Life – July 2018

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Been a while since one of these, so long that i’m not really sure what to put in here.

Meeting old friends

Managed to catch up with some of my oldest friends, people I’ve known since secondary school / college. We unfortunately don’t really meet up as much as we should so it was a nice change. It’s mad how quickly everyone can drift apart in such a short time, similarly it seems crazy how much things can change in only a few years. We had a lovely dinner at Patty & Bun (still the best burger chain, imo) and then had a nice little romp through central london.

 

Back to studying

Been working hard towards finally getting some microsoft certifications, i’m currently aiming for an MCSA in office365, mostly because it’s the shortest path to getting qualified. After a few weeks of study I passed the 70-346 exam this week, meaning I just need to pass one more to become properly certified.
On the plus, technically by just passing one exam, you turn into a microsoft certified professional. Yay.

 

Games

Man, i’ve had hardly any time to game lately, I honestly have no idea where all my time is disappearing to, I suppose between full time work, trying to study for exams and cooking/cleaning and doing normal living stuff, doesn’t leave me much time to do what I want.
I’ve finally managed to finish off the holiday photos from my recent Taiwan and Dubai trip, so hopefully I can claw back a little more time there.
I’ve borrowed the fantastic God of War from my brother, which I wasn’t actually expecting to enjoy as much as I am, I thought it would be another overrated Dark souls lite style game but i’ve really enjoyed just exploring the world they have created. It surprisingly feels a lot like the gameplay of the recent Tomb Raider games, but with the combat mechanics more closely matching a (easy) souls game, I love that it gives itself leeway to throw Kratos to different environments as well – though saying more would be spoilers.
I’ve been really missing Rainbow6 siege but it feels like I just don’t have the time nor reflexes for it anymore, perhaps this is a sign of getting old? I feel like I just can’t be bothered to play games that frustrate me to a huge degree.
I picked up Titan Quest as my mind numbing game, something to do while listening to music to just unwind after a day at work. I totally forgot how long it is, I’m coming towards 10 hours now and i’m still at the start of Act 2, and i think there are 3 or 4 including the DLC. I’m playing a warrior with some fire enchants and am currently around the level 15-20, if anyone wants to team, let me know.

 

Gym switch

I’ve officially left the Easygym, and will be starting up at the Virgin active at the start of next month. You don’t know what you’ve lost until it’s gone, it used to feel like a chore but since I haven’t been able to go, I’ve been really itching to just pick some heavy shit up and put it back down again. Y’all know how it is, right?
The new gym will have a steam room and a room full of punching bags and stuff, which sounds fun. One more week to go.

Mayfield Lavender

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On the Sunday, we went to the nearby Mayfield Lavender farm, a huge field of growing lavender bushes. We wanted to go last year actually, but time restraints meant that by the time we got around to visiting, the Lavender had mostly been harvested. It was pretty busy when we went, not surprising I guess, for a hot Sunday with the sun in the sky. They forgot to charge us entry to the car park, so I spent the money on getting a small tub of Lavender ice cream instead – which, I’ve never really eaten lavender, but it somehow tastes exactly as you’d imagine.
Would definitely recommend a visit for those nearby, though those scared of, or allergic to bees should probably steer clear – we were wandering through the lavender bushes and somehow found ourselves in the middle of a really overgrown field of it, and there were bees fucking EVERYWHERE. That buzzing around your head, coupled with the thought of there being no escape, even the most direct route out was a good few minutes walking through thick lavender and involve kicking bees out of the way as you move through, I never realised I was so scared of bee’s until that point.

London Zoo nights

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For the first time in a while, it feels like I actually had an exciting weekend.

An old good friend had some spare tickets to the London Zoo ‘Zoo Nights’ event, which can basically be summarised as a trip to the zoo but adults only and all of the stores sell alcohol, and then some additional neat stuff like live DJ, street food stalls and just a generally more chill atmosphere.
I’ve never actually been to London Zoo before so that was really cool in itself, it’s not a huge zoo but big enough for us to have a wander about for 3 hours or so before the park started to close in on us – like a Fortnite dome but with security guards and zoo staff who want to go home.
It’s kind of mad how efficient and calm everything can be without children, it was like a huge congregation of civil adults, queuing and positioning themselves in ways to not block the exhibits for others, and even though there was a bag search, the entrance queue went by in a flash, many of the stalls were card only as well, again I presume in an effort to keep things moving swiftly.

 

Travel tips for Taipei / Taiwan

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We found constant conflicting information during our research for Taiwan, and many details are omitted, even forum posts on tripadvisor for certain subjects were being closed off without real answers, so here are some travel tips and infobits that you might need if you ever decide to visit Taipei.

 

Do I need to know Mandarin to visit Taipei –
It certainly helps, but I only know the number system and ‘thank you’ in Mandarin and we just about got by. It would have certainly helped and made us feel a lot more comfortable, but there are many places to eat/order where you can just point to pictures and thrust cash at staff. The younger generation can speak some broken english though your mileage may vary, especially depending on how touristy the area is. English numbers, small, large, etc are generally understood universally. Most staff behind counters at MRT stations speak very good English, similarly anywhere with a visitor centre/tourist info.

 

How much money per day in Taipei –
Food and metro system are generally very cheap, some average sample costs of things we would commonly eat/do are below, though some souvineers like pineapple cake are quite expensive, similarly any designer shopping is quite expensive as a lot of it I think is import. A number I saw being thrown around was 1000 TWD per day, and i’d say that sounds about right. Most attractions in taipei are free anyway.

Sit down restaurant (mid-range) = 600 TWD for 2 people
Most expensive restaurant we went to (Premium buffet) = 1600 TWD for 2 people
Bubble milk tea = 50 TWD average
Shaved ice dessert with mango = between 100 and 200 TWD
Food from street vendors = Between 30 and 100 TWD
Deep fried chicken breast = 70 TWD
Tray of sushi from metro = 100 TWD
Most Metro journeys = 16-20 TWD
Long metro journeys = 50 TWD? (Ximen to Tamsui)
Most buses = 8 TWD
Express Train from/to airport to/from Taipei Main = 160 TWD

 

How’s the wifi in Taipei? –
Free wifi on metro trains, stations, many department stores.
Which is just as well because my data roaming wanted to charge me £3 per MB.

 

Storing luggage in Taipei station –
Really easy, and there is an abundance of lockers available. There are loads dotted around the high speed rail area, and even some in the metro mall.
Prices are 70 TWD for 3 hours, if you collect after 3 hours, you have to pay before it’ll release your luggage.
Locker sizes go from backpack size to fullsize plane luggage.
There were english instructions on ours, but the general directions are – Fill locker, press number on keypad for locker, put money, close locker, take password receipt. Unlock: Press number for locker, enter password, pay remaining balance.

 

Paying for transport –
Near everything accepts Easycard, you can grab them from vending machines at airport and taipei main, or buy one at info counter. 500 TWD, 100 of which is deposit.
You can use the easycard on buses, trains including Pingxi line and airport express, Maokong Gondola, and I think some shops accept it too.

 

Taxi fares –
Are metered as far as I know, pricing starts at 70 TWD, we only took 2, but an example we did was Lovers bridge in tamsui, to Tamsui main station, which is about 10-13 mins drive (4km) and cost about 200 TWD iirc.
Fares to go to Jiufen from the nearby train station is fixed though I can’t remember how much i’m afraid, much cheaper to take the bus.

 

Weather / indoor things –
Weather reports are not to be trusted in Taipei, we went during supposed monsoon season, and despite it being forecasted to rain every day, we got a few spatterings and one major downpour over 9 days. There are plenty of metro malls (attached to Taipei main station) to visit, you can also waste your time in Hyper gamer in Ximen, The miniatures Museum of Taipei (1-2 hours) or just grab an umbrella/poncho like everyone else does.

 

Travel Tips for Shifen / Pingxi and Jiufen which would have been useful to know:
– Pingxi is both a town and a district, while you can ride the pingxi line to Pingxi itself, the lantern experience most people describe can easily be had at Shifen, which has the waterfall as well.
– Approx 40 mins to Ruifan Stn from Taipei Main Stn, and then 20ish mins to Shifen, i think
– Cost from Taipei Main to Shifen was only 61 TWD
– Lantern cost anywhere between $100 and $350, ours was $200 but they charge based on colours and include photography and paint for you
– Shifen waterfall walk is about 30-45mins maybe? There are toilets and food/drink along the way
– Bus to jiufen from Ruifang Stn is route 827 or 788, catch it from next to the police station – Exit main entrance and take a left at the Wellcome supermarket, police Stn on opposite side of road. Bus itself takes about 10-20 mins
– The train to taipei from Ruifang will be written just past the main gate, the train might be flagged as a North destination line even though it goes to Taipei.

 

 

Other notes
– There are still squat toilets at some places, might want to practice or read up on technique
– Stand on the right, walk on the left
– The Taiwanese are surprisingly good at queuing in an orderly fashion
– Wufenpu shopping district is the best for cheap clothing