Well, finally I’m getting round to telling you all about my human, Hsin-Yi’s adventures in Taiwan!
You remember that back in July, Hsin-Yi had to go to Taiwan for a few weeks to look after her mummy, Ma-Ma, who had bad knee ouchies and had to have a double knee operation. (She didn’t have to have knee replacements but the Surgeon Human cut away lots of yucky bone that was growing funny inside Ma-Ma’s knees, because of the Arthritis Sickie…)
Well, luckily, Hsin-Yi had a couple of days with Ma-Ma in Taipei (the capital of Taiwan) before they had to head down to the hospital in South Taiwan for Ma-Ma’s operation. So they crammed in a lot in that first weekend!
Of course, you know that Taiwan is the Land of Heavenly Yummies – it has all the foods from the different provinces in China (Shanghai, Hunan, Szechuan, Beijing, Cantonese, etc, etc), plus Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Mongolian…and they’re pretty good at the European stuff too! Whenever they visit, my humans always practically spend their whole time eating, from the minute they set foot on the island till the minute they leave! Eating is a national past time. The Taiwanese LOVE eating and talk about yummies all the time – in fact, when they greet each other, instead of saying “How are you?” – they often say, “Have you eaten?”
So, like a true Taiwanese, Hsin-Yi lost no time in tucking into some of her favourites!
Nothing beats some traditional Taiwanese food – Hsin-Yi always gorges herself at her favourite Taiwanese restaurant in the Brother Hotel – these are dishes that she can’t usually eat even at “Chinese” restaurants in Australia ‘coz most “Chinese” restaurants in the West are actually CANTONESE (Hong Kong).
There isn’t really such thing as “Chinese food” – coz there are so many different kinds. It would be like eating “European food” – instead of saying “Italian”, “French”, “Spanish”, etc – but most Western humans don’t know this. The dishes they think of as “Chinese” – like spring rolls and fried rice and sweet & sour pork – are actually from Cantonese cuisine – because more Chinese humans from Hong Kong have gone out and settled in the West and opened restaurants, than Chinese humans from other parts of China. So people think they know what “Chinese food” is but actually, other kinds of “Chinese” food might be totally different (just like French food is totally different to Italian food). So really, most Western humans haven’t tasted what proper Chinese food is really like – the whole range of it – they only know like 10%.
Taipei is a really great place to visit for trying different Chinese foods ‘coz it collects all the different types in one place and does it even better than restaurants in China! (‘Coz when the Communists took over China, all the top Chef Humans ran away to Taiwan! )
Plus, Taiwan does really good Japanese food too – this is ‘coz Japan occupied Taiwan for a long time (1895 ~ 1945) and tried to turn it “Japanese” – so a lot of Taiwanese culture has a lot of Japanese stuff in it.
One of Hsin-Yi’s favourite Japanese dishes is ‘shabu-shabu‘. Well, this isn’t really a dish – it’s more a type of cooking. Hsin-Yi says it’s a bit like European ‘fondue‘, except that you cook in a soup broth, not in oil or cheese.
You get all sorts of yummy meats and seafood and vegetables and dip them in a bubbling pot in front of you. It’s great fun and really tasty and healthy too! If you want to find out more about shabu-shabu and how people cook it and stuff, you can check out the post on Hsin-Yi’s own blog: Shabu Shabu! (& your last Death Row meal?)
Of course, aside from fantastic yummies, the other thing that Taiwan has is fantastic shopping!! With lots of discounts and wonderful service. For example, if a shop can’t find something in your size, they’ll search in all the stores across the country and when they find it, they’ll ask a Courier Human to deliver the dress/shoes/trousers/shirt – whatever to your home or hotel…all for free! Or if you buy something and it is too big or too long, the stores have their own Tailor Human who will stitch your new clothes for you, ready for pick-up later that day, for free! That’s just part of “normal service” in Taiwan. That’s why Hsin-Yi gets grumpy sometimes when shopping in the West – coz she says people have such bad attitudes compared to the service in Asia!
And people in Taiwan are always smiley and always trying to help you save money paper. Like Hsin-Yi was out buying some trousers for Paul one day and the lady in the shop told her not to buy them that day – to come back tomorrow – coz the store was going to start a big promotion (30% off) the next day! That’s coz all Taiwanese people are very proud of getting a bargain – so they always want to help everybody else get one too.
Of course, some of the best shopping in Taiwan is out on the streets! Yes, ON the streets! From the “Lu Bien Tan” - they come out after dark and hang around long after the ‘official’ stores have closed. Ma-Ma LOVES them – she spends ages patrolling the streets looking for bargains and is best buddies with lots of the Vendor Humans!
If you want to read more about shopping in Taiwan, check out Hsin-Yi’s own blog post: Scooters & Shopping in Taipei…!
Oh, don’t think doggies are forgotten in the shopping! Look what Hsin-Yi saw in one of the department stores: a pet section! She got very excited and hurried in, thinking she might find some interesting Taiwanese doggie stuff for me…but it wasn’t like any pet shop here in Australia…it was just mostly full of doggie clothes and doggie strollers!!
There were quite a few doggies having a browse with their humans…
Hsin-Yi gets really grumpy when she sees the “double standards” for small doggies – that they get to go into places like department stores, as long as they’re in a doggie bag or stroller or being carried – so their feet don’t touch the ground. Humph! It’s so unfair – if a place says “No dogs” – then it should be the same rule for all doggies, big or small!!!
Huh – well, if they made pet carriers big enough, I could be a “handbag doggie” too! (Hsin-Yi might need to do some working out at the gym though! )
Hsin-Yi didn’t find anything for me in the pet store – but she did see a stuffie store that had some cool stuffies on sale!
And that’s where she got my “lookalike stuffie”!
Well, after a manic couple of days in Taipei, it was time to take the Taiwan High Speed Rail – the super fast train machine – down to South Taiwan and check into the hospital…
The hospital that Ma-Ma had her operation at was a very special one: it was the Buddhist Tzu-Chi Hospital, full of Volunteer Humans helping doctors & patients, and everybody was so lovely and calm and kind and helpful…
If you’re interested in reading more about their trip down on the train machine and the hospital and Ma-Ma’s operation, you can go to Hsin-Yi’s own blog: Of fake chicken drumsticks & Forgiveness Tea
The other special thing about it was that the whole hospital only served vegetarian food! But don’t think that it wasn’t yummy – and Chinese humans can do amazing things with tofu…even making it look (AND taste) like chicken drumsticks!
The operation went very well and Ma-Ma was a super good patient. She was up and trying to stand by herself 2 hours after surgery and was hobbling around the ward on her walker the next day! She also did all her physio exercises very well and the Surgeon Human was very impressed with her recovery – in fact, she was supposed to stay in hospital for much longer but he said that she could move out to stay at a nearby hotel, and just come back a week later for checkup.
Thank goodness because you know Ma-Ma is a real buzzy kind of human – always talking and running around and making new friends and eating and shopping and talking some more…so getting her to stay quiet in hospital was a really tough job!
(In fact, since Hsin-Yi & Ma-Ma are such completelty different people, living in one room together for over 2 weeks was quite a tough job too! There was lots of grumpiness sometimes! You can read all the dirty details on Hsin-Yi’s own blog: Surviving a Mother Marathon)
Luckily, the hotel that they moved to also had a little department store attached – so Ma-Ma could get her Shopping Fix without having to hobble very far!
Hsin-Yi thought the best thing about the hotel, though, was their HUGE breakfast buffet. They had Western things like waffles and omelettes and sausages and bacon, plus cereals and jams and bread and pastries – but they also had lots of traditional Taiwanese breakfast stuff too, which Hsin-Yi loves coz she can never eat it when “back home” in the West…like yummy steamed brown sugar buns and salted duck eggs and burdock root salad…
Well, when Ma-Ma went back to see the Surgeon Human for her follow-up check, there was even better news. She was doing so well that he said she could go back to Taipei early!
This was great because originally, Hsin-Yi would have only had 1 night in Taipei before she had to head back to Australia – but now she would have a few extra days there! She could even spend some fun girlie time with her best friend, who used to go to school with her, back in Dubai. It was so lovely for Hsin-Yi ‘coz one of the saddest things in her life is that her best/closest friends always live so far away from her, in countries on the other side of the world…
She also got time to meet some Taiwanese doggies! Ma-Ma had gone to Taiwan first, from Dubai, a couple of weeks before Hsin-Yi had arrived and while mooching around, she had got chatting to a nice man in a DVD shop who happened to own two cute doggies – so Ma-Ma wanted to take Hsin-Yi back to meet them.
Meet Kirei the Husky…he has really cool eyes: one brown and one blue! His name is really cool too – it means “beautiful” in Japanese. Like a lot of long-haired doggies in Taiwan, Kirei was shaved for the summer, coz it gets too hot & humid there. His tail looked especially funny, all shaved, with a bushy tuft on the end!
…and this is Kirei’s brother: King the Poodle-cross! King is really cute – Ma-Ma was really smitten with him!
Hsin-Yi thinks it is very sad because there is such a big difference between the lives of different doggies in Taiwan (this is the same in lots of other Asian countries) – many pet doggies are so spoilt and pampered and most of them are “small” so they get taken everywhere with their humans.
But then there are also lots of homeless, abandoned, stray doggies hanging around which nobody cares about and they look awful, with mange and worms and imjuries from being run over or abused, starving & scavenging for food. Not so much in Taipei city – but lots out in the smaller towns and countryside. It always breaks Hsin-Yi’s heart to see them.
One of the charities that Hsin-Yi supports is Animals Taiwan, which are a group of volunteers helping to rescue injured & abused stray doggies (and cats) from the streets. They also run neutering campaigns, try to stop puppy mills and raise awareness for animal welfare.
It is a shame because Chinese culture isn’t always very educated about compassion to animals and reponsible pet ownership. So doggies in Asia can either have a really good life or a really awful one.Of course, there are doggies who are abused and mistreated in the West too – but it’s often not as bad as the doggies in Asia, ‘coz there are more animal welfare laws and more pet lovers in general looking out for them.
And lots of Chinese people only want the “cute” type of doggie – which usually means “small fluffies” – so any doggie that’s a bit ugly or ordinary or disabled or just plain ‘big’, gets completely ignored. But thankfully, there are some animal lovers in Taiwan who are helping these doggies – and helping to educate others too. And more and more people in Taiwan are choosing to adopt homeless doggies rather than buying from pet shops & markets.
Luckily, there are also lots of kind people in the West – especially in the US – who adopt doggies from Taiwan and give them a second chance – a new life on the other side of the world. This is easier than you think ‘coz Taiwan is one of the few countries in the world that’s “rabies-free” so there are no quarantine problems for a doggie going to the US (and less quarantine for other countries). In fact, one of my blog friends – Loki – is a rescue doggie from Taiwan; he was rescued by a lovely human in America and he’s now leading a jet-setting life in Switzerland! (* Loki is a special type of doggie, though – he is a ‘Formosan Mountain Dog’ – which is a kind of native Taiwanese doggie, living up in the mountains. So doggies like him need a special human – someone who is experienced and can be a good leader and have lots of patience to help work through “issues”…but most of the homeless, abandoned doggies are not a special type – they are just the usual small cross-breeds and just need the same support as other rescue doggies in the West, to find a family to love them.)
So if you’re thinking of adopting a rescue doggie and would like to add a slightly “exotic” member to your family, maybe you can think about the doggies in Taiwan? Here are some of the doggies there looking for homes: http://www.animalstaiwan.org/dogs_en.html Many of them have really heart-breaking – but also inspiring – stories. You can also check out the Animals Taiwan Blog
Well, Ma-Ma was super happy about the unexpected extra time in Taipei because it meant that she could take Hsin-Yi to do even more shopping!
Because you know, most of the time, Ma-Ma doesn’t buy things for herself – what she really loves is buying things for her children. If you want to have a giggle at some of the crazy, scary things that Ma-Ma has bought Hsin-Yi over the years – check out Hsin-Yi’s blog post: The mother, the cardboard box and the loot.
Of course, she was supposed to be “resting” after her operation – but Hsin-Yi found that it was very difficult to convince Ma-Ma to take things easy, especially coz she was recovering so well. Hsin-Yi had to get really strict and make sure Ma-Ma only went out for short trips and had lots of rests in between. She wasn’t allowed to climb any stairs either or stand for too long.
Luckily, there are shops in Taipei EVERYWHERE so you didn’t have to go far to do a bit of shopping…
…one thing Hsin-Yi did do was stock up on Paul’s favourite bamboo slippers!
Hsin-Yi also gots lots of nice dresses for herself. It’s wonderful for Hsin-Yi to shop in Taiwan ‘coz all the clothes are actually in her size. See, most Chinese humans are a smaller size than Western humans. So when Hsin-Yi goes shopping in the West, she often has to look in the children’s sections and buy Age 14, to find things that fit! But there’s no problem of that in Taiwan – there, Hsin-Yi is an “average” size and she isn’t even especially short either – there are lots of people shorter and smaller than her. She says it’s so nice not to always feel like the midget in the room for a change!
Well, all that shopping sure works up an appetite! But that’s OK, ‘coz Taipei is the place to be if you have a huge appetite!
Sadly, even the extra days in Taipei went all too soon and before they knew it, it was time for Hsin-Yi to try to cram all that shopping into her suitcase and get ready to fly back home.
But Ma-Ma had one more place she wanted to take Hsin-Yi before she left Taiwan: remember I told you that Ma-Ma did something special to help Paul with his exams? Well, she went to a temple to do “bai-bai” – which is sort of like praying, except that you don’t say special prayers like in a church but rather you light some sticks of incense and just “talk” to the gods and ask for their blessing…
There are lots of different kinds of Chinese gods – each with a special job to do – and you can ask them to watch over you and help you with different things in your life. Hsin-Yi wrote a special post on her blog all about the Chinese gods and what religions Chinese people follow and what happens in temples…so if you’re interested, you can check it out on her own blog: Of Gods & Temples…
There is one special god called Tu Di Gong (Earth God) who looks after the everyday welfare of the common people – and he’s the one that most Taiwanese humans talk to, to ask for help about every day things. Ma-Ma asked him to give Paul lots of luck in his exams – and also to keep Hsin-Yi safe on her journey back to Australia. Well, he certainly did his job – he made sure that Hsin-Yi didn’t fly during the big typhoon – she ended up delaying her return and changing her flights and coming back on a different Big Flying Machine – but at least she got back safely! And of course, we all know that Paul passed his exams with flying colours!
So that was the story of Hsin-Yi’s adventures in Taiwan! Although it wasn’t really a “holiday” but she still had a wonderful time – eating lots of yummies, doing great shopping, catching up with old friends and most of all, spending special time with her mummy!