Nov 27, 2016

The best Xiao Long Bao in Taipei

This is a very torturous post to write at this moment because I am dying of hunger in the middle of the night, but yet I insist on writing a blog post on food. They say resistance will make one stronger.

Dian Shui Lou Restaurant has the best xiao long bao ever! Xiao long bao is a type of Chinese dumpling that has soup in it. I was expecting to have something Taiwanese... something local... But Dian Shui Lou is actually an authentic Shanghai restaurant. Anyway, xiao long bao is from China.

We were served with some cold noodles for entree. I was a bit reluctant to try because cold noodle don't sound tasty at all. But once I take a a bite, it's actually very good. It has really strong sesame oil smell and taste.

The very first batch of xiao long bao, the original flavor - with pork meat fillings.

The second batch we has crab meat xiao long bao and also green tea xiao long bao. The green tea ones are superb!!! I can have 50 pieces of it all to myself! I believe the stuffing is only an ordinary xiao long bao stuff, but the green tea dumpling skin is so flavorful. It has tea fragrant that brings out the taste of the soup inside the little dumplings.

The third batch is prawn xiao long bao and also glutinous rice xiao long bao. The prawn one tasted like ordinary sui gao but it is still very good. But I'm not a fan of the glutinous rice one though. I got quite jelak eating it because the glutinous rice was too rich.

The customary way to savour xiao long bao is to add a few strands of ginger and few drops of dark vinegar.

The fried rice tasted just like fried rice. Duh! I mean there's nothing special about it. If I ever go back there, I wouldn't order it, instead I will make more room in my stomach for that green tea xiao long bao. But it was way better than the normal fried rice, I would say. Instead of using the normal frozen green pea, they actually put the edamame bean in it.

And then we have the most controversial food on the menu............................... shark's fin soup. OK! OK! OK! I know it is not right to take shark's fin and I know how cruel it is. But the shark already died, so not to let the shark die in vain, I ate it.

And lastly for dessert, we had the thousand layer cake. It's not really my favorite because it's too dry and it got stuck in my throat. It doesn't have any taste anyway.

If you're planning to go during lunch hour, do make reservation first. We were there at exactly lunch hour and it was really packed. Even the locals have their lunch here... it must be quite good that they wanting to come back. The green tea xiao long bao is only available pre-order. Make sure to book your table one day before and mention that you want to order the green tea xiao long bao as well.

Well, let me remind you... strictly non-halal!

No.64 Huaining StreetTaipeiTaiwan

Nov 22, 2016

Travel Book: An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington

Some of you might be familiar with Karl Pilkington - the reluctant traveler of An Idiot Abroad. Karl was thrown with a challenge to do a 7-wonders of the world - Chichen Itza (Mexico), Christ the Redeemer (Brazil), Great Wall (China), Machu Picchu (Peru), Taj Mahal (India), Petra (Jordan) and Collosseum (Italy). The show is documented in an award winning travel series, An Idiot Abroad.

Unlike other travel shows with a happy host that recommend you the things to do, Karl is the completely opposite. His complaints, moans and nags are hilariously funny and entertaining. No travel host would have done it the way he did.

If you have watched An Idiot Abroad, this book is a complementary to what's behind the scene. Bits and pieces of the events that not on camera are in this book. Random opinions and ramblings of Karl are also written in it, perhaps the selling point of this book is his potty humour.

My favourite part of the book is Great Wall of China and Brazil. If you have been to these places featured in the book, you can relate to those ramblings because it is a true reflections of the place - public spitting in China, cows on the road in India. Karl turned all these bad experiences into funny situations. And it is so well-described that I can imagine being there. All these ramblings didn't give me a bad impression of the place, but it shows the difference of cultures and lifestyles in other countries. In fact, it instigated me visit the place since I have a glance of the place from Karl's point of view.

This is one of those book that you can't put down and when you're finished, you wish for more. In fact, I immediately purchased the second book from Karl Pilkington right after I finish the last page. It is funny, delightful, and a new take on traveling. I would say, Karl is idiotically amazing.


Nov 16, 2016

Beitou Hot Spring

This is one of those expectation and reality gone wrong in my Taiwan trip. When one talk about hot spring, this is what I imagine...
  • natural rocks that make up a pool filled with spring water
  • sexy people with pretty bikinis soaking in the water (with possibility of nudist)
  • peaceful, quiet surrounding
So I headed to Beitou Hot Spring (北投) for some au naturale bathing experience. Beitou is one of the famous hot spring resort in Taiwan. The bath houses are modeled after the old school Japanese bath house (knowledge that I read from some travelogues). You see, I was so excited to go there...

As soon as we reached there..................... MAN! THIS PLACE STINKS LIKE SHIT!!!!!! Apparently, it's because of the sulfur. No one told me sulfur smells like cow dung! I would have mentally prepared for that if someone would have told me about it much earlier. But no.... most travel shows deliberately leave that part out. If they reveal it, no one would visit the place, I guess.

And worst of all..... the public bath is not like what I've imagined. There are fat, old, wrinkly, sagging meat walking and soaking in the public bath.... NAKED! Well, if you're a fan of old naked men or women, then this is your place. No photos here, not even for illustration purpose.

The public bath is totally backfired my expectation, so I headed to the private bath which is in the same bath house and for the same amount of money. At least, I can keep my sanity here. 

The private bath is not any better. It's good in a sense that you don't have naked strangers walking in front of you that makes you wanna dig out your eyeballs, but the place is dirty. I'm not sure they even clean the place up after every use. Stains are apparent on the wall. It irked me. I don't feel comfortable removing any of my clothing because I have wild imagination of bacterias sticking everywhere in the bath.

At least you can keep your belongings safely with you in the hut. 

I really didn't dare to bathe myself in the tub. So we only soak out feet to get the feel of it. For experience sake...

The water is really hot. Boiling hot. No wonder they call it a hot spring. No joke. It is not warm spring. But hot spring. 

I am so thankful, they have proper vanity and hairdryer inside.

This is by far the worst turn off during my Taiwan trip. Nonetheless, I am still hopeful. I will return, but I shall try other bath house. To play safe, I think I will stay in those hot spring resort. It is much pricier but I think it wouldn't be as bad as this. 

Nov 15, 2016

Taipei 101: The Empire State Building of Taiwan

Taipei 101 is unmistakenly Taiwan.  This was once the highest tower in Asia (correct me if I'm wrong). Since higher towers are erected in other parts of Asia, Taipei 101 no longer hold the title as the highest but it still worth a visit. You can almost see the tower from every part of the city, hence a perfect landmark as a bearing whenever you navigate around the city.

The access to the tower is located at Level 5 of the shopping mall, just like KLCC in Malaysia. The mall is pretty generic with familiar high-end boutiques - Louis Vuitton, Gucci, there's also Zara for a more pocket-friendly option. The elevator shoots up to 88th floor in less than a minute. If you are sensitive to height pressure, make sure you put on the flight earplug for a more comfortable ride.

It is obligatory to visit the tower whenever you visit Taiwan, but at the same time it can be boring if you have visited many of these observatory towers in the world. I have been to Burj Khalifa, Auckland Tower, KLCC, KL Tower, Macau Tower and Bangkok Baiyoke, most of the towers are pretty similar. The ticket isn't cheap and in exchange of bird's eye view, you decide if that's worth it or not. If you have a specific activity such as dining, bungy jump, etc. that would be more interesting.

At the observatory, I noticed that one side of the tower is congested with modern buildings, while the other side remains green and untouched virgin forest. It reflects the two sides of Taiwan's identity - modern and advanced yet rich in nature. 

Since we were there at about 6pm, we thought we just stay until the sun set. It is a very beautiful serene scenery.

If you take the stairs to the 87th floor, you will find the biggest tower damper in the world....

The damper serves as tower stabilizer in case of strong winds or earth quake which is common in Taiwan. I never even notice that every high rise tower has a damper! Most towers have the damper hidden at the top where it is not accessible.

I made a mistake by not checking the tourist info board. There's an extra outdoor observatory at 89th floor. It is accessible via staircase. There is a huge balcony on the tower for tourist to feel the strong wind outside. I bet the sunset view outside is much more breath taking. Don't miss that out.


Oct 23, 2016

Hotel Review: Colmar Tropicale Bukit Tinggi

Clock tower at the entrance

You don't have to travel to France to experience a little Colmar at Colmar Tropicale Bukit Tinggi. This hill is own by the Berjaya Group and successfully attracts thousands of visitors yearly. Many people find this place more of a pit stop while on the way to Genting Highlands or Kuala Lumpur. Because of that, the hotel at Colmar Tropicale is often overlooked or neglected.

During my very short visit to Bentong, I have decided to stop by Colmar Tropicale. It's been awhile and to be honest, nothing much have changed. We managed to check-in to a one-bedroom deluxe suite despite the peak period on the long weekend of Malaysia Day. It is called a suite, but in a more appropriate term, I would call it an apartment. The space was too luxurious for the two of us, especially with the large living room. But with the price of RM450 per night, we did not think twice.

Corridor of the suite

Living room
The living room is probably one of the under-utilized area in the suite. It has a TV set, couch and coffee table. The furniture are not the most fashionably updated in trend, but we are thankful for the modern TV.

Kitchen & Dining
The kitchen aren't the best for you to prepare meal. Basic utensils are not available. But for a simple sandwich making or boiling water for coffee, it is more than adequate. On the other hand, the dining area is spacious and more than enough to throw a small party.

Equipped with a king sized bed, the bedroom is probably the best thing in the suite. We did not mind the lack of thread counts on the bedding. Overall, the bedroom is spacious as well.

Bathroom & Vanity
The bathroom can be better without the old school tiles. It is not the best feature of the suite. I personally prefer modern bath with minimalist concept, so I find the bathroom is really distastefully done. I understand that the entire concept suppose to mirror the old town in Colmar and sprinkled with some French accents, but this is not how it is suppose to be. I appreciate having a separate vanity with a comfortable seating though.

Each suite comes with its own balcony. The view that we had was overlooking the golf course. The lushest bush and mountain make the view worth waking up for. Fresh air, green scenery and sound of bugs - those are the true beauty that comes with the room.

Overall the suite is very clean and spacious. The staff are friendly and helpful. Check-in was speedy and I had no problem of checking out as well. During the day, the place is packed with visitors. Almost every corner there will be someone taking photos. But at night, the place transformed into a romantic scene with lesser people around. Those are the great things I can say about the place. It is great for a family trip. Also, Pokestop and Gym everywhere! My room reaches a Pokestop so that was the greatest thing to me.

Pool area

Night scene

However, the furniture of the rooms are too old. That is the only downside of the experience.

There are a few highlights of places to visit in the vicinity of the hotel which I will explain more in the next post. You are required to pay the entry fare when entering the hill. The fare will be returned to you upon check-out. 

Oct 15, 2016

Rock Sight Seeing at Yehliu Geopark

Yehliu Geopark is one of the wonders in the world. Although it has yet to gain recognition as the Giza Pyramid and Great Wall of China, the Yehliu Geopark is visited by millions of visitors from around the world.

The journey to Yehiu from Taipei was a pleasant one. We stopped by the beach for But the experience at Yehliu itself was disappointing. I can tell you a lot of wonderful things about this place, but I also think that it a typical tourist that visiting it once is enough.

Selfie in the limo

My travel buddy Christine

The main attraction in Yehliu Geopark is its rock formation. The rocks were shaped and formed by wind and waves erosion and created a rock with unique shape.

I can't seem to figure out which part of these rocks look like ginger, but anyway....

The most popular shape is the Queen's Head. I only saw it from afar because the queue was super long. And I wasn't willing to line up in between irritating China tourists. Here's how it looks like from afar...

We were slammed with bad luck on that day because there were hundreds or maybe thousands of Chinese tourist in Yehliu.

When I did my research online, I thought this place is secluded and I didn't expect that many people around. Andrew (our tour guide) told us that the best time to visit Yehliu is during summer. There won't be that many people at that time.

Although I didn't get to go up close to the Queen's Head, I can see it everywhere.........

There is even a mini Queen's Head at the entrance....

Our tour guide with my grandpa

Yehliu is not exactly that elderly-friendly. There are a lot of uphills and downhills, it's quite hard to walk around even with my flats. If you're going, make sure you wear proper walking shoes. Unless you're some China lady........

I wonder how they walk with those heels

I found a rock formation which is yet to be named.... I'm going to name it the whale's tail!!!!

And there's also some fossil that we spotted. This is actually sea urchin's fossil. Surprisingly, it looks like a flower. I thought it was a starfish fossil...

How many years it took for the fossil to get to that shape???

One rule you have to remember while visiting Yehliu.... In case of tsunami, do not play kejar-kejar, instead....

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