rachelmanija: (Default)
( Mar. 5th, 2007 12:14 pm)
I think my favorite is either the cake shaped like a blowfish, or the one of myself being terrorized by a gigantic stag beetle.

Some of those I took, by the way, but I'm not sure which.

Oyce's Dad has been watching this movie on DVD for several days, so I keep seeing bits and pieces of it. It is set in historical-make-believe-China, and looks extraordinary: everything is gilded and ornamented and every shot displays about fifteen different brilliant colors, so every scene seems to be taking place inside a Faberge egg, or a stained-glass window. This is remarkable to look at, but makes it rather difficult to follow the story. Luckily, the story does not appear to be very complicated.

Every time I have glanced at the screen or even watched for extended periods, one or more of the following events is taking place: Gong Li drinking poisoned "medicine," looking pained and haughty; Gong Li's or the poison-carrying maid's breasts are prominently displayed, in corsets so they're practically popping out of their heavily ornamented dresses of cloth-of-gold; people hurrying down technicolored corridors; gigantic gilded and baroque doors opening or closing. The soundtrack appears to consist entirely of BOM! BOM! BOM!

Oyce's Mom wandered in at one point, glanced at all the gold onscreen, and remarked disapprovingly, "Too expensive."
This morning B learned a Chinese phrase which means, "I chicken," or possibly "I chickened." Oyce taught me to say "I am a chicken," but when I tried this useful phrase on her mother, I was informed that I had actually said "I am a prostitute" in Cantonese. I can see how that could be a cause of misunderstanding.

Today we went to an auntie's house and helped her prepare an enormous feast. By that I mean that I chopped up some salted hard-boiled eggs, Oyce chopped mushrooms, B fashioned lettuce leaves into cups to hold fried rice, and N watched. Three large crabs were dispatched by stabbing them through their little hearts with chopsticks, and a pan of shrimp lay on the counter and occasionally leaped out.

The crabs were steamed, two plain and one in a butter and garlic sauce, and there was plenty for everyone. The shrimp were steamed with a spicy dipping sauce, and followed by the lettuce leaves with fried rice, a cabbage casserole, pumpkin with preserved egg, sweet rich spare rib chunks, bok choy, and chicken soup made with two hens (it was very chickeny.)

The auntie who cooked all this went to cooking school, by the way. I think she could easily teach at cooking school.

Lest we grow faint from hunger before all this was served, as appetizers we were given rolls of sticky rice stuffed with pickled radish and soft bread surounding crispy bread, plus some sweet squid jerky and "pork floss," which is highly addictive sheets of pork jerky of the approximate thickness and crispness of toasted nori (seaweed.) Cooking auntie very kindly gave me a bag of this, as I may not have time to go to the food market and buy some to bring back to the US. "Better put it in a box," she warned. "Otherwise you'll end up with minced pork.'

I am told that we are going to a banquet tonight. I am hoping that I will have a chance to hit the treadmill in between.
I forgot to mention that the hotel with the pharoah cherubs and the fake water drops also had key cards that frequently failed to open the doors, leaving us stranded outside till help arrived. Oyce, myself, Oyce's sister N., and N's friend B shared a room.

The first morning, B asked Oyce the words for hot and cold in Chinese. When Oyce replied, B said,"Oh, that doesn't work then... I wondered because the taps are labeled F and C, and I thought it might be in Chinese."

"Maybe the F is a badly-printed H." I suggested.

"F is cold and C is hot," said B. "Otherwise I would have guessed it was caldo and frio."

"Fahrenheit and Celsius?" I offered. Everyone heartily scorned that plausible theory.

It turned out that the taps were labeled in French, for chaud and froid.

The hotel was but one of the ways in which Taiwan kind of reminds me of India. Others are the markets with the food stalls and crowds of people, the narrow market streets packed with pedestrians, cars, and scooters, and the old gates at Hsinchu, in which the city grew outward from the original, so that the old city gates now mark the city center. It is generally much cleaner and less polluted, though, and as far as I am aware, India has no six-deep freeway overpasses, as I was impressed with in Taipei.

Plus, there are no random animals roaming the roads. There are quite a lot of tiny dogs in clothing, though. I saw a white fluffy dog in a dress and a chihuahua in overalls being pushed in a perambulator.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Feb. 21st, 2007 11:46 pm)
I am having a great time! In particular, the food here is terrific.

It is now Year of the Pig and there are images of pigs all over the place, plus a cage of two adorable black and white piglets in a park. Despite the multiple jokes passerbys were making about suckling pork, I think those were pets. At least, they were being cuddled by a woman who seemed to be their owner and were wearing fancy collars.

We started the New Year with a banquet with family and miscellaneous aunties and family friends, with many, many courses. At the end, a lion dancer came in, accompanied by drums. Oyce's father is a wine fancier, and so all meals have plenty of good wine. I am sadly not a conoisseur, though I enjoy it. But mostly I appreciated the food. I have so far had somethign like four multi-course banquets. It is amazing. At the last one, just as we all thought it was over, we were each presented with a small lobster tail!

We left Taipei and (again with miscellaneous aunties, friends, etc) took a bus to a hotel outside of a forest, which is not so much like Yosemite or aomething very wild of that nature, but more like a park with lots of moss and very big trees. Cedars, I think. The drive up into the mountains was very Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, all thick mist and green bamboo, but the park/forest had broad paved roads and paths, plus a number of reindeer made out of logs. I suggested that (peering at the map, which had some English notations) that we walk to the "Giant Rock" but that suggestion was quashed. After we all ended up exhausted one-quarter of the way up a mountain which had the Giant Rock on top (or miles off in the opposite direction, I forget which), I understood why.

The slightly strange hotel, which in some ways reminded me of eccentric Indian hotels I have known, had magnificent huge pillars which looked like marble but, when tapped, proved to be hollow plastic. Polished cherubs made of black metal, in golden pharoah headdresses, flanked a display to celebrate the Year of the Pig. In the hotel rooms, the transparent shower walls appeared to be thickly beaded with water, but upon touching them, we found that they were completely dry, and this effect was created by applying clear plastic lumps to the walls. I am not sure why.

At dinner in the hotel that night, we were served bowls of bamboo and chicken soup at the start of the meal. At its conclusion, we were served a tureen of the same soup again. I am pretty sure that was a mistake.

To amuse ourselves on the bus trip, we began playing "Initials," in which one person supplies the initials of a person (or animal, etc), and the others must guess who it is via yes-no questions. This leads to many amusing moments when the character is in an anime or manga, as many basic questions can be ambiguous. For instance, this:

Oyce: "Is she dead or alive [by the end of the story]?"

Me: "Hard to say."

Oyce: "Is she a zombie?"

Me: "Um... no."

Oyce: "Is she a robot?"

Me: "Not really."

Oyce: "Is she immortal?"

Me: "Maybe in a way?"

Oyce: "Is she human?"

Me: "Sort of."

(This was a character from Neon Genesis Evangelion, and if you've seen it, you'll know which one.)

I must go to bed now as I have to return to Taipei tomorrow, but will write more later. Probably with many descriptions of food.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Feb. 18th, 2007 11:33 am)
Happy New Year from me and [livejournal.com profile] oyceter!

Yesterday the four of us (me, Oyce, Oyce's sister, Oyce's sister's friend, hereby abbreviated as 4) wandered out in search of soup dumplings. On the way we stopped at a doughnut shop called Mister Donut, a chain from Japan, and got twelve donuts, about six of which we ate while searching for dumplings. (Must go, more later!)
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Feb. 17th, 2007 10:06 am)
I'm in Taiwan! I haven't done anything yet, except arrive and be collected by [livejournal.com profile] oyceter and her sister and her sister's friend. Taiwan has impressive freeway overpasses (about six stacked up at one point) and the world's tallest building (but from the distance I saw it, I couldn't tell.) There are beautiful purple orchids set about the apartment building.

I am looking forward to actually seeing the sights. And eating, of course.


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