October 25-26th, 2014
One of my friend’s from initial training for HESS invited me to his birthday party up in Taipei. I was told to come along for some paintball, time at the shots bar, and a venture to the club. Back in the states I would thoroughly enjoy a night out and party it up with my friends. In Taiwan, I don’t know what it is but I get very tired and I also do not have the alcohol tolerance that I used to. I also think part of it has to do with the fact that my priorities have changed in Taiwan. I no longer want to spend money on partying, but rather on traveling. I knew coming into this weekend I was going to take it easy, and I got my friend Hanna to join in on this plan as well.
I headed up to Taipei on Saturday, dropped my stuff off at my friend Nick’s apartment, and then got on the MRT to head into Taipei. Now I had just purchased an iPhone 5 second-hand the other day so I had no idea what my phones battery life was or even what the settings were on. I had been tinkering on my phone on the train and noticed that the battery was getting low. By the time I got off the MRT my phone died and I had no idea where I needed to meet Hanna. Frantically, I found an outlet (that was super lucky) and messaged Hanna. She found me and took me to a small restaurant near the MRT that has delicious curry for relatively cheap.
After lunch we spent the rest of the day just walking around and looking at different clothing shops. I purchased a battery pack. I considered it a sign that this was the 3rd time my battery had died in Taiwan resulting in me being temporarily lost. Now I will always have a charged battery (woohoo!). The winter clothes are rolling out in Taiwan as it gets cooler. To me it is still hot and humid, but I have seen more locals wearing sweaters, jackets, and jeans. With time to kill we went into a clothing district that has shop after shop just overflowing with different clothes. I took it easy because I had already spent so much money on clothing earlier that week. It was a shop-til-you-drop kind of day for Hanna and I was more than okay tagging along.
Tired from all that shopping Hanna took me to a hotpot place that is a chain around Taiwan, but still serves up a good hotpot. We waited a really long time for seats, but the amount of food we received for 8USD was totally worth it.
Following dinner we went to Casa Salud to celebrate our friend Matt’s 29th birthday. It was nice to catch up with a few other friends from training and have a couple drinks.
The birthday group was ready to move onto a club, so Hanna and I said our goodbyes and hopped into a taxi cab. We both went to our respective places and fell asleep right away.
The following day I woke up and got ready to spend the day with the Taiwanese family I had met a few months ago. This time we were going to be in Taipei and I was going to get to meet more of Thomas, Sherry, and Chao’s extended family.
They picked me up from Zhongshan MRT station and we immediately went to an area in Taipei known as the Old Street. It is called the Old Street because it is located next to a harbor. After Japanese control was finally uplifted in Taiwan the Taiwanese started selling and trading tea, rice, and other food items that other countries valued. The old street was filled with food & tea shops. Most of the area was founded in the early 1920’s and is now protected by the government from having any alterations made to it. Leaving the buildings and store fronts in their original condition. I was told that if any of the buildings were rebuilt they were rebuilt to look the exact same way they had looked before. The Old Street is very popular around Chinese New Year because the items sold there are popular to give as gifts during the holiday.
We stopped at a coffee shop. The family treated me to desserts and coffee. I ordered a Rose Petal Coffee. It was very good, but really sweet, and had actually rose petals on the top of it. We ordered a slice of apple pie. There was more custard than apple, which then led me into a discussion with the family about dessert in Taiwan and dessert in America.
We walked to Dadaocheng Wharf, which is located next to the Old Street. This harbor area used to be where the ships would dock and unload goods or load tea and rice. This area is no longer used for trade now just tourism.
In the middle of the Old Street there is a temple. According to the Ting family it is a very popular visiting area for Japanese tourists. The temple is dedicated to the gods of single people. If you are single you go to this temple to pray for a partner, relationship, or good marriage. Some parents frequent around this temple to find a good partner for their son/daughter. The Ting family asked me if I wanted to pray, I laughed and politely declined. They asked my age and when I replied they said I am too young and don’t need to pray yet. It was a comical little exchange and an interesting experience to see so many people at this temple.
Having toured all the old street the family decided to take me to a place that is known to have very good chicken yellow noodles. Inquiring whether I had had these before all I could only answer with is an innocent, “probably”. I have eaten so much food with no idea what I am eating that it is hard to tell people what is my favorite food. On the way to dinner we passed by a memorial park for Dr. Jiang Wei shui .
Dr. Jiang Wei shui was a Taiwanese civil right’s advocate during the 1920’s. He worked towards giving Taiwanese people back the rights that they deserved after so many years of outsider control. The memorial park is the foundation and structure of his former home.
We arrived at the restaurant where we were to have dinner. The place was very Taiwanese in the sense that it was open to the outside with a table and basic chairs to sit on, and you can see your food being prepared for you in a corner. The Ting family ordered food, and when it was placed on our table I was gently pushed to try everything.
The spread included a variety of meat: fried pork, goose, chicken, and pig intestines. I was given a bowl of chicken broth with yellow noodles. They also ordered some fried rice and dumpling soup. My favorite was the fried pork. We ended the meal by clinking our glasses full of Taiwan beer and thanking each other for a good day.
The family dropped me off at the train station and we said our goodbyes. I purchased my train ticket and went back to Fengyuan so grateful for another awesome encounter with a great Taiwanese family.