Longshan Temple and the Night Market (#travel, #Taiwan, #Asia)

This is a post from Taipei that didn’t get up in time because my battery was dying on my phone and then I forgot to go back and upload it when I had a charge.

We took a free walking tour with Tour Me Away – Taipei to see one of the nightmarkets. This was our 2nd or 3rd night in town.

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This is a lion statue near the Longshan Temple MRT stop, about a block from the temple. I love these things, I never get tired of seeing their slight variations around town.

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This is the entrance to Longshan Temple. The central doors of big temples like this are often closed off and only opened for visiting dignitaries or major holidays. Like most of the temples we found, you enter on the right side (out of frame) and leave from the left side. Each side is guarded by an animal, I believe it is the dragon on the right and the tiger on the left. Going in this order is Feng Shui and gives you good luck because the dragon is a positive luck symbol and leaving out of the tiger is like avoiding its jaws and danger. So going in reverse is just the opposite and bad luck– tiger gon’ eat ya!

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This is an image of some of the detail on the temple.

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Detail of a lantern. My Nexus 5 camera obviously doesn’t do great in varied lighting conditions but I still think this lit lantern is interesting.

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Detail of a dragon statue.

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This is the inner temple. I don’t know what the proper term is but that’s what I am calling it. Inside this structure are the various Chinese gods that the temple goers worship at for luck, happiness, marital bliss, a good crop, what have you.

On the right, out of frame, is a “hospital” area where a person can go buy what is essentially like a lottery ticket. The funds go to the temple to provide alms to the poor and keep up the structure. It’s almost like an indulgence. You get this little lottery ticket and it has a lucky number or some kind of fortune cookie saying on it that is supposed to calm your anxiety and help you on in your troubles.

It’s really smoky inside the entire temple despite so many outdoor areas because people are just constantly burning incense and waving it around.

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This incense urn in the inner temple sports a couple of Dutch colonists who have been condemned to bear the heavy burden of the urn cap. We were told by the young tour guides that this was a kind of damnation for their cruelty during the colonial occupation of Taipei. I guess the locals and the colonists didn’t get along.

In the back of the outer courtyard surrounding the inner temple, more Chinese god statues were being prayed to for various purposes. One common one is a God that grants students success in their tests for school. Another is a God that grants good luck in finding a partner. Pursuants grab a pair of red banana-shaped tokens and cast them on the ground near the idol. The way the tokens land indicate different results in terms of the hoped for outcome. It’s common for pursuants to throw the tokens repeatedly until they get three signals in a row for the outcome they’re after.

Back in the main temple, more luck and gods favor games. This time one with numbered sticks and corresponding numbered drawers with the fortune paper on it. While explaining and demonstrating these processes, one of our guides unnerved a worshipper mightily because she had removed some of the sticks from the jar without using them, thus throwing off the cosmic chances of achieving a particular lucky combination.

All I could think was, isn’t that part of your luck, to not get a fair draw? The irony of using ones rational intelligence and purposeful efforts to influence desired outcomes was completely lost on this person.

The grounds around the temple are now and traditionally have been a kind of safe place for vagrants and the down on their luck. This is because the temple historically has served as a conduit between the charity of the wealthy who provide it and the indigent who are in need of it. It creates a somewhat seedy atmosphere around the temple which is only reinforced by the night market.

Now, night markets are perfectly innocent. They’re mostly markets that are open late with hawker food stands and the odd vendor of trinkets and trash. But there is a reason these vendors are open so much later than everyone else and the atmosphere is strangely marginal. Some people (like the Wolf) find them interesting but I don’t too much, and most of the food just doesn’t appeal to me.

So we walked around, saw the restaurant where people eat snakes and take the 5 shot challenge (snake blood, snake urine,…) Walked down the alley where the brothels pose as some kind of men’s parlor and are tolerated by the community, toured the hawker stands and then went home for the evening. We were bushed and its a lot of excitement to take in late at night.

A couple awesome meals from Singapore (#travel, #Singapore, #food)

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We’ve had a lot of great food here in Singapore on our short stay. But two in particular have stood out.

The above is from Shahi Maharani, “North Indian Cuisine” which was in the 3rd floor of the Raffles City mall. It was BOGO and we were terrified we made a mistake when we saw it was a buffett until we started walking through and looking at the food. I’ve had a decent number of Indian food styles and restaurants so far including food in California and NYC, this was probably one of the better I’ve had. I would’ve stuffed myself but I knew we were going to be walking for hours at the National Museum afterward. It was tempting, though.

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This eclectic mix of Malay/Indonesian food was from a halal shop also near City Hall off the Bugis stop. The place was called Hjh Maimunah. I couldn’t repeat the names of all the dishes but there is a potato fritter on the far right, beef rendang next to it, the yellow dish is a curry coconut milk chicken on the bone and the far left is a chili chicken on the bone (which was out favorite and not as spicy as it looks) and then the top is spinach.

We also got a cup of lime juice which tasted like a lime popsicle. While normally that flavor would be sickly sweet and gross me out, this totally worked and was so refreshing in the heat.

Here’s the neighborhood:

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More great coffee in Asia (#travel, #HK, #coffee)

Breakfast yesterday was at Brew Bros. in Central. I had a cappuccino with my “brekky”

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There was some initial confusion about my request for a heavier cream buy I resolved it by asking them to just make it the way they make it, and that worked out just fine.

My breakfast dish was solid as well, the poached eggs were impeccable and I think I’ll go for smoked salmon more often at home.

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Coffee board (#design, #coffee, #travel, #Asia, #HK)

This seems to be a common feature at hipster cafes here in Asia, we spotted this in Taiwan several times as well. It’s super helpful though.

And it reminds me of the Arrested Development line, “it’s called a cuppa-kino, and wait’ll you see what it costs!”

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Coffee is good in HK (#travel, #HK, #Asia, #food)

There is no real coffee culture here (only seen Starbucks so far) but the latte I just had with breakfast at Open Door cafe was excellent! As was my big English-style breakfast (the Brits know how to do breakfast).

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Hipsterism is a global phenomenon and it ensures good eats everywhere you go.

Here is our building in HK:

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And here is something curious about the money. The HKD is pegged to the dollar at about 7.75. There is no central bank, only a “currency board”, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. The small notes appear to be issued by the HKMA, but the larger notes are in fact privately issued bank notes. The bank notes are convertible, on demand, into HKD. Why is this even an option?

I assume, like the “convertibility” of Federal Reserve Notes into US dollars, that this is a terminological vestigial organ. But still, it is curious to see privately issued bank notes in this day and age.

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Raw fish donburi in Taipei (#travel, #food, #Asia, #Taiwan)

This was lunch yesterday, on the recommendation of the Chicago couple. It was outstanding. Basically a sushi rice bowl. The fresh wasabi added a delicious peppery kick with each bite. I think this cost about $15 a bowl and was one of the hippest, youngest fellow diner crowds we’d seen.

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Uni, crab, raw scallops, roe, fish

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All fish and roe

Afterward we grabbed a fresh squeezed mixed fruit juice from Jason’s, which was also outstanding.

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Taipei hotpot/Shabu shabu (#travel, #food, #Asia, #Taiwan)

This was our last dinner in town last night and it was very tasty! The spicy side of our pot also contained congealed duck blood which I enjoyed (super paleo).

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The bamboo chute contains a shrimp and fish paste for tabbing out your own shrimp balls, a signature of this particular establishment.

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The Wolf went for the chicken foot. I’ve had it before at dim sum in the States, it’s okay I just don’t enjoy the experience enough to want to eat it again.

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Lettuce wraps come to Taipei (#travel, #Taiwan, #food)

We haven’t seen much evidence of a “health conscious” community here in the American sense of the term, which has been confirmed by several tour guides. There are people jogging in and around the Da’an Park, and we found a place near our apartment called Runbase which has some kind of indoor exercise studio with TRX bands and a health cafe connected to it offering “Truly man” healthy smoothies and meals. But the idea of alternative diets, gym memberships, etc doesn’t appear to be common.

That is why it was funny to see the local Mos Burger, a burgerish franchise, advertising what looks to be a lettuce wrapped version of their products.

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Beef noodles and beer (#travel, #food, #Asia, #Taiwan)

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I think I’m supposed to do stuff like this on Instagram, not a blog, but anyway this was my dinner last night. For the beer, imagine a stronger, more flavorful Heineken, it was similar to that (and more enjoyable than that).

It took a few days for my Paleo stomach to transform into a noodle-and-fried stuff compartment, but I think it happened. This meal was both filling and satisfying whereas the first few days I had a bit of a mental and physical block to enjoying many of these grain-based dishes.

Beer isn’t really that big here and I was the only person drinking one. And while I didn’t really NEED a beer, I had a feeling it’d be a good flavor pairing with this particular dish, and I was right.