Monday, August 30, 2010

Back to the cold city

I was a little reluctant to leave the countryside on our 5th day in Taiwan. The following are the last pictures of the countryside taken on the bus while navigating the roads along the morning market in Lukang.

We know we will no longer be seeing beautiful natural sights in the form of cascading waterfalls, breathtaking valleys, large flowing rivers in the city. But there will be LOTS OF FOOD!

The first destination in the city was Taipei 101, once the tallest skyscraper in the world. Its throne has since been 'usurped' by Burj Khalifa in Dubai. I've been to the top floor once, a few years back, and at that time, the weather wasn't good and so the view wasn't clear. However I wasn't regretful that this time round we won't get to ascend the upper floors.

Lunch at Taipei 101's food court

Seating area just outside Page One (a bookstore that originated from Singapore and have since branched to many countries in SEA)

Proof that we've been to Taipei 101

Unfortunately going back in the city meant that there would be more visits to various local produce shops in Taiwan, and we would be cajoled into purchasing from them. One of them was the pearl centre.

In the end, convinced by its cell regeneration, medicinal properties and countless other properties, I bought S$100 worth of pearl powder. Equivalent to the plate below.

This is the machine which grinds the pearls into powder

The shop assistants warned that only natural pearls can be ground into powder for consumption, not those meant for jewellery.

The finished product

We were brought to another local produce shop, whose famous pineapple tarts have won a national award within Taiwan. We had the chance to sample them, and they certainly lived up to its name. A tip from Francis: they taste best after being microwaved. The shop also sold 'tai yang bing' translated 'sun biscuit', which is a wonderfully flaky, buttery pastry which I love more than the pineapple tarts. Unfortunately, no pictures, as we were too busy samping the many other pastries. Plentiful flavours abound - green tea, red bean, sesame and MANY more.

We spotted this placed in a corner of this shop. This is a 'tian lu', a Chinese mythical hybrid creature that resembles a winged lion with one horn. Its counter part is 'pi xiu' which has 2 horns. The Taiwanese strongly believed in their powers in feng shui. This tian lu is believed to prevent wealth from slipping away.

Remember the name of this shop!

Later in the same night, we visited the famous Shilin night market, coming up in the next post!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Sketchbook - Broken In

It's already mid August, and I've only just broken in the sketchbook. I have just 146 days to the deadline - it's so scarily near!

Progress has been painfully slow, because I've been busy with another side project and with life in general. Weekends fly past so fast, it's not funny. I've only started on the cover title and also pages 2 and 3. Here are the scans.

I have got to speed up before missing the deadline becomes a real possibility!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A little island in a lovely lake

After an entreaty with the dieties, we had lunch at a yuan zu ming restaurant. 'Yuan zu ming' refers to the Taiwanese natives/indigenous people who were the first residents of Taiwan.

Before I show pictures of the restaurant, can I rave about this adorable little pooch below??

Why are the Taiwanese dogs so cute? So far I haven't seen one that isn't cute!

And here's where we had lunch. It was decent fare, but not fantastic. As usual, it was an 8-10 course lunch which no one could finish. I lament the waste of food. -.-"

The food is quite reasonably priced

And we were off to a small harbour take a boat to cruise Sun Moon Lake. According to Wiki, "the east side of the lake resembles a sun while the west side resembles a moon, hence the name".

The habour where we set off on our cruise

There is a tiny island in Sun Moon Lake called Lalu. It's now off limits to tourists unfortunately. Probably the same reason why they installed park wardens at Ye Liu National Park (See my previous post).

The little island, Lalu

We disembarked at another section of the lake which lies between Sun Lake and Moon Lake where it houses the Xuan Guang Temple.

As you can see, throngs of tourists were milling around the area waiting to take photos with the Sun Moon Lake tablet. We were no different. Yes, it's cheesy, but that's what tourists do.

The stairs down to the wharf where we diembarked

I have to tell you something disgusting I witnessed by the wharf. I saw a tourist spit into the pristine waters of the lake! Guess which nationality? So in addition to contributing cameras, the tourists also contributed to a higher water level. How wonderful.

We took the boat again and it routed past the little island of Lalu.

Lalu island, up close

The indigenous people were said to have found a rare white deer on this island, hence the presence of this statue

Francis mentioned that Taiwan is very famous for its high quality deer placenta, which is believed to treat many ailments. It is said that Song Mei Ling, the third wife of Taiwan's late President, Mr Jiang Jie Shi, was cured of her lifelong asthma problem after consuming deer placenta

We also passed the 'Ci En Pagoda', built by Mr Jiang Jie Shi in memory of his mother.

We left the lake shortly after to head to Lukang old village.

Some sights along the way.

At the village, we strolled in this temple for a quick look and also strolled along the streets to take in the sights.

Truth be told, this village wasn't as memorable and quaint as those in Neiwan or Jiu Fen or Wulai

 This is a garbage truck that blasts loud music

No village pictures are complete without a dog photo. ;)

Lastly, this is the stadium near our hotel. For the athletic tourist who wants to run. Our hotel is an old building, nothing fancy. The best thing is its swimming pool, which is big and empty, and I made good use of it that night.

Next stop, we're back to the city, at Taipei county. More shops, food and sights!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Transforming a piece of Scrapbook Paper

Before I start off, I'd like to say Happy Birthday Singapore! I have to admit I haven't seen the National Day Parade on TV for years, and I haven't been to either the Padang or Marina Bay to view the festivities in person, but I'd like to think I'm no less Singaporean than the next person.

Ok, anyway, the aim of this post is to show you a little scrapbooking project I did as a farewell gift for a colleague leaving my company. All the colleagues in my department were given a piece of scrapbook paper to fill up  and when we're done, all the pages will be bound in a book for the colleague. It's such a good idea (I didn't come up with this idea though), I know I'd be touched if I were to receive such a meaningful gift. It reflects the heart of everyone who laboured over each piece.

Some of the creative mess on my table

Starting out on a clean red slate

Initial conceptualizing - I had no idea what I wanted to do at first

The completed first page

The completed 2nd page

I've had fun doing this, using nothing more than glue, craft knife to cut up some craft paper, craft punches, pinking shears, Japanese patterned paper, Japanese tape, calligraphic marker, a good photo and a nice poem I remembered. 

I should get started on the Sketchbook soon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

That lovely temple beside that lovely lake

Almost every visitor to Taiwan on a tour package, would find this lake in his/her itinerary. It's what I call a 'staple destination'. Just like how you can't go to Paris without visiting Eiffel Tower, or Spain without visiting Sagrada La Familia, the same goes for the Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County, Taiwan.

The fame and beauty of Sun Moon Lake is the reason why throngs of Mainland Chinese tourists descend upon the lake by the millions. And so, as our boat captain (of the boat we took that toured the lake) quipped, the lake collected its fair share of cameras from the throngs of tourist, enough for every fish in the lake. Lovely. ;)

Situated strategically beside the lake is an equally famous temple, called "Wen Wu" temple. From Francis' explanations of the Taiwanese way of life, we gather that the Taiwanese are firm believers in the concept of 'feng shui'. The concept is hard to explain, however to put it in a simple manner, it is a concept commonly applied to orient or design certain aspects of buildings/structures in an auspicious manner. Hence it's no surprise that major thought was put into designing and orienting the Wen Wu temple.

 A quick glimpse of the lake before entering the temple

The majestic entrance of Wen Wu temple

The magnificent gates of the temple set against the tranquil blue of the lake and the sky

One of the 'fengshui' design elements placed at the doorway of the temple.
Every structure, every  design is there for a reason.

Within the temple, are several alters. There is a Confucian alter that is popular amongst students praying for blessings in their studies. Another alter is famous for being very accurate in its divination of lots that you draw from there. For instance, you may ask the dieties if you will enjoy good health in the year, by shaking a container of divinatory sticks. When a stick is shaken out, a poem/short verses will be assigned to the divinatory stick and a temple assistant will assist you in interpreting the verses and hence 'telling your fortune'.

9 dragons. Numbers are an important element in feng shui. I can't remember why they chose to sculpt 9 dragons instead of 8. Traditionally 8 is an auspicious number to the Chinese. 

Despite the ornate interior decorations and grandeur of the temple, I actually felt a sense of peace in this place. If you have all the time in the world, you could wander the temple grounds feeling very much at ease.

A terracotta soldier street or rather temple mime

Short post, but I think the lake deserves its full attention in another post. Will write about it next.


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