A little ditty for the New Year from the mrbrown show gang to you all! mrbrownshow.com!
Latest weekly Insing column is "mrbrown and the overseas Christmas"
I am wondering if my six-year-old son would mind a box of Taiwanese Nai Yu Tai Yang Bing (奶油太阳饼), or Suncake, for Christmas.
It was all I could find on my Taiwan holiday with the wife. The little souvenir shops of the mountain village tourist trap, Jiufen (九份), did not really have any Power Ranger Jungle Fever figures in stock. All they had were assorted Taiwanese biscuits, giant fishballs and something called Blood Meat Cake.
That's the problem when you go on a long-awaited holiday with the wife for the first time in years, without the children. And you choose to do it just before Christmas, when you should be a good little parent and stay in Singapore, looking for toys and presents for your brood, together with the great masses.
I think I will have to find a way to buy him that Power Ranger (what does Jungle Fever Power Ranger mean? Does he have some kind of exotic flu?). Either that or shape a Power Ranger out of a piece of Taiwanese Pineapple Tart. (cont'd)
In this fifth and final video of the series, let me tell you where are the best spots for catching the Marina Bay Countdown fireworks display!
Latest weekly Insing column is "mrbrown and the iPhone"
My wife and I finally got our iPhones. After the last two telcos got their right to sell Apple's newest gadget crack, it opened the floodgates for the rest of us who had not purchased it earlier.
I proudly showed my wife my purchases and declared I got one for me and one for her. Mine was a manly black (they ran out of 32GB white) and hers was a 16GB white iPhone 3GS.
She looked at her iPhone and frowned a little, "Where do I hang my cute cute dangly mobile phone thingy?"
Then my heart sank. For all his genius, Steve Jobs failed to provide the crucial hole for the dangly mobile phone thingy.
I tried my best to win her over to her new 3GS, over the next few days. But you have to understand, my wife belongs to that category of technology users who are very attached to their old ways of doing things. Shifting even a switch from the left side of the phone to the right side was a major paradigm shift in usability. It was like asking her to learn to use a new leg. (cont'd)
Latest weekly Insing column is "mrbrown and the computer show"
My goal was to pick up a media player for myself (the kind that hook up to a TV and plays digital video) and a big screen TV for dad. I was quite pleased with the walking space at Expo compared to Suntec City computer shows. Where the latter always had bottlenecks at the escalators, Expo was just one big floor.
I went from one booth to another, looking at what each media player brand had to offer and asking questions that would make a computer show nerd proud.
“Does your player support MKV? DTS audio with pass-through via S/PDIF Coaxial/Optical? Streaming over LAN and WLAN?” I asked each vendor.
Some of you ladies may laugh at the geek-speak, but I am sure you have your own jargon when you shop for your designer shoes and underwear, right?
I have heard ladies in the lingerie department using terms like underwire, G-string, multiway, and balconette. The first few terms sound like technology terms. Except that last term. A balconette bra sounds like you are wearing a condo on your chest. (cont'd)
Follow us as we take the Wishing Sphere to the Royal Thai Embassy in Singapore for Ambassador Nopadol Gunavibool to pen his wishes for the New Year!
After I posted the story of the winner to my Holiday Giveaway, some readers cynically commented that the couple were not for real and their story a fabrication.
Normally, I wouldn't even bother to respond to haterz. I don't give a fig if you believe them or not because all that matters is that I do. But since this involves the integrity of the couple so I felt I needed to address it.
First of all, I did do my own homework before awarding the prize. Secondly, I even had the opportunity to confirm my belief in their story after the prize was given.
Anyway, Tracy wrote this comment on my blog which I thought I'd share:
I'm very grateful to you for this wonderful gift.
It is a true story. It happened on Nov 23 last year. He was on dialysis for 3 months. When he first started, he spent 3 days per week for dialysis and 3 other days of each week for TCM treatments. Sunday was the only day he could rest. Every weekday, he would go for his morning walk and he watched his diet. He gave up all his favourite foods and drinks.
It was a very tough period for both of us.
Last Christmas, I remember telling him that we would create a miracle and that he will get off dialysis. And he really did it.
I'm very proud of him. Thank you, mrbrown.
May you have a great 2010, and the very best of health.
She also wrote me this email later on:
Many thanks for selecting us. I did not know that Eric has written such a sweet entry. I am really proud of him that he could overcome it. :-)
This is a lovely couple who weathered some pretty tough circumstances this past year and I enjoyed giving away such a nice holiday to them.
As one reader said: "If you did not give to them. I will personal come over and kick u behind! Hahaha!"
I have a new column with CNNGo.com called "Say What? with mrbrown" Do drop by and read my first piece there: The Sports Hub cometh... soon
Talk about being late. The Sports Hub won't be ready in time for the 2013 SEA Games because of repeated delays due to funding woes.
Originally, the idea was to host this major sporting event using the new 55,000-seater National Stadium with the retractable roof.
And being the gracious country that Singapore is, we are offering our Southeast Asian neighbors a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take the hosting 2013 SEA Games off our hands.
We have been told that the Sports Hub, a replacement for the National Stadium, is being developed using a PPP approach. No, it does not stand for People-Patience-Please but Public-Private Partnership. This means a private consortium will raise funds to build it, and the Government pays the consortium annually for the facilities when they are operational.
The Sports Hub's completion date was pushed back several times, from 2011 to 2012 to 2013. This is way beyond even the Mayan calendar. (cont'd)
I check out the young people involved in taking the Wishing Spheres to the people.
When I planned this holiday Christmas giveaway with my kind sponsor, Wotif.com, I thought it would be easy to run and fun to do.
I was half right.
It has been tremendous fun doing it. But it was way way hard to judge.
I received more than double the entries compared to the last mrbrown Giveaway, via Twitter, email and even via the Comments section of my blog.
I read every single entry I received. And you guys made me laugh... and sometimes, cry. Your entries were witty, fun and in many cases, personal and touching.
But I only have one prize to give away. I wish I had more.
So the winner of this 3D2N stay at Bintan Lagoon Resort is...Tracy F.
Her entry, via email, reads:
"I want a holiday from mrbrown because I want to celebrate with my hubby for being able to triumph from a sick kidney dialysis patient one year ago to a healthy man who has nursed his kidneys back to health now."
And here is the best part. I don't know if you knew this or not, Tracy, but your husband was also thinking of you when he sent me his entry earlier. Because I received this from him:
"I want a holiday from mrbrown because it's been years since I've gone on a holiday with my wife. It's been a tough year for us as I was fighting off a kidney disease and struggling to get off dialysis, and all I want now is to be able to spend some quiet alone time with my beloved wife."
I was going to give it to him, but then I received your entry, Tracy, and I thought it would create a perfect circle to give it to you instead.
So Tracy and Eric, enjoy your time together and have a blessed Christmas.
We stayed at the brand new Novotel Taipei near the airport on our trip. It is so new, you can still smell it. Take a little tour of the suite, the pool and the gym with me.
I liked the 24 hour gym and and heated pool a lot. Location was not the bestest but convenient if you want to stay near the airport. It is also handy if you are planning some travel outside of Taipei.
The internet was free too, both LAN and Wifi.
Thanks to sponsor Wotif.com and Novotel Taipei for the stay.
We chose to take the Taiwan High Speed Rail to Taichung from our Taoyuan hotel. Just for the experience of traveling in a train that can hit 300kmh. I was most impressed with the comfort and the modernity of the service. It was a little pricey but if you need to get from one end of Taiwan to the other, the THSR can't be beat. My only other gripe was that the HSR stations were located in somewhat out of the way places and a shuttle bus ride (free) was needed.
This is a first time on a HSR for the wife and I.
The seats have lots of legroom!
Ryan really loved the food onboard the train.
Taichung was not as hopping as Taipei but we had a good time at their National Musuem of Science.
We also shopped at their Sogo department store (yes the one that no longer exists in Singapore). Not only was Sogo alive and well in Taichung, the department store was 18 floors of shopping.
EIGHTEEN freakin' floors. I kid you not.
And their lifts were run by polite ad uniform-clad lift pressers. The lady's one job was to press your lift floor for you and at every floor, she would come out and announce to all and sundry that the lift was here and on its way up or down.
Just in case customers cannot read arrows or hear the ding of a lift door opening, I suppose.
I promised another Christmas giveaway and here it is! I am giving away a 3D2N stay at Bintan Lagoon Resort, courtesy of Wotif.com.
You will be staying in a newly renovated Deluxe Room at the Bintan Lagoon Resort, and the prize includes daily buffet breakfast for two persons, welcome drink, two-way land transfer from Bintan Ferry Terminal to Hotel, and one buffet dinner for two persons at Kopi-O Restaurant.
Total value of this prize is $1000, and the prize is usable from January onwards.
Again, I want you to tell me why I should give this holiday to you.
All you have to do is to email (mrbrown [at] mrbrown [dot] com) or tweet @mrbrown, "I want a holiday from mrbrown because..." and then your witty and/or convincing reason.
Keep it short and sharp. I will pick a winner and announce it on Christmas Eve, which is 24th December 2009. You have about two days to enter.
Send me your holiday tweets and emails now!
You can't not try the hot springs of Taiwan so we checked out the ones in 北投. It was also the first time the wife has ever tried a hot spring and she liked it a lot.
You get 40 minutes for two persons for spending NTD400 at the spa's slightly overpriced restaurant. We didn't bring our own towels so it was another NTD250 to buy a towel (they don't rent those for hygiene reasons).
It was the perfect thing to do on a cold winter's day.
Then we drove down to Huaxi Street Night Market for some food, pretty much snacking our way through dinner.
Looking for stuff to eat at Huaxi Night Market.
Snakes are slaughtered and cooked here for your dining pleasure.
That is a glimpse of the humongous white python on display at this restaurant.
The wife wanted to try these Japanese cakes with red bean, cheese or peanut filling. The guy took a long time to make them because he had a lot of orders to fill. But they taste good only if you eat them hot.
The wife also wanted to try this BBQ corn. It is sold from NTD50 onwards, based on weight. There are three kinds of corn to choose from. The regular yellow corn, a white corn and a black and white one.
Our hired cab for the day drove us to the National Palace Museum, or 國立故宮博物院, where more than 600,000 Chinese treasures and artifacts are kept. The exhibition running these few months covers the Yongzheng Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, a very misunderstood emperor.
The highlight of the exhibit is this jade cabbage. It certainly looks tasty.
This is the armour belonging to Yongzheng Emperor.
A very cool exhibition indeed.
The wife looks very Empress-like here.
After a crazy drive up the mountain road, we made it to the quaint and somewhat touristy town of 九份 or Jiufen.
This town was the inspiration for the downtown scenes of Hayao Miyazaki's anime Spirited Away. And it was also the backdrop for the 1989 movie, City of Sadness, was filmed. City of Sadness, or 悲情城市, was the first movie to talk about the infamous 228 Incident of 1947, where thousands of people were massacred.
The view is rather nice and the one narrow street is full of Taiwanese goodie shops. If we thought Taipei was cold, the temperatures up high here are lagi colder.
This is a famous 九份 fishball place. I am a fishball fan and to see them this size, wow.
The wife trying a Taiwanese sausage. You should see the gross black 墨鱼 one. I tried the black one and it was surprisingly good.
That sign behind says Pig's Blood Cake. I am not a fan.
This gentleman's shop sells Tang Yuan made on-site, in the area behind him.
Besides the shopping and the food, we of course loved the great mountain views of 九份!