Backpacking Taipei (Day 2)

December 9, 2014. First stop for the day was the Longshan Temple (艋舺龍山寺) of Taipei, one of the city’s oldest Buddhist temples. I made a visit in the morning and was able to witness residents pray. I am not familiar with the rituals but seeing locals conduct themselves in the temple was an interesting sight.

I then proceeded to the Huashan / Songshan Cultural and Creative Park 松山文創園區). It is an old tobacco factory that has been transformed into a culture and arts center where exhibits, performances and other cultural activities are held. However, at the time I visited, which was late in the morning, there didn’t seem to be any activity of sorts. Nevertheless, there were interesting shops and restaurants to visit.

For lunch, I went to Yong Kang Street (永康街) near Dongmen Station. This street is lined with different types of restaurants including one of Din Tai Fung’s original branches. I ended up having lunch at a restaurant (I forget now, I don’t take notes when I walk around) which served noodles and other Taiwanese staple. I had minced pork rice and shrimp rolls.

After strolling the entire length of the street, I decided to go to Da’an Park, just a train station away. It had already started raining when I got there so it wasn’t very ideal to go for a walk. I attempted hiring a bicycle but apparently, it required a registered card to hire. I wandered instead at the impressive train station of Da’an for a bit before taking the train to Tamsui.

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Backpacking Taipei (Day 1)

December 8, 2014. I booked a plane ticket to Taipei much earlier this year, almost spontaneously, right after I decided to go on a trip to Cambodia. I had since then planned this trip to cap my year, just right after classes in law school ended for 2014.

I arrived in Taipei (Taoyuan Airport) from a red-eye flight just past midnight. With my check-in time at the hotel more than half a day away, I decided to wait until morning at the airport. It was a silly decision (not to book the night at the hotel to cut cost), as I realized no amount of being spendthrift could replace a good night’s rest in bed, no matter how short, if I intended to walk all day the next day. By sunrise, I felt so tired from the lack of sleep.

At the break of dawn, I took the bus from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei central station. I got myself a three-day pass in the Taipei Metro, then rode the train to Ximending district and asked my hotel if I could check in much much earlier. Fortunately, a room was ready and they accommodated me at no extra charge. I ended up sleeping the whole morning.

By noon, I rose up to begin ‘exploring’ Taipei’s landmarks. Availing of the Taipei Metro pass was a great decision, as the trains were a very convenient way to get to all the interesting parts of the city.

It was an overcast day, but I wasn’t going to let that ruin my first full day in Taipei.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. Chiang Kai Shek is the leader of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the President of the Republic of China (ROC) who established the ROC government in Taiwan after KMT’s defeat by the Communists in the mainland. The memorial hall itself is only part of the larger public square called Freedom/Liberty Park which has two Chinese theaters, beautifully manicured gardens and a uniquely-designed gate.

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The Big Binondo Food Wok

There’s always something fascinating I find with Binondo. Its being Manila’s Chinatown definitely sets it apart from the city’s other districts, it almost feels like another foreign place, but then it’s just unmistakably very Manila. The Big Binondo Food Wok is one of the “walking tours” of Old Manila Walks conducted by Ivan Mandy. The tour takes guests around the streets of Chinatown and allows them to take in the sights and sounds while enriching one’s mind with bits of history lessons and trivia and while nibbling on unique Binondo treats.

Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09)

The tour started off with a brief introductory history lesson at Plaza Calderon dela Barca, which was continued across the street at the historic Binondo Church. Ironically, as Ivan Mandy points out, the baroque Catholic cathedral is Chinatown’s most prominent landmark. It, however, features a bell tower that has pagoda-like characteristics.

The first food stop was Eng Bee Tin‘s second-floor cafe, which is also called the volunteer firemen’s coffee shop. The cafe pays tribute to the volunteer firemen of Chinatown. The earnings of the place are donated to the firemen. There, we had kiampong or salted rice, which didn’t turn out to be that salty, but really tasty nonetheless, eaten together with fishball soup.

The next food stop was Dong Bei Dumplings, the now acclaimed hole-in-the-wall restaurant of a couple from Northern China which serves authentic Chinese cuisine distinct from the Canton-type of Chinese food most of us are familiar with. Guests will be served, well, dumplings. I’ve been to the place twice before, so I knew what was coming. Nonetheless, Dong Bei dumplings are always a unique treat.

Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09)

Walking a few blocks from Dong Bei, guests will be treated to tea eggs from a stall along Salazar Street. It’s the first time I tried these eggs out. Tea eggs are made by boiling the eggs in a mixture of special tea leaves and soy sauce for at least two days.

Another block from the stall selling tea eggs, we were treated to siopao with a fried bottom at another stall. The siopao had a filling of ground pork and chives, which tasted similar to the dumplings we had in Dong Bei, instead of the usual asado or bola-bola.

A few meters from the stall, we were treated to hopia from Ho-Land Bakery. (I’m not that much of a fan of hopia so I stepped out and just took street pictures).

The last stop was an eatery inside an art-deco building along Quintin Paredes, where we were treated to a different kind of fresh lumpia. By that time, I was already quite full, as would perhaps any other guest after indulging in the previous treats. Anyway, the lumpia filling was made up of finely chopped carrots, and other vegetables, and oddly enough, sugar.

Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09)

The tour appears to be largely catered to foreign tourists (or perhaps because the tour group I was with was composed mostly of foreigners), and Filipinos who are unfamiliar with Binondo and Chinese food. For those who have been to Binondo a couple of times before, and are expecting to see and taste things they haven’t tried before, the hopia, lumpia or siopao might not be that exciting. I was personally expecting something more daring and unfamiliar. Notwithstanding that, the rest of the tour is highly enjoyable and informative. One of the best things, for me, is that you can have second servings of the food. You may contact Old Manila Walks through their contact page.

I love innards

Mass Comm students helping make the CMC lantern and belenDecember 8, 2006. Seeing students from different organizations, even the freshmen, volunteer to help make the lantern and belen for Mass Comm, is quite inspiring, for student council members like me. I wish there are more ways and opportunities for more student involvement in such activities. It’s just that we’re so used to forcing and pleading for people to attend college assemblies, it always felt like nobody cared about college affairs.

This year’s Lantern Parade won’t seem to be too different from last year’s. Different colleges will have individual stationary booths where their lanterns are to be displayed. In other words, there won’t be much of a parade except for the Fine Arts lanterns. I don’t know how it will turn out.

Last year, due to “austerity measures” the University administration said there won’t be a lantern parade contest. So our college didn’t make a lantern nor prepare for a presentation. It was quite a bore. It also was rather disappointing for me, especially because my first lantern parade experience in UP was really fun. We really paraded a giant “TV” and smaller “TV” lanterns around the academic oval and we even had a presentation at Quezon Hall. And we practiced for a few days for that. I always expected Lantern Parades to be like that every year, hence my disappointment.

After spending an hour at the University Hotel’s gym, I was planning to walk straight back to Mass Comm. But I just had to succumb to the smell of grilled innards at a stall in front of Ilang-Ilang. It’s been a long time since I had isaw and atay and such. At that time, nothing would’ve beaten eating 20 sticks of assorted chicken and pork innards in solitude.