Computex does it right

The card that means a lot to international visitors.

Throughout my career and in my voluntary work, I’ve had the opportunity to attend many events — including many mega ones — in Singapore and around the world.

Organisers often spend much effort in marketing their event so that they can draw more exhibitors and participants. That’s well and good because they are in it for the profit.

What happens after registration and turning up is another thing. Some events have let me down tremendously — from poor logistics planning to lack of interest in visitors. All they wanted was to meet their KPI of visitor numbers.

Of course, they’re not all bad. There have been events where I’ve come out smiling for the experience, whether it’s the welcoming feel, content, exhibits, or takeaways that I’ve gathered.

But there is one event where the organisation stands tall above all. It’s Computex Taipei.

I’ve had the privilege of attending this mega IT show in Taiwan since 2003 and its organisers, Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and Taipei Computer Association (TCA) certainly puts in lots of effort to draw the crowd and keep them happy.

Before the event starts, they send invitations to trade visitors and get this — offer sponsorship of accommodation to those who qualify.

International participants are provided with official letters for speedier clearance at airport immigration. Believe me, this is a major plus when you look at the queue.

Registration is made easy with counters at all the halls. The tags can also be delivered to the participants’ hotels. Wow!

Now, for the clincher. Every international participant is given a Taipei Metro card with unlimited travel on the subway from the start of the exhibition to the day after it ends. That’s a whopping value of NTD900 (about US$28.60) for five days of subway convenience. No other event that I’ve been to, including big ones in the United States, accord such a benefit to visitors.

It’s really convenient to get around in Taipei with their extensive subway network. And the key event venues at Taipei World Trade Center in the city and Nangang Exhibition Hall on the outskirts sit near a station.

On top of that, the thoughtful organisers also provided bus shuttles among the venues, as well as to many hotels.

Kudos, TAITRA and TCA! You’ve made going to Computex a joy and something that I look forward to every year.

Chia Te and Sugar & Spice in vending machine

Chai Te and Sugar & Spice goodies are available from this machine,

Each trip to Taipei usually involves a stop at Chia Te at Nanjing East Road to buy its mouth-watering pastries for the folks back home. And since a friend introduced me to Sugar & Spice, that’s another stop to make while in Taipei.

Imagine my joy when I took a walk at Level 2 of Taipei Main Station and came across this vending machine (above). The two labels caught my eyes and I quickly made a beeline to check out what’s available.

Chia Te’s pineapple tarts were available for TWD200 for a small box of six. The tarts are among the best I’ve tasted. A friend gave me a box a couple of weeks ago so the taste is still fresh on my tongue.

I tried looking for the Sugar & Spice offering but could not find it in the machine. The poster at the side did show the nougat, which is what I love from this brand. Perhaps, others like them too — that’s why they’re not there.

Anyway, I think it’s a brilliant idea by both brands to make their goodies available in the vending machine. Taipei Main Station is such a busy place with thousands of tourists passing through daily.

It will save many a trip down to the shops. Chia Te’s outlet at 88 Nanjing East Road Section 5 can be packed so this beats having to tussle with fellow consumers, or worst yet, not being able to get in at all (which happened to me once).

Incidentally, the same box of Chia Te pineapple pastry is sold at TWD260 at another shop on the ground floor of the railway station.

Now, my hope is that Yu Jan Shin’s butter pastry will also be loaded onto the vending machine. That would really make my day.

Zara blazers are hot!

IMG_20180628_133811.jpgComing from a tropical county, I’ve often wondered how people in temperate countries still could wear a blazer even in summer.

The jackets and suits that I own are perfect for Singapore’s air-conditioned buildings but not suitable to be worn outdoor in the 30 plus degrees Celsius weather for long.

Hence, I was delighted when I spotted a blazer in Zara during my trip to Taipei (it was sweltering). Priced at around S$120, the light blue blazer came with a half-inner lining so that it doesn’t feel so warm.

Flamingo pin.jpgThe material has a netting sort of texture, making it an easy match for both formal and business casual wear. For an added touch, Zara paired the blazer with a red flamingo pin on the lapel.

When I wore in the first time in Singapore, several persons stopped and gave me the thumbs up.

Yesterday, I visited an exhibition at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and decided to check out Zara. That same blazer was up for grab at S$59.90 — that’s half the price. And the choice of colours was more than in Taipei.

I couldn’t let the opportunity pass so I bought one in navy blue. Guess this sort of even out the price per blazer.

When I told the cashier that I had bought a similar blazer at the original price in Taipei, she commented that many overseas shoppers were very happy when they come to the shop. It seems that such sales are not common in Zara outlets elsewhere.

Many other items are going at reduced prices at the Zara outlet at 10 Bayfront Avenue, B2-08 & B2-113, The Shoppes at Marina Bay. Think the sale should also be on at the VivoCity outlet.

So, if you’re into Zara clothing and are looking for great bargains, now’s a great time to drop head there.

 

Yu Jan Shin’s butter puffs take the cake

Yu Jan Shin butter pastry

For years, the only proven pastry I’d buy from Taiwan are Chia Te’s lau puo ping (wives cake). I’ve tried many others, thanks to the generosity of family and friends, but nothing comes close — until my trip to Taipei last week.

My younger daughter and I were walking by pastry outlets at the Basement of Taipei 101 when one of the promoters offered us a piece of pastry each. I’m not one to accept such offers but somehow, something prompted me to take and try, which I did.

We walked a few steps away and took our first bites. Truth be told, it was very nice.

The butter pastry was flaky and light while the filling was buttery. Compared to Chia Te’s soft pastry lau puo ping, this pastry was crispy yet not hard. The bite feel is good and the mouth feel great.

We went back to the counter called Yu Jan Shin and ordered a box to sample in our accommodation. The pastry came in two sizes — normal and large, which can be cut into pieces to share.

We bought the large version which came in a box of three. Our intention was to try it once more before deciding if it’s worth buying more for the folks back home.

Further taste test in our room confirmed the results — the butter pastry scores top marks.

Both of us made a mental note to go by Taipei 101 to get some of these goodies later in the week.

The next night, we were enjoying a walk through Raohe Night Market, our favourite night market in Taipei, when we chanced upon a Yu Jan Shin shop at No. 189, Raohe Street, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105.

As a shop, this was definitely bigger and had more products than the counter at Taipei 101. We sampled some other pastries but found the butter pastry to be the best.

Our family back home liked what we bought so next time I’m in Taipei, I’ve got an alternative place to buy great pastry.

Ichiran Ramen: The only ramen for me

IMG_20180605_121654Confession time. I’m no fan of ramen, pasta or any form of noodles that’s not Chinese. In my mind, there’s nothing like Chinese mee. It’s something I miss dearly whenever I travel, except for perhaps Southeast and East Asian countries.

During my trip to Japan last December, one of my family’s biggest concern was my meals. I’ve got a Chinese mouth and prefer Chinese food for my main courses. I can do with the occasional Western or fast food, or even Southeast Asian food, but shockingly for most, I haven’t quite picked up a taste for Japanese.

On the other hand, my family loves Japanese food. Being considerate to my preferences, they usually go for a good Japanese meal only when I’m away.

Back to my Japan trip. I was persuaded to try ramen for the first time in my life. Confession time again — I was hooked! The ramen is soooooooo good! In fact, it was so good that we went there three times in under a week.

IMG_20180605_122803.jpgI’m talking about Ichiran Ramen. Everything about it is so good — the soup, the ramen and even the experience.

The pork-bone soup is rich, tasty and skimmed to perfection. The ramen is springy and gives a good bite feel — cooked according to the customer’s preference. I opted for medium. The bowl is topped by a few slices of pork. Add a couple of teaspoons of powdered chilli and the meal is simply delicious.

Those who prefer more ingredients can choose to add an egg or more meat.

And the experience, wow, it’s quite something. Admittedly, we went during dinner time and there was a queue each time we arrived. Thankfully, the staff was efficient and we managed to get in in under 30 minutes each time! Order and payment was done via a vending machine.

You can choose to eat individually — bar-stool counter style with a separator between diners — or as a group in traditional round or rectangular tables.

The outlets we went to in Osaka were open 24 hours a day. Imagine my delight when I discovered that there was an outlet in Taipei while I was there last week.

IMG_20180605_123116.jpgIMG_20180605_123049.jpgWithout thinking twice, I headed to No. 97號, Songren Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110 for lunch. Like in Osaka, there was a queue. And similarly, the queue moved fast and we were in in under 15 minutes.

While some reviewers have said that the Taipei version is not as good, I did not notice any difference. It tasted the same as the ones I had in Osaka.

While Ichiran Ramen has made me a convert, my daughter was quick to point out that not all ramen taste the same. Her advice is all I need. I did try one ramen when I came back to Singapore and that experience only proved how correct she was.

That settled it. Ichiran Ramen is the only ramen for me. And for now, it’s either Taipei or Japan for my next fix.