About Carrie Kellenberger

Carrie Kellenberger

Canadian expat Carrie Kellenberger has kept a home base with her husband in Asia since 2003. A prolific traveler, Carrie has funded her travels primarily as a writer, editor, travel blogger and photographer, but she has also worked as an educator, voice over artist, model and nightclub singer. She draws upon her 15+ years of travel experience to write about travel-related issues and the countries she has visited on her award-winning web site, My Several Worlds.

Her photography and travel articles have appeared in both print and online publications around the world, including Travel and Leisure Asia, Unearthing Asia and Hip Compass Escapes.

Latest Posts by Carrie Kellenberger

Istanbul, Great For the Soul, Great for the Stomach

September 12, 2015 by  


Let’s go where east meets west, shall we? Turkey is the meeting point of two continents where you can indulge in the best of Asian and European lifestyle, culture and food!

1. Foodies can immerse themselves into the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of one of the oldest spice markets in the world, Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar. Peruse the myriad spices, herbs, nuts, vegetables and dried fruits. There are also herbal remedy stalls for the mind, body and soul.

2. It’s not a holiday without a visit to the beach, so head to Turkey’s shores for Mediterranean sun and beautiful waters. Reputable resorts include Alanya, Kalkan, Kaş, Fethiye, Çıralı and Patara. You can even spot turtles on Iztuzu beach! These resorts offer plenty of water sports, diving excursions, beach sports like volleyball and cafes for refreshment.

3. A lot of Istanbul’s museums and galleries are free of charge to enter and they are a great way of learning more about the surrounding culture. The Istanbul Modern is the city’s first modern art museum, Museum of Painting and Sculpture exhibits fine art from the 19th and 20th-century and the Santralistanbul culture complex has an Energy Play Zone!

4. Dare yourself to visit the largest of Istanbul’s ancient underground cisterns, the Basilica Cistern in Sultanahmet Square. Entering the columns that are decorated with Medusa heads, you will be transported back to the 6th-century during Byzantine Emperor Justinian I’s reign. James Bond fans might recognize this from the 1963 film From Russia With Love.


5. If you visit during April, witness the three million colorful tulips that bloom across the parks and gardens of the city. This is to celebrate the International Istanbul Tulip Festival. This particular flower is representative of Turkey’s history because the reign of Sultan Ahmed III was also known as the “Tulip Era”. A free festival of music, art exhibitions and live performances also takes place in Emirgan Park.

Along the way you should also fill up on culinary treats that are influenced by Aegean and Mediterranean diets — you must try a kebab and some Turkish delight! There are plenty of great things to do in Istanbul, so all you need to do is get there.

Images by Moyan Brenn and Brian Jeffery Beggerly used under the Creative Commons License. 

It’s the Chinese Year of the Goat

March 20, 2015 by  


It’s the Year of the Goat. 

We are celebrating our ninth Chinese New Year in Taiwan. Well, technically it’s our sixth if you count the times we left Taiwan for a beach vacation, but you know what I mean!

Additionally, I’m two years into my first full zodiac cycle in Asia. I moved here in 2003 and saw the completion of my first 12-year zodiac cycle last year. 13 years ago, SARS was just getting started in China when I moved there, and 12 years ago, it was drawing to an end.

Interesting, huh?

Anyways, today is Chinese New Year’s Day. The Year of the Goat officially began last night at midnight. This year, we are staying in Taipei. John’s mom has been with us since early January, and we are going to enjoy her last few days here with some peace and quiet – until the fireworks start, that is.

The Year of the Goat, also referred to as the Year of the Sheep or Ram. Last year was the Horse’s year to speed off and accomplish things, but this year, the goat reminds us to contemplate over what we have succeeded at and to appreciate what we have accomplished. The goat also reminds us to keep looking ahead, remain on a steady path, be generous, and keep the peace.

I like that!

My birthday horoscope is a goat – I’m a Cappie – so I’m hoping that some of this year’s good goat luck rubs off on me.

Given that this is supposed to be a year of contemplation and reflection, I thought I’d reflect on some of my past holidays celebrating Chinese New Year in Taiwan.

The Motorcycle DiariesWe spent our first Chinese New Year holiday here in 2007 after arriving in Taiwan in February 2006. We spent six days traversing Taiwan’s Central Cross Island Highway by motorcycle. We were still recovering financially from a three month backpacking excursion around Southeast Asia, but we have never been ones to miss a travel opportunity.

Our first day out on the bike was just beautiful. It was sunny with clear blue skies. That first half-day was bliss, but things got much colder when we hit Hehuan Mountain at 4pm. We were warned at the base of the mountain that cold weather was closing in fast, and boy, did it ever!

Hehuan Mountain, TaiwanIt was slippery going up the mountain, and it was great to reach the peak – Wuling Peak, which is the highest road in Asia.

But it was COLD coming down and by the time we hit Cingjing, all we wanted was some hot tea and a bed. Our journey that year took us into Sun Moon Lake, and across Toroko Gorge for the first time. We traveled back to Taipei along the Eastern Coast Highway.

This was the trip that convinced us that we needed to stay longer in Taiwan.

Rich Matheson: Southern Cross-Island HighwayWe enjoyed our 2007 motorcycle excursion so much, we decided to do it again for Chinese New Year 2008. That year we traversed the Southern Cross Island Highway from west to east. Since we had a limited amount of time off, we decided to put the motorcycle on the train to Tainan.

We arrived in Taiwan at 10:30am, and John had the bike packed and ready to go by noon. We were lucky once again to be blessed with gorgeous weather and our journey took us high up into the mountains. We spent a night at Baolai Hot Springs and headed out the next day for the peak of Meishan in Yushan National Park. From there, we traveled down into the East Rift Valley, famous for its lush, green rice paddies and haunting scenery. We stopped and spent Chinese New Year’s Eve in Hualien.

In 2009, we were still recovered financially from our wedding in Mexico. This was the first year we choose to spend Chinese New Year at home in Taipei.Kota Kinabalu Chinese New Year Dragon Dance

Chinese New Year 2010 was the Year of the Tiger, which is my animal zodiac sign. We headed to the Philippines for a delightful beach vacation in Puerto Princesa that year. This was one of my first official trips as a freelancer travel writer.

We spent our 2011 Lunar New Year in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. 
The Lunar New Year is the most important festival in the Chinese Lunar Calendar, luring thousands of friends and families to participate in games and watch Lion and Dragon dances, martial arts demonstrations and other fun events. We witnessed no less than three lion dances in various areas throughout Kota Kinabalu.Carrie at Kota Kinabalu Beach

Our 2012 Chinese New Year celebration was spent in Seoul, South Korea. Seoul is an interesting city, and although I’m not big on Korean food, I really do love the architecture there.

In 2013, we spent our Chinese New Year holiday with friends in Kenting National Park in Southern Taiwan. John and I took off on our own in the car. We met up with my friend Leanne McNulty in Kaoshiung, and from there we traveled to Kenting, where we met up with Rachel and Tamin Wang.

2014 was a quiet year for us. We stayed in Taipei again this year. Having spent close to three months in North America because of trips and family obligations, it was nice to spend our Chinese New Year at home with our Taiwan-family.

Cultural Look at Ibiza Spain For Clubbing & Electronic Music

March 16, 2015 by  


Over the years, Ibiza has earned a reputation as the clubbing capital of the world. During the busy summer months, the very best of Europe’s DJs congregate on this gloriously sun-kissed island in the Balearics, drawing revelers from around the world. The destination even attracts celebrities including the likes of P Diddy, Kate Moss and Dizzee Rascal.

The birth of a phenomenon

A premier spot for party holidays on the island is the town of San Antonio, or Sant Antoni de Portmany. It is home to the now world-renowned Café Del Mar, which gave birth to the genre of chill out tunes and set in motion the emergence of Ibizan clubbing. Situated in the beautiful Sant Antoni Bay, this formally quiet cafe quickly became known as the perfect place to listen to music while watching the sun go down. Now, hoards of visitors head to this part of Ibiza to mark the end of the day and the beginning of the night.

With its impressive new boardwalk terrace, Café del Mar is the ideal venue to go for a cocktail to get the evening’s entertainment underway.

The best clubsLa Troya Opening - Amnesia Ibiza

Another top party destination is Amnesia. This legendary club is located inland on the San Antonio Road and it regularly packs in 5,000 people during the high season. You’ll find two huge spaces and a variety of artists. If you can stay on your feet, you can drink and dance there until 6am.

Located in Playa d’en Bossa, Space is a popular club too, attracting some of the world’s top DJs and plenty of partygoers. You can expect a different vibe on each night of the week, and the venue — which modestly describes itself as ‘the best club in the world’ — has a fashionable, fresh look and feel.
Swedish House Mafia closing at Pacha, Ibiza

 Pacha is also well worth checking out. It may be four decades old, but this Ibiza Town venue shows no signs of falling out of favor. With a host of events, it caters to a variety of crowds on different nights. You’re sure to find something you like in its labyrinth of rooms.

Also in Ibiza Town you’ll find La Bodega. This bar, cafe and restaurant may not be as high octane as the clubs, but it’s a great place to enjoy a few drinks and a bite to eat.

Lots more to see and do

Of course, there’s more to Ibiza than just bars and clubs. If you feel as though you’ve had your fill of booze and bars and you want to try something different, there are a host of activities to keep you entertained. You might like to test your skills on two wheels, for instance. Ibiza has 13 all-terrain cycling routes and it’s easy to hire bikes.

Meanwhile, to help your body and mind recover after all that partying, perhaps a yoga lesson on the beach would be perfect. You can also enjoy some retail therapy in the island’s many markets. The biggest take place in San Carlos and Es Caná.

Images by Amnesia Ibiza and David, Bergin, Emmet and Eliott, used under Creative Commons license 

A Useful Guide to Hot Springs in Taiwan

February 17, 2015 by  


Wulai is an aboriginal village in Northern Taipei about an hour outside of Taipei. It is best known for its natural hot springs and Atayal aboriginal culture, and I consider it to be among the most picturesque towns in Taiwan. The town is named after an Atayal phrase that translates to boiling water or hot and poisonous. This is the Atayal’s term for hot springs, and the natural hot spring water that bubbles up along the riverbanks of the river that divides this gorgeous little area are clear and odorless. Home to the second largest indigenous tribe in Taiwan, Wulai boasts various religious and harvesting events throughout the year. You can learn more about the Atayals at the Atayal Tribal Museum, where you’ll be able to learn about things like local customs, handicrafts, traditional clothing and weaponry.

Once a prime hunting ground for the Atayals, the town is now touted as one of Taiwan’s most beloved hot spring areas.Wulai Hot Springs_7

Wulai Hot Springs

Spend your day hiking, swimming, and visiting waterfalls or sit back and relax in Wulai’s hot springs while taking in the gorgeous river, mountains and dense green jungle. It truly is a gorgeous place to visit any time of year. I like Wulai best in December through February, when the real chill of winter has set in, but you also can’t beat relaxing in a hot spring bath while looking at the cherry blossoms that spring into bloom during late January through early March.

The town of Wulai is easily traversable on foot and there are lots of hiking trails in and around the area. There is a good resource center that offers literature in the area in a number of different languages. From there, you can wander along Wulai Old Street and follow Lover’s Path out to the Wulai waterfalls.

You can also learn a little about the formosan aboriginals in this area by taking in the show, which is located next to the Wulai waterfalls. Ride the gondola up to the top of a nearby mountain for a different view of the waterfalls. The 10-minute ride extends across Nanshi River and costs around NT$220.

Wulai’s waterfalls were named as one of the eight most beautiful attractions in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period.

While you’re in Wulai, be sure to sample some of the many Aboriginal dishes that are from this area. My personal favorite is a dish that consists of bird’s nest fern, known here as shanshu, This delectable green mountain green is quick fried in garlic and bean sauce. Other favorites include wild boar sausage and bamboo rice tubes, which consists of rice and seasoning that has been steamed in a bamboo stalk.

There is a wild boar sausage stand on the right just before you cross over the bridge on Old Wulai Street. (see photo) Try it! It’s pretty yummy.

Wulai_Wild Boar Sausage

Public Hot Spring Etiquette 

Nothing much can beat a long, hot soak in the public hot springs, unless you opt for your own private hot spring experience. I’ll get to that in a minute though. If you choose to bathe at the public hot springs in Taiwan, make sure you thoroughly wash and rinse your body before entering the water.

Swimwear and clothing is not needed as the pools are segregated by gender. Don’t forget to tie up your hair. Finally, if you’ve got heart disease, high blood pressure, or open wounds or sores, don’t enter the baths.

Riverside hot springs

The Nanshih River in Wulai offers several free hot springs along the riverside. Cross the bridge in downtown Wulai, turn right and walk up the road until you see a stairway that takes you down to the river. You’ll see arrive at an outdoor public hot springs area with a changing rooms and several hot spring pools. You can also enter the natural hot springs that are built right into the riverbank when the water is low. Wulai Hot Spring Pools

If you turn left after crossing the bridge, you can wander down the road and find yourself at a riverbank flanked by a parking lot. There are a number of riverside pools available for free in this area as well. You can even make your own hot spring rock pool on the banks of the river.

There are plenty of hot spring hotels and private hot spring rooms to rent in Wulai. We try a different place each time we visit. Private rooms go from as little as NT$200 to NT$1,200 for a two-hour soak. A stay overnight will set you back for as little as NT$2,300 per night.

Pause Landis is one of the more famous hotels in the area. Their public open air baths offer a gorgeous view of the river and jungle. It is known for its zen decor and modern design.

The Full Moon Spa is a favorite of mine. This beautiful hot spring hotel is decorated in gorgeous natural colors and cypress. Even the hot spring bathtubs are made of cypress! You can sit in the very lap of Mother Nature and relax while looking out at the gorgeous mountain scenery and river. Guests may also make full use of the sauna and steam room, as well as the separate hot springs that are divided by sex.

Wulai is accessible from the Taipei MRT Station. Take the MRT to Xindian Station on the red line. From there, it’s a short 40-minute busy ride on Bus 849. Wulai is the last stop on the line and it costs around NT$15 to get there from Xindian Station. You can also get there by taxi from Xindian MRT Station. The trip takes about 30 minutes and it will set you back NT$600.

The Ever So Exotic Shanshu, a Mountain Green in Taiwan

January 22, 2015 by  


Of all the exotic vegetables and fruits that Taiwan offers, one of my favorite greens is a mountain green that is known here as shanshu. The rest of the world likely knows it as a common house plant, but I bet most people don’t know that you can eat it.
Fresh Shanshu

This lovely green fern is known as Asplenium nidus or the South Pacific Bird’s Nest Fern, and it is typically found in humid environments, like the rain forests of Taiwan and of eastern Australia.

The plant is native to East Tropical Africa, Eastern Asia (Japan and Taiwan), Indo-China, and the Malaysia ecozone, but it is also cultivated elsewhere in the world is an ornamental house plant. In Taiwan, the Shan-su plant is viewed as a type of mountain vegetable and it is served in local Taiwanese restaurants.

These vegetables offer a crisp texture and a lovely taste, and they are harvested from both wild and cultivated plants.  I have no idea what the health benefits are from eating this plant, but I can only imagine good things. Shanshu is pretty yummy and it makes a great side dish. I enjoy it as a stand alone dish for lunch.Bird's Nest Fern by Richard Parker on Flickr

You don’t want to eat those big outside ferns that you see in the photo to your left, though. The tender baby frond ferns growing in the center of this plant are what taste so good. They are bright green with unfurling fiddleheads that are about the size of a dime.

I cook them fresh in a little olive oil with sauteed garlic. I add a little sesame bean paste to give the dish a little punch.

Shan-Su Fern

For me, shanshu is a unique part of Taiwan, as I’ve never seen it offered anywhere else in my travels. I feel lucky that I have cheap and easy access to it. It’s one of those vegetables that cooks so easily, and tastes so great, that I know I will miss it if I ever leave Taiwan.

The only other Taiwanese vegetable I like more than shanshu is a green vegetable known as Dragon’s Whiskers, but I’ll save that for another post.



Top Ten Book Read For Your New Year’s List

January 6, 2015 by  


At the beginning of last year, I started out with a specific reading challenge in mind: I chose to read 35 books in 2014, but at least 10 of the books I chose had to be a five-star book and the rule was that I had to choose from several genres. Otherwise I’d just stick with fantasy and historical fiction, which I adore.

I spent some time in advance getting my reading list worked out. As luck would have it, I spent a lot of time in bed this year from painful arthritis flares, and I also did quite a bit of traveling and long-haul flights, so I had plenty of time to crack out some long-count novels and business books that I’ve been wanting to read for ages. Between the real travel journeys I embarked on this year and the fantasy travel that I completed with my reading list, I feel like I really got to see the world this year.

Carrie Kellenberger

By the end of 2014, I had 61 books on my list, and I relied on my grandmother’s tried and true technique of going back through my notes and book reviews to remember which books were the best and why.

Sometimes books don’t find us until the right time.
—Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

My favorite books of the year include:

My Favorite EPIC FANTASY and LONG COUNT Novel of 2014
1. A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time #14) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.

This was a Goodreads Choice Awards Best Fantasy winner. At 912 pages, A Memory of Light was also the longest book I read in 2014. (Number 10 was a close second, and it was also part of a large epic fantasy series that I began many years ago.) I was really sad to say goodbye to these beloved characters that I’ve known since childhood. One of the coolest things about this book is that the original author Robert Jordan died before he was able to finish the series. He hand-picked a young up-and-coming fantasy writer to finish his series for him, and that is how I became a Brandon Sanderson fan.

This leads me to book two on my list…

My Favorite NEW-ISH FANTASY Author of 2014
2. The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

I read the first book in this series in 2013, and I enjoyed it, but Sanderson’s The Well of Ascension blew my mind. I’ve never read fantasy like this before. His battle scenes are completely believable and entirely riveting, and the way he writes about magic is just incredible. The magicians in this book are not naturally gifted with magic. They gain their magic through Allamancy. If you’re into fantasy, this is one series you won’t want to miss out on. Judging from the reviews on GoodReads, Sanderson’s writing gets better and better as the series moves on. I’ve been holding on to the right moment to start Book Three, but trust me, it’s going to happen in 2015!

My Favorite Chinese-American Book of 2014
3. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

This was fantastic tale about a young girl named Kim who moves from Hong Kong to America with her mother to work in a Chinese sweatshop in Brooklyn. Kwok’s descriptions of a young immigrant girl that is caught between two cultures is captivating.

Kim and her mother arrive in New York with big dreams of making a fantastic new life for themselves in the USA. Instead, they end up working in her aunt’s illegal clothing factory where they earn 1.5 cents for each skirt they complete. Kim was the best English student in her class in Hong Kong, but in America, she is overlooked, misunderstood and taunted mercilessly every day.

My Favorite Italian Author for 2014
4. The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

This story is set in the Italian Alps, and it follows the lives of Ciro and Enza, two young village friends who both end up chasing their destinies on the far and distant shores of America. Ciro and his brother Edward are left at a local nunnery at a young age, and they are brought up by the nuns. Just a few villages away, Enza’s family struggles to make ends meet. They meet when Enza’s young sister passes away. This is a story of star-crossed love, but it also provides a tantalizing glimpse into what life was like as a new immigrant in America at the turn of the century.

My Favorite Non-Fiction Book for 2014
5. Salt, Sugar, Fat – How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss

I read quite a few non-fiction books this year, but this one really sticks out in my mind because it has made the biggest impression on me to date. Salt Sugar Fat offers an in depth look at the food industry, and how companies like Nestle, Kraft, Coke, Pepsi and so many other food giants deliberately load their foods with salt, sugar, and fat to encourage people to eat more.

It’s no wonder that North America is suffering from an obesity problem. The amount of sugar, salt, and fat that we are ingesting these days has TRIPLED since the 70s. It’s clear that the processed food industry can’t exist without these things. What’s not clear is where we’re going with all of this, and what will happen to the millions of people across the world who are developing serious health issues because of this.

The bottom line is that you have a choice, and the first step in educating yourself on what your food contains is to start reading labels and paying better attention to what’s grabbing your eye on your grocery store shelves.

My Favorite Travel/Autobiography Book of 2014
6. How Not To Avoid Jet Lag & other tales of travel madness by Joshua Samuel Brown and David Lee Ingersoll

I am slightly biased about this book because I consider the author to be a good friend, but the reason WHY he’s my friend is because I have always admired his writing. How Not to Avoid Jet Lag & other tales of travel madness is a collection of 19 stories written during Joshua Samuel Brown’s 10+ years on the road as a travel guide writer.

It’s packed full of funny travel stories, quirky observations, and amusing inner monologues. In typical JSB fashion, it’s the type of book you can laugh out loud to, and it is just as absurd as I expected it to be. This isn’t your average travel novel. JSB has an insatiable lust for travel and adventure, and he always manages to find a little bit of trouble to get into. He also has a gift for making the average, mundane experience into a story that is utterly unique and completely unforgettable

My Favorite Historical Novel about the South
7. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

At 11 years of age, Sarah Grimke receives ownership of her first slave, an 11-year-old girl named Handful. The only problem is that Sarah abhors slavery. She doesn’t want to own a slave. She wants to stop slavery. Despite their skin color, Sarah and Handful discover that they aren’t so different after all. Handful is bound in a life of slavery, while Sarah is bound by gender. The two girls eventually become friends and allies, and their relationship goes on to span thirty-five years.

My Favorite Historical Novel on the Tudors
8. The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir

I am obsessed/fascinated with Tudor history. I’m also obsessed with literature about strong women in history. In an age that had no reverence or respect for women, I think it is simply fascinating that Elizabeth Tudor was able to rise to power. She is one of the longest ruling and best known English monarchs of all time.

Queen Elizabeth has always been one of my favorite women in history. I’ve read many stories about her reign as Queen, but this is the first story of her childhood that I’ve read. Weir does a tremendous job of showing Elizabeth grow from a young and precocious child of two to a young women on her way to becoming Queen of England. As a young child, we learn of Elizabeth’s respect and adoration for her father, the gruesome death of her mother, and the endless line of stepmothers.

As Elizabeth turns into a young lady, she very nearly destroys her name and reputation, she endures a complicated relationship with her sister Mary, and she faces imprisonment in the Tower of London. From all of this, we see the Virgin Queen emerge. A cunning woman who forges herself into the ruler of the Golden Age, Elizabeth presided as Queen of England for 45 years.

My Favorite Young Adult Fiction – TOSS UP!
9. The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I know it’s a bit of a cheat to name two novels, but these novels were strikingly different and just so…good!

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey combines my love of post-apocalyptic science fiction with teenage drama. When an alien race takes over Earth, only a very few survive the four alien waves that wipe out most of the world’s population. The dawn of the 5th wave has arrived, and we find young Cassie on the run. The aliens are now impersonating humans and the only way for her to stay alive is to stay on her own. Then she meets Evan Walker, and he might be her only hope for rescuing her little brother.

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars was a winner in the 2012 GoodReads choice awards. There is a reason why John Green is known as one of the biggest pop culture icons of this decade. He writes so eloquently about the hopes, fears, and dreams of his teenage characters, it’s almost impossible to believe that he isn’t a teenager himself. If you’re looking to experience a range of emotions in your literature, look no further than The Fault in Our Stars.

My Favorite Horror Novel
10. Wizard and Glass The Dark Tower #4 by Stephen King

I started Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series over a decade ago, but it took so long for him to come out with each book, I decided to put the series down until it was complete. This year I rekindled my romance with one of my favorite authors of all time! I thought Book 3 was the best book in this series – up until I read Wizard and Glass, that is.

There are so many great things about this book, I don’t even know where to start! For one, there is a heavy nod to The Stand, which is one of my favorite books of all time.

In Wizard and Glass, we meet 14-year-old Roland and we learn about how he becomes a gunslinger. We also find out what sets him on his quest to find the Dark Tower. Young Roland and his friends, Alain and Cuthbert, have been sent to the town of Hambry in the Meijis, where his father Steven believes Roland will be safe from Marten Broadcloak.

Instead, Roland finds his one and only true love, Susan Delgado, and he also crosses paths with the Big Coffin Hunters and a nasty old witch named Rhea the Coos. Roland and his friends soon discover that the town isn’t what it seems, and they uncover a secret that threatens the whole Affiliation. At the center of it all is a pink glass ball, which is known as Maerlyn’s Grapefruit – a wizard glass – and it is one of the most evil things in existence.

So there you have it. These were my top reads for 2014, but I assure you, I have many other great books on my list so stay tuned.

Finding Homemade Canadian Cooking in Taipei

November 20, 2014 by  


Being a Canadian who has lived in Taiwan since 2006, I can say with confidence that there has been a distinct lack of good Canadian fare available in Taipei. In other words, it’s tough to find restaurants in Taipei that offer ‘True North’ dishes like poutine, smoked meat sandwiches, and breakfast skillets. Thankfully, Whalen’s has had us covered since the summer of 2012.

Salad with Raspberry Vinegarette Dressing

John and I have eaten at Whalen’s in Taipei’s Daan District on numerous occasions, although we’ve yet to visit for brunch or just drinks. I’ve never had a meal at Whalen’s that I haven’t enjoyed. In fact, we like the food at Whalen’s so much, it has been listed on my list of favorite restaurants in Taipei since January 2014. It’s going to stay there for 2015, too.

They make a lot of things from scratch, so items like their homemade salad dressings and hand-cut fries really stand out. Have I mentioned value for your money? Yes, they’ve got that covered too. The portions are so big, I always find it hard to clear my plate completely. You definitely get your money’s worth when you eat at Whalen’s.

Last week I was invited to come by Whalen’s to try some of their new menu additions. John and I were pretty excited as we knew we were in for a great meal. The only complaint we had going in – and this isn’t really a complaint - is that the menu is massive, just like their meals. It’s hard to make a decision because it all looks great! Plus Whalen’s always delivers a consistent meal, so we know that our tried and true menu favorites are going to be just as good as the last time we visited.

The invite was the perfect opportunity to try something new…with the exception of Whalen’s gourmet poutines. The Canadian in me really, really loves Whalen’s poutines. All they’re missing are the cheese curds! Believe me, when you see the poutines, you’re not going to be thinking about cheese curds, though. You’re going to be wondering how you can possibly eat everything that’s on your plate instead!

Anyways, back to my complaint about Whalen’s massive menu.

We went in with a strategy, which didn’t turn out to be a very unique strategy since the people eating next to us adopted the same technique. (Or maybe they saw us do it?) John and I decided to order two meals to share. (This is one of the main benefits of being married, in my opinion!)

Main dishes on the menu include a choice of two side dishes and a drink. For sides, you can choose a salad, yogurt and granola, fruit, or hand cut fries. You can even upgrade your fries to a classic poutine for an additional NT$40. We started with side salads, and I was so glad I went with the raspberry vinaigrette dressing. It was a nice tart dressing that worked really well with my salad. I’d buy this in a bottle if I could! Unfortunately, they only make it in house. I hope they remember who to contact if they ever decide to bottle that recipe. Yum!

Of course, we both went with poutine for a second side dish. You didn’t think I’d skip that, did you?

Whalen's Lucy Juicey and Pulled Pork Poutine

As for main dishes, John went with the Juicy Lucy burger, which is something we’ve both been wanting to try for some time now. The burger was perfectly cooked with just the right amount of meat and cheese. The bun wasn’t a hot congealed soggy mess of grease either. (Nothing turns me off a burger faster than a soggy, greasy bun.) This bun was fresh and lightly toasted, so we gave extra points for that! We are both huge burger fans, and I’d put Whalen’s Juicy Lucy burger right up there with some of our other favorite burger restaurants in Taipei.

I ordered the Kebabwich, which is fairly new to the menu. I’ve been waiting to try it out, and I wasn’t disappointed. This Middle Eastern sandwich is loaded with fragrantly spiced meat and cheese. It had a really nice flavor, and it’s not as heavy as some of the other sandwiches on the menu.

Just like every other time we’ve been, we had enough food on our plates to keep us full for hours.Whalen's Kebabwich and Poutine

The desserts on the menu look incredible and I seriously thought about ordering something, but I was stuffed after my meal. They offer a nice assortment of cheesecakes, tarts, and waffles. I’d say that if the dessert portion and quality of the dessert is the same as other dishes at Whalen’s, you can expect more than enough to satisfy that sweet tooth.

In the past, we’ve ordered a number of classic items off the menu. The Roughneck Poutine comes loaded with fries, cheese, gravy, chili and sour cream, which makes it an instant favorite for me.

Whalen's Hot Turkey SandwichI also LOVE their homemade open faced Hot Turkey Sandwich. It’s one of my absolute favorite menu items. I’ve never found it anywhere else in Asia that’s worth mentioning. (It’s the best comfort food sandwich in Taipei, in my opinion!). John also really enjoys Whalen’s Philly Sandwich, which comes stacked with grilled beef, onions, and cheese on a giant hoagie bun.

The Whalen’s Food Challenge: Usually my husband likes a good food challenge, but even he did a double take when he saw Whalen’s Killer Whale challenge – 5.5 POUNDS of poutine-y goodness WITH chicken fingers, bacon, and mac and cheese. (I went into a food coma just writing that out.) If you can finish it, your photo goes on the Whalen Hall of Fame. With that said, if you do decide to take the challenge, Clint advises that you make sure you’re prepared. “Plan ahead, and don’t try it on a whim,” he warned.

Other than that, it’s enough to feed a party of four easily.

The customers seated next to us that I mentioned a few paragraphs back also shared their meals, and they happened to order two menu items that we’ve both been curious about. The quiche and Eggs Benny looked seriously good. It looks like we’ll have to go back to Whalen’s some time soon.

Whether you’re looking for Western style comfort food, a home cooked meal, easy family style dining, or a great North American style brunch in Taipei, you can trust that Whalen’s will have exactly what you’re looking for. The name is practically synonymous with homestyle North American cooking of the very best kind in Taipei.


Whalen’s Restaurant

  • Address: 145, Anhe Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (At the corner of Anhe Road and Leli Road)
  • Closest MRT Station: Xinyi Anhe Station on the Red Line
  • Telephone: (02) 2739-3037
  • Hours of Operation: 10am to 9pm
  • Details: Credit cards not accepted, 10% service charge

Images of Whalen’s poutine and hot turkey sandwich were provided by Whalen’s.

Celebrate Pride in Taipei at Largest LGBT Pride Parade in Asia

October 23, 2014 by  



Asia’s largest and most colorful Gay Pride Parade is held on the last Saturday in October in Taipei each year. This year, Taipei’s annual Pride Parade is happening on October 25, 2014.

The parade attracts tens of thousands of local supporters and visitors from abroad each year. Over 65,000 people participated in the 2012 Pride Parade. Last year Taipei’s Pride Parade attracted more than 67,000 supporters. Parade organizers are expecting even more visitors to show their support for the LGBT community this year!

Taiwan is one of the most progressive countries in Asia, and it has long been known for being gay-friendly. Equal rights is a huge issue in Taiwan, and Taipei’s Pride Parade serves as a colorful reminder that showing respect for sexual diversity and equal rights is important to everyone.

The parade starts at the Presidential Building at Ketagalan Boulevard, and typically follows the same route each year. The whole event takes around two hours, so wear comfortable shoes and bring water with you.

You can expect plenty of entertainment with elaborate floats, bubble machines, marching groups, drag queens, giant rainbow colored flags and banners, and music.

This year, please show your support for Taiwan’s LGBT community and say no to discrimination and bullying. For more information, please visit the LGBT Pride Taiwan website and  Taiwan LGBT Pride on Facebook.

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