Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Philippines/Taiwan Trip - September 2, 2011 - Lunch In A Toilet Bowl

While going through Nino's blog looking for places to check out during our visit to Taipei, there was one that stood out for me above all the others, a theme restaurant called Modern Toilet.  I showed the pictures to my kids, and they were both excited to go, especially my daughter.  My wife though, wasn't particularly keen on the idea.

After planning our visit to Longshan Temple for that morning, I figured Modern Toilet would be ideal for lunch, as it was only one stop away on the MRT line.  The MRT is a lot like New York City's subway system, with different lines taking you to different parts of the city.  Our trip to Modern Toilet would be our first on Taipei's MRT. 

Nino's post on Modern Toilet contained a helpful map on how to get to the restaurant from the Ximen station.  Unfortunately, I didn't print it to take on the trip with me.  I remembered to go north west for a couple of blocks and then go left to head west at the Starbucks.  So far so good.  I figured that if I kept walking, I would see it eventually.  But I didn't.  So we trekked north a block and then west with no sign of Modern Toilet.

At a street corner, I spotted a group of four young Taipei guys sitting on their scooters chatting with one another.  I figured maybe they could tell me how to get to Modern Toilet.  I approached them and they could see that it was obvious I was a tourist.  I asked the one closest to me if he knew where Modern Toilet was.  He said he didn't know, so I thanked him and walked back over to my wife and kids to try and figure out what to do next.  While we were talking amongst ourselves, another one of the scooter guys walked over to us and told us to follow him.  He led us one block south and then we turned right to head west.  And then, there we were, in front of Modern Toilet.  For all I knew, we could have walked past it earlier, as it was not particularly conspicuous.  The restaurant is not actually at street level.  There's really just a door that leads you into a small room.  Inside is a stair that leads you up to the next level which is the first of several floors occupied by the restaurant.  We thanked the scooter guy profusely and headed in.

As you can see, it was already a big hit with the kids before we had even made it up the stairs.

Because of the passage of time, I don't remember what my wife and I ate.  We both had one of the hot pots.  Mine had seafood in it.  I don't remember what she had.  I believe the kids had the spaghetti.

As you can see, the novelty of Modern Toilet is that you sit on toilets instead of chairs, you eat your food out of miniature toilet bowls, and you sip your drinks out of plastic urinal cups.

Much to my delight, my wife really got into the spirit of things.

And then for some dessert!

The biggest surprise for me though turned out to be Modern Toilet's bathroom.

Yeah, sure, it wasn't a shock to me that the sink outside of the bathroom was a toilet bowl.

But then my daughter had to use the bathroom.  Shortly after going in, she came out to tell me that there was no toilet bowl.  I was like, "What do you mean there's no toilet?"  So I took a peak inside and this was what I saw.

Yep, that's right.  A toilet themed restaurant didn't even have a toilet bowl in its bathroom!  So, all I could do was tell my daughter that if she had to pee, then she was going to have to squat over the urinal thingy in the floor that you see in the picture above.

In conclusion, Modern Toilet was a fun restaurant to eat at and the food was good enough to make it worth the trip there, though I did have some difficulty communicating with the waitress whose English was little better than my Chinese.

If you are planning to visit Taipei and want to put some interesting pictures up on your Facebook page, then definitely have a lunch or dinner at Modern Toilet.  For all you ladies though, just remember, if you need to use the bathroom, you now know what is in store for you.

Monday, June 25, 2012

You Can Believe In Magic, Only So Long As It's Our Magic

Being a Long Islander, I suppose it is inevitable that some of my friends from high school on Facebook are big fans of the so-called Long Island Medium.  These Facebook friends also identify themselves as being Roman Catholic.

So it was with interest that this afternoon on my lunch break while looking for any articles on the Internet about attempts to debunk her that I came across this little gem from the Long Island Catholic.

The author of the column, whose name is unknown to me, laments the "the popularity of a new TV show called “Long Island Medium” that has been airing for a few weeks on TLC."

So, what's the problem, according to the nameless Catholic columnist?

"The woman purports to be able to speak to the dead. This is problematic on a few levels, the most important being that it is a mortal sin to try to contact the dead."

Oh, and "The other problem is that she is not really believable as a medium."

Seriously?  That's like telling someone at a restaurant, "The organic cheeseburger you've just been served contains enough e. coli bacteria to kill you in less than 24 hours.  And by the way, the cheese they used isn't really organic."

But our intrepid Catholic columnist doesn't want to stray too far off topic.

"My intention... is to try to alert some of the people who consider themselves practicing Catholics and let them know that to use the services of a psychic, an empath, Reiki master, medium, psychic healer, or any occultist is to put your soul in danger. It amazes me to see how popular it is now to have a “reading” with these people who are at best stealing your money and at worst communing with demons."

Yep, it's bad enough all you suckers who go to fortune tellers that you're getting ripped off.  Your tarot card reader might also be consorting with malevolent spirits!

In case you might not be giving this the consideration it's due:

"You might think that that is a serious exaggeration on my part but nothing could be further from the truth."

I suddenly thought of that scene from National Lampoon's Animal House where Donald Sutherland as the literature professor is telling his students that some of them still owe him a term paper as they bolt out of the class at the ring of the bell, causing him to blurt out "I'm serious!  This is my job, you know!"

Lest you think the Catholic columnist does not have the requisite authority for his or her position, he/she adds this Bible verse:

Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord” (Deut. 18:10–12, NIV)

That's right.  Having a reading with the Long Island Medium is just as awful as burning one of your kids to death!  It says so right there in the Bible!  What more proof do you need?

So what's a Catholic who is feeling down in the dumps about the loss of a loved one supposed to do?  Oh, that's easy!  The Our Domestic Church columnist makes it plain and simple.

"If you are Catholic and need comfort and guidance your first stop should not be a TV medium or storefront psychic, it should be the Church."

I wonder how my Catholic Facebook fans of the Long Island Medium would react to this column.  I strongly suspect they would ignore the columnist's exhortations and continue as they have before with their cafeteria Catholicism.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Philippines/Taiwan Trip - September 2, 2011 - A Hotbed of Pagan Idolatry

The second day of our stay in Taipei was going to take us to the southwest section of the city.

Our first stop, the famous Longshan Temple.  Given how far it was from our hotel, I decided to play it conservative and take a taxi.

While the Longshan Temple is one of the more well known tourist destinations in Taipei, the first thing one must be mindful of is that it is an actual functioning temple where people go to pray. 

According to my Rough Guide to Taiwan, the Longshan Temple is "principally a Buddhist temple dedicated to the boddhisatva Guanyin, but there are more than a hundred deities worshipped here, mostly from the Taoist pantheon."

That probably explains why there were clusters of people praying in different sections of the temple.

I neglected to take a picture of the outside entrance of the temple. 

After you go through the front entrance, you find yourself in an outer courtyard that separates you from the main action (if you can call prayer action) inside the temple.

The outer courtyard was a pretty, peaceful place itself.  In one end of the courtyard there was this small waterfall.

At the opposite end, behind us, was a fish pond.

One thing that one cannot help but notice about the architecture of the temple was that it contained lots of dragon motifs.

The temple was also filled with lots of local heathens who are surely destined to burn in hell in the afterlife because they don't worship the Baby Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Inhale that incense, lady!

This last photo above is interesting, because it appears to be a convenient way of economizing on the placing of the various deities.  There's the big one in the backgroumd, and the three smaller ones encased in glass in the foreground.

In all seriousness though, the Longshan Temple was a nice, tranquil place to visit where for a little while you can almost forget you are in the heart of a bustling city filled with millions of people.

The Transit of Venus

Well, not here on Long Island.  It's cloudy and periodically raining, so I wasn't able to observe it.  I guess I will have to try and live another 115 years to see the next one.

Alternatively, you can watch it live on NASA TV here.

The Philippines/Taiwan Trip - September 1, 2011 - The Lin Jiang Night Market

Yes, I'm still on our first day in Taipei!  I promise I'm almost finished!

Anyway, the last destination for the day was to hit the Lin Jiang Tourist Night Market on the walk back to our hotel.

For my fellow American readers, a night market in Taiwan is a lot like what we know here in the USA as an outdoor "flea market."  The Lin Jiang night market consists of a stretch of stalls and stands hawking mostly food and clothing items along about two side streets that are closed to vehicular traffic, with the apparent exception of scooters.

While the Lin Jiang night market is not as large or famous as some of Taipei's other night markets, such as the Shilin and Huaxi markets, I picked it because it was conveniently located on the way back to our hotel, and its rather small size made it easy to see it all in a short period of time.  Since it was a Thursday night and it had only stopped raining a short while earlier, the market wasn't crowded either.

My wife used the occasion to indulge her inner Imelda Marcos to visit the clothing and shoe booths.  I looked forward to trying some fried stinky tofu and bought some from the same vendor pictured in Nino's post on the Lin Jiang market.  It was a bit spicy, but I liked it well enough that I would try it again.

While the Lin Jiang market is billed as a tourist market, nearly everyone there appeared to be locals.  There were a few interesting characters, such as the man in the picture below who attracted some onlookers by walking around with his small dog on his shoulder.

We also found a noodle stand that we would visit again the next night.

In the background, you can see one of the scooter riders who frequently drove through the market.  I wasn't too happy about this, particularly since I had my two kids with me, as it seemed potentially dangerous to me.  I also can't tell if the man behind my wife is checking out her ass or if something else is drawing his gaze.

The photo above also gives you an idea of what a good stretch of the night market looks like.   All in all, a night market like this is good for killing a couple of hours.  You get to mix a bit with the locals, try some interesting snacks or "little eats" and maybe shop for a few bargains.

We would return to the night market the following evening as one of my son's sneakers conveniently started falling apart late in the day and we had remembered one of the booths that sold sneakers.