Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tea and coffee

Just picked up a Christmas present sent to me by my cousin today! It's a thermal travel tumbler that comes with a tea infuser. I put it to work right away and it keeps drinks hot really well. I've always thought that these things with the tea infuser on top would mean that you have to pour a large cup of tea. But the instructions say tell you to just turn it upside down. Genius. Anyway, it is at the office right now so I can't take a picture of it. My tea and coffee collection has increased significantly since going home and then recently to Taiwan.

Got some lavender and roses from Taiwan. Got coffee and chai tea from road trip. And also got tea from friends as gifts. I also have some coffee left that i got from Guilin. So I really need to work on this! I think I will bring the heavily caffinated stuff to the office and leave the non caffinated stuff at home.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas up in Taiwan (part 4)

Last day in Taiwan! I got up to a gloomy and sprinkling morning. The plan for the morning was to visit the Longshan Temple and the CKS Memorial. I went to the memorial first which consisted of a lot of open space. So not so good for rain. The memorial itself was under renovation, which gave me a good excuse not to walk over there. The temple was filled with a ton of people so I managed to stay on schedule and got back to the hostel at around 11am. Talked to family for a bit while they were in wrapping presents.

In the afternoon I went in search of food at Yongkai st near the Dongmen mrt station. That is a really nice neighborhood! I had beef noodles at a small shop. It was really good. Lots of beef and freshly made noodles. There are some streets that are full of little coffee shops that looked like a really nice way to spend an afternoon. If it had continued to rain, I think I would have just stayed in one. But it was sunny out so I kept going. It would be really nice to live in a neighborhood like that!

I headed to the Daqiaotou area to find that it started to rain again. The outside of the mrt station was not very impressive either. Big intersection under an overpass. I nearly turned around to go back to those nice coffee shops. I kept going though and found a lot of older shops selling very cheap candy and tea. I picked out two big bags of candy and cookies and some dried rose and lavender. I made it to the harbor area and found a rainbow. This blogger app doesn't do we'll with photos. It doesn't seem like I can insert photos within my text. They just all go to the end. I'll just upload them in order.

The iPad is not a good substitute for a camera. It's too much work to keep taking it in and out. It also does not have flash and just doesn't do well in certain occasions. I should really get another camera.

Then for my last stop, I went all the way out to Tamshui, which is at the end of one of the mrt lines. It took a while to get out there and back. Glad I went though because its also a really nice area with a nice stretch of coast. There were also lots of stalls with food. I ate some fried pigeon eggs on a stick (I think they are pigeon anyway, those little eggs that are spotted?), fried potato on a stick, and have another bubble tea. I didn't make it all the way out to see the fishermans wharf and fort Domingo, which are some of the listed attractions due to the lack of time. I am writing most of this while on the train back to the city center.

All in all, the trip has been pretty interesting. There are definitely more things to explore, just in Taipei itself. I feel like this is a city like HK where there are a lot of hidden corners and interesting neighborhoods. There are definitely more night market foods to try out. Speaking of night markets, I was eating my stash of food on the steps of this temple last night (there were a lot of other people doing the same thing), when I was approached by the temple's cat. It came right up to me and demanded food. I gave it the last piece of my squid.

Looking forward to going on more trips around Asia while I'm still in HK. It's so easy to go places. And HK people travel a lot. There were people speaking Canto everywhere I go here. I assume they are from HK. I think travel restrictions are less stringent now between Taiwan and the Mainland. There were people at my first hostel from Beijing. I think this is really good to promote understanding and exchange between the two places.

Got to the airport and was disappointed that the return flight would be operated by HK Airlines instead of EVA. No hello kitty meals!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas in Taiwan (part 3)

Spent Christmas morning on the train to Taipei. Got to the city at around noon and found my hostel. I booked one right next to the main train station for its location. They were also one of the only ones that were offering single rooms. Turns out my room is quite big but probably because they just don't have very many people.

I got a 2 day metro pass, which may have been unnecessary but it saves on having to think about having enough money for the train. My first stop was Taipei 101. I was worried that the day wouldn't stay so nice. As soon as we went past these mountains on the train, the sky became blue. It was very gray and gloomy in Hualien. The line was not long at the tower but the outdoor part wasn't open due to setting up of fireworks for New Years. The indoor part was okay. The elevator was very impressive though, extremely fast.

I came back to the hostel to move my stuff into my room. It wasn't ready before. And got an email from my mom saying that I passed the seismic part my exam but not the surveying part. I had found out a couple of days ago that I passed the 8 hr thing. So didn't manage to pass it all in one go but I was really thinking I had failed both the seismic and surveying. So I guess this is good. Only need to focus on one exam next time. Before I took the test I really thought I would pass the surveying and not the seismic. I would rather have to study the seismic again though because that is more applicable.

I went out to make more use of my metro card and took the mrt to beitou, where they have hot springs. I thought about going to a hotel or spa type place but the prices and packages weren't well advertised and u didn't want to go poke into every one on the street. The public one is very cheap. Only $40 TWD, which is a little over 1 usd but I didn't have a bathing suit and buying one there was expensive compared to everything else. So I just walked a long the stream and put my feet into the water. There were some other people doing this as well. I can see how this could be very relaxing. The sulfur smell wasn't too bad here.

Then I went to the Shilin night market and eat guava, stinky tofu, squid, and a jelly drink for dinner. It's much better to go to these things with 3 or 4 people because then you can try out more food. I really wanted to try out more stuff but was full very quickly. I then walked around the Ximen pedestrian streets, which had a lot of little shops and such.

I think I did a good amount of stuff today. More historical sites tomorrow I think. My flight leaves around 8pm and I have about $500 TWD to spend. Should be enough if I don't buy anything expensive. There are a good number of HSBCs here. Too convenient! I just realized I can withdraw money out of my HSBC account in the US as well.

Christmas in Taiwan (part 2)

The rest of the Hualien trip was pretty low key. After Starbucks I found a nice shopping area with lots little shops and got souvenir mochi for coworkers. Also got this really cute thing for Yalu but not sure when to send it to her or if I should just keep it until I get back next April. Keeping Yalu in suspense until then. Haha.

I really wanted to go to the coast but didn't make it. I think I went down the wrong part the first time and that found some really deserted roads. The second time, I tried another part but it was getting dark and it seemed too deserted to keep going. I guess that's the bad thing about traveling by yourself. But maybe part of it is also because I've been living in HK where there are too much people everywhere. It's too quiet anywhere else!

I wanted to go to this cafe but turns out it wasn't open for dinner. I ended up eating dinner at this cafeteria style place where you pick out one meat and 4 veggies. It turned out to be very tastey! I was surprised at how good the food was. The atmosphere is lacking but that's okay.

Traveling on Christmas Day to Taipei.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas In Taiwan (part 1)

It's Christmas Eve and I am sitting at a Starbucks in Hualien, a city on the east coast of Taiwan. Short holiday away from Hong Kong. My friends from work had been talking about doing this trip for a while. Taiwan is really close, only an hour flight away.

We got to Taiwan really late Saturday night/Sunday morning. I got a different flight from them that was leaving about 20 minutes earlier. But when we got to the airport, we found out that their flight was delayed. And we had the hardest time trying to find out where I was supposed to check in. I had bought the flight with HK airlines but it was in fact operated by EVA air. EVA air was running some sort if Hello Kitty thing and everything had Hello Kitty on it, including boarding passes, utensils, even fish cake on their in flight meal!!

I got to Taipei and was about to relax, find a good chair to wait for my friends when I realized their flight was not on the arrivals list. And the I read that the sign was showing flights for Terminal 2 only. This led me to conclude that their flight must be coming in in Terminal 1. A nice security guard showed me the way to the Sky Train after scaring me that the no shuttles would be running at that hour. I found my friends just as they got out of the gates and we successfully made our way to our hotel in Taoyuen. The taxi was a standard fare. It's really good to be in a country where you don't need to negotiate your taxi fare. The hotel was not bad but we only slept there for about 5 hrs before getting ourselves up and onwards to our next destination.

We had a very well planned and executed day. Took the train to Taipei, found lockers for my friends who wanted to leave some stuff in Taipei for the latter part of their trip. We were worried that we wouldn't be able to find anything opened because travel websites only advertised 3 day lockers. There were actually 6 day lockers available. We managed to get the right tickets to Hualien and even find a HSBC bank before boarding the train. We got to Hualien and got a ticket for a shuttle bus to the Taroko Gorge. We left some stuff at the bike shop that my friends were renting their bikes from, and promised the staff that we would be back by 6pm at the latest.

The gorge is really beautiful but the bus was slow and there were a lot of twists and turns. I wasn't feeling all that well by the end of the day. That was too many trains and buses for me. We didn't have time to explore very much of the place. I probably should have gone back again but I wanted to check out the town and some of the gorge looked too dangerous to be out there by myself. There were a lot of Chinese and Korean tour buses though. So as long as I didn't go off on my own I think it would have been ok.

We made it back to town with a few minutes to spare and picked up our stuff from the bike shop. We took a taxi to our hostel with no problems. The hostel owners are really nice and helped my friends call up their upcoming hostels. I think it really takes a very cheerful and optimistic person to run a hostel. The ones I've met so far are all really nice and friendly.

We walked around town a bit, found dinner, and even hit up a night market. I think we were all pretty tired by that day and went to sleep pretty early. I got up with my friends to get breakfast and saw the off on their bike trip. It was kind of hard to communicate with the bike shop owners but we got everything they needed in the end. I've walked around town a bit and taking a break at a Starbucks.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Life on Site

I have now spent two full days as site staff. I have to say that it's pretty boring already. I'm the only person from my company on this site because it is so small. It is a building that is at the corner of a road and surrounded by tall buildings in the middle of the financial district. The regular guy on this job is British and cannot speak Cantonese. But he seems to have pretty good people skills and the contractors all seem to like him. We were a bit worried that the contractors just won't speak to him but he seems to be doing fine. Part of it might be because their project manager grew up in Liverpool.

I'm pretty lucky that his relationship with them is good. They have also rented out a site office because the site is so small that it cannot handle having two trailers. So I just sit around in the site office until someone tells me that there is something to inspect.

I've also visited CPS (my police station project) a couple of times since it is very close by. I think I should really use the opportunity to pop in more often to check things out. It's unfortunate that both sites are just piling at the moment and there is no excavation happening. I have a feeling that I'll be seeing plenty of excavation once I'm permanent staff on site though. I'm still trying to figure out where I fit in on site though. It would be a lot better if there is a senior RE on site to tell me what I should be doing and *how* I should be doing it.

Really was hoping I would be putting in less overtime this month. It was definitely happening last couple of weeks but even though I have more time on site, it's still hard to get office stuff done. So I feel like I'm working two jobs and need to keep tabs on multiple things.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Back to work

Finally back to work for a full day after being sick since Friday. Still not feeling 100% but at least I can manage to think, talk, and concentrate. But it turns out that I'm going to be spending at least the next week as a replacement for someone on site. Hopefully there won't be much going on. I haven't even fully set up my desk at the new seat yet. Seems like I won't be sitting there for very long.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sick again

Still sick! Argh, I really thought I was better this morning and met up with a coworker at GEO. But on the bus ride over, I found that I was really out of it. I got to the office, checked some email, unpacked some stuff, and then went home to sleep the entire afternoon. Had the worst headache ever. Anyway, we're supposed to be having a project lunch tomorrow. Hopefully I can make it for that. Another guy on the project is also sick. I wasn't sick the entire first year I was in HK. What's happening now?

Whenever I'm sick, I have this strange craving for steamed buns. The white ones. Especially ones with a ball of meat in the middle. Not the sweet stuff nor the BBQ pork kind but the chicken or pork ones. And it's actually not that easy to find, even where I live in HK. There are very limited shops that sell them and they sell out or close early. There are a lot of bakeries but they all sell baked goods, which just don't appeal to me when I'm sick. Anyway, last time I was sick, in June, I couldn't find these buns at all. Doing a bit better this time since I've discovered a place that makes them. They close early though, mostly doing the morning business and catering to the elderly.

Drinking a lot of tea, which is good because I always want to buy more to try different things and end up having this huge collection.

I dreamt a lot last night, which I haven't done in a while. I think it's sign that I'm finally getting enough (catching up on) sleep. I feel like I only dream when I've already slept the required amount and is sleeping "recreationally". Not sure if this is actually true or not.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Annual Dinner, Shenzhen

Have been feeling kind of low on energy this entire week and finally on Friday, I actually felt sick and went home before lunch. I was actually at the office for a very short amount of time. I stopped by the doctors and got some prescription drugs before getting some food and went to bed. I basically slept the entire Friday. Feeling slightly better today but still not there yet. Probably should have gotten a flu shot.

Maybe last weekend was a little too much excitement. Went to the company's annual dinner, which felt more low key this time around. It might have been because I arrived pretty late and everyone was already seated at tables. Most of the graduates my year are already on site but they still all sat together. I feel like this year's graduates are not as tight. But then again, I didn't get to know people through work but rather, at work activities, like the Inner Challenge and other team gatherings.

Then on Sunday, I went with a friend, JJ, to Shenzhen for the first time. It was pretty easy. We met up at the Kowloon Tong station and took the train to Lokwu, where we crossed the border. JJ had never used the electronic system for getting in and out of HK before. But she's definitely traveled after getting to HK so I wonder what type of people she went with. Anyway, it was drizzling the entire day so we stuck with indoor activities mostly. This consisted of shopping. There's a really big shopping mall right at Lokwu that has lots of little shops selling mostly clothes and shoes. It's a lot like the low end shopping malls in HK except sketchier, less people, and more people smoking. I was not so interested in the clothes. I got some paintings on our way back though. Those are pretty nice. You can get paintings in any size and get them framed right away. I think I will end up collecting a good amount of paintings while I'm here.

We went to a pedestrian street and walked around there. I really like pedestrian streets where you can walk outside and see different things. Got sugarcane! Really happy about that purchase. I must have eaten too much random stuff that day because my tongue got a sore this week. Extremely annoying. Anyway, the entire trip was really easy. I feel like I can go back anytime. I really should make use of my visa. I even got a Shenzhen Tong metro pass, which operates like the Octopus in HK.

I think there are some historical sites and interesting parks in Shenzhen that I would like to check out. But probably need to find some other travel buddy for such an activity because I think JJ is mainly interested in spas and shopping. I find that you definitely get a different experience when you travel with different people who have different interests. Anyway, it's good to have a variety of friends.

Hopefully I'll get better by Monday because I promised one of the guys that I would go with him to GEO in the morning.

Sunday, December 2, 2012