Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Prawning

Dust and I like to prawn. Actually, I like to prawn and Dust like to eat the prawns. Haha. While many people laugh and think that prawning in a concrete pond is lame, I still like it. The thrill of having a bite, the frustration of losing your bite and catch, the satisfaction from counting your catch for the day. All these just made me keep going back. 

For those who are interested to prawn, here are some of the places where Dust and I prawn at. Don't be too cruel to the prawns! Have fun!

1. Haibin @ Bishan
This outlet used to be very popular. They have closed their operations there citing high rental costs. 

2. Bottle Tree Park (Yishun) 
While we only went to the prawning and fishing place, it is really more of a Kampong style farm/ park. The reason why the place is called the Bottle Tree Park is because of the Bottle Tree located in the park. There aren't many Bottle Trees in Singapore, thus having a bottle tree does make the place unique and attractive to some. 

Although I had bad catch while prawning at The Bottle Tree Park, I will say that the environment is very conducive for outings with the family or couple dates. The environment was very not as man-made. The pond was not concrete pond but  like a real pond with a tree in the middle of the pond.  Besides the prawning pond, there was also a mini "stream" where kids are able to catch guppies and bring them home. (In comparison, Hai Bin offers the 'tub' experience.) 

3. Haibin @ Punggol

This is the place where I prawn the most often. Firstly, it is because of the location. It is conveniently located next to the Riveria LRT station thus making it easy to get there.  

Secondly, prawning at Punggol fits nicely into our fun-filled activity plan. Sometimes, Dust and I would from Serangoon to Punggol. Thus, prawning will be one of our pit-stop. After prawning, we would take a relaxing stroll at Punggol Promenade and Punggol Waterway. It was really relaxing and interesting!

In terms of catch, I think it is one of the places with the most number of prawning ponds. They also release prawns into the ponds frequently. For those who would like to watch soccer, they show soccer matches at Banyan Tree (next to the prawning pond).  

Besides prawning, the place also houses a fishing pond. It is really interesting to watch. On weekdays, you even see some guys in office wear battling with the fish! However, do stand behind the yellow line when watching or you might get injured.

4. Haibin @ Jurong 
This is the newest facility which Haibin has. It is located next to Jurong Bird Park at The Village. It can be rather inconvenient for some, as it is really in the West of Singapore. The attractive part about prawning here is that they have a Yabby Pond (Yabbies are baby lobsters). So that might be an interesting experience for some. However, I had a hard time trying to catch the yabbies because the techniques used for catching prawns and yabbies are really different. Therefore, you will have to pay some "school fees" to learn how to.

However, in comparison to the Haibin outlet in Punggol, this facility has 2 ponds only. As the place is near NTU, they do have special discounts for NTU students. However, I am not very sure about how much the discounts are.
Similar to the outlet at Punggol, they have BBQ pits for cooking your prawns :)
The big prawn which I caught which is as big as my face! Not the biggest prawn that I have caught though!
The big prawn which I caught which is as big as my face! Not the biggest prawn that I have caught though!
Prawns on the BBQ.
Prawns on the BBQ.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Taipei - SYS Memorial Hall, Cat Cafe, Shilin Night Market


Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall

After having beef noodles for lunch, we made our way to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. To be honest, I was rather disappointed with this memorial hall as I was expecting a clearer organisation of information as well as more in depth information of the revolution. There were not many exhibits, nevertheless, you can still have a brief idea of what happened. 

This picture is slightly blur. In the main hall, there are soldiers who are on duty. They do not move (yes, they dont even blink). Therefore, flash photography is not allowed in the main hall as the lights might hurt the soldiers' eyes. The guard duty is rotated among the land, air and navy. There is a change over of duty every hour. Many tourists would stay to see the change over.

Cat Cafe 猫花园

Nearest MRT: Zhi Shan 

The cat cafe is located just beside 芝山捷運站. (which is really near to ShiLin Night market). The cafe has 13 cats and 1 dog. They were pretty sleepy at the time when we go over. The price of the food items was rather affordable for a cafe. Therefore, if you are interested, you can just chill there with the kitty sitting next to you. *note* do buy some kitty snacks or the cats will not give a damn about you hahaha!


ShiLin Night Market

Taking a 10 min walk from the cat cafe  which is just opposite the mrt station),  we reached Shilin Night market for our dinner.

The night market is open from 3pm to 2am. Here are some of the food recommendations based on my research ( guidebook and other blogs).
  • 豪大大鸡排
I have to say that this is totally not worth your stomach space.  While there was a long queue for this famous fried chicken. They also had an outlet at Ximending which had virtually no queue. In addition, I find the fried chicken not as tasty as the Singapore branch as the chicken was a lot more oily. 
  • 吉利 oyster mee sua NT50
The oyster mee sua is rather smooth and nice. It is worth you try. There are a lot of stores selling oyster mee sua at the underground area of the night market. I am not very sure whether it is nice, but I guess you can to try to this when you are in Taiwan. Give this a try and compare to the famous 阿宗面线 at Ximending. 
  • 大头龙蚵仔煎
I realised that I really do not like the oyster omelette, no matter how famous they are because of the gravy which they put on the omelette which causes the omelette to lose it's crispiness. Nevertheless, do give it a try to compare the differences between the Taiwan and Singapore Oyster Omelette.

Here are other famous food stalls which I didn't get to try:
  • (老士林)大饼包小饼 NT35
  • 日上铁板烧 NT200
  • 上海生煎包 NT 10
  • 士林香肠
  • 辛发亭冰店 NT50

Taipei - 228 Peace Park, National Taiwan Museum, 良品红烧牛肉面

228 Peace Park

In terms of the architecture, there isn't any particularly unique features about the place. It reminds me of the Chinese Garden in Singapore, just that it is a lot cleaner and more up-kept than what we have in Singapore.

The park was established in 1908 as Taihoku Park when Taiwan was still under the Japanese Rule. In 1945, KMT came over the Taiwan. The park was then renamed as Taipei New Park. According to the Taiwan Tourism Board website, the economic monopoly and corruption of the government led to civil resistance. On February 27, 1947, people gathered in front of the police department but were shot by the soldiers. The next day, people gathered in the Taipei Park and broadcast the movement at the radio station. The KMT government used military force to restrain the protesters and arrested alleged participants afterward. In order to relieve this historic pain, the park was renamed to 228 Memorial Peace Park in 1996. 

National Taiwan Museum

Silence please... 
To be honest, there isn't any particularly interesting museum in Taiwan. While reviews said that it is worth visiting, I would think that you might want to skip this place if you are not particularly interested in Taiwan's history and politics. 

While we wanted to make a trip down to the Presidential Building. The area was closed due to the protest again building a nuclear plant in Taiwan. If you were there, do make it a point to go during the weekends. On weekends, visitors are allowed entry to the entrance and presidential reception area which is grand. It was a pity that we didn't get to go.

良品牛肉面

Nearest MRT: Taipei Main Station
After all the walking, of course our bellies are rambling! (Not literally. In Taiwan, there is no such thing as being hungry.) We ate at 良品牛肉面.  After comparing with RuiFang Beef Noodles, we felt that this was still the best beef noodles! 

The tendon was soft and the beef melts in your mouth. The beef was well seasoned and he broth was just right and tasty. While I find the noodles rather normal, I think the rest of the ingredients elevates the dish.  Do hop by to try. This is Crystal Jade/Din Tai Feng (Singapore) or any other restaurant you can think of, but at hawker centre price. Totally worth a trip there if you are nearby.

Address: 开封街一段 10 号 
Cost: $150 (if my memory did not fail me. For a bowl with half tendon and half beef.半筋半肉)

Taipei - Red House, BeiTou, DanShui, Fisherman's Wharf, Huaxi & GuangZhou St. Night Market

Red House

Nearest MRT: Xi Men 

Before we headed out to BeiTou, we decided to pop by the Red House (红楼) which was just next to Ximending MRT. The Red House often have shows and other theatrical productions. Therefore, if time permits you might want to catch one of them :) 

Strong wind or Bed Head?!

Beitou 

Nearest MRT: Xin Bei Tou
Pretty Cute decoration in the Metro Station

1. Ketagalan Cultural Centre

There were a couple of more interesting places which we went to at BeiTou. This first will be the Ketagalan Cultural Centre which was located right next to BeiTou Park. If you are interested in the aboriginal people of Taiwan, you can check out the museum as it is free admission. Do note that you are not allowed to take photos in the museum.
Checking out the food in their pot. jk. 
2. Thermal Valley (Hell Valley) 

Hell Valley is one of the sources of hot springs in Bei Tou. It's temperature range from 80  to 100 C. Thus, when you are at the Thermal Valley, you can see the water bubbling and large amount of steam at the area. The water is yellowish green due to the green sulphur present in the water.

They used to allow tourists to cook eggs there. However, due to the high temperatures and various scalding cases, they no longer allow that. 
You can really see the water bubbling. 
3. Beitou Hot Spring Musuem 

Once again a pocket friendly musuem with free admission. (Beitou Museum on the other hand requires an admission. And after going in, I really don't think it is worth the admission.)  It doesn't overload you with information just telling you how Beitou used to be when the Japanese were in Taiwan.
As for hotsprings, there are many hotels and bath houses which you can choose from. I will advise people to go for the hotel hot springs as they are a lot nicer and more relaxing.
I did not particularly enjoy the hotspring as my skin felt a little itchy due to the sulphur. I prefer the Saltwater hot spring in LyuDao which I will blog about later. Nevertheless, if you are not going for other hotsprings in Taiwan, you can give this a try. For those just going there fore the experience, you can pay TWD 40 (SGD 2) to use their public hot spring!

For lunch, we went to a ramen place called 满客温泉拉面 which was located previously at the famous 满来温泉拉面, So we were somewhat tricked into going there. The famous 满来温泉拉面 is now located next to the Ketagalan Cultural Centre. So you can tell me if it is good when you go there! Do order their 温泉蛋.

Other places such as Puji Temple were part of our plan but we didn't go in the end as we didn't want to climb the stairs... so can't share it with you.

There were several shrines and temples such as Puji Temple in Bei Tou. However, they were location rather high up. Thus, we decided to give them a miss since we were rather tired from the walking. 

Danshui

Nearest MRT: Danshui

After Beitou, we headed for Danshui which was a couple of stations away. Remember to walk along the 淡水老街 to look at the food and interesting things ( A lot of things to buy if you are interested. Like all places they do tout a bit. You can just move on.)

Do bring a light jacket as the wind can be very strong. Thus, it can be a little chilly. At Dan Shui, do try the following goodies :) 
  1. 可口鱼丸汤
This fish ball is really really tasty. Usually, I like springy fish balls. While the texture of the fishball was not as springy, I would still recommend it due to the filling. The meat filling was fragrant and well seasoned. If you love Fuzhou fish ball, you must try the this. It really does you want to keep eating.

2. 虾猴
Danshui is probably the only place where you can see so many stalls selling these. I suggest that you dont be greedy and just share one or you will eat until you are really really full.
Dust and his greedy face. 
3. 阿婆铁蛋
I didn't take a photo of this. Don't expect the texture of 铁蛋 to be soft. It is more chewy and savoury. For most of us, we will wonder what this is. It is neither century egg nor salted egg. It is actually 卤蛋 braised egg which is reheated and braised multiple times. This tie dan is an accidental discovery by this grandma who kept reheating her egg due to the cold weather!

4. 阿给
Finally, 阿给. Every one who comes to Danshui will wanna try this. There were many stores that sell this, so go to the original one which is nearer and facing the coast. There will be a lot of people there so it is not difficult to spot. To be honest, I didn't particularly like the taste of it because of the starchy gravy (similar to the oyster omelette- Taiwan version)
5. Tall Ice-Cream 
Is there anything special about the ice-cream? Nope. However, it can be a good choice on a hot day. I was just feeling greedy and every one else had one. So I bought it too. LOL. Can you give this a miss? Yes. hahaha. Pretty photo worthy that's all i suppose.

Fisherman's Wharf

From Danshui, we took a ferry to Fisherman's Wharf. You can directly pay for your tickets using your easycard at the boarding area. Alternatively, you can go to the booth and get your tickets (you can pay using easycard at the booth as well). The only advantage is that the booth personnel will give you directions. HAHA.

Take lotsa photos here as there isn't much to really walk around. But the view is really nice. Do bring a cardigan or jacket as it can be really cold as the wind can be rather strong.

Huaxi & GuangZhou St. Night Market

Nearest MRT: Long Shan Temple

By the time we get back to our hotel it was rather late. With all the snacking throughout the day, we were pretty full and no dinner was really required. After watching the TV show, we headed out for night supper (supposed to be a stroll) to Huaxi Night Market. It was pretty near to Ximen but we decided to take one stop to Long Shan Temple anyway. When we were there, there wasn't much at Huaxi Street Night market although it was supposed to be the more famous one. Guangzhou St Night market had a lot of food and snacks. As the greedy ones, we couldn't help snacking even more.
Smelly Tofu for TWD 150. Cheap & Good!
In Taiwan, some night markets are really food night markets while others are more of shopping night market. Guangzhou St. Night Market was definitely a night market for food! With all the food and long day of walking, we got back to hotel to rest for the day only at around 11pm...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Taipei - Travelling Tips & 马来麻辣火锅

As poor people, Dust and I has always been travelling on Budget Airlines. No exception for this time. However, this time we departed  from Terminal 1 rather than the budget terminal. It was definitely a pleasant surprise for me. I really like to window shop and nom nom :) 

With the high efficiency of the customs,  it was less than 5 min and we were in the boarding area. I can't imagine if we were in US again. 3 hours wait just to clear the customs. (P.S There was only one officer on duty and there were 4 planes waiting to be cleared. Don't ask me why they arranged their duties like that).

As usual, Dust and I wanted to go to the leg massage stations for our free massages. Too bad that they were all taken up. Some travellers were wearing shoes and putting their feet into the massage chair. To be honest, I was a little annoyed. There weren't much time left so I can't be bothered to tell them off.  Hmm wonder if the machines were that powerful that they can massage through the shoes. We decided to just chill in the beautiful indoor orchid gardens and relax by the koi pond. The kind airport staff even helped us to take a polaroid as a souvenir. 

Tips at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport
After taking a 4h-flight, we finally reached Taipei Taoyuan Airport! Here are some of the things you should do when you reach the airport.

Random Tips
1. Get a Taiwan SIM Card:
Although there is free Wifi are various places in Taiwan, it is definitely good to have data as you navigate the place. Just outside the arrival gate (opposite the Tourist Service Center), there are telecom provider booths. You can compare the prices and packages available. The staff there are pretty helpful and polite as well.

Alternatively, you can sign up for y5 buddy (http://y5buddy.sg/) if you need to have data to all your electronic devices. y5 buddy is registered in Singapore and allows you to connect to up to 10 devices. Consider what you need and take your pick!

2. Get a Youth Travel Card & Apply for iTaiwan
You are considered a Youth as long as you are younger than 30! Get this card as it gives you discounted rates or free gifts at various tourist attractions and restaurants. Don't be paiseh to ask if there are any discounts before you buy admission tickets. You may be surprised. (Alternatively, if you are very paiseh, just open your eyes wide wide and look for the sign that says they give discounted rates for the Youth Travel Card!)

When you are applying for the Youth Card, you may also want to apply for iTaiwan account. This account works like Wifi@SG. It gives you free Wifi access at various places such as railway stations and subways. Therefore, if you are on a budget and do not want to get data, this is another option for you. Although Dust got data on his phone, I applied for iTaiwan as well so that I can surf my own stuff while he use his phone which has the data plan. 

P.S  The Tourist Service Center at the Airport does not provide services such as application of Youth Card and iTaiwan Account. Therefore, you will have to apply for them at these High Speed Railway, Railway and Metro Stations: 

a) Railway Station:

  • Taipei Main Station
  • RuiFang Station 
  • Banchao Station 
  • Yilan Station
  • Zhongli Station 
  • Taoyuan Station 
  • Zhudong Station
  • Taichung Station
  • Miaoli Station 
  • Chunghua Station 
  • Chia Yi Station 
  • Tainan Station
  • Kaohsiung Station 
  • Pingtung Station

b) HSR:

  • Taoyuan 
  • Taichung
  • Chiayi
  • Tainan
  • Zhuoying
c) Taipei Metro Stations: 
  • Beitou
  • Jiantan 
  • Ximen
  • Xindian 
  • Tamsui
  • Yuanshan
  • Taipei 101

3. Bring a nice notebook!
There are rubber stamps at various metro stations as well as attractions. You can stamp you cute little notebook. I find the process pretty fun. The stamps are rather pretty too.
It made me feel like a kid again.

4. Know the name of the places you are going in Mandarin 
This really makes it easier to navigate around places. Google Maps shows the places in both English and Chinese, but some places can only be found in Chinese. It is also easier for you to ask for directions on the street as well.

Getting to Taipei 
1. Taxi
It is actually very convenient to get to the City. Taxi are plentiful. If you have 4 persons to share a cab, it might be a good choice. It's usually around TWD$900. You can try bargaining, but I think TWD900 is pretty decent and standard price. If you have a group of 4, this is not too bad an option!

2. Buses
If you are on a budget like Dust and I,  you can take the public buses at B1 of the airport. There are several bus companies serving this route. They will usually get you to Taipei Main station. If you are taking to Ximending, they do have free transfer buses but it can be quite troublesome in my opinion.
Here are some of the comparisons of the buses (客运available (take note that there are plenty of options and here are just some for you reference)
  • Free go bus: 5502 (飞狗)
    • Cost: TWD $140
    • Travel time around 1h
    • Luxurious seats (a lot of leg space where you can lean all the way back). Like those you take to KL which are super huge seats
    • However, the downside is that you need to change bus along the way which can be quite messy.
  • KuoKuang: 1819 (国光)
    • Cost: TWD $125
    • Travel time around 1h
    • Less luxurious seat but still there is plenty of leg space for you to stretch your legs
    • It is direct to Taipei Main Station so no changing of bus which is a lot better in my opinion.
  • Dayou: (大有)
    • Cost: TWD90
    • Travel time around 1h
    • Less luxurious seat but still there is plenty of leg space for you to stretch your leg
    • It is direct to Taipei Main Station so no changing of bus which is a lot better in my opinion.
    • Frequency might be less than the other bus companies but if you can catch the bus, I guess it is really cheap option. SGD $4

马辣顶级麻辣鸳鸯锅 Mala hotpot
After we had settled down, it was nearing 730pm. Famished, we decided to hop over to 马辣 hotpot (Right next to  ECFA hotel).  It was TOTALLY AWESOME. It is around SGD $26 nett for a buffet hotpot dinner. This place is voted as one of the top restaurants in Taipei by tourists. Since it is voted as one of the must go by tourists, you will expect to see a lot of tourists there. You might even meet your friends there!

Our Hotpot with all the ingredients

Since it is a mala hotpot restaurant, you must order their mala soup base. Unlike some of the restaurants in Singapore, their soup base is very fragrant and tasty. You can also choose from other soup bases which include vegetable soup and collagen soup.

They also have a wide variety of meat and seafood for you to choose from. Meat includes Angus Beef, Black Pork and New Zealand Beef. They also have crabs and large prawns. You can also find sea cucumber, fish slices and special prawn and Squid Balls. There is also wide variety of vegetables for you to choose from!

If you like to drink beer, you will be in for a treat. They have free flow of Taiwan Beer. If you are not a drinker, you will be spoilt for choices too. You can choose from Ice Tea, Floral Tea such as Lavender, Chinese Tea such as Pu Er and Tie Guan Yin or Milk Tea.

They also have a wide variety of desserts for you to choose from which includes milk pudding, large variety of fruits, mochi, jelly and Panna Cotta. Not to mention, there is a totla of 16 different flavours of Haagen Dazs and Movenpick ice-cream for you to choose from. For ice-cream lovers like Dust and I, we were totally over the moon.

Check out Ma La website for more information. Do make reservations before going down or you might be disappointed as they are really popular. You might have to wait to their supper timing if you were to walk in without a reservation.

Finally, I have to say the only downside of dining at this place is that you are only given 2h to have your buffet hotpot. However, I guess everyone should be ok with that because by then you are really too full to eat anymore! 

Mini Mango on a stick. Just thought it was pretty cute. What poor photo quality :(

Dust looks pretty greedy here. Haha.