I had my first day of exploring Taiwan with a friend here, and let me say it has been interesting. First let me backtrack to the flight from Tokyo to Taiwan on Japan Airlines, because that was also nutty.
The meal they served on this flight (mind you we weren’t expecting to really eat on this 3.5 hour flight, since they don’t really feed you on US flights), was more elaborate than you get at most restaurants. It came packaged all pretty and had a menu on top of it with a description of all the foods…There was a piece of sushi, a piece of sashimi, and this cute little sampler box with six items separated by compartment like a box of chocolates: shrimp and soy bean soft fish cake, flower shaped meat dumpling, grilled chicken & potato salad, sauteed chinese mustard, egg omelette + simmered konjak (?) + simmered carrot, and pickled cucumber with shiso. The main dish was a piece of grilled spanish mackerel saikyo style, nozawana steamed rice, with a simmered shiitake mushroom and kimpira burdock. PLUS they had miso soup and fresh brewed tea afterwards. *blinks* I can barely get some pretzels on a US flight.
Enough of that. We’re staying at the YMCA in Taipei right in the heart of downtown. The beds leave much to be desired since they’re kind of like hard slats. BUT, after flying for nearly 24 hours, a bed is a bed. There’s free wi-fi and a clean, hot shower. Can’t really complain.
Anyway, after forcing ourselves to go to sleep since that 12 hour time difference has us wide awake when we should be sleeping (or at least me, since it’s about 1 AM as I write this), we woke up around 9 AM and planned out our day.
Food was first on the agenda. Ok, when I say 7-Eleven is everywhere, it’s EVERYWHERE. It’s worse than starbucks in manhattan. And the crazy part is, it’s a staple place to go for cheap fast food that actually tastes good. I’m talking fresh fruit, fresh baked bread, good drinks, and HOT BUNS!!
Wait–and the ENTIRE city has FREE wireless!
Our destination was Tainan today, in the Southern part of the country. We took the high speed rail down there. That train was insanely fast and smooth and gave us a great opportunity to see a lot of the country, quickly. America really needs to get up on the game and get a high speed rail–can you imagine going from the east coast to the west coast in like half a day or a bit more, comfortably and affordably?? Once we got to Tainan they had these free shuttle buses that take you to different parts of the city. Mind you, we still don’t speak mandarin, so this is all hilarious. We found the right bus and spent a good 20 minutes comparing characters from the map we took a picture of that had English translation in the rail station, and the map the lady gave us in Mandarin with our stop circled. All that work just to realize that the stop we were looking for had the monument we were going to in parenthesis and that the bus announced the stop in both mandarin and english. *eye roll*
The point is, we made it. We visited the Confucius temple first. On our way there we encountered a man with two miniature pets–a dog and a pig. I low key want a baby pig as a pet now. We took a bunch of photos and then sat in the shade. During this time a friendly old man on a bike decided to have a conversation with us–he in Mandarin, us in English. Let’s just say, all I could catch (and by catch I mean follow by context clues) is that he was selling ice cream and wanted to know if we wanted some and that he was listing flavors since the only word he said in English was chocolate. He had ice cream cones on his bike.
We walked across the city to the Temple of the Five Concubines. Side note: I’m not sure what Taiwan the name means, but it should mean the land of scooters. We noticed the scooters when we first got into Taipei since they have their own lanes and even their own streets, their own parking, and can pretty much ride wherever the hell they want when they want. And there are SOOOO many of them. Well, while walking to/from this temple we saw some real interesting mess with these scooters. Dad is sitting on the scooter driving, and toddler is standing on the foot part facing dad holding his knees with her little baby helmet on. *side eye* Really though? The child was fine as far as we saw. Later on we saw a lady riding her scooter with her dog sitting on the foot part just chilling.
Nevertheless, Tainan City was a fun little sight-seeing trip. There was no lack of shopping, and most of it was high end stores as well. There’s literally food everywhere. Being black in Taiwan is also fun since pretty much everyone breaks their neck staring and pointing at you. Although I started my morning off kind of anxious about venturing out into a country where I can’t even recognize one character of the language let alone speak it, it was a great day!