Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Pineapple Custard Apples (鳳梨釋迦) - Best Fruit Ever!

Given the numerous postings i have made pertaining to the thorny fruit in this blog, many people assume the fruit i love most is durian. The answer is actually custard apples, specifically the hybrid ones known as pineapple sugar apples that hailed from Taiwan! 

Since we could hardly get them in Singapore, i took the opportunity to 'import' a whole box when i was in Taiwan a few months ago (some of you might remember reading about it in my recent posting).  

Although they have an appearance similar to soursop, the texture was vastly different with a smoother consistency. Eat them only when they are pudgy; unripe sugar apples (as they are also known as) have a grainy bitterness that is a terrible turnoff for my taste buds!

The taste of a good pineapple custard apple should be juicy added with a hint of pineapple sourness that would rightfully be overcome by the overwhelming sweetness shortly after. By the way, one of the ways to gauge the ripeness of the fruit is when the skin could be easily peeled off. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Last Day of My Taiwan Trip 2014 (Includes Details on Where to Buy Pineapple Custard Apple & Bring Them Back to Singapore)

Dragged myself out of bed on our last day in Taiwan; couldn't believe that time passed so fast as i didn't even manage to clear any attraction listed in my planned itinerary under the section of "if only we have the time"! 

We were happily on our way to have braised pork rice for breakfast when we chanced upon the entrance of this modern building. Nanmen Market (南門市場)? That sounded so "historical"!

And it definitely was; established as a public market during the Japanese colonial period (we are talking about 1906), the old one-floor building was eventually demolished and rebuilt in 1982 with three floors. 

Offering a glimpse of the traditional market culture in Taipei, tourists from non-Asian countries should consider visiting it as there was none of the messiness / rowdiness frequently seen in open-air markets (including Singapore)! 

Most products were labelled and displayed neatly for the convenience of visitors! Mom would likely find something to buy from the market as there was a huge variety for items like jerkies and sour plums! 

As usual, my eyes were more focused on food especially when we had yet to have any breakfast. 

Alex wasn't that impressed as he was hardly a man to follow tradition and customs and got pretty bored after a while. Hence, i didn't even manage to explore the basement (where there was supposedly a wet market) and the second floor. 

Those keen to stop by may wish to note that the market is open seven days a week from 7.30am to 6.30pm and is located right outside Exit 2 of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall MRT Station. You may also check out its Chinese website at http://www.nanmenmarket.org.tw/.

Had our breakfast at the nearby Jinfeng; said to serve the best luroufan in Taipei! For my review, click here

In Singapore, there's a high likelihood the tree would suffer the fate of being cut down; things are improving though with news increasingly reporting that efforts were made to preserve rather than destroy trees, especially those with a heritage value. 

Dropped by Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall which was a short walk away. For more pictures and information, do check out my blog post here

Took the train back to the hotel as our dear Alex insisted the weather was too hot and he needed a cool respite. By that, he meant taking a short nap in the comfort of the hotel room. 

As for me, i am NOT going to spend my last few hours sleeping! I proceeded alone to this shop known as Demlin Fruits (鼎林水果) that specialised in good quality fruits.

To ensure the quality, I actually made an advance order a few days ago for the ultra delicious pineapple custard apple (hybrid)! Known also as sugar apples, my first encounter with the hybrid version went way back when my mom toured Taiwan with my sister quite a number of years ago! 

Despite one weighing at least a kilogram, i was determined to bring a few back to Singapore! In total, i brought back seven and they topped more than nine kilograms collectively! 

Knowing they were for export, the lady boss wrapped every single of them with soft netting and then protected them with a few layers of those-i-don't-know'what-you-called-them thingies. The shop is located at No 59, Kaifeng Street First Section (台北市中正區開封街一段 59號). Website is http://www.demlin.com/.

All good to go! What was my damage, you asked? I couldn't quite remember but it should be close to S$100! I think the pricing was on the high side although i must admit they were totally worth their value! 

Lunch at Dian Shui Lou where the xiaolongbao was said to be better than Din Tan Fung! Want to know if it is true? Click here for my review! 

Back to the hotel where i took a bath and moved our luggage to the lobby! I am so not going to take public transport, not when there was so much to carry! Hence, i had already requested in advance (from the hotel reception counter) for a limousine service to Taoyuan airport.   

At NT$1,000 for at most three persons, you would be guaranteed a personal sedan with a chauffeur who would help you with the luggage.

The ride was only about thirty five minutes and Sam, the chauffeur, wasn't chatty which might not be a bad idea if you just need someone to drive you from one place to another. 

In case you are interested, you may contact Sam directly using the name card as attached above. Without the middleman's fees, the charge to the airport for three persons would be revised to NT$800. Should you require pickup from the airport, it would be NT$900.

As some of you might have heard, we bought 30-kilogram check-in baggage allowance; said to be more than sufficient for any normal human being. We breached the total limit by 20 kilograms. Obviously not wishing to pay the excess of NT$220 (roughly S$10) per kilogram, we re-arranged our luggage (wasting precious time) and i even had to resort to wearing a few pieces of shirts! 

Had a lousy baked rice as i was too cheapo to purchase expensive meals from the airline and there wasn't time to check out other dining establishments! 

Boarded the Scoot airplane (Boeing 777-200) on time! Frankly, my experience with Scoot thus far had been without complaint even though friends had experienced otherwise (mostly on flight delays). 

Guess it was fitting to have the setting sun bidding goodbye to us as we departed Taoyuan for Changi. 

I probably would have mentioned this before but i am going to say it again; i love Taiwan and was already thinking of returning back to the country when i had not even exited! Maybe i should consider a revisit in autumn next year! 

-The End-

For an OVERVIEW of my 9 Days, 8 Nights Taiwan Trip [Cingjing (清境) - Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) - Taichung (臺中) - Taipei (臺 北)] and details for the individual days, click HERE.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall [中正紀念堂] & Its Change of Guards Ceremony @ Taipei [Taiwan]

The visit to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall might not have materialised if not for Kon, who insisted it's a must-do for any tourist to Taiwan! His only compromise was that i can choose between Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat-sun memorial halls.

Given the vastness and grandeur of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, it's not that hard for me to make a decision betwee the two especially when it was along the way to Jinfeng; known to serve the best luroufan in Taipei

Entering from Aiguo East Road, you would not miss this building with its traditional Chinese architecture that reminded me so much of my journey to the Forbidden Palace at Beijing

But this is Taipei and the building doesn't house the imperial families of ancient past; instead, it was built in 1980 as a home for the country's National Theatre. 

Catching the hourly change of guard ceremony was definitely one of the touristy things to do and i thought i was lucky to have caught it upon stepping into the square!

Turned out it was a group of greenhorns who were still being trained for the honourable position which involved standing in front of a statue in a motionless, expressionless state. 

Gate of Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness - the official main entrance to the National Theatre and the Concert Hall. Oh, i haven't shown you how the Concert Hall looks like!

Ta-dah! Frankly, i find it hard to differentiate the concert hall and national theatre from far!

A tentage was set up in the middle of the liberty square (known sometimes as Chiang Kai-shek Square though) for unknown reasons; it appeared to be a huge storage. 

Another dazzling photograph showing the national theatre.

The objective for my visit; the imposing Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall that was said to borrow the design from the Temple of Heaven in Beijing

Alex could not resist doing this! Sorry for replacing his face with the smiley icon; the cannot-make-it photographer took a shot that didn't show him in a very good light.

Now you can see better the positions of the square in relation to the gate and the two buildings. Don't play play; it was the actual venue for many mass demonstrations in the past, including one that drew 22,000 participants in 1990! 

Climbed up a flight of stairs to reach the 70-meter high memorial hall; for the elderly and those with physically disabilities, there is a lift you can use. 

The elevated view in front of us! 

Weather that day was easily the hottest in my entire Taiwan trip and it was pleasantly relaxing to be seated in the shade while overlooking the impressive sight ahead. 

Ceiling of the hall; those with eagle-sharp eyes might have noticed a web across the entrance. That's a net to deter birds from flying into the hall.

Anyone can guess what this symbol is? It's the party logo for Kuomintang which continued to rule Taiwan till this date and was included as the national flag for Taiwan (on official records, it should be Republic of China).

Bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek with explanation of the Three Principles of the People inscribed right behind; Ethics, Democracy and Science. I shall not bore you with the details but if you are interested, click here

The guard, eh, guarding the statue. 

Since the change of guard would not take place for another half an hour, we proceeded to another level where we can be educated on the history for the memorial hall.

It was constructed to honour the contributions of the late Chiang Kai-shek after his death in 1975. A ground breaking ceremony was held in 1976 and the whole compound was eventually opened in 1980. 

Got back to the hall at 9.45am and the whole area was already cordoned off to facilitate the change of guard ceremony. By the way, the ceremony takes place every hour from 10am to 4pm (on Wednesdays, it would be till 6pm).

Such tall heels! Oh please, i definitely need them more than the guards! 

There was a short introduction about the hall before the ceremony officially began; notice the three guards coming from the right side of the picture?

It was a solemn affair although the hall wasn't as dead quiet as i expected it to be; not with so many "clicks clicks clicks" resonating throughout the area. 

Time for the "currently on duty" guards to step down from the platform with their high heels.

That metal piece on the sole made a hell lot of noise! 

Coordinated movements by the guards as part of the ceremony which was sometimes referred to as an acrobatic performance by some. 

I wasn't fascinated.

Until they got into the above position; finally there would be some exciting action! Are they going to bayonet one of their kind??!?!?!?

Obviously not; at this point, even Alex was asking if we could leave! Even though i wasn't impressed, their dedication and effort to perfect the movements were still very commendable.

Took the elevator to the ground floor where there was an exhibition on art pieces; there were a few floors worth exploring but we were hoping to get back to the hotel earlier so that we can do some last minute packing for our flight back to Singapore!

Whatever the case, i did manage to snap a painting showing the late Mr Chiang Kai-shek on a horse in a battle.

Exiting from the Gate of Great Piety! 


No.21, Zhongshan S.Rd., 
Zhongzheng Dist.,Taipei City 10048
[Exit from the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall MRT Station]

Website (in English)

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