Photographs from Our Holiday in Taipei (2017)

So I did it! I have managed to processed all the photographs taken during our trip to Taipei within three days of return. That is a feat of discipline. I still have years old albums unprocessed, waiting to see the day of light. With more and more different shapes and forms of distraction we have in our daily life, it is getting harder to focus on to something and get it done. This change of mine is so positive that I am feeling the energy. Next, I would like to memorize some quotes from Romeo & Juliet so that I can pen down something artistically intelligent in public without referring to the Internet. It is a long story for another day.

This is me in Shifen, Taipei - a photo taken by my wife Cynthia.

My wife and I have spent six nights in Taipei. We stayed in Mandarin Oriental for three nights. Then we stayed in Our Home 187 in Jiufen for two nights. Finally, stayed in Mandarin Oriental for another night. I brought along my Nikon D700 as well as my two lenses – Nikkor 24-70mm f2.4 and Nikkor 70-200mm f2.4. Pretty heavy stuff but it was worth it. Especially the long lens for photographing the animals in Taipei Zoo. I always love the results from my Nikkor 70-200mm anyway, even for the portrait. Photo albums as follows.

In addition, I have also taken some pictures using my Nexus 5x. The quality is not as good. But at times, the phone camera serves its purpose to add context to short journals. Links to the entries as follows.

HK 2014 Day 6 – Rather Pointless Gossips That I’ve Picked Up

Perhaps Singaporeans prefer to be alone and communicate quietly using our electronic devices. Or maybe Singapore just doesn’t have that many gossips. In contrary, you can quite easily pick up gossips or news simply by being out there here in Hong Kong.

Like this 15 years old girl found inside a rubbish bin, dead. She was with a man in his mid thirty, inside a hotel room likely to be in some sorts of S&M sex game while being paid for the whole ordeal. Or was supposed to. That is the gist of the story I got from a short escalator ride at Times Square. What was amusing to me turns out to be the insightful debate between the two women behind me. Was the young girl being rapped after she was dead (the quick correction came from the other woman saying that it was consensual)? And that the man was having sex with a corpse? What kind of man does that?

The other day while waiting for our Chinese medicine to be assembled for what seemed an eternity, a young man was gossiping about his younger brother to an older woman. The gist of the story is that his younger brother is in love with a girl who is rather successful in her career. So her criteria of a partner turn out to be pretty high. Like someone with a reputable profession such as a doctor or a lawyer. Or in a commercial world, director rank and above. On top of that, other criteria on housing and car. What happens to the notion of building a future together, the young man exclaimed. At that point, I really wanted to turn around, chip in and say, “Perhaps quite simply put, the girl is not that into your younger brother?”

I did not offer my thought. However I could not help but think, what if I were a girl, with a successful career, would I not set some criteria looking for my partner? I know as a guy, I did not. Then again, it is not a fair comparison I suppose. What do you think?

HK protesters occupying Causeway Bay

Occupy Central or the umbrella movement is still very much alive in Hong Kong. Some main roads are still closed with protesters peacefully camping in the open. I was in Causeway Bay and have witnessed the situation firsthand. According to the news, all may come to an end tomorrow. The authority this time is using law as the leverage since these protesters are being sued by the public. I will be in Hong Kong when this happens. No, I do not plan to dive into ground zero and take some pictures. My family plans to avoid the city center and head to Lantau Island for sightseeing instead. I seconded that in a heartbeat.

If I am to describe my holiday in three words, that would be eat, shop, and walk. We eat till we drop, shop till we drop, and quite literally so, walk till we drop. Today is no difference. Our luggage is getting fatter by the day while our wallets, thinner.

Cynthia and I at Lee Gardens HK

HK 2014 Day 5 – Playground And We Had A Small Pig And A Giant Fish For Dinner

Playground has once left a bitter aftertaste to my childhood so much so that my prior fond memories have been thoroughly wiped off leaving that one scene I vividly recall. I was on a swing. I went higher and higher, faster and faster thinking I could reach the moon if I tried hard enough. How? I do not remember. But I flew off from the seat and landed badly onto the concrete ground. My mother was in shock.
My legs were covered with so much blood. There was so much pain. In my mother’s arms I kept crying till I reached home. Or was I on my dad’s? No doubt I had tons of playground related fond memories before that incident. But that painful and bloody accident was the very last thing I associate playground with. Since then, my scar has long faded. But memory remains.

The Peak, Hong Kong

Today, the entire family has decided to visit the peak. In the old days we were used to take the cable car. Now we take bus number 15 – the only bus that reaches the peak. Initially I thought we would hike up and go around the peak. Instead, we stopped at the new Mount Austin Road Playground. The decoration is pretty. Beautiful backdrop of fountains and buildings and this playground has attracted even couples for their wedding photo shoot.

One of the backdrops

My dad has decided that this is a good place for the kids to play. Hooray! I thought I could take a back seat at the bench and enjoy the fresh air and scenery. Hong Kong has been cloudy since we landed and at times drizzles. In a rare moment, it was sunny. The sky was blue. The weather was much warmer. At the bench I took out my bottle of water and my tablet ready to …

My younger niece Lydia just over a year old kept asking for me. That smile of hers melt my heart. Her sister Bethany three years of her senior kept asking me to be an alien and chase down young girls. The two girls went up the slide and down the slide, running all over the playground nonstop. The moment I tried catching my breath, they called for me. I had no idea that having kids can be so exhausting. I hope the two girls remember that once upon a time in Hong Kong, this uncle of theirs has spent time playing with them. That they have a much better memory of the playgrounds compared to mine.

Mount Austin Road Playground

In the evening, my family had dinner with my uncle’s. My uncle is my mother’s younger brother and he has two sons. I do not recall when was the last time the two families have dinner together, with everyone presents. We are closer to this uncle than another uncle of mine. The elder cousin was raised by my mother and with my sister and I. My uncle has sponsored my overseas education and now, my mother has helped to fund his business.

In short, the two families are very much intertwined in a good way.

Barbaric as it sounds, between ten adults and two children, we had one young pig, a huge live fish in excess of five kilograms in weight cooked in three styles, and a large clay pot rice with preserved meat. Plus fruit and dessert. Man, I am stuffed and am still feeling so as I type this journal.

HK 2014 Day 4 – The Rhythmic Moaning That Rocked My Dream And A Visit To Grandma’s Resting Place

I was in a deep sleep with my arm wrapped around my wife when the loud rhythmic moaning sound from one of the hotel rooms nearby woke me up. The dream up until its immature end was nothing short of epic. It bettered the Korean drama Doctor Jin when a male doctor incidentally went back in time and attempted to change or rather preserve the history. It bettered another Korean drama that I adore called either The Great Doctor or Faith depending on who translated the title. A stunningly beautiful female plastic surgeon was kidnapped by an equally handsome male warrior from the past so as to treat a soon to be dead princess, and a series of adventure that follows. In my dream, a group of doctors – myself included – were put into another time line so as to – wait for it – save ourselves! But no. I did not get to dream the ending because our neighbors moaned so hard.

She went on and on. When the sound died down, I thought it was over only to hear the accelerated rhythm with more intense moaning sound. I could even tell the position the couple was in by the sound of it. Anyway, eventually, all came to an end. There was sound of the showering and then, the door was opened. Someone left the room. That was odd of course. A few scenarios came into my mind. Something is best left as imagination. With effort, I went back to sleep and seemed to have lost contact with my fellow doctors from another timeline. I hope the operation without me has gone well.

You can almost guess what my family had for breakfast. Dim sum. It was a rather late breakfast. By the time we called the bill, it was past noon. My sister has planned to meet her friend Amy because today is her birthday. The kids stayed home with daddy. My dad was being assigned to do grocery shopping. That left my wife, my mother, and I to stick with the original plan – to pay respect to my departed grandma.

It was twenty years ago when my grandma left us. I did not have much bonding with her mainly because the traditional side of her flavored the boys from her sons and not from her only daughter. As I get older, I also realize that my grandma is still my mother’s mom. The love my mother has for my grandma is no less than my love for my mother. Hence, in a way, I can relate.

Sha Tin has a mixture of old and modern buildings

The three of us bought some flowers from the wet market. I insisted on paying as a good gesture though technically speaking, my mother’s money partially comes from me. The temple is located in Sha Tin, a satellite city in Hong Kong. Back in the old days, it was a pain to travel to Sha Tin from where we live. Now, we took the subway and changed at Admiralty. Then headed north and changed at Mongkok. Thereafter, made another change at Kowloon Tong. There, we switched to the train, which very much looks like the underground version and aligned at Sha Tin. Sha Tin seems far from the city.

It was a pleasant hike up the stairs and into the temple. The main attraction are the Buddha statues at the main hall. Devoted ones burn joss sticks. Tourists take pictures. Further up, there are a number of open halls with three walls and no door. From the high ceiling to the ground, the walls are covered with rectangular jade plates of different sizes. Most belong to the standard size. Some are doubled, horizontally so. A few are quadrupled. Each plate has one or two photos in the center. In the midsection of three walls is a divider in the form of a small platform. My mother arranged the flowers and placed the vase on the platform underneath my grandma’s resting place, together with some food offerings. It was an emotional moment. I felt tears at the back of my eyes. I saw my mother’s eyes have grown red too. Today was my first visit to my grandma’s resting place.

A mall near the Sha Tin station

There are malls in Sha Tin. My mother took a bus back to home while Cynthia and I stayed for some shopping. There are so many shops in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is indeed shoppers’ paradise. I dislike shopping. But still, the atmosphere here got me excited. It takes a ton of willpower not to spend too much in Hong Kong.

Oh. There is a home for Snoopy in Sha Tin too.

Snoopy lives in Sha Tin, apparently

HK 2014 Day 3 – Hotel Free Wi-Fi That Follows Wherever You Go And Shopping in Hong Kong

When I think of free Wi-Fi that comes with a hotel room, I imagine being able to access the Internet from inside the room. So when the young female receptionist on our first day of visit getting all excited to demonstrate how to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot using an Android device (that resembles a smartphone) provided by the hotel, the only thing that came into my mind was why go through all the trouble to connect to the Internet?

This morning I examined the hotel smartphone again. It looks like an ordinary phone, with a 3G connection. What if I am to bring this hotel phone out with me? That was when I discovered that this free Wi-Fi that comes with the room actually follows me whenever I go here in Hong Kong! Not only that, local call through this phone is free. Overseas call to seven countries including US, Singapore, and Malaysia is also free. Calling my room through the main line would have the call forwarded to this smartphone. Now, that’s pretty neat. The hotel does charge for high speed wireless Internet from within the room though. I think that is fair.

Today is Sunday. My sister has planned to meet some of her friends who also have kids. My wife and I then met with my parents and have lunch in Tsim Sha Tsui instead.

This landscape remains despite the changes in HK.

Tsim Sha Tsui is in Kowloon. There is a ferry service that connects my home district to Tsim Sha Tsui. The old pier was demolished with the new one built merely a couple of hundred meters to the right. If it was another country, whatever construction planned would have built around the old pier. But here in Hong Kong, where people are rich and land is scarce, relocating a pier by a stone throw is very much like playing the SimCity game – demolish and build it on the next block.

Tsim Sha Tsui has changed a little bit. There is a ex-marine police headquarter being repurposed as an upclass shopping area. Tourists love the shops. Kids love the Christmas decorations on the ground floor. There was a Christmas market in the backyard selling all sorts of food and drinks and more – from exotic cheese to champagne to handicrafts. I have spotted a turret on the high ground. Before I could check out its authenticity, we were shooed away by a young man wanting to take a selfie. In fact, so many people are into selfie these days. What happens to the good old days of asking someone to take a photograph for you? I love to be asked. There was a couple having their wedding photo professionally taken as well.

An ex-marine police HQ

It was not the first time we dined in that Macau restaurant. My mother is a big fan of Macau food, probably because she was once brought up in Macau. Between the four of us, we have ordered curry beef, baked pork chop rice, two roasted young pigeons, and two pork chop buns. To wrap up our meal, we have Portuguese egg tarts and coffee. It was a delicious lunch with a real good price. Throughout our meal, I was eyeing on the Boston lobster noodle for two promotion selling at a special price of HK$198. That is like S$34 or US$26. I thought the price is really good.

Shopping in Tsim Sha Tsui – the area for the ‘common people’ like my wife and I – is fun. In fact, shopping in Hong Kong is more fun than in Singapore. The variety is mind-blowing. I have checked some of the pricing against the online outlets, the retail price is fair. Unlike in Singapore whereby the markup is horrible.

There was an Audi roadshow in the middle of a mall. I was captivated by R18 e-tron quattro. That was the only car that no one was allowed to get in.

Audi R18 e-tron quattro

HK 2014 Day 2 – Chinese Herbs and Local Artwork

Dim sum is a traditional Chinese meal. Very much like Spanish tapas whereby dishes are served in small portion, best to share with friends and family. Here in Hong Kong, we can have dim sum for breakfast, dim sum for lunch, dim sum as brunch and dim sum as afternoon tea. Never have I seen dim sum for dinner though. Our plan this morning was to leave our hotel at nine and meet my parents for breakfast. Dim sum style.

All was well except a tiny bit of issue with our hotel room. It was right next to the lifts. As hotel guests travel up and down throughout the night, we could hear the machinery at work and the opening of the lift doors at various levels. Opposite our room was a service lift and much activity started in the early morning. Now, I was stoned last night, oblivious to all the noises around us, including the noisy water pipe above. I was just too tired. My wife who usually is the deep sleeper of the house could not sleep well. So in the morning, we have requested for a room change, stating our reason, and the hotel manager obliged. This is great news. However, packing up our stuffs took time. And we were late for our meet-my-parents session.

What I love about Hong Kong dim sum is that there is a constant innovation in creating new dishes. Like those “flowing” black sesame buns. Or similar dishes in different shapes. Like those star-shaped green vegetable dumplings. For around HK$50 per person (S$8.50 or US$6.50), we can have a dim sum meal in a restaurant setting. Of course it was during off-peak hours and with discount. Still, it is good meal with a good price.

After our breakfast, my mother took us to visit a Chinese doctor who also owns a Chinese herbal store. Not that my wife and I are sick or something. My mother believes that Chinese medicine can enhance health. My wife and I have not seen a Chinese doctor before and I approached the entire episode with a curious mind, and later as I found out, a deep wallet.

Chinese herbs

As it turns out, the experience is extremely interesting. First, the doctor measured our blood pressure like a Western doctor does. Then he listened to our pulses by placing three fingers on first our left wrists followed by our right. It appears that by listening to our pulses, the doctor was able to diagnose our health status. The 60 years old doctor looks healthy. Rosy cheeks, great skin complexion (for his age), and he wore short sleeves on a winter. What a great living testimony that whatever he does seem to work for him too.

After the diagnosis, he proceeded to mixing herbs for my wife and I. Initially I attempted to count the number of ingredients used. I gave up in the end as it seemed to have taken forever. Perhaps up to thirty different types of herbs were use for each portion. These medicines don’t come cheap either. It was close to HK$2,000 in total (S$340 or US$260) for the two of us, five dosage each.

At one, we met my old friend Alex. Alex and I came from the same school in Hong Kong. By coincidence, we have attended the same university in UK, even the very same college. He was a few years of my senior.

Our first stop was Art Centre for lunch. The view was stunning, overlooking the harbor we could see the skyscrapers on the Kowloon side. We could even see the brand new Hong Kong Observation Wheel opened just yesterday. Alex had a full meal while Cynthia and I still feeling full thanks to our dim sum breakfast, we had scones in rose strawberry jam and cream instead. That was divine in a sinful kind of way.

Knowing our intend to shop for souvenirs for our friends in Singapore, Alex took us around to help pushing the local economy (kidding). We ended up in PMQ, which was used to be a quarter for married police and now, repurposed as art shops and local food outlets. In Singapore, we mostly import handicrafts for sales. Here, artists are using the store area as workshops to create works of art. The atmosphere is phenomenon. For the more successful ones, they open a bigger store nearby, creating art for sales. This reminds me of some artists we have met in Tasmania.

One of our favorite local art shops in PMQ

We have walked so much today and by five thirty in the afternoon, all we wanted was to be home. And home we were, waiting for my sister and family to arrive from the airport. Dinner was sumptuous. But that’s a story for another day.

HK 2014 Day 1 – A Trip Back to Home

Last night, I was woken up at two – because my wife tripped over the luggage in the dark, fell badly or so it sounded – and I could not get back to sleep. So I booted up my computer and tried out the new patch from Marvel Heroes. All heroes have received an overall tuning and I was concerned about mine. By five I fell asleep on the sofa. By nine, I got out of the sofa feeling massively lack of sleep. Cynthia got out of the bed before I did. Her wound seemed manageable. It is good to know.

The flight was one in the afternoon. Singapore Airlines. My sister and her family will take the same one tomorrow. I always like spending time in the airport, breathing in the countless possibilities whereby people come and people go. Each has his own destination and destiny, intertwined in a singularity called airport.

We shared choc au pain and a gingerbread man in a cafe, both split into halves. I on the choc au pain and my wife, gingerbread man. God bless its soul.

Gingerbread Man

Inside the plane was freezing cold. Probably for the better. Not even the gems can thrive. I am not into in-flight entertainment, unlike my wife. And I continue with Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I have started reading this book a long time back and have restarted from the beginning again because I have forgotten how it begins. It is a good book. Just that my life has so much distraction lately. The good news is that I manage to finish reading it today. I love all of Murakami’s books. This one is no exception.

Because of the ongoing protest in Hong Kong, the traffic around Central is still very much affected. We have landed at five-ish. By the time we checked into the hotel and have dinner nearby, it was nine in the evening. My mother met us in the airport. I feel blessed.

The hotel that Cynthia unknowingly picked is next to a Muslim cemetery. She had no idea. It is cheap, near to my parents’ home, and I was busy playing computer back when she was making the booking online.

I don’t mind the location really. It is at the very edge of my district that I have yet to explore. Across the street and down the stairs is a public swimming pool that my sister and I were used to frequent. Our mother was used to sit at the audience area and watched us swim, for hours. That was before she has took the dive – figuratively speaking – and learned to swim. I always have this impression that our mother has this immense love and patience for the two of us. Till today, I still feel blessed thinking of the good old days.

Three of us – my mother, my wife, and I – had clear braised beef noodle soup for dinner. The food is so delicious. Why don’t we have something like this in Singapore?

Corsica Is A Beautiful Island – Our Day 2 Adventure

I have contemplated long and hard if I should pick up the courage, finish up the journal today before heading for a new trip to Spain tomorrow.  It would have been odd to talk about our trip to France when we have already moved onto our next destination.  So I put aside some time today, in the mist of our last minute planning and preparation.  Besides, I have always wanted this post to be featured on top of this website while we are away because unlike some of our previous holidays, I do not plan to release any new materials in our absence.  I hope you enjoy reading this final piece of the journal.

To read more on our adventure to this French island, Corsica, here are the options.

Corsica Is A Beautiful Island – Our Day 1 Adventure

I must be amongst the laziest people in the world.  It would be embarrassing if I am unable to publish a complete set of journal for our trip to France last year before we head to Spain later this year.  Corsica is a beautiful island.  We saved the best for the last.  Looking back, we would love to spend more time in Corsica and experience the nature and the local dishes.

This entry documents the first day of our visit, to the birthplace of Napoleon.  As I have mentioned before, it is tedious to write a journal.  But it is rewarding to look at the end product.  Because there is only that much a picture can say.  Let’s hope that I will not take too long to publish the final entry, which is going to be one of the meatiest in this collection.

To read more on our adventure to this French island, Corsica, here are the options.

Bandung Chronicle – Part 6 of 6

This is the final installment, of my trip to Bandung, divided into 500 words per piece.

… rinse them inside a tank of water, and make sure that they are towel dried as they may catch a cold.  Porcupines can swim.  And the best thing about keeping porcupines?  When you need to leave home for a prolong period of time, just keep them in dry ice (why not put them inside the fridge?).  The porcupines will hibernate and you don’t even need to worry about feeding them while you are away.

Neat eh?

Towards the end of the program, the TV anchor asked, “Why do people buy porcupines?  Does anyone buy them to eat?”  The farm owner calmly replied with a smile, “4,000 years ago, Egyptians were used to eat porcupines.  Now, we keep them as pets.”

I love Indonesian television programs.

“This is Bandung airport.  Unlike others in the region, we get to walk around in leisure, taking pictures on our way to the plane.”

10. New Year Eve

Christmas went by without much of a bang.  We have attended a Mass on Christmas Day but instead of celebrating Christmas, it was a Mass for the Holy Family, which was meant for December 26.

I must have put on some weight.  Because I keep eating and eating, reading and reading here in Bandung.  I wonder what would happen to my S$900 investment on tailor making my shirts and pants prior to coming to Bandung.

Each trip, I deliberately want to learn some words in Bahasa Indonesia.  Proud to say, I have discovered the word bau (means smelly) one day when we were shopping in a supermarket.  Like a kid who has learned a new word, I kept repeating bauuu! with the hand gesture.  Cynthia could not stop laughing.  I picked up angker from a cinema poster.  I used it to describe my experience crossing the streets in Bandung.  Cynthia laughed and corrected me that angker is horror, but in a spooky sense.  No, I have not seen ghosts when I crossed the road.  Rather, the incoming traffic scared the living soul out of my body.  Our niece Felicia liked to repeat the word malu.  Maluuuu! has the same magic as bauuuu!, phonetically speaking.  But it means shy instead.  At the rate I am going,  I will be able to speak fluent Bahasa Indonesia when I am … seven hundred and ten?

I have finished reading the sixth book from my stack of seven this morning.  It is “Inés of My Soul” written by Isabel Allende.  The Chile Conquest, is bloody.  Forward to 2010 going 2011, the world is still in conflict.  Peace seems so fragile, so hard to attain.  Given the knowledge of knowing what we are, will the end state of our civilization ever reach peace in totality?  Or war and conquest is the only mean to propel our progress?

What shall I do in this New Year Eve?  Cynthia may surprise me with some grapes from the supermarket, I do not know.  And we may do the countdown, in Spanish style – swallowing one grape every two seconds, as we countdown from ten, nine, eight, seven …

“This is another photo taken as we approached the only airline that flies direct from Singapore to Bandung.”

*     *     *     *     *

Author’s note: This chronicle ends with the countdown, in a form I visualized.  In reality, I felt asleep at 11pm (which was midnight in Singapore and Hong Kong).  As I was peacefully entering into year 2011, I was woken up this time not by the blasting of the speakers from the nearby mosques, but by the loud bangs in the air.  It had the same 7.1 stereo effect as the 4am prayers.  The first thought that struck my mind was: Get out of bed!  It is an air raid! In real life, nothing was as dramatic.  It was fireworks everywhere, close by from different locations.  Indonesians sure know how to welcome the new year.

Why 500 words a piece?  Some time ago, I have dedicated one full month to write blog entries that were limited to a word count of 500.  It was fun, as it forced me to be concise.  Why 500?  By my research, most online readers don’t have the time to read beyond 500 words.  In the world of Twitter and Facebook status update, 500 is a big number.

To recap on the entire chronicle, click here.