5 Delicious Ways to Enjoy an Authentic Taipei Breakfast

5 Delicious Ways to Enjoy an Authentic Taipei Breakfast

The Hong Kongers have their congee and wanton mee. Singaporeans have their prata and kaya toast. But what do the Taiwanese enjoy for their mornings?

A lot has been said about their street food but if you’re making a visit to Taipei, we highly recommend you get a taste of Taiwan through the breakfast menu too.

Breakfast is not only the most important meal of the day, but also the best time of the day to see Taiwanese from all walks of life mill about steaming stoves as they prepare for their day. The population cross-section includes dandy office types to chatty school children, as well as genial nannies and hardworking labourers.

To break it all down, the formula for a standard local breakfast will be made up of three items – some form of carbs, eggs, or soya bean product. Here are 5 delicious examples we urge you to try.

 1. Scallion Pancakes

Like savoury crepes, scallion pancakes can be found anywhere you look in Taipei. It comes in all sorts of variations with different add-on ingredients but we swear by the standard egg and onion variety.

Try the ones at Zhicheng Soy Bean, where the crispy skin gives way to the teeth to a fluffy inside. This Yangmingshan institute will brighten up anyone’s morning. Also highly recommended is the chives bento which is a fragrant bomb of bee hoon with chives and shrimps. But be advised, only 60 boxes are available each day!

Zhicheng Soy Bean

No. 2-4, Section 1, Zhicheng Road, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111

2. Taiwanese Omelette

Another favourite item, the Taiwanese omelette isn’t that wobbly mound you often see, but a heavenly pairing of flaky pastry and egg seared and folded together into a roll. The savoury tube can be filled with other choice fillings like cheese or pork floss, but again, the original is best.

Savour this at Bus Pancake Square in Neihu where they specialise in six flavours, and the reward for venturing into this suburban area is an authentic dose of Taipei’s slice of life and one of the city’s best omelettes.

Bus Pancake Square

No. 193, Section 2, Neihu Road, Neihu District, Taipei City, Taiwan 114

3. Soya Bean Everything

You can’t, and shouldn’t, miss anything soya bean-related at a Taiwanese breakfast table. The bean gets transformed into beverage, pudding, curd and whatchamacallit, acting as the perfect accompaniment to any dish on this list.

But it’s perfect partner is obviously, the crunchy and unashamedly greasy you tiao (dough fritter). Get them at the famous Yonghe Soy Milk and start plonking those sticks into the warm soy milk bowls and sop up the sweet goodness. Feel free to order the many other items on their menu, and at any time of the day too because they are open 24/7!

Yong He Soy Milk King

No. 102, Section 2, Fuxing South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106

4. Fritter Buns

Also known as shao bing (literally roasted biscuits), the dough fritters are wrapped with egg and a toasted bun to form a morning sandwich. The crunch and crackle from this item is a surefire snap to the morning with its taste and texture.

The snaking line at Fu Hang Soy Milk is an indication of how popular this joint is, and you can accompany your fritter buns with their creamy soy milk for a decadent meal. If you’re feeling adventurous, try their savoury soy milk which comes curdled with dried shrimp, pickled veggies and more fritter. You’ll either love it or hate it.

Fuhang Soy Milk

100, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongzheng District, Section 1, Zhongxiao East Road, 108

5. Rice Rolls

A traditional favourite that is not as easily found as the rest these days, the hearty rice roll is glutinous rice with radish, egg, pork floss or fritter bits bundled like a chinese burrito. The sticky rice endures nicely in your tummy to keep you going if you are anticipating a late lunch, and the various kinds of filling options keeps any taste bud types happy.

We think Liu Mama Rice Ball at Hangzhou South Road is particularly handy with their rolls, and they even include purple rice for the health-conscious! Go all the way with their red rice milk here, an alternative to the standard soy.

Liu Mama Rice Ball

106, Taiwan, Taipei City, Da’an District, Section 2, Hangzhou South Road, No. 88

While no single food list for Taiwan can be exhaustive, we think including a breakfast itinerary in your food journey for your next visit can be rewarding not only for your tummy, but also for your experience. Amidst the bustling tables, we are sure you will find heaven in the delicious platter before you, and the smiles from the locals around you. Zao an ni hao!

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7 Best Souvenirs to Bring Back From Russia

7 Best Souvenirs to Bring Back From Russia

Oh if only we could bring the Kremlin back. And so, some of us do, in the form of miniature replicas we find at the local Moscow gift shop. But even that’s better than getting a bottle of Vodka because – hey, that’s what’s Russia is all about right? Their Vodka?

But seriously, if you’re looking to get yourself some tokens to better represent Russia’s powerful and vibrant culture, try to look past the magnets, models and clear alcohol.

1. Matryoshka Doll

These need no introduction. Nesting dolls, with their adorable designs, are one of Russia’s most popular and visible souvenirs. And although the origins are arguably Japanese or Chinese, they are now cemented as Russia’s souvenir mascot. Usually carved from wood and hand-painted in bright colours, we think it’s best to harken back its roots and get one in the form of a peasant woman. The name is based on the latin word for mother and matriosha was frequently used by peasant, you see. Unsurprisingly, they also represent fertility. You can find anything from sets of three up to ten easily, but a signature at the bottom usually accompanies those made by artists, which though pricier, is recommended for its quality.

2. Charoite Jewellery

If you’re into semi-precious stones, try getting some pieces made in Charoite. While Malachite from the Ural region is widely popular and Baltic Amber incredibly sought after, the purple Charoite can only be found in Siberia and nowhere else. From a soft lavender to a rich violet, the stone carries a mesmerising pattern and pearly lustre that can only be described as magical. Named after the Chara River in the Sakha Republic, you can find this crystal formed into pendants, rings and even ornamental totems like the Spirit of Baikal. Get a piece of Russia literally with this indigenous rock.

3. Samovar Kettle

Yes, you might find these metallic vase-shaped kettles in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Iran and even Afghanistan, but the ones in Russia are usually finely decorated with paintings that lend themselves to a perfect tea parlour setting. These boiling machines were first recorded as being made by the Russian Lisitsyn brothers, Ivan Fyodorovich and Nazar Fyodorovich, and are used to brew a perfect cup of tea. Antiques are usually incredibly ornamented with filigree and fine metalwork to hold the charcoal, but these days you can find beautiful ones that still use electricity.

4. Palekh and Fedoskino Lacquer Boxes

It may look like it’s wooden, but these beautiful lacquered boxes started as paper mache! It erupted into the scene after the fall of Imperial Russia and former icon carvers had to find new jobs. The village of Palekh and Fedoskino are best-regarded for their workmanship. Usually depicting scenes of Russian fairytale and folklore, the charming vignettes are immortalised in layers of lacquer and miniature painting, often featuring mother-of-pearl, gold or silver leaf for that extra shimmer. It’s a precious gift as a display-worthy travel keepsake and will evoke Russia every time you open it.

5. Caviar

Treat yourself to some delicious luxury. Caviar, with its inimitable texture and taste, is truly a symbol of prosperity. Sometimes, the average Russian family might even save up the whole year just to get a tin for their New Year celebrations. Eat it with white bread and butter like the locals do, or scoop a mound on a spoon and enjoy the explosion the delicacy offers. Red caviar is much cheaper than the legendary black caviar but just as tasty, but if you’re all about the best, go for the ones of the Beluga, Ossetra and Sevruga variety. After you’re finished (nooooooo!), keep the gorgeous tin cans as mementos.

6. Birch Wood Boxes

Found abundantly in Russia, birch trees produce wood that are incredibly pliant yet strong, and are even waterproof! In the past, peasants would even carry flasks of kvass (rye bread beverage) in them. You can now find all types of birch crafts in imaginative forms, from bags to boxes, with carvings or clever layering of birch bark to make intricate and beautiful patterns. The larger ones can be used to keep rice, pasta or beans, while smaller ones make for dainty keepsake boxes.

7. Gzhel Porcelain

Another visually recognisable keepsake from Russia, Gzhel porcelain pieces feature floral designs painted with black-coloured cobalt oxide that turn blue after firing. The ceramic pieces hailing from the village of Gzhel and the area has been famous for their clay work since the 16th century, and every piece from plate to mug to pot is always handpainted. This makes every piece a unique object of art— a blue and white masterpiece— from a Russian craftsperson.

For the best gift-shopping experience, head over to pretty Old Arbat or the massive Izmailovsky Market on the east side of Moscow. And if you can, we think May gives the best weather for shopping. Prepare an extra bag because some of the items on this list are both precious and fragile, but we guarantee once they are back home and placed as a prized representation on the shelf, you’ll know the effort was worth it.

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8 Ways to Have a Creative Retreat in Bali

8 Ways to Have a Creative Retreat in Bali

You know the crowded beaches of Kuta and the bustling restaurants of Seminyk, but Bali is supposed to be all “Eat. Pray. Love.” right? Well, it is – if you know where to look.

The idyllic paradise of Bali has become one of the world’s fastest tourist-transformed destinations, and has endured the years to remain a hot spot. And while this might have changed the vibe, be assured that a retreat can still be within reach.

If you’re trying to find refuge and a mind spa on the island, here are some ways to fall in love with the original contemplative spirit of Bali.

1. Be Healed

Begin your sojourn with a spiritual refreshment. Since the aforementioned movie, traditional Balinese healers known as Balians have been sought out to provide physical and spiritual therapy to the mind and spirit. While Ketut Liyer has passed on, Wayan Nuriasih who also appears in the movie is still very much active in Ubud.

For the curious and believers, Balinese traditional healing is a rejuvenating session with a different perspective. For the skeptic, it can be taken as a cultural exchange that may yet surprise you with the degree of rejuvenation that follows.

2. Get Grounded

It can be a good idea to stay connected with the earth. Even planes do that once in a while.

If you’re the sort who loves their aviation, Bali has collected some abandoned planes that are free to be explored. Rumours are that these shells were purchased to be turned into tourist attractions but were neglected, and so have organically turned into one themselves!

There’s one you can spot from Benoa Square in southern Kuta, or respectfully shoot the one near Pandawa Beach in Bukit Peninsula. If you really love the forgotten, go to the one atop the closed Gate 88 Mall. Seeing these may be a good reminder of how time treats all things fairly, and help you sort your priorities right.

3. Fire up the Energy

Giving a nod to the active volcanic island, we now pay homage to the element of fire with a Kecak show.

Choosing the right one can be tricky as they are popular with tourists, but the best one we reckon is at Uluwatu Temple.

The rich display of culture and theatrics is especially stunning when set against the scenic backdrop, and the natural amphitheatre is framed by brilliant sunsets and the roaring ocean. It’s a vivid performance and one that will briefly teleport you out of your heritage and into another world full of power and energy.

4. Dive Deep into Prayer

Well, sort of. Over at Nusa Lembongan, there’s an underwater temple garden with submerged Buddha statues!

Pick up a snorkel set and weave among the stone pieces, many of which have become home to a lively habitat of coral and fish. Floating among the waters is calming in itself, but seeing these meditative images below the water adds to the amazing serenity.

Then face off with another aspect of the element, as you witness the spectacular blow hole of Nusa Dua. 30 minutes from the popular beach, you will find a natural water feature (especially during high tide) when strong waves will push water out from a blow hole.

5. Feel Your Mortality

Something a little macabre, but sobering and profound, is to visit the mountainous village of Trunyan. Why? Because they don’t bury their dead.

You’ll find bodies placed in open bamboo cages and left to the elements below a Banyan tree. Once clean of flesh, the skulls are cleaned and placed together with others to make a shrine. Partly curious sight, but more an unabashed look at death, a visit will surely have you understanding your own place in the universe as you stand in contemplation by the eastern shores of Mt. Batur.

6. Then Laugh it All Away

It’s not making it trivial, it’s about understanding what matters. 

There are many spiritual workshops and classes but the airiest has to be the Laughing Yoga at Ambar Ashram in Ubud.

It may seem silly to the onlooker but if you release your judgement and go with the flow, both physically and mentally, you’ll find that a chortle and giggle really has an immense impact on your psyche.

Couple that with some stretching and body movements and you’ll soon be flowing with the universe once again.

7. Get Your Hands Dirty 

There’s just something about nurturing your own nourishment that is incredibly rewarding. Knowing where our food comes connects us deeply to the land and urban farming is a reflection of that desire.

Over at The Organic Farm, you will have an opportunity to really cultivate produce. While others are snapping pictures of padi fields, you will be wading through the muddy rice terraces to actually plant or harvest some.

The experience will leave you appreciating that the process is not just labour, but a skillful tradition that will give you a greater appreciation of the value of sustenance.

8. Sail Into the Sunset

There’s plenty of water-based activities in Bali but they most often cater to the adventurous. We don’t think water-skiing or surfing, as fun as they are, are built to relax the mind or bond with others.

Luckily there’s options like dinner cruises that sets the pace to a nice stroll on the waters. Bali Hai II is a luxury catamaran with state-of-the-art amenities to sail you into the sunset with style. There are three decks of enjoyment, catering to all types of groups.

The main deck offers air-conditioned comfort with a buffet and bar ideal for catching up and great conversations. Afterwards, move to the open promenade for panoramic views as the sun paints the skies with golds and pinks. Finally, party the night away on the bridgedeck with live music and cabaret, to celebrate under the stars with cocktails in hand.

Getting Around

You’ll find plenty of transport touts in Bali and it can get quite overwhelming to the point that you can’t think straight. And sadly, ride apps like Grab are frowned upon by the taxi operators so it may not be the best option at popular spots.

We recommend using the Bluebird taxi app to get trusty metered service when you’re getting around or going with recommendations from where you’re staying. It’s also easy to make friends in Bali – Indonesians are among the friendliest people on the planet! – so ask around to get help.

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Fusing Art and Food Experiences in Taipei

Fusing Art and Food Experiences in Taipei

Singaporeans have such a love affair with the irresistible street food of Taipei, our favourite food spots are already pinned on Google Maps long before we land in the city. Exiting Taoyuan Airport, we make a beeline for the famous beef soup noodles, bubble tea, and then the night markets. But what if we told you, it is also possible to satisfy your insatiable affection for its street food at “hipster” spaces in the city that provide a creative and visually-arresting backdrop for your Instagram stories?

Taipei is fast establishing itself as the cultural capital of Asia. Its development has been homegrown and organic, driven by young artists seeking an avenue to assert their Taiwanese identity. The result is a thriving art scene that is forward-thinking, while proudly retaining its cultural traditions.

We have drawn up a neat little list of museums, galleries and artsy districts for you to add to your next visit to Taipei, so couple it with your food pilgrimage and it might just surprise you. 

1. Songshan Cultural and Creative Park

Formerly a tobacco factory, this space reopened as a creative park in 2011, and now houses the Taiwan Design Museum, bookshops, boutique stores and workshops for artisan crafts.

The Japanese Early Modernism architectural style is distinct here – the emphasis on horizontal lines and symmetry is apparent as you wander through its history in the boiler room, nursery room and the tobacco factory. Exhibitions and shops are concentrated in the tobacco factory, with a Baroque Garden at the heart of it, allowing ample light to flow through its industrial grey facade. 

After immersing yourself in the arts, enjoy lunch at the TMSK Xiao Shan Tang Restaurant, which is interestingly housed in the old repair plant. 

Address

No.133 Guangfu South Road, Taipei, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110

Opening Hours

Daily from 9 AM to 6 PM

2. Huashan 1914 Creative Park

For those looking to escape the busy streets of Taipei, then Huashan 1914 Creative Park will reward visitors with its large space, which tastefully fuses industrial with organic style. Once the premises of a sake-producing wine factory, the space fell into disuse and was earmarked for demolition, before local artists fought for it to be repurposed as a creative centre.

The same energy that brought Huashan 1914 Creative Park to life is evident in the community of young aspiring Taiwanese artists who created the third wave coffee shops, bars, indie brands, specialty stores and art exhibits here today. Kids will especially enjoy the colourful upside-down house with all its quirks and will inspire some imaginative and fun shots for sure.

Address

No. 1, Section 1, Bade Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100

Opening Hours

Daily from 9:30 AM to 9 PM

3. Dadaocheng

If there’s one neighbourhood to rival the hipster cred of Tiong Bahru in Singapore, it’s Dadaocheng. Highly recommended by our Taiwanese friends (some arguing it’s worth spending a full day here), Dadaocheng embodies the very essence of Taipei.

There is an intoxicating mix of traditional and modern— shops selling dried goods and traditional Chinese medicines are lined up against hipster east-meets-west cafes and art galleries, all equally important parts of Taiwan’s unique identity.

Centred on Dihua Street, the main artery of Dadaocheng boosts an impressive host of Baroque style buildings, Hokkien shophouses and redbrick Western bungalows. The best part of it? Dadaocheng packs everything into a compact area, making it a great destination for a day trip. The famous Ningxia Night Market is right next door— migrate over for a well-deserved treat once you’ve fed your camera with Instagram-worthy shots.

Address

Datong District, Taipei 103, Taiwan

Opening Hours

Daily 24hours

4. Four Four South Village

Shopping around Taipei 101? Why not step into the Four Four South Village, conveniently located right at the foot of the imposing Taipei 101? There is a real collision of new and old as you step into the village, built as the first military residence in Taipei.

A section of the village has been carefully restored while retaining its faded grey facades, with the main hall occasionally hosting photography exhibitions. If you’re looking to grab a quick bite and rest those tired feet, the art centre-café-lifestyle store Good Cho’s has the reputation of having Taipei’s best bagels. Come on the second and fourth Saturday of every month, where the village comes alive with the arrival of its flea market, packed with food stalls and local artisans selling DIY handicrafts.

Address

No.54, Songqin St, Xinyi Dist, Taipei 110, Taiwan

Opening Hours

Daily from 9 AM to 4 PM

5. Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA)

The Museum of Contemporary Art accords the curious tourist the opportunity to dive deeper into Taiwan’s vibrant art scene. Housed in a Japanese colonial-era redbrick building, the museum features exhibitions from international contemporary artists and emerging talents of Taiwan. This family-friendly museum offers daily guided tours, and regularly hosts workshops which allow children to express themselves artistically, wherever their imagination leads them.

With rotating exhibitions, it makes for repeat visits to appreciate why the museum is so influential in leading Taiwan and the rest of Asia in the discussion of more taboo topics in the region.

Packing your luggage already? It can be difficult finding new places to discover in a city so well-known and familiar to many— and first-timers can find themselves easily overwhelmed with food. We hope this list has motivated you to explore another side of Taipei and give you cultural side dish to balance your trip!

Address

No. 39 Chang-an West RdTaipei 103, Taiwan

Opening Hours

Tuesday to Sunday 10 AM to 6 PM (Closed on Monday)

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How to Enjoy Chiang Mai’s Yee Peng Lantern Festival in 2019

How to Enjoy Chiang Mai’s Yee Peng Lantern Festival in 2019

Mention Chiang Mai and most people will have the impression of lazy afternoons and golden temples. They’re not wrong, but Chiang Mai’s unique location in the north of Thailand also means a culture that is especially different. Think Peranakan but Thai-style!

Chiang Mai was a key area of the Lanna Kingdom, partly due to the presence of the Ping river. The waterway’s influence has had such an impact on trade, transport and lifestyle for the people, that an additional festival known as the Yee Peng or Yi Peng lantern festival now precedes the famous Loy Krathong of Thailand, and is an event worth going to for new and return visitors alike.

What is Yee Peng Lantern Festival?

Happening sometime in November as the mercury falls to a comfortable 15-25 degrees, Yee Peng is celebrated on the full moon of the twelfth Thai lunar month or second Lanna lunar month.

What you can expect, is a city transformed by light, sound and colour on such a scale that the whole place feels like a theme park. From colourful lanterns on trees to glittering candles on the streets, Chiang Mai becomes a glowing beacon to all things good for three special days.

Is Yee Peng Lantern Festival the Same As Loy Krathong ?

Having Brahmanic origins means that light is always a big part of a symbolic celebration. And while Loy Krathong is about showing gratitude to the River Goddess for a bountiful harvest via a crafted floatable decorated with flowers and candles, Yee Peng is more about paying respects to Buddha and releasing your bad luck, grudges, and suffering through rice paper lanterns floating into the sky. So since these two are cosmic siblings, you can expect a double dose of an illuminating experience, not only for the camera but for your soul as well.

Where to Experience Yee Peng Lantern Festival?

The epicentre of all releases are usually held at Mae Jo University, and big, timed events like these are usually ticketed so don’t think you can just stroll right in! We’re talking about thousands of people yes, thousands— gathering for a grand cause so some type of crowd control is needed of course. As part of their efforts to prevent fire hazards, the government has also limited areas where such grand events take place. With tighter limitations, it is always a good idea to book tickets well in advance.

If you’re lucky enough to join in, be prepared early and head to the site well before release time. This will factor in the likely traffic jam that will occur, as well as give you time to find a good spot or grab some free food— yes, free because Chiang Mai is generous that way.

An hour before the release, monks in saffron robes will begin their chanting and ceremony and the place falls into a peaceful hush. Wait for instruction— and don’t worry there will be someone guiding you then release your woes into the sky with thousands of others and enjoy the spectacle.

Pray that your light disappears into the night sky gradually because this means that your bad luck has been completely erased for the year! But also get ready your cameras because this is the real-life Untangled, as the cloud of light billows into the night sky. 

 

Beyond the light show, you’ll also find many colourful activities happening around town. This is something they’ve been doing since the 13th century, so you can expect a rich display of tradition, culture and craft.

There’s the Yee Peng Parade that circles the Old City area, accompanied by live music and handicraft sessions. Food vendors will pop up, some with home-made goodies, and expect firecrackers that will light up the atmosphere with a raucous bang. There are also traditional dance shows that might happen, but all in all, as you walk around, you will not see a relaxed city, but a gathering of culture and celebrations.

Other Places in Chiang Mai to Witness the Enchanting Sight

If you’re the sort who fancies a smaller crowd, there are alternative places where informal groups release their lanterns. Try asking about the Cowboy Army Riding Club or Nawarat Bridge from locals and join them they are particularly welcoming during this period!

Alternatively, if you would like to just bear witness, you can pick out some choice rooftop bars and hotels to see the occasional light-up that floats up during the three-day festival. Sleepwalker Hotel and The Bridge Luxotel is located right beside Nawarat, or hang out by the river at eateries like The Good View and Deck 1.

 

If you wish to gain some lead time on the others, Le Jardin De Maejo is a quiet little establishment that is much closer to the University for those joining in. And if you’re looking to enjoy some quiet time away from the main city, Horizon Village Resort is located 20 minutes away and has their own botanic garden and waterways for you to unwind after your day in Chiang Mai. Who knows, maybe they might even let you float your private blessings in their compound!

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The Geography of Vietnamese Cuisine

When it comes to food, Singaporeans are spoilt for choice. Whether you’re craving for a comforting bowl of ramen or a hearty local zi char, a simple search on the internet will point you the nearest restaurant. Singaporeans are unabashedly patriotic to food (and...

This Hole-In-The-Wall Café in Tokyo Raises the Bar for Latte Art

How do you usually begin your day? Getting a cup of joe to settle your nerves, so they don’t later fray? According to the latest scientific research by the University of Toronto, it shows that just by looking at a cup of coffee can make one feel more alert and...

Sakurai: The Ultimate Tokyo Tea Experience

The season of Autumn is upon us, though it hardly matters to those of us who reside near the Equator. In Japan however, it means that temperatures are slowly dropping, typically reaching a cool range of about 23˚C to 28˚C in the day. With clear skies and cooling...

7 Common Travel Scams Seen Around the World

Some of us have been there, gullible enough to trust that friendly local who is going out of his/her way to help us, or so we thought. In that vulnerable moment of distress, anyone who offers help, is a true saint and saviour. Then, before you know it, in the literal...

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