Thoughts of a Canadian Exchange Student

Lounging at Mint

Posted in Culture, Money, Night Life, Taipei by J on December 26, 2007


Humbly lying beneath Taipei 101 is a fantastic little lounge called Mint.

I went there with a bunch of friends on Ladies’ Night, and we all really enjoyed ourselves. It’s quite a classy place compared to Luxy and Lava. Despite having only 5 varieties of drinks to choose from, they were quite good. The dance floor, while a tad small, is lit up with colourful lights from beneath.

I liked the bathrooms! In each stall there is an individual sink.

Overall, the mood just oozes elegance within the darkness of the night. With only 100 NTD charge females, I’ll be sure to check out Mint again.


NTU’s Guitar Club Performance + Emil Chau (台大吉他社的表演+周華健)

Posted in Clubs, Culture, Night Life, NTU, Taiwanese People, University by J on December 26, 2007

A cool performance at the main student centre (活大). The club played through some songs that I knew, for example, one of Zhang Xuan’s (張懸) songs called “My Life Will.” Although, I quite prefer her “Darling” (寶貝) or “Scream” off her first CD, My Life Will…. I like “Appearance” (模樣) and “Like” (喜歡) off her second album, Oh, dear. dear. I haven’t. (親愛的。。。我還不知道) best.

It was a fun show to watch because the guitar playing wasn’t bad and the singing was good at times. I think a little bit more showmanship from the performers would have made the show slightly more interesting. Although, I didn’t get the little skits in between…apparently it was a club in-joke. Also, just as I was thinking to leave at the intermission, I decided to stay just to see how the end of the show would turn out.

After a neat music-incorporated-play-mood piece, a quite famous NTU alumni (apparently) took the stage. He was great! His name is Emil Chau (周華健) and is from Hong Kong. I really enjoyed listening to the music he sang, both in Mandarin and in English.

Sadly, I had to leave the performance and my friends I was watching it with a bit early because I had another engagement planned. Gah! I forgot to bring my camera that night.

Winter Solstice (冬至)

Posted in Culture, Exchange Students, Food, Learning, Night Life, Taipei by J on December 22, 2007


I was almost done when I remembered to take a picture…

Previously unknown to me was the Chinese celebration of the Winter Solstice [Dongzhi] (冬至). It’s a nice little celebration where families are supposed to gather together and eat tangyuan (湯圓) which are balls of glutinous rice in soup. I like mine in red bean soup with black sesame inside the tangyuan (紅豆芝麻湯圓) [pictured here]. So with a couple of friends, for the first time, I celebrated Dongzhi!

Walking Through the Neidong Forest (內洞森林) in Wulai (烏來)

Posted in Culture, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Taiwan, Transportation, Weather by J on December 16, 2007


I forgot to bring my camera to Neidong… So here’s an elephant from the zoo!

Just about an hour south outside of Taipei is Wulai (烏來) and the Neidong Forest (內洞森林). It’s known for its Atayal culture (a Taiwanese aboriginal group) and its hot springs.

Early Sunday morning, thanks to an invitation from some friends to go for a walk in the Neidong Forest, we motored off into a beautiful day. As I sat on the back of the scooter (hanging on for dear life while trying not to fall asleep) I kept thinking to myself that Taiwan was extraordinarily beautiful. Taiwan is so lush and green with vegetation, that the crests and valleys we zoomed by looked as if you could fall asleep upon them.

A short while later, we found ourselves doing some early morning exercise on the mountain at Neidong. 2.2km to the top of the trail and 2.2km back down again. The trail itself was okay, but the company was better. The waterfalls (near the bottom of the trail) were nice looking.

On our way back to Taipei, we stopped at the main tourist area in Wulai for some food. While there, I saw the hot springs. I’m certainly going to go back to Wulai! Now, I just have to wait until it gets cold enough…

ISWAK 2 Autograph Session (惡作劇2吻的簽名會)


L-R: Jiro Wang (汪東城), Joe Cheng (鄭元暢), Danson Tang (唐禹哲)

帥哥!帥哥!Hot boys are out and about in Taipei! For example, Jiro Wang (汪東城) on the left looks really handsome in person. Actually, more than anything, he was more pretty than handsome. But still, very good looking. And, he carries off his clothing very well.

Deciding to join some friends in checking out what an autograph session (簽名會) was like, I found myself at the Shilin Night Market (士林夜市). We were all waiting for the It Started With a Kiss 2 [ISWAK2] (惡作劇2吻) cast to come out.

After a bit of a wait (we waited for 4 hours, but we got there early), the cast came out. Unfortunately, Ariel Lin (林依晨), the actress who plays the main character, Xiangqin (湘琴), wasn’t in attendance.


Smiley, smiley!

I thought it quite funny that when the cast was posing for the fans to photograph them, they would all turn as one mass towards one side when the emcee shouted out, “turn left…right…centre!” But I have to admit that it is quite an intelligent approach to satisfying fans.

Also, to have the opportunity to handshake (if you wanted) the real people behind the fantasy world of television was neat in itself. After all, stars are no less human than we are.


Smiley, smiley!

A note on the fans:

I was so surprised that fans came from many different places to see these stars. Yes, they are quite famous, but wow! In addition to the majority of high school students that were there, there were even people from Japan and Korea in the audience! I have reason to think that some of them possibly flew in (an airplane) to have their ISWAK2 gear signed. Or they could have been foreigners who just happened to be in Taiwan at the time. Maybe Taiwan’s entertainment industry can do for Taiwan what Korea’s entertainment industry did for Korea.

Anyways, some of the fans’ ISWAK2 signs were so impressive. They were mostly all handmade, and this one sign had a huge picture drawn in the likeness of one of the stars. The dedication! However, this dedication is also kind of frightening at the same time.


Pretty, pretty!

For example, I saw one fan that was situated further back tell one that was further up front that standing wasn’t allowed because it was the sitting section. Actually, it was more of a fierce finger wagging, “no,” and a subsequent hand motion motioning downwards. Surprisingly, the one further up front obeyed.

Later, as we were all packed in very close together in a small space, I started thinking about what would happen if these fans started to riot…

The ISWAK2 autograph session was certainly an interesting experience!


The multitude begins early on in the afternoon…

Clubbing at Lava

Posted in Dorms, Exchange, Learning, Night Life, Taipei by J on December 13, 2007

For my second experience going clubbing, it was on the total opposite end of the spectrum as compared to my first time.

I liked it!

I guess it’s true that you have to try things more than once before you can totally write them off as being horrid.

Lin Family Mansion (林本源園邸)

Posted in Culture, Money, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Taiwan, Transportation by J on December 12, 2007


With some free time on my hands, I headed over to Banqiao (板橋) on the MRT to check out the Lin Family Mansion (林本源園邸).

This toasty afternoon, I arrived just in time to participate in a guided tour of private areas of the mansion. Tours are indeed useful (free, but entrance is 50 NTD for students).


I spent most of the afternoon just wandering around the grounds of the mansion, and as you can see in the model of the mansion, it is HUGE. As I was walking through it, I kept thinking about how pleasant it would be to live within this compound but also about how it would be also somewhat stifling. Stifling because to uphold all that tradition…

Nevertheless, it is beautiful inside and outside the buildings. I especially liked that when you were in the midst of the compound, you’re not able to see the modern city life that surrounds this mansion. The rumble of traffic ceases to be even white noise.


For my first time in a place like this, I quite liked it! I just wonder how the Lin family lived in such dark quarters for rooms. The windows were merely vertical slats that allowed hardly any light through. Perhaps they spent more time outdoors?

Xitou (溪頭) / Nantou (南投) / NTU Experimental Forest Trip


The hike picture.

What a lovely little weekend trip arranged by the IYC/Guoqing Dormitory (國青宿舍). On a very well-planned trip for the exchange and international students at NTU, we went to Xitou (溪頭) in Nantou County (南投), which is close to Taichung (台中). Xitou is part of the NTU Experimental Forest.

The first day, we set out from Taipei bright and early Saturday morning. I swear, food was the centrepiece of everything. From the first breakfast to the last dinner Sunday evening, we were extremely well provided for. The food was delicious! If you can imagine having practically a 10-course meal at a Chinese restaurant at every meal then you’ve imagined what we ate those two days. Well, just add the Taiwanese twist to it, and you’ve got it!


Would you willingly hurl yourself off a cliff?

For our first stop on our way to Xitou, we stopped at the Puli Brewery for lunch. Mmm… food.

As a surprise, we were offered the chance to go paragliding!! Unfortunately, the people allowed to go paragliding were limited. Despite that, it was a gorgeous day out to spend time lounging on a grassy field.


The prettiest thing about Sun Moon Lake in the dark: Their hotel.

After paragliding, we were shuttled over in the tour bus to Sun Moon Lake (日月潭). Apparently, it’s a very famous spot to visit in Taiwan. Ironically, by the time we made it to the lake, it was already dark. We didn’t get to see much of anything, but the boat ride was almost romantic. Aren’t all boat rides with 40 other people supposed to be romantic? Hah!

Oh, and be sure to eat some of the best tea eggs (茶葉蛋) in all of Taiwan while you’re at the lake. They’re better than the 7-11 ones.


The view from the accommodation place.

At the end of the day, we settled into our lodgings up on a mountain nearby. Supposedly it was cooler. Maybe being a Canadian makes me think everywhere is warm on Taiwan, winter or not. You know, because after all, Canadians live in igloos.

Canadian jokes aside, after a crispy and fun night, the next morning there were some tours to be had where we were staying. We had the option of hiking up to a pagoda or listening to a presentation about the making of tea. I went on the hike: The food needed to be worked off.


The bamboo bridge.

As a last activity before we went back to Taipei, we all piled into the bus and went over to explore the main part of the NTU Experimental Forest. I ended up in the group that went to take a look at the University Pond. Although we didn’t get to see the famed Sky Walk, the bamboo bridge was pretty cool. It’s rebuilt every year and it swings and sways and bounces as you walk across it. To make it even more fun, people completely disregard the sign that says that only a maximum of 10 people are to be on the bridge at a time. I really wanted to jump up and down on the bridge as I went across it…

And before I knew it, we were back in Taipei!


Temples, Temples, Temples

Posted in Academics, Chinese, Culture, NTU, Observations, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Thoughts, University by J on December 6, 2007


Taipei Confucius Temple

Thanks to a field trip arrange by my Chinese philosophy professor, with my class, we had the opportunity to take an actual look inside a Confucian temple. With a tour guide! In English! (See National Palace Museum post for why one should have a tour guide. You’ll be bored otherwise.)

When we were watching the film of one of the biggest Confucian ceremonies, Teachers’ Day, I remembered that in September of this year I didn’t go! NOooooOOoo, it looked so cool. So… ritualized and filled with meaning. As well as having special music played for it.

The Confucian temple itself was under construction (due to termites?), but that didn’t detract from the vibrant colours of the decorative adornments or from the Southern style swallow-tail architecture. At least that’s what I think the guide said.


Ritualized clothing for the Teachers’ Day ceremony.

After, we just crossed the street and, voila! We were in a Daoist/Buddhist temple. The Bao’an (大龍峒保安宮) temple was more 熱鬧 (lively) than the Confucian one. I was surprised that the Daoist and the Buddhist philosophies were combined into one temple. Actually, I was just very surprised overall that, if you wanted to, you could do an extremely quick tour of hitting up the Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist philosophy within 15 minutes.

From a very secular viewpoint, both temples were beautiful. Something new to learn everyday.


Bao’an Temple