2014年2月27日 星期四

[Travel Taiwan] Setting Dates II: Holidays & Special Events

I always do my homework before traveling, and after perusing many travel forums, I noticed a lot of people complain about traveling on a certain date expecting to see festive streets decorated for the holidays filled with people, only to find empty streets because everyone went to celebrate in their own home. Entertainment in Taiwan is basically 24/7, but there are still times less optimal for travel, and I've put together a guide to the holidays and other special dates for you.

(see Setting Dates Part 1 here)

2014年2月24日 星期一

[Travel Taiwan] Setting Dates I: Weather & Seasons

One of the most difficult thing for me when planning a trip is setting the date. Will I be able to cope with the weather? Is there a massive sale going on? Is the town going to be packed with tourists like me? To make life easier for anyone looking to travel to Taiwan, I've compiled all related info into two parts (part deux coming on Thursday), hope it helps!

Heme X Hello Kitty

2014年2月18日 星期二

[Travel Taiwan] Money Matters II: Costs and Prices

Taiwan is ideal for travel, because it has all the convenience of modernized cities, but its cost of living is relatively low.

2014年2月14日 星期五

[Sugar and Spice] 蛋餅 Dan-Bing

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Did you do something special for yourself or your significant other? :) Boyfriend and I aren't big on all the commercialized offerings such as overpriced couple meals and pink-overdosed goods, but we do like to do something nice on this day, preferably at home so we won't have to beat the crowd. One thing we particularly like is when the other person cooks for us, so what better way to celebrate than cooking together?

2014年2月11日 星期二

A Krispy Kreme Kind of Love of Line-ups

I am a huge fan of Krispy Kreme, so much so that I used to order a dozen and eat them all myself. I first had Krispy Kreme in Canada, then I came back to Taiwan and never saw it again for another decade, until recently when I had them again in Korea and Philippines. 

2014年2月10日 星期一

[Makeup Newbie Frustration] Colours and Undertones

Courtesy of http://todayilearned.co.uk/2011/04/05/different-perception-of-colors-by-gender/
The image shown above went viral a couple years back. From what I observed, most people consider it to be a spot-on depiction of how male and female see colours very differently. As a female, while I'm not fixated on using specific names for certain colours, I do believe that the subtle difference in colours matters. Take my favourite colour purple for example, a slight hint of red, blue or gray can make it fab or drab to me. (Thus, making me impossible to shop for.) 

2014年2月8日 星期六

9 Things I learned from Candy Crush

Lately I've been keeping myself busy with the game Candy Crush. For those who are not familiar with it, it's a game involving strategically switching candies around and a fair amount of luck. I would be playing 24/7 if not for its time limits- you get one live every half hour, if your lives run out, then you have to wait. It is a Facebook-affiliated game, so if you have lots of friends who play, they can also gift you lives, though  sadly most of my friends have quit Candy Crush a long time ago. Why am I always late to the game? Though this game has used up many could-have-been-productive hours, it has also taught me a few lessons, and I am sharing them with you, fellow addicts and non-addicts of Candy Crush -

1. Opportunities don't always hang around, sometimes you have to wait patiently for another one to present itself. They do come around eventually, be optimistic!

2. If you have a lot of friends and network, you can increase the number of opportunities you get. Time to network!

3. A lot of the times it may look like an impossible task, but you will only know the outcome by giving it a try. 

4. Observe and do not make any hasty moves. One simple move can make or break you.

5. Being fixated on certain aspects can make you really miss out on other good things.

6. Surprises can happen, even if all seems bleak and hopeless. (More than once I made random moves in desperation and won.)

7. If you keep at it, one day you'll make it. Perseverance is key. (Rumor has it after several fails it gives you an easier board to play with. But I like to think of it as perseverance.)

8. Sometimes it all comes down to luck. No matter how skilled you are, you will get a shitty board one time or another, and there's no need to blame yourself for that.

9. Playing too much visual games will lead to deteriorating eyesight and dreaming about them. (I once had a dream involving using gigantic candies to fend off Giants(進擊的巨人)......)

Any other items you would like to add to the list?

2014年2月5日 星期三

A good omen?

I am a dreamer. By that I don't mean the "I have a dream" kind of a dreamer, but the "have a very exciting life after falling asleep" kind. I dream every time I sleep, and most of my dreams are nightmares, involving me running from something, or being forced to do certain things. My nightmares include every kind of my fears, and two things that top my scare chart are steep hills and small passages. I never gave it much thought, since most of my fears are somewhat illogical. A couple days ago, those two elements appeared in the same dream, and that's when I started to think about the reasoning behind my fear. After some thought, I realized they both stem from childhood incidents. 

When I was around 8, I went on a field trip with my class to a orange orchard. The orange trees were planted on a small but steep hill, and we were supposed to go around and pick oranges. At one point, someone dropped an orange, and I watched it roll at a high velocity all the way down to the bottom. I could not forget the scene, and I was convinced that I will lose my footing and roll down the hill like the orange, ending in a mush. Despite how frightened I was, everyone else seemed to be having fun, so I kept quiet and tried to look calm. The fear must have grew and grew inside me to an disproportional scale, even to this day, I often dream of sliding down hills.  

My fear of small passages come from another nature trip. (see why I am not a nature-loving person?) I was with my family, and we were touring one of nature's wonders, a complicated structure carved out of rock. Apparently looking at it from afar isn't enough, so we had to go through the entire and bask ourselves in the powers of nature. The structure comprised of some steps leading upwards, (probably reinforced by men) then endless narrow passages gradually leading downwards. I did not like it at all, but still managed to hold it together. At the very end, there were two gigantic horizontal slabs of stone with some space between them, and we have to crawl through it to get back to society. The opening looked ridiculously small. I was probably being whiny, so some adults went first. It looked like a human sandwich, except the stuffing is trying to wiggle their way out. When it was my turn, I was struggling a bit with my dysfunctional body coordination, but wasn't freaking out yet. Then I scraped my elbow. That moment, I was screaming in my head, thinking I will get stuck here and slowly rot to death. I think I might have cried. Of course, my fear was ridiculous, since that men twice my size have gone safely before me, but isn't that the usually case with fears? 

I never realized how childhood events can affect me so deeply, and it was a bit amusing to find out. So what happened in my dream? Was it a double-dose horror story? In the dream, I was forced to climb a steep hill. I was horrified, and I tell the other person I couldn't do it. He (It?) gave me some words of encouragement, and sent me on my way. On my way up, the sulfate surface suddenly turned into grapes. it was still steep, but I could get a foothold by sticking my feet in between the soft mushy grapes. (Wine-making anyone?) It was like climbing a rope ladder, and I made it to the top with ease. I was feeling quite happy with myself, until I'm told that I have to continue forward and crawl through a small passage. I almost cried, but with my newly-found confidence, I pushed on. After enduring the dark, tight crawlspace, I exited into a bright and open space, greeted by friends. Then I woke up. 

In this dream, I overcame two of my biggest fears, a rarity in my series of never-ending nightmares. Could it be a good omen, that I will be overcoming obstacles in life? I certainly hope so! Now, I wonder what I will dream of tonight?

2014年2月4日 星期二

[Travel Taiwan] Money Matters

Travel Taiwan is a series that covers any information related to traveling in Taiwan.

Hello world! This is Lenny, reporting from Taiwan J

When traveling abroad, whether you’re a champagne and yacht kind of person, or someone with the backpacker’s spirit, it’s always better to carry some cash with you, and today I am going to talk about some frequently asked questions about money in Taiwan.

What is the currency used in Taiwan?

The currency we use in Taiwan is New Taiwan Dollar, or NTD. Bills come in  NT$100, NT$200, NT$500, NT$1000, NT$2000; coins come in NT$1, NT$5, NT$20, NT$10, NT$50. 

The currency rate is about NTD : USD = 30 : 1, or NTD : EUR = 40:1.

NT$20, NT$200 and NT$2000 are relatively uncommon, and on the rare occasion, some shops might not accept them, so keep this in mind when exchanging currencies. Don't fret when you get them though, they are probably legit! Very few counterfeit currency issues here. 

The best thing about NTD is that the size of the coins are in accordance to the value, with NT$1 being the smallest one, making it easy to differentiate the coins when you are caught at the supermarket with 20 people lined up behind you. (I'm looking at you Canada! what's up with dimes smaller than nickels?!) If all else fails, spread all your money on the counter and give the cashier a clueless look and they will help you, 99.9% chance they will not swindle you and take more than they should. (no promises though, don't sue me if they do) 

NTD is used only in Taiwan.
Picture courtesy of Taiwan.net.tw

Can I use USD or other foreign currencies in Taiwan?

In almost all parts of Taiwan, only NTD is accepted. However, in some popular tourism spots where the competition between shops is intense, e.g. Alishan or Sun Moon Lake, some shops will take USD, RMB, or HKD. This is illegal, and I won't advice running around with only USD or RMB. Other currencies are not accepted anywhere.

Where can I exchange money? 

Money exchange is only available at government-designated banks and hotels. (Click here for list of designated banks) Contact your hotel/hostel and ask them if they have the service.

IMPORTANT TIP : Most banks are only open Mon-Fri 0900-1530, so I would advise travelers to exchange at least some money before they depart for Taiwan, or, you can exchange your money at the airport, Bank of Taiwan(台灣銀行) and Mega International Commercial Bank(兆豐銀行) have booths at airports, but do take note of the operating hours if your flight has a extreme arrival time.
A common traveler's myth(?) is that banks have the worst exchange rates, but since there are NO private exchange facilities in Taiwan, there is not much difference. 

Airport currency exchange operating hours and map: (click them!)

ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: NOT ALL CURRENCIES ARE ACCEPTED. USD is widely accepted, other currencies only accepted at aforementioned two banks (台灣銀行/兆豐銀行), and a few currencies are only accepted at the airport, such as Rupee. I have a ridiculous story on trying to exchange rupee in Taipei, and I hope no one will ever have to go through that again!

Older version of USD bills or stained bills might be charged a handling fee. (What's an old version? I have no idea. Check with the bank.)

Is there other currency exchange places available?

There are NO private money changers in Taiwan. If someone tells you otherwise, be suspicious. (or get some hard evidence to convince me, and I'll edit this post.)

How much money should I exchange? 

It all depends on your travel style and number of staying days. You can always exchange more later, or use other means of payment. Some necessary spending from landing to getting to the city:
Bus fare from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei: NT$125
Taxi fare from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei: around NT$1000 
Taipei MRT: around NT$25/ride
Taipei Public Bus: NT$15/ride

For further information on costs of Taipei please see Money Matters part 2. (coming soon!)

Can I use Credit Cards in Taiwan?

Yes! major credit cards like American Express, VISA, Master Card and JCB are all widely accepted. Obviously street vendors don't take credit cards, but convenience stores, some shops and restaurants don't take credit cards either, be sure to ask before you make a purchase. If you are caught at the counter with no cash to pay with, politely tell them so and ask where the nearest ATM is, then come back with the money after you make an withdraw from the ATM. (If you don't go back to pay then shame on you!)

TIP: An alternative to exchanging money at the bank is utilizing credit cards and ATMs. You can withdraw the amount you need whenever you wish, taking away the stress of carrying around lots of cash. There are ATMs in almost all convenience stores and all banks, so it's very convenient.
Check with your bank beforehand:
if it provides international withdraws;
if there are any additional handling fees;

it a different password is required to make withdraws.
Also take note of the daily withdraw limit of ATMs.
Bonus: Some travelers have noted that the ATM withdraws gives a better rate than exchanges at the banks!

What about Traveler’s Check?
Most stores in Taiwan do not accept traveler's check, please exchange it to NTD. Stick to cash and credit cards!


All in all, Taiwan is a pretty convenient place, (convenience is key) as it is highly modernized and international. Also the crime rate in Taiwan is pretty low compared to other countries, so I won’t worry about getting robbed. But don’t go around showing off your money either! If you are so unfortunate to get robbed or stolen from, report to the nearest police station immediately and those friendly non-English speaking policemen will do everything they can to help you. This is where a Chinese/Taiwanese-speaking friend will come in handy, so try to make friends when you're here!

Do you have any NTDs in your traveler’s trophy collection?
Do you have any money-related stories, good or bad, that happened in Taiwan?

2014年2月3日 星期一

[The Look] Beginner's attempt

Guess what my favourite colour is?

Maybelline 8 in 1 Improving BB Base in 02 Natural
1028 Visual Therapy Dual Tone Flawless Concealer
Media Powder Blush in PK-2
Muji Brow Pencil in Gray

1028 Visual Therapy Brownie Eyes Palette
1028 Visual Therapy Eye liner

Mentholatum Q10 Lip Gel

Being a makeup newbie, my first goal is to have a look suitable for day to day activities. I think this is quite a wearable look, I look like myself minus the dreaded dark circles (the main reason I ventured into makeup world). There's much improvement to be made, but my main issue is that my eyeliner keeps smudging onto my lower lid, must find a way to prevent that. Any tips? Also, I keep thinking this base is too light for my face, even though all my friends said I look fine. Am I being paranoid?

2014年2月2日 星期日

New Year Reflections and Resolutions

A sneak peak at my journal

One of the best things about being Taiwanese in this modern society is that I get to do over my resolutions. Wrote your New Year Resolutions on Dec 31, all of a sudden it's January 30, and you didn't take a single step to keep with your resolutions? No problem! It's a new year again and you get to make resolutions (and fail them ) all over again! 

I may or may not have made several resolutions for 2014 a month ago. Buy hey, like I said, I get a chance to do over, so I ain't gonna sweat it, neither should you, pretend you celebrate Lunar New Year and make a new list of Resolutions today! 

To make resolutions, one has to reflect on the past year first. Like always, my biggest problem is procrastination. (Fellow procrastinators please raise your hand so I won't feel all alone) 

At work, I am awesome (rare egogistic comment there). But when it comes to my personal life, I am a HUGE procrastinator. I love making plans and lists, but always fail to follow through. But "stop procrastinating" is such a vague and daunting thing to say, so my biggest resolution for 2014 is to Write in my journal everyday. In my journal , I will jot down one act of happiness, one act of accomplishment, and one thought of reflection. Hopefully this can help cure some of my procrastination, and lead to great things in life!

What is your New Year's Resolution? Have you been sticking to it for that past month?

2014年2月1日 星期六

Fashion photographer in making

It seems to be the universal rule that to be a successful fashion blogger, you need to have a loving boyfriend or husband (or girlfriend or wife) who is great at taking flattering photos of you, because who can afford professional photographers for every OOTD? 

Like so many other qualities that successful bloggers have, I have to say I'm still working to acquire one of those. Nowadays it seems like every other Taiwanese boy is into photography and owns a DSLR, but unfortunately for me, my boyfriend is not one of them, he is one to live the moment rather than to capture it. I'm slowly training him to take photos of me, but his love for me has proved to be an obstacle. (How weird does that sound?) Case in point: Boyfriend took multiple shots of the above photo before I realized my coat is caught in my bag. When I asked him why he didn't tell me, he replied "But you always look good to me." This happens over and over for smudged eye shadow, flyaway hair, untucked shirt and various other scenarios. Then again, he is the only person in my life that gives me sweet talk, so I should probably be grateful. Hopefully one day he will become skilled and capable of making my stumpy figure look great on film and be kind enough to tell me when I am not looking presentable, in the meantime, we would just have to put up with some silly photos! If you see something out of the ordinary, I'm probably not trying to make an fashion statement, I'm just being clumsy and uncoordinated. 

Who takes photos of you? do you take them yourself?