Sunday, June 28, 2015


My best friend from grad school Lancy's husband Andrew has the same birthday, we were hoping to do something together as a group. Finally we came to this last minute plan on an escape at Paniq sicko room in downtown SF. As little as I wanted to spoil the fun, it was the best just going without knowing anything about what it might be.

We escaped lol. With some hints, but I don't think we could have finished in time without the whole team. Everyone got different clues. Oh and the quiz. It was definitely a memorable birthday escape.


One week after escape from the sicko room, we escaped to the east coast. Just for a bit more than a week, to Philly, Scranton, NYC, Washington DC and then AC for 4th of July. It's great feeling to escape from ordinary routines for a bit, being in a different city and pace. Till I miss the Bay Area again.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


I still remembered early last year, when Secret app was popular (even though I stopped using it *) - I was still at my previous company, stressed about delivering some work on a weekend. Secret app allowed users to post anonymously, and I wrote: "Not sure if this startup life is really what I signed up for." Few hours later, some anonymous user responded: "You always have a choice man." My first reaction was, "Do I?"

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Brunch in Taichung

It was perfect timing that most of my family had days off during the time I was back home. Sister and I both loved exploring coffee shops / brunch spots, mom sometimes joined but didn't like staying at one place for too long. I was actually surprised by how many interesting coffee shops there were in Taichung.

春水堂 Chun Shui Tang tea house (until 10:30am, ~ NTD 110)

The first boba place I had to go every time I came back to Taiwan. Last order for breakfast menu at 10:30am. The menu was not too big, about 5 items and mostly thick toasts and bread. My favorite was the garlic toast, with malt milk tea. It also came with a small salad and an egg & ham, Taiwanese style. There was no wifi here, but this tea house started as a place for people to sit down and chat over a boba tea, so was the vibe still now. This is the original Chun Shui Tang, and theoretically the first boba tea shop.

This tea house has the best boba tea I've ever had. I am more of a milk tea than boba person so it might be a bit stressed on the tea part, but I really could taste the tea flavor in the background with the lightly sweet milk. The drink was refreshing every time. I've had different flavors like the malt, matcha, and other tea base. Malt flavor sort of became my thing last trip, but I haven't got disappointed by other options.

『This little tea house bears some of my junior high and high school memories as well, years before it got famous and more chain stores sprung up. One time was a junior high school reunion, I still remembered getting a bowl of kung fu noodles. It was a lunch or an afternoon tea, and we got most of the space downstairs, a wooden big table in a tatami room?』

malt and red bean milk tea

rose bread + egg & ham

Mapper Cafe (NTD 200-300 for brunch)

This was a random adventure. Sister and I almost missed the place, while mom recognized this place from the full size bed outside. Bed from a cafe? Anyone walking by would probably have thought this place a furniture shop. Sounds very random, but it sort of made sense after receiving the menu from a suitcase.

these cards are menu :D

The brunch menu has 3 options: Taiwanese/Japanese/American style. Mom, sister and I got each of them, Japanese style for me. We all got Americano with milk. Japanese style included a pork rice burger, tofu salad, soup, egg and 羊羹 (some sweet jelly cake) for dessert. The coffee set was unique, with sugar and milk in tubes. Every item was pretty good, I liked the sesame tofu salad and egg a lot.

This cafe felt more like a creative studio. They had only two or three tables at the time, up to 15 customers was my guess. I read that the owner came back to open this cafe after a few years of traveling. I liked the design of this coffee shop, it had a mix of Asian and modern style interior. Cozy place to do some work or reading if not in a hurry (& of course when this place has spots open).

sesame tofu salad

pork rice burger, egg & sausage, and soup of the day

Americano experiment

Good Days (NTD 200-300)

Sister found this place, a coffee shop under the lavender cottage (one of the two female founders just passed away two years ago :|). The Chinese name is 好好, literally meaning good good but two "women" after breaking down the characters. The shop sold mini local organic products inside, with artsy interior.

女子 女子 :-)

sister reading a book

pretty serious about their coffee

The brunch menu was western fusion, I got the pork sandwich - Taiwanese style. Mom had the bagel, and sister had tacos. Other than the local organic mini shop, it also had a tall bookshelf and a garden. A lot of thoughts into the design, we would totally have stayed here longer if not hurrying for the "Whiplash" movie - which turned out not very impressive, ah.

black soy milk toast with a cat

Taiwanese style pork sandwich and bagel breakfast

tacos + single origin

Naked Cafe (NTD 200-300)

An international brand - pretty localized here while serving pretty good western food. I had the mushroom baguette with cheese and a cup of coffee. It was a more normal coffee shop compared to the previous two, but there were classic design items over the shop. Of course, something not to miss was their two cuddly bears <3 (with "the naked cafe" clothes on lol).

simple & clean style

mushroom and cheese on baguette, egg, and salad

huge bear friends

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Ip Man

On the flight back to Taiwan, I watched this movie Ip Man in the classics category. It is an action movie, a genre that rarely interests me, not to mention on the little personal entertainment screen. I heard of this movie long time ago back in college but I couldn't recall much of what people said about it back then more than the positive recognition. After watching it, I could not stop thinking about it; this movie haunted me for a while.

I almost forgot how emotional I'd get when reading stories of people fighting for something they believe in so much - justice, equality, freedom; for a group of people, a country, or a species of animals. When the opposite of the belief is applied to a whole race, how many of them are brave enough to stand up and show how strong they could be? Some people bent for personal or short term benefits, and some others care more than the lives of themselves.

Friday, January 30, 2015

I <3 Taiwan - food in Taipei

For me, Taipei would be the city most exciting to live in Taiwan as of today (things are changing - other cities are building more public transits and becoming more modern and travel-friendly). For the four years I studied at NTU, there were always things to do: exploring restaurants, hanging out at the night markets (NTU Gongguan/NTNU/Xinyi/Shilin/Danshui), Daan park, concerts, musicals, hiking in Tianmu etc. I come back to Taipei almost every time back in Taiwan, the MRT makes it so easy to go around! This time (January 2015) a new line is added and few lines are extended, and each line is called by number instead of the name of its destination. Definitely easier for non-Mandarin speakers, though I seem to associate those lines with color.

This time we spent three and half days in Taipei. Arrived Thursday evening after driving back from Kenting to Taichung. Sunset at Taichung HSR was pretty and fast :)


We stayed at RF hotel at 忠孝敦化 (Zhongxiao Dunhua), small place but served its purpose. There was one card for the elevator access and room electricity and a key for the door, I lost the card and had to pay for the fee but the breakfast was pretty nice. The front desk is on the third floor of a building (Rolex on 1F and 聚粵軒 on 2F). We missed it the first time since the light was not lit up, and almost thought we got scammed lol.

Sit-down eateries

  • 鼎泰豐 Din Tai Fung @ 永康街 Yongkang Street
I've been craving for their fried rice for the longest time. This well known place is famous for its XLB, but I'd say their fried rice is hidden gem. I was actually a bit disappointed at the shrimp fried rice, it was not exactly like the last time I had it last year but still pretty good. We also got 5 classic pork and 5 melon & shrimp soup dumplings. The pork was the best.

Service was overwhelming. They had a number system with groups of different sizes, the wait for 2 was like nonexistent on a Friday night with quite some people outside. The highlight was: Tycho, a musician from SF, was dining there. (Verified by checking his tour schedule, he was having a concert the next day!)
  • 燒肉教室 BBQ Classroom @ 西門町 Ximen (NTD 500ish)
We went to the lively Ximen for this all you can eat BBQ. As the name suggested, the restaurant was like a classroom with a chalk board and those nostalgic dark wood tables and chairs back in schools. Each grill had ventilation above, pretty convenient and considerate. The staff were all BBQ professionals, they helped us now and then with grilling and tips. The selection was about 5-6 items per meat and seafood, and a few more for veggies (mushroom, tofu etc.); they also had salads and soup/plain rice. In the end we got marshmallow on the grill, sooo soft <3 the girl next table saw this and dropped her iPhone to the garbage bin lol.

We ordered beef, pork, hot chicken wings, scallops, clams & melons, tofu, tuna in soup rice, Japanese style salad, mushroom (different kinds). Didn't get shrimp because we just went shrimp fishing and had a shrimp feast the previous night.
  • Ice monster @ Zhongxiao East Road (originally on Yongkang Street, minimum NTD 110)
We were on a dessert hunt late at night after shrimp fishing, and this place was right by Sun Yat-sen memorial hall MRT. It was the togo mango ice place on Yongkang Street, and they moved and rebranded. Shaved snow was my favorite kind of ice dessert, unfortunately it was winter and mango/pineapple were summer fruits. We got this strawberry shaved snow instead:

The portion was so big, we didn't get to finish this bowl of strawberry yums. There were strawberry flavored shaved snow, ice cream, real strawberry slices, and the milk pudding. About NTD 250 for this huge bowl.

Night markets

We went to a few night markets in Taipei and Keelung and got a bunch of traditional street food.
  • 師大 near NTNU: pork & bamboo bun + sesame bun
  • 台大公館 near NTU: 3 sisters tofu flower, 藍家割包 Gua-bao
  • 淡水夜市 Danshui: 阿給 A-gei, 肉圓 Ba-wan, whitebait egg skewer, chocolate pineapple bun (with chocolate melted in the filling <3), takoyaki
  • 基隆廟口 Keelung: 割包 Gua-bao, 阿華炒麵 chow mein, 蚵仔煎 oyster omelette  (vendors have numbers so it was easy to map out them from blog posts)
Ba-wan (top) and A-gei (bottom)

Shrimp fishing

Only in Taiwan. Probably the highlight of this trip. Sounded like a ridiculous idea to fish in this pond, where a box of shrimp were thrown into the pool every hour or so. We accidentally came to this place 春城釣蝦場 (ipeen). It was pretty empty when we came in around 8pm on a Friday, but it started filling up later. The staff were very friendly to us shrimp fishing first timers, teaching us the basics. Charge was $350/hour. The shrimp net (where we gathered the shrimp we caught) came with 3 shrimp. The bait was little dry shrimp, which was amusing. Shrimp eat shrimp?

The friendly stuff told us to wait for 10 seconds after the indicator sunk and before pulling out the fishing rod. It was probably one of the most satisfying things when I caught something :D. The shrimp twitched so much after getting caught on the fishing rod, I got intimidated every time. The staff told us to get rid of their front feet first, so that they wouldn't hurt. We got 7 shrimp in total, pretty exciting! We then just grilled them, and ate on the table with a Taiwan beer and grass jelly drink.

The shrimp were 泰國蝦 giant river prawns, they apparently dyed the water green so that people and shrimp wouldn't see each other. Wouldn't be much fun if people could see them, and shrimp would be scared if they see us.

More people came in later, some with their own equipments. It was my first time fishing, it could take a while like ten minutes of sitting there. But the setup made it much easier than normal fishing (they dumped a box every hour), also the grilling part was fun. Could also pay them like NTD 100 to have them cook the shrimp. The staff were nice, I felt like they helped us a lot and were happy to see us catching things. You know, they didn't have to care about us getting anything.

These shrimp were still twitching while being grilled.

I'd say shrimp fishing is a fun thing to do, great place to hang out and most likely easier than nature fishing. We wished they had this kind of thing in the US. Would love to do it again next time! I told my parents about fishing as a family gathering, my dad was up for it since he did it before, but mom wasn't interested because it was tough for her to see shrimp being killed. Well, I guess people would eat the same amount of shrimp no matter what.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

New start

After traveling in Taiwan for a week, I got back to my little room at home in Taichung. Feeling like getting ready for a new job, I started making another gmail that makes more sense to people as my main account (instead of WaterTranquil, that might be easier to spell but harder to explain). Also, registered a domain as this blog is run on.

It's getting late, I guess I'd love to set out a goal to post something useful every now and then. Some topics in mind: travel, cultural differences, and some random lessons learned.

I loved the power of writing, to think more clearly and share to anyone interested. Similar to why I write reviews on Yelp, I felt I have benefited from all the blog posts I read for everything useful - technical, travel, food related in other countries, culture, etc. I might also consider adding some personal posts to serve as reflections. :-)