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!!!

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