Work in Progress

“In the best travel, disconnection is a necessity. Concentrate on where you are; do no back-home business; take no assignments; remain incommunicado; be scarce. It is a good thing that people don’t know where you are or how to find you. Keep in mind the country you are in. That’s the theory.”
–Paul Theroux

I'm just a girl who loves the world, finds beauty in the unknown, and can't keep her feet on the ground. I like finding unique (and cheap) ways of making my way around the globe. Interacting with people while living, learning, and loving the culture I'm surrounded by.

This is my attempt to keep my friends and family updated, to keep track of my experiences, and to serve as an inspirational resource for all those travel addicts like me out there.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Taipei



I could live here. I want to live here. If I ever come back to live in Asia, this is where you will find me. I have a tendency to compare every Asian country to Korea, considering it has been a huge focal point of my life these past two years. It's like, a family member that I am really close to - so I feel comfortable calling out it's flaws and putting it in it's place. Dear Korea, Taipei wins. I'm not saying that it's a better country - just that it seems like an environment that I would be more inclined to reside in (in the future). So, there. 


Taiwan (or, Taipei at least, considering that is the only place I've been) is like the love child of China and Japan, who was abandoned and raised by foster parents, in a more tropical climate. It was a refreshing change from the frigid cold that has consumed Korea. Oh, and the trees were still green. Every other minute, the phrase "omg that's so cute" escaped my lips. I couldn't stop it, and I didn't want to. From children running around in the park, English schools that we peered into, coffee shops, buildings, random gardens, trashcans, everything. It was all so cute. Not in the "Kawaii", little girl kitty cat kind of way... but in a more grown up meaning of the word. 


I couldn't have picked a better place to spend the New Year. This place was full of good juju. Everyone was so friendly, SO HAPPY. I got so many smiles from people, especially when it seems like the reactions I expected were negative. Couldn't find my bus ticket. Old man waited patiently for me to dig through my purse, and giggled with me when it was exactly where I put it. Woman stood up in the hot springs, the rule enforcer (as he shall be called) clapped his hands while motioning for her to sit down - huge grin on his face. Even though we only spent a few days here, it seemed like we had made friends all around the city (especially with the people who were feeding us on a regular basis).


Speaking of food. THE FOOD. Where do I start? Let's start at the beginning. Breakfast. It exists here. A huge contrast to Korea, where they eat rice and kimchi... Taipei has omelets in sesame bread, donut like devices,  and egg/ham/cheese roll-ups.  I wish I could tell you what the names of these brilliant foods actually are - but because I came across them by looking and pointing, I'm at a loss. I'm drooling just thinking about them.






And then there are the meat balls - which are actually dumpling like snacks. There was a stall down the street from our hostel, so naturally we ate there often, along with a stall selling delicious eggy bread. The night markets (despite the consistent smell of stinky tofu) had endless possibilities. There were fried sandwiches that I queued 20 minutes for, potatoes, noodles, and meat stuffed buns that are cooked along the side wall of a big stove (like naan). We ate ice cream spring rolls with cilantro and Gua Bao, yummy shredded pork in a steamed bun. I think, by the end of the trip, we had three bowls of beef noodles from three different places. Street food rocks here, blows any other place out of the park (for now). 




 

I was put in touch with a cousin of a friend, and he tuned us in to a really cool NYE party that was under a bride along a river, thrown by a few "burners". They had tire swings, body painting, salsa dancing, cooperative art, and only two port-a-potties. The evening resulted in me losing Leena and Jake. Thankfully, I met up with a group of people and they shared good conversation, alcohol, and other things. I was bummed I wasn't with my friends at the turn of the year, but thankful that I was still able to really enjoy myself.




TAIPEI HAS GOOD COFFEE. Oh, and loads of craft beer. That's reasonably priced. One night Leena and I stumbled into a 24 hour market called "Jason's" that is comparable to Trader Joe's back home. They had loads of fresh produce, a big selection of wine and beer, and snacks that set me into a stream of nostalgia. Just walking around the market made me feel like I was back home. I left with a big bag of Kettle Chips (Jalapeno), which had met its end by the time we got back to the hostel. Once again, these are things that I wish were as convenient in Korea. I would give someone a huge pat on the back if they could point out a coffee shop (that's not Starbucks) where I can get drip coffee before 11 am in Korea. It's a disgrace.


Here is a quick recap of some of the things we did during our five beautiful days in Taipei...


We stumbled into a small fun zone that was located down an alley at a night market. This sweet old guy dealt with me when I couldn't shoot the gun, and Leena won a cool kangaroo that says "I love Australia" on it.

We went to an old, illegal squatter area turned artist village called Treasure Hill and explored art exhibits, bought some cool postcards, admired street art as well as the beautiful view of the city. 

Friends themed coffee shop? This was an obvious place that needed to be checked out. The owner of this place spent some time in NY and loves the show, so naturally she comes back to Taipei and opens up a cafe decked out with Friends memorabilia. She did a great job of replicating good ole' Central Perk. We enjoyed our drinks on that comfy orange couch while enjoying a Christmas episode of Friends that she put on the projector, just for us.
We rode the glass bottom Gondolas up to Maokong. We ate more street food before settling down to eat a waffle and drink tea at a little outdoor cafe we found. We enjoyed the incredible view until the sun went down. After, we headed back to try and get down the mountain. The line for the gondolas was atrocious. There was no way we were gonna wait... so we fought our way into a very expensive (and dangerous) taxi down the mountain.



We checked out the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, which was massive and beautiful and adjacent to a quaint little park. 


We ate out of toilet bowls at Modern Toilet. This was, unsurprisingly, the most expensive meal of the whole trip - but it was well worth it. It's all for the novelty, isn't it? There were poop swirls everywhere. We sat on toilets at a table made of sinks with little brown poops in the center. Our soft drinks came in urinals, the sink was a toilet, and the lights were... you guessed it, poops. We ended our meal with dark brown, runny ice cream. Are you salivating? I hope not.   




We visited the Beitou area on a rainy afternoon. We got to soak in the public hot springs with locals and tourists and happy little men with close to no teeth. For about 3 USD we got access to a crowded cluster of pools ranging in temperature from freezing cold to scalding hot. Unfortunately (or very fortunately) there were no cameras allowed, so we didn't get any footage of our visit. EXCEPT one sneaky photo I snapped as we were walking out. Afterwards, we walked to the volcanic crater that heats the surrounding hot springs. The water was clear blue, near boiling, and smelt like eggs. The steam that came off of it hid a background of lush green trees, which every so often peeked between the clouds of mist.




We opted out of spending too much time at the most popular temple (Lungshan) and instead wandered around a nearly empty temple smack in the middle of a neighborhood. Qingshan was a great alternative to the crowds. There were three levels of intricate and colorful shrines, glistening with gold accents. Tall figures dressed in colorful gowns with their tongues sticking out stared at you as you walked through the rooms. We spent a long time on the top level, taking pictures and enjoying the atmosphere. The contrast of the dragons against a grey scale city-scape was oddly beautiful. I loved observing the people here, and their traditions. I watched as a couple fumbled their hands around a huge ceramic pot full of sticks. They each pulled one out, read something on it, and put it back before continuing to a chest full of numbered drawers. It didn't take long to realize it was a form of fortune telling. Now, if only I could read Chinese.

This city has heart. It has soul. There is an overwhelming appreciation for art, music, and civil rights. They encourage their citizens to not only be apart of Taiwan, but the world. It's a really cool place, and I can't wait until I get the chance to explore different parts of this beautifully unique country.