Friday, November 30, 2007

Taiwan trip

We've been back since last Monday (11/26), but I've been trying to figure out the best way to blog about our trip. Since I've been blogging mostly about food, I'll stick w/ food highlights, along w/ sprinkles of other stuff here and there. Let's see how my memory is...

I'll start w/ the flights. We flew via EVA Air economy on a 777. This was our first time flying EVA on the 777. On past flights, I've flown Economy Deluxe (now "Elite") on the 747, which is awesome - basically comparable to Business class on a domestic carrier for only about $200 more. The 777 economy seats are supposed be ergonomically designed but for some reason, both Patty and I had a hard time getting comfortable in our seats. The seat cushioning seems thinner and the foot rest is poorly designed (consisting of a thin bar which doesn't provide adequate support for your entire foot). One big upgrade on the 777 is the AVOD (Audio-Video On Demand) system. You can choose from movies, TV shows, music, and games, all on-demand. Selections are made via a wired remote control or via touchscreen (which Patty figured out).

BTW, while I was flipping through some magazines during the flight, I saw ads from Singapore Airlines and Emirates, both touting new "personal suites". Drool...

Check them out here:
Singapore Airlines Suites
Emirates First Class Private Suites

Food consisted of two full meals plus all of the drinks, snacks, and instant noodles you care for. The food was decent...but anything is better than the largely non-existent food that you get on U.S. domestic flights/carriers. We flew from Phoenix to L.A. via U.S. Airways and didn't even get a bag of peanuts.

Here are a few pics I took during the flight (as always, mouse over for descriptions):

EVA Air - economy class meal #1 - Mapo tofuAVOD control unitAVOD personal screenEVA Air - economy class snack - spicy beef instant noodlesEVA Air - economy class meal #2 - porridge
For those of you who have never flown on a non-US airline, the experience (service, food, cabin, etc.) is generally superior. Next time you have the choice to fly on say either United or EVA, I definitely recommend going for the latter.

Taipei highlights
Kelvin took us to breakfast (we arrived @ 6am) for one of my favorite foods - fan tuan (kind of like a giant stuffed rice ball):
fan tuan
Shabu-shabu (from a Japanese restaurant in the Takashimaya department store in Tienmu):Shabu-shabu
Street scene in the Ximending area of Taipei:Ximending area of Taipei
Fried chicken cartilage from a Japanese izakaya restaurant:
Fried chicken cartilage
Another one of my favorites - beef noodle soup:
beef noodle soup
Sesame and peanut mochi:
sesame and peanut mochi
Shaved ice:
shaved ice
After a very quick one day stay in Taipei, we left for Yuanlin (Patty's hometown) via the new high speed train. The seating area in the train is very roomy - about double the pitch of a plane seat. Using the same technology as the Japanese Shinkansen (bullet train), it reached a top speed of 296 kmh (194 mph) during our ride, reducing an approximately 2.5 hr drive down to 40 minutes.

We spent the remainder of our time in Yuanlin, Taichung, and Lukang.

Yuanlin/Changhua highlights

Yuanlin specialties - "ba wan" and "o-wa-guei" ( Mandarin equivalent):
ba wan and o-wa guei
Vegetarian buffet (pay by weight):
vegetarian buffet
Xian Su Ji (salty fried chicken) and zha fan su (fried sweet potato):
xian su ji and zha fan su
One of my favorite pictures from the trip:
water lilies
Eel on tofu:
eel on tofu
Milk based hot pot:
milk based hot pot
Xiao long bao:
xiao long bao
Pot stickers:
pot stickers
Taichung highlights

Hot pot:
hot pot
Two (actually three) of our favorite places in Taichung...

Shin Kong department store:
Shin Kong department store
Zhong Yo department store (and the Taichung Yi Zhong area nearby):
Zhong Yo department store16 stories of shopping and food! (each floor is about the size of one department store in the States)

Tea based dessert:
tea based dessert
Green tea drink w/ green tea ice cream:
green tea drink w/ green tea ice cream
Fried pork ribs:
fried pork ribs
Lukang highlights
"Cow tongue" cakes in the foreground (named for their shape):
various cakes; cow-tongue cakes in the foreground
Patty's uncle took us out for a seafood dinner (Lukang is next to the ocean and famous for its oysters). We had a really good mi fun (noodle) soup but I forgot to take a picture of it. Here's a plate of crabs (from the same place) instead...
For those of you who have never been to Asia before:
  • Food is generally very inexpensive - you can have a very filling (and tasty) meal for as little as $1-2USD.
  • There must be a hot pot craze going on right now. Hot pot has always been popular, but we had three separate friends suggest hot pot...
  • You will rarely see an overweight person.
  • Traffic is insane - the streets are narrow, there are mopeds and people everywhere, and it seems like each driver believes he or she has the right of way. I do not enjoy driving in Taiwan...the crazy thing is, I didn't see a single traffic accident during our entire trip (this is a daily occurrence in Phoenix).
Back to reality... (our return to the U.S.)
We arrived at LAX at noon and our flight to Phoenix wasn't until 4pm so we had lunch at the airport. We got a clam chowder bread bowl from Boudin Bakery ($8), a Hawaiian pizza from California Pizza Kitchen ($11), a bottle of water ($3) and an ice tea ($3) from Starbucks. The clam chowder was so salty that we only ate a few bites of it and the pizza definitely wasn't as good as what's in the full-service CPK restaurants (we didn't finish it as well). With the same amount spent, we could have had a feast in Taiwan. We were already missing the cheap and delicious food in Taiwan!!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

What's wrong with Sky Harbor???

When we left for Taiwan a week and a half ago (via Sky Harbor-PHX) it took us 45 minutes to check-in (of which 40 minutes was spent waiting in line) and another 30 minutes to get through security. So frustrating!!! We arrived nearly 2 hours before our flight, yet we nearly missed it. No kudos to US Airways (operated by America West, aka America Worst) and the Phoenix TSA.

I've never had a good experience flying US Airways...

The strange thing was when we arrived in LAX, we were expecting similar delays (as LAX is usually a nightmare). The crowds were huge but we got through check-in (via EVA Airways) in less than 10 minutes (5 minutes in line) and security in less than 5 minutes. Vey nice!

As an added bonus, we must have passed by a celebrity on the way into the Tom Bradley International Terminal. As we were walking in, a bunch of flashes from paparazzi went off (I'm pretty sure it wasn't for us =) We looked back and saw a woman w/ sunglasses but couldn't identify who she was.

Anyways, getting back to the main message to US Airways and Phoenix TSA: you both need some serious process optimization!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Scouring Shanghai for the perfect dumpling (from the International Herald Tribune)

Here's an interesting read about one of my favorite foods, xiao long bao:

Scouring Shanghai for the perfect dumpling (from the International Herald Tribune)

Good thing we aren't too far from L.A. (there are a bunch of places to get good xiao long bao, including Din Tai Fung, which is mentioned in the story).

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Headed to Taiwan

We're off to Taiwan for the next two and a half weeks.

Abridged version of last weekend food in my previous three posts...I've got to get back on track!

I'm headed off to Taiwan in a few hours and wanted to get this posted before I leave...therefore the following will be a very short summary of last weekend.

Patty and I went to Line Thai (in Sun City) for dinner last Friday. Our first time there - I've heard good things about it before.

We ordered:
  • Pad Thai
  • Green curry w/ chicken
  • Green Papaya Salad
  • Thai ice coffee
The Thai ice coffee was terrible. It had a very strange medicinal aftertaste. We only drank about a quarter of it - neither of us wanted to finish it (this is usually never a problem).

The Green Papaya Salad was just okay for us. The fish sauce dressing was pretty flat tasting.
Line Thai - Green Papaya Salad
The Pad Thai was slighty below average. The chicken was extremely dry.
Line Thai - Pad Thai
The Chicken Green Curry was probably the worst curry dish I've ever had. It was basically chicken, bamboo shoots, and green beans in coconut milk. There was almost no curry flavor in the dish. The chicken pieces also had very strange specks of brown/black on them (cooked blood?). Check out the picture - it's very "white":
Line Thai - Chicken Green Curry
The rice was also very quality stuff.

After reading many positive reviews of the place, it was a very disappointing visit.

On our way home I took Patty to Tortas Paquime for dessert. We ordered strawberries w/ cream and tres leches cake. Both were really good. I was too busy eating and forgot to take pics!

Saturday night we went to Verrado for their annual Founder's Day Celebration. Verrado is a very nice master planned community in Buckeye, AZ (about 25 miles west of Phoenix). The main reason for going was to see a free concert by Blues Traveler! The opening performers were Shiner and Ben Deignan. It was much bigger than I expected (I read afterwards that about 2000 people attended the festivities). We got pizza to-go from Grazie. The pizza was pretty decent though the meat (salami) was a bit too salty. It was very nice eating out under the stars while listening to a free concert. =)

Here's how it looked earlier in the evening:
Verrado Founder's Day CelebrationLater on, almost every patch of grass was occupied and we had people surrounding us. Besides the pizza, we also got a funnel was not good (too thin and crispy).

Sunday afternoon we went to the Litchfield Park Arts & Crafts Festival. This event was also much bigger than I had expected (I read that about 90,000 people attended the two-day festival). The only bad thing was that it was quite hot outside - around 95 degrees (in November!!!).
Litchfield Park Arts & Crafts Festival
For lunch, we headed to...Tortas Paquime!
We had a Shredded Pork torta, a Carne Asada torta, and a mango drink.

I though the Carne Asada Torta was better than the Shredded Pork Torta. The shredded pork made the sandwich a bit mushy overall. Also, I thought the bread was a bit better when I went the first time (on Thursday) - this time it was bit too soft (not toasted long enough). Here's a pic of the shredded pork torta:
Tortas Paquime - Shredded Pork torta
Sunday night, we were in Scottsdale and tried Ice Tango - a new yogurt and crepe shop.

We ordered a Nutella and strawberry crepe and a pomegranate yogurt w/ mochi (rice cake). We also tried a sample of their "twangy" flavor yogurt which is comparable to Pinkberry's plain yogurt.

The crepe was pretty good...though a tiny bit too sweet.
Ice Tango - Nutella and strawberry crepe
The pomegranate yogurt was very good. It was light and very refreshing. The only bad thing was that the outside of the mochi were a bit hard. The "skin" of mochi gets hard when out for too long. I'm guessing not so many people in the area are familiar with mochi so the turnover is low.
Ice Tango - pomengranate yogurt w/ mochi topping
I wish we lived closer to Ice Tango...

Yikes - this ended up much longer than expected! Time to go finish packing!!!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Woman sues Tempe police after she crashed car while drunk (from

Read more here.

What a crazy's like - I'm going to sue you for my stupidity???

Take responsibility for your actions!!!

BTW, that's something that many homeowners facing foreclosure need to do. I was listening to a call-in radio show the other day and was shocked at the entitlement and victimization attitudes that these people have...

Long Yahoo! and Alibaba

Picked up shares of Yahoo! (YHOO) recently @ 31.08. I'm definitely not a fan of their customer service, but I like their ~40% ownership stake in Alibaba. Alibaba has raised $1.5B in their IPO and in a few hours (Nov. 6 in Hong Kong), Alibaba will begin on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

For those of you who aren't familiar w/ the company, Alibaba is a MONSTER in Asia. It dominates the b-to-b space and has crushed eBay in China with its Taobao site. It also has a service called Alipay, which is comparable to eBay's PayPal.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The carnage continues

The "big dogs" of finance are falling one by one...

Last week it was Stanley O'Neal (Merrill Lynch CEO) who "resigned" due to a much larger than expected write-down due to the mortgage related losses. This weekend, Charles Prince (Citigroup CEO) has also resigned due to similar (mortgage) losses. On top of that, the company is also warning of a possible $11B write down. Ouch!

Who will be the next to go?!?

Read more about the Citi news here.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Tortas Paquime

I went to Tortas Paquime for lunch today. They recently opened a new location just a few miles from our house.
Tortas Paquime - exterior
This was my first visit to the store. I was prepared to break out my marginal Spanish skills (as their website is completely in Spanish), but was somewhat relieved when I saw both Spanish and English descriptions on their menu board.

As the name suggests, they specialize in tortas, but also offer a bunch of other items (ice cream/popsicles, pastries, juices/drinks, etc.).

I ordered a carne asada (beef) torta and an agua de mango (mango drink).
Tortas Paquime - carne asada torta
The torta was great. It was a grilled bun loaded w/ cubed grilled beef, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos, and avocado. The beef had good flavor and the other fillings were all fresh. The (homemade) bun was fantastic...

The mango drink was also great - not too sweet w/ tiny bits of mango.

Part way through my meal, the owner came by and asked if everything was ok. Something you don't see at most fast food places...

I'll be taking Patty there soon so I can try more of their food! (and maybe an ice cream and pastry... =)

Response from Yahoo! customer service

Two days ago, I submitted an inquiry to Yahoo! regarding a problem I was having with Yahoo! Mail. Here's the response I just got:


Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Answers.

Thank you for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care. You can ask questions
about Yahoo! Answers, share ideas, get technical support, or report bugs at the Yahoo! Answers Suggestion Board, located at:

Thank you again for contacting
Yahoo! Answers.

Yahoo! Customer Care

Thanks for the insightful reply "Carmen". How does this help me?!?