Friday 31 October 2014

9D8N Taiwan Free & Easy Trip - Day 1 (Taipei)

I have just returned from a 9 Days 8 Nights Taiwan trip and I will briefly summarise the itinerary in my blog. The free and easy trip (for 4 adults) was planned and organised by my wife. She had done extensive research on the places of interest as well as the accommodations. I will also highlight some dos and don'ts in this blog so that viewers can take note in your research for your next trip to Taiwan.

We had planned the trip to start on 22 Oct (a public holiday in Singapore) and end on 30 Oct. The weather in Taiwan in this period was fair and temperatures were around 17 to 30 degrees C depending on the time and location in Taiwan.

We took Scoot from Singapore at 12.45pm and arrived in Taipei at around 5.30pm. At the tourist information service at the arrival gate, you can apply the free wifi (iTaiwan) using your passport. The passcode will be your passport number in capital letters/numbers. However, we were a bit disappointed as the iTaiwan wifi was not readily available in most cities.

We bought some drinks and snacks from the convenient store and went to buy the bus tickets (NT$90 each) to Taipei Railway Station. We had booked train tickets to Hualien online two days ago and needed to collect the tickets by 22 Oct at the Taipei Railway Station. Note that the tickets are limited and during peak period or holidays, it may be sold out.

We hopped onto the CitiAir Bus #1961 to Taipei Main Station at 6.20pm. The journey was about 1hr 20mins. We arrived at the Taipei Railway Station (Main Station) to collect the tickets.

4x train tickets to Hualien

From the Taipei Main Station, we bought the EasyCard to use on the MRT. From Taipei Main Station, we took the Bannan Line (Taipei Metro Blue Line) to reach Ximen station (only 1 stop away).

At the Ximen station, we walked for about 5 mins to reach our hotel, Wonstar Zhonghua. This hotel is reasonably priced and cleaned. I have stayed a couple of times when I was in Ximending.

After we had checked in to the hotel, we went to the Ximenting shopping area for dinner and desserts (at Cheng Dou Yang Tao Bing).

Dessert @ Cheng Dou Yang Tao Bing
Continue my trip at Day 2.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Tillandsia ionantha - Flowers failed to bloom properly

Two days ago, purple flowers started to emerge from one of the air plant cluster. I was surprised because the leaves did not turn to red colour. I thought maybe something had triggered that plant to bloom so I was very excited.

Tillandsia Ionantha flowers (the leaves are green!!!)

Yesterday, I noticed that the first flower did not bloom normally, it had collapsed. Today, the second flower has collapsed also. Normally, the stigma and anther will push through the purple flower tip and come out in yellow and white fashion. However, this time, the stigma and anther did not manage to push through and it seemed to have burst. A very sad sight!

No blooming - Two flowers collapsed!

I thought it maybe that the plant is not getting enough sunlight, so today, I place it very near to the window to catch some lights. The third flower is yet to bloom. I will update the status again when it blooms. Keeping my fingers crossed!

Thursday 16 October 2014

Growing Avocado from Seed in Singapore

A couple of months back, I picked up some avocados in the supermarket. The avocados were green in colour and I cut open one of them. The fresh was pretty hard and the colour was not what I had seen on the internet or those advertisements that showed the avocado when it was cut in halves.

I was disappointed. Then I thought, it must be something that I had done wrong because the supermarket couldn't be selling bad avocados. I took out my iPad Air and google for information on avocado. Bingo! The avocado is not ripened yet. Avocado will not ripen on the tree. It will start to ripen when they have been cut and remove from the tree. One way to ripen it will be to put them into paper bag for a couple of days and they should ripen. Some suggested to place a ripe fruit (such as an apple or banana) together with the avocados. This will help to speed up the ripening process if you need to eat them in a couple of days.

Have you ever wondered whether you can grow an avocado tree in Singapore? I have seen avocado trees in Australia and New Zealand but I have never seen one in Singapore. It is due to the climate or there is something that has been modified that the seeds from those avocados we bought in the supermarket will not germinate. Some said that even if it germinates and grows into a tree, it may not bear fruits. Avocado tree will probably take 5 to 7 years to grow into a big tree and then maybe bear fruits. I was wondering whether we need two trees to have flowers for cross pollination or maybe one tree will have both the male and female flowers. Well, that will need to dig into the details from the internet. Also, the tree will be probably 6ft tall and will need to plant outdoors. However, as land is scarce in Singapore, most people will need to keep the plant indoors or along the corridors. So, how to grow the tree indoors? In the next few posts, I will update you on this… So in the meantime, feel free to comment on this...

How to prepare the seed for growing in water

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Tillandsia ionantha - air plant

I had lunch with ex-colleagues in Sembawang Shopping Centre (SSC) and every time I'm here, I would look at the progress of Nautical. The progress is still slow and I think it will not be ready by April next year.

After the lunch, I went to the nearby nursery, Hua Hng (aka World Farm). It is just about maybe 3 minutes drive from SSC along Sembawang Road. I was looking for apothecary jars for my terrarium. This plant nursery has quite a number of different types of apothecary jars. I have bought 3 jars from them since last year. One medium and two small size jars. The medium jar will cost you at least S$35 and the small one is about S$18. However, the quality of the jars may differ in a batch and it is advisable to change every single set to look for defects. There might be bubbles, chipping or scratches on the glass.

Apothecary Jar @ S$18

There were 6 small jars left and I managed to find one with the least number of defects. Now waiting for my Nerve Plants to grow so that I can transfer them to the terrarium.

Well, something caught my eyes when I was about to pay for the jar. Air Plants! Oh my, oh my, there were many near the cashier as well as hanging on the wall.

Tillandsia Ionantha (Air Plant)

Different species of Tillandsia

Well, I knew that the price of one medium size air plant will set me back by S$25. So, I checked with the staff there and it was S$12 for a medium one and S$18 for a large one (Tillandsia ionantha). As I have not kept air plant before, I do not want to buy the large one, so I settle with the medium one. This is the one I bought…
Tillandsia ionantha blooming - beautiful
Most of the Tillandsia ionantha at the nursery are blooming. When it flowers, the leaves will turn red and purple flower will emerge from the centre of the plant. There are two in the centre of each plant. After I got the plant, I did some research on the internet and most proposed to soak the plant in water for some times. However, as the plant are flowering, I avoid soaking the area where the flowers are.

I guessed the plant was placed outside and it was neglected for few weeks (maybe). I took a forceps and removed dead and rotten leaves from the plant. It was quite a challenge as I tried not to damage the leaves and it could be a difficult task and sometimes you could feel that the leaves had snapped. Ouch!

After the soak, I tried to give the plant a good swing, holding the plant by the roots, yes, by the roots… to remove the excess water. I tied the plant to a string and hanged it to let it dry up.