
We then had some beef noodles.
Dry beef noodles on the left and wet beef noodles on the right.
Brett had a papaya milk (木瓜牛奶) while Amanda had watermelon milk (西瓜牛奶).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rueifeng Night Market (瑞豐夜市) with Stanley & Vicky

On Monday Amanda & I met with another Taiwanese couple for tea and a light lunch. Stanley & Vicky are another couple that contacted us for a language exchange after we posted an advertisement on

We arranged to meet Stanley & Vicky at an MRT Station where they would collect us. Stanley & Vicky arrived in a car and drove us a to cute little shop called “A Coffee Shop with Brokenhearted” or “Sad Cafe” (傷心咖啡店). Over tea, soup and dumplings, we discovered that Stanley had learned English mostly by watching HBO and movies, initially with Chinese subtitles but eventually without. This was truly amazing because Stanley’s spoken English is very good. Stanley owns and operates a restaurant that serves “Malaysian Hot Pot” and Vicky is a dance and Kung Fu instructor. We had a some really good food at the cafe and a great time with our new friends.

The following day, Tuesday, Amanda & I were asked by Stanley & Vicky if we would like to go to the Rueifeng Night Market (瑞豐夜市) a little ways north of our apartment. We very happily accepted and agreed to meet Stanley & Vicky by our building as they had offered to give us a ride to the night market. We were quite surprised when they arrived on two scooters! We had already contemplated that at some point it would be necessary to be a passenger on the back of a scooter in Taiwan but the first time is always the most nerve-wracking. We both had helmets and probably held on to Stanley and Vicky far too tightly as this was our first time on a scooter, but they were both excellent drivers and there really was no need for us to be so worried!

Rueifeng Night Market is fairly large and popular with young people. It also has a reputation as being less touristy than some other famous night markets in Kaohsiung such as Liuhe Night Market. The owner of Hostel Hamasen once told us that a night market must have three things in order for it to be good: food, clothes and games. Rueifeng certainly had plenty of all three!

Stanley & Vicky were very kind hosts and bought a variety of different foods for us to sample.
  • We ate a type of fried pancake that was mixed with egg, green vegetables and a homemade ketchup (tomato sauce).
  • Cubed roast beef with onions and cucumber in. The meat was succulent and in a very nice gravy.
  • “QQ Balls” were yam that had been mixed with sugar and deep fried, a delicious and sweet snack.
  • We also had chicken wings that were de-boned, stuffed with rice and seasoning, sealed, skewered on a stick like a corn dog, then deep fried. Very tasty indeed.
  • Papaya Milk. Stanley aptly explained this to us as being... papaya plus milk!!  :)  

After wandering around the night market for a while, Vicky suggested we find a cafe where we could get a piece of cake and tea and sit down for a while. Amanda and I shared a piece of chocolate cake and an interesting sweet and salty iced green tea. On a side note, wherever you can buy tea in Taiwan you have the option of getting it iced or hot. If you do not specify then the standard is iced. While we sat for a while, Stanley told us about how Mandarin can be a very tricky language to learn because words can have so many different meaning depending on their tone or the context. He gave us the example that if you try to say to someone “I want fried rice” you may be surprised because you are actually saying to them “I want sex”. Fried rice and sex sound the same and so it is necessary to qualify you statement by saying “I want to eat fried rice” or better yet “I want to eat beef/pork/chicken fried rice”.

    We had a lot of fun with Stanley & Vicky and both Amanda & I are very happy that we are now beginning to have a normal social life where we are seeing people on a regular basis. Everyone we have met in Taiwan has been so friendly and helpful. Stanley & Vicky are another excellent example of this. 

    Rueifeng Night Market 

    While for the most part Liouhe Night Market belongs to tourists, Rueifeng Night Market belongs to Kaohsiung locals. In recent years, Rueifeng’s popularity has caught up with the well-known Liouhe Night Market. Many foods and drinks here have been reported in newspapers, magazines and even on TV programs. Don’t know what to eat? Just have a look at the media recommendations stuck on the sides of the stalls.

    At Yucheng Road and Nanping Road, Zuoying District
    18:30-01:00 Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday”

    - Kaohsiung Travel Guide

    Stanley's Malaysian Hot Pot Restaurant
    Stanley & Amanda!
    Fried batter pancake with egg, green vegetables and a homemade tomato sauce.
    Amanda about to sample a "QQ Ball", yam and sugar deep fried.
    Vicky & Stanley buying papaya milk.
    Rueifeng Night Market is popular with the locals in Kaohsiung and has an large assortment of food, clothing and games.
    Brett, Amanda and Vicky

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Jenny and Milton: Helping us survive in Kaohsiung

    Being in charge of the blog post today is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because today was extremely fun, informative, and full of new experiences, but a curse because we saw, ate and learned so many new things I worry I won’t be able to do them all justice. Today we met up again with our new friends, Jenny and Milton, for lunch and an afternoon of sight-seeing. They suggested we go to a place called “喫茶趣” or “Cha For Tea”. It’s a restaurant serving a variety of dishes all made with tea as an ingredient!

    We brought a notebook this time to record the useful things Milton and Jenny told us, and I am already relying on it to help me remember the many different foods we ate. We ordered a “set meal” which comes with rice, an “appetizing drink”, appetizer, main course, side dish, soup, dessert, and after-meal tea. Hot oolong was also flowing like water throughout the entire meal. To start, we each had a bowl of tea-flavoured wonton soup along with our “appetizing drinks” made from honey, vinegar, and green tea. The drink was sweet, sour, and amazing. Jenny and Milton explained that it can be consumed before the meal, or sometimes afterwards to ease the discomfort of a full stomach.

    More and more dishes of food kept arriving at the table, and we shared around as much as possible while Milton and Jenny tried to explain the Chinese and English names to us. I had a bowl of purple rice, referred to on the menu as “grain rice”. Milton said it’s a healthy mixture of five different types of rice and gets its purple colour naturally from one of the grains during the cooking process. We also tried the Ten-Lu Tea Pork Wrap, which was filled with pork and spring onions then fried and sliced to be chopstick-friendly (and extra delicious). We also had Pu-Erh Beef which was marinated in a tea-based broth and dipped into a sweet and spicy bean sauce. Milton shared some of his shrimp dumplings with us which would have put any Canadian dim sum restaurant to shame. We also had tea kimchi, which is marinaded Korean cabbage. I’m pretty sure it was pickled and seasoned with garlic. For our side-dishes, we tried Alluring Jasmine Tofu (which Jenny had to show us how to handle with chopsticks - very slippery!) and Pi-Lo-Chun Green Tea Bamboo. After all that, we still had dessert (Green Tea Mango Mousse) and our after-meal tea. Jenny and Milton ordered a fancy type of green tea (I’m no expert, but it tasted pretty fancy to me) and Brett ordered a “taro green milk tea with QQ”, also known in Taiwan as “pearl milk tea” or “bubble tea” in Canada. Fun fact: the pearls are referred to as “QQ”, because this is a “pinyinism” which is pronounced “chew chew” and the pearls are chewy like gum!

    That led to a very helpful explanation about the art of ordering a cup of tea in Taiwan. There are tea shops on nearly every street in Kaohsiung, and many of them will offer a wide variety of cold and hot teas, but until now Brett and I have only been able to stare longingly at people sipping icy-cold takeaway cups of steeped goodness. Milton and Jenny explained to us - with Chinese vocabulary - the four steps to ordering a cup of tea. First, you name the kind of tea and whether you would like it hot or cold. If we wanted to order for example a cold green tea, we would order a liu cha. Then, we would select the size: small, medium or large. After that we must order either no, half, or the full amount of sugar. Jenny said some tea shops will have a chart where you can point and indicate how much sugar by percentage! After the sugar, you have to indicate if you would like no ice, half ice, or full ice. Brett wrote all of this down and we will be bringing our notebook along on our next walk. I feel so empowered with this new knowledge!

    After Cha for Tea, we all went to the Kaohsiung Museum of History which is in what was Kaohsiung’s city hall during Japanese rule. The building is lovely and I’m sure Brett wants to go back with his camera to get some shots of it. It is also located next to the Love River and best of all has excellent air conditioning! Once inside, Milton and Jenny selected all the appropriate English materials and steered us through the museum as our own private tour guides!

    The first exhibit we saw was about the god Ne Zha or San Tai Zi - the Third Prince. He is the guardian of children and taxi drivers. Adherents can visit temples and leave him offerings of candy, soft drinks, and toys to secure his protection and guidance. His image underwent a renaissance at the opening ceremonies of the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung during a high-energy performance of him as the “Techno Prince”. This god has undergone a lot of different incarnations - from fierce warrior manifestations to that of a nine-year-old boy - and is hailed as a deity “with the courage to accept new things and transcend (sic) himself. Therefore, shedding his religious color and sage legends, his image inspires the art style of Techno Prince Music and many innovative creative cultural products.”

    We also saw a very interesting exhibition about the history of Kaohsiung. We saw old photographs of the harbour areas and were impressed by the changes that have happened to Kaohsiung over the years. The area the museum is located in, Yan-Cheng district, used to be a salt farm! It was cool to see old photographs of some of the places we had already visited, as well as many newer photographs showing how much Kaohsiung has grown and developed in more recent years.

    My favourite exhibit today was “Prelude to Love: Exhibition of the Rites of Passage” which showed traditional Han rites of passage including marriage, conception, childbirth, and all the stages of development a person undergoes before being deemed an adult and of marriageable age. It was interesting to read about the rituals and superstitions observed by another culture from the other side of the world. Some of our ancestors’ beliefs and practices were so similar to the Han and have evolved similarly as well, while others couldn’t be more different! At the end of the day, everyone loves to see healthy babies, bright children, and happy couples, and we all love to eat, drink, and celebrate each other’s achievements as often as possible.

    Milton, Brett, Amanda and Jenny at Yanchengpu MRT station

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Hockey Night in Kaohsiung

    On Thursday, knowing that Foster Hewitt’s (our local Canadian pub) would be showing a replay of the game seven hockey final between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks, Amanda and I very deliberately avoided checking the BBC, Facebook or any other website that might give away the result.

    At 8pm our time, we started watching the final and, well, for brevity's sake I’ll leave at “we didn’t win”. Not only did we lose the game but we felt like we had lost twice over when we later on got caught up on news. Couldn’t believe all the rioting in Vancouver. How embarrassing to be a Canadian abroad right now when the only news making it overseas is about the Vancouver riots.

    I did take one small pleasure in viewing some of the photos of the rioting and destruction and that was because so many of these rioters, looters, morons and mouth-breathers were stupid enough to do what they did while having their picture taken and within seconds uploaded to websites like Facebook. Some people even took self portraits and posted them to the web or updated their status to say how much fun they were having overturning cars and setting them on fire. Apparently Vancouver police are following up on all the photo evidence and have already made a number of arrests.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Neiweipi Cultural Park (內惟埤文化園區)

    Today was a very full day. We woke up early to do some much-needed catching up on Skype, then immediately hit the streets in search of a courier to send a letter to Taipei. We really wanted it to get there on a specific date. Brett had already Google Earthed a UPS depot within walking distance, but when we reached it we were dismayed to see the entrance was an open garage door with a delivery van and apparently no employees inside. We had to wander in - unsure if we were trespassing - only to be told by a woman in broken English that they only received international packages there. Very specific purpose for your only depot in this district, UPS. One more reason for your status as my least favourite mail courier service.

    The UPS lady herself was nice. She pointed us in the direction of a regular post office. Once inside, we took a number and stood in line, only to realize that we were waiting for banking services - not postal services. Waddled over to the postal service desk only to learn the lady spoke no English. Brett is my knight in shining armour. He recently learned the days of the week in Chinese, as well as how to explain that our letter needs to get to Taipei in five days. The transaction went smoothly, and we were only charged NT $75 for what we were told was overnight service! Yay!

    On our way home from the post office, we stopped at a Taiwanese fast food restaurant and had excellent service, delicious sandwiches, and cold apple tea all for only NT $120! $4 CAD. Unbelievable. We also enjoyed some grocery shopping which is still a novel and luxurious activity!

    After a brief stop at home to decompress and de-sweat-ify, we headed back out for a nearby park we’ve been wanting to visit. I’ve mentioned a few times the park by our house. This is called Aozihdi Nature Park. Aozihdi Nature Park is beautiful, but it is fairly recently developed and can get quite crowded with families, joggers, and cyclists. At night it’s filled with music from different dance and exercise classes. Today we were at the Neiweipi Cultural Park which surrounds Kaohsiung’s Museum of Fine Art. The park was so well-shaded and peaceful. Brett took a lot of pictures but already wants to go back when there’s different lighting. There were so many sculptures and weird benches and fountains and wild birds and cute bridges and gorgeous flowers... Not to mention the museum itself! I’m sure he’ll be posting pictures of our adventure at the park when he’s ready.

    After the park we headed to our new favourite place, Foster Hewitt’s. It is a Canadian-owned pub with Toronto decor on the walls, English-language music in the speakers, and a menu full of delicious spins on pub classics. Wednesday there is wing night, so we were very excited to sit down to a mountain of Hot and Canadian Maple BBQ wings as well as some cold drinks. I may have overindulged on Taiwan Beer there last week so I stuck to the soft stuff, but it was SO lovely to have Canadian-style lemon iced tea for a change.

    PS - Cutest moment of the day: When we were walking to the park a pet store was cleaning out the bird cages and there were about ten parrots chilling out on perches on the sidewalk just squawking and staring and being adorable. I want one.

    There was a row of flag poles immediately behind this sign. The sign says "Pole dancing is prohibited".
    Amanda trying to pose eyes open for this shot... unsuccessfully. It was a bright day in all fairness.
    There are a number of art pieces throughout Neiweipi Cultural Park as it surrounds the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine art.
    No worshipping... or yoga, presumably!
    "Oh hi. I didn't notice you standing there."
    Can you guess what happens when you pull the finger?
    Ryu and Ken must be lurking in the bushes. M. Bison, pay particular notice.
    We found this fish having a nap on a small bridge. He seemed fast asleep so I didn't disturb him.
    There were some art installation pieces with cut out Chinese characters. I took a picture of this character. I have no idea what it means in isolation.
    Post script, June 20th: We met with our Taiwanese friends Milton & Jenny yesterday and they told us that this character that I took a picture of is the character fēng which means wind.
    DO NOT make fun of the ducks!
    Amanda gets a joke... that I told three weeks earlier - not really.  :)

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    Kaohsiung Liuhe Night Market (高雄六合夜市)

    Today we met up with another couple who had contacted us via email after we had posted a language exchange personal on a popular Taiwanese website.

    Milton & Jenny met up with us at the exit of an MRT station and we walked a short distance to a restaurant they had selected especially knowing that we were not strong on our Chinese language skills just yet. Another consideration that led them to choose this restaurant was that when they asked via email what kinds of food we do and do not like, our response (after consultation) was that we are happy to try anything but we would prefer to avoid internal organs!!

    Our restaurant, “BAGEL BAGEL Western RESTAURANT” serves up spaghetti, pizza, Chinese food, salads, coffee and of course, bagels. It is one of a number of places we have encountered where a married couple own the restaurant and one is a foreigner and the other is local, so consequently the menu is a fusion of two cultures. The food was inexpensive and delicious. I opted for Gong bao ji ding (Kung pao chicken) and Amanda chose a vegetable spaghetti. Milton & Jenny spoke very good English and it was a really enjoyable meal where we were able to learn about Taiwan, practice pronouncing some key Chinese food vocabulary, and offered a few facts about Canada in what is best described as a cultural exchange.

    After dinner we went to Liuhe Night Market (六合夜市) right next to Formosa Boulevard where Milton & Jenny offered to show us through the market and explain to us the different foods that were available while answering any of our questions.

    I absolutely loved this as did Amanda. We have had a few opportunities to wander through night markets and we have even eaten at some of them, but it has always been a very cautious experience with a lot of worried looks exchanged between us. Encountering foods that look and smell strange, as compared to our experiences in Canada, is always interesting, but not nearly as enjoyable as when you have someone with you explaining exactly what everything is, where it comes from and how it is made.

    Now I must apologise that I didn’t take any pictures of all the intriguing foods we were shown as we strolled up and down the night market. The next time we go I will definitely take my camera. For now, if you would like to see some of the foods that were being sold then I would refer you to a blogger called Jasonmumbles who has taken quite a few pictures of Liuhe Night Market foods and posted them here.

    It was fairly crowded at the market - as to be expected for a Saturday - and so Milton and I stuck together while Jenny and Amanda were not far away. I will try my best to recount in the list below all the different things that we saw and with a little luck I can post some pictures of all these things at a later date:

    • Rice cake soaked in duck blood. Sometimes soaked in cow blood or pig blood. Apparently this is considered to be one of the most disgusting foods in Taiwan by westerners but Milton assured me that he eats it - though it is an acquired taste. I will definitely try this sometime and I’m sure Amanda will be happy to capture it on camera when it happens.
    • Deep fried octopus tentacle. I not talking about little rings here, I mean the whole tentacle, equivalent in size and volume to a 10-year-old’s forearm.
    • Gutted frogs on ice. They will cook them fresh in front of you. Another interesting fact, apparently frogs are also referred to as “four-legged fish” in Chinese.
    •  Chicken’s balls. Not to be mistaken for balls of chicken meat or chicken nuggets. These are chicken’s testicles we’re talking about. Milton very politely explained - with a wry smile on his face - that this is meat that you can only get from the male chicken...
    • Sugar cane juice. Amanda and I both tried this and we enjoyed it very much.
    • Pork intestine stuffed with rice and nuts. This is self-explanatory.
    • Coffin bread. This is a piece of thick, toasted bread cut open and filled with a variety of ingredients - sometimes savoury with things like mushrooms or sweet with ice cream. The piece of bread that is cut out is then put back on top of the filling as the “coffin lid”.
    • Lots of fresh fruit juice stands. See Jasonmumbles for more on the juice and fruit stands.
    • Lime flavoured jelly. This is a gelatinous dessert / drink. We’ve encountered this in bottles at convenience stores.
    • Lots of dumplings and meat filled buns.
    • Oyster and shrimp omelette. A Taiwanese specialty.
    • So much fresh seafood, a lot of it still alive and wriggling.
    • One stall specialized in duck products only and it seemed to have every last part of the duck for sale.
    • Mullet roe. Jenny told us this is a popular gift to give family at Chinese New Year.
    • Snakes! There was a street-side open restaurant that had an enormous sign depicting a cobra with glowing red eyes. As you can guess they were in the snake meat business and had cages of live snakes at the store front which we went and glanced into. Also drying in the air above the cages were rows of a small organ that had been removed from each snake.

    The whole evening was the most extended social interaction Amanda and I have had with anyone but for each other since we have left Canada and we are looking forward to spending more time with Milton & Jenny and other friendly Taiwanese people we might meet through a language exchange.

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    The Shoushan Zoo (壽山動物園)

    We had a very long day of walking and sight-seeing yesterday! The stars finally aligned and we made it to the Shoushan Zoo. We were able to take the train to a certain point, then walked the rest of the way.

    The first half of the walk was in the sun with no shade on a 34 degree day (the weather site said it “feels like 40”), and the second half of the walk was in the shade but uphill. My left arm is now so crispy red that it peels when I glance at it. My chest and nose are impressively red as well. I was relieved when we reached our destination.

    Shoushan Zoo has received a lot of bad press over the past few years because of alleged mismanagement and poor conditions for the animals. In response to those allegations, Shoushan demonstrated in 2007 that the government funding provided to them was abysmal when compared with funding provided to the Taipei Zoo. Figures then showed that the Muzha Zoo in Taipei had an annual budget of NT $440 million and the Shoushan Zoo in Kaohsiung’s annual budget came in at approximately NT $14 million. Ouch. No wonder they were having problems.

    The zoo was overhauled after that and while it still has less space and a smaller budget than Taipei, it seems to be doing a bit better. The entrance fee was very low and it was nice to wander through the grounds without having overpriced souvenirs and concessions shoved down our throats. Weekdays at any tourist attraction in Kaohsiung are usually very quiet and today was no exception. It was peaceful to snap photos and take our time with only the sound of piped-in flute music in the background.

    We saw some pretty exciting highlights. I got within five feet of my favourite animal ever, the red panda. We also saw two male lions napping and cuddling which was adorable. The lone orangutan at the zoo approached the glass and rested his chin on a window ledge, staring at us sweetly and gazing at the camera while Brett took his photo.

    Another cool yet scary thing was seeing a HUGE scary spider on its web. We were peering into one of the primate enclosures and I was about to steady myself by putting my hand RIGHT BESIDE HIM! He was NOT a part of the exhibit! After we both freaked out and I did an embarrassing scared little girl dance, Brett snapped some very cool photos, but it’s terrifying to think of more spiders just like that potentially moving into our apartment.

    The absolute best part of the day, in my opinion, was when we went into the bird enclosure. It was the most authentic habitat in the zoo and was filled with ducks, beautiful tropical birds, an elegant stork who posed nicely for Brett, and over a dozen peafowl. A few of the peacocks were displaying their plumage as we walked through the enclosure, and I was very impressed by an albino peacock and peahen they had as well! I’ve never seen anything like it! Brett is going to post some photos below!

    Something we thought was cute was how excited all the children at the zoo were when they saw us. A small boy, when held six inches from the staring orangutan’s face, was too preoccupied watching Brett to notice the posing primate. Little girls ran up and shouted “Hi! Hi! Hi!” and parents grinned and got their children to wave and say, “Bye-bye!” as we passed. We felt like part of the zoo exhibit ourselves!

    After the zoo we went to nearby Lao Song Beef Noodle for dinner. We’ve heard a lot about beef noodles and beef noodle soup from Taiwanese and Canadians alike. These are apparently a signature dish in Taiwan and involve a lengthy seasoning and stewing process.

    As this was our first experience with beef noodles, chose the straightforward, signature dish (which was only NT $110 per person or about $3.50 CAD) with medium noodles (vs thin or wide). B got the soup, and I chose to have mine “dry” with the broth on the side. They did have some soups that included organs and tripe, which probably would have been a lot like what we had in Beijing.

    This is the best local food I have eaten here so far. The beef was so extremely tender and the noodles were thick, chewy, and perfectly cooked. The blend of seasonings used to make the thick broth was fantastic. The whole thing was covered with a liberal sprinkling of chopped spring onion as well. There were a variety of different seasonings and sauces on the table we could have used, but the dish was so flavourful already I couldn’t imagine needing to add anything else. We’re definitely going back and I’m going to remember to take a photo next time.

    Oh and post script - I followed Brett’s suggestion to use a liberal amount of BioOil on my sunburn and it looks and feels way better today, though I am now going to have an embarrassingly stark farmer’s tan.

    (Post post script - This is Brett here. Today, June 15th, I learnt that Shou shan means "Mt. Longevity". Thought it was worth adding to Amanda's post)

    Tile Mosaic Mural
    Alaskan Brown Bear
    In 2007 one of the zoo's veterinarians accidentally gave a salt water crocodile antibiotics instead of anesthetic and then got the fright of their life when the crocodile bit their forearm off.
    Yellow-billed stork
    An Albino Peacock