Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Taiwan - Part 3

Five months on and I still miss Taiwan. Granted that I was only there for 15 days, I should be so over it. But you see, the thing about Taiwan is this: it's quite unforgettable.

I can only think of two main reasons. Firstly, I spent most (all 12 of it) of the 15 days up in the mountains. Secondly, I'm a sentimental person, one who cherishes memories so much so that I collect keepsakes from every holiday that I've been on. I always bring a journal with me and note down the highlights of my trips and this Taiwan trip, it was no different. Stuffed in my bag all the time even as I walked up steep mountain slopes was a journal with a purple coloured velvety-textured cover that I had bought from Borders. I was too lazy to snap a shot of it so you'll have to imagine.

Journaling helps to jog one's memory and that is probably why I will never forget Taiwan. I have the pages of my journal open in front of me as I type this. Oh and you know what they say about holidays and all - it's the company you're with that makes a difference. Allow me to just say how glad I was to be up in the mountains with four of my most favourite ladies in the world: Grannie, Xiao yi (youngest aunt), Krystle (my dear cousin) and Christine (my angel of a sister). Yep, it really was quite an estrogen-driven trip I'd say. Ha.

So pardon me for posting up part 3 so late. I've been caught up with other stuff and totally forgot about this post. I suppose it's better late than never. I just know that I would rather share this beautiful side of Taiwan with you than have these photos stay neglected in the depths of the hard drive in my laptop.

According to my journal, I was at Li Shan 22 December last year and this is where I'll continue from, in this third part of my lovely Taiwan trip.

For starters, here's a photo of the cool place we stayed at which was called Swallow Castle:

I'd say the coolest thing about the place has got to be their electric bed warmer. You know the ones you see them use in Korean dramas? It looks like a comforter and it's placed on the bed under the sheets. Now don't ask me why I associate them with Korean dramas! It's true - I checked and found out that the one they had was made in Korea. See I told you! Anyway, up in the mountains where it gets really chilly at night, an electric bed warmer is as close to heaven as you can get. I actually found it quite hard to leave the bed in the mornings.

Okay moving on from bed warmers, to breakfast. We had our breakfast here for the two mornings we were at Swallow Castle, and the breakfast area was so cosy it felt like I was in my own home:

Breakfast in Taiwan is always a porridge affair. Hotels and inns usually provide porridge and side dishes like fermented beancurd:

Don't baulk at that photo! It really is yummy. Oops, I forgot that my tastebuds are weird. Yep I love things that most people hate. Perfect example: blue cheese.

Here's my sister and aunt busy over breakfast. You can see the variety of dishes offered:

There's cabbage, fried anchovies with peanuts, Chinese black fungus, the fermented beancurd thing and some other red thing (sorry I forgot what it's made of!). Oh my aunt and I loved the fermented beancurd so much we bought a few jars (yes, Swallow Castle sells their own homemade fermented beancurd). We have since finished it (duh, it's been five months!) and are craving for more. Anyone going to Taiwan soon? ;)

A little introduction about Li Shan. Li Shan, translated to English, would literally be Pear Mountain and that is not without reason. There are many fruit farms on Li Shan and the biggest one I believe is Fushoushan Farm which Christine and I managed to go to, after hiking up more than 4km.

The view on top of Li Shan is beautiful and breathtaking. It seemed almost foreign though, considering how much of a city life I've had in Singapore, with more concrete jungle in my surroundings than actual mountains and fruit farms.

We were quite amazed at the size of the fruit farms and I started wishing I had my own fruit farm. Hmmm what a lovely thought. I guess that could happen, if I one day decide to run away from the city and plant myself in the mountains (I could always come back to Li Shan eh) and grow my own pears and apples and live quite happily.

Of course to do that, I would have to find out more about the mountain don't I? So I did, and I went to the Li Shan visitor center

Krystle and Grannie

And in the process, I thought what better way to imagine myself living on the mountain than to dress up like one of them. Okay they don't really dress like that. Those tribal outfits are worn by the tribes living deeper in the mountains. At the visitor centre, I got to learn alot more about their way of life too

Like how they lived in wooden huts. Ah-huh, no kidding.

Of course they had to shoot animals for food. I tried my hand at that, although imaginary, it was quite fun.

They no stoves of course, only woodfire.

Yep, you could see how intrigued I was. I'm not sure if I'd survive in a tribe. Maybe I will?

Anyway, back to the fruits. I told you about the abundance of fruit farms didn't I? So obviously there would be loads of fruits for sale:

And that's not all. There are many fruit stalls all over the place. I just didn't bother taking photos of all of them.

One fruit stall owner was quite the entrepreneur. He sold other stuff like hot comforting pear soup and barbecued meats:

Including entire quails. Yes, quails. I ate some. They were delicious. You will notice that I avoided posting a photo of me eating it. Yea, I think you wouldn't understand why I found it tasty. It did feel weird, I'll admit. Especially since it still has its head intact. Well what can I say, I'm adventurous, to a certain extent (read: will not eat worms or maggots).

After that yummy snack, we walked about to take in the sights...

It's really easy to take beautiful pictures when the surroundings are so damn gorgeous. These shots you see were taken when I was going up the mountain to the huge Fushoushan at the top of Li Shan.

There were plenty of pretty flowers and plants... and of course dandelions!

I love dandelions mostly because they are fun. I love to blow at them at watch the small fluffs fly away.

Oh and acorns too:

Big fan of acorns. I still have those you see up there. Yep, I'm a 'hoarder'. I hoard old and weird memorabilias and keep them till I find out how useless they are 10 years down the road and decide to chuck them.

This is one of my favourite shots:

Somehow, it doesn't look like Taiwan. It feels as if I was in the woods in a huge forest.

Here's an abandoned church:

And a flea market of sorts! It reminds me of our pasar malam here:

One cool thing about being up in the mountains is the 'random-ness' of things. Out of nowhere, at the least expected places, there will be things and people and stuff you won't think would be there. I'm not sure if I make any sense. May not, but hopefully you get my drift. Here's a random stall set up by a lady who seemed to be selling fish soup. I love how you can have the mountains in the backdrop.

And guess what, I saved the best for the last.....

The PEARS we picked out fresh from the farm!

Okay, we didn't mean to steal them! They were ripe ones which fell to the ground so rather than have them rot or birds peck at them, we decided it would be better in our stomachs and so we cleaned them and had them after dinner.

I have alot more photos but it'll be impossible to post them all up so I picked out only the most interesting and beautiful ones.

There will be a part four, and five and six.... I promise.

Don't you just want to go to Taiwan right now? I know I want to fly there on a broomstick this very instant. I miss those pears.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Miele Guide

I know I know, it's been weeks since I last posted!

But I have a very good reason. A reason that I'm rather proud of. It's not only because I truly believe in it but also because of the hope it brings to Asia, to those in the culinary profession or basically anyone who campaigns good food.

Regular readers might be aware that I've been working full-time as an editorial consultant since January. I haven't revealed much of what I do but today all shall be revealed.

And here I present to you, The Miele Guide - Asia's first truly independent restaurant guide.

We just launched Phase 2 - where YOU get to tell us which are Asia's best restaurants. Please do cast your votes online at our beautifully designed site.

Allow me to credit the hardworking team who helped make this a reality. Who better to get the first mention than the bosses. I do give it to him and S for sticking to their guns and putting money where their mouths are. I'm learning plenty from them and of course it helps to have bosses who understand your love for food especially since they themselves are major foodies. And then there's my wonderful colleague, P, who's the associate publisher. I've never seen anyone as commited to her job as her. She's one of those thoughtful individuals who wake up early just to buy 5 boxes of paus and egg tarts for the entire office for breakfast.

Of course there's also the ultra-talented web team made up of A, (who's better known as Popagandhi) the web consultant, a capable web designer and a smart web programmer. The three of them have been clocking in long hours prior to the launch day, along with P and I must say they did a great job. Seriously. I'm impressed at how they turn an idea into pixels and html. What can I say, I'm quite the html-idiot. That's why my blog is so plain and simple.

When I first joined the team, I knew it was going to be a ride but I didn't expect it to be this amazing. Right now I'm more than excited about the guide, the doors it opens and of the recognition of Asia's culinary gems. It's been long overdue I say.

So how do you vote and change culinary history? You have to first register - it's easy peasy, takes you less than the amount of time you take to tie your shoe laces, or cream your butter and sugar. Now, here's the icing on the cake - every person who votes stands to win one of three uber cool prizes that will dazzle you. Winners will be able to dine with a friend at the top-ranked restaurants in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Tokyo (respectively). On top of that, you'll enjoy a 2-night stay at a five-star hotel in each city.

What's the voting process like? First of all, you have a maximum of 10 votes and if you live in one of the 16 Asian countries we're covering, you can only vote for up to 3 restaurants in your home-country. Best yet, you need not kill trees with physical voting a la pen and paper. We are definitely tree lovers so you can only vote online and it's really very simple. All you have to do is choose the country whose restaurants you wish to vote for and you'll see the restaurant shortlist. You can then select your choice retaurants or nominate those that are not already in the list.

Trust me, it's one of the most, if not, only democratic process ever implemented by a restaurant guide. Which gives you more reason to VOTE NOW.

Want to know how The Miele Guide came to be? Read Chubby's Hubby's story. Still want more? read his latest post about the guide.

Visit The Miele Guide's website today to find out more. You can also pre-order the guide at our shop. While you're at it, how about joining our facebook group? That way you won't be kept in the dark. Trust me, with The Miele Guide, it's all about transparency, and credibility.

Here's to good food, fine company and a beautiful slim red guide that will forever change the history of restaurants in Asia.

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