Lóngshān Sì

Last weekend we went and checked out the Longshan Temple (or  艋舺龍山寺/Lóngshān Sì) in Taipei. It is one of the most popular sites in Taipei and for a good reason. The reasonably sized temple is located smack dab in the city. it was built-in 1738 and locals to this day still come here for their daily worship. The temple is sometimes refered to as ‘the meeting place of the gods’ as a number of deities can be worshipped here.

Inside the temple:

Prayer:

Offerings:

Exquisite architecture

A nice place to hang out:

The area around Longshan temple is really interesting as well. The surrounding alleyways are home to a number of traditional markets and medicine (herbal) shops, fortune tellers, and calligraphers.  The controversial ‘Snake Alley‘ is also close by and just outside the alley you will find an abundance of ladies of the night.

There were also quite a few stores selling statues of deities and even Buddhist Appliances whatever that means.

We went to the Temple during the Dragon Boat festival races hence why it was so quiet. We’re both keen to go back though early in the morning or at night when most people go there to worship.

A Sick Pug and My Runner Mom

Our friend Graci has a weird looking flat-mate. His name is Yoda. Yoda felt a bit sick today so Luke and I paid him a visit. We brought a few gifts with us and he perked up in no time.

He even did a few tricks for us.

By the time we left he was back to his little pug self. 😉

While we were visiting with Yoda, over in the States, my Mom was running her first ever race – a 5 KM!

She was fast and furious and finished strong!

I’m so proud of you, Mom! Way to go!

Goose City

It’s Dragon Boat Festival weekend over here. The Dragon Boat races are held on Saturday. We decided not to go this year as it would be hot and crowded and next year Luke may race.

So to celebrate, on Friday night, we went to Goose City for dinner with a group of friends. It was wild. As you walk in there is a display shelf full of different kinds of fresh fish and other types of seafood. Basically, you pick your fish/clams/mussels, specify how you want it cooked and pick out some side dishes.

The first dish to come out was actually on the house. Peanuts and fried fish eyeballs. Seriously…fish eyeballs. I managed to stomach one of these chewy little delicacies.

Apart from eyeballs, we have sashimi, barbecued fish, steamed clams, prawns, and an assortment of other meats and green side dishes.

Apart from food a lot of beer was consumed. This seemed to be the norm throughout the restaurant. As the night wore on the place got quite rowdy. A table to Taiwanese sitting close by started to talking to us and then drinking with us.

It was a riot. After dinner we wandered the street outside, which was filled with little food stalls, in search of dessert. We ended up get fresh fruit smoothies. Delicious.

Summer Semester

This week we started our second semester of studying Chinese. And we’re already tired from all the study!

Luke and I each have three one-on-one classes everyday. We even have our classes at the exact same times which means we will be spending a lot more time with each other than last semester. So this week has been all about getting our routine in place and getting a feel for our new teachers and what they expect of us. We’ve already realized how hard this semester is going to be. Our teachers have pretty much stopped talking any English to us and are in full-on Chinese mode. Typhoon Talim is meant to be blowing over Taiwan sometime today. I hate to say it but it wouldn’t be such a bad thing as we would get a day off school which we both already need! Not a good sign.

On a more positive note we’ve both noticed how much we have improved since we started 10 weeks ago. This semester is going to help us improve even more. We’re both looking forward to being able to have conversations with the locals. It will also open up the number of new opportunities to us (Such as eating at this place which always has a long line but we don’t know what it sells):

I am also looking forward to reading signs like this one in Chinese (as I’m sure it will make more sense in Chinese than it does in English)

In other news, Fern’s water obsession is out of control. She demands to be in the bathroom whenever one of us is in the shower. She also peeps at me when I take a bath.

We’re not sure what to make of this  – should we be concerned?

Happy Skinny Father’s Day

Father’s Day never fails to confuse us. In the US (and most other countries around the world) Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June. But in New Zealand, it is celebrated on the first Sunday of September. And now, here in Taiwan, it is celebrated on August 8. Random.

So every year we go through the same thing of trying to remember which Father’s Day it is.  Thankfully social media has been a big help in reminding us. I see my friends in the US have appropriately updated their statuses with Dad-related quips. My Dad isn’t on Facebook so I figure there is no point in trying to win the #1 spot for best daughter by posting something lame. However, it may make my sisters feel a little bit bad as I would be showcasing to my friends (and some of theirs) what a good daughter I am and as a result they would feel some pressure to post something similar – especially if others ‘like’ my status. I won’t play that game.  I’ll fight fair.

Like most Dads mine could afford to lose a little around the mid-section. So for this Father’s Day I am going to help him lose a little weight. He’s going to lose a little weight by not eating these:

I call these bars my ‘Skinny Father’s Day Bars‘.

Ingredients:

-1/2 cup canola oil

-1 cup brown sugar

– 1/2 cup white sugar

– 4 egg whites

– 2 Tablespoons skim milk

– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 3 cups old-fashioned oats

– 1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour

– 1 teaspoon baking soda

– 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 9×13 inch baking pan.

2. In a large bowl combine oil, sugars, egg whites, milk, vanilla, and salt. Beat with electric mixer until well combined and sugars have dissolved.

3. In a medium bowl combine oats, flour, baking soda, and chocolate chips. Mix well.

4. Add oat mixture to wet mixture and stir well to combine.

5. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake 15-20 minutes.

Of course if someone really wants to suck up, they could make these for you (hint, hint, Natalie). They aren’t too terribly bad for you if enjoyed in moderation. 😉

Fern would also like to throw a ‘Happy Father’s Day’ gang sign your way:

Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Love, Mel

Sick Day

The travel guide we read before arriving in Taipei warned us how easy it was to get sick here due to it being such a densely populated place. In my mind I thought we would be rubbing elbows (literally) with people whenever we ventured outside. I stocked up on hand sanitizer and cold medicine before we left NZ. Once we arrived, I found what I had read was far from my day-to-day reality. In fact, the area around us is not at all crowded. It’s typically to only ever share the sidewalk with a few other people. As you move closer to the city center it does become more crowded, especially on the weekends. The MRT can be horrific on the weekends. Thankfully we haven’t had to experience it at rush hour. Anyhow, because of where we lived, I became a lot more relaxed about germs, and the possibility of getting sick. I stopped carrying around my hand sanitizers and no longer toyed with the idea of wearing a face mask. This week, after a very crowded weekend ride on the MRT, my fear was reignited and I decided I should be more careful. So back the sanitizer went in my purse. Thank goodness too as I had a very germy week. We went to Shilin Night Market the biggest and most crowded night market. We also had a function for Alumnae from my College (lots of hand-shaking) and I went to Costco (read: germ-ridden shopping carts). I was super careful all week long and guess what? I am writing this from my sick bed.

Go figure…

Interpretive Art

A few weekends back Luke and I went and checked out the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Taipei. We weren’t prepared for just how contemporary it would be  – most of the items on display were installations rather than your classic framed art on walls (which we prefer). Call us small-minded or uncreative but we really just don’t get most of this stuff.

Luke tried his best to understand too:

Thankfully not all of it was ‘interpretive’ art. One installation was a candy store with miniature chocolate guns, tanks and fighter jets. We both thought this was pretty cool. (And I think we ‘got’ it…).

The other quite interesting installation was one of photographs. Each photograph showed a different public building in Taiwan that had been built using tax dollars and then abandoned. It was sending a pretty strong message about the waste of money/underutilized spaces.

After the Museum we grabbed a cab. And quickly saw that we were faced with more interpretive art:

Not sure what was going on in the photo?

Soon after we got in and on our way, the cab driver then asked us in Chinese if we were feeling hot and we said yes so he reached behind the seat and pulled out this contraption:

Apparently this is his invention to solve the issue of passengers not getting enough cool air. He had different lengths (if you are in the front seat) and even some with double passages so each rider could feel the air. For the remainder of the ride he tried to sell us one of his inventions. Thankfully, due to the language barrier, we could pretend we didn’t understand the sales pitch.

Our last stop of the day was to a restaurant close to us called, ‘Bongos’. We have passed by before on our bikes and thought it looked cool and the menu tasty. What a delight to find out it was all this and more. We both devoured burgers (Luke: beef, Mel: Gardenburger) and shared a spinach and artichoke dip starter.

We probably won’t go back to the MOCA but we’ll come back here for sure.

A week in the Gorge

Luke and I spent last week in the glorious Taroko Gorge. It was the perfect escape from the city. The scenery in the gorge was so impressive and our stay at the posh Silks Place was just what we needed to ensure we had relaxing break.

To get out to the Gorge, we took the train from Taipei to Hualien (about a 2.5 hour trip). The train was cheap but comfortable. We both enjoyed finally getting a taste of what is beyond the city. Along the ride we passed through many small towns and rural areas. It was very scenic – especially when we got to the coast.

A car from the Silks was waiting for us when we got to the station. It took about an hour to get to the hotel which is right in the Gorge. The drive there was jaw-droppingly spectacular. We kept ohhing and ahhing with each corner the car went round.

The hotel looks out into the Gorge and onto the Buddhist Xiangde Temple and its neighboring Catholic Church.

After we settled into out beautiful room and had lunch, we set out exploring. We walked to the Temple and Church and had a little photo shoot.

;;

After our walk we returned to the hotel for wine o’clock.

Most days we enjoyed our breakfast in the Retreat Lounge, rather than at the busy buffet. It was a treat starting the day with this (+coffee):

On Thursday we were both feeling quite adventurous and decided to do a hike in the Gorge.

We chose a 4 hour hike with two bridge crossings that was ranked as being fairly hard.

It was a hot day so we doused ourselves in sunscreen.

We saw lots of these guys along the way.

The hike was very challenging. We climbed straight uphill for a good hour and a half but the views were worth it.

We smashed the hike in 2 hours and 45 minutes and made it back to the hotel in time for lunch. We decided to try out one of the lunch places across from the hotel for lunch:

We took it easy the rest of our time at the Gorge. Spending a lot of time in here:

We see many more trips to this relaxing and beautiful place in our future.

(Oh, and while we were away, Fern stayed home and worked hard on practicing her English. We came home and found her completely exhausted from all the reading she had been doing. She’s always showing us up!)