Monday, June 27, 2005

Taipei, Again

Since I'm up already (only got one hour of sleep), I may as well summarize the last leg of my trip in Taipei.

After spending four nights in Hong Kong, Shirley and I flew back to Taiwan to meet up with German and Silvia to hang out in Taipei. We stayed at the Fullerton 41 hotel near Da'an MRT station. The hotel was pretty nice and clean but the room was smaller than I thought, especially when there were four of us sharing the room. The hotel sent a car to pick us up at CKS Airport; German had arrived from Hong Kong on an earlier flight so he had to wait for us at the airport and we picked up Silvia from Linkou on the way to Taipei.

The first thing we did after we checked in was to go and find something to eat. Walking to the MRT station next to our hotel (Da'an Station), we saw a food stand in an alley between two buildings. Shirley looked at the menu on the wall and said, "Let's eat here." I think my reply was something like, "You must be joking!" or "Surely you can't be serious?" Here we are, sitting outside in the heat and humidity of summer in Taipei eating hot noodle soup... it was actually pretty good. :)

Of course, as soon as we were finished eating, we were looking for the next place to eat. We took the MRT to Jiantan Station to go to Shilin Night Market. The fare was only NT$25 or about US$0.80 and the trains were clean and quick. The only irritating part of the ride was that they announce the next station in 4 different languages: Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, and English (in that order). However, for many stations, it all sounds the same, especially the English since it's a phonetic translation and they words don't mean anything (example: Fuxinggang?). Anyway, the night market is total chaos with hundreds of food stalls packed into a warehouse-like building. We walked around and ate a whole lot of stuff (large fried chicken, coffin toast, shaved ice, stinky tofu, chicken cold noodles, pig blood soup, and lots of fruit drinks), checked out some stores, and back to the night market to eat some more.

The next day, German and I went to check out Taipei 101 (I went up to the observation deck again) while Shirley and her sister went shopping. For lunch, we went to a Japanese buffet place called Jogoya; it was like Todai on steroids. There was a huge variety of food, mostly seafood... my favorite was the shark fin soup with REAL shark fin. After a long lunch, it was more shopping and eating, this time at Ximen (West Gate).

Noodles with small intestines... NT$30

Our last full day in Taipei was spent walking around Danshui checking out historical sites. We tried to go see Fort San Domingo (literally Fortress of the Red Hair Barbarians in Chinese) built in 1623 by the Spanish Navy but it was closed for renovations. After Danshui, we split up: German and I went looking for special Pineapple Cakes and Shirley and Silvia went to a spa. That night, we met up at a KTV place in Ximen and sang/ate until 10pm.

The next morning, Shirley had to leave for Singapore so after checking out of our hotel, German and I went looking for my old apartment and elementary school by Yongchun Station. We found the school but the guard wouldn't let us in to look around, even after I explained that I've been in the U.S. for 28 years. He said something about protecting valuable equipment in the school, as if I came all this way to steal stuff from my old school. Anyhow, we walked around the outside of the school and took some pictures. Everything was smaller than I remembered. We also checked out the market across the street. This was a hardcore old-school market with meat and fish sitting out on tables without refrigeration and the smell was overpowering. My mom said she used to shop here...

Yongchun Market

Schoolyard: I don't remember any grass nor the nice track... it was just dirt before

The apartment hunt was less successful. I even called my parents back in the U.S. twice but they could not remember the exact address. I found the street (Hulin Street) but there are hundreds of lanes/alleys. We were wandering around Lane 100 but our old apartment was on Lane 202 (I found the address AFTER returning to the U.S.). Again, everything was smaller and chaotic than I remembered so it was pretty confusing. After the market experience, we decided to go back to Ximen for lunch and then back to the hotel for our ride to the airport. BTW, the driver was driving crazy, entering and exiting the highway and taking all sorts of shortcuts. I was asleep for most of the ride but remember him driving down this twisty road and arriving at the airport from some back road instead of the highway.

Originally I had a Singapore Airlines flight direct from TPE to LAX but due to our travel department screw-up, I got rebooked to Cathay Pacific which means flying to HKG first then switching planes for LAX and home. It worked out okay since Cathay Pacific's business class is pretty comfy and their Hong Kong lounge (I was in the smaller one... they have two) is very nice.

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