Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

UI/UX of Taiwan - How to Navigate if You Don't Speak Mandarin

Don't be hesitant about visiting Taiwan, even if you don't speak Mandarin or Taiwanese. Taiwan has been growing in popularity for tourist not only from English speaking countries, but also Japan and Korea. Additionally, there are many English speakers in Taiwan now along with signs written in English, so navigating, feeding yourself, and finding a bathroom isn't an issue. However, this does still pose a challenge for Taiwan. How does a country accommodate large quantities of people in a small space, and many of whom are tourists who do not speak or read the native language?

The answer is using very easy to understand signage. I kind of joke (but mostly serious) that the UI/UX of Taiwan is fabulous. Transportation, logistics, and restaurant professionals might want to take a few hints from the Taiwanese. Here's some photos to illustrate what I mean.
Ordering food:
Mosburger in Taipei makes it very clear where you stand to order your meal. The location was teeny tiny, maybe only 150-200 square feet not including the kitchen space. Managing customers' is a must in that tiny space.
Stand here to pick up your food.

When it comes to ordering drinks, graphics like this are common. You can point and select how much ice you want and how sweet you want your drink. Some of them also include the grams of sugar corresponding to the sweetness level you select. Do note that higher sugar content is generally in red, and no sugar is in green. You don't need to learn how to say "easy on the sugar, or just a little ice" in Mandarin. Just point to what you want.

Here's an interesting one spotted at the Ippudo Ramen restaurant in the Taipei train station (second floor). Just how spicy and firm do you want your ramen? Point to the two scales. The top one is for spicy and the bottom on is or firmness (al dente).

Also at Ippudo Ramen here's a diagram that shows you how to crush your garlic for your ramen.

Here's a diagram n how to hold and eat your fried Japanese chicken at Mosburger. It reminds me of Ikea instructions.

Now that you've had a meal, perhaps you would like to walk it off with some sight seeing. Here's a crosswalk. The feet show which side of the street you should walk on. These are yellow feet for the oncoming pedestrian traffic to my left. I'm walking on the right.

Don't forget to hold onto your children when walking in the street.

Or you might want to take a train. You'll notice that the lines are color coded, but like it is in the United States.

What you might not see are color coded lines that walk you all the way to the train platform. This is for the bullet train. We just followed the orange line from the main entrance of the bullet train area, and then we arrive at our boarding platform. It even tells you where too stand to board so that you aren't blocking people who are exiting.

This particular screen showed the trains coming and the time to arrival. As the time of the train grew closer, the color card they were on turned from green to yellow to red.

When you're on a train or bus, seats for the elderly, pregnant, travelers with children, or physically disabled are clearly color coded. The color scheme for regular seats and priority seats is marked near the seats and often accented with additional yellow flooring. Don't use those seats unless you need them.

Speaking of trains, don't fall onto the tracks. If you do, hide under the platform and call for help.
Finding bathrooms here is very easy and obvious. The addition in Taiwan is the number of meters and/or minutes of walking it takes to arrive at the bathroom.

Some people really dislike QR codes. I see people post repeatedly about how much they passionately dislike QR codes. However, they are all over Taiwan. Menus, signs, billboards, brochures, and even tray liners. If you have a website, they'll turn it into a QR code and stick it everywhere.

When you're in Taiwan, there are lots of instructions on what to do and not to do. What no to do is usually with an "X" and/or red - like don't pick up a monkey and Herpes B.

Things you can and/or should do are noted with circles and/or a cool color. Please hide food in your bag, please keep your dogs on leash and hang on to the kids, and do tell  other people not to feed the monkey(s)!

Here's another one with the red coloring. Don't fall off into the water and get swept out to sea.

In case of rogue waves, crouch down. Don't run.

These graphics and layouts easily depict information so that non-Mandarin speakers and readers can have enjoy may of the fun activities Taiwan has to offer. Also, don't pet the wild monkeys.

Monday, November 10, 2014

#Taiwan Cafes and Bakeries: Donutes and 85C

Let me take you on photo tour of coffee shops and bakeries in Taiwan. Two shops in particular (who also happen to have locations directly across the street from each other in Taichung) are Donutes and 85C.
Happy Pandas.
Donutes had a big banner hanging outside for having the number one Melonpan Danish. For about $1 USD, I decided to try one. It is hands down one of the best danishes, pastries, baked product I have ever had in my entire life. The only thing that comes remotely close to the melonpan at Donutes is the bread at Eleven Madison Park in New York City. I’m on a mission now to recreate this utterly delicious, fluffy, buttery, gift from the baking gods. I kid you not. This puff of sunshine is a game changer. Once I perfect my copycat recipe (the next post), I’ll post it here. *I did try melonpan at other bakeries, and I deem Donutes to be the very best by far.

Melonpan at Donutes. This is a unicorn of pastries.

The melonpan.

My cousin introduced us to the 85C sea salt coffee, which might sound like something you can find in the United States, but it isn’t. Most of the salted caramel drink in the US are overly sugarly with flavor syrup. the 85C coffee is NOT that. It is a Sea Salted foam that is super creamy, super structured, and super buttery. The foam’s texture is nothing short of a molecular gastronomic feat, and mine stayed foamed for several hours later. I was going to work on a recipe for it, but I decided against it as I can’t imagine people making a foam meringue at home when they can just add a little salt to their steamed milk and get a easy imitation of the flavor.

This little snowman is beyond cute.

The Sea Salt Buttery foam.

Here’s some photos from various other bakeries. I want to emphasize the amazing skill that goes into these cakes and pastries. If you happen to be in Taiwan, do indulge on these treats.
Cake sandwiched between layers of pastry.

Close up.

Angry pumpkins.

Egg crepe cake.


Flaky pastry wrapped around a blueberry sandwich.

Perfectly golden buns.

A variety of moon cakes

Macarons, Hello Kitty style.

Perfectly groomed maltese.

Crazy birthday cake!

That is some fancy chocolate sculpture you got there.

Cakes can look like anything.

These little guys are just too cute!

These are absolutely beautiful.

Cream puffs.

I can smell the butter in this photo.

Friday, November 7, 2014

You'll Fall in Love with the Color Blue in Kenting #Taiwan

If you're on the south side of Taiwan, you'll want to hop in the car and take a trip down to Kending (or sometimes written Kenting). Once you're there, you'll fall in love with the color blue. My cousin drove us down to Kending for a two day trip that was a feast for the eyes, mouth, adrenaline receptor sites, and the soul. 

One thing that you'll need to know about Taiwanese is that they are really good at selling things. We have tons of things to sell from food on a stick, Hello Kitty socks, and souvenirs (especially if you look like a tourist). When we arrived at the South Bay Recreation in Kenting, we were quickly greeted by someone selling floatie rides in the water pulled by jet skis, and after some discussion, we were game. The salespeople for these water adventures are very direct and very available. Don't worry about having to go find one. They will find you, and they are highly skilled lead generators. Not only are the super good at sales, they are also efficient. As soon as money changed hands, she radioed a jet ski driver for our giant floatie ride, and we were off. The Taiwanese see no sense in wasting time.

I wasn't able to take any photos while I was on the ride, as I would wind up with a water logged camera. However, here's some photos of other people enjoying their rides.

  • There are a several different floatie shapes that you are able to select. The banana is by far the easiest ride. The taco was pretty difficult to hang on.
  • This is not for the faint of heart. I often felt that our jet ski driver was having more fun than we were; spinning us around, laughing as we experienced more G's that than Donald Trump as in his bank account. You can ask the driver for a "slower" ride, but what's the fun in that? I think this would be my perfect retirement job.
  • Use a hook grip to hang on.
  • Enjoy being in the beautiful blue waters. The waters here are such enchanting ombres of blue that you'll fall in love with a color. The deep blue waters were so crystal clear that you could see the coral on the ocean floor. If you want to get a taste of what it looks like, may I suggest watching The Life of Pi on a giant screen in the dark? Some of the scenes were filmed in Taiwan, and you'll get a little taste of what I mean.
Those jet ski drivers are patiently waiting for customers.

The ombre of blues. Just imagine being in those waters. This photo was taken off of nearby cliffs. There are several places in South Taiwan to get these fantastic views.

Amazing sunset on the beach.

For dinner, it only seemed logical to eat seafood straight out of the water. After visiting an fish market, and seeing some vibrantly colored fish, we settled on eating at a place called WeGo in English. The pronunciation is actually more like WeiGuh. The owner was a very informative on how they catch their fish. In the dead of the night, they would go diving with bright lamps. The lamps would attract the fish with its mystic glow while the diver would use a spear them. This is a much less stressful for the fish with no physical exertion or lactic acid in the muscle during the process. The ending product is a fish that is tastier than net or hook caught. I would concur. The fish was really very tasty.

Among freshly caught fish, there were also other items like escargot.

And crabs. We're ordering fresh crabs.

They are getting weighed. That's right about 8 ounces of yum!

And because seafood should not be served without the proper decor, our table had an inset of sand, coral, and shells.

One of the perks of being right on the water is fresh seafood all the time. This lobster is no exception.

Pan-fried pepper shrimp was simply delicious. It was lightly seasoned so that the flavor of the shrimp came through.
Toss with ginger, chiles, basil, and a light sauce and you have a winner!

This is a type of fungus that is native to the area and harvested after it rains. It is tossed with eggs in quick fry. For those who are freaked out by fungus, don't forget that mushrooms are fungii too. This was really tasty.

And lastly, we have very fresh crab. The meat was wonderfully sweet.

If the seafood in Kenting hasn't convinced you to visit if you're in Taiwan, the blue waters surely will.  Also, if you're looking for an affordable resort, try Swan Lake Resort. You'll get to row around these guys.