Friday, March 30, 2007

The Diner

They have very good western food, with a menu of items you may expect to find in a place called The Diner. They have very good burgers. They also serve breakfast. The price is average considering the size and the quality. I liked this better than NY Bagels, and certainly better than Grandma Nitti's.

The Diner
145 Rui-an Street


Ruì'ān Jiē

Near Heping E Rd. and JianGuo S. Rd. Near Daan Park, just east of Jianguo Rd. Rui-an Street is a one way street which exits into Heping East Rd.

see also:

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Standardized Experiences

Not feeling adventurous, want some comfort food; then head to your nearest international chain for your ISO certified meal.

Casual Dining:
  • Dan Ryan's Chicago Grill
  • Hooters
  • The Outback Steakhouse is located next to Ikea at the Asiaworld Mall on the corner of Nanjing and Dunhua Roads.
  • TGIFriday's has multiple locations in Taipei and Taiwan.
  • Chili's is located in the Xinyi District, in the Neo 19 Building
  • Romano's Macaroni Grill is also loctated in the Neo 19 Building.
Fast Food:

McDonalds has taken over the island.
Burger King still has a few branches throughout the city.
Moss Burger is a Japanese chain.
Yoshinoya is Japanese fast food.
KFC is another ubiquitous feature in Taipei and Taiwan.
Subway and their local clone Subber are also found throughout Taipei.

Fine Dining:
Lawry's The Prime Rib

Starbucks are separated by 7-Elevens and McDonalds.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Mexican Restaurants

There are a handful of Mexican Restaurants in Taipei, but I would kill for a Chipotle burrito. The only one I've been to is Tequila Sunrise and all I can say is don't do it. The food was bland and overpriced. There was really nothing to make it stand out. The decor was ok, but that only gets you so far. They did do a decent margarita, but that only stimulated my appetite and made me more disappointed with my meal.

Edit 9/2007: Amigo is not bad.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Mobile Phones and Chinese SMS text messages

If you want to use Chinese characters in text messages you may become frustrated by the limits imposed by your phone. All of the phones have had some features I liked and some I did not. For inputting Chinese characters, the best phone I've found is Motorola. Here is a run down of the brands I've owned (in chronological order).

1. Motorola
pros: able to enter Chinese characters using Pinyin simply by selecting the input method. The operating system can remain in English and changing the input method is done using the # key..
cons: none

2. BenQ
pros: able to enter Chinese using Pinyin
cons: The operating system must be switched to Chinese in order to input Chinese characters.

3. Nokia
pros: able to enter Chinese using Pinyin
cons: The operating system must be switched to Chinese in order to input Chinese characters.

4. Sony Ericsson
pros: The operating system can remain in English.
cons: Pinyin is not supported. Input must be done using Zhuyin (Bopomofo) or stroke sequence. Changing the input method takes several steps.

General Pros & Cons
1. Motorola V150 (I think)
I bought a low end Motorola flip phone and I got what I paid for. The volume was generally insufficient both for listening to the other party and for hearing the ring tone. When a call was missed or text message left unread, the phone would continue to emit reminder beeps indefinitely and I was unable to deactivate this feature. I also had some problems with the phone powering off by itself. I did like the interface which was generally user friendly, but overall the phone was crap. What good is the interface when the actual features are not satisfactory.
2. BenQ S670C
I bought a mid-range BenQ flip phone with camera. This was to replace my Motorola which was driving me mad. While it had some nice features, it was generally not user friendly. For text messages, the iTap feature was terrible. The vocabulary was extremely limited. New words could not be added to the dictionary, and you could not select words which were not on its list without changing the input method. Sometimes it would not recognize a common word, but give nonsense combinations as options. One example of this is that it could not spell "Taiwan". This had to be input as "Tai" and "Wan" which individually have no meaning but did appear in the iTap selection. The camera and some of the buttons began to fail, but fortunately this was while it was still under warranty, but it took 2 trips to the service center to get the issues resolved. Overall I beleive the Q stands for questionable.
3. Nokia 2600
I bought a low end Nokia candybar style phone to use while my BenQ was in the shop. I must say that while it lacked any special features, the phone itself worked beautifully and the interface was very simple.
4. Sony Ericsson K750i
This phone was a gift and I am still getting to know it. So far I'm very pleased. It is feature rich yet relatively easy to use.

Bitan & Xindian River

From Xindian MRT Station it is a short walk to the riverside which is lined with shops, games, and restaurants. There is a pedestrian bridge across the river to Bitan. On either side of the river you can rent paddle boats for approx. $200 for an hour. This is a scenic area on the edge of the city and can make for a relaxing day in good weather.

Rosemary's Kitchen
When crossing from Xindian to Bitan on the pedestrian bridge, Rosemary's Kitchen is on the right hand side, next to the bridge. It has a nice view of the river, decent coffee, and good service.

Rendezvous Stone Oven Pizza & Bar - no longer exists after Bitan was remodeled.

Camping in Pinglin 坪林

Pinglin is on Highway 9. From Xindian 新店 it is 26 km to Pinglin 坪林 and 47 km to Yilan 宜蘭. Allow about 1 hour from Xindian if traveling by scooter. From Taipei go South on Roosevelt Road (羅斯福路 Luósīfú Lù). When you cross the river into Xindian, the name will change to Bei Shin Road but the road remains the same. Where you would turn right to go to Wulai, you will continue straight and the road will become Hwy. 9. Once you are out of Xindian you will start to climb the mountain hills. Roads can have dangerously sharp curves but traffic is not bad as many cars will use the freeway.

To get to the campsites in Pinglin take Highway 9 from Xindian towards Pinglin. If you reach the town of Pinglin you have gone a few km too far. Near the 35.5 km road marker there will be a road turning to the right and going downhill. There will be some signs in Chinese only pointing to various attractions. Following the road you will round a bend and cross a bridge with a Chinese arch over it. You will travel for a few minutes and eventually cross a small bridge. On the other side is a T-intersection where you will turn left. There is a paved walking/biking trail on the left, which follows the river. Go for a few more minutes. You will come to a guard station and another T-intersection. If you go to the driveway straight ahead you have reached the first campsite.

This site accommodates drive-in camping. Shaded campsites are available with cement bases and fire rings. Bathrooms are relatively clean and have hot water showers. Campsite is on the river. Cost was TWD 330 for 2 people. The campsite had a small store selling Taiwan Beer in a can, Coke, and other essentials.

Another option is to turn right at the intersection. You will continue for a few minutes and there will be a driveway on the left hand side which goes downhill. This site is also on the river.

There are more campsites on the other side of the Pinglin. If arriving in Pinglin on Highway 9 from Xindian. On the far side of town is highway 北42 (bei3/north 42). The road continues all the way to Taipei entering Muzha, but this is very much a secondary highway. The road is narrow, barely wide enough for two cars to pass and no center line or shoulders. Many of the sharp switchback turns have wide angle mirrors but many do not. It would be a nice country drive if you didn't have to worry about a car around every blind corner.

There are several campsites available near the 4, 13, and 15 km markers of 北42. At the 4 km marker there are two campsites. At the 13 km marker there is one campsite and the road to 黑龍潭 hēi lóng tán. At the 15 km marker there is one site.

Of the two sites at the 4 km marker, the first has nicer bathroom facilities. The second has nicer riverside campsites, but the toilet and bathing facilites are more rugged. The bathrooms do have hot water showers, but they were a bit dark and dirty. They also have a teahouse with KTV so you may not get to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature in the countryside.

At the 13 km marker, there is a small riverside site. There is a lack of shade here but the sites are directly on the riverside. I did not stay here, so don't know about toilet facilities but it looks like they could be questionable.

At the 15 km marker campsite the toilet facilities consist of two toilets and one shower for the whole campsite which is fine if it is not crowded. A shower is an additional $30.

Pinglin is famous for Tea which I didn’t bother to try. The actual town of Pinglin serves only as a pit stop where you can refuel your car or scooter, stop at 7-11, and use the ATM. Between Xindian and Pinglin you won’t find any of these three. There are also a handful of restaurants and of course plenty of tea shops. All of the campsites have a small shop selling basic supplies such as charcoal, grills, bottled water, and Taiwan Beer. If you need any specialty items be sure to stock up in town.

Here are some links below present additional information and alternate routes.

originally published 4/7/2006.