Food and Friendship

Chris, an old friend from Xanga, and his husband Tawn were in town this past week. They first flew to US to visit friends and family, then to Montreal, before spending a few days in Toronto.  I’ve known Chris for many years although we never met until 2016 when I was in Bangkok.  He and Tawn were gracious hosts even though they had just flown back from Europe and were recovering from jet lag.

There was a bit of a heatwave in Toronto although Montreal was even hotter.  They only had a few days here but they managed to squeeze in quite a bit.  I’m grateful to grab some meals with them. IMG_0017

It was nice to walk around Toronto with them and to have a few good meals too.

Souffle from Hanabusa Cafe.


Dinner from R&D restaurant.

Waffles and Fried Chicken – chicken was very moist and well seasoned.


Mac and Cheese (with smoked cheese, Indonesian breadcrumb and satay sauce) – this was quite good.


Fried Rice with ground pork and chicharron, this was so nicely done.


Slow cooked octopus (charred on the outside but tender on the inside)



Pork belly with barley risotto.  This added about 2″ to my waistline.  IMG_7500

Friendship and food go together so well.


Lunch with another ex Xangan

I had lunch with Gary and his friend Will when they were visiting Toronto this past week.  Gary used to blog on Xanga (CurryPuffy).  I don’t remember exactly when I subscribed to him on Xanga – likely late 2000s.  His blogs were usually a lot of travel and food posts.  He would usually start each paragraph with a small Snoopy GIF.   I always had the impression he was a classy, soft spoken kinda guy.  He was always helpful and polite when I emailed him looking for travel tips.

We met at the lobby of the hotel where he was staying.  He still looks the same as his Xanga profile pic from years ago.  We walked to a nearby restaurant.  I usually worry about what to talk about or if I talk too much or too little.  Chatting with both of them was easy even if I did blabber on a bit too much.  We chatted about the people we knew on Xanga, where they visited, who picks the places to eat (for this trip – Will picked the restaurants), what’s going on in our lives and traveling in general.  Both of them were very easy to talk to. It’s interesting when you “know” someone but haven’t met them in person.  After lunch we walked back to their hotel and got some pics of each other.  I hope to see them again.  Both Gary and Will are really nice gentlemen.


Here’s what I ate.

The lunch was pretty good.  The restaurant (Luma) was offering a fixed priced lunch menu as part of Summerlicious.

Strawberry feta salad (romaine, toasted almonds and champagne vinaigrette)IMG_5861

Peameal Bacon BLT (vine-ripened tomatoes, basil aïoli, arugula, kettle chips).  The bacon was nice and I was so stuffed I couldn’t finish all the chips.


Coconut cream + pineapple tart – this was very nice.  IMG_5864


It’s Ok – just have fun

I wrote about my late blogger friend, Kelvin, a couple of times.  Prior to my trip, I wanted to find out where his ashes were interred in Singapore. A few years ago, I saw a partial death notice. It only had a few lines and but you had to go to Singapore’s main library archives to get the full printout.  Or you could pay them to retrieve it and have them send it to you.  I found some address of columbariums but none of them had email addresses.  After awhile I gave up.

Once my trip was finalized, I decided to check again but got the same results.  I wrote a letter to the agency to see if they might have information.  I told them I was traveling and to respond by email.  I was already in Taiwan for a week and didn’t hear anything.  One morning, I got an email back from them.  They provided me with the date of the cremation and confirmed the ashes wasn’t in any of the public columbariums.

I was a bit sad and I didn’t want to spend time in Singapore calling cemeteries. That afternoon, I was at a temple in Kaohsiung, I thought about Kelvin and hoped he would understand.  Then I felt a sense of calm.  I looked at the various figurines and statues and then I noticed something moving to my right. It was a gecko (lizard) on the window.  I know they are common in Asia but that was the only time I saw one on my trip.  Kelvin had a tattoo of a gecko.  I smiled and nodded.  I knew I could just enjoy my time in Singapore.


Singapore summary

My final stop of my vacation was Singapore. I thought Kaohsiung (Taiwan) was humid but Singapore was something else.   My t-shirt would be soaked within minutes of walking outside.  But my sweaty t-shirt got me lots of room on the MRT.  One of my goals of this visit was to try the interesting hawker food.  This black pepper crab was pretty good.  We got plastic gloves which helped keep my hands clean.


I got this noodle soup from Chinatown for $4 CDN.  It contained an egg, some meatballs, a couple of strands of veggies and home made noodles.  The stock was a bit thin though.

J and I also ate at 8 Cafe & Bar.  I had the onion soup, chicken wings (not pictured here), meatballs, dessert and a glass of wine.  The owner, Bill Ho (you can find his picture in his restaurant’s instagram) came over and chatted with us for some time.  The food and service was pretty good.  I took a picture if Bill and J.  For the rest of the evening, J just kept staring at the picture and forgot that I existed.

The area around the Marina Bay Sands was quite interesting. I wish I had a lotus pond like this in my condo.  It was gorgeous.img_0358The water and light show at night was interesting.  I had no idea what to expect and I kept wanting to take pictures of the show instead of enjoying it.  You can see the Fullerton Hotel in the background and if you look closely enough, you can also see the Merlion.


The view of where we were for the light and water show from the other side of the water.


We walked around Chinatown one day to check out a temple.  It was a nice area for people watching.



The next 2 pictures are from the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum.  It’s a stunning temple and they have an orchid garden at the rooftop.



Finally, my visit to Singapore was also to meet up with 3 Xangans – Nick, who lives in Singapore, Gene who flew in from Manila and Rudy who flew in from Indonesia.  We were suppose to meet up for dinner at Din Tai Fung but I came down with a case of stomach flu the previous night.  I took some immodium but that didn’t help.  The morning of our meetup (Saturday), I went to get medical help.  The hotel recommended a clinic and Nick confirmed it was reputable.

When it became apparent that I couldn’t make it to dinner, the gang came by the hotel and we chatted for about an hour.  I felt bad especially for Gene and Rudy who flew in to meet me.  But I was glad to meet with all of them even briefly and got a chance to know them a bit better.  I had no idea what they thought I would be like but none of them ran away when I greeted them.  Thank you Nick, Gene and Rudy – it was really nice to meet with you and I hope we can do it again.

Here’s a picture of all of us in my hotel room.  In the weeks leading up to the meet up, we would joke that I would be wearing a paper bag to protect my anonymity.  From left to right, Gene, Nick, yours truly and Rudy.  I had no idea Nick actually got us paper bags.

img_0792I made it back home without further incident.  I took the last of the antibiotics and some more tummy pills at a layover in Taipei.  It took a few more days before my digestive system recovered.

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.