Sorry, got distracted from this series of posts with the new season… For those who have forgotten, I was continuing from my trip to Hong Kong.
After Hong Kong I flew to Taiwan and met the friend I’d be spending the rest of the trip with in the airport. I’d been to Taiwan before two years ago, but he never had. Originally I had no intention of planning to go to Taiwan on this trip, but some of my friends from Taiwan invited me so I figured why not.
We got there late so we took a taxi to the hotel and went to sleep.
On the first morning, we took a bus to the National Palace Museum. I’d gone there last time but it had been closed for some reason so we’d had to go to the Aborigines museum instead. The National Palace Museum is essentially all the artifacts the Nationalists looted from the mainland as they fled. A lot of pots and calligraphy which I couldn’t read and couldn’t really appreciate. The museum was filled with obnoxious mainlander tourists. Seriously, they were obnoxious.
We took the bus back to the subway station, where we had lunch at some cheap dumpling place that looked like it would have failed an American health inspection with flying colors. It was pretty good. Then we headed to the Chiang Kai-shek memorial (or the Throne of the Tyrant as one of my Taiwanese friends calls it) which is this big square with some theaters (I think) and a copy of the Lincoln Memorial except for Chiang Kai-shek, and they also have those creepy guards who don’t move at all and have changing of the guard ceremonies. We wandered around town some and went to some random markets.
Next we went to Din Tai Fung for dinner, which is this big international chain restaurant which my one friend told me we definitely had to go to. Sadly, we went there and it sucked. The food was ok but it was overpriced by a factor of ten (meaning it was $25 each to stuff ourselves to bursting… yeah, Taiwanese food prices are great).
I should mention that we had some unexpected difficulties communicating in Taiwan. I’m a white guy so everyone freaked out when they saw me and suspected I didn’t speak Chinese. But the friend I’m travelling with is Chinese-American, so they’re thinking “phew!” and start talking to him in Chinese. Unfortunately he is from rural Pennsylvania and speaks less Chinese than I do, so things were somewhat awkward on occasion.
At night, we wandered around town randomly in the rain and went to a night market. Taiwan is basically a country of markets. Everywhere there is a market. At day, at night, for anything you need, whatever. Markets. They’re pretty great. Most of the stuff you can buy at them is junk, but the food is superb.
The next day we met up with my friend who invited us to Taiwan. She took us to eat this delicious Taiwanese breakfast. Sadly most of my food pictures from this point have my friends’ faces in them so I’m not going to post them, but… it was good.
After breakfast, her parents picked us up and we took a road trip. First we went to Keelung which is one of the main port cities. Keelung means chicken coop because there’s a mountain nearby which is shaped like that. My friend’s dad was explaining to us the history of everything, it was really interesting. Amusingly I knew more about Taiwanese history than my friend… her dad was really excited to have people who would listen to him.
One thing I should mention, the traffic rules in Taiwan seem to be “do whatever the fuck you want.” We witnessed some very interesting maneuvers…
After Keelung, we drove along the sea, which was a beautiful view. We stopped at a famous site where the river is yellow from pollution. Apparently it has gotten much better over the past twenty years, although it still looked pretty gross to me.
Next we went into the mountains to the gold mine, which had been turned into a museum. We walked through the mine as well as a Japanese house (the overseers had been Japanese since they ruled Taiwan at the time).
Then we went to our hotel, which was in the middle of nowhere on the side of a mountain. We had trouble finding it. My friend had arranged it, and was worried about how we would get there and get home (they had to go back later that day), but the manager of the hotel sorted things out and gave us his cellphone number in case anything came up.
Then we went to Jiufun, which is famous for its beautiful view, especially at night.
Then it was time for… A MARKET! Of course!
Wasn’t a fan of this… whatever it was.
These were all pretty good. Had a few other things which my friend was in the picture with, such as some delicious sausages.
This one looked quite suspicious but it was great. The balls are made of yams, taro, and something else. It’s on top of shaved ice but is hot, so the ice melted as we ate. An interesting combination.
The town of Jiufun was gorgeous. It was built on the side of a mountain so the streets had some interesting geography.
There was also a pretty temple there.
At night it was pretty too, although honestly I thought it looked better in the day. I think it may have been too cloudy.
Next we caught a taxi and went back to the hotel. Strangely enough, we ran into some people from Pennsylvania at the bus stop. On the taxi ride back we thought we were going to die, it was storming and this guy was taking these mountain curves at full speed. Somehow we made it though.
To our cozy Chinese stone house, complete with a second story balcony. Had to duck to get through the door though… they are all short in Asia.
The next morning, the manager took us to have a homemade traditional breakfast made by his wife. You may notice a theme here… She showed us pictures and told us about the area as we ate. The people of Taiwan are unbelievably friendly and hospitable.
On the way back to Taipei, the taxi driver took us to see a famous local sight.
One Last Day
When we got back, we met up with another friend of mine from high school. He took us to eat delicious beef bowls (again, he’s in the picture). We walked around the famous Taiwanese electronics market, which sadly, isn’t any cheaper than in America. We sat around drinking juice with him and spent most of the afternoon catching up.
Then at night, we met a friend of ours from college. She took us to the Modern Toilet, a restaurant where everything is toilet themed. You sit on toilet seats, eat curry with brown raisins from a toilet bowl, sip your drinks from a urinal, and eat ice cream shaped like dog poop for dessert. It was… an experience. Not something I’d care to repeat, mind you, but good to do once.
Afterwards we went to… *surprise, surprise*…. another night market!
The next day, we went another Taiwanese friend of mine’s favorite dumpling place for lunch (after passing through a number of markets, of course) before going to the airport and catching a flight to Singapore.
I brought home a souvenir which perfectly captures the indomitable spirit of the Taiwanese people:
In all seriousness, this was the best country in the trip. I definitely plan to go back some day. My favorite country. Well, favorite country that isn’t America. Obviously.