In the UK, spam was reserved for email (or a Monty Pyhon sketch) but here, mobile phone spam seems very common. I get at least 3 or 4 a day.  I don’t know what’s more amusing, the bizarre things the spam is peddling (i’ve actually had municipal election related spam) or Google Translate’s feeble attempts at translations :

Nokia N8 Gifts overweight will be sent to the first sale, 10/15 18:00 Come from Taipei show store buy Viagra! Direct stores carry pre-order pre-order customers and invoices you can pre-order at the scene set off against the gold‬

Or, also amusing:

The most popular “love psychological test” newsletter reported that every Tuesday, Friday to provide a graphic of the test, accurate answers to interesting questions and a better understanding of yourself and your lover’s heart! 60 yuan per month, responding to a blank SMS to subscribe!

Hello Kitty? – Hell yes!

When you learn that a Hello Kitty cafe exists within a 15 min walking distance to your home, how can you not go?  Does it matter that Hello Kitty is a bit creepy and probably an evil feline mastermind?  Does it matter that you’re going to eat in a cafe whose mascot is a cat with no mouth?

Hello afternoon snack

No.  You really must go and see it for yourself.  I have to hand it to the designers, they made the experience of sitting in Hello Kitty Sweets feel like you were actually inside one of their giant mystery confectionery cats.  Pink everywhere.

And lest you forget where you are, her logo is plastered everywhere:


She's not just framed, she's sittingon the edge of the booth



Not one, but two!

check.  My coffee:

Hello Latte

Check! No matter, time to order.  Not surprising, the menu is in full Chinese – fair enough.  Although under the drink section I find it amusing to see a category called: “Kitty”:

We play a little roulette with the menu and randomly chose some items in a price range that seems reasonable.  A few minutes later I am presented with this:

let's count the number of logos

The logo in the middle is chocolate powder.  Overall its pretty tasty.  Would it win a patisserie prize in Paris?  No, but that’s not the point.  The point is to sink into a world of the clever capitalist kitty.

mmm j-e-l-l-o kitty!

And if all that Hello Kitty left you wanting more, elsewhere in Taiwan you can also give birth in a Hello Kitty themed hospital.  No joke.

Finally, I felt that one!

This week Taipei has had two earthquakes, and after missing the first one, I actually felt last nights!  Just a minor 5.1 magnitude quake – no biggie (by Taiwan standards), but i felt it during Max’s night feed (very weird feeling, like a gentle swaying motion).  Both Jason and I slept through the Wednesday night one, but our friend who’s staying with us can attest that the chandeliers in our living room did in fact sway and the windows rattled.  I’m pleased to see that our place is holding up just fine during the quakes.

Side note, outside of Taipei in the rest of Taiwan, there were actually a string of 10 mild earthquakes on Wednesday.  Considering that i’m pretty sure last night was my first earthquake experience, i feel like we’re being thrown in the deep end here.

ps – Canadians – that minor 5.1 quake we felt last night?  Same magnitude as the Ontario/Quebec quake that hit a few months back in July.

中秋節: Mid-Autumn Festival

Last Wednesday was a holiday here in Taiwan, 中秋節 (zhōngqiūjié), also known as the Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival.

My parents were in town for the holiday (which was on Thursday in Hong Kong) so we received some much-needed babysitting from the grandparents. This was good timing as last week also happened to be our 4th wedding anniversary!

One of the classic hallmarks of the Moon Festival is moon cakes (月餅, yuè​bǐng​). Moon cakes are typically given to suppliers, staff, and anyone else you don’t like … er … they’re a lot like Christmas cake in Western countries – that is, they are passed around and when you get them, you often give them to somebody else! 🙂 However many Chinese and Taiwanese people love to get them, and unlike Christmas cake, moon cakes actually taste pretty good. That is, unless you get one of the “traditional” ones with the egg yolks inside.

Tastes great, until you get to the, not one, but TWO egg yolks inside!

I took home a box from my work as we were overflowing with moon cakes and other treats before the holiday. Thankfully this box contained one of the best treats available in Taiwan: pineapple cakes.

MIPS inspecting the merchandise

Mmm ... I love pineapple cakes. I devoured half of these myself.

For dinner on Wednesday night we chose to go to N°168 Prime Steakhouse in the Grand Victoria Hotel (維多麗亞酒店) in 內湖 (Nèi​hú​). The Australian Wagyu beef was incredibly good and it was a great way to celebrate the festivities. At the end of the meal we were given the other hallmark of Mid-Autumn Festival, a Pomelo (柚子, yòuzi). I love 柚子 as they’re like a grapefruit but sweeter, and they’re in season at this time of year. Also this week, we just found a great fruit market near out apartment so we’ll be buying up their 柚子 stock while it lasts!

supermarket sweep

As we’ve noted in a previous post, we have a garbage service.  3 days a week a man comes to our place to collect our trash and recyclables since our building has no disposal system.  After the first collection we were told that we are using the wrong bags and we need to get the “right” garbage bags – the blue ones.  Thinking this was some sort of preference of our little man, I willingly obliged and scouted the various 7-11 and Family Marts in our area for blue bags.  (maybe he will be safer on his scooter with the right bags)  Orange, black, lime green, lilac coloured?  all present, but no blue.    Odd.  So i do some internet searching.

Turns out that the city government requires you to purchase special government approved bags.  blue bags.  If you don’t use the right bag, your garbage won’t be accepted.   Apparently to recycle, you can use any bag, cheaper bags, so this should encourage you to recycle.  (for what its worth, the Taipei City Government statistics show that the volume of household garbage has declined 67 percent since the bag-fee policy was imposed, so the system is working).  Of course the government site doesn’t have a picture so i still don’t know what these bags look like.  Thankfully the internets saves me and i found another expat blog that photographed his ordeal too.

Well this all sounds very progressive and enlightened, so knowing what they look like off i go to find these bags.  It took 3 days and 7 stores to find them.  Very well hidden.  You’d think they’d be displayed alongside the regular kitchen garbage bags, perhaps alongside the household items – no that would make sense.  Instead these were hidden at the checkout along side candy, gum and other impulse items.  Why?  why put them there? why make it so painfully hard to find??  Here is what they look like by the way:

Notice the government seal in the top right? that prevents fakes

Although, I will say this is not the first time i’ve played the game:  where would random item be in the grocery store.

Here is where my baby formula is sold:

safely behind lock and key right beside the liquor

Yes, you see that right.  After 2 days of searching the shelves of every grocery store in our area we found it locked away in a glass case beside the liquor.  Obviously.   If ever there was a Taiwanese version of supermarket sweeps – i would do chasing my tail lost in the wrong aisle.

Our First Typhoon: Fanapi

Last weekend we experienced Fanapi, a category 3 typhoon and our first typhoon while in Taiwan. To us in the North of Taiwan, it was relatively harmless, however Hualien County (花蓮縣) on the east coast was hit harder.

It's coming right for us!

Sunday was very bad weather so we stayed inside to watch the alternating wind and heavy rain. Apart from some felled tree branches on RenAi Road, there wasn’t much of an aftermath where we were. Taiwan is well-prepared for typhoons – here’s a restaurant menu that Sylvia found that even mentions being open on “typhoon days.”

A typhoon shouldn't prevent you from getting good waffles.

Stay tuned for our inevitable “first earthquake” post! 🙂

Never a Dull Moment: No Water at Home!

Living in Taipei there’s always something new coming up every day – and it’s usually a situation that forces us to use our (limited) Chinese! Like this morning, when suddenly our water taps went dry. Uh oh. Our water stopped working? Now what?

Well first, I remembered the landlord briefly mentioning that our water pump used a battery. Why? I have no idea. The only electricity it has is that battery, so I figured it needed replacing.

Off to 7-11 (given that a typhoon is on its way this weekend I didn’t want to go much further). Do you sell batteries? (你們賣出電池嗎?Nǐmen mài chū diànchí ma?) I have no idea how to ask for “D-Cell” batteries specifically so I brought the old one with me.

Nope. That didn't do it.

But that didn’t work. So I ventured out and considered trying to ask a neighbour if they had any water (I guess it would be: 你的公寓有水嗎?Nǐ de gōngyù yǒu shuǐ ma?) when I noticed a new piece of paper taped to the inside of our elevator:

Ah, of course! Written right here, plain as day.

Uhh. Yeah. Well, it mentions today’s date (and yesterday’s) and it has the character for water (“水”) so I figured this was it. To my surprise, I was actually able to read the relevant bit: “9月18日(星期六)停水一天” (“September 18th (Saturday) water [will be] stopped for one day”).

The always humourous Google Translate version is:

Dear Neighborhood Hello, everybody!

More recently said, the elevator can not be used by the Friends of the lift in conjunction with worship and dealing with leaking water and other professional staff after survey has identified the reasons for the roof caused water seepage into the elevator machine pit.

It will be 99 September 17 to September 18, (Week 56 construction), and are scheduled from September 18 (Saturday) without water one day, please neighbor early water use.

Be between these, please forgive me!

Yeah. I wish I had noticed this sign yesterday! Looks like I’m going back to 7-11 for some more jugs of water!

pampered pooch

Within a short week its already obvious how much the Taiwanese love their dogs.  So far it seems easier to buy pet food than baby formula as our neighbourhood has 3 pet stores (and counting) in a 5 block radius and my local grocery store doesn’t seem to carry formula.  I’ve seen dogs being carried in hand bags ala Paris Hilton and even being pushed down the street in baby strollers.  Yesterday I managed to snap a photo of this woman carrying her cinnamon poodle in her sling while grocery shopping.

Look a lot like a baby sling...

Odd thing though, at checkout in this same grocery store there is a sign that I think says No Dogs?!

No dogs?

Or maybe it says no unicorns.  Its hard to tell.

Getting to know our neighbourhood

So with things getting sorted at home I have been exploring the neighbourhood.  We live in Da’an (大安) area of Taipei.  It’s incredibly central, well connected with metro stations but also our street: Renai Road (仁愛路) is particularly green.  This is what our building faces on to:

very green (at dusk)

green (at midday)

It makes for some very pleasant walks.

Every lunch hour i get ambitous and think today is the day i am going to try some local cuisine, and then I always encounter a menu board like this:

I was promised pictures of my food - where are my pictures?!

I will say whatever they are serving its cheap.  25NTD = $0.80 CAD I just wish I knew what they were serving.  And no amount of pointing and smiling could really help me in this situation (say if I just point at random things on the menu and they say something to me, they could be saying do you want hot sauce with that, or they could be saying they ran out, or they could be saying do you want fries with that, this is my predicament).   So generally I admit defeat and sulk into the local 711 (or ‘7’ as its locally called) and buy some dingy ready made noodle dish.   A few weeks with menu flash cards and I should be able to recognize a few things off those characters – i hope! Otherwise it may be time to pick up a 711 loyalty card.

Mystery solved! – He’s the garbage man

So my mystery man has been revealed!  He’s not the sandwich van man, he’s the garbage collection man!  (and wow is my Chinese bad!)  We live in a strange mixed zoned building.  It’s half office and half residential.  So some of my neighbours include an Ad agency and Jazz Fashions but also regular people on other floors.  Since it was probably originally an office building there are no garbage shoots, or areas to dump your rubbish, so you have to hire a service to come collect it from your door several times per week.  And that toothless smiley old man is our guy!

I never would have guessed given that he came on a Friday (collection is Tues,Thur and Sat) and that he was wearing a scooter helmet.  Would he really collect our rubbish on a scooter??   The answer is yes:

Strapping all the rubbish onto the scooter

We’re watching this from our window thinking: No, he’s not really going to take it on a scooter?!  Wait he is.  How is he going to ride it?!


Wow – this was our first collection so we had moving boxes, packing materials plus regular trash.  Had we known we’d at least cut down the boxes into smaller pieces.  What I really think about is Mips’ giant wooden pee stained cat carrier crate that needs to be tossed.  Is he really going to strap wooden box onto his scooter and ride that pee stained beast down the street?!