I had whale for lunch.

Sorry to ruin your appetite, but I had whale meat for lunch, not once, but twice this month. I am now working at Wakayama prefecture. If anyone of you have seen the “The Cove”, a grim documentary on annual dolphin hunt, well that’s a town here in Wakayama. Don’t think that a lot of Japanese eat dolphin, most of them don’t even know that this hunt takes place in their backyard before that movie was released. In Wakayama, not only do they hunt dolphin but whale meat quite often makes an appearance on school lunch menu. But whale is a different story, most Japanese have eaten it, although not everyone likes how it taste. My wife even told me, whale meat is a very common menu on their meals when she was a kid. I’m not very proud of myself but I did eat my whale meat serving, last week and this week for my school lunch. I feel guilty but in a way still conflicted on why is it justify to eat other creatures and not whale which has been a part of Japanese culture for a very long time. image image I wish they would just stop killing and eating whales but at the same time I don’t feel I have to make a statement by not eating my lunch. I will be offended in the same manner if a Japanese person refuse to eat a roasted baby pig (lechon de leche) if I invited them over to my house in the Philippines. Whale meat doesn’t even taste good. It is very oily, hard and God knows how much mercury I ingested in such small amount of meat. As I say I am conflicted, but next time I think I will refuse to eat it. For one, I hate the taste, and Japan already had a lot of exotic animals to feast on that are not endangered, such as horse meat sashimi (basashi) or poisonous blow fish sashimi (fugu).

Taiwan Day 5 and 6

So sad for me that this will be my last Taiwan post. We really liked it here. And our children loved it here as much as we did.

Day 5

To start our 5th day, we visited the sprawling Taipei zoo. There was a heavy downpour but it somehow tapered off a bit as the day progresses. It was really a nice zoo located at a hill. As a parent as much as I hated the idea of caging animals, it made my children very happy seeing these lovely creatures and learning about them. Although, quite noticeably the Taipei Zoo had huge area for animals to roam around. There’s a real feeling of nature surrounding most of the animal enclosures. My kids also enjoyed the shuttle train inside the zoo.

the Chinese connection

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We originally planned to ride the gondola from the zoo to bring us to a tea farm, but we didn’t realize til we got there, that it ain’t running on Mondays. So that would leave us with something to do again when we get back to Taiwan. We had to cut our zoo trip and head back to our place earlier, as my son is running a slight fever and the place is a lot colder than the city.

We rested a little longer this time so my son can recover then we headed to Wufenpu, a wholesale shopping district. Then off to Rahoe night market for dinner, which is the second largest night market in Taipei where we also caught a glimpse or Ciyou temple nearby.

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Day 6

We only had few hours left before going home, so it was practically shopping for souvenirs for friends and family back home in Japan, but not before I had my daily dose of heavenly Lou Rou Fan (rice topped with finely chooped braised pork). This is also our last lunch at one of the local eateries which caters to the office workers around the area. It was soooo good. All at,a cheap cost equivalent to 750 yen.
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We also visited the Sun Yut Sen Memorial, which was a little less imposing than that of Chiang Kai Shek’s but has such a beautiful view of Taipei 101. We are so glad that we didn’t miss this place.

Then it was off to the airport. Dreaming when we will be able to go back to this beautiful country.

 

 

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last dinner in Taiwan at Taoyuan airport
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Taiwan Day 4

Finally, it’s “Me” day. But not until the wifey gets to eat at Din Tai Fung. Well, she said it was included in New York Times Top 10 restaurants for 1993 and its Hong Kong branch was a Michelin recognized restaurant. So we headed to the restaurant branch located at  Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world before Dubai unveiled the towering Burj Khalifa. Well, as one would expect from such hype, there were throngs of people waiting to get in. We would love to see or possibly taste what the hype is all about, but we are not ones to fall in line for it though.

So we just ordered xiao long bao at their take out counter,and bought the rest of our lunch at the food court. So how does the xiao long bao, taste? Well we got our picture taken buying stuff at Din Tai Fung, so that’s something we can cross out from our to do list, but we’ve tasted far more superior dumplings than that.

crowd at Din Tai Fung

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so we settled for this delightful food court treats that are way much cheaper I’m sure and probably more delicious

of course, my ever present daily dose of lou rou fung

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oyster omelet

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So, finally, its me time. All I wanted to do was see  the city, specially its historical sights. First stop was the Chang Kai Shek Memorial. My pictures don’t bring  justice to this massive memorial, on which ground the beautiful National Arts Theater is also located. We were also fortunate to witness the changing of guards, such a magnificent show of reverence for a celebrated hero.

I remember having this conversation with my son.. (History 101 from a lazy dad)

Akira: Why does he have a statue?
Me: If you (Akira) are annoying you get turned into a statue.
Akira: (angrily) stop joking!!!
Me: Bad people came to China and he lead the good people and bring the treasures to Taiwan.
From silly to politically incorrect one, in my defense how can you explain communism to a 6 year old.

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We then went and saw the outside of the great National Palace Museum, with the promise of returning next time. Too many tour groups and my kids already reach their cultural quota for the day.

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We went back to our place, rested then headed out for a trip to another night market. We asked a very eager and nice young Taiwanese lady, who spoke very fluent Japanese for direction, but discouraged us to get to our destination, and instead phone a friend to give her directions to a popular local night market. We followed her suggestion and was rewarded well. Really love the kindness of strangers in this lovely country.

 

Taiwan Day 3

It’s our third day me and my daughter are already addicted to Lu Rou Fan, heavenly braised pork on rice 😀 My wife was looking at us crazy for having a to go braised pork for breakfast.

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We went to Tansui, a harbor far north of the city. However, we didn’t very far to see the interesting place. We enjoyed the market nearby the station so much that we feel so tired already and wanted to go to our main destination for  the day, which is Xibeitou, a popular hot spring area. At Tansui, we ventured a little far away from the main street market and got lucky to have fond a very local Chinese eatery, which served roast chicken, duck and pork. It was probably our best meal in the country. Remember that its so hard not to talk about food when you visit Taiwan, as food is a major tourist draw here. And dining be it gourmet or street food here is a serious business. I heard that Taiwanese people tend to buy cooked meals than make their own at home.

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We made our way to Xinbeitou. Its our third and the gloomy rainy weather shows no sign of stopping. We planned to go to an open public hot spring, but its far up the mountain trail, and a bit inconvenient to be in a public bath with the heavy downpour. Se we eneded up in a hotel. Which was a good decision. We got a private room with a hot spring  bath and small tatami room where we can rest for 90 minutes at 1,300 NTD.

our private room and bath

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We then head home and enjoyed walking around our neighborhood, buying some treats here and there. It was another great day in rainy Taiwan.

Taiwan Day 1 and 2

We already knew from the time we arrived at Taoyuan International Airport that we would love this country. It feels so laid back, but I guess everywhere is, coming from Japan.  We had our late lunch at the noodle shop near our lovely rented apartment directly above the Metro (subway). A huge bowl of noodle costs 30 NTD (New Taiwan Dollar) , roughly around 100 yen. That’s simply cheap for any standards considering that Taiwan is a highly industrialized.

Then we headed  to the Longshan Temple, said to be the most beautiful temple in Taipei. Haven’t been to other similar structures, but based on temples I’ve seen from other countries, I really love the details and striking gold color of the inside of the temple.

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Then it was Hello Kitty Cafe. Please click on the link to read about it

Day 2

It was all about my kiddies. We took a little more than hour bus trip to Leo Foo Amusement Park. It could have been a lot of fun, if we me and my wife were appropriately dressed for it. The mountains side really feels much colder than that of the city. We also had our Chinese banquet lunch at the park restaurant, 595 NTD for 6 course menu for all of us. Amazing food at amazingly cheap price.

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my daughter enjoying a pony ride

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and a camel ride for my son

Ended our day, checking out the treats at Shilin Night Market, the largest tourist market in Taiwan.

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ImageA night market institution with the rudest staff, screaming and arguing with clients

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their crankiness might be because of this heavenly filled MSG delicious chicken treat

Cuteness Alert: Taipei`s Hello Kitty Cafe

My family went to Taiwan for the holidays. When traveling with toddlers, it is best to take turns on sights or activities to enjoy that is fun for them, and then they will give you the peace and quiet you deserve to enjoy the activities that you plan for yourself. We did so many fun things and eat a lot of delicious treats in Taipei but taking a bite out of Hello Kitty’s face is surely the cutest and most expensive treat we had in Taiwan.

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I was vigorously searching months before our planned trip to Taiwan, places where my kiddies would enjoy. Hello Kitty Café came up. My daughter is a huge fan of Kitty chan, and I am sure that by dining at this restaurant, I can hit up all the city’s points of interests with little complaining from her. Of course some travelers will question the logic of visiting a Hello Kitty Café when loads of other activities to be done abound. Well I do too, but traveling with kids doesn’t really follow the norms. I’m sure parents who tour Egypt will try to squeeze in a trip to the amusement park if they have one, right somewhere between seeing the pyramids and tea time along the River Nile.

My expectation on the quality of food at this theme restaurant was quite low so I am really surprised that it actually tasted really good. The attention to details would surely leave fans in a state of awe. Regular diners too would secretly admire the kawaii (cuteness) factor of this establishment. I for one enjoyed posting photos of it on my Facebook account, knowing a lot of my female relatives, friends and acquaintances are drooling over it.

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I must warn you not to visit without reservation, as it is a very popular sight. Also, there is a minimum spending of 300 NTD (New Taiwan Dollar) for each patron. So that would be around 1,000 yen which is actually very expensive considering how cheap food can be in Taipei. The minimum would only buy you a cake set. A full meal menu would cost you more than 500 NTD. Well, Hello Kitty is one sophisticated and lavish Japanese feline so you get to pay up for hanging out at her place.

For reservation please call 02-2711-1132. A lot of their staff can speak English.

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Koyo at Arashiyama

Went to Arashiyama in Kyoto last Saturday. It was a national holiday here in Japan,and to most people including myself, we don’t even know what’s the holiday is, other than our calendars are marked red.

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Most people just thought to flock all the same places on one particular day. It is also a fairly good weekend to view fall foliage, and Arashiyama is one of famous spots to do it.

The place is really beautiful but crowds everywhere, really exhausting . Imagine waiting in line for half an hour to buy a blandly cooked yakisoba.

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It was good though that we decided to make the 30 minute hike up the monkey park. Decent amount of people and a large crowd of macaques await us there.

Koyo or viewing autumn leaves is a great Japanese tradition. Its a nice event to gather round family and friends and enjoy this once a year natural occurrence.

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Kyoto’s famous bamboo groves are also found in Arashiyama, would be nice to check it out too.

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