Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gay Pride Month~40 yrs from Stonewall...同志驕傲之月~石門事件40週年....LGBT月ストンヲール事件からの40年...

This month marks Pride Month around the world. It is to commemorate the Stonewall Riots back in 1969 in New York City which sparked the Gay Rights/Liberation Movement in America and around the World and spawned the term 'gay' and 'pride' and gay pride parades, which are so well-known today.....

I had initially hesitated to blog about this as I have other post i wanted to do such as a long overdue one on gender and women's issues (an issue close to my heart and which i haven't touched on for a long time) as well as a blog series on old Cathay/Shaw Mandarin Classic Cinema but then given the significance of this month and many events currently occuring in the world relating to gay advancement, i thought i would blog about it in this post...i've wanted to talk about the gay issue for awhile anyway and been too long since i posted anything on this topic (besides the Mardi Gras in Sydney this yr)...i'll also be doing a review of the Lesbian-themed film 'Miao Miao' which i wanted to see so desperately and which i did watch earlier this yr...

First Off, Some LGBT-themed videos on youtube which i find extremely interesting, check them out:
Hong Kong:
Do love Hotels Discriminate?-Hong Kong:
I find this video extremely interesting, i mean i never even thought of this topic before and it just shed light on such a niche and interesting aspect of gay love motels discriminate against same-sex couples? Well, apparently according to this undercover investigation by the SCMP in HK, the answer is a resounding yes. Although race does seem to play a part too, as notice how the white couple first gets rejected and then accepted when they ask for the price for the room...i find it ironic that love motels in hk would practice high-morality discrimination when the establishments themselves are not places of morality in the first place-providing unmarried heterosexual couples and cheating spouses avenues of lust-whilst at the same time rejecting same-sex ones on moral grounds?!! Hypocrisy really~~

South Korea:
Antique Bakery-Korean Modern Day Gay themed movie:

The first Korean gay themed film to be a box-office hit was the 'King and the Clown' and the indie film 'No Regrets' also did exceptionally well at the box office for an indie movie. But the first Korean film with a modern day setting to have done well at the mainstream box office would have to be 'Antique Bakery' in my opinion. I liked this movie surprisingly as it dealt with the gay issue very maturely, it was merely a subtext to the main story and not THE issue and the ending part involving the serial abductor was so interesting..

On the issue of Gay Korea, i used to have a column on this issue back in the day when it wasn't so popular yet in 05/06 and there weren't many resources in English on the web back then...but now, there's been alot of blog posts written in English on the issue, so have a look here (as i'm no longer gonna continue my 'Gay Korea Column'):


I think Korea has come a long way in terms of LGBT rights and visibility although it still has a looooong way to go and is still lagging FAR behind even compared to its regional Asian neighbours such as Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, and yes even authoritarian China in this section. I mean when 'The Coffee Prince' came out, it was all the rage with its homosexual subtext..but hello, we Chinese had this exact same story back in 1994 with 'Who's the Man Who's the Woman' by Anita Yuen and Leslie Cheung which was a hidden reflection of Leslie's real life it took the koreans 12 yrs to finally make something along the same lines....similarly the movie 'Frozen Flower' which is supposed to have this shocking homosexual sex scene (apparently korea's first mainstream movie depiction of raw gay sex) is really not very 'shocking' in my opinion given that i saw a clip on youtube of this and remember once again, us Chinese, managed to make a much MORE explicit mainstream film gay sex scene in Wong Kar Wai's 'Happy Together' 10 yrs before Korea's 'Frozen Flower' bck in 1997..this scene has been deleted in many versions i've seen as it really almost looks like coming out from a gay porn scene (it's a very short 10 sec scene right at the beginning which i was surprised Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung, two of hk's then biggest stars, would be willing to perform..i saw it on SBS Australia once when flicking thru the channels and positively startled..haha)..So i just hope i've pointed out the differences even between Asian nations in terms of gay acceptance and progress with the chinese being right at the top with the Thais and Filipinos and Koreans being behind relatively and that we cannot paint Asia with a huge brush and say its all a 'taboo' and 'oppressive living in Asia and being gay' which i see all too often in the Western media when they touch this subject, evidence of not being on top of their games and lacking basic research into the topic..

Japanese Gay Films Review:

I really like this list and have seen quite a few films on this list actually (surprisingly!). I absolutely agree with the reviewers 100% in placing 'Hush!' at NO.1 of their list as THE best Japanese LGBT film in history...i recommend it for anyone...please go get it..WATCH's very funny, amusing, witty, and deals with human relationships, the sense of disconnect with society and human relations, and loneliness. It is definitely a film worth watching and i think average viewers will be able to connect with the's not one which you would be squirming uncomfortably or feel has excessive male nudity/sex scenes,etc perfectly nuanced and not in-your-face like alot of Western gay films tend to be. I just found a link to the complete movie with both Chinese and English subtitles (thank god there's the mainland chinese video sharing websites..i kid you not, you can find just about ANYTHING on them...i've even seen ppl post up to youtube videos from the chinese video-share sites as they have even clips and movies which westerners can't even find nowadays..i once found a full length clip of a 1990 interview with Audrey Hepburn in it at the chinese sites!!!):

Some Links to Articles/Blog posts giving an indication of the status of gay rights and gay acceptance in China now:
Let me just say that it seems China has also progressed by leaps and bounds in the past 10 yrs, and esp, 5 yrs, in terms of general acceptance of gay people living in China. Many activists and gay Chinese have said so. Homosexual acts between men was decriminalised in 1997 and homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental disorders by the Chinese Government in 2001. The first Pride Week was also held in Shanghai earlier this month (i think!) marking the first Gay Pride Celebrations in China in history. Westerners whom don't know China better like to think of it being so super-repressive and gay people being targeted,etc but in reality the gay issue is NOT taboo in China now and the media is surprisingly pro-gay (including the State-owned China Daily and People's Daily English Version to the point where i suspect someone at the top there must be gay! i'm serious, i cannot count the number of times i've read articles in these two STATE-OWNED papers which are extremely pro-gay..the China Daily even published a large photo of two young chinese males kissing close-up at a kissing competition in Beijing..very daring i thought.....)
Another piece of evidence of mainstream openness in the media towards homosexuality, 'A Date with Lu Yu' one of the most popular talk shows in China on Phoenix Cable, did two shows on homosexuality which i saw (she may have done more) in the mid-2000s and one focused on a gay couple in China adopting a child and raising him as their own. He turned out to be straight and married a woman. here's the link:

Two cents on my thoughts on recent events in America dealing with the LGBT issue. As everyone knows by now i presume, 2008/2009 has been a watershed for America in terms of LGBT issues. Just last yr, the SMH and ABC in America had articles on TV 'turning gay' with the plethora of gay characters and romances you see everytime you switch on the tv...from Ugly Betty to Desperate Housewives to Amazing Race to Survivor..i think its true and thats great...gays are finally coming out of the media closet...i believe its shows like Amazing Race and Survivor which really change perceptions, especially amongst straight men, as they show gay men not only being able to do all the rough and tough obstacles, they actually break stereotypes and beat the straight men at doing it!! I believe both shows have had gay male winners i think..basically beating out everyone else!! It's very good role models for young gay men growing up...that it's not all about fashion and design, that you can be gay and be just as atheletic and strong as the straight guys..

Gay Marriage has also become legal in six states now in America and polls have shown American support for gay marriage has doubled in the past 5 yrs alone. Yes. Doubled. Many are now criticizing Obama for not doing enough but i think they're being very impatient and impractical. I mean Obama secretly believes in gay marriage ok...there's evidence he filled in a questionaire twice back in the mid-90s stating so when he was still relatively a newbie senator...he has to be practical in dealing with issues like the DOMA and the DADT policy which requires broad political's NOT as easy as signing an executive order which some want to think...that's the WRONG WAY to go about it by doing this unilaterally like the dreaded Bush years when so many executive orders were signed pushing his agenda unilaterally. Furthermore, America now has Iran, Iraq, a huge economic crisis, as well as healthcare reform, to worry about...Obama cannot do everything all at once...saying he has 'abandoned' the gay community and 'broken' his promises is absurd in the extreme given that its ONLY been less than 6 months since he's come on as the President...maybe if nothing has changed 6 months BEFORE the end of his current term, can one really say he has 'broken' his promises on LGBT issues...give him a break and some time's no secret there has been progress (eg. issuing of official statement declaring June LGBT Pride Month and extending most benefits to federal employees and overseas employed staff's same-sex spouses)...
On the Carrie Prejean 'Gay Marriage' conundrum, i pity the girl...i seriously do...despite being a liberal and pro-gay i completely defend her right to say what she did...i applaud her for her courage and taking a stand as i could see she was faltering in the beginning of the speech saying something completely PC and then deciding to take a stand on the issue...she has since lost her Miss California Crown and i think completely didn't deserve it...she should have been Miss USA and her answer should not have cost her the Crown..i mean she didn't say something like 'No Offence, but i think gay people should be shot or killed or interned..' Or 'i think i believe gay people should be sent to mental institutions to be cured for their own happiness and well-being'....she merely stated her personal belief and family upbringing on views towards marriage...why should she be persecuted for that?!! I mean the liberal media's treatment of her (i saw many shows on the liberal media going on and on and on and on about her boob job, her dumbness, her bigotry,etc..)was horrendous and really alienated me and i'm sure many mainstream straight people as well whom would have been more sympathetic to the gay marriage what's the big deal about having a boob job? Isn't what liberalism and women's rights is all about? The freedom for a woman to choose and make options without being vilified? As a feminist, i was appalled at the lack of support coming from fellow feminist and women defending Miss Prejean on her right to an opinion as a human being as well as her boob job....they basically made up all kinds of excuses to dethrone her eg. sexy pictures, boob job,etc..i mean hello, isn't this America and isn't this 2009?! When did taking sexy pictures become such a big deal in the entertainment industry in 2009? When did not making appearances suddenly become a death note when the ultimate goal should have been to win Miss USA...i bet if she had said ' I believe gay marriage should be legal in all states across this great land of ours' she'd been praised and won the Crown and all those boob jobs, picx, etc wouldn't have mattered a single bit...its sad to see the liberals using tactices which the right wing conservatives use against liberal icons...sad...i defend Miss Prejean's right to her own opinion (as long as its not completely offensive like gay ppl should be treated, arrested, killed, commit suicide..etc) and this is coming from someone as pro-gay as me:-)

Taiwan is the gay Chinese mecca for Chinese gays, being the most liberal in terms of laws, media,etc when it comes to LGBT issues. It also has Asia's largest pride parade and is the only nation in Asia to have seriously debated and considered the gay marriage issue. That's why i think many gay Malaysian/Singaporean Chinese visit it for holidays as i read some LGBT blogs sometimes and there's been alot of gay chinese malaysians/s'greans visiting Taiwan in recent yrs to my surprise...the media obviously plays a big role and here are some links to gay Taiwanese movies which have done well with the mainstream public or which i personally like:

I loved this film as expected...don't ask me why, i'm not even a lesbian, but i love Taiwanese lesbian films...they're just so romantic and deep...much better than the Taiwanese gay films...don't get me wrong, gay taiwanese films are good too but they lack the emotional punch and are abit too shallow...for instance although many ppl,straight or gay, loved 'eternal summer'...i didn't like it one bit although i had high hopes for this film with two gorgeous looking guys and a korean drama storyline(or so i thought) but the story made no sense...the bad thing about taiwanese media is that sometimes,just sometimes, the pro-gay slant is to the extreme that the storylines are more gay men's wishful fantasy than reality (and the directors are straight ppl too!) like how in Eternal Summer the straight guy sleeps with his gay best friend?! and initiates it first (wtf!) and then in a scene, he lounges around after taking a shower in a white get the idea...whereas lesbian films like Miao Miao are just sooooooo romantic...i like the two girls in the film, very pretty...loved the ending when she opens up the cake and sees...(won't spoil the movie!) and the theme song is so it to pieces...there's a gay subplot too involving the male character...but again it was lil confusing, abit of pandering to gay audiences the director wants you to think he's a repressed gay whom actually loved his best gay friend whom loves him but he couldnt' face it...but this does not make sense cos he's a musician living in 2008 in Taipei....hardly the setting and person to be suffering from 'self-hatred'...but the film if you have the chance:-)

This is by Anita Yuen and Lee Sin Je, two of my fav actresses....i like the beginning half of the was bad at the end has a lesbian storyline set in 40s Shanghai and 50's Taipei and even a lesbian kiss between two of them wearing cheongsams..i mean where else can you get to see two shanghai women of the 30s WEARING CHEONGSAMs (i know, i'm a cheongsam fetish) and kissing each other?! haha...

Blue Gate Crossing:

If Hush! is my No 1 Favourite Japanese LGBT film, then this film must be not only my No1 favourite LGBT Taiwanese film, but one of my fav Taiwanese films of ALL time...actually most of my fav taiwanese films have a LGBT theme..haha..including 'The Wedding Banquet'...
This film occurs on one summer in a Taipei highschool between a guy and a girl..he likes her, but she hides a secret...

Ai Cao:

This Public TV quality drama chronicles the trials and tribulations of a single mother and how she deals with her now adult gay son and her daughter whom has a child with a black guy out of wedlock. Very moving. Full Film Link here:

Previous Posts on the LGBT Issue:
I hope readers have gained a better understanding of LGBT issues in aim in this blog when it comes to LGBT issues has always been to fill a gap which i see in the number of English language information available out there on gay Asia and provide gay Chinese/Asians an alternative to the mainstream Western slant of gay culture which prizes the West and Western culture and the Western male physique...on a subconcious level, i think its not a good thing for gay Asians not to have Asian roles models,popular media, and to worship whiteness essentially ( i can't tell you how pissed off i get when i see loads of white male photos on gay asian blogs when i first started getting into the LGBT issue and doing some research back in 2005/06 and you see all these asian gay blogs posting 80-90% of their photos of western men..i seldom read LGBT blogs now but i do see a slight improvement in terms of more gay asian male sexy pics whenever i happen to come across one..) There must be pride in being Asian and being gay and not having to idolise western gay culture and western men/women in gay culture.
1999-2009, Gay Rights and How Far LGBT Issues And Rights Have Come in a Decade:

Looking back at the past 10 yrs, i can see gay culture and LGBT rights has improved heaps in this decade...something unimaginable when i was growing up in the 90s(and i'm sure those of you growing up in the 90's,80's,70's,etc)....back in 1999 not a single country in the world had gay was unthinkable and 2009, Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Sweden all recognise same-sex marriage and Britain has same-sex marriage as well essentially (just not in name!). In 1999, there were no gay pride parades anywhere in Asia except for Thailand and Philippines. In 2009, there are pride parades in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and the first Pride Events in China and Singapore this year. Many mayors of major cities around the world are gay including the Mayor of Paris, Berlin, and Oslo i think. In 1999, TV showed no to little main gay characters, by 2009, Taiwanese dramas include gay characters to the point where no one bats an eyelid anymore. I still remember watching Rene Liu's 1999 film about marriage advertising and how in one scene it showed a gay man arriving and she learns he's gay and it was like portrayed in a very sympathetic but dark manner as if although one should sympathise with homosexuals, it's so sad being homosexuals and their lives...well by 2009, Taiwan has produced at least 2 films which show happy taiwanese gay youth and their love lives and with happy endings, no one dying,etc no depression whatsoever,etc..and its cliche now that every male actor should play a gay role to win 1999, it was taboo for a straight man to touch on the issue of homosexuality or show any interest in the matter (except of course in a negative light), i can't even begin to count the number of times i've heard the gay issue being mentioned amongst straight men and women alike and its actually considered 'normal' to defend gays now and no one thinks you must be gay if you do so...believe me, i rem growing up in the late 90s in malaysia, no guy would say anything positive about gay ppl in fear of being labelled one and no one would admit seeing or even liking any gay themed, i read on blogs of presumably straight guys, example being this malaysian guy whom stated his interest as 'football' some 'science fiction novel's , and amongst his fav movies...'Brokeback Mountain' standing side by side with something manly like 'Transformers' or times have a good way..
I've been reading Malaysian blogs recently and i was reading this post about a gathering and then i realised two of them were a gay couple...the most amazing aspect about it all was how all the other straight (?) bloggers came out to help them celebrate their anniversary and nothing was mentioned about them being gay...the lack of mention was surprisingly progressive...maybe Malaysia has changed tremendously since i left??Even in the comments section, no one made a mention about 'how sweet, gay couple' or something along those had progressed to the point when the mention was rendered unnecessary..even in 1999, liberal minded ppl would have mentioned the gay bit, in a positive manner...but now at least amongst this group of bloggers, there was no married guy even contrasted his relationship with his wife of many yrs to this couple and doted on how loving they were and his married life but once again, amazingly he didn't mention it in terms of 'look at how gay couples can be so loving whilst the romance in my hetero marriage has fizzled out' was mentioned in a matter of fact manner comparing romances pre-and post- marriage without a mention of the gay nice:-)

PS: 2/7/2009: India has just decriminalised (male) homosexual acts with the Delhi High Court's decision today repealing the british colonial era sodomy law. This means that together with China and most countries in the world, over half the countries in the world now legally allow gay sex. It is a historic decision which will help prevent extortion cases (Indian police have been known to extort money from gay men by threatening to use the anti-sodomy law in the past) and give gay Indians a measure of pride in being gay.

It also is a time for reflection for countries like Malaysia and Singapore which still retain the anti-sodomy laws from the colonial era similar to India's now defunct law. How embarassing that Malaysia/Singapore are now in the company of countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and African nations rather than rich countries like America, Canada, Australia, and Japan, or even their Asian neighbours of China, India, Thailand, and The Philippines being a few examples of nations where gay sex is not illegal...for a country like Malaysia, where the minority populations originated from mainly India and China and even our large neighbour of Indonesia with the same Malay population as Malaysia NOT banning gay sex (it is legal in Indonesia;i was surprised to know!), its such an embarrassment for the Malaysian govt to still criminalise homosexual acts between consenting adults...Wake up soon Malaysian government!)

PS: Update: 2/8/09: Link to a Prime Time Indian TV Debate program on the repeal of anti-gay law in New Delhi: Watch out for the old elderly lady..she's so inspiring and touching and not to mention humorous!
Anyways, that was a long post! I won't be touching on the subject again anytime soon but do leave comments on what you think about this topic!!:-) happy pride month lgbt and straight readers alike!~~Have Fun Ya and Be Happy (Gay):-)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Aku Malu...and other Songs...:-)

'Aku Malu':

I came across this song from an Indonesian film 'Arisan' and I really liked it...maybe cos it had a cosy feel for me given that I understand Malay and Indonesian and Malay is very similar (at least standard Malay and Indonesian is very similar..colloquial wise, they're VERY different...almost mutually incomprehensible!), and Malay is a language which reminds me of my secondary and primary school days given that we had to learn it in school...after high school, i never used it anymore because in Penang, be it at roadside stalls or in shopping malls, you usually communicate in English, Hokkien, or Mandarin. Well, anyways, the song is here in a clip of the movie, have a listen: (it's towards the end)

'Far Longer Than Forever':

Another song from my primary school (?) days which i always remembered for some reason, then i checked up on youtube for the song from my vague's really nice, here:

I even watched the whole movie on youtube, under 'Swan Princess'.

I liked it remarkably, given my disdain and disinterest for animation/cartoons..haha..fits my feminist streak as the story starts with Princess Odette leaving Prince Derek because he says 'what else is there?' to her question on what he sees in her besides her beauty...i mean we were led to believe it would end in a fairytale wedding at the beginning part of the movie when we see them hating each other as kids and teens and suddenly Derek falls in love with her when they meet again in their youth and he calls for a wedding...but then of course she wants to know what else he sees in her besides his answer of 'you're beautiful' was nice to know that in children's fairytales in the 90s, even then, it wasn't ok for the prince just to fall in love with the princess for her beauty alone..hehe..

'Somewhere Out There':

I sang this song as a duet with a friend in primary school during our annual school play which was a big event back then...and usually there would be one main character and a few side characters and most other people would be in the background and singing cos it was always a musical from my recollection, every single year...and usually there was always this one active popular guy being the main character and most of us would be in the background...of course, i was and am still immensely proud of having been selected out of the entire year group, along with another classmate to sing a duet of this song...hehehe..i mean it was the rare times which i got to shine there in front of everyone, being the centre of attention of the audience during this song..hahaha..showed i must have had a unique/good voice back then with my duet partner out of the entire year group...anyways the song is here:


This drama was made in 1999 and broadcast on Phoenix Cable Channel in 2000 when i was in my last year of highschool...i still remember that it was my VERY 1st Korean drama and back then Korean dramas and Korea was unknown in Malaysia (or Taiwan for that matter)...Korean dramas had been broadcasted in Taiwan but weren't popular and in Malaysia no one knew much about Korea at that time (often Koreans in Malaysia were mistaken to be Japanese, much to their ire, if you know their past history) and so i knew nothing about Korea or Korean culture besides Korean food and my Korean classmates in school...i immediately fell in love with this drama and Korean dramas when i saw this..i didn't even know which country it was from initially..i was wowed by the amazingly good looking actors and actresses, the romantic feeling of the drama and the conservatism of the relationships...i mean previously, I watched Hong Kong dramas which were the only popular tv dramas back then (along with Taiwanese and Japanese dramas) and HK dramas were more upbeat and light, not romantic at all, Taiwanese ones were cry-fest whereby it was just full of crying but without any romance, very sappy...and Japanese ones had ugly looking actors with chauvinistic plots (gosh i tried liking Japanese dramas cos they were and are still all the rage but i had to stop watching many half-way cos of their mysogynistic plot lines and ugly actors)...and so Tomato was my first drama whereby i really felt the romantic feelings welling inside me, where i looked forward to watching every night and couldn't wait for the weekend to pass quickly so that it'd be Monday again and when the drama would run...i never had this feeling about any HK dramas i saw (ok, maybe just one)...i fell in love with the actor in Tomato which had never happened before in any dramas i saw prior and as they say, i was smitten by the entire love story at sweet sixteen (haha...i was sixteen back then!)...I remember checking online for his info and his dramas but he became not so goodlooking..hehe..even now, after almost 10 yrs, i still find the male character in Tomato extremely good-looking (my type) and handsome, still kinda like his reserved personality and boy-next-door looks and his occupation...well who knew i'd become a lawyer too? (but i'd prefer my partner to be an architect..creative, design-conscious and able to design our home..haha..not in the legal field or it'd be boring)..have a look at the teaser here:

' 新不了情':

And finally, a song i fell in love with since the mid-2000s...heard it before..but only fell in love with the song at a karaoke session when someone played the song: (The String Quartet's version) (singer Cao Ge's version)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sydney Life '09: Festivals and Cinematic Events in Sydney..

One thing i love about living in Sydney and Melbourne is the multitude of events which seem to be held round the clock throughout the year...there doesn't seem to be a moment when there's not something going on somewhere around the city...the following are just some of the events i went to in the first half this year:
Sydney Chinese New Year Parade 2009:

I managed to catch this at Chinatown..lining up with all the other tons of people! It was fantastic, much better than i thought i'd be...i was lucky this yr, being able to catch quite a few events for cny in Sydney such as going to the inaugural Sydney Chinese Film Festival for the opening film 'The Assembly' with some colleagues and attending this parade as well as going to the Dragon Boat Race at Darling Harbour...on top of celebrating CNY in Taipei with the Reunion Dinner with relatives of cos!!hehe...

Sydney CNY Dragon Boat Racing 2009 at Darling Harbour:
Went to this event at Darling Harbour during first time, it was great seeing all the people participating in it...many company groups and non-company groups...a hot day it was though..badly sun-burnt!!!

St George Open-Air Cinema 2009 at the Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens:
I missed this last yr due to some personal reasons but went this year for the closing night 'Last Chance Harvey' starring Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman..this event is a must-go for any Sydneysiders and tourists alike (if you happen to be in Sydney then!) as where else in the world can you watch an open-air cinema of the latest works with the Sydney Harbour Bridge,Opera House and cityscape all in view behind the screen?? It's even better than those open-air cinemas held in gardens i presume given the background: amazingly splendid night view you get whilst enjoying the sell fast though there are always some tics at the sure to arrive early to secure the best viewing spots, preferably where you can see the Harbour Bridge as well as the Opera House and the Sydney me!!!You can save seats with paper stickers they give you to stick on the seats whilst going to grab something to eat at the lounge with was a fantastic night!!

Sydney Spanish Film Festival 2009:
I learnt about the Spanish Film Festival last yr but didn't get a chance to go and was lucky enough to be able to attend this yr on it's opening night film 'Chef's Special' which sold out..(i had also wanted to attend the German Film Fest' but after looking at the selections on offer, thought i'd give it a miss as nothing seemed interesting)...Spain is fast becoming my favourite country in fact, i'd rate Spain and Germany as my top fav countries in Europe now..never been a fan of the more popular England and France...i think they're offence but just my personal opinion..this film was fantastic! I was was funny,witty, and nice...about a gay chef and his relationship with this closeted soccer player/coach as well as his son from a previous marriage and his best gal pal all living in the gay quarter of Madrid. It talks about family, relationships,one's past, gay and sports, etc all happening at the restaurant he owns and his life. I am now becoming a fan of Spanish gay cinema, they seem so nice and witty, unlike the American ones which make me feel like wanting to puke and very turned off, makes me kinda homophobic even!! Just too 'in your face' and 'shallow'...
For those living in Sydney there's a special screening on at Wed 24th June 2009 at 9pm at Palace Academy Paddington in celebration of Pride Month. Do check it out if possible!! Also book tix in advance as it was very popular first time around and tickets were booked out with people waiting on the day to see if they could get it on the day with no luck!

The Inaugural 'Vivid Sydney' 2009:

I had caught Vivid Sydney by chance...i had seen the Opera House being lighted up when i was at The Rocks and left but then thought i'd go over just to see what was going on...and found out that i had seen these banners around the city advertising the event but never paid attention to what it was and thankfully i had arrived on the last night of the event!! How lucky! I grabbed a brochure and walked using the suggested route...i also caught one of the free performances in front of the MCA...walked all the way to the Sydney Observatory area and the night view was simply amazing and gorgeous...i'd never seen Sydney at night like this was similar to another out-of-this-world amazing sight of Sydney cityscape when i did the Harbour Bridge Walk walking towards the CBD bck in 2007. It was truly an amazing event/night and experience..this was the first yr they had this event and i hope they do it again next yr!!

Sydney Jazz and Blues Festival 2009:
I went to this annual event despite not being very impressed last yr with it...maybe it was cos of all the raining last yr but i didn't really enjoy it that much last yr and my friend wasn't really impressed too..but this yr, it turned out to be really nice!! And of course, it ended with usually happens at all events held in Darling Harbour..haha..

All for now:-)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Taipei Holiday '09 (10 Memorable n Worthwhile Experiences You Must Try Whilst in Taipei Post!)...台北假期‘09年之10个诗意难忘的台北体验......台北の帰り旅’09(三)

Above: Chinese New Year's Eve 2009. Taipei Main Boulevard leading towards the Taipei 101 Building.....

I would say i had many memorable experiences whilst in Taipei and i shall list just 10 of the things that i did which others could take as a reference too for their own trips to Taipei. Remember how i said some mainland Chinese and overseas Chinese were dissapointed with their Taiwan experiences? Well, if they did some of the must-dos i've suggested below, it may have brightened up their Taiwanese journey and given them an insight into another side of Taiwanese life. For mainland Chinese especially, there should be a focus on KMT era buildings, etc and going to nostalgic Taiwanese places and museums reflecting on life during the anti-red China era since mainland Chinese have a curiousity for these kind of stuff when they come over to more emphasis should be put into bringing them to places like that instead of all the natural scenery places/historical monuments/shopping places which really even a determinedly proud Taiwanese can admit is no comparison to the emerging superpower China with its blessed natural attractions and thousand of years old history.

Well, anyways, below is my list of 10 Must-Do Things whilst in Taipei and which are just my recommendations from where i went whilst in Taipei:

1) Visit the Daan Forest Park 大安森林公园 and the Taipei Main Public Library 台北市立图书馆nearby and walk over to Yongkang St Food Circle.永康街.
Above: View towards Daan Forest Park from the seats at the Taipei Municipal Library's stairwell...

I always visit Daan Park which is like Taipei's answer to New York's Central Park, except that its way smaller, and i mean much much smaller than like even the Penang Botanical Gardens. It was set aside for park usage during Taipei's early days and still remains one of the few green areas in Taipei CBD. I went to this park on this trip again too. There is a performance deck there too and a running's a really nice atmosphere to go sit with friends, or just take a quiet walk. From there, you can go to the main Taipei public library nearby which has alot of books, a theatre showing free films on weekdays and weekends, including retrospective chinese classic films. One new addition is that now, after 4 yrs, one should take the stairwell at the public library as all the stairwells have glassplanes overlooking the Daan Park and highway and cityscape and have chairs and tables fitted there for you to take a book or two and just while away 1-2 hours reading ur book, pondering, writing u thought diary whilst watching the cars pass by on the highway below with the vast green expanse of Daan Park right in front of you:-)

From Daan Park you can walk to Yongkang street food circle. This is a v.famous Taipei food niche area and is well known for its foreign 'feel' and foreign cusine eateries clusted in the narrow lanes here...there's middle eastern, japanese, taiwanese, chinese, western, korean, south east asian, etc foodie eateries all available here....what's more the famous 'Ice Monster' crushed mango ice store is also here..this is a VERY POPULAR PLACE with locals and foreign/japanese tourists alike...i went here on my trip back this time too...yummy...the photo of my mango ice is posted in my post on taipei's food...The original store of world-famous Din Tai Fung is also around this area...just ask around and u'll be able to find's xiao long bao, noodle soups, and ESPECIALLY my FAVOURITE 'Bak Chang' (glutinous rice filled with fatty pork meat wrapped in lotus leaf and steamed piping hot!) are highly recommended. The preserved eggs on soft tofu is another fav side dish of mine over there at Din's.

2) Visit the 228 Peace Park 228和平公园and the 228 Peace Museum 228纪念馆 and National Taiwan Museum 国立台湾博物馆within it then walk to the Taipei Main Station 台北火车站 commercial n shopping district and visit the well-done Taiwan Story House 台湾故事馆.
Above: Taiwan National Museum within 228 Peace Park and where the 228 Peace Museum is also located. Taipei Main Station is within mins of this place.

The 228 peace park was much more wonderful than i thought it'd be. It is formerly called New Park and has a wonderful Chinese style pagoda within it as well as nice views of the Taipei city skies...another rare park in the centre of town in Taipei besides Daan Park. It is worth while going there and taking some pix and visiting the 228 Peace Musuem to commemorate the thousands killed my KMT forces in 1947 when local Taiwanese rebelled against oppressive and corrupt KMT rule on the island. This is a worthwhile history lesson to learn for many foreign visitors unaware of this facet of Taiwan's traumatic history. The Taiwan Museum located nearby within the park is my personal favourite museum of this trip back to Taipei, with its majestic building and lampposts, and the feeling it gives...worth a visit, definitely!

From the NTM exit from the 228 Peace park and right in front you'll be able to see Taipei Main Station area, this is traditionally Taipei's commercial district and always bustling with office workers and shop keepers. There are a multitude of restaurants to explore and try out so give anyone of them a try. The Taiwan Story House which was highly recommended by many bloggers and my relatives as well was one place i regretted not having the time to visit in the end. It is basically a museum located within the Tai-Mall (i forgot what the name is, this is a guess!)building next to Shin-Kong Dept. Store, the one opposite the main entrance/exit of Taipei Main Station. It aims to recreate the Taipei of an era gone-by with made-believe streets and stalls,etc all decorated to look like 1960's Taipei! It even has a restaurant inside serving taiwanese snacks. Pity i couldn't visit this time around!

3) Ever wondered on talking and mixing with the South East Asian labourers/domestic maids in Taipei on a Sunday near Taipei Main Station and Zhongshan Bei Lu or why not visit a gay club/gay bar and meet Taiwanese gay folks??

Above: The Indonesian 'hangout' place just nearby my godmom's apartment near Taipei Main Station. I wouldn't have known about this place if not for my godmom's information! Doesn't this look like somewhere in Malaysia or Indonesia??

I got a chance to meet two filipino maids on the bus to Zhongxiao East Road MRT Station. God knows i love the Philippines and the Filipino ppl after i discovered pinoy entertainment bck in 2007 and have been on my 'filipino goodwill fever' ever since...haha
I had picked up enough Tagalog from movies n dramas to pick up that they're filipinos (one of the joys of knowing abit of each and other languages is how u learn to recognise languages and differentiate b/w similar looking but yet different ppls...given i know malay/indonesian, am familiar with thai with so many thai ppl living in sydney n picking up the language from my brief stint with thai lakorns, i could tell they must be filipinos then esp. cos i could pick up certain words n definitely the distinct pinoy accent). I started a conversation by asking in English whether they were filipinos and got their confidence by immediately trying to bridge the gap saying how i loved star cinema and the filipino stars like Toni Gonzaga, Sam Milby, the movie, You are the One (one of my all-time fav romantic comedies of ALL cinemas, incl. chinese.hollywood.whatever!!!)....

We chatted about how they came to Taipei, how working conditions are like here, what the maids are demanding (a day off on Sundays like HK which is currently not a mandatory condition of contracts in Taiwan) , how they find Taiwanese ppl (apparently, from one maid whom worked in HK before being terminated abruptly then coming over, much kinder than HK ppl) was nice..later on i wished them goodluck on their time in Taiwan and got off the bus...zhongshan north road and the area near Taipei Main Station has alot of filipino/indonesian workers on weekends...there's a church on zhongshan road where filipinos congregate on sundays..i visited the indonesian crowd near where my godmom lives in taipei main station area, and it was interesting, ppl looked at u cos taiwanese dun hang around there..but its definitely something diff for those in Taiwan who'd like something different. Heck, i even saw what looked like a drugged female with some labourers from indonesia and her female friend whom was eager to do business (u know what i mean) haggling prices with these men saying how much how much i'll "do" you and ur friend,etc...omg!

Another group of interesting people to meet or shopping to do may be the gays and gay products of Taiwan, with Taipei.Taiwan being arguably the most gay-friendly place in Asia (i'd argue even surpassing thailand largely due to the thai backwardness in the areas of media representations and political lack of interest). One can visit Gin Gin Bookstore (google it) which is Chinese society's first LGBT bookstore, or the area behind 'Red building' which is right opposite Ximending MRT Sta.and Ximending. This area has become a gay spot in the 4 yrs i've been gone. Although it was a missed opportunity as i didn't have a chance to visit any of the gay bars there, i did pass by n saw many cozy trendy bars with alot of trendy gay men inside..(though i'm not sure whether females are welcomed) for females whom are thinking of going..there's also the famous Funky nightclub, and a host of other news ones such as Fresh, 喜宴(which i really liked the concept and wanted to visit but forgot totally on this trip!) ,etc..of course for non-gay travellers, the best thing to do would be to hop over to the gay bars behind Red Building after shopping at Ximending cos its so tourists obviously could also go to the other ones.. Furthermore, testament to Taiwan being the leader in Asia in terms of LGBT stuff, gay films are shown at main theatre halls all the time, actors brought into promote gay films, and there're even regular exhibits on gay-themed movies/books in the Eslite and other mainstream bookstores,definitely worth buying if u're interested in LGBT stuff..i rem my surprise 4yrs bck to find a section devoted entirely to gay literature at a well-known mainstream bookstore..i didn't expect that in a Chinese society..besides, Taiwan is also now the world's biggest producer of Lesbian themed movies, there have been numerous in recent yrs, surpassing anywhere else in Asia or the be sure to buy many chinese lesbian movies whilst here! The above are just some of the unusual encounters one can opt to have whilst in Taipei!:-)

4) Moca Taipei and nearby Zhongshan Bei Lu Commercial and Shopping District as well as heading over to Spot Taipei for a coffee, a browse of its specialised Eslite film Bookstore or catching an art film there.

Above: MOCA Taipei with Zhongshan North Road close by...

Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei is definitely one of the unexpected surprises of my Taipei trip...i must say i had not expected much of Taiwan's museums and art galleries and thought they couldn't match those in the West...boy, was i wrong, as mentioned in earlier posts..almost all the art/museums galleries visited in Taiwan were superb and world-class..i kid u not..they are on par with the standard of museums/art galleries i've been to in Tokyo and Sydney and Melbourne..definitely so..that surprised me..and i'm an avid museum/art gallery goer so i've been to not a few to be able to make that comparison and assessment!

Definitely check it is a fantastic cozy museum, not big, v.small, but maybe cos i admire contemporary art much more than european/asian ancient artifacts, i loved the small feeling of the museum..from the window on the second floor, one can peer out to a highschool nearby which had an amazing european-japanese style'd made a great photoshoot moment..a snapshot of the school thru the window of MOCA...they hold various exhibitions throughout the yr...the one i visited was really great...also by chance, i was the last patron on the last day of their 3 month long exhibition n received a complimentary ticket for 2 for their next exhibition and EVEN MORE, in Moca tradition, they interview the last visitor/visitors to their exhibitions and guess what?? I'm gonna be famous! haha cos they interviewed me and it was the first time i got interviewed by another i think...they say they'll put up the video of me on youtube under the exhibition review video..but i haven't checked yet...yeah, at last i'm on youtube...hehe...

Also check out the nearby Zhongshan North Road shopping district..alot of nice shopping malls are can get there by Zhongshan MRT Station...there's a nice 600CC place which serves Taiwan's famous Papaya Milk Tea (well famous when i was growing up back in the 1990s..) and the mall are all a good shop...walk along the road as you find alot of nice restaurants all around here...the laneways here all have hidden rest,cafes,etc which gives a nice feeling similar to laneways of Tokyo...especially during the cold winter..nearby Lin Sheng Bei Lu used to be famous for cheap prostitutes for japanese businessmen back in the heydays of the 80s/90s but has now died down with mainly japanese rest.etc...i ate once here with my aunts at a japanese rest, just before returning to Sydney and the feeling was nice..with my two aunts, talking on life,their problems in life, my problems in life, as cars passed on the bustling zhongshan bei lu outside us and construction work was going on all along the boulevard as Taipei was extending its MRT lines and increasing its MRT network, once again bringing bck childhood memories of the non-stop construction work of the MRT lines back in the 1990s when MRT construction on the main boulevards and congested roads was a common sight in Taipei before it had the MRT this scene appeared before me again...

Another little note of interest was that i did meet this guy i met on the net though i never expected to actually, i had decided to not meet him cos i didn't know him that well (and i dun meet ppl i dun know well off the net) but i thought i'd call him just days before leaving for being kind enough to give me his mobile no and invitation to call him as i didn't wanna seem to be rude by leaving without even saying a word to him cos i had told him i'd be back in Taipei...but as it turned out, he was like incredibly nice and at last-min notice said he could definitely meet up with me the next day (although it was nearing cny now and i'd just called the night bef!)...we met up and he had brought along a usual i was late...he didn't even have my number and waited for me didn't get mad, and took me to Shinyeh Table on Zhongxiao East Road, the trendy taiwanese rest/bar for lunch...he had brought along his colleague...they were so smart dressed i felt so inadequate having arrived with only a windbreaker and plain-looking hair (i usually make some effort to style my hair but being too lazy during my taipei days..) I hadn't expected him to be so stylishly dressed with his branded stuff, vest (who wears that anyways in Taiwan?!!) etc...cos i didn't really see his pix properly...i had just randomly emailed him...cos i read his diary and it was quite interesting..met on a taiwanese website quite well-known one..we had a lovely time talking about what he does,etc...his colleague was equally stylishly dressed...basically the two of them walking together n u'd notice them on the streets of Taipei cos Taiwanese men dun usually dress in a stylish;s just a different fashion sensibility, more japanese street fashion or just american plain t'shirt n pants kinda trend if ya know what i mean...anyways, it was nice knowin someone new in Taiwan and having a nice lunch with him...

Also, on the same day as that, as i was in Zhongshan Road with aunts, i came across this guy i used to have a slight internet crush during my silly early days surfin networking websites...i wouldn't admit it at first...but then stalking his blog must have been a sign right? Hahaha..i've since grown over that or internet crushes...i was amazed to be able to bump into him like that given the short time i was in Taipei and just days before i was to leave for was definitely him..he was hanging out with friends...he didn't look as good-looking as his blog pix...which is what u often find with internet pics..haha..or maybe my taste in guys had changed 3 yrs on?hehe..who knows..

I also visited the Spot Taipei which is this retro mansion refitted into a cafe, restaurant and art space area with an Eslite bookstore specialising in films and also selling DVDs as well as acts as an arthouse filmhouse all into one. It was formally the American Embassy apparently. This is a REALLY cool and chic place to go to if only to have a coffee with friends or read a good book at. The face overlooks a small garden and bustling Zhongshan Bei Lu is just outside with the noise,etc...The film auditorium usually screens artfilms, incl. famous ones, both foreign and Chinese and also holds special retrospectives or themed-based programs such as a showing of 'Love in Peach Blossom Land' (1993) or a Lesbian Film Program which was held there sometime last yr i think. I managed to find this book i desperately wanted after having seen it once in Taipei back in 2004 and regretted not buying it. Its limited edition only for those interested in niche topics like the actresses of Shaw House in the 50s/60s. I tried to find it at numerous bookstores but couldn't and FINALLY found it here at Eslite bookstore at Spot Taipei!!! I was overjoyed and my godmother bought it for me as a pressie and i was EXTREMELY touched cos she had been giving me things and allowing me to eat over at her place before n basically being very caring n hospitable to me during my entire time in Taipei...but i did treat her and my other aunt to Japanese dinner (read above) as repayment for the kind hospitality shown to me whilst in Taipei. So please do visit Spot Taipei if ever following my No.4 Suggestion when in Taipei...u'd like it!

5) Cheongsam shopping in Taipei:-)

Above: Hung Shing Cheongsam Tailor store near Moca Taipei and Zhongshan MRT Station...

As anyone can tell from my blog, i'm a huge cheongsam when i knew i'd be heading towards hk and Taipei, how else could i miss the opportunity to make a chinese style clothe?

I researched alot but as the popularity of cheongsam/chinese clothing has waned to virtually being the exclusive domain of movie costumes, beauty pageants, high-society women of status or wealth, and a few schools in hk..there were really not alot of affordable places to make a hk, i asked around, everyone said go to Shenzhen/Lowu cos they didn't know where to make one in hk...of course the cheap ready made ones are readily available but for any self-respecting cheongsam historian/enthusiasts...these ready made ones were not the 1960s versions i wanted...the body-fitting high stiff collared ones u see Maggie Cheung wearing in 'In the Mood for Love' is something i adored...HK only had really expensive ones...i found tailors in Peddler Street and Shanghai Tang where it costs like at least $500 AUD as a MINIMUM for a tailored made one...way out of my unless i wanted to say that i got one made in Lowu which doesn't sound very appealing, i opted for Taipei.

Now, i came to realise that Taipei has quite a few Cheongsam Tailor shops...many more than in HK, and i mean affordable tailorshops specialising in chinese has the expensive ones too...i can't rem the brand, called Hong Kong but they had normal street ones...and they made typical 1960s cheongsams with the stiff collar which was my number one requirement!

I can only remember the names of three which i came across being 1)荣一唐装旗袍店 (theres a few more tailor shops specialising in cheongsam around the immediate area of this tailor shop) 2)鸿星旗袍店 3)京沪唐装旗袍店. I made one using my own cloth and gave SPECIFIC instructions to the tailor...i kept empasizing what i wanted but cos it was in a hurry, he did a poor job, and this was at No 3 King Hu Tailor shop above...i was so upset but i had to pretend to like it cos i didn't have time to correct it anymore cos i was leaving so sydney..the only consolation was that it was indeed th stiff collar i wanted...a type of material which is difficult to find in western countries as its used primarily for cheongsam collars..i'd recommend Option 2 above being Hung Shing..Anyways, it;d be a unique and cheaper way to obtain a traditional chinese cheongsam in taipei! So why not consider it? (Of course, for those going to china, i'd suggest getting a cheongsam made in china cos its bound to be even cheaper...but hk is definitely not an option cos its way too expensive for much of the same thing...) An average cheongsam costs around only 150AUD for workmanship without the cost of the cloth which you should provide yourself.

6) Visiting the Taipei Municipal Art Gallery and Taipei Story House as well as the nearby park and green cycling paths.
Above: Taipei Municipal Art Museum and Taipei Story House is just beside it...

I really enjoyed the Taipei Art Gallery and Taipei Story House which are besides each other. The feeling is really nice going there..its very quite and not bustling, and not really in the centre of town, more on the edges...but the vast expanse of parkland there being Yuanshan and Zhongshan Gardens with plentiful space for cycling besides the moat surrounding the Grand Hotel (Yuanshan) and the MRT passing by every few mins is great...the nearby Sungshan Airport with planes arriving and leaving mere feets from the ground was an incredible experience as i had never been so close to a plane flying overhead before me before!! As i stood there on the field just outside the Yuanshan MRT station, it was surreal as you see the sky start to darken and the plane flying VERY close as they're landing nearby and with Yuanshan Hotel glittering in the distance...

7) Visiting and going for a walking or cycling route along Dunhua-Renai Road Area and spending some quiet time reading books at the world-class Eslite 24 Hr bookstore. (or chatting with a friend at the late openin Eslite Cafe)

The Dunhua Nan Lu and Renai Lu area is very well-known for their upper-class environment and having one of the highest real estate prices in the whole island of Taiwan. (Second only to the new Xinyi district where Taipei 101 is located apparently.)

It is definitely where the most rich people live in given that Xinyi district is a relatively new area whereas this dunhua area has been traditionally wealthy and upper class since decades ago..this is where traditionally rich people live including many celebrities including the family home of one of Taiwan's most famous actress Brigette Lin-Hsin Hsia. It has tree lined boulevards, a very quite feel and is minutes away from the traditional premier shopping district of Zhongxiao East Road which is still the No.2 shopping district in Taipei after only the newer Xinyi District of New York New York and Taipei 101. I have been here or driven past this area countless times and did so again on this trip back and i'd suggest people go for a walk here as the environment is really quiet, tranquil and upper-market..T

The location is convenient and one can catch the MRT to Zhongxiao East Road and shop around and walk along all the way to the juncture of Dunhua Nan Lu and then having dinner at one of the multitude of restaurants and hip cafes serving western food, shabu shabu, thai, chinese,etc cuisine along the lanes of off Dunhua Road..i cannot remember where this place is now but i remember a few alleys around the Dinghao area off Zhongxiao East Road and near Dunhua South Road are filled with nice restaurants serving all kinds of food and having a tokyo 'feel to it..v,nice...there're also foodstalls there for those after a cheaper and more taiwanese fare...

Then after dinner, one can walk to the nearby Eslite 24 hr bookstore (one of the rare bookstores open 24 hrs in not only Taiwan, but around the world!) It has a cafe open late and music sections, foreign imported mags of all sorts, japanese mags and literature, photography,etc, and also halls for movies and lectures and talks and a regular arts program of films, talks,etc...It is very cozy and world class...better than any bookstore in Sydney or Melbourne in terms of opening hrs and the cozy feel...even Tokyo bookstores can't compare from my's DEFINITELY a must for visitors to Taiwan..i wonder whether tourist groups are brought here??? It's something that u can truely find quite possibly only in Taiwan in terms of class, opening hrs, atmosphere,etc..

After reading or chatting with friends, you and your friends might like to walk just a few mtrs along to the Yuanhuan Roundabout which according to mom was where many Qiaoyao movies of the 70s and 80s were filmed at with Briggette Lin and Chin Han, Lin Feng Jiao,etc..this used to be a high class (and still is) area. The aroundabout allows you to walk pass over to Renai Road which has nothing interesting but is well known for being THE road to live in if you're wealthy (along with Yangminshan, Tianmu,Xinyi being the other suburbs known for being upper-class residential districts). From Renai, you could walk all the way towards the Presidential Palace which is an amazing photo opportunity.

The new Eslite Bookstore Xinyi Branch is also well worth a visit and definitely a must go besides the main Dunhua 24hr Branch. This is as the entire building is Eslite-owned and it has way more shops (oh, did i mention there're shops selling cool kitcsh stuff and stationery at Dunhua store too??)and even a food court. It also has an entire Japanese books section, Simplified Chinese books section, movie-related books and DVD section, and something i've only seen on American TV shows, it actually has a cooking class kitchen within the bookstore too!!! Like Martha Stewarts! It is top notch and placed within the cooking book section and has regular programming teaching housewives and others how to cook the latest dish..

Below: Eslite Bookstore Xinyi you can see, the entire building belongs to the bookstore, something unique to Taiwan of which it can be proud of:-) There's a foodcourt, alot of design/creative shops, high-fashion, books, music, etc in the building:-)

One should also walk towards the Far Eastern Plaza Hotel Shangri La on Dunhua South Road and visit the shopping mall there, being a different feeling, v.upper class...and cross the road to the other side and visit the wet market on morning on weekends..a nice experience...the big square in front of the wetmarket surrounded by public housing is said to be the most expensive public housing estate in taiwan, being built before the boom of dunhua/renai area but now situated inside it. I usually like to walk and did once on this trip to the public estate from my home and towards the wetmarket and then towards Shangri-La and towards Dunhua-Renai...i live conveniently close to dunhua/renai area and zhongxiao east road road area as well as daan park and yongkang street precinct, all of which are are walkable distance from my place, which is a great thing:-)

8) Visiting the National Taiwan University campus and then heading over to Gongguan Shopping District.

Above: Gongguan Area opp. NTU...lots of cheap student eats here...

The NTU is the premier university in Taiwan, akin to Hong Kong University in Hong Kong, Tokyo University in Japan, and Seoul National University in South Korea. My cousin studies there and i asked him to take me around the campus. I walked from my place to NTU and it was a good walk. NTU discovery walk is something i'd suggest as something unique to do in Taipei.

I'd suggest the itinerary to visitors to take the MRT to the Gongguan MRT Station and walk around Gongguan area which is the buzy eating/hanging out place for NTU university students with alot of cheap eats available! I had this pasta for only NT$12 and it was a huge plate and definitely money for value....hang around Gong Guan and you'll definitely find something interesting to visit...i bought mantous at this specialty mantou (chinese buns) shop which is the first time i've seen mantous being sold at a nicely decorated store..haha..visited this wetmarket called Suiyuan as my cousin led me there and it was a nice place to visit...

9) Fav. Nightmarket in Taipei....Shida Nightmarket!! Another good food place for traditional taiwanese food...the Nanmen Market!!:-)

Above: One of the more popular unique restaurants in the Shida Nightmarket, brought by my cousin KJ...i didn't eat 'Cart Noodles' in HK but ate it in Taipei! Hahaha...

This is where i like to go for my nightmarket taiwanese gourmet.....i know Shilin is the must-go famous tourism spot but i personally prefer shida nightmarket as THE best nightmarket in taipei due to its much smaller size, the university feel of the place being located and intended to serve Taipei Normal University students whom live and study on campuses minutes walk away from the nightmarket and also having these nice cozy restaurants and cute shops selling cool stuff in its alleyways along with the usual nightmarket stuff...of course any first-time visitor to Taipei should visit Shilin first, but if you have the time, head over to Shida Nightmarket for something different...i visited this nightmarket all the time on childhood trips back and its the one i go to the most every time i'm in Taipei...i love the 抓饼 ,煎肉包 and 粉圆冰 there amongst other stuff like 鱿鱼羹沙茶麺 which i love greatly!!!!

There's also bookstores selling chinese books for a cheaper price compared to the Elite Bookstores as they serve the student population. I managed to buy a book i saw on the tv ad screens at the Xinyi Eslite Bookstore being on the Chinatimes 2008 Top 10 Chinese books list at this famous bookstore opp. the Shida nightmarket called '水准书局 ’。It is well-known amongst those in the know in Taiwan to sell THE CHEAPEST books in entire of aunt brought me there and it was indeed very cheap, the book i wanted which was a new book was being sold in Eslite for something like 10-15NT more than here!It's like damn for those whom are looking for chinese books (not the photography or cool mag kinds) which are fairly popular, have a look here taipei and the bookshop name n u should be able to get directions...

A good place selling traditional chinese/taiwanese foods to buy for takeaway is the Nanmen Shichang which sells 南北货 and all kinds of traditional food goodies such as mantous, taiwanese side dishes to be taken away for eating with rice, shanghainese tangyuan, chinese legham,etc...i love this place, so many mouth-watering things to buy, i took alot of photos discretely..hehehe..worth a visit definitely!

10) MRT trip to Beitou Public Library, the Beitou hotsprings Museum, wandering around Beitou's streets before continuing your journey via MRT to Danshui.

Above: The Beitou Public Library made entirely of wooden structure...a first in Taiwan and possibly in Asia too....

Now, to think about it, Taipei has alot of interesting public libraries and well equiped and top-notch on par with those of Sydney's and Melbourne's I'd say in many respects...Besides the one with the view over Daan Park Taipei Municipal Main Library earlier mentioned, another very well known one is the Beitou Public Library. It is famous for being the first library in Taiwan to be constructed entirely out of wood. It also views to the park it is located and sunlight can come in during the day. My recommendation would be to this suggested recommendation of mine along with No.6 option above in a day. Basically, wake up early in the morning and head to Taipei Main Station. From there, take the MRT journey (Danshui Line) towards Danshui. Stop at Yuanshan MRT and head over to the Taipei Art Gallery/Taipei Story House. Spend 2-3hrs here and then cycle around the vast parklands of Yuanshan Park here whilst admiring the view of The Grand Hotel Yuanshan. Then continue on MRT on the Danshui line and stop at Beitou Sta. to transfer to Xinbeitou Sta. Here is where the Beitou Public Library is located and as it's already late afternoon, try out any of the multitude of cheap eateries/streetside food/ or my recommendation taiwanese 'biantang' (bentou) here...after lunch, wander bck to the station area and visit the Beitou Hotsprings Museum and the Beitou Public Library which are close to each other...after that return to MRT Sta. transfer bck to Beitou Sta and continue up to Danshui Sta.

Here, one can visit the Old Street for fantastic street snacks and then also head over to Fisherman's Wharf for the amazing scenery and possibly a short coffee. It should be nighttime by now and so one should take the MRT back to Jiantan Sta. where Shilin Nightmarket is situated or alternatively stop at Shipai Sta and take a bus to Tienmu for dinner or even go bck to Taipei Main Sta. and visit any of the bustling eateries behind and around the Station for dinner.

Of course, this itinerary is for those whom can enjoy places fast and not spend ages at one place, if its too rushed, split it into two days!!

Of course i have focused on some of the things i did during this trip bck to Taipei as well as on previous trips and recommended my personal experiences...i have chosen off-the-tourist-books itineraries (in terms of the usual fare of Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall,etc..but definitely most of the suggestions above can be found in many top-notch tour guides...they're just not available on most packaged tours which have to squeeze the top tourist spots in and have little time to go to these other places in the usual 3-4 days which tourists on tours usually come to Taipei.) but i definitely recommend the following popular tourist attractions for 1st time visitors:

1) Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall

2) The National Palace Museum

3) Jiufen Mining Town

4)Shilin Nightmarket

Yangmingshan and Maokong and other places are not must visits but if you have extra time, it'd make a good experience going to some of the teahouses up there with friends for a cuppa whilst chatting...Tianmu is also a nice place to visit known for its previous reputation as the expat suburb with the American and Japanese schools both located there...I found Shilin district to be really nice. Also simply taking the MRT or bus and stopping at random stops to explore the local area is a good idea too...the MRT takes you outside Taipei City into Taipei County and so its a fun thing to do as well...furthermore, cycling is all the rage nowadays in health conscious Taiwan, so one can also go cycling around Taipei and its suburbs to experience something different..

As one can see, Taipei (and indeed Taiwan!) must be truely experienced not by joining group tours or sticking to only major tourist attractions with only a few days in Taiwan, but the need to experience its simple pleasures, go for a walk or cycle on the various bike paths readily available, read a book at it's unique public libraries, eat at one of the niche suburbs like Yongkang Food street precinct or restaurants of alleyways off Zhongshan Bei Lu and Dunhua South Road or simply have a chat at Eslite's Cafe on the 24hr Dunhua Branch...

I will have many wonderful and warm memories of the time spent with relatives and friends and rediscovering Taipei and Taiwan on this trip back , taking my very first Taiwan Round Island Tour and visiting places i've never been before such as the Dihua Street 24hr CNY bazaar, as well as celebrating CNY in Taipei after many many years away...hope my series of post on my experiences in Taipei and Taiwan have provided a good source of information for any future trips of readers or just as a good read of my memories of Taipei and Taiwan:-)


PS: more photos (i took tons of pics in hk, macau,and Taiwan, but the ones on my online photo album make up only 1/4 of them cos there were too many to put up anyways!!) at my online photo album here:

Taipei Holiday '09 (Taiwanese Food Post!).....台北假期'09之台湾小吃与美食篇.......台北の帰り旅’09(二)

Above: My health-conscious Taiwanese family have totally reverted to eating healthy husked unprocessed rice at home...something which i initially needed getting used to but which i grew to like..its much healthier than white rice..i'm sure most non-Taiwanese didn't even know there was such a thing given that white rice has been the only kind of rice we knew in China, HK, Malaysia, Singapore,Thailand,etc for generations who grew up after the 60s but actually before the 60s when Asian nations were still poor, non-white rice was the norm not white rice (which needs processing but which is actually not as healthy as unprocessed husked rice!).

Below: Chinese New Year Eve's Dinner....have my fav. Mi Tzu Huo Tui somemore leh!

This post shall be a post on the famous n CHEAP n DELICIOUS Taiwanese streetside cuisine which i ate whilst back in Taipei as well as other gourmet food eg. japanese, shabu-shabu, omurice,etc which i ate back there....It can be a guide serving foreign tourists or even local taiwanese and/or overseas taiwanese when in taipei on where to eat, just some of my personal gastronomy adventures and recommendations,heheh,...tons of pix below:-) Dun salivate too much yar...hehe..

Above: A delicious meal of Taiwanese-style noodles and my all-time favourite of any kind of Taiwanese soup, this time being Shimu Yu Tang.

Firstly, anyone whom has ever been to Taiwan or planned to go should know already about its famous 'nightmarkets' which serve all types of Taiwanese foodie goodies, n cheap one should definitely go to them, i went to the ones below or just randomly passed by car or had a quick walk thru whilst my dad dropped me at one end and picked me up at the other end 15 mins later just to get a feel of it, so in total, including the ones whereby i actually spent some time there eating the food, i went to MANY nightmarkets on this trip back including the ones below:

1) ShiLin Nightmarket 士林夜市

2) Tonghua Nightmarket (通化夜市)

3) Shida Nightmarket (师大夜市)

4) Raohe Nightmarket(饶河夜市)

5) Ningxia (宁夏夜市)

6) Jingmei Nightmarket(景美夜市)

7) Huaxi Nightmarket(华西夜市)

8)Keelung Miaokou Nightmarket(基隆庙口夜市)

I may have gone to more but i can't rem, some i simply drove past by....

Any visitor should visit the above and order some of the taiwanese favs snacks such as:

Or Ar Meesuah,大肠包小肠 (this is a really inventive taiwanese creation, being sausages with glutinous rice together wrapped up like a bigger sausage covering a smaller sausage), and others such as this list which i copied off the net of the Top 10 Local Snacks
Oyster Omelet 蚵仔煎 Uh Ah Jian
Bubble Tea 珍珠奶茶 Zhen Zhu Nai Cha
Salt Pepper Chicken 鹹酥雞 Xian Su Ji
Soup Dumplings 小籠湯包 Xiao Long Tang Bao
Taiwanese Meatball 肉圓 Ba Wan
Braised Pork Rice 滷肉飯 Lu Rou Fan
Taiwanese Tempura 甜不辣 Tian Bu La
Pan-fried Dumplings 煎餃 Jian Jiao
Grilled Taiwanese Sausages 香腸 Xiang Chang
Stinky Dofu 臭豆腐 Chou Dou Fu

Well, anyways, i'll let the pictures do the talking and take readers on a visual feast (quite, literally!!) off just SOME of the food i managed to gobble down during my 2 plus weeks in Taipei city and surrounds:

Above and Below: The wetmarket at Dunhua-Renai area opp. Far Eastern Plaza Shangri-La..

Above: My supper the steaming soups of Taiwan...haha..

Above: The famous taiwanese beef-noodle soup at Lao Zhang's...which was polled as THE BEST niu rou mian place in Taipei by hungryintaipei's blog...yeah, i got to eat the best...haha..but i recommend Yongkang Niurou Mian Shop beef noodle soup as well...both are located within Yongkang Food Precinct...
Above: Japanese food which i treated my aunts to....

Above: Shabu-Shabu which is popular in Taiwan...if in Taipei, u shld try the Ma-La Hotpot which is famous as you can choose two soup types together for ur steamboat meal or one thing i hihgly recommend is the ‘buffet steamboats’ 吃到饱 which are very common around Taiwan and which are immensely value-for-money which is again something unique to Taiwan (the concept was copied from Japan i think..cos its popular there too..)..another plus of Taiwan, u can get alot of delicious value-for-money meal deals here, even better than Malaysia and of course Australia..

Above: The famous 'Yonghe Doujiang Dian' where i always visit for supper or get takeaway cos its walking distance from my place in Taipei..the 豆浆,蛋饼,米浆,烧饼油条,葱油饼 are just some of my favourites:-)

Above: It is quite common to see stalls selling korean homemade kimchi at nightmarkets nowadays in Taipei and the above was one...indeed, Taiwanese nightmarkets nowadays sell not only taiwanese delicacies, but also japanese,korean, thai milktea,etc...

Above: A rare sight nowadays (according to my dad) of an old man pushing his bicycle along selling 烧肉粽 at the Dihua Traditional Food Street CNY Bazaar near 12am...
Above: Tasters for customers to try before buying...

Above: A crowded Dihua Traditional Food Street after 12am...

Above: Sashimi at Keelung Miaokou Nightmarket...many ppl dun know, japanese sashimi stalls are a staple at many taipei nightmarkets! And they're very fresh too! (and of cos cheaper than restaurants) So u know where to head to for fresh n cheaper sashimi next time in Taipei! The sashimi served comes from the same source as those in restaurants but without high rental/staff costs added into ur meal price..

Above: Keelung Miaokou Nightmarket..

Above: This famous dish at some hole in the wall eatery near Wanhua District i think...its eel's eggs in deepfry...very unique taste...
Above: Jiufen Chaikuai i think...

Above: This is quite possibly the most delicious and satisfying meal i had in my entire time in Taipei (besides my godmother's homecooked bowl of noodle gongwan soup), simple as it is, it's called 特制乾麺 and 白萝卜汤at the side..god i love the soup...its located just from the corner of the lane into my grandparent's house along Roosevelt tasted so unbelievably good...

Above: Some apparently expensive lunch buffet at a hotel on Zhongxiao East Road but it simply confirms my theory that Penang's hotel buffets are THE BEST and THE CHEAPEST for the same stuff u get in Taipei, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne, and where ever else i'm familiar with...
Above: Some vendors making Jian Rou Bao 煎肉包 Shida nightmarket...
Above:関東煮and 油饭...yummy....takeaway from Shilin Nightmarket....

Above: shilin 'coffin bread'...funny name...

Above: 台式米粉 at Shilin Nightmarket...i prefer the malaysian style one personally...
Above: Omg! they actually have Ootoya here too...this is a chain store in Japan serving affordable japanese teishoku..i found this in Bangkok too bck in 06..

Above: 木瓜牛奶 on Zhongshan Bei Lu...

Above: What i missed the most, along with other taiwanese delicacies, was this: 台湾清粥小菜

I dare say this is something unique to Taiwanese cuisine although chinese in other hokkien populated places also eat it as home-style cooking occasionally..its basically porridge with alot of taiwanese style side dishes...its often the simplest of taiwanese cuisine which taste the nicest...hhmmm...

Above and Below: Little Penang in......Taipei!!! This is a chain, upper class too mind you!...serving Southeast Asian food with its theme being my other hometown, Penang!! The guy in the pic is this random stranger whom appears to have lived in Penang before as he was telling the girl about Penang food,etc..but he wasn't malaysian by hic accent, prob a taiwanese whom happened to live in Penang before...

Above: Tofu-fa..Taiwanese style...with soft peanut, fen yuan...gosh i love taiwanese tofu-fa! Better than Malaysia's and DEFINITELY tastier than Hong Kong style ones...

Above and below: I ate alot of late-night suppers whilst in Taipei...above is
蛤蜊汤,肉燥面,squid,..and ice crush below..watched quite a few episodes of 光阴的故事 which was on repeated telecast everytime i had my supper...

Above: Gongguan...Gua Bao which is another Taiwanese specialty from mainland China....

Above: Usually, in alot of eateries in Taiwan, you tick what u want and hand it over to the waiter/ if u ever visit a shop which has something like the above, u know not to sit there dumbly and wait for the shop ppl to come and take ur order...

Above: Biscuits and cake at the (expensive) Eslite Cafe at Eslite 24hr Dunhua Bookstore...not really worth the money but cos it was open late and the atmosphere was nice and close by to where me and my primary school friend lives, we decided to have our little reunion there after at least 7 yrs...
Above: The longstanding Dinghao 哨子面and Gongwan 汤 at Zhongxiao East Road...Above and Below: Mantou and some ham (?) at Nanmen Shichang..

Above: A fav. of mine in Taiwan, Mi Tzu Huo Tui.....
Above: Famous Taiwanese sidedishes for the well-known Nanmen Market...

Above: Taiwanese ice crush....the one on the right tastes good, with my fav toppings of fen yuan and sweet potato,yummy!!!!!
Above: The flight back to Hong Kong, a typical Taiwanese meal on the airplane, Rurou Fan.
More food photos at my online photo album: