It’s Bike Month Challenge again soon, and while I’ll be missing the first couple of days of biking in May, I’m excited about my summer commute, even though it’s gotten quite a bit longer with our office moving into Seattle’s Pioneer Square District.
My new commute is a bit over 12km (7.6 miles) and shows the gritty side of Seattle, even though it starts in middle-class Ballard. From there, I am crossing Lake Washington Ship Canal via busy Ballard Bridge and pass by the industrial Balmer Rail Yard. I am then entering may favorite part, Elliot Bay Trail, which takes me along Seattle’s waterfront and past Olympic Sculpture Park into the gigantic construction site, that is the Pioneer Square District.
Check out the above hyperlapse and compare this to my commute through Taipei’s northernmost district Beitou 12 years ago…
After my very successful guides for first-time travelers to Frankfurt and Taipei, it is about time to write one up for my new home in the “Northbest”: I am enjoying this city, its beautiful hinterland and the Washington coastline tremendously and have rather frequently been showing friends and family around – so I thought I’d share some of my Seattle favorites here:
Seattle Center and Sculpture Park
An absolute must for the first-time visitor to Seattle is obviously the Space Needle at “Seattle Center” – the site of the 1962 World’s Fair. If you happen to be in downtown, take the Monorail to go there and if you’re at the Center, there’s lots to do besides climbing the Space Needle. On rainy days, you can visit the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum, or the Pacific Science Center, or catch a show at Seattle Children’s Theatre or Pacific Northwest Ballet or the 3D IMAX Theater. If you have time and the weather is nice, take a walk to the Olympic Sculpture Park by the waterfront.
Downtown, Waterfront, Kerry Park
Pike Place Market is probably the second most popular tourist destination in Seattle, followed closely by the Seattle Underground Tour that gives hilarious peeks into the Northwest’s adventurous and hysterical pioneer days. If you’re in downtown, make sure to visit the Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Public Library and take the time to visit little Kerry Park in Seattle’s Queen Anne district. It is located above “Seattle Center” and offers spectacular views on the Needle, downtown, Mt. Rainier and Puget Sound – this scenery is exceptionally beautiful in the afternoon light of of a sunny day.
If you’re up there already, make sure to walk to the equally small Marshall Park a few blocks west of Kerry Park to catch some stunning views of Puget Sound, Bainbridge Island and the Olympic Pensinsula. Don’t miss the tiny, but romantic Parsons Garden on your way.
More City Parks
Volunteer Park is located on Capitol Hill and offers great views to Downtown and Puget Sound, especially from the water tower that is located at its south corner – in the adjacent Lake View Cemetery, you can find Bruce Lee‘s gravesite. To get a different view onto downtown, check out Gas Works Park.
If you want to “get out of town without actually getting out of town“, Discovery Park’s 534 acres of nature invite to more extensive walks or hikes along the shores of Puget Sound, all within the city limits of Seattle. On your way back into town, you can stop by Ballard Locks and check out the salmon ladder there – both Discovery Park and the locks are best visited on sunny afternoons.
Do you happen to be in Seattle in the spring? Go and see the cherry blossoms in bloom at the intersection of King Lane & Pierce Lane on the University of Washington campus.
Here in the summer? Go kayaking on Lake Union and through the Arboretum and reward yourself with some hearty Mexican food at Agua Verde or take a dip in Lake Washington at Madison Park Beach.
Seattle offers a pretty decent selection of museums: Seattle Art Museum, Frye Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Museum of Flight, or Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. Entrance to all of these museums is free in the evening of the first Thursday of every month.
Not really a museum, but very interesting nonetheless is the Boeing Factory tour about 45 minutes north of Seattle in Everett.
Here’s a Google Map with all of the above sights…
Wining and Dining
Seattle offers a vast variety of restaurants. Among my favorite Northwest/seafood places to eat are Ivar’s Salmon House and Ray’s Boathouse – they offer great views of Lake Union and Puget Sound, respectively. Other seafood alternatives are Coastal Kitchen, with a regularly changing coastal region inspiring their cuisine, or The Walrus and The Carpenter, if you happen to be into oysters.
To get your Asian food fix, visit Shiro’s for the most authentic Sushi in town or Nishino that rivals Shiro’s in quality, but feels a bit more “westernized”. And since we’re talking about Asian food already, if you love Taiwanese cuisine like I do, you’ll want to go to Din Tai Fung, Facing East or Henry’s Taiwan Kitchen.
While I am not a vegetarian, I love Café Flora’s food and cannot but recommend Harvest Vine‘s spanish tapas for both brunch and dinner.
Coffee shops, you ask…? There are too many to mention… the ones that I like most are Java Bean, Volunteer Park Café, Wheelhouse Coffee, Bauhaus, and Espresso Vivace.
Being the biggest “shopping grump” that I know, I am probably not the best person to ask for advice here, but let me try:
While Downtown, Northgate and University Village host the usual chains, Fremont and Ballard offer quite a few smaller boutiques that carry locally made products… and if you happen to be there, why not plan to visit on a Sunday to join the fun Fremont and Ballard farmer’s markets or dine in one of the many restaurants there.
If you are into binge-shopping, you could drive 40 minutes north for a shopping spree in the gigantic Seattle Premium Outlets…?
Hiking and Skiing
As I have said in my intro, the great outdoors in the “Northbest” are truly amazing! If you visit in the winter, go skiing, tubing or snowshoeing on Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass, or on Crystal Mountain.
And if you happen to be here in the summer, why not go on one of the over 3,000 hikes that the Washington Trails Association‘s has listed? Ask me for some tips…
This is my third trip to India, with the first one being the archetypical tourist-trip from Delhi, via Agra through the state of Rajasthan and its famous cities. I also visited the country a few months ago this spring – also to visit Evelyn.
This time around, I spent a few days in Kolkata during Durga Puja, before staying two weeks in Deoghar to experience life in Northeastern India. Originally, I planned to conduct a design project there, but found that the time was just too short to do something truly meaningful, so that I ended up “designing my time in Deoghar” and spending it on some personal projects and helping out with smaller aspects of NEEDS’ work and in their education program.
Evelyn and I finished off the trip with a little holiday in the opposite corner of the most colorful country of the world and traveled through the Southwestern state of Kerala, where we visited the coastal towns of Varkala, Kollam, Alleppey, and Cochin and the Periyar Wildlife Reservoir upcountry.
Originally I was supposed to go to Taiwan for business in December, but I had to postpone my trip subsequently until I finally didn’t have time anymore to embark on a flight to the South China Sea. In recent months, I was reminded of my years in Taiwan time and time again, as a few friends asked me for tourist tips when traveling to Formosa.
Taipei 101’s Shadow
Not being able to visit my “second home” this time, I went on a little “virtual tour” through my own personal tourist guide for the visitor of Taipei and compiled a pretty comprehensive list that I want to post here, grouped by different sorts of activities.
The Taiwan Tourism Bureau gives a good amount of general information, while the website is exactly what the name suggests. One shouldn’t visit Taipei without knowing about the MRT system – a fast, cheap and bilingual (!!!) means of transportation to explore the city.
Wining and Dining
Taipei is an absolute paradise when it comes to food and also offers lots of bars. As the locations are ever changing, I will here just refer to Taiwanfun, which is a pretty good source for all sorts of restaurants, pubs and clubs.
Gong Bao Chicken
My absolute favorite restaurant is Kiki – veeeery spicy Sichuan style food at a few different locations. Order some – or all – of these dishes:
- 宮保雞丁 (“gongbao chicken” – spicy)
- 麻婆豆腐 (“mapo tofu” – spicy)
- 蒼蠅頭 (“fly heads” – no insects are harmed in the preparation of this dish… it’s just minced meat… veeeery spicy! Order enough rice!)
- 老皮嫩肉 （”old skin, tender meat” – contrary to what the name suggests, a very mild vegetarian dish, made from tofu)
Even more popular, but serving food a lot more mild is the Din Tai Fung restaurant. Go to their original store on XinYi road and enjoy the best dumplings in the world!
Above the rooftops of DanShui, you’ll find the “Red Castle restaurant“… this restaurant is not inside the castle itself, but five minutes down the road and then up the hill… nice view, good coffee, good food.
For a real Taiwanese experience check out one of the night markets – most favorably ShiLin Night Market, close to the MRT’s red line JianTan station! As a guideline, order at least three kinds of food of which you have no clue what they actually are.
The National Palace Museum holds treasures of over 3,000 years of Chinese culture… great for a rainy day. The Taipei Fine Arts Museum always features a good mixture of Eastern and Western exhibitions. While ticket prices are low anyway, entrance is free on Saturday evenings between 5:30 and 8:30… a great way to start your evening!
Taipei Fine Arts Museum
I really like the building that Moca Taipei is located in – a former Japanese school, about 10 minutes walk away from Zhong Shan MRT station (red line). Exhibitions are often more on the local side, but I have never been disappointed. As the museum is rather small, it’s suited if you just have 1-2 hours to spend.
The Juming Museum is about an hour north of Taipei and great in the autumn, when it’s not too hot, as the most interesting sculptures are located outside.
On the opposite side of Dan Shui at the mouth of the Dan Shui River one finds the Shisanhang Museum of Archeology… it’s interesting, but a little far out and resembles more an entertainment park on the weekends with thousands of kids visiting and a night-market like atmosphere around the building.
Taipei Eye is a show that is sponsored by he CEO of Taiwan’s National Cement and Construction Company, whose passion is to promote Chinese performing arts. Chinese opera, Taiwanese aboriginal performances and puppet shows are performed and explained with English and Japanese sub(side)titles. While the ambiente is a bit cheesy and far from “authentic Chinese” Taipei Eye offers a great introduction to performing arts in the Far East. It’s a 10 minute walk north east from Shuang Lian MRT station (red line) at the corner of Zhong Shan North Road and Jinzhou Street.
National Taiwan Concert Hall has program that probably cannot compare with European cities, but offers a great mix of local Taiwanese, Asian and international performances… check out their program – I never regretted a visit!
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre is an internationally acclaimed dance group that blends Eastern and Western culture in a truly beautiful way… I’ve seen about half a dozen of their performances over the past years and never left without being deeply impressed.
U-Theatre has amazing performances that combine martial arts, dance, traditional Chinese music and confucianism into one amazing new experience… performances are rare, though.
Visit Red House for a taste of Japanese colonial architecture and some smaller shows.
If you’re up for your major Hollywood entertainment, you can go to Vieshow (formerly Warner Village) in the Xin Yi district, Living Mall Theatres (in a mall that is shaped like a giant sphere) or Miramar Cinemas in Tian Mu / Da Zhi. Unfortunately it seems that Taipei is getting less accessible to foreigners, as some of the theaters don’t have an English website anymore.
I like the Spot movie theater (Taipei Film House) close to Zhong Shan MRT station. It is located in the former US Embassy on Zhong Shan North Road, has a nice coffee shop and a good selection of foreign non-Hollywood movies. Make sure to check with the staff whether non-English movies come with English subtitles. If you happen to be in town during the Golden Horse Film Festival, make sure to catch some arthouse films, and if not,
The Wall is one of my favorite places in Taipei for Live Music. Riverside has a rather small stage, with mostly lesser known bands, but the quality of performances is usually very good. Even smaller is the German-owned Witchhouse that also offers an okay dinner before or during the performances.
The Yang Ming Shan National Park is just a 20-minute bus ride away from Taipei City. Take bus “Red 5”, that leaves Jian Tan MRT station every 20 minutes or so for the Park Entrance. You can ask in any hotel for maps or download relatively good bilingual ones here.
Yang Ming Shan National Park
There are really easy trails like Qing Tian Gang… essentially just a few meadows that offer a nice view on Taipei City or more difficult ones for example to Mt Qi Xing, where you’ll have to climb more than 500m… I loved it up there in Yang Ming Shan, no matter if biking or hiking.
I always found it difficult to bring something “truly Taiwanese” back home… below are four places where you might find what you’re looking for.
The Jade Market (and Flower Market) are whimsically located underneath an overpass at the intersection of RenAi Road and JianGuo Road (sometimes romanized as ChienKuo or similar).
What they are offering might be a bit on the cheesy side – check out this website for an overview.
At the Wu Fen Pu Garment District you can buy all sorts of crazy clothes for veeeery little money. Here is a good English introduction (that also talks about Shi Lin Night Market), this is an “how to get there” guide and also a brief intro to Xi Men Ding Shopping Area (西門町商圈) below. Some pictures of Wu Fen Pu here.
The Xi Men Ding Shopping Area is where the kids hang out. It reminds very much of Tokyo’s Harajuku district and has lots of “KTV’s” (karaoke clubs), eateries, fashion, music and toy stores. It’s best to get there by taking the MRT – Xi Men Station is right after Taipei Main Station.
Xi Men Ding Shopping Area
Shi Lin Night Market is the biggest and best-known night market in Taipei – see some photos here. If you decide to go there, look out for “$10 Stores” (10元)… they’ve always got crazy shit in there… take the MRT to Dan Shui, exit at Jian Tan Station and follow the signs or ask the kids…
Shi Lin Night Market
Well… this list could obviously be a lot longer and maybe one day I’ll get around to extending it!
Well… I did quite a bit of travelling these past few days. While on Saturday night I was still in Taipei and after having a quick stopover in Seoul on Sunday morning, I touched ground in Seattle yesterday afternoon, just to take off again today for a one-day business trip to Portland.
While I have taken that tour quite a bit in past months, it was – until now – by car or standard scheduled flights.
Prior to today’s trip we discovered a new airline in town, though: SeaPort Airlines, that offers direct flights between Boeing Field and Portland’s PDX airport, with the former being a lot closer to downtown Seattle than SeaTac International airport in Tacoma and – in combination with the omission of security screenings – decreasing the overall commute from 4 to 3 hours.
In addition to the shorter travel, a ride in SeaPort Air’s 10-seater Pilatus PC-12 Turboprop also makes for an unusual and really cool flying experience!
With all this travelling though, it is needless to say that I was pretty jetlagged at the end of the day – from my trip to Asia that is, not from the one to Oregon – and I fell asleep at around 9pm. Fortunately, there’ll be a few weeks time until I’ll be embarking on my next intercontinental flight…
I think I can consider myself lucky that I could combine my trip to speak at Bayreuth Design Engineer Day with some personal activities… through a happy coincidence, I was able to attend two weddings: Sandie’s and Daniele’s at Lago di Como and Regina’s and Kay’s in my hometown Darmstadt.
And there was even time for more: showing Evelyn around in Frankfurt a bit, she thought I was a pretty good tour guide in the city. Since I’ll have some colleagues visit Frankfurt soon, I wanted to write down a few things to see and do in Frankfurt. So here goes…
Things to see
Frankfurt is the city of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany’s most famous writer and poet. Visit his birthplace, the Goethe-Haus and walk around the area a bit. In its vicinity you’ll find three other important buildings: „Der Römer” (Frankfurt’s City Hall), Paulskirche (St. Paul’s Church, where the German Weimar Republic was founded) and the “Frankfurter St. Bartholomäus Dom” (Frankfurt St. Bartholomew Cathedral). Frankfurt’s city center is very walkable and this map gives many more hints at what to do and where to go…
Museumsufer (literally “Museum Riverbank”) has 8 museums located at the Main River. Some of the more interesting ones are: Museum für Moderne Kunst (Museum for Modern Art), Deutsches Architektur-Museum (German Architecture Museum), Deutsches Film-Museum (German Movie Museum) and Schirn Kunsthalle (Schirn Art Gallery – has a great bookstore inside).
Frankfurt isn’t all that great for shopping, but “Die Zeil” offers a lively (and often crowded) city center pedestrian area.
Wining and Dining
An absolute must for the visitor of Frankfurt is a trip to the old “Sachsenhausen” city center. Go there on Thursday, Friday or Saturday and try the local “Ebbelwoi” (that’s Hassian dialect for “Apfelwein” – apple cider). The real thing in terms of “Ebbelwoi” is the restaurant called “Zum Gemalten Haus” (The painted house).
You can eat very good (and not too expensive) traditional food from the area. Order “Rippchen mit Kraut und Kartoffelpüree” (pork-ribs with sauerkraut and meshed potatoes) if you’re hungry or Frankfurter Würstchen mit Kraut und Brot (Frankfurter sausages with sauerkraut and bread). Drink either Apfelwein (Applewine, cider), süßgespritzter Apfelwein (cider mixed with lemonade) or sauergespritzter Apfelwein (cider mixed with sparkling mineral water).
For some fine dining, very good wine, and nice ambiance in Sachsenhausen, visit Lobster“.
If you are in Frankfurt’s pedestrian area “Die Zeil”, I suggest you eat at the “Fressgass” (literally “Grazing Alley”) nearby. I recommend Apfelwein Klaus in the Kaiserhofkeller (Cesar’s cellar). Order any “Schnitzel” (pork steak) you like or “Schweinshaxe” (pork chops). All salads are very good and rich.
If you happen to be in Frankfurt’s Eastern part, have a quick lunch outside at Gref-Völsings butcher shop. Order Rindswurst & Kartoffelsalat (beef sausage & potato-salad… yummy!!!
Looking for a good “cup of joe”? You’ll find nice cafes, bars and restaurants on Berger Straße (from the city center to Frankfurt Bornheim).
Go to “Stereo Bar” (not before 11:00pm) – around the corner between Lobster and the Ebbelwoi bars. Very nice place, very good music, and relaxed people… for a more mainstream night, visit DJ Sven Väth’s club U60311 in an old underground station. Not the hippest of places, but cool architecture and good parties.
Well… and that’s about it for now… having been away from home for six years now, some of the places that I used to visit are no longer in existence and my knowledge of the town seems to get thinner by the day.
But let me know if you’re visiting and I’ll see if I can find out for you “what’s hot” in Frankfurt these days…
After four years on the little island in the South China Sea, I have been taking the past two months off – unpaid, I might add – in order to improve my Mandarin Chinese a bit and also to explore China.
I traveled from Shanghai to Hangzhou and Suzhou, then spent two weeks in and around Beijing and had a brief stopover in Macao before returning to Taipei and resuming my work at Asus.
The trip has been absolutely terrific and I had organized Chinese lessons for myself in every city, so that I continuously met fellow students and travelers and had the greatest time!
Well, this is not a really design-related entry per se, but for the past few months I have been enjoying my bicycle commute quite a bit and thought I’d share some impressions of it here. Check out the above time-lapse video that I composed from a few dozen of shots, taken with my tiny Canon Ixus, that I had duct-taped to my bike’s handle-bar.
My commute’s a mere 5km from my home on Min Zu Road in Zhu Wei（竹圍，民族路）to the office on Li Te Road in Bei Tou（北投，立德路）but I am taking a small back road that takes me up on a hill and through Taipei’s Fine Arts University（台北藝術大學）which offers great views over the Taipei Basin…
Considering that it’s close to 30ºC at 7:30am these days, a shower is definitely necessary after arriving in the office, but the ride is a great way to start the day and helps to focus on the big picture!