Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Taipei Day 4 - Climbing Pingxi and an Uneventful Shilin

Day 4 arrived, our last day for a full day out in Taipei. We had one more location to visit, and that was Pingxi.

Though known for their sky lanterns which we both had no interest in, we did wanted to check out the other attraction, the crags.

Despite getting up early, we were met with two missed trains, and ended up taking a pretty long journey to reach our destination.

Along the way, we stumbled upon a road side stall at Ruihang which served large intestines mee sua. I swear, it was the best I've had, move aside Ay Chung, you officially...er...suck.

I'm not an intestines person, and yet I'm really enjoying the juicy tender innards which was well seasoned and cooked separately from the noodles, only to be added in at the last minute so it doesn't over cook and release all its flavor into the soup which was already rich.

Once alighted at Pingxi, many turned straight to the touristy streets, while we headed across the river and made our way towards the trekking path.

I had a bit of reference from online blogs but was pretty green to all this, little did I know this place involved a lot of climbing, both up as well as down.

The initial trek was smooth, flat, and nothing spectacular, but it was tranquil and the air was cooling which made it a joy to walk in.

We stumbled upon a house which didn't seem all to abandoned, I guess people still call this place their home though probably more of a cabin for whoever maintains the forested area.

Things started to get a lot more challenging after the hut. We stumbled upon the Earth God structure, after which we were met with a few tough climbs upwards.

Going up was easy, in a sense that if you have a fear of heights, so long as you keep looking up, it's fine. It was still tiring though, and by the time we got to the top I was huffing and puffing a little. Shufen on the other hand, no biggie. Tsk.

We managed a few more climbs as well as descends. Going down as the scary part, at one point I was hanging with my legs dangling trying to find a grip. Having a fear of heights did not help either. =P

I think my favorite top was Cimu Peak (I believe it was Peak, there were a few other names and they were rather confusing for me).

The air was fresh, it was quiet, and you could overlook the entire village, how awesome is that?!?!

Shortly after, it was time to head back. We packed up, made out descend, and took a train towards Taipei into the comfort of our hotel rooms.

Next on our list for that day was Shilin Market. Probably everyone who's asked "What's there to do in Taipei" would be given the answer "Go visit the night markets!".

And Shilin's name would pop up, be it with much enthusiasm or lots of negative comments towards it. Regardless, it's garnered so much chit chat, how can don't go and see right?

Bottom line? It was ok, and definitely not worth the hype. I preferred Raohe on the whole...crowded and street-like. Shilin just felt like a giant open air shopping mall.

On the high side, we managed to tuck into more food, and check a few other items off my list. Stinky tofu was oddly not as delicious as I'd remember it to be...the one in Geylang back home was pretty good in my opinion.

So day 4 has drawn to a close, will blog about the last day soon enough!

Leftovers for Lunch

Yesterday's curry had quite a huge pot left, might as well finish the last of it.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Curry Dinner

Came home and since my brother was on leave, I whipped up curry from leftovers while the maid helped with eggs and ngoh hiang left in the freezer.

Curry on the Steamer

Ok this one took a little more time to make. Normally I would do everything in the office but I had time at home, so decided to fry the meat with the paste first to marinade and sort of make it easier to cook later in the office,

All I did later was steam the rice for 30 minutes, while steaming the curry at the last 10 minutes before pouring in boiling water to mix the gravy and then everything was done.

Turned out alright although the curry pack I used this time round turned out to be free of salt, so it was quite tasteless, but still very aromatic. =)

Taipei Day 3 - Fong Da, DTF, Memorials, Cats and Elephants

After a long tiring day at Maokong, Day 3 started with something a little more relaxed. While Hong Kong is a very tea-culture place, Taipei seems to enjoy coffee quite a bit, and our first stop was to Fong Da for a good cup and breakfast.

The coffee is pretty good, and the shop here has been doing some cool stuff way before other cafes were making it "trendy".

Our next stop was a very "Singaporean" one, Ding Tai Fung.

Honestly I wasn't expecting much from the food there and true enough, it was good, not great, but I figured it was something that needed to be checked off the list once and for all.

Our next stop during the trip was to check out the Chiang Kai Shek memorial. This was kind of off our original plan, but since there was time, we figured why not, and headed to take a look at the place.

I'm not one to visit touristy sites such as this but figured why not.

When we got to the top of the memorial, we were about time to check out the changing of guards, so hung around to take a look. It was a long process, and there were a lot of steps involved, we were lucky to get an upclose view so we got to see them in action.

Next stop in our journey was a Cat Cafe which we found online at the last minute as well. Cafes weren't really planned in our itinerary but we figured what the heck, and went to take a look.

Gotta admit, the cats at the cafe were a lot more friendly than the ones in Singapore, though honestly most of the time they'd still rather be sleeping than playing...cats are cats after all.

Next and last stop before dinner was a trip up Elephant Hill, a long stair climb that was not really a running trail, but a good vertical challenge if you're keen.

The hike did take quite awhile and as usual, Shufen was way better than I am at the stairs, damn.

The journey up was not for nothing though, and the view was rather rewarding, though admittedly it could be nicer without all that haze. Still, it was an awesome ascend.

Our last location before calling it a day was at Mitsui Cuisine, a Japanese restaurant I've read a few times about when googling about places to eat in Taipei.

I wasn't sure what to order, and hence went for their set. I'm not a huge sashimi fan and hence found it hard to appreciate some of the dishes, but overall the meal was fantastic! Definitely worth the journey here.

Overall Day 3 started well and ended well, just two more days before the trip was over and so far it's been quite a blast. =)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Making a DIY Saber Strip + Test Shot

After watching an episode by Zack Arias on his one light tutorials, he introduced the Saberstrip, an alternative to using shoot through umbrellas for photography. The biggest advantage I saw in it was its ability to withstand wind as compared to those umbrellas.

Found  DIY tutorial online and modified it with my own tweaks. Link HERE.

While the website's setup cost US$30, the whole set up I had cost less than $5 (US$3.70?)!!! My tubes were bought off a framing shop I walked pass one day, the uncle had no use for them and thus I managed to convince him to sell it off. I think they can't cost that much if you get it from an art shop either anyway.

The initial test shot was very harsh, and without any form of diffuser, the flash which was technically aimed at the ceiling anyway, kept leaking light upwards which came crashing down and filling the background. Not having a diffuser also meant that light reflected off the saberstrip was harsh and concentrated on certain areas of the body.

I ended up with a last minute tweak cause I was lazy, and made do with a plastic bag wrapped around the thing to reduce light shooting upwards and to allow a more event spread towards the subject.

The results? Yay! 

Can't complain for the price, and I was pretty worried with the catch light but it didn't turn out as bad as I'd hope (of course the plastic bag was huge la).

Glad to have given this experiment a try, Sunday night not wasted. =)