love paola

#TAIPEImous: 3 Days of Rainy Taipei

8:07 PM

Two weeks ago, my friends and I boarded a flight to the #1 Asian destination of 2017. Don't take my word for it, but almost everyone has a Taiwan trip this year so we were all pretty excited. At the same time, we've been warned. Friends have told us that there won't be much to do and claimed that the highlight would be all the food. So we prepared a chill itinerary and readied ourselves for a weekend of eating. 

Days before flying out, a really strong storm hit Hong Kong. Thanks to all our luck combined, Taiwan was affected and what greeted us were dark clouds and strong, non-stop rains the ENTIRE time. 
We didn't let the sucky weather dampen our spirits though! Armed with our not-so-transparent umbrellas, we braved rainy Taipei. First up on the itinerary was breakfast at the very first and original Din Tai Fung restaurant in Yong Kang Street. We arrived an hour before opening and walked around Yong Kang Street first, which is known for all its authentic chinese food. We stumbled upon this corner store selling the famous spring onion pancakes with plenty of people lined up. 

Verdict: It was just okay. Best to just share with someone since it's pretty filling.
Although the pancakes were a bit heavy, we came back to Din Tai Fung and were ready for the main course. The line was manageable, we only waited for about 15 minutes. I was super curious on how our local Din Tai Fung Xiao Long Bao would fare to the original one and here's my verdict:

This was so good! It was a completely satisfying meal on its own. The wrapper and dipping sauce is what made theirs different, though ours comes close already. 
After Din Tai Fung, we went to Smoothie House, a popular place for shaved ice dessert. We figured it was popular judging from the number of people line up at 10am in the morning on a rainy day but we did not expect it be THAT popular. Seriously, they have ads all over Taipei and is a apparently a world-renowed dessert place!

Verdict: We got their best-seller Mango flavoured shaved ice and it was just okay as well. 

We originally planned to go to Jiufen, a province outside of Taipei but we figured it would not be wise due to the weather so we decided to just explore the city first. 
A month before this trip, I stopped drinking milk tea just so my palette is cleansed and ready for the legit ones. Lol. We passed by this cute place called Rabbit Rabbit Tea. My best friend and I looked at each other and didn't need words to communicate that we were both going to try.

Verdict: I had one of their best-sellers, Thai Milk Tea. After a couple of sips, we again didn't need words to know that we were both happy with what we were drinking. Never mind that the rain was still pouring! We're finally drinking milk tea in Taiwan!
After spending a couple of hours in mall full of affordable gadgets, we tried our luck and went outdoors. 
We struggled a bit but we eventually found Huashan 1914 Creative Park. It was a small park full of themed exhibits - from wooden miniatures to Lego collections to exhibits of local artists. 
We were running out of things to do (crazy that we experienced this during our first day!) and searched for hipster places online. Our research took us to Fujin Street, a lowkey version of Singapore's Haji Lane. By the time we got there, the weather proved that it really wasn't kidding and it was in fact an actual storm. 

We stopped by this cozy, little cafe which also served unique flavoured beers and dried ourselves off. I loved the vibe of the cafe, with its white and wooden furnishing, filled with tourists and locals having coffee or beer while listening to their Oh Wonder playlist.

Verdict: We tried out their Green Tea and Orange beer. It was perfect for the weather and it was a pleasant combination of bitterness and acidity. Quite expensive though, but I'd go back for the place.
Please notice our matching tops! I bought those last minute just so we could continue our tradition of matching outfits abroad. This was the best #ootd that we could do in this weather.
The guys requested for their own version!  
After the Fujin Street, we headed to Shilin Market, Taipei's most popular night market. This was recommended by almost everyone and was mentioned in every blog I've read but how do I even begin to explain Shilin Market???

I guess its safe to say that we were both underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the same time. 
We tried a couple of their famous street food - deep friend hot dogs and grilled steaks.

Verdict: Again, just okay. I didn't get the hotdog and my friends weren't that happy with it anyway. We only ordered one serving of the steak for the four us but we still weren't able to finish it :(
The main food hall was located in the basement and it was a miracle that I got to take this shot since the placed was brimming with people. The stalls were selling very similar dishes -  mostly seafood that's either fried or in soup. We didn't buy anything and went back to the market outside.
We ended day 1 completely lost and confused as to why we did not find all the good stuff that people were raving about. 
Although it was miss with all the food so far, the real winner were the convenience store drinks. Choosing which one to buy took a minimum of five minutes and the fact the everything was in Chinese added more thrill. We've tried quite a lot and were happy with it all!
We levelled up our preparations for day two. Brought two more umbrellas so we now have one each and did extensive research on which restaurants to eat at. We discovered No-Name Congee (that's really its name), which is ranked second on Trip Advisor for the best congee list.

Verdict: It was still just okay *sobs* At this point, we were crazy desperate for the really good food everyone mentioned. 

Still more rain for day two and after breakfast, we found ourselves in Ximending, one of the most popular shopping districts in Taipei. 

We did some more eating and a little shopping. Shopping for clothes and shoes in Taiwan is close to shopping for clothes and shoes in the Philippines. We have almost all the same brands as them but they do have other popular retail outlets that are still not available in Manila like Gu, Spao and Net

More famous street food.

Verdict: Okay, now we're talking. Those steamed pork buns were a delight and just looking at these deep fried quail eggs is making me hungry. I love quail eggs so muuuuuuuch!!!
#TAIPEImous crew all smiles in the middle of Ximending despite the bad weather. Sometimes we make our umbrellas work for the photo, sometimes we put it away, run, pose very quickly and hope that the photo was good enough to risk catching a cold for. 
For lunch, we looked for the best beef noodle soup in the area. I don't remember the name of the place, not sure if it even has one but it was located in a tiny alley. You'll see it right away though because of the line outside. We were so happy to discover that people were lining up because at least it was a guarantee that the place was good!

Verdict: And it was! It was a relief that we were finally eating the right thing. The beef was tender that it almost melts in your mouth!

After Ximending, the rain was still pouring and we just hung out in different malls for the rest of day 2. 
That's our tired and happy faces glad to be back and dry in our cozy Airbnb. 
Day 3 started out with clear skies - or so we thought. We had no plans for the day, we totally gave up on following our itinerary as most required being outdoors. So when we saw that it was sunny and for the first time, we didn't need to open our umbrellas, we were ecstatic. That lasted about 30 minutes and the rain was pouring again. 

We decided to just go back to Ximending and eat McDonald's because when has McDonald's ever failed you? NEVER.

Verdict: We had the Chicken BBQ burger with pineapples and it was the BEST. MCDO. BURGER. EVER. Our fries was better though, theirs was a little too salty. 
Day 3 outfit was an all blue coordinate. 
After exploring all of Ximending, we headed to ATT 4 FUN, a famous mall in Xinyi District. Yep, another mall because really, what else is there to do when it's raining? And it is in this mall that we found Ji Guang Famous Fried Chicken, a popular chicken joint in Taiwan since 1973! 

Verdict: We had the chicken popcorn and omg guys, we've come a long way since day 1!!! Now we're finally eating the good stuff.
While enjoying the chicken popcorn, I started craving for something sweet so I went around and looked for milk tea. Then a lady approached us and handed us samples of what looked like vanilla ice cream that comes with a cute heart-shaped spoon. 

Verdict: We had our first taste and BAM!!! We were blown away. There was no way to describe it other than it was extremely good. We couldn't quite recognize the flavour, we just know that we need to have more of it. I approached the stall and ask what it was and was even more blown away when the lady told me it was beer flavoured yogurt! WHAT? It's non-alcoholic of course, and as far as I remember, it doesn't taste remotely close to any beer I had before. All I know is that it was so delicious. The lady then said that it was on a buy 1 take 1 promo and life was perfect in that moment.  
After we've moved on from that life changing froyo, we headed to another life changing experience (according to CNN at least).

We went to Taipei 101 which was right across ATT 4 FUN. The first few floors of the building were filled with high-end shops and fancy, tiled interiors.
When I purchased the tickets online before the trip, I pictured a sunset view 90 floors above ground. But I already gave that thought up and was prepared to just see fog. 
According to CNN, the high speed elevator will change your life. Not sure if it changed mine but it was amazing going 89 floors up in just about 30 seconds. The entire elevator was dark and was lit up by tiny, colorful LED designs. It was two of my favourite things - heights and lights.
When we got up, I was in awe. I love the feeling of being high up. I've always loved viewing decks that take you all the way up since they give you a different perspective on everything.
This was the best view got and these were just glimpses when the fog decided to move around. But I was feeling super grateful at that time. Despite the bad weather, I have this 360 view of an entirely new city. I knew Taipei 101 was the perfect ending to our #TAIPEImous trip.
The only shot I have of the building's exterior. The rain has stopped briefly by this time, as if allowing me to take one final photo in Taipei. 

Overall Verdict: 
The weather had a major impact on our trip. I personally wouldn't go back but maybe it's because we didn't get to see and experience much of it. We weren't able to visit the nearby provinces, which we heard are the best places to explore when in Taiwan. Food was hit and miss. Some were really good, some were really bad and most were just okay. If anything, I'd still choose Luk Yuen over anything I've eaten in Taipei. 

Except for that beer froyo.
That beer froyo is everything.
Please come to Manila.

Love, Paola

love paola

A Look Back on the Past 6 Years

12:26 AM

One random night, I decided to visit my old blog. Love, Paola was my longest running blog and it was a fun, nostalgic trip down memory lane reading through those 5 years worth of blog entries. I've decided to sort of "scrapbook" those past 5 years just so I'd be reminded of the highlights - the evolution of my personal style, important events, achievement, travels and even my random thoughts. 
This was when it all started. Armed with my Canon digital camera, my first ever laptop and a whole lot of thoughts to share, I started writing. Because of the blog, I was even more motivated to dress up nicely. Aside from keeping up with trends, I started keeping up with the digital world as well. I experimented with basic html codes and photoshop for the blog. Those thick black borders were kind of my trademark back then. This was also the year I celebrated my 18th birthday so you could say that this was the start of my journey to adulthood. 
This was a pretty colorful year in terms of my personal style. Color blocking, print on print and over accessorizing were a big trend in 2012 and boy did I succumb it. Most of these outfits I probably wouldn't wear today. Looking at it now, all of these were bound to be a fleeting phase. On most days, I was in skirts but on some days, I was in pants too, but only those printed ones. There was a big improvement on my photos since I started using my dad's SLR. This was also the year I started writing about our travels and probably the year I really appreciated travelling. 

In 2013, I was no longer just writing about my outfits but also about the other aspects of my life. My entries started to dwindle mid of this year because I started internships and thesis. My first internship with Aranaz is such a good memory because I was basically living the Carrie Bradshaw life. It was pretty hectic year in the university as well since it was my last so I mostly resorted to Instagram for my #ootds and did dump posts and quick updates on the blog once in a while.
2014 is one of my favorite years to date. In February, I graduated. In March, we went to the US and was reunited with my cousins whom I didn't see for 10 years. In July, I entered the corporate world. It was a pretty eventful year in terms of personal growth. This was also the year I started transitioning with my personal style. I slowly let go of the loud, colorful pieces in my wardrobe and started to consider classic, comfortable but still stylish pieces.
This was a confused year. I felt like I went through my quarter life crisis which was evident in my short, cryptic posts once in a while. I started questioning if I like my job. At some point, I wanted to study and get my master degree, then I gave up on that and decided that I want to study in a fashion school in Singapore instead. Then somewhere along the way I realized I didn't want it all that much and decided to start going on interviews with other companies but did not really find what I was looking for. With only just 9 posts for the entire year, I was also convinced that blogging was not my thing anymore.

I am quite disappointed that I did not write at all in 2016. It was a balanced year, I remember being happy and being sad. I remember doing things for the first time, achieving things then failing at some. But it will be a challenge to remember all the details and all the experiences. The human mind can only take so much after all so this made me realize the importance of my blog. It has inspired me more to write, to take photos, to document, to discover, to go places and to simply be grateful. Ultimately, it's a pretty, good life!

Love, Paola


#IAmUrbanBrave To Be Active Again!

1:36 AM

Last December, during outlet visits in the US, I mostly shopped for activewear with the mentality that 2017 will be my fitness year. And although this is something I declare every year, my level of commitment was on an all-time high. All the cute printed leggings and racerback tops with motivational statements that come in bright, neon colors motivated me even more as I started imagining my #gymootd and #wotd. 

Now, come April, I still haven't worn half of what I bought. *sad music* But lately, I find myself craving more and more for any kind of physical activity. Maybe it's because of the McDo fries and Coke float combo I have ever so often nowadays or it could be my constant back pains or the fact that summer is here once again and it's time to bring out the swimwear. Whatever it is, my motivation is back and I'm ready to be active again!
Working out is no easy feat, at least for me. That's why aside from cute gym outfits, I need a few other stuff here and there to help me reach my fitness goals. Good thing there's Urbanize, a one-stop shop for all our urban adventure needs. 

From travel to fitness to fashion or even to daily adventures, Urbanize has something to offer. Out of all the products and knick knacks that they have, I narrowed down my Top 5 favorites:

To know know more about Urbanize and the brands they carry, you can check out their Facebook Page or their website.

Love, Paola