I shall shoulder on nonetheless.
In celebration of my grandma's birthday, my aunt - one of them - conceived of the idea of going on a Chang outing to Yilan. The only places in Taiwan, discounting Kinmen, are Taipei (ten million times), Taichung (a couple of times), Taoyuan (couple of times), fucking Alishan that made me sick, and Chiayi for like a night and a few hours, so I was all for it. I thought it'd be nice to see rural-ish Taiwan for a change.
Well, I might as well have gone to Taiwan with some cheesy packaged tour group. My aunt chartered an entire bus for the whole gang and when we got onto the bus and everyone was settled in, she warned us not to complain about the itinerary. At that time I thought, "How bad can it be? I've never been there before!"
To be fair, it wasn't bad. To be fair, too, much effort was put into the planning and I really appreciated it, and it was fun going on a day trip with the entire - and I mean, entire, save for a few people - paternal side of the family.
But wow, I did not need to see some orange whatever farm, some honey factory, some fucking whiskey distillery, and some weird national heritage park thing that left me confused as to its purpose AND its name despite spending an hour or so in there.
I think the highlight of the day trip was the non-stop karaoke on the bus. My eldest aunt and her husband regularly go for such things so them being able to sing in tune and relatively well wasn't much of a surprise. It was funny listening to my other relatives sing though, especially the kids. Actually, the adults were hilarious too, especially my third uncle, the Western-medicine doctor (the uncle that picked us up is also a doctor, but he practises Chinese medicine). My dad made me laugh my ass off with his over-zealous shouting-singing into the microphone and I've got video proof of his um...performances. I didn't want to sing at first, but I got infected by the bug and sang a couple of songs. It was embarrassing when I TOTALLY forgot how the hell Jay Chou's Ge Qian went as I'd not listened to it for so long, and I totally lost the plot when my eldest aunt switched up the key (I can only sing in the key that he sings in. My range is quite shit). I didn't screw up Bai Se Feng Che though, so it wasn't all bad.
To be honest, I brought along my MP3 player for the ride and when the karaoke started at the beginning, I thought they'd tire of it and I'd be able to listen to my songs. But yeah, that didn't happen. The karaoke only stopped at the end of the trip, when the bus brought us all back to the grandparents' apartment (also where I stayed, and always stay when I'm in Taipei). And during one of Wu Bai's weird flower whatever song, my aunt that chartered the bus and one of my kid cousins got up to the front and did the dance that supposedly went with the song. I was all baffled; I stopped following Chinese pop when I got tired of Jay Chou, and didn't really follow Chinese pop that closely even when I liked him. So that was a huge culture shock for me, but it was cute.
Anyway, the trip. The first stop was some farm. I don't know what the fuck it did, honestly. There were cute wooden figures outside of a band of musicians and I liked the cutesy concept of the place, but I don't know what it produced. I bought some yummy jelly there though. And the place has the word "orange" in its name so it's some orange farm or whatever.
In the general vincinity. This was one of the cutesy decoration things they had outside.
Me and a wooden figure playing the um...er-hu?
The general area. I don't know what this was. The woman explained to us what they did but I wasn't listening haha.
The next stop was lots better - it was a lake. It was still a touristy place, but it was a lake with pretty scenery.
Mom and Dad, obviously. Nice view behind them.
My Bus-Chartering Aunt and my new cousin-in-law. Again, nice view. You can see the third character of my name in the background. (I think. I can't really tell from the picture. Oh well.)
The entire gang. We were all in the same red shirt because it was my grandma's birthday celebration. It has the name of my grandparents' shop printed across the chest. For my grandfather's birthday celebration a couple of years back, we had a similar shirt printed for all to wear. MY DAD THOUGH TOTALLY SPOILED IT BY NOT WEARING HIS SHIRT!!!!!
Pretty view again.
After this, we went to a honey farm. It was more interesting than the other ones I've been to, though I can't remember where they were, because they brought us to where they kept the bees and let us sample pure, unprocessed honey, straight from the honeycomb. There was a video presentation first and a Q&A session about how to tell real honey from fake honey or whatever, then we were led down to the bees area.
We had to don protective nets:
My dad's picture was really funny but for his sake I shall not post it.
The um, bee boxes. Yeah, I have no idea what these things are called.
They brought out the honeycombs with the bees all over them and this was the close-up I took. It's damn gross, I know.
Digging pure honey from the comb. I hereby declare this: I fucking hate honey. This gross thing was so sweet that the sweetness clung to the back of my throat 20 minutes after I'd ingested it. It was really gross. But maybe it's just me; I've never liked honey anyway.
They also let us taste some form of powdered nectar from a flower or whatever which was interesting, though I didn't like it too. Way too sweet and powdery and raw.
A whole bunch of bees on display. Yucks. It's a miracle I didn't run away, especially since I apparently have a chronic phobia of snakes. More about this in the next entry about the trip to the Taipei zoo.
One thing I've noticed about Taipei over the years is that they've seriously cleaned up their English. I used to see things like "Wrold trade centre" on buses, but nowadays there's not much for me to laugh at on that front.
So imagine how fucking hard I laughed when I saw these:
The "receives silver" one is funnier than the previous one, simply because of the brevity of its lousy translation. It's totally hilarious. And they even have the Taiwan tourism sign above it. I love Taiwanese English.
Next stop was the whiskey place. The name "Mr Brown" was thrown around and I thought I was going to see a coffee-processing factory which would definitely have interested me; instead, all I saw was the whiskey distillery which I couldn't possibly care any less about, and the only thing coffee-related that I saw was a huge-ass Mr Brown cafe that occupied the entire second floor of a building. Maybe there was a coffee factory that we didn't go into but whatever the case, I didn't see it and so was disappointed.
Yeah, I just really like taking pictures.
The fermentation process. For the benefit of my non-Chinese friends and people like my boyfriend who can't read Chinese, bottle on left is post-fermentation; in the middle is during; and on the right is before. Omg, how interesting!1!!!1!!!!! Moving on now.
There was a whiskey tasting session in which my dad partook. There was even a queue for it. I couldn't be bothered and headed straight for the second storey, which was Mr Brown. I wanted a latte but unfortunately my eldest aunt's husband bought six big cups of gross-ass Americano so I had no choice but to drink that. Even with milk though, it was so vile that I had to give the rest of my small cup of it to my mom. I hate black coffee. Ruishan amazes me endlessly with her ability to drink it WITHOUT MILK AND SUGAR.
We got on the bus again and I took some pictures of the view. Here is one:
The lunch restaurant, if you could call it that, was in the middle of some paddy field. Or rather, there was a huge paddy field along the road which would've been more amazing to me if it hadn't started raining quite heavily.
First, though, lunch: the food was standard, i.e. the restaurant people served the same dishes to all the groups that patronised it. It catered to tourists, I'm guessing. There were a grand total of 3 dishes that I could eat: the fish, the vegetables, and the miso soup. Didn't care for the fish, but the vegetables was SO. FUCKING. GOOD. It was just spinach but WOW, the vegetables in Taiwan have a fresh and smooth quality that the imported stuff in Singapore can't hope to have. I usually don't go crazy over vegetables but I couldn't stop taking those.
The miso soup wasn't too bad but I don't like miso soup in general so I'm not the best judge of that.
The interesting part of lunch was actually when I went to the toilet. There was a short queue when I went downstairs. I went into the sitting cubicle, found that there was no toilet paper, so went out again to get some napkins. When I went back I was behind a few old ladies. The sitting cubicle was empty so I asked if they wanted to use it. None of them wanted to use it. I can't stand to squat as the last time I squatted to pee, and I remember this very vividly, many years ago in a public library's toilet, I peed all over my shoes. Not a good thing, methinks.
But they didn't want to use it because it was dirty. Ergo, I lined the seat with napkins and peed cleanly.
When I went back out a HUGE queue had formed for the toilet. The area was actually really dirty so I was quite anxious to get out of there ASAP, which I did. Also managed to take pictures of the paddy field:
The next and last stop was the national whatever centre. It basically was a compound with some period buildings, though I couldn't place which period, that sold a lot of stuff. There was also an old house of some guy that was moved there but I didn't get the details on that. The best part about it was the gorgeous scenery - a small lake, a bridge over the lake, and adorable ducks swimming on the water. I got close enough to touch them and they weren't scared at all, but I was too scared to touch them. So sad, right? I know.
See, strange buildings. Tong said it looked like Italy. I was just baffled.
Okay can't really see the view in this but it was pretty, trust me.
One of the ducks! So cute!
Nice view, right?
Found a stall selling stinky tofu. The woman sold a box of 12 for S$2.50. I thought 12 pieces was too much so I asked for 8 and I'd pay the full price as I thought I couldn't finish 12 all by myself. After I was down to the last piece, I wish I had 12 pieces. IT WAS SO GOOD. I LOVE STINKY TOFU.
This was the old house. I'm gonna upload pictures on Facebook. Too lazy to edit too many pictures for the entries.
So then it was dinner for my grandma's birthday. The restaurant was shockingly a new one, but wow, the service was fucking shit. My dad complained about the speed of the vegetarian food for my grandaunt, but what I complained about was the shit attitude of the auntie waitress when she came over to change the plates.
First, I must say that the fucking Taiwanese don't really like to change plates. In Singapore they change your plates after like every dish; in Taiwan they do so maybe three times max throughout a meal. It was the same situation during the wedding.
That night, after they served some seafood dish - some crab thing I think - they came over to change the plates. I sat against the wall and was quite far in for the waitress to reach, so I thought I'd help her out by passing her my brother's plate and mine. I put them together and stretched out my hand to hand it to her, but guess what the old bitch said? "If it's not dirty don't change it."
WHAT THE FUCK?! HOW IN THE NAME OF GOD'S GREEN EARTH WOULD THE PLATES NOT BE FUCKING DIRTY WHEN I'D STACKED ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER?!?!?! That REALLY pissed me off and I nearly threw a temper tantrum on the spot. I ranted for sure, and told the woman point blank that the plates were dirty. She returned with two clean ones.
But seriously, what the hell was that? Would it kill you to give us two clean plates? We're giving your restaurant a hell lot of money after all. SERIOUSLY.
Apart from that, dinner was good. The prawn with cheese on top was really yummy. The rest of the food was a blur. The cake had Uni Food pudding in it so I liked it.
I decided to be the spoiler by not wearing the red shirt as I thought it was damn gross to wear back the shirt that I'd worn the whole day after I'd showered. Me with my cousin and cousin-in-law.
Sons with their wives.
Western med doctor's kids. They're really cute.
The cousins I'm closest to. I used to be really close with the girl on the left when I was a kid - went over to her house to play ALL THE TIME. Her mom always says things like "you two used to be so close and now you're not" when I go over to her house which is rather awkward but she's quite the country bumpkin so oh well.
Okay, it's taken me close to an hour to write this. No way in hell I'm gonna be able to finish the whole trip tonight, so I guess I'll continue when I'm back from Borobudur.
Shit man, not looking forward to all the blogging I'd have to do!
(PS. In French Open news, Tomas Berdych beat Andy Murray in straight sets! Yay! Stupid Henin lost to Stosur today. Grr why didn't she just lose to Masha yesterday. And I'm gonna miss Federer/Soderling. Sigh!)