Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Taiwan and Tofu


I've been talking about writing this blog for over two weeks so now it's time to stop procrastinating and just write. Apologies in advance if this entry is a little haphazard but it's been a busy few weeks and in HK time that's more like six here's to hoping I remember all the things I wanted to include about Taiwan, my new favorite place in Asia.

Two weeks ago the ADT (American Dream Team) headed to Taiwan (Long's motherland) for the weekend. We had quite the crew - Long, Devin, Julie, Dave, Floyd, Kevin (our host for the weekend) and me. We were particularly excited about this trip because Long and Kevin had our entire weekend planned and what a weekend it turned out to be!

We arrived in Taipei just in time for dinner so we changed clothes and headed to the night markets where people eat at street stalls. I was a little nervous since I have serious issues about eating unfamiliar food in unfamiliar places but as they say, when in Rome. We started with spicy deep-fried chicken cutlets the size of my head and I couldn't get it down fast enough. It was the BEST fried chicken I've ever had in my life. Better than Bojangle's, better than Price's Chicken Coop and even better than Brady's fried chicken at tailgates! After chicken cutlets we had fish balls, sausage, some kind of pancake thing with scallions, vegetable buns and these strawberry kebobs that were dipped in the same stuff used to make candy apples. IT. WAS. INCREDIBLE. On the other hand, however, they were selling chicken anus (no joke), pig's blood and stinky tofu which might be the most foul-smelling stench I've ever smelled in my life. It made durian smell like peaches. The initial onset isn't so bad - I told Longo "no big deal, it doesn't smell that bad" but after getting whiffs of it in all directions I nearly dry-heaved, had to pull my shirt up over my mouth and nose and begged the group to haul ass out of the area before I lost my lunch. IT. WAS. INCREDIBLY. BAD.

After eating our faces off and getting away from the stinky tofu, we went to a chill lounge to meet Kev's brother who I will call "BC". Let it be known the moment I saw BC I started to develop my first case of yellow fever. He is  attractive and SO friendly. FYI - for those of you who don't know what I am talking about, yellow fever is not an illness. It's a term used to describe when a white person is attracted to someone Asian. I've also learned the term "banana" which is what I call Long --- Asian on the outside and white on the inside. I've been called an "egg" which is white on the outside and yellow on the inside since I've embraced the Chinese culture so strongly. Speaking of which, have I mentioned I started taking Mandarin lessons? I am absolutely awful and I am the only girl in a class of investment banker boys but I've learned a few key words to impress a Chinese boyfriend one day...HA!

Anyway, back to BC. He escorted our crew through the crowd and into a private room where we were VIPs for the evening. The bar itself was a lot like an LA lounge but with even prettier people. Seriously. Don't visit or move to Asia if you want to feel good about yourself. Taiwanese women are the most beautiful I've seen so far and even the men are attractive! We had a fabulous night talking amongst ourselves and partied with 10 bottles of high-end champers.

The next day we got up, ate a traditional Taiwanese breakfast and walked all over the city of Taipei looking for some pagodas and the National Museum that holds some of the most impressive Chinese art and artifacts in history. We finally found the pagodas after a 45-minute walk that would've been a 5-minute cab ride (but where's the fun in that?) and stayed for all of 30 minutes before getting into cabs to find the National Museum. And this is when things started to get really interesting...

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don't sing in public. Ever. I am 33 years-old and have NEVER done karaoke. Sure, I've gone up on stage and pretended to sing with my sorostitute sisters in college and even faked it in Hamilton Island earlier this year with Lizard but I've never actually sung in public. And there's a good reason for this - I am tone deaf! There. I said it. So when Julie, Long and I realized we got into one of maybe 5 karaoke cabs in the entire country of Taiwan (we separated from the boys to get some "girl time") my immediate reaction was to get the hell out of the car and fast! But I decided it was time to face my fear and "man up" to the challenge. Julie handed me the mic, selected a love ballad and told me to start singing. So I did. A few seconds into my performance Julie and Long exchanged strange looks at each other. Before I knew it Julie belted out a huge, belly laugh that only Julie can and said "Steph, sing for real. Quit pretending to be that bad" to which I responded "this IS for real - I told you I couldn't sing!" She told me I sounded like Cameron Diaz in "My Best Friend's Wedding" so we laughed for a few minutes to the point where I think we all had tears streaming down our cheeks and then, deflated, I picked up the mic again and continued with my song. By the end of our 20-minute cab ride I was becoming quite the back-up singer. Why was I the back-up singer you ask? Because Long and Julie both sang in a chorus growing up and have beautiful voices. Figures!

I was so exhausted from the excitement in the cab that by the time we got to the National Museum all I remember seeing was a giant jade cabbage and a lot of ancient scrolls that looked almost like caligraphy. What can I say --- true history and culture is wasted on me!! We were so tired from our day we decided to get foot massages on the way back to the hotel. And I am so happy we did. It was the best foot massage I've ever had and halfway through I almost proposed to the guy rubbing my feet. His name was #119 and I plan on finding him the next time I am in Taipei...

Now for the real highlight of the Taiwan trip. Words can't describe how unbelievably cool Saturday night was but I am going to give it my best effort. We got ready and met Kev downstairs in the hotel lobby. I have to say we were a fine-looking group that night! We met up with BC (Kev's brother) and had dinner at a fabulous fusion restaurant called "Raw" where we noshed on the best sushi of my life - tuna, salmon, mahi, flounder, scallops, even sea urchin followed by oyster shots - literally a shot glass filled with tomato juice and two gigantic oysters. Dave went to take his back but one of the oysters was too big to go down his throat. It was a little touch and go for a few seconds and I swear he was gagging - I thought he was going to hurl and had to look away. Devin handed him a napkin and said "spit it out, man" but Dave being a proper English gentleman managed to get the sucker down. I will think twice before eating raw oysters again and I don't think Dave will ever eat another. On a happier note, we also had a magnum of sake (correct pronunciation is sock-ay) and I fell in lust with the waiter, Dominique. It might have been the combination of raw oysters, sake and sea urchin (they are all apparently aphrodisiacs) but I was definitely developing the "fever" for Taiwanese men. Little did I know that was barely the tip of the iceberg!

Enter Nick. He is BC's buddy and barely legal. Okay, maybe not BARELY legal but he's a baby at 22. He is adorable, quirky, and he sings. For a living. Yes, he is the Justin Timberlake of Taiwan the way BC is one of Taiwan's movie stars and hence the reason I cannot put his real name in this blog. We hung out with Taiwanese superstars all weekend! After dinner we went to another lounge for a quick drink and were off to the "club" where we had a private table, bottle service all night, and bodyguards! It was unbelievable, surreal, and so much fun! We danced in a big group all night and BC broke it down. He was such a good dancer (and here I thought Asians didn't have any rhythm)! Nick didn't dance much because he didn't want to show us up but he was quite the entertainer. At one point one of the "groupies" broke through our circle to dance with him so he stopped immediately and went back to the table. It was kind of sad because he wanted to have fun with his friends but he has to constantly think about his "image" and how others will perceive him. If ever given the choice, I would choose wealth instead of fame. It's a lonely life being in the public eye. I guess it's a good thing I won't have to worry about either in this lifetime :)

After 5 hours of dancing and drinking at the club, we left and headed to K-TV which is a private karaoke bar. It was as if the universe didn't get enough entertainment from the car karaoke episode with the girls earlier that day I had to be mortified in front of 15 people and a famous, professional singer! The good news was that we had been drinking for about 10 hours so nobody paid much attention. Out of nowhere Dave busted out with a Robbie Williams song and he sounded amazing! He is one of those guys who never stops surprising you - he is very unassuming and modest but the guy is what I call a Renaissance Man (a term coined for the late Mr. David Mayo who was a dear friend to my parents, a fellow Brit who played for Man United and a total hottie even at 60) which means Dave is well-educated and well-traveled, knows how to cook and sing, enjoys the classics and culture, is learning Mandarin and Cantonese for fun and has a big job for a big bank here in HK. In other words, he's the total package --- and he's become a great friend to us. He's been officially adopted as part of the ADT and we call him "token" because he's the only non-American member of ADT. Wow, that was quite the 'shout out' to DAC!

Back to Nick. After a little coaxing, we talked him into singing a few of his songs for us. It was like having our own private concert and as soon as he opened his mouth and started singing Long and I were in love. YELLOW FEVER. YELLOW FEVER. YELLOW FEVER! We were completely mesmerized by him and became instant groupies. I've never understood why women swooned over singers - I always thought of them as not very masculine but I have completely changed my tune (no pun intended)! His voice is sultry and smooth and he knew exactly how to hold a mic :) I didn't even care that his waist is probably a size 28 or that he definitely weighs less than me. Nick is a hottie!

We finally left K-TV at 7:15am and went back to the hotel to crash before waking up and having beef noodles for lunch, another Taiwanese traditional dish. It was all good in the 'hood until Kev found a cockroach in his soup. No, I am not kidding nor am I exaggerating. I was sitting next to him and he showed it to me. That's when I decided to order plain soup with noodles, no beef. Just in case.

We boarded the plane and headed back to Hong Kong at 8pm Sunday night but not before walking through the airport to find Nick on the cover of a popular Taiwanese magazine! Longo and I both bought a copy of the magazine and I have pictures of Nick pinned up on my bedroom wall just like NKOTB when I was in middle school. Ok, Ok, so I didn't really follow NKOTB and I definitely didn't have their posters on my walls growing up but am I joking about Nick? You will have to visit to find out :)

A few pictures from our amazing weekend below.

 Some of the night market food - candy covered strawberries
 One of my favorite signs

 My karaoke debut in the cab
 Jules about to belt out something great
 Longo loved the mic
Me, our waiter Domenique and Longo w/ the sake bottle
 The crew at dinner - BC, Dave, Devin, Jules, Me, Longo, Kev
 Me and Nick - I heart him
 Nick - the Justin Timberlake of Taiwan
Me and Jules in the airport with Nick's picture on the mag cover

It's taken me almost two hours to write this entry so I am going to bed but before I sign off I want to give a 'shout out' to the BFFs - I miss you lovely ladies more than I can describe. I am so thankful to have you in my life! Your emails and FB messages mean the world to me. Thank you!

And to my wonderful parents, sister, and niece - you make my world go round. I hate being so far away and this 13-hour time difference is killing me but you are talked about constantly and thought about even more. Give Abs a big bear hug from her crazy Aunt Stef and tell her I will see her in April!


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