Night Markets, Eel Rice, and Airport Adventures | Last Days in Taiwan

Hello, everyone!

I hope you are all having a wonderful week so far. It’s now Friday morning, and I’m happy to be back home with my family in BC. Next Thursday, I’ll be flying off to Australia, so I’m thrilled to have some time to unwind, unpack, and… repack.

But first, let’s look at some eats!

On one of our last days in Taiwan, we had breakfast at the buffet at our hotel, the Taipei Hero House. I ate two plates, and particularly loved the steamed bun (mantou), pickled turnips, Taiwanese braised pork rice, and sautéed cabbage.

At Yum Cha, a dim sum restaurant, we ordered:

  • siu mai with pork and shrimp
  • wok-fried beef strips and wide rice noodles
  • eggplant with spicy pork and salted fish
  • glutinous rice and chicken in a lotus leaf

Another morning, I had a lovely quiche from a coffee shop in the airport. This quiche was labelled as “chicken and vegetable”, but I didn’t detect a single piece of chicken in here. That was no problem, though, because it was stuffed with onion and mushroom – it was super flavourful.

IMG_5253

That night, Dad and I went to a night market called Raohe Street Night Market, which primarily caters to tourists. First up: an oyster omelet with plenty of sweet and sour sauce. I love oyster omelets, and this was a great way to kick a the night of eating.

Then, I ate:

  • deep-fried taro ball filled with cheese
  • deep-fried taro ball filled with red bean paste and salted egg yolk (unpictured)
  • taro milk
  • cheese bubble waffle
  • stinky tofu with pickled cabbage
  • Taiwanese tempura with pig blood cake (made with pork blood, sticky rice, broth, and steamed or cooked in a hot pot)
  • wheel cake filled with radish
  • wheel cake filled with cream
  • bolo bao (pineapple bun) filled with vanilla ice cream

The next day, Grandpa and I went to a botanical garden in Taipei and ate dim sum. The creamy salted egg yolk buns will always be my favourite.

We enjoyed food at a Japanese grill for lunch before watching a movie. The restaurant was packed with people, and the line extended for a block! Everyone in the restaurant ate very quickly, and I felt like I didn’t have time to enjoy my meal to the fullest.

I ordered the small steamed rice box with eel. I love eel (unagi), and my mom used to make it for me all the time when I was little. On the side, we enjoyed deep-fried oysters with Japanese-style “tartar” sauce, sautéed vegetables, grilled squid, blackened pork kebabs, and miso soup.

Then, we went to watch The Death Cure. Guys. If I’m not eating, sleeping, or studying, I’m probably somewhere obsessing over some YA novel or its movie. Anyways, The Death Cure came out early in Taiwan (as most movies do), and I watched it with my great-aunt, dad, and grandfather. Sorry Seline – we planned to see the midnight premiere together. 😥 No regrets on my end, though. Definitely need some more time to process it.

I thought the movie was absolutely electrifying. I like the Maze Runner series more than Divergent, and I felt like the movies certainly did the books justice. It is also refreshing to have a courageous, yet emotional, male lead in a dystopian YA film. The Death Cure had funny snippets of dialogue and expressions that added comedic relief – interlaced with shocking parts that I never saw coming. Did anyone else see this yet?

After the movie, my mind was muddled with bombs and explosions and moral corruptness, and we went to Starbucks for some coffee and chatting. Dad and I also had time to go to Carrefour (similar to Wal-Mart), where we picked up some slippers to bring home for guests.

After some more walking, and shopping in old Taiwan’s local market, we ate wontons. These wontons were smothered with a delicious sesame sauce, soy sauce, and plenty of scallions. They were delicious!

IMG_5373

At the Taoyuan International Airport, more food: delicious soup dumplings with soy sauce and ginger. I love soup dumplings, but would never believe that an airport could make such tasty ones. This was lovely, and I had a great mug of dark hot chocolate from Godiva.

IMG_5379

Then I established this lame, but exciting-to-me, list!

Things I got to eat in Taiwan:

  • beef noodles
  • soy milk
  • Chinese donut
  • bean curd
  • fried oysters
  • milk tea
  • beef intestine salad
  • tian bu la (tempura)
  • pig blood cake
  • shaved ice mountain (bao bing)
  • mochi
  • pineapple bun
  • glutinous oil rice
  • fried cruller in a baked flatbread (shao bing you tiao)
  • stinky tofu
  • fried stinky tofu
  • taro milk
  • braised pork rice with eggplant
  • oyster omelet
  • beef rolls

Things that I sadly did not have the opportunity to enjoy:

  • egg pancake (dan bing)
  • salt and pepper chicken
  • ba wan (Taiwanese glutinous meatballs)
  • fried buns
  • pineapple cake
  • scallion pancakes
  • gua bao
  • sun cakes

Twelve hours later, I found myself giggling with my sister back home!

At Earls, my family enjoyed lunch together. My plate included fried salmon with a dill and pepper sauce, buttery asparagus, and jasmine rice with scallions and fried onions. This meal was incredibly flavourful, and it was great to eat salmon again!

IMG_5393

That is it for today, mes amis. 🙂 I hope you all have a fantastic Friday.

Angkor Archaeological Park

Yesterday, I got to check off an item from my bucket list.

✓ visit Angkor Wat!

Angkor Wat is actually one of many structures in Angkor Archaeological Park, which involves many other magnificent remains. The park is in north Cambodia, about 6.5 hours from Phnom Penh, the capital. Angkor Thom and the Bayon Temple are also famous. While Angkor Wat is the grandest temple of the Angkor Archaeological Park, Angkor Thom is the ancient capital.

We woke up at 4:00 AM, hopped on a tuktuk at 4:30 AM, bought tickets, and arrived at the park by 5:30 AM for the sunrise. There was a massive rainfall, and all of us got soaked before finding cover in the blackness, but even our wet clothes and shoes didn’t distract from the overwhelming historic beauty of Angkor Wat.

Angkor Archaeological Park is over 400 square kilometres of subtropical forest, featuring the stunning remnants of the capital of the Khmer Empire of the 9th to 15th centuries. It is the largest pre-industrial city in world history. Around 25 years ago, Angkor Archaeological Park became a UNESCO World Heritage site. I felt so honoured and amazed to get a glimpse into these legendary temples.

The Angkor Archaeological Park itself has no accommodation and very few facilities (no bathrooms near the temples), so tourists stay in a nearby town called Siem Reap, which is 6 km to the south. I was surprised to find that Angkor Archaeological Park is truly located within a jungle, with monkeys, hogs, wild dogs, and centipedes (?) swarming the area.

Interesting note that I discovered with some reading: the word ‘wat’ means temple in Khmer (Cambodian language). The structure, however, doesn’t quite look like a temple. Researchers believe that it is a temple where Lord Vishnu was worshipped, and later became a tomb for the Khmer (Cambodian) king.

The remains of the Bayon Temple were my favourite. It was richly decorated, and most likely built during the 12th or 13th century for a Buddhist king.

Another structure, Ta Prohm, is famous because trees have interlaced themselves with the stonework, resulting in strange, but marvellous, beauty. One website describes Ta Prohm as “a stunning display of the embrace between nature and the human handiwork”, and I couldn’t say it better myself.

Ta Prohm is world-renowned, and immensely popular, because of the wood-stone combination, and because of various scenes in Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider. I found the sides of the Ta Prohm complex quiet and magnificent, with unstable bits of rubble and stone debris. Many sections have been blocked off, since they are at risk of collapsing.

For lunch, we dined at Sister Srey Café, which I adored.

  • Grandpa had the creamy pumpkin soup with bread to start, and then grilled mackerel with steamed jasmine rice and sauteed spinach
  • Dad enjoyed savoury stuffed French toast with cream cheese, bacon, and tomato chutney. To drink, he had two caramel milkshakes
  • I loved my corn fritters (surprisingly, both vegan and gluten-free!), topped generously with feta cheese and served with a poached egg, smoked salmon, and tomato chutney

For dessert, Grandpa had some chocolate ice cream while I enjoyed an amazing carrot cake with cream cheese icing and plenty of walnuts. This was tender, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, and had great texture and crumb. I do wish, however, that there was more cream cheese icing.

Then, it was back to our hotel for a much-needed break from all the walking!

Tapas, Buffet, and a Seven-Course Meal

Good evening from Siem Reap on this warm Tuesday, January 9.

Recently:

  • Seline often sends me screenshots of conversations that she has with Mom. I thought this one was particularly sweet, and it made me reminisce the wonderful time we spent at Sunshine Coast during both 2015 and 2016
  • Spiders at ROMDENG, a restaurant in Phnom Penh – I chickened out 😥
  • Dad and Grandpa on a tuktuk this morning; it was in the high 30s temperature-wise

The Wat Langka temple was timelessly beautiful and impactful. We also had the opportunity to see the Independence Monument (second photo), and buy new sneakers for Grandpa from the local Adidas store, since his old ones broke on the train ride from Taipei to Taoyuan (the city in Taiwan where the airport is located).

For brunch after the temple exploration, we enjoyed another meal at Daughters of Cambodia. They are truly so lovely for their great cause (everything goes towards helping girls forced into the sex trafficking trade in Cambodia, to learn skills like cooking, massage, sewing, and more).

  • Dad had the baguette BLT, which had bacon, cucumber, spinach, and tomato with an onion chutney
  • Grandpa enjoyed corn chowder and a fish burger with fries
  • I loved my creamy parsley pumpkin soup and cheesy garlic baguette

We purchased a few things from Daughters of Cambodia; namely, some little coloured pouches with powerful words in the Khmer language such as ‘dream’, ‘pray’, and ‘believe’. Grandpa will give these to his family doctor, teacher, and dentist.

We spent the afternoon lounging around the hotel pool. Grandpa was happy with his fresh coconut water. It’s astonishing how much larger these coconuts are, compared to the ones he’s enjoyed in Macau, and even back home in Vancouver.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant called Friends, which is part of a greater company called TREE. TREE is a series of training restaurants that invest profits in students who train there. Money goes towards social programs that help them become skilled, productive, healthy and happy young workers with secure future careers. They not only provide high-quality service and food, but also help young people in developing countries (most are orphans, former street children, or other marginalized, at-risk groups) develop skills that they need to be employable in the hospitality industry. The training that runs here helps build confidence and skills, so students graduate with better futures. 10/10 for sustainability and impact, in my book.

For the tapas, Friends recommends ordering one or two per person. Since the three of us went, we decided to order five. These were some of my favourites (okay, I ended up listing them all):

  • Crispy zucchini and cheddar fritters with Thai Sriracha mayonnaise
  • Fish cakes with garlic, leeks, roasted red pepper puree (these were unbelievably good)
  • Burmese chicken curry with crispy noodles, smoked chili, pickled mustard greens (super spicy, but incredible flavour)

  • Crusty bread with EVOO and dukkah spice

  • Ricotta gnocchi with spinach and corn (I truly loved these, and my dad, who typically doesn’t like gnocchi, enjoyed them!)

For dessert:

  • white chocolate ice cream for Dad and Grandpa (I had a taste, and it had a superb white chocolate aftertaste, unlike some white chocolate ice creams which are simply excessively sweet)
  • black sticky rice pudding with coconut ice cream, caramelized pineapple, and roasted peanuts

The next day – this morning – was a little hectic because we had to clean out the hotel room and check out before a long bus ride to Siem Reap. I was a little sad to say goodbye to our lovely hotel room.

Breakfast buffet in our hotel.

I enjoyed:

  • a cheese omelet
  • two Cambodian sandwiches with ham, cucumber, and spicy mayo (I didn’t think I would like this, but I wholeheartedly enjoyed it. The bold flavours stood up to the fresh baguette, and everything seemed to work well)
  • baked beans
  • chive potatoes
  • fresh passionfruit and dragonfruit
  • banana bread
  • blueberry muffin (crumbled over the plain yogurt)
  • dragonfruit custard danish (surprisingly delicious for a not-crispy Viennoiserie! I wanted another.)
  • plain yogurt
  • mango yogurt with vanilla cream swirl
  • toasted wholemeal bread with butter and pineapple-papaya marmalade (it’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed toast, plain and simple, with butter and jam – this was absolutely delightful)
  • raisin custard danish
  • apple cinnamon muffin (crumbled over the mango yogurt)

Both my stomach and my heart were incredibly full as we boarded the Giant Ibis bus at around 9:45 AM for our 6.5 hour trip to Siem Reap.

The views were unlike anything I’d seen before. One thing that stood out to me was the houses that were built on stilts. Most houses between Phnom Penh (capital of Cambodia) and Siem Reap (North Cambodia) were on stilts, with hammocks and shelves and tables underneath for shade.

The bus stopped three times, with two of the three stops being rest stops for bathroom breaks, and one for a 30-minute lunch break.

Lunch at the Banyan Tree restaurant had a number of options, which was a pleasant surprise since I’d assumed very few options for a food place in the middle of sand and palm trees.

When we arrived at around 3:30, we boarded a tuktuk with all three of our suitcases and two backpacks to go to our hotel, the Riversoul Residence. Riversoul is about fifteen minutes from Angkor Wat, which is why we chose it. It is modern and beautiful in a unique, complementary-colours kind of way, but I do miss the traditional nature and French influence of our first hotel, Raffles in Phnom Penh.

I was amazed by the lack of people in the hotel; it was very empty when we checked in, and my dad attributed this to the fact that the Riversoul Residence is fairly new.

Check out that swimming pool and those lawn chairs which are styled to look like boats!

We took a 10-minute walk to the old market of Siem Reap, which was close to our dinner restaurant, EMBASSY.

EMBASSY has a set menu for each month of the year. They serve French food with a Cambodian twist, using fresh, seasonal, local ingredients from Siem Reap and the surrounding area. All of the stems, leaves, flowers, and garnishes were completely edible. We really did devour every drop.

The three of us ate this seven-course meal:

  1. AMUSE BOUCHE – steamed Chreau village tomato with minced shrimp stuffing
  2. APPETIZER – Kampot scallop with ground toasted rice, kaffir lime leaf, galangal, lemongrass, passionfruit sauce
  3. SOUP – traditional Kdat Soup with turmeric paste, green bass leaf, black chicken (by far my favourite dish of the day, since it was rich, hearty, with a beautiful blend of textures and unique, yet familiarly comforting ingredients)
  4. SORBET – soursop fruit sorbet with fermented black sticky rice and alcohol drizzle
  5. MAIN COURSE 1 – grilled Tonle Sap fish with soybean pickle, ginger, green onion
  6. MAIN COURSE 2 – pork shank from Takeo province, slow-cooked in sugar palm caramel, mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes with coconut milk (also delicious – the meat was very tender and mildly sweet, with great unami flavour from the mushroom gravy)
  7. DESSERT – cashew mousse with red dragonfruit ice cream (the cashew mousse part was spectacular. You can truly taste the cashew, and I appreciated the crispy, chewy, and sweet brown sugar crumble that complemented the nutty mousse)

It was delicious, and now I am dead from deliciousness and excitement for tomorrow, because we’re going to see Angkor Archeological Park!

I Thought I Saw a Spider, But…

This afternoon, we visited Wat Phnom, a Buddhist temple. It was built in 1372, and stands nearly 30m tall. It is the tallest religious structure in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. In fact, Wat Phnom is the central point of Phnom Penh. We are lucky that Wat Phnom was so close to our hotel; it was a roughly 10-minute walk in.

I learned that the sanctuary itself was rebuilt several times in the 19th century and again in 1926. The interior has an altar complex with a large bronze seated Buddha surrounded by other statues, flowers, candles and items of devotion and worship.

There were plenty of great photo opportunities.

We didn’t walk into the temple since no photos were allowed, and it was very busy/crowded and smoky with the burning of incense.

I don’t typically wear sunglasses, but the sun is ridiculously bright here and I’d hate to have squinty eyes in all my photos. Dad’s becoming a really good photographer and I really appreciate having him here for all these candid shots. 😎

Grandpa and I lounged around the pool again in the afternoon. When we come back tomorrow, he would like to drink fresh coconut water from a coconut, which we can order from the bar.

In the evening, we took a tuktuk to Khmer Surin, an authentic Cambodian restaurant.

Here, we enjoyed:

  • fish amok (Goby fish in banana leaf)
  • pineapple fried rice in a pineapple – this was my favourite part
  • deep-fried seafood and vegetables with sweet chili sauce
  • spicy chicken green curry
  • sour lime coconut soup with mushrooms and shrimp
  • chewy tapioca balls in coconut cream
  • mango ice cream
  • coconut ice cream in hot chocolate sauce

When we got home, I washed my hands in the bathroom and noticed something on the ground that, upon first glance, I’d assumed was a spider. It wasn’t – it was actually a teeny, tiny baby gecko!

What a peculiar and cute way to end the day. I really think those little geckos are too cute.

Plans for Tomorrow

  • Russian Market
  • Wat Langka
  • Independence Monument
  • Statue of King Father Norodum Sihanouk
  • Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument
  • Wat Ounalom
  • Poolside Grandpa gets coconut drink

Lunch and Dinner Restaurants for Tomorrow

  • Romdeng
  • Friends

Have a beautiful, lovely afternoon, everyone 🙂

I Needed Ice Cream

Hello! It’s now 8:03 AM on Sunday, January 7. It’s been an incredible first week of 2018 so far, and it’s just getting better and better.

Last night, Grandpa and I went for a walk – but not before the waistband of his PJs broke and we had to stitch it up with a makeshift needle made of a bent bobby pin and a bandaid. It was fun to improvise this creation.

Afterwards, Grandpa showed me his diary. Since he’s learning English, he writes entirely in English. It’s truly so impressive, and he’s so humble about it.

Dad and I went for a walk to the Tonle Sap, a river that eventually becomes the Mekong river. I learned that the low tide level of the river in Cambodia is lower than the high tide out at sea, and the flow of the Mekong inverts in Vietnam and up to Phnom Penh. The flat Mekong delta in Vietnam is prone to flooding near the Cambodian border.

We liked the Sisowath Quay a lot, and it was fascinating to see all the different boats and guess what they were used for.

Afterwards, Dad took a bit of a nap while Grandpa and I went for a little walk. We explored the pool, the fitness centre, the massage clinic, and both cafes. It was very enjoyable to watch the sun set.

For dinner, we dined at a restaurant called Khéma. Khéma is a French restaurant on Pasteur Street. I ordered the lobster bisque, which had a piece of crab ravioli underneath, as well as a cheese gratin. Grandpa loved his cheesy French onion soup. We were lucky to receive a complimentary plate with pate and sausage.

Dad liked his carbonara, which had thick-sliced bacon and a rosemary garnish. Grandpa’s spaghetti bolognese was, according to him, typical. My mozzarella and spinach cannelloni was quite tasty, too.

For dessert, I had the chocolate fondant, AKA molten chocolate lava cake. There was so little vanilla ice cream, and I needed more to go with the rest of the chocolate cake, so I ordered an extra scoop. I am, in case you haven’t noticed, in love with hot chocolate desserts and cold vanilla ice cream. This was a beautiful way to end the day.

This is the view outside our hotel. The blue skies and grassy knolls are beautiful.

Brunch at Feel Good Cafe consisted of:

  • potato, pepper, onion, and cheese omelet for me, with tomato relish and baguette bread
  • Dad had scrambled eggs with potato hash and bacon
  • Grandpa ate fish and rice porridge with some veggies and garnishes

After the meal, I savoured this hot cheesecake tart. It was divine and reminded me of a different, but equally delicious, version of the cheesecake tarts I devoured when living in Toronto last year.

The brunch came to just over $20 USD, including drinks.

Then we returned home so I could plan a few things, check out the maps, and consider doing a trades course with Dad and Grandpa and some local professionals via Backstreet Academy.

Keep updated for more! The next few days are sure to be exciting – then we’re off to Angkor Wat, which is in the city of Siem Reap.

A Café with a Beautiful Cause | Royal Palace

Good morning!

This morning, I felt great and refreshed after a long, cool shower – then we hopped onto a tuktuk to our first tourist attraction. We also thought it was cool that Jacqueline Kennedy stayed in our hotel, Raffles, during her stay in Cambodia. Jacqueline Lee Kennedy Onassis was the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and First Lady of the United States from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.

The Royal Palace cost about $30 USD for the three of us to enter, and it was worth every dollar.

It was in the mid-thirties in terms of temperature, and while we were uncomfortably hot, the sights made up for it. What a beautiful place.

There was plenty to see. From Wikipedia:

“The Royal Palace (Khmerព្រះបរមរាជវាំងនៃព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជាPreah Barum Reachea Veang Nei Preah Reacheanachak Kampuchea), in Phnom PenhCambodia, is a complex of buildings which serves as the royal residence of the king of Cambodia. Its full name in the Khmer language is Preah Barum Reachea Veang Chaktomuk Serei Mongkol (Khmerព្រះបរមរាជវាំងចតុមុខសិរីមង្គល). The Kings of Cambodia have occupied it since it was built in 1860s, with a period of absence when the country came into turmoil during and after the reign of the Khmer Rouge.”

“The palace was constructed after King Norodom relocated the royal capital from Oudong to Phnom Penh in the mid-19th century. It was built atop an old citadel called Banteay Kev. It faces towards the East and is situated at the Western bank of the cross division of the Tonle Sap River and the Mekong River called Chaktomuk (an allusion to Brahma).”

“The complex is divided by walls into four main compounds. On the south side is the Silver Pagoda, to the north side is the Khemarin Palace and the central compound contains the Throne Hall and to the west is the private sector or the Inner Court. The buildings of the palace were built gradually over time, and some were dismantled and rebuilt as late as the 1960s. Some older buildings date back to the 19th century.”

For lunch, we dined at the beautiful Daughters of Cambodia restaurant. It is a very special place, because it changes the lives of girls forced into the sex trafficking trade by teaching them to cook and sew. According to their site, Daughters of Cambodia helps at least 100 girls each year walk away from sex work, and experience psychological and physical healing while improving their quality of life. Eventually, many girls are promoted to head chefs, business managers, counsellors, receptionists, and production line managers.

Onto the food! We enjoyed:

  • cheesy garlic baguette
  • pumpkin soup with parsley, cream, and baguette
  • spinach eggs Benedict on a homemade English muffin
  • chicken, bacon, and mushroom béchamel crepe
  • crispy chicken tenders with french fries and garlic aioli
  • hot chocolate brownie with caramel ice cream

From the Daughters of Cambodia website:

  • Daughters of Cambodia exists to empower those trapped in the sex industry in Cambodia to walk free and start a new life, with healing, dignity, and the means to prosper. 
  • We offer a wide range of rewarding jobs, with opportunities for promotion, in our attractive and innovative social enterprises.
  • We teach our clients how to sustain their new life-styles in non-institutional settings, and we provide recovery programs including social work, counseling, medical treatment and life-skills classes. 

After that, we purchased some lemongrass soap and visited “Cambodian Rexall’s” for insect spray and sunscreen.

Our final stop was the National Museum, which we browsed while chatting about the history of this magnificent country.

That was it for the morning of Saturday, January 6. What a lovely way to spend a typically cold, wintry morning. 🙂

I’m excited for our evening, but for now, will just rest in our nice and air-conditioned hotel room.