A Taipei Story; Brought to you by Brew&Post (Part 1)

Our not-so-little blog network, Brew&Post, is now in business, and within a week of our celebratory launch party, this band of bloggers jetted of to Taipei, Hong Kong’s cuter and quite charming next door neighbor, for a bit of much needed rest and relaxation.

Taipei, the capital city of the Republic of China (Taiwan), is home to more than 2.6 million individuals, most of whom are quite fashion savvy in their own way, and who love shopping and eating in trendy establishments defined by current styles and interiors which reflect a fusion of the latest in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean design culture… but all uniquely Taiwanese.

Taipei 101 Tower, shot from Simple Market (via theW+ INSTAGRAM)

The energy and the development growth visible in Taipei’s urban and rural fabric represent an economic progress present all over Asia, which is very much evident when you’re on the ground seeing things for yourself around this generally low-rise city.

Road to Taipei from Airport (via theW+ INSTAGRAM)

 

Taipei’s close proximity to Hong Kong, inexpensive flight and hotel options, and its stature as a regional pop culture and design capital made it an easy choice for a Special Brew&Post group weekender.

We decided to catch a very early flight in order to get started in Taipei as soon as possible. Unfortunately we spent a long time at the airport because we overestimated the departure time as hardly anyone was checking in so early in the morning. Moreover the flight was delayed by about an hour so it was direct to to the Plaza Premium Lounge where we were invited to just chill out and have a warm snack before the flight.

People were NOT happy about the delay. There were a few Youtube worthy customers having end-of-the-world-tantrums spotted… and rightly so… everyone wanted to get to Taipei ASAP including us!

The last time I went to Taipei was about a three years ago. And for sure the airport didnt look like this when I last visited!

(via theW+ INSTAGRAM)

Finally the gang settled in at the Park Hotel, a nicely designed contemporary hotel that is big on service, perfect for location, good enough on design, and overall more than a great value for the price. We were surrounded by strong free wifi in every space and room… it was heaven.

Around the corner from the hotel was a mom and pop beef noodles operation that came strongly recommended by the concierge. A good thing too, the meal was absolutely divine.

Every meal came with unlimited amounts of grass jelly drinks. The noodles were Taiwanese style, very chewy and thick. The beef tendons were superb.

Food is a big deal in Taipei. Everyone who visits the city knows that you cant say “no” to any and every offering available. Derek of ZTYLISTAS was super excited about this pastry shop which served all types of Taiwanese/Japanese Sesame Flaky Shortbread Pastries. They gave out unlimited amounts of free samples to try. It was intense.

The shop, in english called RED SAKURA, is filled with sweets and treats, from Hello Kitty themed buns, to pastries stuffed with anything from almond paste to yams. Plenty of gift boxes to bring back home to friends and loved ones.

I was such a big fan, I bought loads of boxes, and was willing to even hold up the free tastings sign out front.

Trip Advisor and general guidebooks will tell you to go to shop and hang out at Ximending Japanese style shopping district. But if you read this blog and you generally like what I like and hate what I hate, chances are, you’ll hate Ximending. So don’t waste your time there and check out the neighborhoods and side streets that branch out Zhongxiao East Road instead, home to Taipei’s coolest and newest independent clothing boutiques.

Taiwanese people love to dress up and get their photos taken on the streets here in Zhongxiao.

Western shops that want to make a name for themselves yet keep their “it” factor, operate flagships in this neighborhood. Justin Timberlake’s WilliamRast store has a flagship here.

I love this shop. It’s a boutique outlet that sells everything from high concept fashions to homewares. French scented oil candles from Cire Trudon, were dirt cheap this weekend. The store is called WOW Outlet and is located where the old TaipeiUC (Undercover by Jun Takahashi) store and noodle shop used to be.

A few doors down, is a boutique wasteland of cool art and design books, plus knickknacks and goods, cheesy yet sublime, called VVG Something.

The amount of vintage wares in there was completely impressive. In addition the books were mostly of the intellectual coffee table variety with subjects focused on style, art, design, and photography, titles which are generally hard to find and source in Asia.

A copy of Visionaire to the left, as well as a Ryan McGinley book to the right. You may remember the cover of the McGinley volume was used for a Sigur Ros album cover.

ChristingC. was exhausted.

For the rougher gentlemen, we discovered the Red Wing Shoes flagship store around the corner. Jason Lam TOUGHLOVE was ecstatic.

Taiwanese shops and boutiques have a very good sense of aesthetic focus. Most all places we’ve seen don’t rely on faux flash and pizazz to make a statement. Palettes are generally kept neutral and clean with barefaced concrete and timber finishes. All keeping a down to earth yet natural vibe.

This is the Red Wing Shoes store facade. So nice.

After a long walk around, we settled into one of the coffee shops in the district, Coffee Tree, for a re-group and a general team meeting.

The space was clean, nice, domestic, and very much a Taiwanese coffee bar experience.

I had the rose lychee tea.

Jason had a manly mango slushy drink worthy of the moniker “TOUGHLOVE”.

We ended the first day at a famous hotpot joint, Tai Ho Dien, with ChristingC and her cousin, a popstarlet named, Katie of ROOMIE, a girl pop act.

The yin-yang style hotpot was extremely delicious. One side was served with a spicy pig’s blood and the other was a non-spicy house stew.

Delicious. We filled the hotpot with dumplings, tofu, beef tendons, and steaks. It was a perfect way to end our first day, in true Taiwanese fashion.

However a day in Taipei doesn’t end without a nightcap drinking local-style! The hottest place at the moment is apparently Fourplay were the city’s party crowd go for a quieter and more intimate drinking atmosphere.

We were treated to shots of caramelized pineapples, oranges, and strawberries, and cocktail concoctions that at this point, I cant even remember what they were. I was beyond my limit for the night.

A few shots of some B&P’ers on the streets… Denise of SUPERWOWOMG and Jason of TOUGHLOVE.

And a great one I took earlier of my roommate Carmen of HIMYS.

Other images… I love Taipei’s low rise urbanism. It’s a really refreshing change compared to Hong Kong.

And lastly viral KPOP video, Gangnam Style, hits Taipei’s taxis.

What a perfect city.

REFRESH Plaza Premium Lounge @ HKIA / STAY Park Hotel Taipei / GIFT Red Sakura Pastries / SHOP VVG Something / SHOP Red Wing Shoes / DRINK Coffee Tree / EAT Tai Ho Dien / DRINK Fourplay

JJ.

Gratitude

There are way too many blog posts to write. But of course I’m thankful for this... is my initial thought about theWanderlister+ Asia.

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When I started this blog as a project to document the creative unraveling of the city, I imagined a little side hobby that would allow me to share all the great things about Hong Kong and Asia to friends, family, and the rest of the world… but because of the positive reception of theWanderlister+ Asia both locally and abroad, the hobby has turned my life literally inside out.

Of course my true passion, Architecture, still takes up the majority of my time and energy. But blogging does allow me a time to step away from the time limitations within Architecture (ie. not being able to see something tangible from all the work put in for such a long time or never at all), to be able to post reveries, thoughts, and reports about other creatives doing creative things in a real time format and seeing all these stories up immediately… it’s a relief. And in addition to get immediate feedback from the reports; via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Weibo, and Pinterest, is such a different feeling for me… and a nice refreshing change from the cloistered existence that is Architecture.

Blogging has also allowed me to meet many cool people and do very cool things I’ve never thought about doing, or collaborated on projects I never envisaged collaborating on beyond Architecture. Theres too many to name at the moment, but for one, meeting Art HK12 Director, Magnus Renfrew and being an “official” blogger for this year’s fair was definitely a Wanderlister highlight for me.

And meeting like minded friends… AND formulating a Blog Network, the-yet-to-be-launched Brew&Post was one of the best things that ever happened from working on theWanderlister+.

The Brew&Post Crew: L-R, Jason of TOUGHLOVE.hk, Daniel of HUNGRYHONGKONG, Christing C. of Fashion Hedonism, Denise Lai of SUPERWOWOMG at W Hong Kong Woobar Launch.

Okay anyway. I guess that’s all about my current thoughts on theWanderlister+. I would also like to say thank you so much to my contributors; my Wandergirls Elfie C. doing my “food shows” on the blog, Cheryl Rodriguez who does some on the scene lifestyle reporting for me, and the other contributors, Carmen Chan, Manyi Choi, Natasha Kaye Whiffin, Shana Beth Mason, etc.

Before I end this post I would like to extend gratitude to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) for covering “my closet”. I’ve said “NO!” several times because I thought it was quite weird to have my wardrobe photographed, but fashion editor Vivian Chen and fellow Brew&Post Blogger/Photographer, Carmen Chan made it really comfortable for me. Scan of the article which appeared in the first week of July 2012 is below. I think if you’re a SCMP member, you can still find the article online.

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Next thank you goes to everyone in the Dwell Asia Magazine team for recently choosing the blog as one of their 88 Most Inspiring People, Products, and Projects for the July/August 2012 issue. 

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Other websites that made the cut are Spoon & Tamago from Japan, Culturepush from Singapore, and China Design Hub. All more established than my blog and have been around longer I think. Anyway check them all out. It’s good company.

Lastly, I would like to thank the Vagabond Project, a new travel video blog website for kids like you and me. Will have a separate post on the interview but you can go direct to http://www.vagabondproject.tv to check out my interview and the other video journals with host Millana Snow!

Have a great Sunday all, and thanks for reading the blog and making it a success. Also comment! I know everyone is reading but no one ever comments! LOL dont know why. But I suppose I should be careful what I’m asking for haha.

Thank you. More cool posts to come most definitely. You should see my inbox!

PS. if you need an Architect… I do that too! :)

JJ.

Finding Beijing's WUHAO, And Loving It

I was supposed to blog about this last year during my trip to Beijing with CNNGo CNN Travel, but with everything happening at the end of the year, and with the sheer density of all the other posts I had to do for CNN, this post about Beijing’s most fantastic fashion exhibition space, WUHAO, just kept being pushed back.

Well, Spring 2013 is here, and I was reminded by an email from WUHAO and its founder, Isabelle Pascal-Pons, that they are now open and ready for business in the year of the Water Snake. 

Actually it was Brew&Post pals, Jason and Denise, who introduced me to the studio. Their friend, Vincent, came along to check it out with us as well. If you already read my Beijing post on the Nanluoguxiang Hutong, you can get a sense that Beijing has full of interesting surprises unique to the city in terms of shopping and cultural destination offerings. Amazing bars, cafes, boutiques, and gift shops line this historic commercial corridor, and are preserved within low single story courtyard structures.

It’s within this context that WUHAO is home. No signage. No visible marking. If you go to WUHAO, you are here because you know what they offer and you know exactly what lies behind the red door.

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