Thursday, September 14, 2017

A thing or two about Taiwan

Posted by vianica gallagher at 3:13 AM 0 comments
Jalan2 saya di Taiwan sudah hampir berakhir. Setelah hampir dua minggu memutari negara yg sebutan dahulunya Formosa. Ada bbrp hal2 baru yg saya pelajari dari travel kali ini:
Beautiful Taroko Gorge in Hualien
1. MRT stations di Taiwan itu bersih pake banget. The cleanest I have seen thus far, and much cleaner than the European and North American standard, atopun standar kota2 besar Asia lainnya. Makan dan minum di dalam station, apalagi di dalam kereta itu dilarang. Saya yg sedang mengunyah permen karet ditegur oleh petugas MRT, yg memerintah saya untuk stop chewing the gum. Stasiun di Taiwan ga ada bau2 pipis ky subway station di New York, ato Tube station di London. Udah gitu, lantai kinclong dan bebas dr sampah. More interestingly, akan jarang sekali kamu temui kegiatan perdagangan di stasiun MRT. Ini kontras sekali lho kebanyakan subway stations in other countries, yg mana banyak coffee shops, toko souvenirs, toko baju, jajanan, dll bertebaran di setiap sudut station. Stasiun yang lokasinya Central seperti Taipei station, akan sedikit berbeda, satu atau dua convenience store atau lunchbox shop akan kamu temui, but that's about it.

Chishingtan Beach, Hualien

Typical Taiwanese lunch box, only 2 USD.

Kung Fu Bubble Tea shop menu in Taichung

Breakfast at La Vida Hotel, Taichung

Sun Moon Lake

Liuhe Night Market, Kaohsiung

2. Complimentary hotel minibar items are commonplace in Taiwan.
Dari semua hotel yg kt singgahi di Taiwan, mereka menawarkan fasilitas snacks dan minuman di minibar dlm kamar secara cuma-cuma. Dari yg isinya hanya cola, orange juice, dan dua buah snacks, sampe minibar yg isinya 5 macam minuman (cola, sparkling water, air minum Evian, fruit juice, beer) dan 4 macam snacks (Korean instant noodle cup, Pocky, biskuit, dan Pringles). These items, by the way, are replenished on a daily basis. So.. kalo kamu menghabiskan ini semua dalam sehari mereka akan memberikan the same items the next day.

3. Complimentary self-service launderette in hotels is commonplace too.
Martial Arts MRT station, Kaohsiung
3 out of the 5 hotels we have stayed at have this facility, which is aweeeesome. We love clean clothes and the fact that we didn't have to intentionally look for launderette elsewhere saved us time and effort. Yayy for free launderette!

4. You won't find 4th floor in Taiwanese hotels.
It is the belief that number 4 (shi) resembles the word for death. Kepercayaan ini jg dipunyai oleh budaya2 lain yg dekat dgn Chinese, seperti budaya Jepang dan Korea.

5. Birkenstock populer abis di Taiwan.
Yeah, it's the German footwear yang sempat ngetrend di Indonesia di tahun 90-an. Birkenstock stores are found in big shopping malls, atau bahkan as a stand-alone store. Style dari produk mereka juga banyak diimitasi oleh perusahaan footwear lokal, yg mana produknya bertebaran di setiap sudut night market.

6. Niu rou mien, atau beef noodle soupnya Taiwan itu adalah national dish mereka.  It's tasty, refreshing, and hearty. Kuah gelapnya yg ringan, dan aroma herbal yang khas membuat saya jatuh cinta dengan mi sapi kuah Taiwan. Makan niu rou mien tanpa potongan daging sapinya saja sudah cukup enak lho! It's how good the dish is.
Niu rou mien. Delish!

7. Mereka tertib masalah recyling waste. Di tempat2 umum, disediakan trash bins depending on the types of trash.

8. People eat all the time, food stalls are everywhere. Yet, you hardly see overweight people.

Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum in Kaohsiung
9. Public facilities accommodate disabled people, elderly, and also pregnant women, seperti dengan ditemuinya toilet khusus dan juga special seats for them on public transportation. Yeah, we see these in other countries too, but Taiwanese people reserve these facilities for the aforementioned people.

Almost 10 pm waktu Taipei, Taiwan. Oyasumi nasai!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Kindness Hotel in Kaohsiung, you really are kind!

Posted by vianica gallagher at 6:12 AM 0 comments
It's our third night in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. As you readers notice, I don't usually do hotel reviews on my blog, but it will be an exception this time. I just have to talk about Kindness Hotel in Kaohsiung, because it is just that good.

First of all, let me present the fact that this hotel is a chain one, possibly only in Taiwan. There are about 10 Kindness Hotels in Kaohsiung, and the one we currently stay at is located on Juemin Road, Sanmin District, Kaohsiung City. It is not the closest to the main train station of Kaohsiung but no complaint really, as it costs less than 200 NTD (a little over 6 USD) by taxi to get to the location from the main train station.

So.. here goes the list of things I find this hotel quite the steal!

1. Breakfast and dinner buffets are inclusive in the price
Breakfast buffet is a common feature of hotels in East and Southeast Asia. But this is NOT the case with dinner buffet. That said, I didn't expect much from the dinner buffet at Kindness.
The entrance of Kindness dining room
Dinner buffet menu at Kindness Hotel from night to night is quite similar, ranging from noodle and veggie salad, noodle soup with condiments -incl. fish and meat balls, mushroom soup, fruits, tea-flavoured eggs, and a few other meat-based entrees. They go more all out with breakfast buffet, which is expected. I think hotels here put a lot of 3 and 4 star hotels in America to shame. Most common breakfast buffet menu in America are just the continental breakfast. Their hot food usually only involves bacon, sausages, and eggs, and  maybe some sauteed veggies if you're lucky -and this would be rather rare. Yeah, you'll get cereals, bread, instant oatmeal, fruits, yogurt, maybe waffles and muffins, but really, that's about it. And guess what? Those are mostly covered in breakfast buffets in some 3 and I would confidently say, ALL 4-star hotels in Southeast Asia, and also some East Asia countries. On top of that, they serve foods that most people normally eat for lunch -more similar to brunch food perhaps, in America, except that it includes a lot more entrees than in any regular brunch you'll ever come across in the States. I am about to go off tangent here, so let me refocus and just talk about Kindness Hotel. Its breakfast buffet focuses on both local taste and also continental breakfast, which is awesome.
Kindness Hotel lobby
2. Free ice cream, cakes, and drinks -available 24 hours
The variety of cakes at the cake dept
No, I am not kidding. They have the best taro and grape ice cream that you must try if you ever stay there. Inside their big ice cream fridge in the dining hall, you'll find 8 different ice cream flavors that you can help yourself to anytime you want. At the cake department, they have tiramisu, raspbery, and cheese cake, as well as two different types of pudding whose names I can't quite recall. They also have a fancy machine that can dispense hot espresso, latte, cappuccino, cocoa, cocoa milk, milk tea, and milk. In addition, they have 9 different teas you can try. Oh, also a couple of different cereals that you're supposed to eat to complement the ice cream.

Complimentary ice cream. The taro and grape one is my favorite!
3. Free bikes
Pretty cool eh? Most major cities have public bikes to rent, but you can use the hotel's bikes at no additional charge.

4. Free self-service launderette
They have a good number of washing machines and driers available to be used 24/7 at no additional charge! We made use of this convenience to do our laundry on our second day.

5. Reasonable cost
Staying at Kindness Hotel is NOT expensive at all, given the aforementioned perks. We spent an average of 67 USD/night for our stay in non-peak season (this already includes taxes and service charges) -what a steal! Kindness Hotels located in more desirable locations will charge more, but if you shop around and book beforehand you should not spend more than 100 USD/night. Not sure about booking for peak season, though, but it should still be reasonable.

Let me know what you think, and if you have come across hotels with free similar features of Kindness Hotel.

We did a day trip to Cijin Island while in Kaohsiung
Nearly 10 pm here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Oyasumi nasai for now. Bye now!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Pengakuan Seorang Imigran

Posted by vianica gallagher at 7:28 PM 0 comments

Hari ini saya terharu, karena salah satu co-worker saya made a drawing khusus buat saya. It says "Happy September!" So sweet.. oh, and how time flies! Kita sudah hampir tiba di penghujung tahun. Let's say that's the bottom line of this post. Tapi ..sebetulnya saya ingin crita tentang suka duka saya sebagai seorang imigran menginjak tahun ke sembilan tinggal di Amerika, khususnya di lingkungan perkerjaan -termasuk interaksi dengan rekan-rekan kerja. Wait a minute, saya bilang rekan yah, bukan teman kerja, karena di Amerika rekan dan teman itu mempunyai arti yang sangat berbeda. Untuk tempat kerja yg sekarang nih, misalnya, saya cuma menganggap satu atau dua orang sebagai teman, sisanya hanya rekan. Postingan kali ini juga sengaja saya bikin dalam bahasa Indonesia karena saya tidak ingin menyinggung pihak-pihak tertentu. Selain itu, my written Indonesian is getting rusty, so I have to do something about it.

First off, let me start by saying... tempat kerja saya itu termasuk yg kurang beragam secara demografik, yang mana no big deal juga sebetulnya buat saya. Saya sudah menerima the fact that it kills a lot of conversations when you don't watch American football, ketika kamu tidak familiar dengan different dog breeds, or ketika kamu tidak minum alkohol atau tidak makan makanan tertentu. Gak masalah sih that those things kill a lot of conversations, saya punya prinsip dalam hidup saya utk hal2 tertentu, and I am at a point in my life where I don't put "fitting in with others" as a top priority. Saya bukan lagi anak remaja. Asimilasi kultur menurut saya ya bisa menghargai orang lain yg berbeda, treat others like how you like to be treated (yeah, that golden rule), belajar hal-hal baru, terbuka dengan pengetahuan baru, tanpa harus feel like you have to follow the mainstream culture.

Saya masuk ke dunia kerja selepas lulus kuliah di sini dengan open mind, dan gak punya ekspektasi konkrit bakal seperti apa lingkungan pekerjaan saya. Semasa di perkuliahan, fellow students mayoritas sangat open-minded, kind (serius, saya belum pernah bertemu such a great cohort di sini until I met them), punya curious mind, intelligent, well-traveled, appreciative dengan budaya yg bebeda. Dan yang pasti.. tidak pernah satu kalipun mereka melontarkan remarks yg condescending terhadap orang2 yg berbeda latar belakang budaya dan agama di depan orang lain. Jadi mungkin.. saya agak shocked juga menghadapi lingkungan kerja di mana ada beberapa orang yg dengan santainya melontarkan komen kurang peka tentang budaya dan agama lain.

Remark pertama yg pernah saya dengar adalah tentang agama. Seorang rekan melontarkan sebuah generalisasi bahwa muslim itu konotasinya itu ya orang2 yang mendukung organisasi terror yg mana semua orang tau what it is. Wow. Sangat ignorant komennya. Saya hanya diam saja, meski sangat amat kesal. Saya rasa orang2 di negara ini kurang punya pengetahuan ttg agama saya, jadi ya sudah lah, saya maklumi saja.

Kejadian lainnya adalah ketika ada acara get together rekan2 kerja di rumah salah satu dari mereka. Salah satu rekan kerja melontarkan komen bahwa dia tidak suka bepergian ke Asia karena "org2nya makan fish dish yg aneh dan menjijikan di Asia". Excuse me? Yang pertama, orang ini belum pernah ke satu negara pun di Asia. Yang kedua, dia tidak harus makan makanan yg dia bilang aneh dan menjijikan, banyak pilihan makanan lain jadi stop saying that non-sense about that fish dish, yg mana namanya saja dia tidak tahu -dan who knows itu asumsi dia belaka. Ketiga, Asia mana yah? Asia itu luas and tergantung ke mana kamu perginya, you get to eat a wide variety of food. Sooo.. saking gemesnya dengan komentar dia, saya langsung protes dan mengedukasi orang ini bahwa semua jenis makanan itu available in major cities di Asia dan dia tidak harus makan makanan yg dia tidak suka, tapi tetap saja.. ignorant tetap ignorant. Bottom line is.., saya tersinggung. Sebagai satu2nya orang Asia di ruangan itu, saya merasa bahwa remark rekan tersebut sangatlah insensitive dan patronizing. Tidak ada org lain yang berargumen.. iya, orang2 yang lain silent saja, seolah membenarkan lontaran si ignorant tersebut.

Yang mungkin anda find surprising adalah, sebagian besar orang di Amerika tidak travel ke luar negara mereka. Jadi begini, Maret tahun ini saya berkesempatan liburan di Malaysia. Secara tidak sengaja saya mendengar salah satu rekan membicarakan saya dengan another co-worker di belakang saya: "Ngapain juga sih travel ke Malaysia?", mengasumsikan bahwa Malaysia itu tidak exciting, tidak indah, terbelakang, tidak layak sebagai destinasi travel. Hello? Menurut saya Malaysia itu salah satu dari the most amazing places dari segi kultur, sangat modern infrastrukturnya, dan lagi.. it's a heaven on Earth buat mereka pecinta Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine. Masyarakatnya sangat toleran, dan saya sangat amazed dengan asimilasi tiga major ethnic groups di Malaysia. 

Sebetulnya, saya tidak heran sih dengan komen ignorant mengenai Malaysia, mengingat bagi mayoritas orang Amerika, liburan yg mereka anggap paling exciting itu ya tempat-tempat macem Disneyland di California, Hawaii, Las Vegas, atau paling top itu negara Eropa macem Italy. Sangat predictable. Well, it's not for me to judge, but paling tidak saya tidak akan melontarkan komen merendahkan tentang destinasi liburan orang lain. Jika kamu tidak tau apa yg menarik dari Malaysia, bukankah kamu justru ingin tau kenapa orang tsb memilih Malaysia utk tempat liburan mereka, apa sih yang menarik dari Malaysia? Again, sekali ignorant susah sepertinya ya untuk berubah, dan yang keluar ya, lagi-lagi.. komen negatif. 

Masih tertarik dengan curhatan saya lainnya? Tetap stay tuned! :)

On a positive note, saya akan berangkat ke Taiwan for a two week vacation tomorrow!! Yeah!! Akhirnya, saya bisa mengunjungi tempat lahirnya bubble tea. I'm so excited! Well, jika anda termasuk golongan ignorant anda pasti bingung.. "lhah.. ngapain vacation ke Taiwan??" 

*tepok jidat*

Monday, April 18, 2016

Seoul (Full) Day 1

Posted by vianica gallagher at 6:03 AM 0 comments
Yesterday's slate was a loose, play-by-ear sort. Started off in the morning riding the green bus #3 just across from Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon district. Woot, off I went to the Seoul Tower and Namsan Park! It cost 1,200 Won for a single ride and I got there in no time.

The view of Seoul from Seoul Tower

Last time in Korea I didn't get a chance to visit Seoul Tower & Namsan Park. I guess we were a little more focused on Jeju Island in the South, Gyeongju (the old capital), and Seokcho (where Seorak mountain is, which is the Northeast part of South Korea). By the time hubby & I got back in Seoul, after making the stop in Seokcho, we were pretty exhausted so we really just wanted to chill and stroll around in Seoul.

Seoul Tower was packed with visitors. They're mostly locals, Asian tourists, and a little bit of everything else. An adult ticket to the observatory deck costs 10,000 Won. Admission packages were also offered at the ticket booth, with some including beer + buffet dining at a restaurant up on the deck.

Namsan Park/down below Seoul Tower
Done with Seoul Tower, instead of catching that bus #5 from bus stop area, I hiked down through Namsan Park, which turned out to be a mistake. I couldn't get on the bus #5 to Myeongdong from down there! *sniffle*

I got lucked out that I saw a male office worker (he had a suit on, which made me even sure he would speak some English). Asked the guy of how to catch #5 to Myeongdong. I ended up riding a bus to Seoul Tower (yep, where I was just a little while before this all happened), and transferred to #5 from there. Felt like I totally wasted my time doing the hike down! But the trail and view along the way down was pretty so I guess it wasn't so bad after all.

Satiated my craving for some Korean fried chicken in Myeongdong. Found this KFC-like place called Mom's Touch. Most chicken items on the menu were to be enjoyed by two people. This wasn't really explicit, but the cashier asked me if I was going to eat it by myself and told me it would be too much food for one. He then recommended the spicy chicken item, a smaller portion. I got served 7 medium chicken pieces, varied from drum sticks to parts of thighs. It was a very good deal for 55,000 Won.

Hit Namdaemun for prescription glasses next. Ended up getting a new pair, and new lenses for my old frame I bought in Jeju-Do back in 2014. All for 75,000 won -not bad at all! The optician spoke very little English, and I, as some of you know, also speak very little Korean. It was kind of fun navigating this language barrier challenge, though. It felt rather accomplished when things got figured out in the end ;)

After spending the rest of the afternoon strolling Namdaemun, I figured out my way back to Itaeweon -thanks to the easy-to-navigate Seoul subway system!

And guess what? I stopped by Gong Cha in Itaewon for some pearl mill tea before heading back to Yacht Guesthouse. So predictable Ha!

Oyasumi nasai..

Sunday, April 17, 2016

En Route to Seoul: No More Passport Ripping. Itaewon, You're Lovely!

Posted by vianica gallagher at 12:27 PM 0 comments
The thing I remembered about riding Seoul's subway back in Fall 2014 was the kind help offered by a random guy as I was dragging my almost-retired suitcase at the station closest to the Seoul Palace Hotel -where hubby and I stayed. I was impressed with the Korean hospitality!

Now.. that whole suitcase carrying and dragging thing sounds rather painful, doesn't it? Little did I learn from the experience, I came back the second time to Seoul bringing a suitcase again. Ouch!

I must say, though, despite some rough turbulence on the way from YVR to INC my travel so far has been running smoothly.

First of all.. See the title? What's that 'No More Passport Ripping'?? So.. The thing I found annoying about having my passport checked at airports is the way airport personnels ripped off (not literally, but more like removing it in a forceful manner) my passport cover.

As you see, my passport cover is quite cute. It says "Korea, The Land of Morning Calm". I bought it at the curio shop of the National Museum of Korea on my first Korea trip in 2014 (I know, I still owe you a few postings about it). For a while I didn't use it due to being annoyed that it kept being removed every time I handed my passport to immigration checkpoint personnel at airports. Well.  Since I was coming back to Seoul this time I decided to use it. And guess what? Surprisingly it has not even once been removed! Scored!

Arrived around 4:40 PM at Incheon airport. Immigration line was huge, and by the time I was sitting on the subway it was already 6:15 PM. It took the sub about one hour before it finally hit Gongdeok station, where I transferred to line number 6 then got off at Itaewon. The whole ride only cost 4650 Won -amazing! Subway in Seoul is fast, easy to navigate, convenient, and clean.

On my way to the guesthouse, I stumbled into a chicken place inside Gongdeok station that I was very tempted to try (for dinner or snack I guess). But I was determined that I needed to check in first since it was kind of late already. Hey, who knows there are a lot of Chimaek places (place where Koreans have their fried chicken and beer) in Itaewon. Well as for me, it will just be the fried chicken without beer.

Little did I know, the guest house's owner pointed out KFC when I asked him of nearby Chimaek places -Sir! *Or maybe Haraboji* - a word for grandpa to address someone that's about as old as your gramps- that I can get anytime back home! Ended up not eating chicken last night. I guess I would not have finished half a chicken by myself anyway -Most chimaek places only offer big shared chicken portions as opposed to a portion to be enjoyed by 1 person. Well unless you're determined to finish a whole bucket of chicken by yourself then go ahead do it, no one's gonna stop you :D

Again, my mind wandered to the first night hubby and I were in Seoul in 2014. We took a stroll to the nearby neighborhood in Banpo, Central Seoul (where our hotel was) and found this chic little restaurant that also offered fried chicken on their menu. That was our first meal in Seoul. Didn't expect the portion of the fried chicken to be quite ample, BTW. It would have been enough for both of us without the second chicken dish we ordered.

Back to Itaewon! 
I was super ecstatic to find a Gongcha along the busy main Street in Itaewon last night. Guess my daily boba fix will be taken care of quite nicely here LOL.

There are so many places to eat in Itaewon, BTW.. But I really want to keep my body reasonably fed by not overeating on a first night. After grabbing some oolong milk tea drink, I headed to GS25 (yayy my favorite Korean convenience store!) for some snacks. Got tuna musubi packs, a box of drinkable yogurt, an apple, a gum, all for about $6. My bubble tea itself cost about $4 . Yeah.. that's about the same price I pay back in the US for a cup of boba.

Almost 5 AM local time (it is 1 PM Pacific time) and I find myself still adjusting to the time zone.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mae Hong Son: A Mellow Lake, Night Market, & Beautiful White Temple on the Hill

Posted by vianica gallagher at 7:00 PM 0 comments
Mae Hong Son was our next stop after Chiang Mai. It's a small town in Northern Thailand. You won't find too many travelers here as it is not a popular travel/tour destination. The cool thing, though, despite its small size the town has an airport.

We flew Kan Air from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong son. Took only a little over 30 minutes. Upon arriving, we asked a local tuk tuk guy at the airport parking lot to give us a ride to Gims Resort. As expected, we got ripped off! Later when we rented a motor bike we found out that the tuk-tuk driver took a way longer route to take us to the resort. From the airport, a normal ride using a normal, straight/non-winding route only takes about 7 minutes by a motorbike. We spent at least 25 minutes sitting on the frigging tuk tuk -YIKES!

We stayed at this place called Gims Resort for three nights (Nov 5th - Nov 8th). It has individual bungalows with their flooring set up higher than the ground. Our backyard was a big rice paddy field. It was such a beautiful, serene view to enjoy in late evenings as the Sun went down.

We spent some mornings and evenings hanging out by a man-made lake called Jong Kum in the heart of Mae Hong Son. The town is so small that if you ask someone of this lake, where the night market takes place, locals will certainly know what you're talking about. There are several temples in the surrounding neighborhood that you can check out as well.

Night market stroll is a must, I'd say! We got a  couple of cute items made by locals at the market, the likes of note books, magnets, and t-shirts. We also enjoyed eating dinner by the lake under the starry sky. It was hard to resist the delicacies offered by the local vendors that we at least tried two or three different dishes/snacks whenever we hit the market in evening time.

BTW, Mae Hong Son was where I found a cute little coffee shop that made the best Thai tea! They put grass jelly in, which made the tea even yummier. If you're in the area, give this place a visit. It's called Coffee Tato and it is somewhere downtown -again, ask local people  ha!

If you're looking for an afternoon to spend gazing at beautiful landscape, go up to the hill top temple complex of Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu -the view of Mae Hong Son overlooked from above is pretty impressive!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A Little Bit from Our Stop-Over in Chiang Mai

Posted by vianica gallagher at 4:16 PM 0 comments

After spending the first two nights in Bangkok, hubby and I headed north to Chiang May. Flight was short, a little over an hour.

We flew out of Don Mueang airport in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. It was nice finding Mr. Cup bubble tea inside the airport! My way to Chiang Mai could not have been better. I was a happy camper waiting to board while sipping on my tapioca earl grey tea.

I guess, looking back, what stood out the most about Chiang Mai trip was the night market. We went there pretty much every night except for the last night -ended up eating dinner at a restaurant close to our B & B called Baan Orapin. 

Baan Orapin was really awesome! It is a privately-owned, Northern-Thai styled B & B. The garden was surrounded by tall longan trees, and has a medium-sized swimming pool. It may be just a little bit spendy for an accommodation in Chiang Mai, but the atmosphere, architecture, and location were worth it. It is within a close proximity to the night bazaar and the Ping River. There was also this traditional market within a 10 minute walking distance, that I forgot the name of already.

What was cool was then I started feeling a bit more adventurous and decided to rent a motorbike in Chiang Mai. We enjoyed our day riding around the area. Instead of riding the Tuk tuk (motorized pedicab) and paying 120-140 each ride, motorbike rent only cost us 200 baht/24 hours. 

One food court I was impressed the most was the one located on the underground level of Central Airport Plaza, a mall closest to Chiang Mai's airport. You can tell from its appearance and price range of the dishes served, it caters for locals!

It's a town I would not mind going back. Next time, though, we shall not miss the Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai!

On to Mae Hong Son!

Our rented motorbike! (the yellow one)

Sooo appetizing! @ Central Airport Plaza

Fried rice breakfast at Baan Orapin!

Souvenir shopping at Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Me enjoying brekkie at Baan Orapin

Variety of yummy desserts at Central Airport Plaza underground food court


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