Monday, December 5, 2016


Well! This was perhaps the biggest surprise of our trip. We had such a negative response to China, and no real sense of Taiwan (we'd only changed planes there once before), so when the airline changed our flights home in such a way that it made the most sense for us to spend a night in Taipei, I don't think either of us had great expectations. Maybe we just had a neutral feeling, I can't remember any more, but boy were we surprised.

We arrived so late, which was disappointing because the only thing we were really looking forward to was the night market -- and that was our only available night, since our flight left at 7:30pm the following day. Marc found us a hotel immediately next to the night market, but it was nearly midnight by the time we checked in so we figured we'd missed our shot. I was really tired and got in bed, but Marc dashed out just to see what he could see, and it was still going on, so vibrantly! He got a container of fried tofu and brought it back to the room (super good) and then dashed out again to keep exploring as long as he could. By the time he came back, it was ~1am and all the food stalls were closing down. He was so happy he got to see it.

The next morning, Marc had scouted a couple of possibilities for breakfast, and we ended up here because there were so few places open as early as we wanted to eat:

The food turned out to be just OK, at best; we had a noodle/mushroom dish with a gloppy brown sauce and
topped with an over-fried egg (totally forgettable) and some kind of scallion pancake (-ish) that
had a fried egg on one side and a spicy dipping sauce that was doable. Still, considering that there
was no shared language for communicating, pretty good!

happy to be in Taipei -- but boy I look tired!
this felt a little bossy :)

Our hotel couldn't have been better, even though it was kind of a dormitory for kids. We had our own room, with a bathroom, and the room was kind of spare, but it was located in the best area for us, and the people at the desk were very helpful. AND! The room came with a yoyo.

a first for us :)
So after our breakfast, we rambled around. We accidentally found the most interesting street (Dihua Street), and then we rambled over to the river, and back through nearby neighborhoods.

this was the fanciest shrine we saw in this part of town, and in active use

the interior was gorgeous -- I couldn't get a great shot of the deep inside, but wow.

and that was a kind of crematorium for papers, also in active use

this was right across the street, less actively used but very beautiful

just down the street: Johnson Lace Mall, for ALL your lace needs. Truly. I've never seen so much mass-produced lace.

these lanterns weren't all that common, but when I spotted them I always liked them.
Then we spotted this woman selling a kind of fried dough that we had in Nong Khiaw;
they are ball-shaped, but filled with air, so it's more like a hollow donut hole
if you can imagine that. These were great -- some were extra crispy, and some were soft.

We found our way to the river -- and in so many ways, Taipei had made me think of New York. When we came in from the airport, we drove over a bridge and saw the city curved along the river, and I thought of seeing Manhattan curving along the Hudson, from the George Washington Bridge. The river isn't like the Hudson (and the bridge wasn't at all like the GWB), but I couldn't shake the NYC feeling.

In the park alongside the river, there was a karaoke tent under a giant tree (and it was in use -- once by a woman
who was singing to no audience at all), and a large shrine of some kind. This was one side of it, and I don't know
what those little plaques were -- some kind of prayer wall or something? No idea.
As we kept walking, we came to a part of town that was so much like the Times Square of Taipei (much less annoying, though).

it even had a TGI Friday's, just like Times Square. Oy.

Lots of stores and concessions, and crowds of people, and a huge movie theater,
and people walking dogs.....
This dog was wearing JEANS and a SWEATER. Shoes too, maybe, but I couldn't get a good enough look.
The skies were starting to gather into dark clouds, so the humidity was building up and I was kind of hot and muggy, so I sat on a bench and Marc did his thing, seeking out something for us to drink.

I'm always so glad he is brave in this way that I'm not.

He brought back these two tapioca bubble tea drinks: one orange with a variety of
other citrus chunks, and the other orange with guava and other fruits. They were good!
We were running out of time -- we needed to leave the area by 4:30 at the latest and I wanted to leave earlier than that, so we wandered around a bit more and saw these random things:

Cat on leash in front of birds in cage. The birds didn't seem too freaked out, but then again the cat
didn't seem to be paying any attention.

this alley was filled with graffiti -- as if the city had set it aside for that purpose

I saw this a few times -- a pretty grim fantasy world, if you ask me!

this is an older police station, and you can see it's the kind of architecture that must've
seemed like a cool idea at the time.......


standard apartments in Taipei City
We were really sorry to have to leave so soon! When we were heading to the airport, we took a cab to the bus, and the cab driver ("Steve") asked us how we liked Taipei and I think he was surprised by the enthusiasm of our response, given his facial expression. But we really did like it, and we wouldn't mind going back for a couple of days if we fly through Taipei again. 

We were there when the president-elect spoke on the phone with the president of Taiwan, a breech of protocol that made China furious and raised the hackles of people in the US -- but we have no idea how the Taiwanese people might have felt about it. We encountered few people who spoke much English, at all (aside from the guy at the hotel desk), but they were generally so kind and friendly, and warm, and we didn't have the same kind of feeling we had in China, at all. We really liked Taipei a lot.

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