Saturday, December 28, 2013

淡水 (Danshui / Tamsui)

Danshui* is a must-see in the Taiwan tourist world. On Danshui Old Street (淡水老街 / Dànshuǐ lǎo jiē), you can find unique and traditional shops and food such as A-Gei (阿給) and Iron Eggs (鐵蛋 / Tiě dàn).  It's nicely situated on a riverside so you can enjoy all this with a nice sunset/nice view.

However, it rains a lot in Danshui, so wait for a clear day in Taipei and then you'll be set for a great day out. As the most north stop on the Taipei Metro, it's only a short 40 minute train ride from Taipei Main Station (that's less than the amount of time it takes me to get to Central station in Sydney...).

After a visiting Danshui countless times over the past few years, I have come up with a few of my favourite things to do/see/eat in Danshui.

My favourite thing to do around the Danshui area is bike riding along the riverside. They have a dedicated bike path making it an easy and scenic bike ride. If catching the MRT, get off a few stops before Danshui at Guandu (關渡). There's a bike rental just outside the station where you can hire a bike for the day from 100 NTD. I would recommend bike riding up the left side of the river to Bali (八里), which is right across the river from Danshui. It should only take about an hour and the left side has less people. If you rent a bike from Guandu, you can return the bike to to their shop in either Bali or Danshui. You can take a ferry from Bali to Danshui (or vice versa) which can be paid for with an EasyCard and you can even take a bike onto the ferry. I personally don't think there's much to see in Bali which you can't see in Danshui, but the ferry ride is quite nice.

However, if you choose to do this bike ride - make sure you keep asking for directions. Even though there's a dedicated bike path, I got lost both times I tried this route. The first time, I ended up with a sprained ankle after dangerously riding on the super busy main road after not being able to find the bike path. The second time, we found the bike path but we rode in the opposite direction for about 20 minutes... So learn from my mistakes - make sure after every turn, you ask someone for directions until you're 100% confident you're going the right way!

For good views of the river, Fort San Domingo (紅毛城 / Hóng máo chéngwould be up there on my list. It's an old Dutch Castle that's open for the public to explore. From the MRT station, you will need to catch shuttle bus red 26 to the castle. You also have the opportunity to get nice and cosy with some hunky men. Who would say no to that?

Besides the traditional food, my favourite thing to eat in Danshui is matcha soft serve. Around the station, you can find lots of vendors selling super long soft serves at ridiculously cheap prices. But in my opinion, that stuff is nasty. If you want a good soft serve, you will need to walk up a bit on the main road (about 10 minutes from the station). Look out for the Ten Ren Tea (天仁茗茶). They have stores all over Taiwan, but as far as I know, this is the only store that sells matcha soft serves. If you're a fan of matcha soft serves, this is the place to go. (Sorry I tried looking for the exact address on Google Maps but I could find it...)

*Danshui is sometimes also romanized as 'Tamsui'. I prefer 'Danshui' because it sounds more like the actual Mandarin.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What is Kaohsiung?

What's there to do in Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city?

There are warm sunny days (unlike the constant rain in Taipei). You can take a romantic boat ride along the Love River. You can see a couple of the world's most beautiful subway stations. You can shop til you drop at East Asia's largest shopping centre.

But be careful, there's noisy construction work everywhere. One side of the road might be completely new and clean, while the other side is dirty and battered. You might see a gang of 怪叔叔 (lit. 'weird uncles') chilling on some old couches at the park checking you out. 

Welcome to my mum's hometown. Over the past decade, the government have been working hard to transform this city. They've cleaned up the streets, built a subway, built fancy new buildings. I look forward to seeing what they can make out of this city. Just how many of the streets can they clean up? Will it become that cultural and avant-garde mecca which the government so desires?

But still, we can't forget the joy of the simple things such as tea-making on an old Chinese chess board, or wind blowing through your hair as you speed down a highway on a scooter.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Taiwan, my jungle

 Elephant Mountain. The perfect sunset spot in Taipei.

Night view from Yangmingshan.

Taiwan, Taiwan, Taiwan. The country I've been back to countless times yet I still find myself loving new things about it each time. The six weeks I spent in Taiwan during my summer (Taiwan's winter) on a language and culture study program was truly an eye-opening and unforgettable experience. The people I met, the sights I saw, the food I ate, left me amazed at the beauty and intricacy of God's creation.

And here I am to share my experiences with you.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


A mixture of contemporary art, cute cafes, streets of shopping and beautiful scenery. Seoul is my kind of city.

This post is quite delayed, seeing as I went to Seoul at the beginning of December last year. It was the first time I saw snow in a city (I've been to the Snowy Mountains in Australia, but that just doesn't compare with it actually full on snowing while going around shopping and city exploring). To the state the obvious, it was incredibly cold. I packed on as many layers as possible (thank goodness for Uniqlo Heatech). The wind blew around the snow, leaving any exposed area of skin freezing cold. With heaters blasting indoors, going in and out of shops was quite a hassle where layers of clothing had to be constantly taken on and then off.

Nonetheless, my five days in Seoul were still enjoyable. The snow was definitely quite beautiful and exciting to see in real life. It was a short trip, which involved visiting tourist sites such as Gyeongbok Palace, shopping, and going to as many cafes as possibles.

Myeondong was so good for shopping. Streets and streets of massive stores. I started around 6pm and stayed until all the shops closed at around 11pm. However, I was slightly disappointed by shopping in Seoul. I was expecting a shopper's paradise but compared to Taipei, the shopping experience is around the same (and Korean clothes aren't any cheaper in Korea).

Korean cafes are so good. I love their emphasis on interior design and decor. Even the coffee art! Although my coffee was only warm, not hot, when I received it, the coffee art definitely made up for it. However, beware - coffee can be quite pricey. Expect to pay about $5-7 for a cup of coffee.

Samcheondong was probably my most favourite area that I visited. Lots of boutique stores, cafes and contemporary art galleries. If you know me, you would understand that this is perfect for me. It was fun exploring the old style streets decorated with wall art/graffiti. I definitely recommend this place.

I definitely didn't get to see and do everything that I would have liked on my short tour with my mum. Things to do for my next trip to Korea:

  • Go shopping at Dongdaemun during the middle of the night (apparently there's a market that opens at around midnight)
  • Experience Korean nightlife (I definitely didn't want to go to a bar/club with my mum)
  • Travel around to the towns and Jeju Island!
PS: This is the cafe in the photos -

Thursday, February 28, 2013


I recently discovered something called Project Life. It's like scrapbooking but more organised with a combination of digital and paper designing. It seems like an awesome way of recording memories.

As great as the templates you can buy are, something about me just has to make it myself from scratch. It probably won't look as good, but I enjoy the creative process of making everything.

Designing my own photobook from scratch also seems like a fun challenge.

I recently went to Taiwan for 6 weeks and I had so many great memories. I definitely want to make a scrapbook or photobook in order to remember everything!

But I have a confession to make: for the past year I've been trying to make a scrapbook of a trip I did with my friends in November 2011. I'm only halfway through completing it so I guess this means I'm terrible at making scrapbooks. My goal is to finish making scrapbooks for both the trips by the end of the year! Wish me luck!

Do you have any creative projects that you've been working on for a ridiculously long time?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fashionable Male Friends

I have to say, after high school my guy friends suddenly got a lot more stylish. I think it was a mixture of the new found free time and money (for those lucky enough to get an university scholarship). Now they seem to be constantly consulting male fashion advice and shopping on ASOS. They love discussing their new purchases and they complain that my girl friends and I just don't understand male fashion.

I wish I could be as stylish as them.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Straya Day at the Light Garden

After much last minute deliberation on the morning of Australia Day, a couple of my girl friends and I decided to check out the Light Garden at Centennial Park! In celebration of its 125th anniversary, Centennial Park had some outdoor installation art for the public to enjoy at night.

The lights reminded me of something you would see in a romantic scene in a movie. It was dark and harder to navigate than I expected. Luckily there were only 3 of us, or else we probably would have lost each other in the crowd.

The darkness made it even harder to focus with my manual focus lens. I had to use the markings on the lens and approximate my distance away from the subject. I need more practise with the manual focus!

I processed RAW photos for the first time (I've always been too lazy to process them). However, I ended up editing it like a normal JPEG photo on Photoshop mostly. Does anyone have tips for RAW editing/processing or know any good tutorials?