I fell sick on the fourth day of the Chinese New Year, and had to see the doctor twice. I’m extremely sorry to the people whose appointments I had to reschedule. The ones who insisted that they had to see me in my office braved the risk of catching the bug. My mucus changed from brown to transparent to green, and I had to use copious amounts of three-ply tissues. I ran out of those at one point and settled for toilet paper. That was a bad idea. Because I had to blow my nose several times an hour, I soon felt the abrasion caused by the low quality paper. Nasty. Ha!
Anyway, I got well in time for the trip we began planning last year. It started with an innocent remark shortly after Stefanie Sun’s concert details were released. I said I wanted to go, and a few others replied they wanted to watch the show as well. So we booked the tickets really quickly, and a couple more joined us for the trip— without watching the show as the tickets were sold out in no time. And so, more than ten of us made it to Taipei— one of my favourite cities in the world and a place I visit more often than Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok.
It was the same SOP. Dates were blocked. Air tickets and hotels were booked separately to suit individual timings and budgets. The first group set off on 15 Feb— I think there was a crazy offer on Singapore Airlines for that period.
I can’t believe it took us only 45 minutes to hit Taipei Arena from Taoyuan Airport! We were in such a panicky rush the last time we watched Jam Hsiao’s concert. There was a new expressway or something, which ensured we had more than enough time to have dinner before the Kepler show.
There she was, in complete control of the crowd. Stefanie Sun is still one of the biggest divas despite the inertia after marriage. Taipei would be a safe place to kickstart the brand new world tour with fans and media converging from across Asia.
This was the dazzling scene as she sang her latest title track, Kepler. Awesome.
All concert pictures by Universal Music Taiwan
It might be necessary to note that I bought the tickets myself. I think I could have asked for complimentary passes to any Mandopop event in the region because of my job. But I shouldn’t— because of my job. I don’t want to invite any unnecessary gossip, and I can’t damage my own reputation— and the station’s— just to save on a few hundred bucks.
We were seated in different sections of the venue, so the WhatsApp group chat was kept rather active.
I got myself invited to the post reception just to say hi. I didn’t expect a full buffet spread, and the pleasant conversation I had with Mr and Mrs Sng later. The affable mum of a superstar told me she used to like my programme a lot. There you go, I’m a certified true blue auntie killer. Haha! And I sure didn’t expect to be asked for a photograph when I stepped out an hour later. Groups of Singaporean fans were at the show, and some strayed outside the restaurant.
Introducing Jan, my friend from school. I’ve known her for a really long time.
She got herself into a little accident on the first night, which led to me doing a safety demonstration.
Ten Singaporeans and a Taiwanese friend. Knowing how hospitable he is, I texted everyone in advance to get the bill before he did. But we failed. He knew the staff and no one accepted our cash. We were on foreign soil, and I couldn’t use the often-repeated trick on them, “Don’t you know who I am? Surely you should listen to me!” HA!
I was glad to have friends who were in Taipei for the first time— else I’d never re-visit the touristy places like Danshui and Jiufen.
I don’t know why or how they developed this fascination with ginger tea (姜母茶). They were checking out the various stalls we came across, and worse, they had to convene for meetings each time to decide how many packs to buy.
We were in Shenkeng one afternoon where we saw this delicious-looking malt candy coated with generous amounts of peanuts. It was chewy and non-sticky! The storeowners’ cheerful banter made us toss our NT$ almost immediately, knowing full well that we wouldn’t be able to finish it. Two minutes later, we were standing in the middle of the street when How Han knocked the box off my hand. “Uncle! I’m usually the clumsy one. What did you just do?!” We bent down to pick up the mess when the lady scrambled out with a dustpan. She offered us a free box, which we declined and opted instead to buy another box.
I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It’s the company, and the non-stop laughter. There were so many of us, we could buy plenty of food to sample and yet not overeat. And I totally appreciate how they would let me vet all the photographs before they uploaded those to the various social media platforms. Justin (in the foreground) asked if I minded this pic where I still had food in my mouth. “It’s all right to upload ugly unglamourous pictures, as long as my double chin isn’t visible!”
I was seated in the last row of the MPV and was car sick by the time we completed the winding route up to Jiufen. They gushed over the glorious view, while I tried to decide if it was better to hold it all in, or induce vomitting. Fortunately, I was fine without making a mess.
The place was swamped with Japanese tourists that afternoon. I muttered under my breath, to the amusement of my friends, “Diaoyu Islands belong to the (Mainland) Chinese!” Hahahahahaha.
Left: Half a face lost there and an extremely prominent photo-bomber, but I like the vibrancy. I can recall the scene vividly. “You guys just stand here. I’ll take a photo. Don’t care about the crowd. We’re not coming here again in the short run anyway!” I had my photo taken on the long staircase years ago, and I wasn’t allowing them to leave without one.
Right: It looks like a posed picture, but it was totally candid!
After a 90-minute oil massage on the last evening, I knocked on one of the doors when I realised that everyone was reluctant to sleep. We could play Guess the Word, like we did the last two days! They soon learnt of the amount of remaining cash I had, and therefore insisted on a trip to the convenience store where I would foot the bill.
I reported— in a rather sombre tone— that there weren’t any packaged cold noodles for sale. I had been harping on Chen Jia Cold Noodles before the trip, but we just couldn’t find the time to pop by. Well, even if we could find a slot, we didn’t have the capacity to consume everything.
Helen, whose birthday we celebrated a day ago, exclaimed, “Why are you looking for cold noodles here?! We should go to Chen Jia NOW!”
I hesitated. I hadn’t showered after the oil massage. I wasn’t hungry to begin with. It was 2AM— we shouldn’t be eating whether we were starving or not. Two of the girls were braless— we had only planned for a short excursion across the road. We weren’t expecting a cab ride anywhere. But she was really decisive and persistent when it comes to food.
a. Helen was good at psyching people.
b. I am a glutton pretending that suppers ain’t cool.
c. both (a) and (b)
So we went.
Where we ate this round— and where you should go. Most are really old favs, with the exception of the first restaurant.
－ Grilled oyster stall, 饒河夜市
Several more pictures on Instagram.