Martin's personal blog – April 2010

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Tiramisu and the masters of the blue tiger

posted by Martin Rubli at 15:17

Butchering European culture has developed into an innocent tradition here in Taiwan. Most noticeably this has to do with food, one of my "favorites" (to tell, not to eat!) being pasta with ketchup instead of actual tomatoes.

Today I'd like to present something that takes the cake in so many ways. There's a bakery chain called 提拉米蘇 (the Chinese transliteration of 'Tiramisu') that is hugely popular, to the extent where people line up outside the shop or wait for several weeks to receive their online cake order.

Here's what the object of people's desire looks like - the Tiramisu cake:

"Tiramisu" cake

They even have a diagram explaining the cake's structure: a base of digestive biscuit, two layers of mousse, a layer of chocolate cake, and to top it off cocoa powder imported from Malaysia.

Let's attribute the fact that half the ingredients don't show up in traditional tiramisu recipes to artistic interpretation.

What really takes the cake is how they bend the largely unknown and unspectactular history of tiramisu into a deeply "meaningful" story based on a mistranslation and an awful lot of imagination (a.k.a. 唬濫 - Taiwanese for "bullshit"):

The box of the above "Tiramisu" cake


~~提拉米蘇的傳說~~
在一個征戰的年代,一個煙銷瀰漫的異鄉國度。
妻子為了即將遠行的丈夫,將家裡僅剩的乳製品作成了一份充滿愛心的甜點 ~~~~ 提拉米蘇 (意味 「帶我走」)。
雖然無法將我帶走,也將我虔誠的心意帶走,用我誠摯的心化成對上天的悲憫請求,佑我心愛的人,平安歸來------是浪漫的、是愛情的一種傳說………。

The legend of Tiramisu:

In an age of battles, in a foreign country beaten by wars.

A wife uses the only dairy that is left and her love to make a dessert for her husband who is heading for the battle: “Tiramisu” (meaning “take me with you”)

“Even though you cannot take me, please take my pious heart with you. I shall devote my sincerest of hearts to prayer: please bless my beloved husband. Come back unharmed.”

It's a legend of love and romance ...


Can you feel the Tiramisu coming back up yet?


A frog goes hiking: 合歡山 (He huan shan) - Day 1

posted by Martin Rubli at 16:02

As regular readers of my blog will have noticed we have been hiking quite a bit in the last months. After a bunch of smaller afternoon hikes to break in the shoes it was finally time to take our equipment - and our legs - to the next level: some of Taiwan's highest mountains.

The list of Taiwan's 100 highest mountains is pretty famous here but only few people are adventurous enough to complete it. Some mountains are only accessible after days of difficult hiking and the weather is a factor not to be underestimated.

Luckily some of these 100 mountains are quite easy to conquer. The easiest ones are all part of 合歡山 (He huan shan), so that it's perfectly possible to climb five of them in a good weekend of relaxed hiking. We managed to do four of them - two per day. On Saturday we hiked 北峰 (north peak) and walked up (it can't be called hiking ...) 主峰 (main peak).

So, what's with the frog you ask? Well, you'll see it in the photos below. Let's just say that green wasn't the color of my choice but now that I look like a frog I figured I might as well make this the motto of my Top-100 attack! :-)

Enjoy the photos! (If you liked them, there's a link to more at the bottom.)


The view from our homestay at night. Not too bad you think? Wait for daylight! :-)

The view from our homestay at night. Not too bad you think? Wait for daylight! :-)

The balcony of our homestay.

The balcony of our homestay.

Daylight shines an interesting twilight on the 清境 (Qing jing) area. On the one hand there's the amazing mountain scenery that has also led to the area endearingly being called 小瑞士 - "Little Switzerland". On the other hand it displays the touristic and kitchy nature of anything human-built in the area.

On the right side you can see one of the countless "European-style" buildings in the area. What makes these homestays so ugly is not only the fact that the architect has likely never visited Europe but also that they try to combine all kinds of different styles into one.

But despair not! We had higher things in mind than joining city people staring at the origin of milk and eggs on the 清境農場 (Qing jing farm): Climbing several of Taiwan's 100 highest mountains!

Daylight shines an interesting twilight on the 清境 (Qing jing) area. On the one hand there's the amazing mountain scenery that has also led to the area endearingly being called 小瑞士 - "Little Switzerland". On the other hand it displays the touristic and kitchy nature of anything human-built in the area.

On the right side you can see one of the countless "European-style" buildings in the area. What makes these homestays so ugly is not only the fact that the architect has likely never visited Europe but also that they try to combine all kinds of different styles into one.

But despair not! We had higher things in mind than joining city people staring at the origin of milk and eggs on the 清境農場 (Qing jing farm): Climbing several of Taiwan's 100 highest mountains!

View from the road that leads up to 合歡山 (He huan shan).

View from the road that leads up to 合歡山 (He huan shan).

At the trail head ready for the hike up to 合歡山北峰 (He huan shan north peak). The spirits are still high!

At the trail head ready for the hike up to 合歡山北峰 (He huan shan north peak). The spirits are still high!

Hiking up to 合歡山北峰 (He huan shan north peak). Joe and I were carrying heavy backpacks to train for more strenuous trips to come.

Hiking up to 合歡山北峰 (He huan shan north peak). Joe and I were carrying heavy backpacks to train for more strenuous trips to come.

The male alpine version of the common image of city girls carrying umbrellas to escape the feared sun tan.

The male alpine version of the common image of city girls carrying umbrellas to escape the feared sun tan.

Looking eastwards and one kilometer to go.

Looking eastwards and one kilometer to go.

I was rather stunned to see this. A huge reflector panel has been installed on the hill, apparently to make 合歡山 (He huan shan) clearly visible from other peaks in the area. I haven't seen it in action yet but trips to said other peaks are in planning! :-)

I was rather stunned to see this. A huge reflector panel has been installed on the hill, apparently to make 合歡山 (He huan shan) clearly visible from other peaks in the area. I haven't seen it in action yet but trips to said other peaks are in planning! :-)

Group photo at the top of 合歡山北峰 (He huan shan north peak).

Group photo at the top of 合歡山北峰 (He huan shan north peak).

Ivy posing with a backpack that she can hardly lift ...

Ivy posing with a backpack that she can hardly lift ...

... and for comparison the real backpack. :-)

... and for comparison the real backpack. :-)

Apparently hiking makes some people more tired than others. Then again, it does look inviting to take a nap in the sun at the top of a mountain!

Apparently hiking makes some people more tired than others. Then again, it does look inviting to take a nap in the sun at the top of a mountain!

At the top of 合歡山北峰 (He huan shan north peak).

At the top of 合歡山北峰 (He huan shan north peak).

Back at the trail head. The spirits are tired but happy. :-)

Back at the trail head. The spirits are tired but happy. :-)


(If your computer doesn't display Chinese: The shadow looks like the Chinese character for 'Mountain'.)

山
''(If your computer doesn't display Chinese: The shadow looks like the Chinese character for 'Mountain'.)''

At the top of 合歡山主峰 (He huan shan main peak), the 34th highest mountain in Taiwan with 3416 m above sea level. Given how easy it is to walk up there it's really not much of an achievement but hey, a list is a list. :-)

At the top of 合歡山主峰 (He huan shan main peak), the 34th highest mountain in Taiwan with 3416 m above sea level. Given how easy it is to walk up there it's really not much of an achievement but hey, [http://zh.wikipedia.org/zh-tw/台灣百岳列表 a list is a list]. :-)

Cooking noodle soup at the top of a mountain is the best way to lift spirits and warm you up!

Cooking noodle soup at the top of a mountain is the best way to lift spirits and warm you up!

Sunset from 合歡山主峰 (He huan shan main peak).

Sunset from 合歡山主峰 (He huan shan main peak).

There are more photos in my gallery, so be sure to check it out as well.

Part two will be coming up soon ...


騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail)

posted by Martin Rubli at 16:48

Over the two months we were not exactly blessed with good weather. To be more precise: The weekdays were sunny and warm but week after week rain clouds and fog would pull up, just in time to ruin the outdoor weekend.

Luckily there's an exception to every rule, so we came up with something we like to call "emergency hikes". An emergency hike consists of a) a hiking route that needs virtually no preparation and b) no expectations. Basically, they're perfect when the clouds suddenly lift and you can no longer stand to be trapped inside.

One such emergency hike was 騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail), not too far from here. The trail itself is very short and more of a walk than a hike, but the area is nice and very quiet:

Upper entrance to the 騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail)

Upper entrance to the 騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail)

騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail)

騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail)

View from one of the three old bridges that cross the 騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail). These bridges are made partially from 糯米 (Nuo mi), a kind of glutinous rice that can serve as a very particular building material.

View from one of the three old bridges that cross the 騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail). These bridges are made partially from 糯米 (Nuo mi), a kind of glutinous rice that can serve as a very particular building material.

We didn't quite get what the tires along the way are for but it seems at least the spiders are enjoying them. :-)

We didn't quite get what the tires along the way are for but it seems at least the spiders are enjoying them. :-)

騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail)

騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail)

Coconut trees along the way? Or just Papaya? Botanists, feel free to e-mail your opinion! :-)

Coconut trees along the way? Or just Papaya? Botanists, feel free to e-mail your opinion! :-)

騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail)

騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail)

A tiny temple close to the lower entrance of the 騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail).

A tiny temple close to the lower entrance of the 騎龍古道 (Qi long ancient trail).

Humans are not the only ones enjoying the rare few hours of sun ...

Humans are not the only ones enjoying the rare few hours of sun ...

View from the 大山背客家人文生態館 (Da shan bei Hakka culture center)

View from the 大山背客家人文生態館 (Da shan bei Hakka culture center)

後山古道 (Back mountain ancient trail), which must be one of the shortest trails ever. The round trip takes around five minutes. :-)

後山古道 (Back mountain ancient trail), which must be one of the shortest trails ever. The round trip takes around five minutes. :-)

Poinsettia (聖誕紅) along the way.

Poinsettia (聖誕紅) along the way.

Rice fields along 竹34縣.

Rice fields along 竹34縣.

Link to the full album


Last good-bye

posted by Martin Rubli at 07:24

As boring as waiting for a doctor in the hospital is, you always get to see something interesting. These two people were waiting in the ER section and going over music sheets together, which I thought was nice ...

People studying sheet music

... until I noticed what song they were studying. Let's zoom in, shall we?

"Time to say good-bye - con te partirò" - a rather peculiar choice for an emergency room. :-)