Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I am a huge fan of this blog post.

I'm not exactly an off-road cyclist, or even a long-distance cyclist. I have a little city girl bike that I take on the back lanes of southern Taipei (I think once or twice I've gone north of Ba-de Road, but I do cycle in Wanhua occasionally and that takes parts. I think I deserve some cred for that). Usually I ride it down to Jingmei Riverside Park and get some exercise biking up to Machangding Park and back, stopping to pet the occasional tiny dog on the way. The only danger on that bike lane is the occasional ojisan walking down the lane slapping his hands together to facilitate the flow of qi, turtles that come out after dark, and renegade tiny dogs.

(I love the tiny dogs. So?)

It's safe enough that I've even been known to listen to my MP3 player while riding it, as cars aren't allowed.

Anyway, regardless of this, the post above is a hilarious roll-call of bad driving in Taiwan, and the cars that bad drivers use to endanger us all. Ah, the blue trucks. Taxis, yes. I agree about the Cefire but I think Benzes and Beamers are just as dangerous.

And, y'know, taxis are fun. They can do anything. 6pm, in Xinzhu Science Park, need to make it back to the High Speed Rail station in 25 minutes? (This is doable at 10pm, but 6pm? You'd have to be suicidal *and* on drugs to attempt it in rush hour traffic) - tell the driver. He'll say "可能來不及喔!" (Oh, you probably won't make it!) But you know what, 9 times out of 10 he'll get you there. (The 10th time, you end up at a strange tunnel of light).

Plus, bonus! Get 'em talking about politics. They love to talk about that. I have heard so many amazing opinions on things from taxi drivers. It's like pulling political opinions out of a hat. It's like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Large Size Shoes For Women!!!11!!!!1


(Yes, this is that big of a deal. I had to break out the "1"s.)

Shu Flies already covered this in her post about plus-size stores in Taipei, but I didn't want to post about it until I'd checked it out personally.

Sandy Ho Shoes

#68 Zhongshan N. Road Section 1, Zhongshan District, Taipei

#100 Nanjing E. Road Section 4 Songshan District, Taipei

#336 Zhongshan N. Road Section 6, Shilin District, Taipei (Tianmu, near Whose Books, The Community Services Center and Best Buy clothing, a bit south of International Square)

#100 Meicun Road Section 1, West District, Taizhong

#71 Ximen Road Sec. 2 Zhongxi (Middle West) District, Tainan

#342 Zhonghua W. Road Qianjin District Kaohsiung

#165 Wufu 1st Road Lingya District Kaohsiung

#289 Minsheng Road, Pingdong City

Or you can browse here. They're also mentioned here in a great article about larger-sized clothing stores for women in Taiwan. (As a curvy Western woman who has to shop in these stores, I do intend to put a review of them up later).

Sandy Ho has three locations in Taipei, one in Taizhong, one in Tainan, two in Kaohsiung and one in Pingdong City. Her stores aren't large but carry a fair selection of women's dress shoes in all sizes - some were even too big for me (that has honestly never happened before). I even met a Taiwanese girl who has to leave the country once a year to buy shoes, or at least she did until she found Sandy's store. As the first Taiwanese girl I've ever met who has feet that are actually bigger than mine (I wear a US 10 - it's hard to find nice shoes in a US 10 in the USA), I greeted her quite enthusiastically. "我很,真,這麼那麼高興見到妳啦!"

Most of her shoes are in the $60 US range, which for shoes of fairly good quality, I am OK with. If she's only got a few left of any one style, it goes on sale - I got one pair for NT $600.

The important thing is that they're dress shoes. I can get effeminate men's running shoes that could easily pass for women's sneakers here. I wear flip-flops or Birkenstocks (or even Tevas) as sandals, so those are easy to find in men's sizes. I have a pair of Grandma-tacular Obasan local-style cloth shoes (the quilted ones with rubber soles) in black for comfy days when I don't care how trendy I look - not that it matters as I wear boot-cut jeans.

But I do have a job that requires me to work in many different offices in Taipei and Xinzhu (not that my Xinzhu clients care one jot what shoes I wear: they're engineers. The best engineers in the country. They wear jeans and spectacularly unfashionable shirts every day). My finance/banking clients, however, probably do notice.

I posted a question about just this thing on Forumosa - "Where can I get large-size women's dress shoes" and I got a bunch of crap back that told me the following:

- where to get large-sized men's shoes

- where to get sneakers / running shoes / sandals that women can wear (because you know most foreigners here are either students or work in some kid's school where it doesn't matter)

- that I have to go abroad - "oh, go to Thailand and have someone make them for you" - as if. The whole point was asking where to get shoes domestically.

...all of which was ridiculously unhelpful.

So yes, I am very excited about the discovery of Sandy Ho's business. Not all of her shoes are to my taste (there are a few designer-style disasters like the plaid upholstered heels and lots of shoes with blingy crap on them, and some '80s monstrosities) but quite a few suited me perfectly. They had a fine selection of office shoes, flats, kitten heels, low heels ("court heels" apparently) and high heels. They even carried sizes too big for me to wear.

I am happy that their selection of flats was so good: a lot of companies in Taiwan erroneously believe that high heels are mandatory office wear for females, which is of course utter bollocks, to borrow a phrase from the British.

So, hooray for Sandy, and all you foreign females out there, give her your business!

Clunky Puns

Ah, Taipei district elections.

The Chinese language has a proud history of puns - word play is considered one of the highest forms of comedy and wit, and while I question any "wit" that's based on a pun, since it's more difficult to pun effectively in Chinese (at least for me), I can sort of almost be OK with it. I will even do it sometimes, to which those who have heard my "下很大!" joke on rainy days can attest.

Well, as a friend of mine noted, Presidential candidates have the money for professional staff to come up with their witty lines and groan-worthy puns - that's how we got "馬上改善經濟“ (actually not sure it said "gai shan" - it was years ago during the Ma/Xie election). It means "Immediately improve the economy". For those who don't speak Chinese, "Immediately" is "馬上", which also means "on the horse", and now-President Ma's name is the same "Ma" as "horse". And of course those ads had pictures of President Horse riding...a horse. Ha ha. Oh, you slay me. (Ba-dum ching!)

District candidates...don't have that money. As you can see here:

We've been kind of following the Zhongshan-Datong election because we have a friend who lives in that area, and we haven't seen much happening in Jingmei. The fight seems to be between Yeh Lin-chuan, the KMT candidate above with a penchant for the color scheme of a Pretty Pretty Princess dollhouse, and one A-Yu, whose last name is not that important.

(I do love the super-feminine Yeh Linchuan poster on the ubiquitous blue truck with the ubiquitous undershirt wearing dude driving it).

I originally mistranslated this poster as "(Yeh Lin) Chuan comes out to love" because, as many of you know, I am capable of heroically misusing the "把" construction. I was corrected: his name is used as a pun here. The "chuan" of "Linchuan" is added to the phrase to say "Take the love and send it out".

Aww. Peace, man. Love yer scrolling purple characters. I think you should add a few more flowers, though.

Then there's A-Yu, who, instead of the usual tissues or notepads (I still have my "Ma and Siew" notepad. I drew devil horns on Ma and have him saying "I love China!") has been giving out face masks:

A-Yu's name (餘) is basically the same as pronunciation as 魚 for "fish", so the little card says "With one fish, eat three times" and three reasons why you should vote for him (the usual stuff, like he'll help bring development, he'll speak for you in city government etc.). Under that it says "Plus, get a side dish: Twenty years of experience!" - though that seems to be referencing some other guy also on the ad.

Sigh. I mean, it's cute & all, and Americans do it too, even if our candidates don't do it themselves ("Obama-rama" or "That's my Bush!" anyone?). But I feel like you either need to be truly witty or hire someone who is, or you get kind of clunky puns like the ones above.

(BTW, simply because I lean green with a dash of brown, I'd vote for A-Yu if I could vote here).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Kunming Islamic Restaurant (昆明園)

Kunming Islamic Restaurant
#26 Lane 81 Fuxing N. Road Taipei Taiwan


Seriously. Just go. Don't wait. Go. Now. I'll wait.

(tick tick tick)

Back? So...wasn't that great?! I mean, YUM! I know. I KNOW. Sooo good.

In case you didn't obey my instructions and did not just run out and eat there right now, let me just say that this place is gooooood.

We had:

Coconut chicken: good
Channa Masala: great
Chili Shrimp: Amazing
Chapatis: pretty damn good
Indian Masala Tea: good, needed more cardamom
Plain lassi: Sooooo good
Samosas with yoghurt and coriander chutney: MMmmmmmmMMMMmmmmMmMm!
Biriyani rice: Taaasty!
Gulab jamun: may have been from a can but was served in a very nice sugar syrup (*may* have been homemade from a mix, not sure) and hot the way I like it.
Moussaka (eggplant and beef): except for green peppers, yummmmy

No beer though. Boo on that. Fortunately the plain lassi was quenching enough that we barely noticed.

So yeah, for serious, go here. Eat all the food. It's a really interesting mix of Middle Eastern, Indian, Southeast Asian and Chinese - we stuck mostly with the Indian but there was other stuff on offer.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Good Haircuts for Western Women!


Eddie's still giving great haircuts! (August 2013)

Edited, because Eddie's moved:

Pica Hair Salon
Eddie Tham
Zhongxiao E. Road Section 4 #76 3rd Floor (MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing Exit 3)

Hi all.

Sorry about not posting much of anything. Been very, very busy. More about that later.

So I promised my next post would be about where Western women can get a good haircut in Taiwan, and I wasn't joking. I've also had it in my head to make a long, epic post detailing places where expat women can get things they need (from good haircuts to shoes in our size to clothes in our size that actually look good to feminine products - all the stuff nobody on Forumosa seems to have a clue about). As I've said, I'm rather sick of the dearth of information and services on things foreign women in Taipei need, and I do think it's the result of the fact that most expats in Taiwan are men. Not bashing the men, just saying it's annoying - especially that nobody seems to care that this is a problem - and if I can do one thing to make the lives of other expat women here easier, I will feel I've done a service to the community).

Anyway, on to the hair.

My friend Emily found this great place near Zhongxiao Fuxing called Mix & Match, right across from the green Sogo. Address above. Eddie, the main stylist, trained in London and really understands curly, wavy, lighter colored, more unruly Western women's hair. I realize men here have it fairly easy - it's not hard to cut men's hair and the worst that can happen is that you end up looking like a Mandopop or Korean movie star, which doesn't really seem to happen that often - though I joke with Brendan that I fully expect him to get a haircut like this for the wedding:

...or possibly this:

OK, I'll admit it. I think Rain is kind of cute. I mean, Brendan's still cuter but for a pop star, Rain is totally not that bad. Korea...sparkling!

(Plus, I'm a sucker for a guy in an oatmeal cable-knit sweater holding an adorable puppy or kitty)

...anyway. Back to the far more important topic of women's hair.

We went in - medium to long hair is about NT $1000 to cut, short hair is less. A dye job runs approximately NT$3000 depending on length. This is more than other salons but it's totally worth it because Eddie knows what he's doing with Western hair and doesn't treat it like the fine, straight hair that most Taiwanese women have.

For example, my hideous hangy-down shag hair that was so unattractive that I always kept it up turned into this:

"Is it Margarita o'clock yet?"

...and even looks better while put up:

I swear I'm not a lush: the first picture was taken during a rare weekday off so we took advantage of Yuma's 3pm happy hour margarita special. The 2nd picture was at least a week later, celebrating Brendan and Emily's joint birthday parties.

And that was without a color job. I do intend to get a new cut and a nice color for the wedding, but saw no point in coloring it now when I have nothing in particular for which I ought to look better than I normally do. Emily, on the other hand, got a cut and color:

"Unlike Jenna, I am not about to turn 30. Nyah nyah. Also, it is in fact Margarita o'clock."

And I have to say, what a great color it is. In the light it's got lots of different highlights and glints and shades, not like the nasty, almost matte block color that you get from cheap dyes. And unlike Taiwanese hair salons, where I have gotten dye jobs before, Eddie actually dyes the roots! You have no idea how annoying it is to sit through a dye job only to find that your hair is the same color in a fringe around your face, sprouting to a new color almost a centimeter out. I thought dye jobs were meant to avoid that particular look. I have no idea why Taiwanese salons do this, and they just don't listen when you tell them you want all of your hair dyed. They also just do not understand the intricacies of dying already light-ish hair, because let's face it, they're used to local girls coming in and getting coffee or caramel or bluish highlights, not to girls with light brown hair coming in and asking for reds and chestnuts.

So, girls, if you are looking for a good cut and dye job, Eddie's your man!

As for why I've been so busy...

I worked all weekend last weekend (long days, too) but made some good money, and April's just been a busy month. I am sure only a few people reading this REALLY care that much about our wedding, but besides work we also nailed down a DJ for a good price (or what we figure is a good price for not having to rent and set up our own sound equipment - a disaster waiting to happen - or find our own music). I ordered my sister's Ninja of Honor dress - we do not want matching attendants so I let them all pick whatever they want within a very basic color scheme of bright jewel tones and bought my sister's dress as a thank you for all of her help. Emily and I started work on DIY escort cards and I am working on the DIY program - as many people will be quite unfamiliar with different elements of the ceremony and some would benefit from a Chinese translation, we think inexpensive hand-designed and photocopied programs are a good idea - and DIY table numbers and tent cards explaining the different kinds of tea we'll offer with dessert, too. Plus a pile of tiny projects like a decoration for my fan (in lieu of a bouquet), corsages, boutonnieres. I figure if we're gonna go for it and throw a big party we may as well have fun with it, but if we're gonna do that we should DIY it so it won't cost much.

So, been making stuff like this:

...for the tea bar. And other stuff.