So I was wondering…

Questions For You:

  1.  Are you happy with life right now?
  2.  If you could be anywhere now, where would you like to be?
  3.  Who was the last person you were thinking of?
  4.  I have several phobias.  Do you remember what they are?
  5.  What’s your favorite drink or beverage?
  6.  Do you have a “bucket list”?  What’s the #1 item on the list?
  7.  Do you or did you have a nickname?
  8.  When was the last time you lost your temper?  What happened?
  9.  Can you play any musical instruments?  If so, which one(s)?
  10.  Do you have a favourite charity or cause that you support or donate to?

That’s it.  Answer as many as you want.  Why am I doing this?  I’m too lazy to write an entry and I’m also curious about you.

I Don’t Get It

I just don’t understand some things.

  1. Donald Trump – Yes, I get that he tapped into a very rich vein of anger.  But do people want him to be the President of the USA?   Really?
  2. Winter tires vs. all seasons – ok, this is just for those of us that live in the snow belt.  Despite the facts on the advantages of winter tires vs. all season tires, there are still people that still drive all season tires in the winter.  No….
  3. People who keep their eyes glued to their smart phone while walking.  I’ve had several instances where people bump into me while walking because they were just looking at their smart phone.  I’ve seen pedestrians walk into the intersections without looking at the traffic around them.  I’m not even going to mention the ones that still do that while driving.
  4. The Kardashians – if you don’t know who they are, you’re not missing anything.  Why are people so fascinated by them?
  5. Black Friday and Christmas sales (and in Canada, Boxing Day sales) – I get the need for revenue.  But where do you draw the line?  What if we just got rid of the sales and focused on the holiday?

Sometimes my simple mind can’t figure things out.

*reaches for a scotch*

And how is / was your Sunday?

I slept in this morning, lingered in bed for a bit and then hit the showers.  Since I didn’t do any groceries yesterday, I went to a coffee shop down the street to grab something to eat.  After I ordered, I grabbed my coffee and waited for my bagel.  There was a tall man behind me in khaki green hoodie, khaki green pants and sunglasses.  He spoke so softly that the worker had to lean forward to hear what he was saying.  In less than a minute, my bagel was ready and I took it to a window seat by the front.

The window seat is perfect for me since I like people watching.  As I started to sip my coffee, I saw someone across the street walking towards the coffee shop.  It was the man who was behind me – he was even carrying his coffee.  But how the heck did he get across the street so fast and now was walking towards the coffee shop?  I know there’s a back door but there’s no way he would have gotten out so quickly.

Perhaps he is a time traveler.  After I finished my coffee and bagel, I wanted to linger while reading my newspaper.  But this coffee shop that doesn’t have “Xmas coffee cups” was playing Xmas songs.  And it was loud.  After listening to half a dozen Xmas carols, I decided to grab my stuff and leave.

So now I’m at home, about to hop on an online meeting.  I had to work a couple of hours yesterday.  Today, it’ll be about 4 to 6 hours.  I think I’ll play some Xmas carols in the background to drive people nuts.

The Real World

As most of you know, I regularly have bouts of insomnia.  When I was in Taiwan, I slept easily (except on the plane).  I would be reading and before I know it, I was asleep.  J would wake me up and then I would put away my eye glass and crawled under the blankets.  It did take a bit of time to get used to sleeping in different beds.  But it was a lot shorter than I thought.

Now that I’m back, my insomnia is starting to intrude.  Last night, I chatted (via WhatsApp) with my cousin who lives out in the west coast.  We haven’t chatted in ages and in fact haven’t seen each other for years.  He has a wicked sense of humour and a caring heart.  He asked when I was coming out to visit him.  So maybe next year I’ll head out to LA.  Should I rent a car?  I’m terrified of the traffic in LA.  But we’ll see.  I need to get through this year first.

Before I went to Taiwan, I had a back problem and was seeing a chiropractor right up to the date of departure.  I stretched and did exercises while I was there.  My back was sore but I think it was because I was carrying a camera bag (messenger style – about 10 to 12 lbs).  After a few weeks, I carried my camera in my knapsack surrounded by a towel.

Now that I’m back home, my back is starting to act up.  The other day, I was in pain and had a lot of problems getting off the couch.  Yes – I think sitting down is a huge part of the problem.  In Taiwan, we were mobile most of the time.

I’m sure stress is contributing to this.  If I quit work, the work place stress will be replaced by a different type of stress.  So I’m trying different ways to deal with it.   We’ll see if that works.  But I need to find a more effective way of dealing with it.

Spa day in Beitou, Taiwan

When I was in Taiwan, J and I decided to check out a gay spa hot springs. Think of it as more like a Japanese bath rather than a spa. We found out there were 2 in the Beitou area and we picked one called Emperor Spa (also called Huang Chi Spa).  Before we went in, we took a quick walk around and the Japanese influence was quiet noticeable and charming.

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After we paid the admission ($250 NTD per person) and we stopped by the restaurant to reserve a table for dinner afterwards. Once we entered the locker room, we had to place our shoes on the shelves first. The lockers were coin operated and the fee was $20.

The change room wasn’t as nice or as big as the one we went to last year. Mind you, that one was in a hotel. Once I stripped down (yeah, you can’t be too shy here), I went to look for the showers or bathing area. I walked past a massage room and onto to the outdoor pools. Just to my left were 8 showers. The showers and pools were all outdoors. After we showered, we hopped into a hot pool and it took awhile to get used to the temperature. There was an occasional drizzle which helped. After a few minutes, I was able to relax and enjoyed the trees and plants that over looked the pool. When it got too warm, I sat on the edge to cool off and hopped back in when I cooled off.  The water here also has a stronger sulfur content which apparently is good for the skin.

Eventually I got thirsty and looked for a water fountain but couldn’t find one. Then I noticed a lot of guys had their own water bottles. I went back to the locker room to see if there was a water fountain but couldn’t find one. I went to the washroom to splash some cold water on my face and took a sip of the tap water.

By then, J had hopped into another pool so I joined him there. He warned me this was the cold water pool. I got in and it took my breath away. There were 3 or 4 people in this small pool. The water was above my knee but below my waist and my junk was just hanging out there there.   I wanted to sit down but it was just too cold. So I hopped out and got into another hot pool.

This pool had 3 sections and I was in the cooler one (41 C). By then it started to drizzle more and it was a nice sensation sitting in the warm water with a bit of rain dripping down. By then, there were more people coming in. The pool I was in wasn’t jammed pack but it was getting full. I didn’t try the other 2 sections.

There was another hot pool which had jets of water and some people stood underneath them to get a massage. There was also another very shallow pool that wasn’t even ankle deep. People were lying down and napping. I didn’t go into the steam room because the pool was hot enough. By the time I wanted to leave it was getting more crowded. There was a line up to use the showers so people stood around waiting for a free one.

After showering, I went to change and the locker room was pretty busy. I noticed that some people didn’t have lockers so they just left their clothes on top of the lockers because there weren’t any free lockers. Once I got out, I purchased a bottle of cold water and rehydrated myself. After J came out, we went to the restaurant and had a huge bowl of abalone congee. It was very tasty and the abalone was tender.

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The place we went to was called Emperor Spa or Huang Chi Spa. While it shows up in gay sites, it wasn’t an exclusive gay spa. I’m pretty sure there was a separate women’s spa. My guess is that 90% of the guys were gay. J disputes this and he thought it was a lot less. There were also some straight guys there and there were even some children. There were the usual elderly guys who seem to have season tickets to these spas. There were quite a few bears and there were also twinks and eye candies (for those of you who were curious). Some guys were a bit shy and walked around with their hands covering their junk or with small towels. While I’m comfortable showering in a gym, I felt a bit self conscious at the beginning walking around butt naked with so many guys around. But after awhile I didn’t really care. It’s not like people were staring and drooling at me.

To get to the spa, we took the MRT to Shipai station and got a taxi. We had the Chinese name and address which helped.  When I left, I noticed there were towels and water being sold near the front desk. But most people brought their own. There are also private pools in this spa which we didn’t try.  The public pool is open 24 hrs.  The other spa is called Kawayu and it’s just steps away.

On the way back to the MRT, we hopped on a the spa’s van that took us to the parking lot up the hill. From there, we walked to the road and caught a bus (#508) that took as back to the MRT.

Overall, it was a pretty good experience.

Meeting with Andrew in Taipei

While I was in Taiwan, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Andrew. He’s a fellow ex Xangan whom I’ve gotten to know better the past couple of years. He’s already written a detailed summary about our meet up on the same day (Oct. 18th).  I’ll try not to repeat what he wrote.

Prior to our meeting, Andrew told me which exit to meet as the MRT stations have many exits.  He also said he will let me know what he is wearing that day.  Perhaps he was worried that I would confuse him with someone else and drag some poor Taiwanese guy for lunch.  I could see myself doing that.  The odd thing is that there was another person that had similar coloured clothes and he was looking at me when he came out of the exit.

We met outside one of Ximen MRT station exit and went to a restaurant on Tao Yuan street that specializes in beef noodles. A friend (another ex Xangan) has been going there for 30 yrs and strongly recommended it. The restaurant doesn’t have a name. My friend cautioned me that there is another beef noodle restaurant with a name across the street but that’s not the restaurant I should go to.    We found the restaurant and didn’t have to wait long before we ended up at a table for 2.  The person in front of us had to share a table so I was glad we didn’t.

After we ordered I think I told him his voice was a lot deeper than I thought. He has a gentle, soft voice that I’m sure some guys (and ladies) will find seductive. The conversation was easy but it was also felt a bit odd. On one hand, the person sitting across the table is someone you’ve met for the first time and yet we were talking as if we’ve known each other very well …. which we do. We did the usual “so we finally meet” stuff and started to chat. After lunch (btw – the beef noodle was very good – lots of flavor and very tender. It’s 15 Tao Yuan Street, a 2 story non descriptive place – nearest exit is #4 Ximen Station.)

After lunch, we walked to a very large Starbucks at the Ximen pedestrian area for coffee.  We chatted about my work, his school, I wanted to know if he was eating well, how he was doing in Taiwan so far, we talked about what’s been going on in our lives and so on. It felt good to connect at a different level and not just through blogs and email. We probably could have talked all day. It didn’t feel like 2 1/2 hours had passed.

Oh yeah, we also talked about other Xangans that he has met. Aside from a brief chance encounter with Sheldon, I’ve never met them (uhm – you). He was very complimentary about each of them … yes, even you Nick. And it’s nice that we have the same circle of online friends. When I started blogging, it was just an online journal. I had no idea it would be such a positive thing in my life.

I have a lot of respect and admiration for what Andrew is doing. It’s not easy going to another country to study. It took a fair bit of sacrifice and I’m happy for him.I know at the end of his studies, he’ll learned a lot more than just Mandarin.  Hopefully we will meet again many times.

Taiwan (more pics)

I didn’t take as much pictures as last year.  When I got home, I ran out of space on my laptop so I had to delete quiet a few pictures (both old and new).  And my laptop is acting up as well.  I frequently get pink lines and green lines on white areas and dark areas.  An Apple dealer says it’s likely the motherboard.  None of these pics have been edited.  I just dumped them into iPhoto.

This was a temple in Jiufen.  If you take the stairs from the police station all the way to the top, it’s just off to the left. I believe it’s called Shengming Temple.  It’s a quiet area to rest up a bit.

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In the narrow paths of Jiufen, there are many stores, stalls and restaurants.  This store had a steady line up.  The large block on the bottom right is like a peanut brittle.  The guy would shave some of it using what looks like a wood shaver.  Put the peanut shavings into a thin “crepe”, add a couple of scoops of ice cream and roll it up.

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The paths (I can’t really call them streets) are narrow and jammed with people.  It wasn’t easy taking pictures because people would bump into you.

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This is back in Ximen, Taipei.  I just wanted to point out how large the mangoes are.  This small stall did a steady business and that lady was kept busy peeling and cutting fruits.

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We took the high speed train to Kaohsiung (Zuoying station) and it was quite pleasant.  There are express trains and tickets can be purchased in advanced.  You can also reserve seats at the business class or regular.  We took business because I’m a demanding traveler.  The express train took about an hour and half from Taipei to Kaohsiung.  The actual station is called Zuoying.

Of course we had to go to the night market.  We went back to Liuhe Night market because it was easier for us to get there.

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This guy cooked our dinner one night.  J recognized him (even with the mask) and swears he cooked for us last year too.

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This was one of the dishes we ordered – scallops.  It came with a lot of garlic and onions which I devoured.  I think it got rid of my cold faster.

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Noodles anyone?

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Another young chef.

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While in Kaohsiung, we took a bus from the train station to Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple / Monastery.  It’s a huge complex and there are actually 2 “campuses”.  We paid to ride a shuttle from one campus to the other.  We got there in the afternoon and walked a lot.  As we were taking pictures of the Buddha during dusk, J casually asked the nun when the last bus was.  We only had about 20 mins to catch it and we did.

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One drizzly late afternoon, we decided to check out the Lotus Pond which was near the High Speed Rail station.  We had difficulty finding the bus from the train station.  J asked a couple of folks and one guy pointed us to the right bus.  He even got on the bus with us and got off to make sure we got to the Lotus Pond.  We didn’t make it around the pond (actually a small lake).  It was dark and it started to pour.  I kept my camera under my jacket.  The 2 pagodas below are the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas.  You enter the Dragon and exit the Tiger for good luck.

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From Kaohsiung, we took a bus from the HSR train station to Kenting.  We took this bus last year and knew where to find the small booth for tickets and where the bus stop was.  We were only there for a couple of days last year and this year we stretched that out for almost a week.  We took in the night market almost each night.  The difference with this night market is that the streets are not closed off.  There are stalls / booths and restaurants on each side of the street with buses, cars and scooters passing through.  There were some unique looking stalls like the one below.  There were several stalls that even had a pizza oven.  There were booths that sold alcoholic drinks.  There were small trucks that transformed themselves to a mobile bar each night.  The only odd thing about the night market was the lack of garbage cans.  There was a fair bit of litter.  Some of the folks chose to carry their garbage with them throughout the night.  Some of the vendors will take their own stuff back.  One sad note – I saw a beggar eating scraps of food from the many bags tossed to the ground.  I approached him with some spare change which he refused.  He kept pointing to his scrap food as if to say I have something to eat.  I still remember his face.

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I was always so paranoid about the traffic in the night market.

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We ate here a couple of times.  He only sells clams.  I was worried I would get sick but I didn’t.  The clams were delicious.

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We found the local bus to take us to the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium.  I love aquariums although I recognize that something needs to be done about the whales and dolphins in captivity.  It was a nice visit and I even got to touch a sea urchin.  We managed to grab the last bus out of the facility but we had to transfer to another bus to get home.   Some of the buses here have manual transmission which I thought was interesting.  I don’t see that at home at all.

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The first couple of days in Kenting were cloudy with some drizzle.  But the skies cleared afterwards and we were blessed with sunny weather.  By that time, I stopped bringing the camera to the beach.  This is Xiao Wan – a quiet little beach free from most tour buses.

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We went back to Taipei after Kenting.  After a few days of vegging out, it was tough to walk again.  This free style rapper was at Ximen.  I found out his name is Husky.  He canvassed the audience for some words / topics and just started to rap.    The audience seemed to enjoy his show.  I didn’t understand the lyrics (J had to translate some of them for me afterwards) but I really enjoyed how he was able to connect with his audience.  By the end of his set, he was drenched in sweat.

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From the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall – they also have a changing of the guards.  This hall also had a small gallery in the basement and numerous exhibits in the upper floors and lower floors.  And yeah – it’s also jammed with tourists like me.

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That’s it for now.  I better get to work.