Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More fun in Taipei

Even though we've been working, its still been fun being here. Its great having the 2 boys here. This week at work, we started out by working at an import/export fair as representatives of the US. It was very interesting to learn that side of business and meet with such a wide variety of people. We also got the chance to meet otherAmerican State Dept interns.

On Monday night, we went out with Jeanie, the USC office assistant, to this American buffet place. It was so good eating Caesar salad and pasta!! I miss that type of food so much. After that, we accompanied her to a Buddhist temple for a traditional fortune telling ceremony. The ceremony consists of various rituals,which end with a discussion of your fate with a local monk. It is bad luck to divulge information from your conversation with the monk. However, my fortune was very good.

Then last night after work, Neal, Tony, and I went to "The Zone", which is where most of the major bars in the city are located. Many of the bars are themed after California and have names like LAPD and Malibu's. We went to one called Malibu West that had Californian food and drinks and even had a Chinese man dressed like a surfer (complete with long hair). The food was really good--I had a grilled vegetable quesadilla with guacamole and homemade salsa. I also had the strongest cocktail i've ever drank. It was supposedly a mai tai. However, it tasted more like a ton of rum mixed with a little bit of cherry flavored cough medicine.

Tonight, we are going to the Shilin night market again, since Neal has never been there. Then tomorrow, we have pub night at a local expat bar called brass monkey. Then Friday, we will be going to the Snake Market, where they have traditional Chinese medicine and snake charming (with gigantic cobras!).

Then Saturday, its off to Hong Kong.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Last Weekend in Taipei

Being that I am trying to cram in as much travel as possible, this will probably will have been the last weekend (or at least full weekend) in Taipei. Therefore, of course, I had to cram in as much as possible. On Friday after work, I was able to partake in the experience of visiting an authentic Chinese tailor. These tailors are famous for their excellent work and my boss bought me a tailored shirt as a gift. After that, we went to an authentic dumpling soup place with our colleagues. It was a bit too authentic for my tastes, but interesting nonetheless.
Then Saturday, we had a full day. Tony, one of the male interns, and I went to the Palace Museum, which has the finest collection of Chinese art in the world. Admission to this landmark musuem was a whopping $2. For those of you not familiar with Chinese history, when the KMT fled the mainland, they took the most precious pieces of Chinese art with them. It is believed that if they had not taken this step, these artifacts would have most likely been destroyed by Mao in the Cultural Revolution. After the museum, we went to Longshan temple, which is supposed to be one of the nicest Buddhist temples in Taiwan. It was raining pretty hard, so our visit was cut short. We also went to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial, which was pretty boring except for the changing of the guards. Lastly, we took Tony on his first trip to Shilin night market (where I ate dumplings, as can be seen in the picture). I was even able to buy a fraudulent stuffed Eeyore for $2., but had to do so in a back alley because of a police raid.

Lastly, Sunday, I went to Beitou again. This time, I brought Kelly along. I was so relaxed after soaking in the springs, that I fell asleep for about 4 hours. After that, the four of us (including Neal, who came Sunday morning) went out for an authentic Chinese family style meal. We had spring rolls, shrimp and tofu with an orange sauce, Singapore noodles, sauteed beef, and chicken with green peppers. It was very good!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Some of you have been asking for pictures, so i've included a few. The one with me in the pink dress is from when I visited Taipei 1o1 and was taken at the 85th floor exhibition hall. The other one was taken this week at the Alumni club karaoke event.

Alumni Karaoke:

Last night (Thursday night) we went out with the alumni club to a karaoke bar called KTV. Unlike my other experiences with karaoke, this one was extremely fun, as we had our own private room. I sang my favorite song, dancing queen :), and the alumni sang a lot of songs in Chinese. We also ate traditional Cantonese food (from Southern China and Hong Kong) such as steamed pork buns and shrimp dumplings. In the picture above, you can see me belting out tunes.

Shilin Night Market:

On Wednesday, we went to the Shilin Night Market again. However, this was a much better experience as this time, we had Jeanie, our host in Taipei with us. The food actually was quite tasty. We had vegetable dumplings, Japanese cold noodle salad, miso soup, and best of all, Taiwanese Shaved Ice. The shaved ice in Taiwan is made out of condensed milk, rather than water. Therefore, it has a creamy consistency. The ice is topped with everything from chocolate sauce to red beans. I had a pudding ice with mango topping. We also bought some fresh fruit (lychee for me) at the market.

However, we left earlier than planned because it began pouring rain. It has rained every day since Sunday, as it is Monsoon season in Asia.

Travel Plans

this weekend-stay in Taipei and possibly go to the zoo

next weekend-HONG KONG!! We are going to Hong Kong, as we have a four day weekend.

weekend after-Sun Moon Lake and Taichung?

August 20th-Coming back to Asia to BANGKOK! :)


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Working Life

So finally after all these years of education, I've become a cube monkey. Yep...I have my very own cubicle at the State Dept. Working has been good...I have a lot of downtime, but my job is very interesting.

What I do:

Basically, my job is to facilitate foreign investments by US companies in Taiwan and to encourage Taiwanese companies to invest in the US. Therefore, my daily work requires a lot of research on local and US laws, distribution channels for products, and marketing. Right now, we are working with a number of well known US companies that I cannot mention.

My Office

I work in the Taiwan World Trade Center, which is next door to Taipei 101. I get to work via the MRT and although it is close mileage wise, it takes awhile to get here because the subway is indirect. In my building, there is a pretty bad cafeteria. However, next door in Taipei 101, they have great food! There is an American store called Jason's and some very interesting restaurants. Yesterday, I had a Singaporean set lunch-it was delicious!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Hot Springs Fun

Taiwan is known for its geothermal hot springs, which are naturally occuring water that is heated by the earth and has restorative qualities. The closest hot springs to Taipei are the Beitou Hot Springs.

Going to the springs: The springs were easily accessible by the Taipei MRT and the round trip ticket cost under $1. Once in Beitou, I chose to use the public hot spring for around 20 cents. One can also rent a private room, however, that is around $20. I was very popular at the hot spring and made the mistake of wearing a bikini. I was, however, able to distribute some of my business cards to admiring onlookers :).

After bathing in the springs, I ate at Starbucks and came back to the hotel.

Afternoon Tea: After I got back, Kelly and I went with some of the local USC people to afternoon tea. It was an nice meeting other English speakers and the food was pretty good. We then went to a local shopping mall. It was extremely rainy and gloomy today, on a side note.

I start work tomorrow-so look for an update! Thanks for reading.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Sightseeing on Saturday

After sleeping very well on Friday, we wanted to sightsee and visit the most important sights in Taipei. This will probably be one of the only weekends I am in Taipei, since I plan on traveling on the weekends.

Our day went as follows-

Morning: In the morning, the hotel manager of our hotel gave us a tour of the local area. We also picked up our Easy Cards, which are debit cards for the subway system. You simply swipe your card whenever you go on the subway or bus and it subtracts that amount from your balance. We also visited a local market where they sell food, fresh produce, and live chicken and fish.

After this, we went to the Chiang Kai Chek Memorial. It was partially closed, due to renovations. However, it had neat traditional architecture.

Afternoon: After the memorial, we went to Taipei 101-the world's tallest building. The Chairwoman of the building is a USC alumni, so she gave us free tickets to go to the observatory at the 91st floor. It was great having such a clear panorama view of Taipei and we had an English audio tour, so we could figure out what everything was. We also met some young Americans-one guy was a grad student at Georgetown and will be working at the State Dept. as well. The other guy was just about to enter law school.

In addition to seeing the observation area, we also went to the very bottom of the building, which houses a very upscale shopping mall. We ate there, as well. They have an amazing food court, with tons of Asian food as well as Western favorites. I was very excited to eat American food! I have already become tired of the Chinese food after only a day.

After Taipei 101, we went looking for the paper district, which is a famous area. We got very lost and wandered around for about an hour. Finally, we were so exhausted from the heat (85 degrees and extremely humid), we took a cab back to the hotel for about $3.

Evening: We had dinner at the local night market. As I mentioned earlier, the food is definitely different here- It will certainly be easy to diet. I had a scallion pancake and some fresh fruit (which is very tasty here)! Kelly had some noodles and the owner of the stand wanted to put kidneys into them-fortunately, he relented.

We planned on going to a pub after dinner, as we have a whole row of bars right near the hotel. However, we were both so exhausted, we wound up falling asleep.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Nihao, Taipei!

Today was my first day in Taipei, which was very exciting. I had a great flight over on Malaysia Airlines and landed at about 6am. After taking a taxi to the hotel (about 40km away), I partook in number of activities:

Outdoor Market

I went to the local outdoor market where they sell produce and prepared food. I ate some glass noodles, got stared at a lot, and checked out the neighborhood where i'll be living for the next two months.

Reflexology Massage

Taiwan is the birthplace of reflexology and therefore, massage parlours are ubiquitous. I got an authentic reflexology massage at a local parlour for $15 for one hour (quite a deal, considering the cost back in the States). The massage was wonderful! It really helped relieve the tension from the long flight, plus I was treated like a celebrity at the place and got the owner as my masseur.

Shilin Night Market

Later in the afternoon, my roommate Kelly arrived. We then went to the famous Shilin night market, known for its food and bargain shopping. After a meal of Boba and shrimp fried rice, we explored the endless alleys full of shopping in the area. We were proud that we were able to use the Taipei Subway with ease to get to Shilin.

Thats all for now, but please check tomorrow for a new update! :)