Day 187: Taipei, Taiwan. We checked out of our airbnb room this morning, and headed closer to the city centre to our next accommodation. We were happy to be moving on, given the bed we’d slept in for the last four nights was the most uncomfortable ever.
On the way, we stopped off at a laundromat to do a pile of washing. Thankfully there were English instructions which sped up the process, and with the wash underway, we looked around to see where we could sit down and wait. Lil’s back was aching from the dreadful bed, and she wasn’t keen on standing for the entire wash cycle.
There was one white wooden bench, with one guy sitting on it, with a very large bag. We asked if we could sit alongside him, but he started shaking his head and waving his arms, which we took to be ‘no’ – and shouting lots of Chinese. Goodness knows what it all meant. Jim asked why we couldn’t sit there; it’s always good to understand if there is a local cultural issue we’re not aware of – maybe it’s rude to ask to share seats here, or maybe it’s not a good thing for females to sit close to male strangers, who knows. Unfortunately the language barrier means we never got to the bottom of it.
Lil perched on the arm of the wooden bench, which was seriously uncomfortable (but still better than standing) and Jim snapped a picture of her laughing and grimacing as the metal arm started to make her bum go numb. Then the guy on the bench decided to take photos of Jim, along with pics of our luggage. All very weird. He stood up when one of his washes was finished, and waved at us to sit down. Lil said thanks and gave him a thumbs up, and again, he unleashed a barrage of Chinese at us. We squished up on the bench so the guy could sit beside us, but he indicated with his hands that the space was too narrow. Thankfully he went off soon after, scowling and checking under our bench to make sure he hadn’t left anything behind. Lil waved goodbye, but he ignored her. We still have no idea what was bothering him. Perhaps he goes there every week so feels he is entitled to the the space, as opposed to us, who are just visiting.
Once our washing was finished, we went and sat in Peace Park for a while. Check-in time at our next accommodation wasn’t until 3pm so we had a couple of hours to kill. We bought a large slice of delicious multi-layered scallion pancake on the way, and sat and munched it in the park, watching people feeding squirrels and pigeons with uncooked rice, and watching the world go by.
Then we walked to our new accommodation, which is in the heart of the city. It’s perfect – a small studio with high table and stools, a kettle and a fridge and thankfully, a soft and comfortable bed. Here’s to a good night’s sleep.
After we’d settled in, we walked across the main Taipei train station to buy tickets for our trip to Hualien on Wednesday. We managed to navigate the ticket kiosk which saved queueing for tickets (though given how efficient everything seems to be here, we’re guessing queuing wouldn’t have taken too long anyway). The train station is huge and clean with excellent signage and packed with great shops and cafes – all the things a good train station should be. And as a bonus, it has a huge train-themed Christmas tree in the middle of it all, which is pretty fabulous.
Then we headed out to Elephant Mountain, a 15 minute train ride away in Xiangshan, to watch the sun set over the city. Except we got our timing a little wrong, so by the time we got there, the sun had already set and the city lights were coming on. Which turned out to be perfect anyway; we had the chance to see the city skyline including Taipei 101. Opened at the 2005 New Year celebration, and built to withstand Taipei’s regular earthquakes and typoons, Taipei 101 was the world’s tallest building until 2010, when Burj Khalifa in Dubai overtook it.
After yesterday’s monster mountain climb, it was a bit of a challenge for our legs, having to climb up so many more steps, but it was totally worth it for the views.
Then we retraced our steps, and stopped at a restaurant called Fat Zhou’s Dumplings in Xinyi for some food. Jim ordered Hot Sour Noodle Soup, and Lil had Beef Noodle Soup. The soups came with an amazing vegetable and chili condiment, that was a little sauerkraut-like.
A couple arrived after us and sat at our round table. The lady looked over at Lil, snorted loudly, then whispered something to her husband, who looked at Lil and also started laughing. Turns out that Lil had made a dining faux pas and one of her chopsticks was upside down. Regardless, they were a lovely couple who spoke good English, and we had a good time chatting to them about our travels.
When we left the restaurant, we couldn’t resist ordering two pork and scallion pastries from the bustling restaurant next door, where people were queuing on the pavement. There was a 10 minute wait so we wandered around the local streets then circled back to pick up our goodies. They were unbelievably good.
Then we caught the train back to the city, and popped in to Carrefour, a branch of the French hypermarket. Jim bought a selection of Taiwanese beers to stash in our fridge, and Lil picked up some nibbles including Charcoal Bamboo Peanuts – which are peanuts coated in bamboo charcoal. They’re surprisingly good. We also bought a bottle of French wine, which meant we had to buy a corkscrew too – something else to add to our luggage.
Afterwards we headed home to relax for the rest of the evening. Lil read the Taiwan Times with a glass of red wine, and Jim tried out a couple of his Taiwan beers.
The lunar prophecy in Lil’s newspaper says that today is:
A good day for:
– taking a ritual cleansing bath before entering monk or nunhood
– repairing walls
A bad day for
– all auspicious matters.
So there we go.
Tomorrow we’ll probably avoid walking up any steps, though we might check out a local museum and visit another local night market. And perhaps we’ll at last track down the elusive Stinky Tofu.