Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Watercolor Studies

It's been a while since I've had painting lessons. My teacher, his name is Edgar. He's a professional artist, he has sold plenty of paintings nationwide, and has won many a number of competitions. He's a realist. His paintings look really laborious, and he tried to teach me that kind of thing. I'm more into, what do you call it, contemporary and pop art (?) and that sort. He humors me anyway and lets me have my way. He taught me everything I know about watercolor, the basics and all that. I'm no expert yet, but I've certainly improved a lot under his tutelage. I've been taking lessons from him on and off since college. Now, I've taken quite a few art classes all through my younger years. None of them helped me, not even a bit. They were the types that ended as fast as they started. The teachers just left you to do your own thing, and at the end of the class, came back to add finishing touches without even saying a word. Useless, really. Edgar's lessons lasted 3 hours, wherein we work on a painting together, from start to finish. I don't have a fixed schedule, I just call him whenever I'm free, which is about 1-3x a month, not very often really. It's a one-on-one class, so I really get a great hands-on learning experience every time. I should really give him a call again sometime this month :)

Here's one he did himself. In 20 minutes.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Day 5 - Free Day

Jogoya Japanese Buffet Restaurant
Get off at Nanjing Station, walk a little way to Momo Building, it's up on the fouth floor :)

Taipei 101

Outside Taipei 101 :P

Taipei Day 4 - Highlights

First up, Yehliu Geopark. Yehliu appears to be an old fishing town.
The Geopark is just about 10 mins walk from where the bus stop. Follow the tourist buses if you're unsure. It was raining quite hard that day. It was rather difficult to appreciate the scenery with the rain pelting down my back and the wind whipping my hair (and hood of my jacket) all over the place. And the place was packed with tourists. It wasn't the best of days but I held my own. It's a beautiful place nonetheless. Definitely worth going to.

Lunch was shabu shabu in 7/11. Yes, they're 7/11's have that. How cool is that! They're good, too!

After Yehliu, we walked back to where we got off previously, and on the opposite side, got on a bus to Keelung. We passed by a busy food market on the way to the next bus stop. We never got to eat there, though. Which was a shame. There was just so much food, so yummy-looking things to try!

From Keelung, we hopped off Jinguashi, an old gold mining town. When you're there, have some warm taho in delicious ginger soup. :)

We then got on a bus again to Jiufen. It's a lovely place, and very lively! Lot's of food and little souvenir shops. There's plenty to see and eat here at Jiufen :)

We had dinner in one of the noodle shops along the old street. The restaurant is called Hey-Song. The beef noodle soup was excellent! And I just love the ice cream wrap right outside of the restaurant! At first my family and I, we thought it was fresh lumpia, like the ones we make at home, but with meat balls! Chinese fresh lumpia is like a DIY wrap. You prepare the ingredients -- wrapper, veggies, lettuce, sliced scrambled eggs, and ground peanuts with sugar -- and then make the wrap yourself.  We were wrong, the white round things that we thought were meatballs turned out to be vanilla ice cream. Great tasting all the same!

A box of whaaat?
Just had to post this. A box of fuzzy cats!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Taipei Day 3 - Highlights

We took the cable car all the way to the last stop. (There are 3) You'll see most of Taipei from up there. And along the way, you'll pass by a lot of tea plantations. It's a beautiful and peaceful area. Very scenic. Lots of tea houses and cafes. A great place for some afternoon tea. :)

Cat's Got Nothing To Do Cafe -- Honey Citrus Tea, hot chocolate, and waffles.

Mao Kong Cafe.

The interior was just adorable!

Hawaiian fruit tea and Longgan tea -- must try! And their cheesecakes are to die for!

Xi Men Ting Red Theatre

If you're like me, and you like whimsical, artistic, handmade, one-of-a-kind stuff, then this is the place to be. Stalls manned by the makers and artists themselves line the street outside of the theatre. You can find hand-painted t-shirts, handmade bracelets, earrings, purses, and all kinds of little trinkets. Inside the theatre are more shops, again by independent artists. I love the creative atmosphere of the place! Lots of eye candy to draw inspiration from! 

Misua at Ay-Chung's.
You fall in line, pay, grab your bowl, and eat -- standing up on the sidewalk. Don't worry about the long queue. You'll get to the counter faster than you can say Misua. I've never seen any restaurant serve this fast! Definitely worth a try :)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Taipei Day 2 - Highlights

Young He soya breakfast.
This place is pretty popular. It's found in Daan, about 5 minutes walk from Daan station. Serving size here is quite big (for me anyway). You might want to share if you're not big eaters. They're known for their soy milk, but the other stuff on the menu is good, too. Try their mi xiang and rice rolls!

Sun Yat Sen memorial Hall

Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall.

Student art along the subway.

Late lunch at Taipei Main Station. Truth be told, food in the station's fastfood restaurants aren't all that good. We've tried a couple of them, the food outside is way better.

 This one is good though. Also inside the main station. Inpo Pudding.

Beitou area -- famous for its hot springs. We had wanted to see the Beitou Thermal Valley, but we arrived late. It closes at 5pm, so come earlier to catch it.


Shilin Night Market.
They say that there are actually 2 separate markets-- one for shopping and one for food. We only made it to the shopping area. We did find a food alley, though. There's a sign somewhere along the shopping street that will lead you to the alley down below. You'll find plenty of Taiwan's local delicacies and street food there. Stinky tofu, oyster cake, bitter gourd juice, beef noodles, and of course, fried chicken! I remember very little about my last trip to Taiwan. But if there's one thing I remember, it's that large, salty, crispy, straight-from-the-grill, hot, fried chicken!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Taipei Day 1 - Highlights

My second trip this month is Taiwan.

My last visit to Taiwan was about 10 years ago. It was during the summer of my third year in high school. (That long already? I'm that old already?) I went on a 2-month study tour to Taiwan to learn Mandarin. Our trip fell during the time of the SARS virus so our trip was cut short to 6 weeks. And we weren't able to tour Taipei through and through as originally planned. It was so long ago that my memory of the place is close to zero! Anyway, I had always wanted to go back. And so this year, my family decided to make a trip there!

I think this is the trip where I've taken the most pictures. And I don't usually take pictures. Only when its necessary, or when the place is extra nice or, when I find a piece of art that I'd like to remember. Other than that, I let someone else do the photo-taking! But here, I took a picture of each place we visited. I don't know, maybe because my Samsung made it so convenient for me. It'd be a shame if I didn't share the pics. Especially when I pretty much documented our whole trip! So I decided to blog about it -- in full detail! (Or as much detail as I could possibly get out of me :))

So this is Day 1. It's a short Day 1. It was raining and cold, so we decided to take it easy that first day. Only to find that the rain would continue until the fourth day. Why did I not listen to forecast! The weather was a bummer. Temperature dropped to about 13 degrees. Winter weather in the summer! That's what I get for complaining about the hot summer sun back in Calaguas :P

Taipei Main Station. 
It's huge! It's the main hub for trains in and out of Taipei, and an interchange station for different subway lines in Taipei's MRT. From the airport, we got on a bus to this station. We stayed at the Y[MCA] Hotel, which is conveniently a mere 2-minute walk from the Taipei Main Station. 

There's plenty to do here. There're restaurants and little shops and pastry shops and lots and lots of cake and sweets stalls! Oh and they even have Tokyu Hands here! Only it's called Tailung Hands :)

The infamous Din Tai Fung!
Xiaolongpaos were really good, as expected. The skin of the dumplings were soft and thin but didn't break easily. And the soup inside was simply delicious. I also loved their Steamed Red Bean Rice Cake. The service was fast and excellent. We had to wait to be seated though. The line was quite long. This branch was in Taipei 101.

Hot milk tea in Xi Men Ting.

Sweet Escape -- Calaguas Island!

It's been a busy month! It's only the middle of April but it feels as if the whole month's already gone by!    And you'll soon see why. I've got a lot of posts to make up for. I've only made 1 so far this month. Well, no, work hasn't been keeping me off blogger. But summer certainly has! I've got quite a few getaways lined up for the summer, and I've gone on to 2 this month! -- one beach getaway with friends, and a family trip abroad. Now, how fantastic is that :)

First off -- a sweet escape to CALAGUAS ISLAND for beach camping!

Calagauas is a group of islands in the province Camarines Norte, in Bicol Region. It's about 2 hours boat ride from the mainland. It's a virgin island, unspoiled, and as beautiful as paradise!

How to get there? My friends and I took a Philtranco bus from Pasay terminal to Daet -- the capital of Camrines Norte and the jump off point to Calaguas. It's an 8-hour bus ride. We joined a tour so, the guide arranged everything for us apart from our bus trips. It's an option we decided on due to work schedules. From the terminal, we traveled to a port (I think named Vinzons) and then took a boat to the island itself.

We were quite surprised to find that there were a lot of people in the tour. And I mean A LOT. I think there were about a hundred of us (or less). If anyone reading this wants to know the tour organizer, his name is Melvic BriƱas. He's pretty popular on the web, it's easy to search him out.

For the price we paid (Php 2,200.00 excluding bus fares), the tour was worth the money. It includes tent rentals, 4 buffet meals (yes, that's right, buffet) and all the transpo costs in between. During meal times, Melvic's team would set up the food in an area in the beach. Plates, utensils, glasses, and even water were provided for. Food was simple home-cooking -- rice, 3 viands, and a side dish. And there's always enough for everyone. Then there was a mobile bar with FREE DRINKS from 8pm to 12mn. That was probably the coolest, most unexpected feature from the tour! I thought it was a quiet, relaxing type of a getaway. It turned out to be a toned-down Boracay adventure of sorts :)

Everyone mostly kept to themselves. We didn't do much, really, activities-wise. Partly because of the heat, and partly because we didn't know there were beach activities available, like island-hopping and snorkeling. With pay of course. Stupid. None of us bothered to ask. It was extremely hot at the beach. Scorching hot. There aren't many trees on the island. And the trees that were there were short, they couldn't provide you with much shade. And like I said, it's a virgin island, so there aren't any permanent structures around, just little huts and tents, nothing tall enough to block out the sun. And as it is summer.. you can just imagine. Walking from one part of the beach to another was enough to give you a sunburn, even with sunblock on. We basically just hung-out. It's a good trip to bond with friends. The water was nice and clean. It was very clear, and the sand was just lovely. Even better than Boracay's I dare say.

The only down-side to this trip was the bathroom (or rather the lack of it). The bathroom is made up of a toilet bowl (no tank no flush) inside a small hut with a large piece of curtain for a door. For water, you had to fetch some yourself from a water pump. That part was actually okay. The frustrating part was waiting for pails to become available. After a half day's worth of sunblock, sweat, and saltwater, I was literally itching for a bath. But I wasn't able to have one until that evening. And I did so in the company of my friends, all 6 of them, boys included, near the water pump in open air. So if your a bit OC with the bathroom and personal hygiene (ours just went right out the window), you might want to re-think coming here.

The day after the camping night, we travelled back to Daet to Bagasbas beach for surfing and skim-boarding. None of us felt like it. So we stayed in the rooms that the tour provided. None of us wanted to subject our skins for more punishment from the summer sun. We also had very little sleep. Some of us had a wee bit too much to drink the night before. :P Melvic's team let everyone in a restaurant/inn for lunch and rest. Each room served as a holding room for our things. About 15-20 people shared a room so, mind you. But at least it had a proper bathroom with faucets and a door! We ate, and then left at about 7pm, on a DLTB bus this time. Scheduled time of departure was 6pm. We left an hour later, because many hadn't finished getting ready. We joined in Melvic's tour for the bus ride home.

So there. Whew, this turned out to be a lengthy post. I have a lot to say (obviously). So there. There's my sweet --err bittersweet -- Calaguas beach camping experience! :)