Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dragon Boat Festival, Taipei 101, Elephant Mountain, Shilin Night Market.

The next morning we had planned to go to the Dragon Boat Festival.  This is the reason people had a day off.  Below is the reason for Dragon Boat Festival:  (Stolen from Wikipedia)

The best-known traditional story holds that the festival commemorates the death of poet Qu Yuan (Chinese屈原) (c. 340 BCE – 278 BCE) of the ancient state of Chu, in the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty.[5] A descendant of the Chu royal house, Qu served in high offices. However, when the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance. Qu Yuan was accused of treason.[5] During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry, for which he is now remembered. Twenty-eight years later, Qin conquered the capital of Chu. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
It is said that the local people, who admired him, threw lumps of rice into the river to feed the fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan's body.[5] This is said to be the origin of zongzi. The local people were also said to have paddled out on boats, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing.

Zhongzi is like some kind of sticky rice wrapped in a big huge bamboo leaf.  It can be flavoured in different ways.  Work gave me some kind of sweet version of Zhongzi for the Dragon Boat Festival, but they were not traditional, more like a sweet.  You see Zhongzi everywhere for Dragon Boat Festival here.

There were 2 options of where we could go and watch the Dragon Boat races.  Xindian, or Da Jia park.  At first I was going to go to Xindian because it sounded like a bigger even that they had planned down there, but in the end by the time we woke up with our hangovers it was better to head out to Da Jia Park because it was closer, and if we did not go to the closest one we would of missed the whole thing.

I asked at the tourist office how to get to Da Jia park because we had to get there quickly due to sleeping in with sore heads.  They told us that there was a shuttle bus from Zhongxiao Fuxing.  This sounded ideal because it is on the same MRT line as my home, so we would just go straight there, get on the bus and hey presto turn up.

When we got to Zhongxiao Fuxing I could not see anywhere for a shuttle bus.  Normally there is some kind of sign, or even people waiting for a bus to give you a sign.  I was thinking shit, we are gonna miss the races which would be a bit shitty.  Then we had to get back into the station as quick as we could and head out towards Yuanshan MRT.

Jen had text me by this point to tell me which bus to take from Yuanshan.  She told me which ones to take exactly but when we got there they were not so regular, they only come once every hour, and going back to the point of lieing in bed like drunks waiting to be mothered out of a bad coma, we decided a taxi would be the best option.

When we got there we managed to see the last 2 races which I guess was enough.  It seemed quite interesting but it is not like other festivals I have been to here where you feel more into it, or involved.  You just watch, and then you kinda sneer at the American teams wooooooing.  Then think you have seen enough.

Dragon Boat Races
We were wondering a long the waterfront where all the people were sat watching the races, then some group of young people started shouting hello to us.  Obviously being such polite British guys that we are, we said hello back.  Then they decided they wanted to share there watermelons with us.  Which was grand because we were sweating so badly, I am sure I can talk for Steve as much as for me.  That we needed there watermelons, because I could sense how refreshing it was before I even ate it.  When they asked, the answer was yes, without any hesitation.  They give us such a huge chunk of watermelon each, and it was the most refreshing thing your imagination can think of at that time, I really am not joking.

They were all having a great time, really happy, enthusiastic and excited about everything.  I found out the reason why they were so loud and boisterous because they told us that they won their race. It was really nice of them to give us watermelons and chat to us, but alas we couldn't stand around eating with overly excited teenagers all day.  We had a lot of activities planned to get through.

Dragon Boat contestants, watermelon givers, and excited teenagers.

When we started to walk away, I ended up bumping into Felix from football.  Some might say like in the inbetweeners....(oooh friend, football friend, you have a football friend!!!) ha.  Anyway it was weird to see him there because he sent me a message on facebook telling me he was going there which I read when I got back home later that evening.

We then took the shuttle bus from Da Jia park direct to Zhongxiao Fuxing proving to me that there really was a shuttle bus.  We grabbed a quick bite to eat there then headed to Taipei 101.  It is not the cheapest to eat around there but we were both well hungry.

When we came out of City Hall MRT station, the big 24 hour eslite book shop is around the corner from the station.  I wanted to show Steve this book shop which might sound weird, but its so special.  The fact that is open 24 hours a day is not the only thing that makes it special.  Its the fact that people are just sat all around the shop all day reading whatever book they want.  The shop even have seats and tables out so that people can read as long as they like.  It also has the best toilet in the whole of Taipei, I am not lying to anyone about that.  It has a heated toilet seat, which is not needed it this climate if you ask me, and loads of magic buttons that do wonderful things in the toilet.  I love it.  I highly recommend going to the toilet there if you need it.

Then we walked past Taipei 101 and Steve was totally impressed by the sheer size of it right away, but thats not where were headed just yet.  We took the walk up to Elephant Mountain.  This was so I could show Steve the landscape of the City, and how big 101 is from a Mountain.  I also wanted to show him the bowel effect of Taipei City, and where all the bloody humidity comes from by being trapped inside by mountains.

The view that impressed Steve
It was an absolutely scorching hot day, as usual for this time of year in Taipei I was however hoping that by the time we got to the top it might be a lot cooler.  How wrong I was, it was still bloody boiling and the light was all wrong for taking photos anyway, so we didn't stay up at the top for very long.  As well as bad lighting and it being stupidly hot we wanted to go to the top of 101.

View from Elephant mountain
I did bump into a guy who told me he liked Manchester City on the top of the mountain, which made me think "fucking hell" now it is Manchester City being bummed around the world cos they have mega wonga.

Then we took the walk back down the mountain.  Both of us were totally showered in sweat.  It looked like we had swam up the mountain never mind crawled in my case, Steve is OK with walking up mountains.  We then headed to Taipei 101 to go to the top, with both us being dripping wet in our own perspiration it made people give us some very weird looks.  I didn't mind because I am used to wondering through Taipei 101 looking that way.  Taipei 101, is one of the most lavish shopping malls in Taipei, and it has probably every designer label in there you could imagine.

With the looks of the locals thinking, sweaty, dirty and hairy foreigners we continued to plough on through to the viewing area.  The lift takes you up 89 floors in 29 seconds and you can really hear your ears pop, like you would in a plane or if you were under water.  

I was blown away by how it looked.  As I have never been in the evening it was new for me too.  Steve was also blown away.  It looked truly wonderful.  All the lights of the city shining brightly below you, and the traffic and cars buzzing around giving of a flowing glow.  The colour of the sky as well, added a touch of class to how it looked.  Was great to see it like that, and I think it was a lot more impressive than during the daytime.  I guess it depends on your own personal preference.

The view from the top of Taipei 101
From here we headed out to Shilin night market.  At this point the chaffing really started to kick in.  I could feel it stinging away, telling me.  Mark, more walking is a bad idea.  I just battled against it because I was damn hungry, but boy did it sting.  So I thought I would just man it out.  

Steve managed to try a lot of food in the market that is pretty local here, like stinky tofu, shaved ice, peanut brittle kind of ice cream wrap.  Different kinds of buns, bubble milk tea, various other foods and drinks.  He liked everything he ate in the market.  I don't think I heard him mention one thing he disliked.

Shilin Night Market

When we were all full we, headed of back home because my chaffing was seriously starting to go mental.  The idea of manning it out was failing badly.  

When we got home, we went to the cinema to see the new X - Men movie.  The prequel one.  I don't know if it has been released in the UK yet though, but it is bloody good.  Much better than the latest offerings from the X - men franchise.

Touchdown Taipei.

The day arrived and I was on my way to pick Stephen up from the airport.  I decided to leave a bit later instead of standing like a bell end at the airport.  In hindsight this nearly turned out to be a mistake.

The reason it nearly turned out to be a mistake is because Taipei main station is like the Crystal Maze, even though I have been here for 1 year now I still think so.  As I was heading for the bus station, I followed the sign for the bus station as you do.  It turned out, it was the wrong bus station.  I had to belt out the station, down the road, and across a bridge.  The distance wasn't huge, it wasn't even a little far and I am no Speedy Gonzalez to begin with but in this heat I was slower than a snail.

Then when I got to the bus station the woman selling the bus tickets to the airport was battering my head worse than a load of cod in the chippy about taking her bus.  When it was clearly not the express bus, which I wanted and needed to get there on time.

Stephens flight was due to land at 6.15 and seeing as the bus took 1 hour to get to the airport I was indeed cutting it fine.  By the time the bus departed the bus station it was 5.45.  There was clearly nothing I could do about this, other than kick back, whack on the tunes and enjoy the ride.  It took another 15 minutes to get out of Taipei City!!

By the time I was getting closer to Taoyuan the sun started to set and it was the most beautiful and scenic sunset I had seen for a long time.  All oranges and reds reflecting of the clouds and giving off an awesome scene in the sky, that made you think I wish the sky was like this every night.  If I was back home, it would of definitely been a red sky at night, Shepards delight moment.

The sky called for me to change the music, and go for something even more mellow, and chilled out.  I opted to listen to Stornaway, and kicked back into a right proper chillaxing mode.  The chilled out moment was only slighty broken when I realised my sandal was stuck to the floor of the bus, by some mongs chewing gum!!!

When I got to the airport I was more than a little late.  Stephen however, wasn't mulling about like a lost sheep wondering where the hell I was.  So I assumed he was still waiting for his bag.  When I was waiting I was stood next to a Taiwanese guy with the biggest afro I have ever seen in the world.

I was stood there waiting quietly admiring the afro when all of a sudden there was a huge commotion and running towards this girl.  I thought she was a celebrity or something and I was missing out on a life defining moment here in Taiwan, but after calling Jen, and getting her to speak to the guy next to me.  It turned out was just proposing to his girlfriend.  With the reactions of all the people it looked like the answer was a firm yes, although by the looks of some of their party I think some were secretly hoping for a no!

At this point I was wondering where Stephen was.  It was getting close to nearly an hour after he had landed. I came up with a master plan that couldn't fail.  I called Jen, told her to check the flight details, and told her to call me back.  After the obligatory why didn't you take them with you?  (I just thought what can go wrong with turning up and waiting?)  So I told Jen "log into my Facebook, and check it out"  Which she did.

Then she wasn't too pleased because there was over 1000 messages between me and Stephen trying to plan what we were going to do when he got here.  The funny thing is, she thought the message box was a search function.  So she typed in flight.  Which Stephen replied from his Iphone getting my bags.  Classic!

Then eventually he showed up we then took the bus back to Taipei and a quick taxi to mine.  We changed out of sweaty clothes, and a shower from a can.  Then we headed off to a traditional Taiwanese beer/food place.  Me and Jen had booked it for when he arrived to make sure we could get a seat.

We got there a little later than planned Jen ordered 6 dishes of food and then the drinking commenced.  After a while the table behind us started to get louder.  We would occasionally turn to check out what was going on, then all of a sudden we started chatting with them.  Stephen then said cheers in Chinese.  (gan bei)   That then set the tone for the rest of the night.  If you say cheers in Chinese you have to down your drink.  (I'm sure my dad will know the word for cheers in Chinese no problem when he comes here.)

At around 10.30, Rainbow arrived from work to join the party.  We had a really fun night and the people on the other table were really friendly, and wanted to gam bei us all night long.  They were all out together in a big group, because everyone in Taiwan had a day off the next day, because of the Dragon Boat Festival.

We had 7 or 8 dishes of food, and god only knows how many beers.  The total bill only came to around £36 for 4 people.  Which I think is very reasonable.

The night ended with a few games on the ps3 and I even managed to see my dad online.  We went to bed at 6am because Stephen was quite a bit jet lagged after his 18 hour journey, then eventually we hit the hay.


Sorry I didn't have my camera with me in case I lost it when I was drunk.

My Apartment.

This is my apartment that I wont have for much longer.  It would be nice just to stay and live here because it is a super convenient location, and I like the facilities they have on offer in this building, but since I have changed my job so that I am now no longer working with a bunch of cunts I need to downgrade where I live too.  

My apartment is a nice size for 2 people, and has good roof top views, right in the heart of the city, I love it so it will be a shame to move out, even though I think I could get a kindergarten job.  I want to save more money, and buy more things so it makes more sense to let go.....ha.  

This is what I pretty much get for my £380 notes:

My apartment, internet, cable tv, roof access with awesome views, bbq pits on the roof, spa on the roof, a small cardio gym, internet room, pool table room, karaoke room, 24 hour guards, rubbish disposal.  So I think it is worth it for the wonga!

My apartment and view from the roof.....Soon to not be my apartment, only here until August.

Man Fridge

Before Stephen arrived I went and stocked up the fridge for when Stephen arrived and for the international football that night which was on TV instead of the basketball and the baseball which I felt was worth celebrating.  

Another reason obviously was it, was the second day of holiday time.  It was the beginning of a great 2 weeks ahead that was for sure. 

The fridge has been returned to its former glory days of when I lived with Owain and its back to being a man fridge happy days!

Man fridge, with 1 litre emergency can.

Smallest cinema in the world!!!!

A few weeks ago now, before I went off on my mini travel around Taiwan me and Jen decided we should go to the cinema.  We both really wanted to watch Hangover 2 and I had the night off, because I was waiting for Stephen coming and sorting  everything out.  Another reason was to celebrate the start of my holidays.

We always try to go to our favourite cinema first here in Ximending which is In 89.  We have never been yet since they did a refurbishment and had been quite excited to see if they had enhanced the viewing quality, or totally destroyed the feel of the cinema and how comfy it was......this was our chance.

As it turned out the cinemas were crazy busy and we missed the showing that we wanted to see.  I told Jen not to worry, we can just watch the next one that starts 30 minutes later.

The guy told us we would have to sit behind each other.  I thought my god they are really busy aren't they.  Jen then told me the cinema only had 30 seats!!  When I heard this I thought yeah this will pretty cool, it might even be a lot like a private showing.  

Then it happened, the time came for us to enter the cinema, I was really curious to see what it was like inside. I was thinking it will be awesome, 30 seats and a big screen how good is that.  We had to walk up loads and loads of stairs to get there, then I seen the entrance.  A tiny little doorway that only one person get through, smaller than a lot of turnstiles at the football.  I'm not fat, but not skinny either and if I had of been any fatter I don't think I would of fit through the door which would of been crazy embarrassing ha!  

Inside it was so tiny and a weird long shape.  Kind of like building a cinema the shape and width of a lamp post, with the light as the screen!  This was indeed the Peter Crouch of cinemas.  This cinema had obviously been added as an afterthought.  

How the same price could be charged for that small cinema and small screen is beyond me.  They only had 3 seats per row, there was no way they could of fitted any more in either.  The screen only looked about 10 inches bigger than my TV at home, and smaller than the screen I used to watch the Newcastle matches on at the social club with my old man.

The only saving grace was that Hangover 2 was awesome, followed the same pattern as the first movie, but was just as funny.  On top of that I think we didn't miss any defining scenes in the movie from watching it on such a tiny screen.  Everyone should of seen Hangover 2 by now, if not go and watch it. 

Smallest Cinema I have ever been to!!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fire/Fire brigade in Xiemen

Friday night last week I was on my way home from work and there was firemen and fire engines all over Xiemen, and part of the street was cordoned off.

The first sign something was a miss
I thought I would go around and have a bit of a nosy about as you do to what was going down.  From what I could make out there was some kind of fire or problem with some of the electrics in one of the buildings.  

Having a nose around
So the fire brigade it had seemed done the sensible thing as you would expect and turned out most the electrics to the rest of the street.  It seemed like other shop owners were running around complaining but there was jack shit they could do about it.  Anyway the situation was completely under control.

Under control
The whole area looked like it was complete chaos because of the amount of fire engines and fire men around but when i noseied around they really did have it all under control.  The amount of fire engines there though, and fire men.  It was the equivalent to opening a chestnut with a sledgehammer!

Loads of different fire engines about
On Saturday morning I seen the electrics where the problems had been caused the night before and they all looked burnt out.

What caused the problem
At least it was under control (I know I have said this a lot ha!) but if it had of expanded around Xiemen shopping area it could of been a complete nightmare how close the shops and buildings are crammed together, so no wonder the fire brigade took the sledge hammer approach I guess.

Zombies in Xiemen

One Saturday morning about 3 weeks ago, I was kind of sleepwalking through the commercial area of Xiemen on my way to the MRT.  As I turned one of the corners there was thick smoke all over the place.  Not only that a load of bodies and blood everywhere.  

It looked like the army had the place cordoned off.  They also looked like they were stopping people from getting through, at this point I stopped caring that people were dead all over the floor and thought, shit I'm going to be late for work if I have to walk around!  The thought did cross my mind of, what the hell happened here last night!!!

As I was still half asleep because it was 7am, I didn't notice the film crew.  It turns out the fact I was half asleep made it seem more real, and if I had of opened my eyes more I would of clearly seen they were making a new movie, right in my home neighbourhood.

At this point I was thinking bollocks, why don't I have my camera?  This made me re asses when, and when not to take out my camera and I take it with me pretty much most times now, it lives in my bag.  Hopefully I will never miss the chance to take photos of this kind of thing again, if I run into it by accident. 

Bus to Work.

Every now and then the bus to work is totally packed.  One day last week however it was more full than I had ever seen it.  We were all literally crammed into the bus like sardines.

I was stuck at the front between the door and the driver.  To my horror the bus driver was still stopping and letting more and more people pile in at every stop.  There was even people getting hit by the doors as they opened it was that full.

At this moment I was thinking this is mental, but no!  The mentalness carried on all the way to work.  The doors closed on a young kid at one point, and the young kid was stuck in the doors, you think the bus would stop right?  Wrong again it didn't it kept on moving with the kid stuck in the doors.  

Everyone was just looking at this poor little bastard stuck there, half in and half out.  I am sure they were thinking the same thing as me "BLOODY HELL!"

In the end I just grabbed him and pulled him out of the doors.  He replied with a firm xie xie (thank you.)  Eventually the bus trundled along to my stop, letting more people in at every stop.  When I got off I was happy to be away from that sardine can of a bus!

A bus like a can of sardines.
2 Women looking at me like I'm a compete bell end!

Gua Sha treatment for heat stroke relief

Earlier this week I had to get Gua Sha, because of suffering from bad heat stroke after hiking in the afternoon, like a madman, bang on midd...