Saturday, September 07, 2019

TAIPEI: Chinese knife massage experience


While browsing online on possible things to do for our recent trip to Taipei, one thing piqued my interest greatly: The ancient practice of dao liao, or known in English as butcher knife massage.

For my fellow uninitiated folks, here's a video by Insider which gives a brief backgrounder on this practice:  Knife Massage Dao Liao

Interesting, huh? I shared this with my friends; and guess what, absolutely NO ONE else wanted to go! (LOL) So, it was that on a humid afternoon, I would myself taking the Metro to underground Taipei City Mall, where the Taipei Ancient Art of Knife Therapy Education Centre was located.


Getting there was easy peasy. Simply get off at Taipei Main Station and follow the signs to Taipei City Mall (see that big ''Y"?). First, look for the Civic Blvd Exit: 




Keep walking when you see it ("M2/M1").



Then eventually, you will see it! The "Y", diba? :D



The knife massage centre is located near Exit Y13 of Taipei City Mall, so just keep walking as it is arranged in sections by number. Contrary to what i have read online, the mall itself was clean, brightly lit and air-conditioned. Of course, it is not posh by any means. Sort of like a decent, above-average bargain center for clothes, souvenirs and the like.

Ah, here it is. Please note there is no English signage. Some sites say it is 'near' or 'beside' a blind massage place, which is true. (Funny anecdote: One of my friends misheard me, and thought that it was going to be a blind person doing the butcher knife massage! No wonder he blanched at the idea and fled. Haha!)



Price list in Chinese. I think they do have an English one for Western tourists. I took the 45 minute massage for NT880.


Here's a photo of the massage beds where one lies down (in full view of onlookers and shoppers, so prepare to be gawked at, and possibly be the unwitting star in someone's video). They do wrap you in blankets for privacy, and to protect against the knives. 


 Regarding the massage itself, there are a lot of extravagant claims being made (i guess this applies to all "ancient" practices) -- i.e. it helps fat loss, enhances metabolism, etc. etc. One should really take this with a spoonful of Sodium Chloride and just lie back and relax and let the butcher.....errrr, rather, the massage master do their stuff.

The knives are dull, so there is no possibility to be chopped and sliced like a pork chop (or Wagyu A5, if you think highly of yourself :D).  For me, it was very relaxing (in fact, I almost fell asleep). The part when they do it on the soles of your feet was rather ticklish.

So how did i feel after? Good, actually. I felt temporary relief from some muscle pains. But no, it did not make me feel i could leap tall buildings in a single bound. :D


Is it safe? Yes! Is it worth a try? Yes! Was it worth the money? Yes!

Here's a superb article by Taipei Expat as well, for people who want to know more (and hopefully try) this unique massage. 

Taipei City Mall Exit Y13
Chinese Name: 台北地下街出口Y13
Hours: Taipei City Mall: 9:30am – 10pm
Massage Shops: 11am - 9pm
Phone: 02 2559 4566
English Address: Taipei City Mall Exit Y13, Zhengzhou Road, Datong District, Taipei City, 103
Chinese Address: 103台北市大同區鄭州路20號 (台北地下街出口Y13)


Monday, July 22, 2019

FROM CEBU TO GREECE WITH LOVE

 

I was in the Queen City of the South recently for work, and of course, goofing off was definitely on the list of things to do.  I had heard about this place, the Temple of Leah, which was said to be the Philippines' version of the Taj Mahal. 

Curiousity killed the cat....errr rather, got the better of me. So i decided to check it out. The temple was located more or less 30 to 45 minutes away from Cebu City proper; and whilst there is a way to commute going there (from Ayala Center), i took the path of least resistance by hiring a car. 

Off we went on the Cebu Transcentral Highway; and before you know it, you'll know that you have arrived.

 

There is a designated parking area for vehicles. And an entry fee of PHP75.00 as well.



Based on a plaque mounted inside, the temple was built in 2012 A.D. by a rich gentleman named Teodorico Adarna, Jr. ''as a symbol of undying love and ceaseless devotion to" his late wife Leah, his wife of 53 years.

Thus, this temple was meant to preserve her vast collection of antiques, books and memorabilia, all 24 chambers of it. Further, ''the classic and striking architectural design of this temple took its inspiration from a world heritage sight, the Parthenon of Greece". 

Mind blowing, huh? Let's take a look first outside.

  


There was a healthy bunch of local tourists milling around and taking photos. I particularly liked how it gave a birds-eye view of the city below (inconvenient environmental fact: our loverboy cut off the top of a mountain to build this edifice). Lovely place to take in, under the right weather conditions. 


I had to climb a marble bench and tiptoe to get this shot, kaya pusuan niyo na! :D **laughing at one's own corny joke**


So, now let's go inside and check things out. There's really not so much to do, except take photos. 



Below is the grand staircase with a statue of Dona Leah herself. 


The main hall does look very impressive, and i can only imagine how beautiful it can be, if lit up at night.



The Temple of Leah is very much a work in progress. I walked around to the back of the structure, and there was a cordoned-off area and some heavy construction equipment. 

One cannot enter certain areas. But i took some photos through the sealed windows (below)

 


As one can see, things are still a bit disorganized at this point. But there's no denying there's a vast collection waiting to be showcased for the public in the future.


 Not sure who this guy was, maybe a Greek soldier from 1200 A.D. (haha) 


I would be very curious to check it out again after a few years, when construction would presumably have been finished; and we can all see the temple in its full glory, as a worthy monument to everlasting love and devotion.


The Temple of Leah is located along the Cebu Transcentral Highway, and is open from 6AM to 11PM daily.

Friday, April 12, 2019

WHEN IN SHANGHAI, DO AS THE LOCALS DO AND GO TO. . .Xīng Bā Kè




 I was in Shanghai recently on a work-related trip, which proved to be particularly hectic and stressful. So on our last day, travel partner JPL and i decided to have breakfast the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, dubbed as the ''largest Starbucks in the world.''

I'm not very sure why this was a thing we would do. Maybe for the sheer novelty, or the wonderment how Starbucks (colloquially known as Xīng bā kè) would catch on in a traditionally tea-drinking country like China. 

It was easy peasy getting there via Shanghai metro from our hotel. And before we knew it, we could see it already.  

Opened in December 2017, it was indeed the biggest Starbucks Reserve in the world with a total area of 30,000 square feet; and was designed to be a ''coffee wonderland'' (take that, John Mayer) for guests. 


Ah, the familiar mermaid logo!

 

 First impressions definitely favour this Starbucks. Everything seems designed to arouse and delight the senses -- the rich ready-for-Instagram interiors, the heady appetizing scents of coffee and pastries, etc. One can sit at the bar and watch one's coffee order being made on the spot:

 

Or choose from a wide selection of yummy-looking, freshly baked pastries: 



We ordered and duly settled onto our table. In fairness, I must say that the food (and coffee) more than lived up to expectations.


The ham and cheese croissants were sublime, and my cinnamon roll was really really really delicious! I actually wanted to buy six more, haha. :D Not quite full yet, i ordered a Danish pastry after, which proved to be very good, too. 



 According to the Smart Shanghai website, the visual centerpiece of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery was the ornate two-story Copper Cask (see photo below), which weighs over four tons and measures over eight meters in height — twice the size of the one in Seattle. It's designed to hold freshly-roasted coffee beans, until they reach their full flavor.
 


Here's the view from the second floor:  Perfect for lounging around, no?

 
 They have a wide (more than wide) assortment of teas, too.





Check out their ''Cold Brew'' towers below:


Downstairs, there was a retail area selling shirts, coffee paraphernalia, coffee beans, etc. as well. On our visit, we were surprised to see a sizable local crowd -- senior citizens, students, white-collar folks, etc. (JPL and i thought only gullible gweilos -- like us -- would go here! LOL :D)

There were even local tour groups (complete with guide holding a flag) roaming around and snapping photos gleefully (and not ordering any drinks. Haha). :D


JPL and i enjoyed immensely, and it was with a lighter spring in our step that we walked back to the Metro station for the return to hotel, and later on, airport.

As we crossed the street, i suddenly grasped his arm. "Look!" Lo and behold, we saw on the other side of the road, the one and only Shanghai outlet of the famous (and mucho delicioso) Grom gelato.



Suddenly, i'm looking forward to returning to Shanghai again!

Address: 
789 West Nanjing Road
Jingan District, Shanghai

Here’s the website for more info: https://roastery.starbucks.com.cn/en/

How to get there: 

Take Line 2 of the Shanghai Metro. Go down at West Nanjing Road station. Upon exiting, turn right and walk for 60 meters. 

**All photos by JPL**