Sunday, April 26, 2015

Travelogue: Asia Pacific - Part 2

People from office often ask me this, ‘So when are you going to Taiwan next?’. Their questions never stop there. They go on asking questions like, ‘Have you travelled to cities outside Taipei?’, ‘Have you explored XX cuisine?’ and then they take a halt, make a sad face and say, ‘Oops.. You are a vegetarian. What a pity you don’t eat meat but Taiwan is a beautiful country’. I don’t know about the country but Taipei definitely is beautiful and from the pictures that I see on the internet, many cities and towns are breathtakingly beautiful too. It apparently is in the list of one of the Top Trips to make in 2015.

National Taiwan University, the place from where he is doing his Post-Doctoral Research, could be the best university in the country but is a picnic spot for me (because I don’t see natural grass and butterflies in Guangzhou), for anyone who lives in a cemented jungle basically. The university has beautiful lakes surrounded by lush greenery, turtles, fish, swans and pigeons (not limited to them), wooden chairs and stools and coffee shops. While he is busy doing research in his office room, I while away hours looking at the lake or reading books lying on the green grass.

We have been to the Yangmingshan National Park which is in the outskirts of the city. It’s an ideal place for people who like climbing mountains or trekking. There are various trails and one can take them depending on their stamina and strength. We took the easiest ‘Flower trail’ and saw very interesting flora, a couple of snapshots follow.

White Rose

Heartful of Flowers

Pink Sakuras

There is Da’An Park very close to the university. We have been there couple of times. There are lakes here too and many interesting things around. Look at the picture below for an example. These stones are basically to exercise your feet. The park is filled with people on holidays. Some of them are there just to take good photography shots, others are there for their regular exercises, people like us go for a stroll whereas a few of them are there for Meditation.

Stones on the ground for exercises

A crane looking for its prey

As the last post clearly revealed our inaptitude towards understanding art, we will refrain from visiting Art Museums, at least for a while.

There are good Indian restaurants in the city, where people speak Hindi and play Bollywood music, and crave (if any) for the Indian food subsides for the time being. We keep going to this place named Masala House. I also like having vegetable dumplings from the University’s cafeteria sitting on one of those wooden benches on green grass and with him around in a silent manner.

The public transportation is quite good – both the public buses and MRT are easy to use. While some buses require you to swipe the card when getting on the bus, others expect the opposite. Bus drivers are polite and well dressed (they wear Ties too!) like America and they say ‘Ni hao’ (meaning Hello) to which most of the fellow passengers do not reply. The MRT here reminds me of the Metro in Delhi. Once when we came out on a MRT station, I wanted to shout, “This is Kashmiri Gate”.

Unlike China, many people can understand (if not speak fluently) English. In my upcoming trips to Taiwan, we would like to travel outside Taipei too. The following panorama is stitched using the new MICE from multiple photos (obviously) at one of the lakes in Da’An Park.

Flying Crane

Till I write the next travelogue post, Zaijian (meaning Bye).

Saturday, April 18, 2015


We went to the Fine Arts Museum in Taipei. Few things were interesting but most were not. At some deeper level, it felt like a rip-off even when the entry is free! It was not but the fee was minimal for a three-storeyed and varied arts exhibition. It’s just that I didn’t understand why many things qualified as art in that place. Here are some examples:

Who likes to watch (female) hands with long nails messing up whole ripe fruits? I don’t. Who likes the sound of plates crashing on the dining table? I don’t. [For a moment I thought we have come to a Scary House and the aim is to run as fast as we can!] Who likes to watch cupboards attached to bikes which are actually used as street-side shops? I don’t. Who likes to watch videos looping through mind-numbing b&w footages? I don’t. Who likes to watch portraits of people’s backs instead of their faces? I… uh, well, depends. [Did you miss a smiley there? Smile with tongue out]

Anyway, my point is that modern art is not for me. [There you go! Winking smile] But the great thing about this visit was that I could take my camera inside the museum and shoot some interesting photos. And those are what I’ll share below and as the title reads, this is my take on ‘abstract’ art. You will have to wait for other photos to appear sometime in summer when Microsoft gets its acts together and (re)introduces the feature of ‘share & sync’ in OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive [rage-inducing successor to ‘way-ahead-of-its-times’ Live Mesh]). “Why is that important?”, I hear you ask! To which I answer: because both of us blog-authors can then make one grand album from all the photos we have taken in Taipei that we have put in our respective OneDrives and share it with you, the unsuspecting reader.

So are you ready for a non-trivial dose of ‘abstract-ness’? Here’s the grand exit of this post:

Abstract - I

Abstract - II

Abstract - III

Abstract - IV

Abstract - V

Us: The Blog Authors - I

Us: The Blog Authors - II

Don’t forget your shoes!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Travelogue: Asia Pacific - Part 1

Of late, we haven’t written anything about places or shared pictures on this blog. I am aware of the fact that Wikipedia/Wiki-travel are the best blog posts ever and hence I will try to write about my personal experiences rather than giving you the history or geography of the places, things that I enjoyed or liked the most.

Taikoo Hui Tower2

I stay in Tianhe district (a picture of my workplace above) in Guangzhou. People tell me that it is one of the nicest (I think they mean expensive) areas to live in Guangzhou. I work very close to 3 big malls – Grand view Mall, Tee mall and Taikoo Hui. My favorite pastime is ‘Mall walk’. Unlike India, where a lot of time is spent on ‘Sutta/Chai breaks’ during the day, I’m not asked (or forced) to participate in such activities (don’t ask whether that has lead to an increase in productivity). People have tea kettles (cute ones!) at their desks and they keep pouring different kinds of tea into their mugs, the range being from ‘Herbal Chinese tea’ to ‘Energizing Raisins tea’. Inside Taikoo Hui Mall, there is a beautiful book store. I have never tried to figure out its name but I have learnt that there is only one. You can read books there for free and it is quite beautiful (and different). I mostly go to the toddlers section as I’m trying to learn Chinese though the only sentence which I say comfortably is,

‘Wo bu hui shuo zhong wen’,
which means, ‘I don’t know Mandarin (Chinese)’.

Just the way I have heard for Japan, I see children reading comic books here too and there are some really famous ones. There are books and magazines of all genre in this store and once in a while, I also look at my ‘favorite’ magazines like ‘Vogue’, ‘Elle’, ‘Marie Claire’, etc. Fortunately, all of them are in Chinese, so I just look at the pictures and form a story about the dating or fashion tips the magazine tries to enforce on its readers.


I have tried Cantonese food in Guangzhou and it is quite nice and at the same time, cheap. I’m a vegetarian, so I find either one or a maximum of two dishes in the local places. I’m the first one to order whenever I go with my colleagues (because I have to choose from the limited options you see). Cantonese food has two important elements in it – the sauce (soybean sauce/chilli sauce in general) and thin cakes made of rice. The cooks steam vegetables or meat inside the rice cakes and mix the items with the sauce. I have also experimented with some Taiwanese and Japanese food (they are quite popular in Guangzhou). Japanese dishes are generally cooked on large iron plates. They add oil on the plates, after which the basic ingredient is added (vegetables or meat) and finally some spices are sprinkled and the dish is cooked till it is ready to eat. I like the simple clear soups and porridge out of the many Taiwanese dishes. We get a variety of food in Guangzhou, that way it is quite an amalgamation of Asian culture. I’m very fond of the Korean Kimchi rice, the actual dish has an omelet placed on top of rice and colourful vegetables on the side but I ask the cooks to not prepare the omelet for me and instead add some extra vegetables. Another beautiful item that I’m introduced to here is the ‘Fragrant hot pot’. One can choose the vegetables one wishes to eat and they add a special sauce (I smell garlic there) and dried chillies to the vegetables and cook it for you. The list is endless, all I can say is I have never craved for Indian food here. I remember before I came here, people asked me, ‘How will you survive in China being a vegeterian?’. 

I like Zhuziang New Town (an area in Guangzhou) a lot. People say that most of the expatriates stay there and one can meet a lot of English speaking people. I have been there a couple of times too, mostly for official work and I really like the Italian food parlours located one after the other. Guangzhou is very green and I feel so good sitting on the wooden benches under the trees, having coffee and breads. There is the famous Canton Tower there too but I have never climbed to the top. It is quite an expensive affair – 150 Yuan.

I went to a small city/town named Foshan with my colleagues. We travelled for about 45-50 Km from Tianhe. It looked like those countryside towns (Pearl river flows closer to the city) with an easy and relaxed life, everything being accessible at walking distances. We went to some parks in Foshan and were surprised to see McDonalds and a couple of such foreign chains. I was surprised to see people flying large, colourful kites; they were different from the ones we fly in India.

I travelled to Dafushan Forest Park once too. But one time is not enough, I want to go there at least 3 more times. Dafushan has lakes, mountains and parks everywhere. We indulged in some barbeque there. I even tried cooking a ripe banana and it tasted good. China makes everything in house – which includes soft drinks. I tried their Coke which is called ‘Asian Sarsae’. It smelt herbal. I hope people don’t do experiments like ‘cleaning their wash basins or soaking their fake teeth’ in this carbonated drink.

People gathered to barbeque

Barbeque can lead to fire ;)

I have been to Chen Clan academy too. Apparently, it is one of the largest families of this country and the academy is built in the memory of their ancestors. The academy is historic and beautiful as it is and on top of that, they teach you Chinese paper cutting (Jianzhi) and much more. I will have to go there again because I haven’t learnt anything yet.

I also went to some old Chinese streets (Beijing road is one) and their associated market places. If you bring an average Indian woman here, she would run into each and every store and ensure that the man with her is annoyed and the man ensures never to bring her again Smile with tongue out. From electronics to accessories, candies to crockery, there is so much these streets offer.

Beijing Road

Colourful Candies

I have had chance to travel by a high speed train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. Believe me, the ride is so fast but at the same time pleasant. The distance is roughly 150 Km and the train covers it in 2 hours sharp. My wish is to take the bullet train once, from Guangzhou to Shanghai/Beijing maybe.

Not getting into the political side of things but being a ‘one-party’ country has its own advantages (not saying it has no disadvantages). Children are educated for free till Middle school. Every citizen is paid the same amount once they retire. Having everything in-house ensures there is a job for everyone. If Government decides to build a road for the benefit of the country, no one can raise a voice even if a 100 houses are to be crumpled. I’ve heard that people are not made homeless. The Government is reasonable enough to give them another house along with a lump sum amount to have supported in the development of the country.

I would say that I haven’t explored even  1% of the city but so far it looks lovely and promising for economic growth. One can live here for decades if one has a family. There are museums, monasteries, zoos, monuments, parks and most importantly a very rich culture & history.

I wanted to write about Taipei and Hong Kong too but it seems that this post is getting too long. I enjoy discussing places and food. So all my travelogues will be mostly that Smile. Till I write the Part 2, Sayonara!