Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Paul and Hanano Kura

11/7/09 After rehearsal I joined friend H and K for a dinner at Paul on the Jenai Circle. What a lovely spot! The bistro faces the most recognized street corner in Taipei City. However noisy it is out there, the moment we stepped into Paul, it is as if we entered a small corner in Montmartre. The ambiance of the restuarant is serene and relaxing. The aroma of freshly baked baguettes and palmier fill the air. I felt like I was in a fluff for a while.

H and K and I made a reservation. Everything looked delicious and decidedly French bistro. We wanted to try it all and had to go through a complicated process of selection by elimination. We finally decided on a roast beef sandwich dish, a salad with smoke salmon, and a french appetizer platter.

Every bite was delicious and the meal was very satisfying! This was the first time K and I met, and we talked as if we were old friends. Not only are we about the same age, she has been in Taipei for 10 years, and spent a few years in California prior to coming to Taipei. Before then, she was in her native Japan. We have many things in common indeed! It's nice to meet someone with similar background and likings.

After the meal in Paul, H had to go home and K and I decided to find another place for a drink. We ended up at the Hamano Kura, that would be "the Wine Cellar of Flower" in English. This is a trendy sake bar where one can enjoy sake cocktails, various kinds of sake, and great sushi. We decided on Otokoyama, which is a sake with an umph. Over the sake we talked some more until it was passed the metro operation hours. Therefore we had to take taxis home. For safety reasons we called taxis over the phone (despite the fact that they are everywhere if you want to hail one) and two showed up very quickly. As soon as we were going to step into the taxi, the Hama no Kura person rushed on out of the sake bar to tell us that they got our tab wrong--instead of paying for a carafe, we paid for a whole bottle!!! Thank goodness they are honest.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Taiheiyo Heiwa Toastmasters Japanese Club in Taipei

11/07/09: Today I get to do my first "ice breaker" speech in Japanese at my Toastmasters Club. I thought I was not going to be nervous but for whatever reason I was on pins and needles all the way until I went OFF the stage!! And it was only a short speech! I think the nerve came from lack of practice...I wonder how preachers like Billy Graham and Joel Osteen, or great orators like Obama and Kennedy get to speak without stage freight.

This is such a nice bunch of people and my speech received great response. In order not to make my self-introduction so boring and routined just like every one else's, I decided to quickly go through my basic data, and then move on to a quiz, including questions like what food do I not like, what sports am I not good at, which island have I not gone to, etc. It was a relief to hear laughters coming from the audience.

I am glad to say I'm liking my Toastmasters Club. Seems like I'll be able to make some good new friends there besides reaping other great side benefits such as polishing my public speaking skills and communication skills.

The Taipei Zoo

11/08/09 Yesterday there was a company-wide outing to the Taipei Zoo. Got up early and went to the 7 to buy breakfast. "The Seven" is how people call Seven-Elevens here, and the food selection is astounding. I shall have to write about that some other time.

Anyway I went to the 7 to buy breakfast and then waited on Chungshan N. for my cherubic coworker H to come and pick me up. His car came and as expected, the entire car is filled with people and McDonald bags. Ha! We had a huge breakfast match in the car, and but 20 min later we arrived at the Zoo.

The last time and the only time I went to the current Taipei Zoo was when it first opened 20-some years ago...it was very huge but barren at the time. It's nice to see the park is all filled with lush plants and trees now.

Before entering the zoo, we walked pass the new Taipei City Children's Entertainment Park. I can't wait to bring my nieces and nephew here when they come to Taipei. We also walked passed the recently built but quickly defunct Mao-Kung Cable Car. This was indeed a good idea, but it was a pity that the City Government missed the construction survey, causing the Cable Car to become a dangerous structure only shortly after its completion. Even so, The Wen-Shan area is still rich in touristic resources.

We first signed in and fetched our souvenirs for today's participation of the Zoo outing. Then, we darted towards the latest attraction inside the park--the Panda Colony. We got the timed ticket to the Panda Hall, lined up, and slowly approached the pandas. The pandas Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan came from Sichuang. They were given to the Taipei Zoo last year. I have not seen them because thousands of visitors crowd this part of the Zoo every day then. Now that the panda craze is over by a little bit, I can see the panda in relative ease without too much pain. They were very cute! Tuan Tuan was sitting on the ground eating bamboo, while Tuan Tuan was hiding behind the playground set in the "room", scratching her behind...HA~

We then went up the slope and met up with more coworkers. The entire park was swamped with people I know and recognize; it's great to see their kids, too.

I didn't realize this was such a vast ground. The old zoo near northern part of the city moved to the current site in 1986. The current zoo is said to be the largest zoo in Southest Asia. After seeing the panda and hanging out at the Hippo Plaza eateries, we made our way up the tropical forrest walkway and meandered up to see the koalas. The koalas were at ease sleeping, chewing on eucalyptus leaves, and playing among the branches, respectively. They were very cute and much smaller than I expected--this was my first time seeing koalas, come to think of it!!

The Taipei Zoo was much more fun than I thought it would be--next time I come here I want to go up to the nearby and famous Mao-Kong Hill to have some Chinese tea also.