Archive for the ‘Tai Zhong’ Category

I’ve been back from Taiwan for a few days now and I don’t even know where to begin.  First of all, the scenery there is gorgeous.  There are so many innovative varieties of food there you can’t help but wonder how they managed to figure it all out.   I can’t…stop… stuffing…my… face…yet I still lost weight cos I can’t…stop…plying…these…Taiwanese ….streets… just to see what’s around the corner!  On top of that, the prices of skincare in Taiwan is so crazy I spent most of my time gasping in amazement.  What?  Skin79  BB Cream for only $16??? Are you kidding me?  Has anyone managed to create a teleportation device to Taiwan yet?  Why haven’t they?  The SoGos there are ridiculously hot in comparison to the SoSo here…

To help myself from getting carried away, I’m going to narrate according to the photos that I put up so I don’t stumble over myself telling you all the streets and corners and places I went to.  One of the places that I went to was Sun Moon Lake.  Sun Moon Lake is reknown for its scenery but unfortunately it was raining romantically everywhere with a thick mist covering the Sun and the Moon, the islands shaped as thus.  So I indulged in photographing the aquatic residents floating around the harbour and the delicious food on their streets.

Just off the pier of Itta Thao, there is a stall selling tiny little roast chickens.  According to the hawker, these chickens don’t grow big.  The meat is sweet and tender and you’ll appreciate the piping hot sweetness on a cold Autumn day in Sun Moon Lake.  The chinese words are Kao Zu Ji (roast bamboo chicken).

Besides this, there is also a stall selling chicken wings stuffed with glutinous rice.  However, I would say this is just …  so – so…

There is a small stall selling Mochi (starch balls filled with a variety of filling) around these stalls.  In my opinion, these are the best amongst the rest of the stalls and they only cost NT$10 per ball which is like less than 50 cents singapore currency. Nom nom nom.

Moving along moving along… yes we must….or I’ll still be blogging about Taiwan 10 weeks from now.  Next up is Jiu Fen or, literally translated, Nine Portions.  This is a highly commercialised touristy location filled with… tourist stuff, souvenirs… none of which are particularly exciting, excepting for their Hong Zhao Rou Wan (Red Date Meat Balls) and their Almond ice cream popiah (you’ll know the stall when you see a man shaving away at a huge block of peanuts.  They shave away at the block, smatter the shavings onto a bread skin (popiah), dunk two balls of ice cream in there, wrap it up and viola! Ice cream popiah.  It looks like nothing interesting but tastes amazing!! The almond ice cream goes so well with the skin and peanuts.  I didn’t take any photos of the ice cream or the meat ball because I didn’t waste any time between receiving them with my eager hands and stuffing them into my face.  You can’t miss the meat ball.  They are displayed like slimy red spawn balls from the Alien movie all pink and translucent and gooey on the tables of the vendor and then spa-tunk! Into the hot boiling water they go, out they come in a nice soup for you and the taste will blow you away.  There’s no time to get the camera.

Gotta stop raving about the food.  Jiu Fen is a decommissioned mining town.  The town is so old the buildings are particularly interesting and have plenty of character.  Photographers will also love the stepped alleys.  Everybody keeps talking about the stepped alleys.  If you move further away from the shops, you’ll reach the residences.  There are some very pretty Min Su (motels which are basically the homes of local residents there) where you can enjoy the scenery of the ocean.

Before going to Jiu Fen, you should probably drop by Shi Fen (Ten Portions, literally) and Jin Gua Shi (which is the last stop of the shuttle bus that goes from Taipei to this area) so you don’t carry your popiah ice cream, grape juice, sun biscuits, souvenirs all the way down to the spectacular Huang Jing Pu Bu (Gold Waterfall), where the water of the waterfall has been coloured gold by mineral deposits.

We really didn’t go to Taiwan for the sole purpose of food so I can’t probably say for sure if these are the best that Taiwan has to offer (probably not, I have high expectations of Taiwan), but these are some really good food we came across during our time in Taiwan.  Below is a joint in Puli where many Taiwanese frequent.  Argh! I forgot the names of some of these joints.

Here is a non Red Date version of the popular meat ball.  Looks gooey but it really tastes good!

I decided these are such badly taken photos I can’t be bothered to watermark them.  Some of the “non-local” cuisine are pretty good too. Like the breakfast set from Perfume Dance in Sogo basement.  I can’t believe this set is only NT$130.  If only you could make something like this for breakfast, Long John Silvers!  I have no doubt something like this will cost $10 here.  The eggs benedict is sooo divine!

The Sushi place just next door to Royal Palace hotel in Taipei served really crunchy (yum!) sushi at very affordable prices (NT$880 for two people).

My next post… uncharacteristically will be about everything cute and saccharine sweet.  Yeah… so unlike me I know… but still it HAS to be said! 🙂

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OK I know there’s been a DEHP scare in Taiwan recently.  And I’d recently come back from Taiwan and literally spent every meal in the company of a big cup of bubble tea with all the happy tapioca jelly balls shooting up the large straw straight into my milk tea addicted being.

Danshui

But I can’t say that I had a bad time there.  In fact I can’t even say I had an ok time there.  I had a fantastic time.  There was so much to do in Taiwan even though I only went with friends in the land of honeymoon and romantic couple spas.

Scratch couple spas and other couply stuff, there are enough night markets or Ye Shi in Taiwan to make sure that even your late nights are busy plying the streets in search of an even tastier smelly tofu or Chou To Fu and more more more bubble tea.

Symbrenthia lilaea formosanus: This butterfly can be found up in thick dark foliage on mountain slopes as well as loitering around near sunlit waterfalls and streams.

Each night market is different and boasts a different theme.  There are some which are mainly fashion wholesalers and you can get a steal of very frilly fashion at very low prices.  There are also some which are lined with fried chicken/ji pa, Taiwan sausage burgers/da chang bao xiao chang, squids, crazy tall ice creams, fruit shakes, candied tomatoes, lamb soups and tea eggs.  The Taiwanese even eat water cockroaches.  And you can get a T-shirt expounding the spirit of a common cockroach (which I bought).

Symbrenthia hypselis scatinia: This shy shade loving butterfly was somehow spotted by a friend near the forest floor amongst the unruly vegetation up on a hill at Sun Moon Lake.  Although not pristine and torn, the markings are strikingly reminescent of the Jester butterfly.
 
We visited a variety of locations around Taiwan, including night markets around Tai Zhong, Dan Shui, a coastal area famous for Sun Cakes or Tai Yang Bing, Yang Ming Shan off Tai Pei and a variety of waterfalls around Puli in search of butterflies.
 
At the trails around Sun Moon Lake, it was hard not to notice the numbers of silverline butterflies dotting the vegetation here and there.  Silverlines can be found in Singapore as well but there are only 2 known species in Singapore versus 3 in Taiwan (as much as I could gather from their identification books).  The silverline in these three photos are guessed to be the Spindasis syama, with the brown upperside to be female and the one with a greater blue surface to be male. 
 
There is one other different looking silverline shot that day which is suspected to be the Spindasis lohita formosana.  It has thicker lines across the body and 3 spots on the hindwing are connected instead of separated in the syama.  There is also a queer line running from the tail into the orange tornal area on the hindwing:
 

Other than silverlines, Taiwan has more papilio butterflies than any of my Singapore field trips put together.

These 4 photos are of the Papilio hermosanus.  In the identification books there is a very similar looking nakaharai which is identified by the less distinct post discal red markings on the underside of the hindwing.

These butterflies were congregated in groups and were flying off the surface of a small waterfall darting in and out, landing ever so often and then nervously taking off in like fickle-minded fashion.  They also appeared to be chasing one another and none of them appear to have all of their wings intact, whether its a tail, “moth eaten” fringes or even half a wing.  They also have a distinct green iridescent shimmer on the upperside of their wings.

But most of the Papilio butterflies are seen and recorded only in the appreciative eye as one treks up and down the trail admiring the procession of fleeting visits from this butterfly or that and like this Papilio bianor thrasymedes your best chance of even getting a record would be to hope that there are irresistable flowers around to allow these beauties to forget the big canons aimed hungrily at them.

Besides the larger butterflies, there are also plenty of fast fliers to give you a healthy run and frantic eye exercise.  This very elusive looking Prioneris thestylis formosana was one such butterfly.  It has the propensity to make a nearly there but didn’t press the trigger day a rather sad day after having to resign to the fact that it isn’t going to give you a second chance at capturing its beauty through your lens.  This butterfly will also puddle on the ground given the chance (if you’re not too close) but is generally nervous enough to bid you good bye if you take too long to get a shot or come too close.

These common-as-cabbages Pieris canidia canidia seem to be found everywhere including on roadside flowers.  The above top left photo shows a female looking like she is ovipositing on a weed.  They are especially abundant in farms and scores of them can be seen chasing and knocking each other away over one female perched on a leaf with her abdomen up.  Males and females are marked differently, with the female having darker and more spots than the male.  She also has a distinct yellowish mark on her hindwing when her wings are folded at rest.

The strikingly marked Penthema Formosanum was spotted both on the leafy slopes of Yang Ming Shan as well as on the leaf litter near rows of bamboo trees.  With a slow gliding form in flight, this butterfly is easy to trace but requires patience in order to wait for a landing.  It also tends to take a nice leisurely walk once it has landed frustrating the angle which a belly prone photographer has intended for the butterfly.

The beautiful Argyreus hyperbius or Hongkong Fritillery is also a slow flier and can be found in couplets.  However, throughout the trip, we only saw them once flying near a tea plantation at Sun Moon Lake.  Having the same propensity as my dog to chase other dogs, as well as being quite skittish, this butterfly is not easy to photograph in spite of its slow flight.  A hat was dropped in a drain, much scrabbling along rocky slopes was attempted and a mighty leap off a wall was executed in order to follow the butterfly around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Acraea issoria formosana is also a slow flier and flies very much like the Tawny Coster in Singapore.  They are abundant on most of the trails that we went to.  However, many of them appear to be dying, pasted to stems and withered as we understood from the locals that Taiwan is currently affected by a drought and a lot of the butterflies appear to be affected as numbers have dwindled in previously popular waterfalls.

These photos show the male (top left) and female (top right) of the Heliophorus ila matsumurae, a dimunitive butterfly with distinctly cheerful coloration.  Found trying unsuccessfully to be as bland as the grass it was hopping around in and on mossy stream banks, this little butterfly is the delight of many photographers.  Yes, you can photograph one of these little guys and then suddenly find other photographers turn bright green with envy.  Not staying for very long as each disturbance, this butterfly is however, common in Taiwan! 

 

The following butterflies from top to bottom, left to right are also common in Taiwan:

Lampides boeticus, Junonia orithya, Neptis sappho formosana, Neptis hylas luculenta

 

 

 

 

 

Last but not least, the higher shaded trails up Yang Ming Shan are home to some strikingly marked shade-loving butterflies like these:

The left shows a female Lethe europa pavida.  Males are distinguished by a much thicker white band across the forewing on the underside.  The photo on the right shows a male Lethe chandica ratnacri.  Both these butterflies were found in the same area not far from each other although the male ratnacri proved to be more difficult and more skittish to trace through the leaf litter. 

Taiwan sunrises are at 5a.m. and their sunsets are at 5p.m.  It will be noticeable that the butterflies have packed their little bags and gone back home around 4p.m.  There will be noticeably less butterflies if at all so it is important to hit the trails early.  Lots of butterflies can be found at waterbodies.  Less can be found on the mountainous trails, but this may be largely how good you are at spotting the shade loving butterflies, traffic on these trails as well as how patient you are when dealing with scrambling around rocky or grassy slopes in search of that elusive butterfly!

To end this lengthy post, Taiwan is a lot more than just bubble tea and butterflies.  The people are friendly, hate for you to say they are part of China and the scene is vibrant, colouful and will simply take you more than 1 week to get to know it all!