Okay, what is Taiwan? Where is it? Most people who travel in Asia seem to bypass this culinary epicenter of the world. A lot of Americans don’t really know it more than a “Made in Taiwan” label that used to be on most clothing in 80’s and 90’s. I knew it was an island off the coast of China but I really didn’t know much more about it hence why I had to go. I had heard stories about it and people have told me, “oh you have to go!” During my travels I even met other travelers who were from Taiwan that microphoned their thoughts of national pride. “Oh Taiwanese people are the friendliest!” “Oh the food is so good.” “Oh the technology is so advanced!” Okay, okay! I’m sold…I’m going there!” When I first started planning on going, I didn’t know how much time I would need to bounce around the island. I remember asking someone if I could go from one end of the island to the other in 3 weeks. Hahaha! A day’s trip can easily get from one end of the island to the other. Taiwan is like China but not. They are from the same seed but it’s rather different. Taiwanese speak Mandaran which is one of the popular languages in China. I had the fortunate or unfortunate luck of being their during Chinese New Years. Chinese New Years is not an ordinary holiday in the Orient. It is a really really big holiday. I could probably say it is like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years in the west all combined into an 8 day holiday. It’s crazy!!! Many of the Chinese don’t even get to travel home or vacation any other time of the year so this is a big deal. Some of you may have seen the photos where Asians are cramming into a train and there is a guy pushing and squeezing one more person into the sardine like box car….well I guarantee that is Chinese New Year. Those photos are from China by the way. So I found myself in a lot of crowds at times and sometimes not. Many restaurants and shops were either closed or on holiday schedule. The crowds seemed to migrate to the same locations which I found a bit extreme on the personal space compared to Japan. Japanese will stand a foot away from you. In Taiwan during Chinese New Year, you will get an elbow to the face followed by a few steps on your feet. It was rather hilarious at times.
The visual hints of Chinese medicine are encompassed everywhere in Taiwan. In a city park I found this reflexology stone path. Walking on this barefoot is suppose to be good for the health. However, when I was walking on it, it was very painful and caused me to yell, “ewwh, ahhh, ohhhh, eeeehhh” with an onlooking laughing audience staring me at wondering, “what the heck is wrong with that guy.” Then I got to see other Asian tourist follow suit after me which gave me plenty of amusement watching empathetically their painful faces.
A few steps on the ecrutiatingly painful path will cure every ailment that you could possibly have except pain of the foot. I walked away with having a bruised foot but everything else seemed to dissipated or at least I couldn’t focus on anything else.
One thing I love about Asia is the culture that is ingrained into society and the city. Art and beauty are inbred into visually stunning city.
If you are a foodie, then Taiwan in your fantasy land. Food stands, night markets, and restaurants are ubiquitous with Taiwanese culture. Around every corner is a new discovery or an unusual food item that has you scratching your head, “yes please, I will take one of your mystery items.” Now I found most people didn’t speak english but they were very accommodating. Ordering food was rather easy and very cheap! In fact Taiwan boasts some of the cheapest food in Asia. My secret on food was always following the the lines. Now Asians in general seem love lines. A line can go from 5 people to 50 in minutes. I saw this time and time again…5 people would line up, and as if there was some unheard loud microphone yelling, “Hey everyone! There is a line!!!!” Better hurry!!! You would see Asians running eagerly as fast as they can to line up. I found myself becoming a part of this “standing in line” phenomena and after trying the food at the end of the lines, I loved them too! I was like, “LINE!!!!, Move over!!! Save me a spot!”
As I followed this golden line of salivating and drooling Asians, I found myself having one of the best donuts of my life.
Another worth the wait line. As you can see there is so much love put into the food here. See below for the inside filling.
Tasty and succulent pork filling.
I love exploring and not paying attention to where guidebooks send you. I stumbled upon this market while looking for a cup of coffee one morning.
Advertisement for a tour of the ship channel. Seemed fun but I passed on this one but if you are in Houston, Texas and looking for a business opportunity then maybe you should think about offering tours of the Houston ship channel to Chinese tourist. They were really packed!
Chinese New Years Decorations. As I said I was here for Chinese New Years. I found myself receiving random gifts from people for the New Years. At first I didn’t know what they were giving me and they didn’t speak any english to tell me what it was for. But after traveling for a bit, I know to just go with it and give them a very appreciative nod. I love the generous and loving nature!
French fry battered corndogs! Seriously, this should be at every American state fair.
I was happy when the train station had a sign in English that pointed me to “Classy Restaurants.” “Class restaurants, you say? Where are the classy restaurants?” When I followed this path of discovery, it led me to McDonalds. Haha!
One thing I was pleased with is that coffee roasters aren’t too terribly hard to track down in Taiwan. Being that they have a lot of Japanese influence, I could find my favorite Japanese pour-over coffee devices here. Most Taiwanese prefer more of the fruity coffees from regions such as Ethiopia versus Central American Coffee.
Coffee in Chinese Script. I made a mental note of these characters so I could find my favorite beverage of choice.
The train system is immaculate in Taiwan which is similar to Japan. As in most places in Taipei, the stations are meticulously clean. Even in this country of few trash cans, Taiwanese don’t litter. I received a hint from a local, that you can always find a trash can in the train terminal.
One day I was exploring the streets of Taipei and found the famous toilet themed restaurant as seen on numerous travel shows. I couldn’t help myself but to go have lunch in good toilet humor.
Chocolate soft serve ice cream.
Curry Chicken out of a toilet bowl.
Pork filled green onion pancake. I have seen it referred to as a green onion pancake as well. It is not really a pancake in the western thought. It is buttery, flake, and an extremely savory dough. Not sweet. It comes in a few variations and is by far my favorite food in Taiwan that I have tasted. I also had it with fried egg and a spicy peppery spread that had me salavating. Taiwan will definitely be on my list of places to return. I think my stomach will always yearn for this gastronomical paradise.