Monday, September 29, 2008

Cape No. 7, Typhoon, Beef Noodle and Sunset

We went to watch Cape No.7 (海角七號) on Friday night, just before the Typhoon Jangmi hit Taiwan on Saturday (2008/9/27). It is really a well made movie and very Tai (台). I watched the same movie the week before with my sister when she came to Taipei to see our father in the Hospital. The weekend when she just arrived (2008/9/13), Taipei was hit by a Typhoon also, which hung around Taiwan for three days. Grace left for the US in the afternoon of 12th and my sister arrived the same day at night. Both just missed the Typhoon in the airport.

I took Grace out to have beef noodle the day she was leaving at 史記牛肉麵. This restaurant has the beef noodle in a white broth, which is very different from other traditional beef noodles. It also has the best marinated cucumber. I also went with my sister to the Taipei Train Station to have another kind of beef noodle at 蘭州拉麵. The special of this restaurant is that the chef really pulls the fresh noodle by hand in front of you. We can often have this type of noodle in China, but it is harder to find an authentic one in Taipei. These two restaurants are what I consider as restaurants serving new type of beef noodles. Beef noodle is such an essential Taiwan experience and deep engrained in everyday life. When I was young, I only knew two beef noodles: Taoyuan Street Beef Noodle (桃園街牛肉麵) and Old Chang Beef Noodle (老張牛肉麵). Taoyuan Street is behind the Presidential Palace, where my father's office was. Both my sister and I could each have a large bowl of noodle and scallion pancake when we were ten. She was still enquiring about did they still serve the noodle in large bowl this time? No, only in normal size now. Old Cheng is the Father of all Sichuan beef noodle in Taiwan. He had a food stand at RenAi Rd (仁愛路) and Hang Chow South Road (杭州南路). My mother's best friend used to live there and she took us to eat at this stand. I must be less than 10. The real original name was called Old Chang Dan Dan Noodle (老張担担麵). The restaurant of the same name still exists in an alley way close to that road junction. But for the better and closer taste to the original, go to Old Chang Beef Noodle at Yongkang Street (永康街) region. For me the most important reason that this restaurant is the real offspring of the original one was, about 10 years ago, when I visited the restaurant on my occasional trip back to Taipei, an old waiter from the old restaurant was still serving in this restaurant. I was fortunate to find the recipe of Old Chang Beef Noodle in an old recipe book written 20 years ago. Even at that time, the old owner was no longer there.

The colorful sunset at the beginning of this blog was taken by Grace from her office before she left for the US when the Typhoon was coming. After my sister left on the 18th, and before Grace came back, I went to Danshui (淡水) for some errands. On the way back, I stopped by Dataocheng Warf (大稻埕). It used to be a major harbor, when Taipei was still a seafaring city in the 19th century. It is a frequent stop for me on my bike ride. I was met by a school of photographers (not fish), completed with instructors and over 20 fully equipped students.

Dataocheng is a famous spot for sunset. The sky was very clear without much cloud that day. Being a good sport, of cause, I also took out my camera and joined the crowd. The best time to photograph sunset is 10 minutes before and 10 minutes after the sunset. As in life, do not forget to turn around to look behind. The better image may not just in front of you. Here are my images.

Sailee in Paris

We had a Typhoon in Taipei this weekend.  It was a big one.  Its strength was equivalent to a  category 5 hurricane.  We got Monday (2008/09/29) off and decided to take our granddaughter, Sailee, to Paris.  After all both of us and our daughter have French citizenship, thus same for her.  She brought her little horse with her and we had a marvelous time at Jardin de Luxembourg.  The weather was beautiful quite a contrast to Taipei.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Lust, Caution" (色戒), Dabangan (大板根) and Emerald Lake (翡翠水庫)

Ang Lee's most recent movie "Lust, Caution" was based on the novel of Chang Eileen (張愛玲) of the same name.  The very mention of her name brings us back to the era of Shanghai at 1930s.  Her own life during that time was as colorful as her stories.  During the WWII, in France, there were the Vinchy goverment, French resistance, German occupation force and communists.  In China, we also had the Wong Jingwei (汪精衛) goverment, KMT, Japanese occupation force and communists.  Ms. Chang's lover and husband of seven years was Wong goverment's propaganda chief, Hu Lancheng (胡蘭成).  Both of them are considered as important figures of Chinese literature for the 20th century.  But their role during the Japanese occupation also colored their reputation all their life.  Mr. Hu was considered as a traitor, and Ms. Chang who was helplessly in love with him while the whole China was embroiled in the Japanese occupation, was considered the very symbol of decadent of the era.  Behind "Lust, Caution" is a true espionage story, which Ms. Chang might learn from Mr. Hu at the time.  Ms. Chang then mingled the true story with her feeling to Mr. Hu and took 25 years to finish the novel.

The heroin, Ms. Zheng (鄭蘋如) of the true story could not be more opposite to Ms. Chang.  Her father studied in Japan and married a Japanese girl.  He was closely associated with Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of modern China, when Dr. Sun was in Japan organizing the revolution.  Ms. Zheng had two sisters and two brothers.  She was a socialite in the Shanghai upper society at young age, and was on a magazine cover when she was only 19.  She joined resistance underground very early and used her Japanese background to mingled with the officials of Japanese occupation force and Wong's government.  She was given the task of luring Wong's government secret police chief for assassination.  When the plot failed, she was arrested and shot.  She was only 23 at the time.  

To bring the whole story closer to home, when Grace was visiting Hong Kong, she was shown a documentary of the history of Ms. Zheng.  She also learned that one of Ms. Zheng's sister is actually Grace brother's godmother, who now still lives in LA.  She must be in her 80s by now.

The weekend (2008/9/7) after Grace came back from Hong Kong, we decided to visit the Dabangan park.  It is a 17 acre Tropical forest only about an hour by car from Taipei.  It also is a recently developed hot spring resort.  We took one hour walk through the park and the trail was quite a climb for us.  At our age, it was not easy to keep our camera steady with all the heavy breathing.  The heavily wooded forest also was not easy to photograph, but we were still able to get a few interesting photos.

After visiting the park, we then drove all the way to the other side of Taipei to try to catch the sunset at Emerald Lake.  The lake is a damed reservoir that supply the drinking water for Taipei city.  Thus the surrounding area are protected and hard to get to.  The place that we took the photos is a tea plantation.  We arrived just in time for the sunset.  The water level was quite low in the lake.  We could see the red clay at the bank.  The sky was very clear.  The cloud seen in the pictures was actually jet streams from airplanes.  I have to do a lot of work in the Photoshop to achieve the look for the images.


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