Archive for December, 2010

BenShake: Cafe with Character

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Old Ben (老班) is Gu Lang Yu’s soda pop, gumdrop and candy floss. The bispectacled, baseball cap wearing man with jug ears and a goofy smile has quips and witticisms for any occasion and banter.

“No one’s as beautiful as you are Ben!” yelled Rain.

“Why, thank you very much! But all that flattery won’t get you a free drink… :P.” 

BenShake: Cafe with Character - Ben
Ben working from behind the bar counter

He’s one of the reasons why the islet’s tourist population keeps returning to his hole-in-a-wall cafe. The other reasons being mean cuppas of coffee, scoops of ice-cream and looong, tasty cocktails.

From outside, Benshake (6 Fujian Road; Tel: 865 1014) looks like any other cafe on the islet. But within, it’s a cosy corner of books, little lamps and, of course, Ben – owner, barrista, bartender, waiter and Seinfeld. It’s so small that it can comfortably seat 15 people. Any more customers and we’d spill out onto the streets.

BenShake: Cafe with Character - BenShake

Check out the menus which were illustrated and created by art student Mandy T ( | QQ: 604 893 128) in “half an hour. That’s all she took to do it. She was a customer of mine who came in and kept doodling. I liked what she did. So I asked her to create my menus.”

BenShake: Cafe with Character - Menu

While you’re there, try his Avatar cocktail. Ben made this cocktail as blue as the Nabu giants, with a whole lot more sour to boot. Methinks it’s a nice way to start the afternoon.

BenShake: Cafe with Character - Avatar

Where: Benshake (Gu Lang Yu, 6 Fujian Road; Tel: 865 1014)

Photos courtesy of Rain

Categories: Explore, Food and drink

Rude Illusions

December 29, 2010 Leave a comment

What do you see?


More by Richard Wiseman

Categories: Entertainment

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Food Edition)

December 29, 2010 Leave a comment

The food on Gu Lang Yu (鼓浪屿 aka Drum Wave Islet) is depressingly similar to Taiwanese food (see my Taiwanese Food posts).

Taiwanese Food isn’t bad. But I wanted a change of palate after two weeks of sweet and thick soups, meats, and oyster omelettes. If you’re wanting the same, try these dishes that were recommended by locals and savvy tourists.

Bamboo Worm Jelly

 Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Food Edition) - Bamboo Worm Jelly

Fat white worms hollowed, boiled and turned into jelly. Splash on some soy sauce, a dollop of wasabi, and cucumber for a surprisingly refreshing snack.

Black Sesame Mochi

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Food Edition) - Black Sesame Mochi

Rice flour packets filled with sesame seeds, sugar and rolled on a bed of black sesame seeds.

Ngor Hiang (Five Spice Meat)

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Food Edition) - Ngor Hiang

Instead of minced pork, they use a solid length of fatty pork mixed in with a tasty unidentifiable paste. Plenty of bite with artery-hardening overtones.

Grass Jelly

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Food Edition) - Grass Jelly

I’m sure I’m getting the name wrong. But this clear jelly concocted by slowly boiling and congealing herbs goes down oh-so-smoothly. Must have with barley, peanuts and sugar syrup.

White Cake

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Food Edition) - White Cake

The cake’s rather tasteless. One gets a feeling that it should go with some kind of rich meat sauce.

BBQ Shell

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Food Edition) - BBQ Shell

Chewy, spicy and like escargot – rubbery. Beer food on the not-so-cheap.

Categories: Explore, Food and drink

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Sights & Buildings)

December 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Gu Lang Yu (鼓浪屿 aka Drum Wave Islet) is a tiny islet just 10 minutes from Xiamen. China has islets and islands aplenty, but Gu Lang Yu packs in the tourists for two things:

  1. It’s full of lovely Victorian architecture (quite like TsingTao come to think of it) as Gu Lang Yu became a treaty port because China lost the First Opium War
  2. There are no cars, bicycles or motorised conveyances on it. The only way to get around is by your own two feet.

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Sights & Buildings)

The red bricks make for a nice change of urban scenery where buildings are white tiled into sterility.

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Sights & Buildings)

One should explore Gu Lang Yu by wending through the sandwich-like alleyways and into people’s courtyards…

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Sights & Buildings)

…where paper and bamboo lanterns hang high in alcoves to welcome tourists to part with yuan for the inside look. Of course, where there were Europeans, there are churches — beautiful white constructs of stone, stained glass and Gothic frescos.

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Sights & Buildings)Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Sights & Buildings)

Sadly they’ve all been converted into Retirement Homes for the aged and infirm.

Of People & Sunsets

Somehow folk living outside of cities make for great photo ops with taciturn old lady resting her back,

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Sights & Buildings) of people and sunsets

young ‘uns striding along the beach,

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Sights & Buildings) of people and sunsets

or friends arguing over tides and she who sells seashells by the seashore.

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Sights & Buildings) of people and sunsets

Here’s a truth: you just can’t beat sunsets over the beach.

Scene: Gu Lang Yu (Sights & Buildings) of people and sunsets

Categories: Explore

Scene: Che Cheng

December 26, 2010 1 comment

Talk about getting to the end of the line. 2 hours up from Kaoshiung, change at Er Shui, hop on colourful train to Long Chun, and commute the rest of the way by bus (NB: entire line is scheduled to reopen after Feb 2011).

Scene: Che Cheng

Che Cheng is a pretty town where busloads of geriatrics pour through the last stop on the line. It’s got great mountain views, fresh chilly air and pretty timber structures. The last being a result of their legacy as a logging town.

Scene: Che Cheng

Scene: Che Cheng

But when the last tourist leaves, Che Cheng becomes a quiet, idyllic town best for a draught of beer on wooden benches as the sun goes down.

Scene: Che Cheng

Scene: Che Cheng

It’s great for a day of staying over. Because in the frosty morning, heaps of actors, directors and winsome models crowd the old streets to film and photograph the next big idol drama or photo shoot.

Scene: Che Cheng

Scene: Che Cheng

Categories: Explore

Jiaoxi: Spa Central with Great People

December 26, 2010 Leave a comment

What did I like about Jiaoxi?

Nothing much except that I found some of the friendliest folk (and the Taiwanese are quite friendly!) in this spa town.

First off, description: Jiaoxi is a spa town, hence you’ll see block after block of “hot spring” resorts. Prices vary — bargain when during the weekdays or off-season periods.

Geography: Jiaoxi is so small that it’s only an hour to walk around it. 

Jiaoxi: Spa Central with great people

The best part: People. Hotel receptionists gave me great advice and planned my trip from Jiaoxi to Taitung. I met a 72-year old man who spoke Hokkien-accented Mandarin in a little snack shack. We share beers, and he bought me dinner.

Jiaoxi: Old man

Entertainment: Skimpy but past the snack shack was a live music bar. Skip the bottled stuff, go for the microbrews. They’ve got a green beer that’s sweet and hoppy, unlike  Reddot’s green beer which tastes like grass.

Jiaoxi: Green beer in a piano bar

Categories: Explore, Travel

Scene: Tainan (Temple Edition)

December 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Tainan is Taiwan’s cultural heart. Just look at the number of temples packed into this sleepy city. There are so many of them that wherever I turned, there’ll be a temple dedicated to Matzu or Confucius.

Scene: Tainan (Temple Edition)

Scene: Tainan (Temple Edition)

Scene: Tainan (Temple Edition)Scene: Tainan (Temple Edition)
Two students taking photos of relics

She doesn’t like me very much

Scene: Tainan (Temple Edition)

Categories: Explore, Travel
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