Jay Chou's travel opus
Jay Chou is one of the most influential celebrities in the Chinese-speaking world.
Also, one of the busiest.
The 34-year-old Taiwanese songwriter/actor/director known for infusing Chinese elements into hip hop and R&B produces an album each year. His 12th record, "Opus 12," was released in 2012.
His recent music video for "Eunuchs Tend to Have Headaches" has surpassed five million Internet views in the first two months of release.
He's starred in a dozen or so movies (including "The Green Hornet") and directed the film "Secret."
All this and he still manages to find time to help run his two restaurants in Taipei.
Even better -- at least from our perspective -- Chou is a nonstop traveler.
So where does he like to go and what does he suggest for visitors in Taiwan?
Read on for Jay Chou's travel opus.
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CNN: From your new album, “Big Ben” was written in a day during a trip to London. What inspired the song?
Jay Chou: I get more inspiration when traveling than at home. You’re exposed to more new things and you’re subject to a deadline.
I sometimes take melodies with me when traveling and write my lyrics in a foreign place -- you don’t really have much to do at the hotel but to write songs.
The only restriction with traveling is the lack of access to my musical instruments. I’ll call [my] song arranger and give him the chords and beats through the phone. He’ll then record it and send the melody to me. I’ll add the lyrics afterward.
CNN: Why "Big Ben"?
Chou: Big Ben is the most iconic landmark in London for me and it has an interesting name in Chinese – “ben” means "silly" in Mandarin. Doesn’t it sound like a loving way to tease each other in a relationship?
CNN: Where else did you go for this album?
Chou: We went to Kenting [in Taiwan] for the song “Ukulele.”
The song was based on the romantic imagination of the beautiful beaches in Hawaii. But, for me, a romantic place is anywhere as long as the view is gorgeous and there's atmospheric music.
CNN: Kenting, on the southern tip of Taiwan, isn't as popular as Taipei on most traveler’s maps. What do you think about the city?
Chou: I hadn't been to Kenting for 10 years prior to this trip.
One thing to know about Kenting is its renowned music festival -- Spring Scream -- held annually on a beach in the seaside city. It’s Asia’s Woodstock.
CNN: Ever tire of traveling?
Chou: Not really, traveling is fun no matter for work or leisure.
When I had to travel to promote "Green Hornet" around the United States it was great because it took me to places I'd never been.
CNN: Tell us a crazy story from the road.
Chou: We've done a fair bit of crazy missions around the world.
Once, for an album cover shoot, we needed to move a grand piano to the Piazza San Marco in Venice and play when no tourists were there. That was difficult.
Filming in London, we had to wait for an hour or two in freezing weather at dawn in two of the busiest locations -- Westminster Bridge and Notting Hill -- to be empty and sunny. We kept ourselves warm by hiding in the Underground.
These are like missions impossible.
CNN: Your favorite travel photo pose is?
Chou: Dramatic funny poses with my crew -- freezing in the air or showing off a kung-fu kick.
CNN: What's your favorite traveling music?
Chou: I listen to traditional local music from the places I'm visiting. I'll listen to Scottish flute in Scotland, for instance. It adds various elements to my songs.
CNN: Your must-have travel items …
Chou: My assistants.
I have no idea about most travel chores, like how to check-in.
My assistants are as playful as I am, so we can go shopping and sightseeing together.
Actually, they enjoy traveling so much that even on a work trip, they'll probably sneak out 15 minutes from now to go shopping without me. But it’s OK -- they have a nice boss.
CNN: As a public figure, are there some places you'd love to go but can’t?
Chou: Not really. I just need to wear a mask and I can go wherever I want. Everyone can still tell who I am, but the mask offers me security.
I still go to Keelung Temple Night Market or challenge strangers at a street basketball court to a game.
CNN: What food do you recommend in the night market?
Chou: I love tempura, shrimp paste soup, dingbiancuo [Taiwanese noodles], the “super nutritious sandwich” -- it’s the official name of the sandwich -- and shaved ice.
CNN: As a Taipei local, what other places should travelers visit?
Chou: My two restaurants in Taipei [see below for details], of course. One of them [Déjà vu] is in a very hip neighborhood called Huashan Creative Park.
It was an old winery before becoming an art and cultural park. There are galleries, cafes and a live music hall in the park.
Another one is a lesser-known restaurant [Fujiwara Tofu Shop] near Taipei University, hidden in an alley.
It’s modeled after the famous tofu store in “Initial D” [a Japanese manga] after I acted in a movie that was based on it.
It was such a pity that the tofu store film set was demolished, so I bought the tofu delivery/race car and now display it in my restaurant.
Fujiwara Tofu Shop, Wenzhou Street 74, Lane 6, Da-an District, Taipei City, www.facebook.com
Déjà vu, Huashan Creative Park, Section 1, Bādé Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City