Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I really enjoyed this trip to Asia even though it was a lot different than what I had imagined. Taiwan was a lot more chaotic than I remembered and having never been to Hong Kong and Singapore, I didn't have a lot of expectations. The interesting thing is that all three places are inhabited by mainly Chinese people; Taiwan and Hong Kong is almost all Chinese and I heard that Singapore was at least 70% Chinese. However, I could see a lot of differences between each culture/society. If I had to compare, Singapore and Taiwan would be at opposite ends of a spectrum with Hong Kong in the middle.

Arriving in Taiwan, I was surprised at how run-down and dirty everything looked. Maybe I'm too used to "The O.C.", especially Irvine but the buildings in Taiwan (except for new skyscrapers in Taipei) looked really old. In addition, almost every building has a huge cylindrical metal tank on the roof. Silvia told me that it's to store water for time when the water system breaks down which happens quite often. Another thing I noticed that there are very few public trash cans, even in Taipei, so often we had to hold our garbage (food wrappers, tissue, etc.) while walking around (this is one of Shirley's pet peeves too). Finally, there seems to be a general disregard for traffic rules, especially outside of Taipei. I'm not sure why this is but I've also noticed that people are very impatient, even when walking; we got yelled at several times when we paused on the sidewalk. The night markets are really cool though... not like in the U.S. where everything shuts down early. I'll probably gain a lot of weight if I lived in Taiwan. :)

In Singapore, I really didn't see very much since it was work, eat, and sleep for the three days I was there. What I did see was that the city is very clean and people seem to follow traffic rules. The people I met were nice and quiet, especially "the girls" working at Broadcom. However, I don't know if there's pressure to conform to society norms like in Japan which creates all sorts of weird underground stuff to relieve that pressure. If I get to go to Singapore again, I'll need to get there a couple days before work so I can see the rest of the island.

I really liked Hong Kong. The buildings seem just as run-down or even dirtier than in Taiwan but things seem less chaotic. Maybe it's because of 99 years of British rule or Hong Kong is a more cosmopolitan city than Taipei. There is also a lot more English spoken in Hong Kong which is a plus for me with my crappy Mandarin. The food is a toss-up; the dim sum was really good in Hong Kong but I didn't see anything like the night markets in Taiwan. I was a little nervous walking around at night since there was a lot of people standing around our hotel. I found out later that we were next to a large building that had many Pakistani people living there. Without A/C, it's probably cooler to hang out on the sidewalk than to sweat indoors.

It felt weird driving to work yesterday after not driving for over two weeks. In Singapore, we either took the taxi or were driven everywhere. In Taipei and Hong Kong, we used the public transportation which were convienent and cheap. The downside is that it took a long time to get anywhere. Even going about 3 miles--4 stations with one line change--takes about 1/2 hour on the MTR. In the U.S., I would jump in my car and it would only take 5 minutes. Of course this is not an option in Asia with traffic, parking, and $5/gallon for gas, but the freedom of having a car is hard to give up.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Treo Pictures

I finally downloaded pictures I took in Taiwan/Singapore/Hong Kong from my Treo 600.

A Volkswagon Lupo... I've never seen one of these before except in Gran Turismo 4

Scooters lined up in the rain (Tainan)

Picture of my 2nd room at Shangri-La in Singapore, the one that smelled like cigarette smoke

View of Singapore from my 2nd room on the 21st floor

Carpet in the elevators at Shangri-La are changed daily so you know what day it was

View from the 3rd and final room at Shangri-La on the 19th floor

Hundreds of cargo ships anchored off Singapore harbor

McDonald's, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island

Walking down the street/alley in my old neighborhood in Taipei

Roadsign near where we used to live in Taipei (same street, different lane)

Some singer (Landy Wen) promoting her new album in Taipei

Dinner on Cathay Pacific flying from Taipei to Hong Kong in business class (it's fish and rice)

Picture of my passport from two weeks of travel (including six stamps from CKS Airport)

Monday, June 27, 2005

Taipei, Again

Since I'm up already (only got one hour of sleep), I may as well summarize the last leg of my trip in Taipei.

After spending four nights in Hong Kong, Shirley and I flew back to Taiwan to meet up with German and Silvia to hang out in Taipei. We stayed at the Fullerton 41 hotel near Da'an MRT station. The hotel was pretty nice and clean but the room was smaller than I thought, especially when there were four of us sharing the room. The hotel sent a car to pick us up at CKS Airport; German had arrived from Hong Kong on an earlier flight so he had to wait for us at the airport and we picked up Silvia from Linkou on the way to Taipei.

The first thing we did after we checked in was to go and find something to eat. Walking to the MRT station next to our hotel (Da'an Station), we saw a food stand in an alley between two buildings. Shirley looked at the menu on the wall and said, "Let's eat here." I think my reply was something like, "You must be joking!" or "Surely you can't be serious?" Here we are, sitting outside in the heat and humidity of summer in Taipei eating hot noodle soup... it was actually pretty good. :)

Of course, as soon as we were finished eating, we were looking for the next place to eat. We took the MRT to Jiantan Station to go to Shilin Night Market. The fare was only NT$25 or about US$0.80 and the trains were clean and quick. The only irritating part of the ride was that they announce the next station in 4 different languages: Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, and English (in that order). However, for many stations, it all sounds the same, especially the English since it's a phonetic translation and they words don't mean anything (example: Fuxinggang?). Anyway, the night market is total chaos with hundreds of food stalls packed into a warehouse-like building. We walked around and ate a whole lot of stuff (large fried chicken, coffin toast, shaved ice, stinky tofu, chicken cold noodles, pig blood soup, and lots of fruit drinks), checked out some stores, and back to the night market to eat some more.

The next day, German and I went to check out Taipei 101 (I went up to the observation deck again) while Shirley and her sister went shopping. For lunch, we went to a Japanese buffet place called Jogoya; it was like Todai on steroids. There was a huge variety of food, mostly seafood... my favorite was the shark fin soup with REAL shark fin. After a long lunch, it was more shopping and eating, this time at Ximen (West Gate).

Noodles with small intestines... NT$30

Our last full day in Taipei was spent walking around Danshui checking out historical sites. We tried to go see Fort San Domingo (literally Fortress of the Red Hair Barbarians in Chinese) built in 1623 by the Spanish Navy but it was closed for renovations. After Danshui, we split up: German and I went looking for special Pineapple Cakes and Shirley and Silvia went to a spa. That night, we met up at a KTV place in Ximen and sang/ate until 10pm.

The next morning, Shirley had to leave for Singapore so after checking out of our hotel, German and I went looking for my old apartment and elementary school by Yongchun Station. We found the school but the guard wouldn't let us in to look around, even after I explained that I've been in the U.S. for 28 years. He said something about protecting valuable equipment in the school, as if I came all this way to steal stuff from my old school. Anyhow, we walked around the outside of the school and took some pictures. Everything was smaller than I remembered. We also checked out the market across the street. This was a hardcore old-school market with meat and fish sitting out on tables without refrigeration and the smell was overpowering. My mom said she used to shop here...

Yongchun Market

Schoolyard: I don't remember any grass nor the nice track... it was just dirt before

The apartment hunt was less successful. I even called my parents back in the U.S. twice but they could not remember the exact address. I found the street (Hulin Street) but there are hundreds of lanes/alleys. We were wandering around Lane 100 but our old apartment was on Lane 202 (I found the address AFTER returning to the U.S.). Again, everything was smaller and chaotic than I remembered so it was pretty confusing. After the market experience, we decided to go back to Ximen for lunch and then back to the hotel for our ride to the airport. BTW, the driver was driving crazy, entering and exiting the highway and taking all sorts of shortcuts. I was asleep for most of the ride but remember him driving down this twisty road and arriving at the airport from some back road instead of the highway.

Originally I had a Singapore Airlines flight direct from TPE to LAX but due to our travel department screw-up, I got rebooked to Cathay Pacific which means flying to HKG first then switching planes for LAX and home. It worked out okay since Cathay Pacific's business class is pretty comfy and their Hong Kong lounge (I was in the smaller one... they have two) is very nice.

Hong Kong to Taiwan

Our last day in Hong Kong was spent mostly on Hong Kong Island. I was raining like crazy in the morning yet there were still millions (it seems) of people walking around. We had lunch at a Shanghai-style restaurant, checked out the Jade Market under a highway overpass, then took the bus to the ferry. It only cost HK$2.20 to cross Victoria Harbour in an old ferry (you can also cross by MTR or underground tunnel); I showed pictures of the ferry to my mom and she remembers riding the same boats back in the 1960's when she spent summers in Hong Kong with her sister.

Picture of Hong Kong (Central) skyline from the ferry

After getting some tea and snacks at Jardine House, we took bus #15 for the climb up to "The Peak" where you can see all of Hong Kong. Since it was still raining on and off, this was our view at the top.

On the way down the mountain, we took a 16-passenger minibus which costs slightly less than the double-decker bus. The bus driver was a maniac, speeding down the narrow twisting road and narrowly missing other cars (and minibuses) racing up the other way. Again, I don't think I could drive in Asia. Arriving back in Central Hong Kong, we took a tram/streetcar to a restuarant to have Peking duck for dinner; I think it's called Peking Garden in the Hennessy Centre. After dinner, which was really good, we decided to go back to our hotel and rest up for the journey back to Taipei tomorrow.

Huge billboard in Central Hong Kong for Adidas and Batman Begins

Oh, German took us to a cool houseware store in one of the buildings before dinner. The store is called Francfranc and it's a cross between Pottery Barn, IKEA, and Linens 'n Things. In the store was also a section called J-Period that had a lot of really nice Japanese stuff.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Finally Home

This jet lag thing is a pain in the ass. It's 1:19am and I'm wide awake since it's 4pm in Asia. I tried staying up all day but ended up napping from noon to 6pm. Good thing my carpool buddy is driving tomorrow; I'll probably end up falling asleep driving on the way home.


I finally arrived home after 2 weeks of travelling; I emptied out my wallet and found 7 boarding passes.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Another Day, Another Airport Lounge

Now I'm in the Cathay Pacific lounge at the Hong Kong International Airport. This lounge is pretty nice. At both the Taipei lounge and here, there is a noodle bar that serves Asian noodles. I just ate dinner on the plane and there will probably be more food on the flight to LAX so I haven't ordered any noodles yet.

Anyway, our hotel in Hong Kong was located on Nathan Road in Tsim-Sha-Tsui which was really close to a MTR station. Right after lunch and finding a laundry shop on Sunday, German took us to the MTR and we bought an Octopus card. This card (HK$50 deposit) allows you to pay for fares on all public transit as well as pay for stuff at stores. I still have the card in my wallet as a souvenir and just bought some Airwaves gum in the airport. BTW, we dropped off 7 lbs. of laundry for wash/dry and it only cost us HK$20. Our first stop on the MTR was Mong-Kok and the Ladies' Market where we picked up some gifts, including a couple "Louis Vuitton" purses.

Ladies' Market

Since it was Father's Day, German had to meet his family for dinner so Shirley and I walked to Canton Road for dinner and dessert. The dessert place (picture below) had excellent soybean tofu although I had trouble finding the one I liked (with peanuts).

Picture of "Sweet Dynasty" stolen off the Internet (in Chinese, the pronounciation for "Sweet" is the same as "Tang" as in the Tang Dynasty)

The following day, we went to dim sum for lunch. I'm not sure where we went but it was right by a bus stop on Nathan Road. I was initially disappointed that they did not push the food around in carts so we can look at it but the food was excellent and cheap. We ordered dishes from a list by writing how many orders we wanted; good thing I was with people who can read Chinese! Interstingly, I had originally thought that all Chinese dialects shared the same writter characters. That is mostly true but there were many Cantonese specific characters that Shirley did not recognize or did not make sense when read in Mandarin.

Classic dim sum: har-gow and shui-mai

After lunch it was more shopping as my mom wanted a "designer" purse as well. We went back to Ladies' Market and this time, they brought us to their secret warehouse to check out the goods. Actually, we picked out a purse but they brought out the wrong one. To save time, they brought us to an apartment where the walls were covered with purses and bags. It was interesting since we all wondered where they stashed the good stuff and why it took so long for them to get items for us to look at. Next, we paid a visit to Shirley's uncle/aunt in Hong Kong. They have an apartment right near our hotel that overlooks Victoria Harbour.

View of Hong Kong from 8th uncle Liao's 37th floor apartment

That night, we were invited to dinner at German's house with his parents. We took the MTR and then KCR train out to the New Territories. The ride took about 45 minutes and cost HK$11 from our hotel. German's mom cooked a lot of food for us including stewed baby pigeon (I didn't have any) and a wonderful mango dessert. I must say that fruit is much better here in Asia than in the U.S., especially if you like pineapples and mangoes. After dinner, German's dad insisted on driving us back to our hotel. He says he hardly gets to drive in Hong Kong so this was a chance for him to drive.

Apartment buildings out in the New Territories

Only an hour left before boarding time for my flight to LAX. I'm not looking forward to the 13 hour flight. I hope the business class seats are better than the crappy EVA Air seats I had coming over the Pacific. I'm going to take a break...

CKS Airport, Take 3

This is my third time departing from CKS Airport on this trip. This time, I'm in the Cathay Pacific lounge waiting for my flight to Hong Kong then Los Angeles. Cathay is in Terminal 1 which is the older terminal. The lounge is pretty nice but the rest of the terminal looks old and crappy. It's been a long hectic week since I got back to Taiwan from Singapore so I didn't have time to update anything. I try to remember what I did now that I have an hour and a half before my flight.

Returning from Singapore to Taipei, there were a lot of flights taking off at Changi Airport so I was delayed. I ran to the Ubus ticket counter after my flight arrived and bought a bus ticket (NT$230) from CKS to Taichung departing at 10:40pm. When the bus arrived, it was completely packed and I got the back corner seat. Each bus only holds about 20 people since the seats are huge and they recline. Well, with the seat in front of me reclined, there was zero leg room for the 2 hour ride. Arriving at Taichung, I wasn't sure where to get off. Fortunately, someone on the bus lived in Taichung and told me where and when to get off the bus. I did get yelled at by the bus driver however. Seeing my hotel across the intersection, I asked him where I would get off for the hotel. He said loudly, "Across the street! Can't you see I'm signalling to pull over?" Actually, I didn't see him signalling but I thought it was not the time to argue details.

During the three days I was in Singapore, Shirley and her family went on a tour of Eastern Taiwan with her father's siblings. I made it back to Taiwan in time for the lunch party in Taichung. The lunch was held in a banquet place that had multiple events. Our party had about 80 people including all the siblings, their spouses, children and spouses (Shirley's cousins), and grandkids. There were also raffle prizes, enough for everyone. Our family won a digital camera, electronic thermometer, electric juicer, and a thermos mug. The food was okay... not typically Chinese banquest stuff I'm used to. After the lunch party, we were off again to CKS Airport. Shirley and I were headed off to Hong Kong and her father, mother, and Kevin were going back to Los Angeles. Silvia was going to stay in Taiwan with relatives until we got back from Hong Kong.

Our flight to Hong Kong was on Dragon Air. We had heard stories about how bad it was but the plane was a pretty new Airbus A330 and clean. It was a short flight from Taipei to Hong Kong and Shirley's classmate, German, was there at the airport to meet us. He is from Hong Kong but went to school (UCLA and Rosemead) in the U.S. He took us to our hotel and a quick bite to eat at a hole-in-the-wall nearby.

View from our hotel window in Hong Kong

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Broadcom Singapore

Broadcom's Singapore office is located in the Woodlands Industrial Park, near the border bridge with Malaysia. The office is pretty modern but is surrounded by other offices so there's not much to do or places to eat so they usually order lunch for us each day. The office is on the 3rd floor of a building and we even have our main warehouse on the 3rd floor. After work on Wednesday, the Singapore country manager took us to dinner at Seafood International. Originally, we were supposed to go to Tandoor, an Indian restaurant, but I guess a lot of Singapore people didn't want to go. The funny thing was that they didn't come out and say it but made up excuses not to go; maybe it's not so funny since it's the typical Chinese way. Anyway, everyone says that you have to go to Seafood International when you're in Singapore. Essentially it's a seafood restaurant where you pick your food from aquarium tanks and they cook it the way you want it. In the tanks are lobsters, crabs, fish, and other live seafood. You can also order vegetables and other dishes as well. We picked out a couple of lobsters, rock cod, crabs, and prawns and each one was cooked and served. The seafood speciality for Singapore is pepper crab and chili crab and we had some of each. By the hype surrounding the place, I was a little disappointed. The food was pretty good but nothing really special. I'm not sure what Singaporeans think of the U.S. but they kept asking me whether I've had this or that, including whether I've had whole steamed fish with the head and tail attached. Uh, every Chinese seafood restaurant has that in Los Angeles.

After dinner, the Broadcom finance people decided to go to an Irish pub near our hotel. For some reason, there are a lot of Irish pubs in Singapore. I tagged along but didn't really drink anything. We hung out for a couple of hours discussing foot massage/pedicures for men, and walked back to the hotel at about 1am. The hotel had changed my room from the service apartment to one on the 21st floor. Intially, I noticed that the room smelled like cigarette smoke but it wasn't too bad. After trying to sleep for 30 minutes, it was really bothering me. I guess the smoke was all in the bedsheets as well and I was having problems breathing. I finally went down to the lobby and asked them for another room. I thought there would be lots of problems but by then a lot of people had checked out so they quickly moved me to the 19th floor which was a non-smoking floor. After all the 2nd hand nicotine, I couldn't sleep until about 5am so I ended up doing work which worked out since it was afternoon time in Irvine.

The second day at work was about the same as the first day except we went on a tour of a Chartered fab. I think we toured Fab 6 (CSP) which is an 8" fab capable of 0.11um geometry. Coincidentally, this was the same fab that our current country mananger ran while he worked for Chartered 6-7 years ago. We had to put on booties, gloves, hairnet, cap, gown, and goggles if you didn't wear glasses. Since the fab was only a class 10 fab, we didn't have to get into the full bunny suit. It was a pretty quick tour but we got to see some of the equipment used to make the chips we sell.

Lunch today was pizza and KFC... you know, stuff we can't get back in the U.S. I'm not sure why they ordered that for us instead of more local food. The food was pretty bad so after another afternoon of meetings, I was dead tired from only sleeping 2 hours the night before and no real food for lunch. That night, we had dinner at Tandoor, courtesy of Ernst & Young, our external auditors. The food again was pretty good but nothing spectacular, especially for the price. One dish was Lobster Tandoori which were small lobster tails cooked in a clay oven. There were three lobster tails in each order and costs S$68 (US$1 = S$1.6); I think the dinner for 9 probably went over a thousand dollars U.S. After dinner, several of us have had enough so we took a cab back to the hotel and I crashed, sleeping from 9pm to 6am straight.

So here I am on my third day of work in the Singapore office. I had a couple of meetings already and I'm ready to go. We're getting picked up right after lunch and I'll have some time to kill in the Singapore Airlines lounge. I heard it's pretty nice since this is their home airport. The plan is to arrive in Taipei by 9:30pm and find a bus to Taichung so I can get to the hotel where Shirley and her family is staying. Now I've gotten used to speaking English again (and listening to Singlish), I need to switch back to Mandarin.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


It's now 11;27am and I'm at our office in Singapore now. I did manage to get some breakfast before our van ride to work although I did have trouble with the hostess since my reservation is still messed up.


It�s now 3:30am in Singapore and I�ve been sleeping since I arrived here last night at 7:00pm. The Singapore flight was on time and I think I was one of the first people out of the immigration line. Broadcom sent someone to pick me up; it�s the first time that I had someone holding up a sign with my name on it at the airport. The drive told me that he�s been picking up Broadcom people for the past three days. The car was the previous generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class and at first I thought it was a special car with right-hand drive. Pretty soon I realized that they drive on the left side of the road in Singapore, the same as in England. The driver told me that Singapore was previously a British colony (I knew that) and that�s why they drive on the left. I didn�t tell him that I was Canadian and that we drove on the right, like Americans.

Anyway, after about 20 minutes, we arrived at the Shangri-La hotel. Like my flight reservations, my hotel reservation in Singapore is all messed up as well. I received an email from our Singapore office saying that they�re overbooked and had to change my hotel room to a room in the service apartment. I got to the counter, showed my passport, and they said that my reservation was cancelled. Well, they first said that the hotel was full and offered to move me to another hotel 10 minutes away. I said that I needed to be picked up and dropped off at Shangri-La each day and unless they�re willing to drive me back and forth to the other hotel, I need to stay here. After I kept asking who cancelled my reservation and showing them my confirmation email, they offered me to stay one night at the service apartment and then move me back to the main hotel tomorrow. This is a hassle since I have to pack my bags this morning so they can transfer me to my new room tonight but I guess it�s better than nothing. The girl that walked me over to my room said that the hotel was really full because of some trade show but also people decided to stay extra nights so the new people coming in are running into problems.

The service apartment is essentially a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen. The room is really nice but does not have 110V three-prong outlets or an Internet connection. I know their regular rooms in the hotel have both. I also haven�t eaten anything since the Singapore flight. I was just too tired to deal with calling room service (I don�t think they deliver to the service apartments anyway) or going to the restaurants in the main hotel. Hopefully I can get some breakfast at Broadcom later.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Singapore Airlines CKS Lounge

Whew� I did finally make it to CKS Airport. It rained pretty heavily all the way up from Tainan to Taichung and I was getting worried that I wouldn�t get to the airport on time. The entire bus ride took about 5 hours total, including a 20 minute wait outside in a rest stop. The bus company I rode on had a �transit center� in a large rest stop and people got off different buses to catch the shuttle to CKS. The total bus ticket was only NT$330 which is slightly over $10. I guess that�s pretty cheap; my 30 minute Metrolink ride from Fullerton to Irvine costs me $5.50 each way.

Another bus like the one I took from Tainan to CKS Airport

Now I�m sitting in the Singapore Airlines lounge at CKS Airport. This is the first time I�ve been in an airport VIP lounge; we didn�t go to the EVA Air one in LAX since they wouldn�t let both of us in on one pass. The lounge is pretty nice. There is nice furniture, a self-serve food section with snacks and drinks, and the bathroom is really clean. There is also a shower and cubicles with PCs for people to use. I have about 20 minutes before my flight boards so I�ll try to recap my 3rd day in Taiwan.

After picking up Kevin and Shirley�s mom (we were about an hour late), we drove south towards Tainan. There are two highways that run north-south along the western coast of Taiwan; we spent most of the time on the newer highway. About every � hour, we would need to pay a NT$40 toll. Other than that, the traffic flowed really well once we left Taipei/Taoyuan. We also stopped at several different rest stops to use the restroom and get some food to eat. Did I mention that food is really cheap in Taiwan? At the first rest stop, we bought some snacks on wooden skewers, stuff like fish balls, tempura, and blood cake. Each stick was only NT$15! I took a picture of Shirley at the store since I don�t remember seeing anything like that before. At the larger rest stops, they had the same stores and a lot more, including food courts with more cheap food. My lunch was wonton noodles for NT$75 which was pretty good but a little greasy.

Along the way, Shirley�s dad stopped at the town where he grew up (Nantou, I think) and drove us around. It was a lot different from Taipei since it was still pretty rural; he even stopped next to a rice field and I took some still-green rice kernels. A lot of his brothers and sisters still live in the same area. I think it was about 4pm when we finally got into Tainan. It was a lot bigger and more crowded than I had imagined. The traffic was even more crazy than what I saw in Taipei; there is definitely no way that I can drive in Taiwan! We drove around the city for about an hour and saw all the schools Shirley went to when they still lived in Tainan and we drove by my father-in-law�s dental clinic (the sign says �Liao Dentist Clinic� in English). We then checked into our hotel for the night� a really really nice hotel and later had dinner with Shirley�s grandpa and uncle on her mom�s side.

Rice paddies

View of Tainan skyline outside our hotel room

Wow, the lounge cleared out fast. I think my flight to Singapore boards in 2 minutes. I�m not sure why people are rushing to board, especially if they�re in business class. Oh well, I guess I�d better join the stampede.

To Work

It's 6:33am in the morning on June 14th and I'm off to Singapore for work. Shirley's dad is going to pick me up at the hotel at 7:00am on his scooter to take me to a bus station. I need to take a 5 hour bus ride to CKS Airport to catch my 2:20pm flight to Singapore. It looks like it's raining outside so I'm not sure how this is going to work. I'll write more if I get to the airport in one piece.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Taiwan - Day 2

Another night, another hotel. This time it�s the Monarch Plaza Hotel in Taoyuan. It looks like a much nicer hotel the Highness but Shirley said it costs about the same. My 2nd day in Taiwan was spent mostly in Taipei. Shirley and I went downstairs to the hotel lobby for a buffet breakfast. In Taiwan, I guess they have to provide both Western and Chinese breakfast. The food was pretty good and both of us had lots of porridge and fried turnip cake. As we were about to check out at 11:30am, it started to rain heavily. The weather forecast pretty much said thunderstorms for the rest of the week, just in time for the Liao family tour of Taiwan.

After lunch at 5th uncle�s house today, we checked into the hotel and then headed off to Taipei. Until now, I was thinking, �Hey, the traffic and driving is not too bad� maybe I can rent a car and drive around Taipei.� As soon as we pulled off the highway, I decided that it would have been a really bad idea. The people drive crazy in Taipei. It seems like people have very little patience and absolutely will not show you any courtesy on the road. Maybe it�s more of the Asian passive-aggressive behavior shining through. To avoid driving and parking headaches, Shirley�s dad parked the van in an underground parking lot and we took a taxi to Taipei 101 which is currently the tallest building in the world but soon to be overtaken by a building currently under construction in Dubai. Most of the 101 floors are taken up by office space but there is an observation deck near the top that offers spectacular views of Taipei. I used to live near this area but it�s definitely like nothing I remember. Attached to Taipei 101 is a shopping area that has some really expensive designer stores a la Rodeo Drive or South Coast Plaza.

Looking up at Taipei 101

Looking down from Taipei 101 (the yellow square building is the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall)

The rest of the day was spent in a shopping center a couple of blocks from Taipei 101. The main floor was packed full of cosmetic counters and they seemed to have every brand in the same building. Shirley found the SK-II counter and bought something that we can�t find in the U.S. anymore. What was kind of weird was that it took forever to pay with a credit card. Imagine the cosmetic section at Macy�s times 10 and only having one cashier to process all credit card payments. My father-in-law said that the younger generation is using credit card more and more but a lot of people still use cash, including him. Next we wandered around the food court level then the bookstore. Shirley bought a couple of books, including a Psychology dictionary that gave definitions of English terms in Chinese. I was looking through maps of Taipei trying to find the street I lived on 28 years ago but there are too many alleyways with the same name. I did find my elementary school on the map; maybe next week when we�re back in Taipei, I can take the MRT and walk around the area. We ended up having dinner in the food court. I had some kind of beef dish with egg on rice plus miso soup. The food was not too bad and really cheap; I think my dinner was only NT$110 which is about $3. After dinner we took a taxi back to the park and drive back to the hotel. We have two rooms: Shirley is sharing with Silvia and I�m sharing with Shirley�s dad. The Internet connection is not free so I�m typing this up in Word to be pasted into Blogspot later, hopefully with some pics. I also found a three-prong outlet in the hotel room but it�s in the bathroom. My computer�s AC adapter has a three-prong cable so I need to find a matching outlet in order to recharge the batteries.

Tomorrow is going to be an early day since we have to pick-up Kevin and Shirley�s mom at the airport around 6:30am. After picking them up, we�re going to drive to the Liao house in Tainan.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Shirley and I arrived in Taiwan last night (everything is going to be in local time while I'm posting from Asia). It's the first time I've been back to Taiwan since our family left back in 1977, over 28 years ago.

Both of us ended up on the same flight over from LAX although we were originally scheduled to arrive on different flights. I was supposed to fly over on Singapore Airlines but our company's travel department didn't actually issue the tickets so my reservation got cancelled. When they tried to put me back on the same flight, I was waitlisted. Eventually I had to change my schedule and take EVA Air instead, which departs/arrives seven hours earlier. For Shirley, she was originally supposed to fly on Japan Airlines but when we arrived at LAX, they asked her if she was willing to give up her seat since they oversold her flight. Long story short, she ended up on the same EVA Air flight as me but in coach while I had the business class seat from work.

The flight was about 13.5 hours but it seemed like it took forever... I don't think I got more than 10 minutes of sleep during the entire flight. I ended up watching a Chinese/Korean movie ("Seoul Raiders") twice and part of "Be Cool" twice (not very good). EVA Air's "Super Business Class" wasn't too super at all. The seats were really bad: they don't recline more than 40 degrees back and the footrest didn't come up very high. I was either sliding down on the seat or my foot was jammed on the footrest. I think Singapore Airline's business class chairs fold down almost flat; if so, I'm going to be really upset with our company's travel department. My seat was upstairs on a Boeing 747 and for some reason, the noise (either wind or engine) was really loud. When I went downstairs to find Shirley, the main cabin was a lot quieter. The food was not too bad although I kept telling the flight attendants that I can't understand their Chinese well and to speak English if they can. Also, since it's EVA Air, every announcement over the intercom had to be repeated in three languages: Mandarin, English, then Taiwanese.

The flight arrival was delayed by about 45 minutes and when we got to the immigration counter, there were very few people in line. I think most of the people on the flight were Taiwan citizens since the non-citizen windows were not very busy. The immigration official looked at my brand new Canadian passport, asked me a few questions in Mandarin (I wonder if they speak English), and let me through. Shirley's dad, 5th uncle, and uncle's son's family came to pick us up. The first thing I noticed was the humidity. Shirley has been taunting me about the hot weather in Asia for months but after standing in the parking lot for 5 minutes, I was soaked with sweat. I think it was 85 degrees but with 80% humidity, something we never have in LA. We then visited the 5th uncle's house for a bit and then dropped off at a hotel nearby (Highness Hotel Linkou). Shirley's sister showed up this morning (she was on the Singapore Airlines flight I was originally booked on) and now we're waiting for Shirley's dad to pick us up and go to Taipei.

View outside our 15th floor hotel room in Linkou

First impressions after 28 years? It's really hot and humid here. Also, Linkou (not too far from Taoyuan/Airport) is kind of rural suburban. Things just seem to be older and kind of run-down as compared with LA. However, the cars were all pretty new (lots of Japanese cars) and even though 5th uncle's house seem spartan (no carpet and refridgerator in the living/dining room), the TV and stereo were very nice. Even our hotel room with it's two prong outlets had a Internet port (which I'm using now) and the TV had about 100 channels. It's a curious mixture of old buildings with high tech (cell phones, broadband Internet, cable/satellite TV). We'll see later today if Taipei is different and if I remember anything at all after 28 years.

BTW, there seems to be a 7-Eleven on each corner. Haven't seen any Starbucks yet.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

No Hotel Room

OK, I got a hotel reservation. Our Singapore office managed to get me a room for S$369 per night. I have to pay S$20 more per night but it's a really nice room. I think they're arranging all the transportation as well.


I just found out that they didn't book me a hotel room in Singapore next week. My manager thought that I had booked my room already through Travel when I reserved my flight back in March. So everyone else going to Singapore has a room except me and the admin in our Singapore office said that the hotel is completely booked due to some conference. We usually stay at the Shangri-La Hotel which is listed as a 5-star hotel in Expedia.

The temperature right now in Singapore is 30�C which is way too hot.

Train Hits Pedestrian!

Since my parents needed my car yesterday to run errands, I ended up taking the Metrolink train home from work. As we were about to pull out of the Anaheim station (one stop before Fullerton), the conductor announced this bit of news over the intercom:

"The southbound train just struck a pedestrian ahead of us and they're blocking all traffic. We're not sure how long the delay will be but it could take awhile." (or something to that effect)

I see everyone pull out their cellphones to make calls, including myself. I heard later that several people got off the train at Anaheim to find other transportation. I was kind of stuck since I didn't want to try and give my dad new directions to Anaheim station since I wasn't sure how to get their either. So imagine our surprise when after 5 minutes, another announcement comes over the intercom:

"You won't believe this but the person that was hit by the train was spun around then got up and walked away."

The train started moving right away, slowly at first, but after passing the southbound train, sped up to normal. I took a picture of the other train as it sat on the tracks. There were also a lot of poice/fire personnel as well as Metrolink investigator-type looking people.