Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Modern Toilet

Tonight, I went with two friends to a quirky theme restaurant here in Taichung called The Modern Toilet (便所)

As soon as you are seated you can tell this is a special restaurant because instead of sitting on chairs, you sit on toilets:

The hallway even has some urinals in place - for decoration. Unfortunately, my friend Neil got a bit lazy on his way to the bathroom and decided that this one would serve his purposes just as well! haha.

And after you use the bathroom, you can wash your hands in a toilet bowl sink!

For dinner, I ordered Thai coconut chicken and it wasn't bad! It came in a lovely toilet bowl dish accompanied by a side dish covered with a little turd lid!

Clair also got a nice little load - I mean meal - in her toilet bowl!

Clair and I decided to have fun with my little turd and so we lifted up our seats, and...

Ok Ok, it's a bit gross, but how could we resist!!

My coconut chicken was so good, I even licked the bowl clean at the end!

And of course, what meal is complete without dessert?

If you haven't been to Asia, the dish may not be recognizable to you....

but it's a squat toilet!

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, yummy!!

A good time was had by all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

KTV in a Box....

Would you could you in a BOX?
I would I could in a Box!

I'd Karaoke here or there,

I'll Karaoke anywhere!!!

Last night, Nick and I went out with a group of friends to a "fun center" called Tiger. I guess Tiger's main feature is a small bowling alley, but they also have a nice array of arcade games, batting cages, and other fun things to do.

We had a great time there bowling and playing arcade games...

And just before heading up to the batting cages, we spotted this little gem:

It's the Fun Song Bar - Karaoke in a Box!!!

The box is split into two little sound-proof rooms and for a small fee of $20NT (less than $1 US) per song you can sing your heart out.

Of course, this was something I wanted to try - I LOVE karaoke and I'm determined to do it in every possible setting - but we had couldn't do it right away. We had to wait for our turn, of course! This is a popular attraction - notice that both of these little rooms were full when I took this picture!

But it was worth the wait! We chose to sing Madonna's Like a Virgin - a karaoke classic!

Four people in that little box was a bit tight - and HOT - but it was the best $20 NT I've ever spent!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fame Strikes Again!

As I mentioned before, being a foreigner here in Taiwan has given me all kinds of unique opportunities that certainly wouldn't be as readily available to me if I were in the US.

I've already been in an
infomercial, and a company advertisement. Today I also filmed a second infomercial, this one for the company that I actually teach for. And now, along with my acting, modeling, and product endorsement, I can add "voice over work" to my resume!

These videos are from 2 separate recording sessions with the same producer that did my Cotex commercial. It was a fun experience and I got paid pretty well, about $1000NT ($33US) per hour.

Along with the actual voice recording, I was responsible for editing the scripts. For example, the fertility clinic ad originally said that they could help you "successfully breed a baby"and boasted of a high "success rate of test tube baby." Needless to say, editing these was no easy task! Especially for the second video because, at the time, I had no idea what this contraption was that they were writing about!

Anyway, here are my videos! I'm telling you - this is one girl who's star is rising!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nick’s Favorite Taiwanese Food

I think by far, Nick’s favorite Taiwanese food was beef fried noodles (牛肉炒麵) from a shop across the street from our job.

But they aren’t just any fried noodles, they are super cool because they knife-shaved noodles (刀削面 dāo xiāo miàn) and they are cut by hand right as you order them from a big slab of dough, and shot straight into a pot of boiling water! 

After they're boiled for a short time, they take them in the back, fry them up, and serve them to you piping hot!

MMMMM! Very Delicious!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Soggy Peanuts

Peanuts are a favorite snack of mine to enjoy during baseball games, while camping, or in general any time beer is involved.

Some months ago, I was out at a bar with some of my Taiwanese friends when someone purchased a bag of peanuts from a vendor.

They began passing the bag around to share the snack with everyone and so when I was handed the bag, I reached in to grab some peanuts. Immediately, I noticed that the peanut shells were somewhat moist and cool, but I paid no mind and took a handful for myself before passing the bag along.

As I began to shell my first peanut, I realized that the shell was softer and more pliable than usual. It didn't quite crack the way the typical peanut shell does. Nevertheless, I popped the peanuts into my mouth, anticipating a crunchy, salty treat!

To my surprise, it wasn't just the shell that was moist; the peanut was soggy as well! The flavor was bland, and the texture was mushy. It was hardly recognizable as a peanut - I'd say it most closely resembled a chick pea.

I had never had a soggy peanut before, and I thought to myself, surely, something is wrong with this. Did the vendor leave these peanuts out in the rain last night? Did he carry them around in his sweaty pocket all day? Are all his peanuts soggy, or did we just get a bad bag of them....and mostly, I wondered, why isn't anyone else upset about these mushy peanuts?! Shouldn't we be asking for a refund?

After a couple of minutes, I made a comment to my friend about the bad batch of peanuts that we got - what a ripoff - at which point she looked at me, silly girl, and informed me that they were supposed to be soggy! They were boiled peanuts.

Well, this didn't change the fact that, to me, they were just soggy peanuts. Peanuts are supposed to be two things: salty and crunchy. These were neither and I didn't care for them much.... UNTIL I had a couple more beers and proceeded to eat the whole bag by myself! On second thought... these things are pretty darn good!

A couple weeks later, I bought a bag for myself. My memory from that night was a bit hazy but, I was excited to try boiled peanuts again and was expecting great things. Alas, I was let down again - they were just soggy and bland peanuts!

Since I spent $30NT on them, I had to eat the bag, and as I ate them, they gradually grew on me. They do keep the hands busy and the mind occupied during boring conversations or mindless banter... but they don't exactly titillate the taste buds.

Every time I eat them, I vacillate between really liking them, and thinking they're just a boring, mushy snack - kind of like eating soggy cheerios.

Boiled Peanuts vs. Roasted - no contest, Roasted all the way! But having only one option, I would say that boiled peanuts are still a nice snack every once in a while.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Day in Puli (埔里)

Last month our company was closed on Taiwan's National Day holiday (雙十節) (a bit like the US's 4th of July) and so our managers organized a trip to take us all out for a day in the mountains of Puli (埔里).

As with any organized activity here in Taiwan, down-time is a no-no, and so we had a full day's itinerary: a trip to the largest Buddhist temple in the area: Zhongtai Chansi (中台禪寺), followed by a stop at the Puli Winery, and then a BBQ in the mountains with an option for paragliding!

Our first stop was the Zhongtai Chansi Temple, which is and an imposing and absolutely massive Buddhist temple that was designed by the same architect that designed Taipei 101 - currently the tallest building in the world.

It was quite an majestic temple, but I do have to say the new-age design just doesn't hold the same appeal for me as the old temples do. On the bright side, it did have some really great Buddhist artifacts on display throughout the property. They even have their own museum.

To be honest, I found the Temple's design a bit tacky, but it was impressive none-the-less. This is one Buddhist monetary with lots of dough! It seems to me that no expense was spared during the construction of it, and they have built a huge middle school and high school that looks just as nice as the temple. Even the monks seem to be living large - we saw of them walking around with blackberries! (NO JOKE!)

To match the grand scale of the building, the main entrance houses four of these HUGE statues that keep watch over the inner sanctuary:

My favorite statue at the temple was this little guy

who was placed just inside the door, facing out. He has a great view of the mountains and I assume is serving as a watch dog.

After our morning at the temple, it was off to the winery. I was really excited about this part of the trip because I love wine tours. From Napa Valley, California to Stellenbosch, South Africa I'm always up for a visit to a winery.

I have been to a couple dumpy wineries in my day (I'm thinking of the time my family and I went on a "wine tour" up in Erie, Pennsylvania.) but in general all of the wine tours that I have been on have been fabulous. Beautiful scenery and delicious wine makes for a very relaxing day of sight-seeing.

Of course, if I have learned one thing this year living in Taiwan it is this: expectations are cultural. And NOTHING is ever quite what I expect it to be here in Taiwan.

My first erroneous assumption was that wine was actually made at this winery. They don't make wine - at least not what I think of when I hear the word "wine." What they produce is rice wine.... totally different! As such, the beautiful fields of grapes that I was expecting were obviously absent - along with anything remotely resembling countryside scenery.

Unless you count a parking lot full of tour buses:

So, what did we find at Puli's winery??

Well, nothing remotely resembling a winery, that's for sure. Although people persist in calling it a such, the sign at the entrance gives you a better idea of what it actually is: a Products Exhibition and Sale Center. It possessed the romance of a shopping mall and the thrill of a grocery store.

In the past they did make their own wine, but production has moved to another site. What is left here is basically a large open floor filled with vendors hawking local food - lots of which is made with alcohol: Jell-o, bread, cake, snacks, gummy things, desserts, etc.

Being that we went on a holiday, the sale center was wonderfully crowded:

Can you find Nick in this Where's Waldo picture?

To be fair there was a rice-wine tasting area:

Not quite Napa Valley or Erie, PA for that matter....

They did have a museum with wonderfully incorrect English translations that Nick really enjoyed, but I have to say I didn't find many redeeming qualities myself.

And so, after my supreme disappointment at the Puli Winery, it was off to the mountains for a BBQ.

The mountains of Puli are quiet, and if you ignore the sprawling metropolis that is Puli -population 86,500 - the backdrop of mountains was beautiful and relaxing to look at. The amazing thing is that Puli, pictured above, is actually considered the countryside here in Taiwan. It sure look like a city to me!

There were lots of people paragliding in the mountains that day, unfortunately, the wind wasn't consistent enough for any of us to get up on a tandem run. But, I did really enjoy watching all of them floating in the sky above the mountains.

And so that was it, our trip up to Puli. Aside from the craziness of the winery, we had a great day up in the mountains and out of the city with our friends.

I guess I'll just have to wait until next time to have a go at paragliding!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Flora, Fauna, and Loud Speakers

Yesterday Nick and I took a ride back out to Dadu Mountain (大肚山) to spend a relaxing day walking around one of our favorite places here in Taichung, Taichung Metropolitan Park (台中都會公園).

The flowers were so beautiful that I wanted to share some of the pictures with you all:

AND there was this really neat tree there that I had never seen before:

Take a close look at the bark:

Pretty cool!

Nick and I had a fantastic and relaxing day walking through the park for a couple of hours, most of the time almost completely alone.

One of the great things about the park is that it is located outside of the city and is so big and isolated that when you're walking through it you can forget that you're in the 61st most densely populated city in the world and enjoy the silence and peace of nature.

That is, as long as you can ignore the PA system which every 1/2 hour delivers a welcome message over loud speakers strategically placed throughout the park.

I guess when you live in a place as cacophonous as Taiwan, you become accustomed to the noise and maybe even feel uneasy in it's absence. We have found these kinds of speakers almost everywhere we've visited here in Taiwan from Taroko Gorge to Xitou, and now here in Taichung's Metropolitan Park!

But no matter, after living here for almost a year, we had no trouble tuning out this minor disturbance and enjoyed our day none-the-less.