Taipei, Taiwan

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Touchdown Taipei!

After a 5 hour flight to Taipei and a slow, 1 & half hour journey into the city by coach, we see that oh so famous structure , sticking out of the landscape like a phallic monolith..

Taiwan is an island located off the coast of southeastern China, southwest of Okinawa and north of the Philippines. The island is governed by the Republic of China. Shaped roughly like a sweet potato, the nation is home to more than 23 million people and is the most densely populated places in the world! Besides its crowded cities, Taiwan is also known for steep mountains and lush forests.

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We see our hotel and boy are we glad to get showered and get dinner.


The Shang.. the shang..
The lovely, classy Shang.

I like this hotel.
This hotel is nice.

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SHOWER .. fast, fast!

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Dinner was at a Taiwanese Restaurant near Taipei 101, i.e. heart of the city center. Do not ask me the name of the restaurant – I am a ‘banana’ and therefore cannot read nor write chinese. I pointed at the restaurant with the oiliest, hottest looking hotpot and said “THIS ONE!”

So here we are, the Hotpot restaurant. The Chinese call it the Szechuan Hotpot. The Taiwanese call it the Taiwanese Hotpot. Different countries have their own version of what they stick into this hotpot but it is essentially the same thing.
Well, not unlike the Chili Crab you know? Many South East Asian countries have it, but we all know its Malaysian :P (joking only ar.. don’t go throwing a hissy fit ar.. )

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In Taiwan it is now more common to see “mini hot pot” restaurants, where each diner has his or her own pot, rather than the more traditional family-style hot pots, where the group shares one hot pot.

Well, this one I picked..? it was a traditional family styled hot pot.
As I was traveling with a big group, we also had the mammoth task of finding halal food as there were Muslims in our group.. Finding halal food in Taipei is like trying to find a virgin in Wales. Literally impossible.

So clever me, settled for the next best thing… seafood. One table – all the pork and forbidden bits you can find on God’s good earth. The other table – plain seafood.
That settled that. Everyone was happy.

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The first photo was sliced beef. The second photo was a slurry of prawn and flavoured dough. You roll em into balls (with your bare hands… yarks) and then you chuck em in the boiling soup.. and up floats a prawn ball. Ingenious.

Incidentally, I found the beef so much tastier here than the pork. While the pork was gamy and a little too strong tasting, the beef was exquisite. Not quite wagyu, but with a close enough, melt in your mouth texture. Extremely satisfying.

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Duck tongue.
The 1st time someone said to me “Gimme some tongue” .. he got a rude stare from me.. till I realised that he was talking about the duck.

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There are often disagreements between different styles of hot pot enthusiasts. Some like to place items into the hot pot at a relaxed, leisurely pace, enjoying the cooking process… i.e. slow pokes…
whilst others prefer to throw everything in at once and wait for the hotpot to return to a boil.. i.e. impatient hungry ghosts.. like the kid at our table who kept chucking in the spare-parts till his father had to remove the tongs from his tiny, chubby grasp. So funny.

Anyway, this photo above .. this is the ying and the yang hotpot.

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If you think the oil in this hotpot is gross, check out the hunks of blood that lurk beneath the surface of the soup. Duck blood. I was told that ducks bleed a hell of a lot. Yup. Like a tap.

Also, duck tongue. I got acquainted with duck tongue. Smellier, and somewhat like a poor man’s version of Ox tongue, I think I ate too much of this.

Also the blood. I ate way too much of the blood. Duck’s blood is smoother, silkier, sweeter and more addictive than regular pigs blood. (This is where my readers will start to think they don’t want to have anything to do with Ciki anymore.. including my husband.. but then he already knew my strange eating habits when he married me.. so .. no excuse! haha)

Spicy, numbing and bloody are words to describe this wonder pot.

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And if that is not spicy enough for you, then they serve you extra chili oil for more kick.

Anyway, when partaking in the hotpot, a few things should be kept in mind to prevent E. coli or Salmonella poisoning. After handling raw meat with chopsticks is most likely that you will get the chopsticks contaminated, if you forget to dip the chopsticks in the boiling broth after you pick up raw food, to kill any remaining microbes. It is important to note that these are just preventative measures and there is always a risk of food poisoning when handling or eating around raw food… not to mention the cathartic factor that is the CHILI OIL!

Anyway after partaking in this lovely, oily, animal innard laden meal, yours truly was the poor victim, on this occasion, off..

24hours of diarrhoea and vomiting!

CHUNDER baby chunder..!

photo from here

Someone asked me.. erm.. ARE YOU NOT SCARED OF INGESTING that blood?
I said NO! , and shoved one huge chunk of glistening, coagulated blood into my mouth for good measure.
That’s why I said that pride comes before a fall.

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But that, my friends, is another story all together.. so I will not bore you with tales and photos of me romancing the throne.
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Back to Taipei.
After the dinner .. we traipsed along to 101… to see the world famous structure that beat the Twin Towers flat by just a couple of floors. Honestly , it’s just a couple of floors. I mean, if the earth moved or anything and 101 just sank by a bit? ..then.. who knows?
Anyway, as of Sept 2008, standing at 2684 ft, Burj Dubai has officially become the tallest man-made thing ever.
(read about that here)

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So bloody expensive! For 20 persons I had to spend RM740 bucks ok?
Jeez.

In the words of LL or FBB,
Chis! The view better be worth it.”

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101 from the outside.
Gorgeous huh? Yea, if I may say so myself.. truly gorgeous.
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From above the 101.
Even more spectacular.
The Taipei 101 stands at 1667 ft and I love the fact that, unlike the Twin Towers, where you need to start queuing as early at 7am and the counter closes by noon, the Taipei 101 is open till 10pm!
Isn’t that great? After dinner, you can just stroll over to the building and see the city lights from the top of the world. Smashing.

The scary thing about this tower is that it could be subjected to earthquakes, typhoons and fierce wind all posing as major threats to the rigidity of the building. The remedy for these potential seismic and atmospheric assaults is this 730-ton tuned mass damper (TMD).

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It acts like a giant pendulum to counteract the building’s movement–reducing sway due to wind by 30 to 40 percent! Constructed by specialty engineering firm, the damper was too heavy to be lifted by crane and had to be assembled on-site. Eight steel cables form a sling to support the ball, while eight viscous dampers act like shock absorbers when the sphere shifts. T Taipei TMD is the world’s largest and heaviest and it looks like a giant golden ball/egg! This golden orb is suspended between the 88th and 92nd floor. A bumper ring prevents the ball from swaying too far, should that much swaying ever need to occur.

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Here is the damper is its full, golden glory.

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By the time we got back to the lovely Shang and hit the sack it was well past midnight.
Tomorrow is another day.
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Good morning!
Yells our tour guide Daniel, in a grating American accent.

Yawn.. g’morn.. we mumble back.

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An overcast day with a warning of strong winds and rain.

Lovely. Just what I prayed for.

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The landscape changes as we head out towards the Northeast Coast. We get the hills on one side, and the coast on the other.
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From afar, Pitou Cape looks like the flat nose of a china man. That’s how our guide Daniel described it, and that’s what we looked for.

The total area of the cape is about 4 to 5 km wide, whose tall abrasion caves and platforms and other eroded landforms are clearly in sight on the cape’s hanging cliff. With an elevation of about 120m, the famous Bitou Cape Lighthouse is at the end of the trial along which there are endless scenes from the ocean and eroded landforms. Standing in the lighthouse, waves from the East China Sea and the Pacific are crashing up against each other.

Incidentally.. another corny joke ala FBB.. what did one ocean say to the other?
Nothing. They just waved.

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Daniel (the guide) kept saying .. “Use your imagination.. common, USE your imagination!”

Can you see the nose? can you? huh.. can you?
(yea, if I used my imagination any more, I’d probably see Mona Lisa)

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Well, our group being predominantly Chinese and all, turned our attention away from the red faced Daniel, and were more taken with the Mat Salleh nose just further along the cliff.

Nicer and more esthetically pleasing to the eye, don’t you think?

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A nice place to take your dog for a walk.. we saw many cute untrimmed poodles (?.. is it a poodle?) around that day.
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Taiwanese are obsessed with fishing. You find them on every cliff. Do not let the still photo fool you. The wind is howling and approaching gale like proportions, but still, they fish.
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And fish…
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And fish! Check out that ledge.. so precarious that I dared not look.
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The northernmost tourist site in the scenic area, Nanya. Nanya is noted for its fantastic rock formations and sea-eroded coral shore. The entire coastline here is a veritable sculpture garden that illustrates, in stone, the incomparable artistry of weathering and wave action.
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The next rock formation is my favourite.
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You need to hike a bit to see it.
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Ready… ?
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Here it is!

The patterned stone topography of Nanya, unique in Taiwan, was formed through the weathering of the sandstone that lines the shore. The oxidation of iron ore within the striations of the stone has given it a beautiful striped pattern.

Daniel says this one is called the ‘Ice Cream’. We are convinced that Daniel is mad.

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I wasted a lot of time here taking gorgeous photos.
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More close ups of the ice- cream.

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All of a sudden, the weather prediction comes true and we all RUN to the coach.. and shelter from the rain and gale.

This place is so bizarre. From the bus, it looks like autumn in London , but the wind outside is HOT like the wind you get from the back-draft of the LRT tunnel. Horrible!

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As we move back into the mainland, we passed retro designed buildings. This lady was chomping hard on her snack and watching the cars go buy. She really looked like she had strong jaws.
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It is said that long time ago there were only nine families in Jioufen (pronounced JIU FERN .. as in NINE of everything).

Before the roads on land were built, all materials were transported via ships. Thus a habit was formed that nine pieces of same object were purchased at one time for reservation. Hence, the place was called Jioufen. Jioufen used to the center of gold mining.

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It is located within the hills in northeast of Taiwan. The village is next to the mountain and facing the sea. In 1890, someone struck gold near Jioufen. The poor village with only nine families soon attracted prospectors of 4,000 families. This village was once the gold city of Asia and called little Shanghai or little Hong Kong.
However, with the decline of gold mining activities, Jioufen faded into oblivion. Later, several movies chose to shoot here and the movies won accolades at international festivals, e.g. the film the Sad City won first prize in Venice Film Festival and awakened people’s memory to this forsaken place.
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It seems that the prosperous old streets, buildings, mines and the glamorous gold digging days are now a thing of the past. Now, the popular thing about this place is the unique teahouses in Jioufen. Many tourists and locals like to linger and spend time at the tea-houses.

Also, there is the beautiful ocean view of the Keelung outer sea.

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Apparently, if one is backpacking, Jioufen has many places of accommodation, provided by local residents. If you are a solitary backpacker, you will be happy that the prices are reasonable & that you can pick a nice inn and stay for the night, with relative ease.

The most prosperous shopping district here is Jinshan Street. It goes through most of the village and this is where we stopped to look for some food.

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This street is narrow and packed with people. Along the street there are shops vending the most famous country snack of Geo Fan, yam dish and various local dishes. There are some historical items for sale.. (erm, I was rather dubious that they were selling historical(?) items.. is that not illegal? I think they word they were looking for was antique!)

Anyway Jioufen is full of fun and delights. .sights and smells. Look at the poor little one .. That reaction you see on her cute, chubby face, is due to the legendary CHOW TAUFU! (Smelly beancurd).

The pong can bring a grown man to his knees.
Not funny.

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The smelly beancurd. I wonder if this woman goes home to her man every night, smelling as she does. I wonder if they share the Toufu for dinner every night.

Shudder.

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Everything you see for sale here, is up for tasting.
Don’t look too closely though, because you will notice people DOUBLE spearing their food.
As in, ‘pick up food – shove in mouth – pick up food (same tooth pick)-shove in mouth.

Eek.

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Balls, balls and more balls.

You can sing the same tune substituting balls for the word Blood, Innards or “Weird unidentifiable objects”..
A lot of food on sticks, to be sure.

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Anyway being really kiasu and all, I asked Daniel if he could drop us off at the Shilin Night market on the way home, rather than go straight back to the Shang… because well, because we just had to maximize the day, and no Taipei trip would be complete without seeing the largest night market in Taipei!

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So here we are. The Shilin Night market.
Part flea market, part carnival, part food court, part Petaling Street (yes, illegal branded stuff is floating around too) , this is THE place for night vendors to set up their booths along a street and sell from about 4:30 PM until about 1 AM. All Taiwanese towns and cities have night markets and like I said, the most famous and largest is Taipei’s Shilin Night Market.
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OMG! what is that smell.. again?

The smell of the smelly toufu just keeps following you around. There is no shaking it. Also you can buy anything here to eat from exotic aphrodisiacs to stinky squids and black sausages that remind me of the Scottish Haggis. Really bizarre and really rather gross.

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And then because the night market is close to many schools, students are the main customers at these markets and as such, things here are less expensive compared to regular stores. There are special areas for furniture, clothing, photo shops or pet shops. The finery shops and cold dessert shops in lovers-lane attract most students (as with most paktor(dating) locations around the world I suppose).

Anyway cheaper does not always mean better and we found the clothes to be of lower quality than some stuff you can get at Sungai Wang. As such, we did not spend any money here.. except for the food on sticks. The non-stinky ones.
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After walking around and not buying anything, and feeling hungry, someone(posh) suggested we go back to the 101 for dinner.
They spotted some nice restaurants there.
OK, good idea.. said me.. because I was also getting tired of the packed, congested and smelly market.

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We pack into a cab… and flea the flea market;)

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Shopping at the Taipei 101 is a satisfying experience especially for us fashionistas (!), who enjoy checking out the upscale designer boutiques of international fashion brands and labels.
The Taipei 101 Shopping Mall is visited by 10 to 20 thousand people per day on the weekends.. but when we were there, business looked relatively slow.. maybe the bad weather conditions were keeping people in their homes.

Page One, a big bookstore which has the largest number of English-language titles in Taiwan, is where we hung-out a lot. Jason’s Market Place is famous for premium beef, international grocery items, and premium wines. We ended up buying a couple of French wines for group consumption!

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Apparently the food court in the basement provides a good variety of eating options for the daily crowd in the booming Xinyi District. However, our group had other plans. They decided they wanted to check out the more up-market restaurants on the 85th to 88th floors that served Chinese and Italian cuisine.
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Actually, I realised that this is a great place to take your group if they include children because for one, it is a much cooler environment than the night markets. Also less chance of your cranky kid getting lost! As I was not traveling alone this time, we had to consider the well-being of the little ones with us, and as such, could not venture too far off the beaten track, if you see what I am saying.
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Oh I forgot to mention that the Taipei 101, is within walking distance from the Taipei World Trade Center’s three exhibition halls, where trade fairs are held almost the whole year round and of course the The Taipei International Convention Center is just a stone’s throw away – this is where we had most of our lectures and meetings. The Shang, where we stayed was also just a 10 minute drive to the convention centre. So meeting venue, shopping, food.. all in close proximity. Lovely.
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Italian tonight as one of our group was celebrating her birthday, she got to pick the location.

This restaurant’s slogan is “We have food and liquor, but you need to bring your own women!” Apparently the food is pretty decent and includes 18 cold dish appetizers, great pastas, plus steak and lamb chops that come with a choice of eight different sauces!

We ate tons for dinner but I will only highlight the impressionable ones we had.

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Foie gras starters.. Fantastic.
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Oxtail … with all the fat and cartilage intact.
The smoothness of the fat and the chewiness of the cartilage was exquisite.
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Truffle Wagyu.
Wow, they really went ballistic with their truffle. All that black stuff on top was crushed truffle.. and the steak was swimming in a cream truffle based sauce.

Fantabulous.

Finally a seafood lobster pasta which I did not get a photo of, priced at RM200! (yikes.. the most expensive pasta I have had to date). Also delicious and well worth mentioning.

All in all, a lovely, memorable dinner.

That concludes my Taipei trip. I know its not a regular Taiwan post that some might have been expecting but considering the number of people I had in tow, I think I did pretty well as faux ‘tour guide!’.

Next time I come to Taipei, it will be backpacker style, for sure;)

THE END.

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Live by this rule – “Do not double spear your food!”


Comments

  1. UnkaLeong says:

    Lovely write up! Next time go backpack call me k? We go together-gether..

  2. kampungboycitygal says:

    wow taipei! how's d shopping? :D i really enjoy the coagulated duck's blood in my hot pot though :S

  3. qwazymonkey says:

    I scrolled and I scrolled and I scrolled…but there's just too much reading for my tired eyes to handle. I tried, but like your ma-lat pot of soup, it's too much.

    Will continue reading at home. So when you blogging about your next adventure? LOL

  4. thenomadGourmand says:

    yayaya…why not a foodie Taiwan trip?

    Nx year?

    then the year nx is LL's Spain trip..

  5. backStreetGluttons says:

    Such a priviledged all-in-all extravaganza !
    Beautiful shots and bet you din sleep at all. Model of efficiency and practcality of the modern world. And to think that years ago the ladies had to sing for a living in Malaysia.
    Now at 4 pm something all the Chinaman rooms in Malaysia shut down for their incorrigble 90 minute operas !

  6. CUMI & CIKI says:

    unka:
    er, ok.. but id much rather do INDIA or NEPAL! haha.. not taiwan again :P

    KBCG:
    me too.. I LOVE blood.. thats why i got the runs.. too greedy mah.. :P

    Qmunkey:
    cheh.. i write and write and write (and if i had balls, my balls would hv fallen off) and yet you don't read. Eyerrr, sick :P

    TNG:
    like i told your unka. Id rather go to india!

    BSG:
    yar man.. one thing i missed – the hugest disco in Taipei! Aiiyoh.. no kaki.. all married families.. so BORING!

  7. superwilson says:

    Taipei 101 looks amazing… the golden "ball"…

    No wonder u look thinner… 24 hour of xxx

  8. "Joe" who is constantly craving says:

    damn de long, im goin to print this n hold on to my life when i go there..but i dun think i got budget to stay shangri laaaa…

  9. Eh my friend who is staying in Taipei says it is very small town feel like Ipoh 20 yrs ago kind of thing wor. Is it true???? Looks so modern and happening in your photos..

  10. wah..nice long post..scroll till my finger tired!

  11. CUMI & CIKI says:

    superwilson:
    yar, if you can stomach the pain (forgive the pun) then u can enjoy looking like twiggy after.. but that last only about 3 days .. before you start whacking ur food like the pig that you are again! hahaha

    joe:
    got other nice hotels too mah

    mingsuan:
    small town? suppose to be the most densely pack plc in the world per capita u know.. hmm..
    maybe 'hick' dense town? LOL

    taufulou:
    yar .. imagine how long it took me to write it lar..

  12. fatboybakes says:

    wow, this is the Leo Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE of all blog posts. EPIC! makes the bible look slim.

    AND WOW! i actually had no impression of taiwan (despite having transitted there in 1996, and went into taipei), but WOW, i cant wait to visit. HOW THE FISH do you eat all that and still stay in those twiggy like proportions? i'd have to reverse out of the plane toilet if i ate like that. oh, wait, i oridi DO have to reverse out of the plane toilets…

  13. CUMI & CIKI says:

    fbb:
    i lausai ONE night.. and it was all gone:P

  14. wow!! the rock formations are cool!! especially the one that looked like garden :P

  15. 3 hungry tummies says:

    Love Taiwan!!! yes chili crab is ours! :)
    I can smell the smelly bean curd from here though !
    really enjoyed reading this.

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