“Wow, Other Foreign Expat, where’d you get that rockin’ hairdo?”
“Oh, I go to Eddie.”
Real conversation from around the time where I moved to Taiwan, though Other Foreign Friend can be replaced with many names. At least three of my gal friends would get their hair done at Eddie’s Picahair salon, and though now all but one has moved away. I also frequent Eddie’s salon.
Eddie and I after my most recent haircut
Picahair is a great place because for a little around 1,000 NTD (30 USD), you can get a nice shampoo with scalp massage, fantastic English conversation, and of course, a haircut. Eddie speaks great English and loves to chat. I’ve always been satisfied with his work, even though his shop is a little pricy compared to what I payed in the states. Ah, well. You make a lot of money as an English teacher, after all!
Eddie is located near the intersection of the brown and blue lines, Zhongxiao Fuxing, almost across from the big white Sogo (not the green one). Go out of exit three if you take the MRT. It may take you a bit to find him because he’s on the third floor, so look at the different signs hanging from the shops. Look for Picahair Salon. His shop opens at 10am every day except Sunday. Saturdays are busy.
3F, No 76, Sec 4, Zhongziao E rd, Daan District, Taipei 106
Phone: 0932-322-843. You can text him as well.
Eddie only does hair by appointment, so make sure you make one before you go!
Everyone who went on this trip with me found we spent more money than we intended. This happens, I think, because the money is worth so little compared to your own country (7 to 1 in my case) that you actually overspend while you shop. That isn’t the case at the opera, though, as it is one of the few big ticket items we bought in China. So if it’s fairly expensive, is this a must-see event? At first the grating sound of high-pitched and drawn-out Chinese may be irritating, but I promise, you get accustomed to it. It may not have been the best thing I did in China, but it’s all worth it for the ending acrobatics.
Before you make a decision, you should think about how important it is to you that the show be understandable. I faced the same thing while visiting a Belgian Puppet Theatre, and an Italian Opera, and I will surely have this problem again in the future. I love to watch shows, and I don’t really care if they are in English (the only language I really speak). I digress- everything will be in Chinese, so is that a problem for you? That question wasn’t rhetorical. Really ask yourself that.
“But Rae… I think maybe I will understand the plot anyway,” you say? Well… My dad was with me at the time and thought he had figured it out- a very simple theory, as I recall. This was before he learned any Chinese, and, after the show, we met an English speaker that promptly told us the whole thing. It was a long explanation. It involved a cross-dressing woman (note: this show was not Mulan, I swear). It was not at all what we thought.
On the upside, as you can see, they don’t really bust you for taking photos. People were eating inside as well, despite it being “forbidden.” I don’t think it was well looked-upon, but if you are a little discrete… we weren’t even the only people filming, and most of the others were Chinese! Oh, and don’t worry about dressing up, unless you really want to. Jeans were present and in fact common in the theatre, and I was the only person dressed to the nines.
When you select your show, be aware that China has two kinds of Opera. One is the traditional, with the acrobatics and the elaborate costumes and make-up. The second called “Revolutionary Opera,” which means it’s about the rise of communism in China. I requested our guide to book a more traditional show this time, but when I go back, I’d like to see a Revolutionary Opera. You can make your own choice. Or see both! I would have, were my trip longer, just for the experience.
I do suggest you top off your trip to China with a little Opera.
If you worry about not understanding it and you don’t speak Chinese, you’ll have to decide if that’s okay with you.
There’s more than one kind of Chinese Opera, Revolutionary and Traditional, so know what you are seeing.
This month I figured it was time to explore to the beautiful world of culture media, mostly because I miss it. Of course. But even if you aren’t a connoisseur of Sherlockian shows and movies (ahem, like me), or you watched a few movies but never read the books (but you should), I would still suggest a Sherlock Walk in London. Naturally, this is a must for any fan of the super sleuth (meaning Sir Author Conan Doyle would have hated this walk). I’ll give you some tips on three places worth seeing and where to see them, and naturally it starts on Baker’s Street. (I apologise in advance for picture quality).
It might interest “ordinary” fans (read: not Sherlock weeaboos) that 221B Baker’s Street is not an actual address. Honestly, this is probably a good thing, considering people have the tendency to Take Things Too Far (try googling the reason American films use 555 numbers instead of real phone numbers). Could you imagine the slew of people showing up looking for “Sherlock Holmes” when the first books came out? Anarchy.
The station itself is a stop on your walk, so arrive by train rather than magical red bus. Take a look at the walls, and of course don’t miss the iconic Sherlock Holmes statue out front.
What’s at 221B? Nothing. At the closest address, though, you will find a fantastic gift-shop, and an apparently less-than-worthy museum.
It was here that I picked up a fantastic “Watson’s Casebook,” with a fun scrapbook-like feel and including several of Holmes’ best stories’ notes.The museum is overpriced, from what I heard. Everyone who ever did this suggested I not waste my pounds, so I didn’t. Incidentally, I believe the Beatle’s museum is next door to this… I didn’t pick up the trail until the next day, but if you have the whole day to do this, I suggest next taking a peak at The Sherlock Holmes Public House and Restaurant.
Go into a pub, then head upstairs immediately. Arrive for lunch; they open late because it’s essentially a pub. I suggest not ordering the food, maybe just a drink, because it is overpriced for “meh, okay,” but the inside is really amazing if you request a seat by 221B.I ate the Shepherd’s Pie, by the way. Not so hot about it. On the walls is a lot of cool stuff, though, so overall I definitely recommend it for your walk! Unfortunately the glass around the display prevents really good pictures, but the details in the room are fabulous.
What really gets me are the VR (Queen Victoria- in the books Holmes did the same thing, as he was a big patriot. In the newer BBC version, this is turned into a smily face, but the RDJ version featured this) and the pictures of the code from the Dancing Men.
Also included, the lifelike bust Sebastian Moran takes a shot of from across the street in “The Adventure of the Empty House.”
That concludes this spot, and my personal adventure, but two years after my trip, a new “Sherlock” appeared on BBC. When I return to England, I definitely plan to give the BBC version a continued walk. Some I’ve been to already, but without the Holmes Connection. I’ll let you know how that goes.
If you are planning a tour to Machu Picchu, I really suggest Gadventures. Part of my praise of Gadventures comes not only from the fact that they do excellent tours, but also that they truly care about sustainable or eco tourism. This is demonstrated by their use of locals as porters, guides, and cooks on the Inca Trail, and their graduation program, which allows these locals to move up to the next rung if they fit the bill, becoming guides for the rest of your Peru trip, and even leading sections of the company from comfy desk jobs (this is according to our guide for most of Peru, called a CEO). Not to mention the support of the Weaving Women and the Floating Islands of Lake Titticacca exchange program. Basically, they try to really get the tourists in there, but in a way that even those who are novices at such things feel comfortable and safe, while benefitting people who live in the country. This is another such program they have, which I hope will further convince you. (THE FOLLOWING PICTURES MAY BE DISTURBING FOR THOSE SENSITIVE TO ANIMAL INJURIES).
A Rescue Operation
This rescue is for animals that were injured by hunters, or were captured by poachers and the like, which were subsequently caught smuggling or hunting endangered animals. The parrots were apparently rescued when someone tried to illegally export them from the country.
The vicuña’s eye was badly hurt and is now missing entirely. As a result, he is very aggressive to humans and will run up to you just to be rude. Beware, and don’t try to touch it. We don’t know how this one got injured, but Vicuña fur is very soft, even more than alpaca fur, and they are often killed simply to make them incredibly rare, though you clearly don’t have to kill this animal just to get the fur. Vicuñas are a relative of the alpaca.
They also had some alpacas and hamsters, because those are intrinsic to life in Peru, but they are not endangered. The best thing about this place was the size of the enclosures. The condor enclosure was absolutely massive, and you get to go inside. We walked right past the condor as it was sitting on a little bridge you have to cross. He seemed friendly enough. I got a picture of half of an enclosure for Llamas, and some of the vicuña enclosure, as you can see in the first pictures.
The Pumas are behind bars, of course. Big cats are naturally pretty lazy, because they expend a lot of energy due to their size, and because, well, they are cats! The fact that you can’t touch them tells me they are most likely not sedated (don’t let Thailand fool you: If you can touch a big cat, it’s probably sedated. Otherwise they couldn’t feel safe that you sat next to it, for insurance reasons).
A really amazing thing to see here is the wingspan on the condors, which are given a reward to fly from one end of the enclosure to another. The keeper there seemed extremely comfortable with the animals. He never prodded or hit any of them. It was like going to a rescue in America, which is the only country I’ve ever been satisfied with zoo enclosures, though of course there are zoos and parks I would never support due to their treatment of the animals. I think you can feel safe going here, because they take care of the animals.
Condors are predators, so in order to make them fly the team shoos them gently to the top of the enclosure, then puts a tempting piece of meat at the bottom.
Unnecessary but Cool Details that Led to this Impressive Life Achievement
The Kyoto National Botanical Gardens is a little bit off the regular track beaten to a pulp by millions of people pouring into Kyoto from all over the world. Japanese people love Kyoto even more than we do, and it was one of my favorite places in the whole country. While I have lots of tips for a Kyoto visit, I think this was in the top three best places.
Whether it was because of the rain or because of the out-of-the-way nature of this place, not many foreigners seem to go there (which may account for the lack of English signage that you will later see caused me much pain). It’s peaceful and I’m sure it’s beautiful year-round. I went in spring, but I would love to return in Autumn someday, because they have a maple tree forest.
I started in the Kamogawa gate and had a miserable time, because it was a perennial garden (not a fan) and the weather was rainy, cold and dismal. A really great bonsai garden kept me looking, though, until I was soaked to the bone. I took shelter briefly in the small greenhouse, which costs 200 yen more. When it stopped raining, I decided maybe I could try to see the rest and not waste my money. Thankfully, the best was to come.
Passing a stunning rhododendron garden, a dew-frosted rose garden, and a gorgeous fountain garden, I eventually found myself in a small bamboo forest. I walked through the maple trees, which were just green, but surrounding a beautiful lake. The frogs were singing; a testament to how wet it was. It was a short walk to the Kitayama Gate, where the “incident” took place.
Even after the “attack,” I still managed to walk through the Conifer, Ume (plum), and Cherry Gardens, catching a glimpse of the small Nakaragi Shrine inside the park. Unfortunately the blossoms are only for a short time, and not in May, but early April. On the upside, the sun did dry my clothes out and I got to see everything in the park. Still, there is always room for improvement.
If I went again, I’d enter through the Main Gate and go straight until I hit the shrine, turn towards the Kitayama Gate, and eventually come full circle. Basically, I’d do almost everything in the reverse direction. I’d also spend more time in the greenhouse, which means getting there before 3:30pm (the greenhouse closes at 4:00pm). And I would defiently NOT EAT ON THE BENCHES.
That Time I Was Attacked By a Hawk in Kyoto for an Olive
As you can imagine, after seeing most of these beautiful gardens I was feeling a bit peckish and not at all willing to give up the little picnic I had made for myself in exchange for $12 pizza that would only be the size of a small sandwich. I cracked open some cheese, crackers, olives, dried meat, and generally pretty expensive stuff I bought from a foreign goods store and sat right on top of a bench with a large sign that apparently said (though only in Japanese) “the hawks will eat your face.”
Sure, it had a bird on it, but being unable to read kanji, and there not having been a single sign in English despite being at a tourist destination in Kyoto, an international city… well, I like to place blame on fate rather than my own stupidity.
Here I am, enjoying my snack, and just then raising an olive to my mouth on a spoon. I was so excited about this very overpriced olive. Suddenly, there is a blur and something has clearly hit me in the face. At first, I had no idea what. The olive is gone, but the spoon is still there. It took me a whole minute to realize I was bleeding because I was too busy looking up into the sky at a huge bird flying away. I didn’t feel the pain of the cuts for a while, but I could feel that something had smacked me pretty hard in the face. It was pretty sudden. In a slight daze, I stumbled to the ticket booth at the gate.
More harmless birds are there, as well.
All of the women immediately crowded my vicinity and served me green tea until I calmed down. I was pretty freaked out, but not by the pain, which wasn’t too bad at all. I was ultimately left with just a tiny scar on my lip (having visited a doctor the next day and gotten some healing gel) and a bad story. I wrote them an English sign that I hope they got around to posting up one day. If you visit the Kyoto National Botanical Gardens, you should definitely stick to their overpriced food. And yes, I still love hawks.
Some Additional Info
For those who want to go, the price of the gardens is 200 for adults, 150 for students, and free for all elementary and junior high aged students, as well as senior citizens. They are open from 9-5, but the conservatory is only open from 10-4pm. They are only regularly closed for Japanese New Year’s (Dec 28th-January 4th). Take the bus, because parking is a whopping 800 yen ($8). The bus should be bound for either Shizuhara or Ichihara, and you should disembark at Shokubutsuen-mae (Kyoto City bus #1 also goes to the gardens). Apparently you can take the railway, but I don’t know how exactly. The garden seemed perfect for families, because there was a visitor’s center, two cafes, and a playground. Be prepared to spend quiet a pretty penny though (or get attacked by hawks) and a good deal of time, especially in April or Autumn.
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