Taipei, My Love.

Given that Luodong is practically kissing Taipei on the Taiwan map, you might predict we make the hour long trek by bus up there once a while nearly every other weekend. Fresh from my latest adventure at Taipei LIndy Festival, I figure it was finally time to unveil what the kids have been up to (no good, obviously, I solemnly swear. 10 points for Gryffindor if you know what I mean.) How to describe Taipei? If New York City had a secret love child with Hong Kong…perhaps Taipei would be the artsy yet refined version of that kid. Super clean metro like HK and passionate swing dance scene like both its parents, but definitely fused with the same amount of grit and history as NYC. However, Taipei holds a specific charm for any traveler, that special something you can smell in the stinky tofu scented air and the oh-too-present humidity. Oh, and this.

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Taipei is just so darn beautiful.

Rather than deplete my memory in some sort of ridiculous and unappetizing purge, I’d thought I would leave you with some highlights. As residence of a nearby neighborhood, Taipei offers subtle twists on benefits we are blessed to have in our little township smackdab in Yilan County. Luodong has an awesome night market, but Taipei has an entire underground mall connected to both the Taipei Bus Station and the MRT. We visited this upon our first trek and were dazed for days by the kaleidoscope of colors, smells and sounds burbling under the sidewalk. Taipei also ups the anty on food, anywhere from monstrous snowflake ice to monstrous bowls of beef noodle soup to the perfect Taiwanese small eats shop. Which we just so happened to try.

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A few weeks ago, Barry and my “foster parents” Auntie Susan and Uncle Allen (relatives of a church friend) took us around the capital. They began the afternoon with a trip to a traditional Taiwanese restaurant. The results were somewhere between dim sum and my mom’s home cooking, only not as spicy and a bit on the sweeter side. We ordered fresh bamboo shoots, clams, cold-cut chicken (way better than it sounds), and fish soup. It was all delicious, and of course Barry ate all our leftovers.

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The fish agree, we were pretty astounded at the quality and speed of service. Noms. Next time, we’re up for a round of dumplings and beef noodle soup at famous locales around the Dong Men area.

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The more I think about it, Auntie Susan and Uncle Allen mostly took us around to see where we could get our eat on. Buffets, night markets, little side streets and proper restaurants galore. My favorite has to be this luxurious all-you-can-eat extravaganza stored away in a giant box of a shopping mall. While it’s a bit on the pricier side, you can avoid empty pocket prices by going for afternoon tea. By what I saw, they have everything from dim sum to sashimi and sushi to grade A steak, Parisian pastries and Haagen Daz ice cream. Did I mention this was all you can eat? That’s right. (Not Fat Angelo’s, but near it. Although Fat Angelo’s doesn’t sound bad at all…om nom noms.)

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After buying us some boba (the tapioca pearls were just perfect) at THE most famous place in Gong Guan near the National Taiwan University, Auntie Susan and Uncle Allen left us to play in the cordoned streets for a bit. We visited a pet shop, several famous chicken places and several shops selling everything from candy to name-brand shoes. Senses overloaded, we knocked out on the bus home.

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On a more “serious note,” our recent Taipei trip left us formally welcomed into the Fulbright community. While some networking did take place, I would have to say our dance party with a live band left most of us with our dignity at the door. Our appetites were satisfied by a buffet to end all buffets, so much so that the plates were larger than our heads. It was a fabulous affair, filled with beautiful venues, smiling faces and dances galore. I personally recommend Zhongshan Hall as the best historical bookable site. It has an excellent wooden dance floor on the second level ballroom, as well as a traditional Japanese tea house on the third floor, complete with traditional Qin instruments. Apparently, I caused some ETAs to drift off to sleep.

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Fulbright party at the Taipei Garden Hotel…look at the noms…& that chandelier…

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Look at that floor space. Mmm.IMG_1659

The Fulbright party also exposed us to several other cultural sites, including MOFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), a traditional art museum and the 228 incident exhibit. All left an indelible impression on us, forcing us to remember the hopes and dreams when we first arrived in Taiwan, as well as those for our students. Whenever thoughtless acts of violence or trauma occur, those of us fortunate enough to remember, must. It creates and sustains a fire for restoration, for renewal and for regeneration. It reminds us to grow, to change and to never let the past stop us from what could be in the future. It’s the great perhaps.

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So, after you give your taste over to all the decadent treats, lend your eyes to the galleries and your heart to the exhibits, what is left? Perhaps you are a bit tired of wandering and just need a good night’s rest a reasonable cost.

Honestly, I have never been in a cleaner hostel than the one I was fortunate enough to stumble across because of Taipei Lindy Fest. Meander blends hipster with functional, even hosting a miner’s cart in the center of its lobby alongside a floor-to-ceiling chalkboard of the MRT sites around town. Located in hip Ximen district, the hostel is just outside all the noise but just close enough to walk to the famous pedestrian walkway. What is there to do there? Why, more eating of course. Ah Chong Rice Noodles, Modern Toilet (yep, toilet shaped bowls and eatin’ out of a bathtub) and boba galore. There’s also this amazing cafe called Oven Coffee on our walk around Ximen. They do some killer lattes, hot or cold.

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Yes, Taipei is for lovers. Lovers of food, lovers of fun, lovers of dance…really, if you love life, you will fall for all of Taipei’s quirks and perfectly burnished sunsets. Through every glint of light, you see a little more clearly, a little more effortlessly.

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May you love the journey you’re on.

Wanderin’ & ponderin’,

S.

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