With the Japan program completed, it was finally time for Taiwan travels with mom! Since we were both already half way across the world, I figured it was a good way to make the most of my travels and get one more country under my belt. Taiwan was selected and the Sunday after the program ended, we were on our way towards more explorations.
Our flights went well and a 30 minute taxi ride took us from the airport to our hotel. After settling in, eyeing the massive king bed that would be ours for the next couple days, we left the hotel to check out the area around us. I was super hungry so our first stop was a small hole-in-the-wall noodle shop. In the restaurant, I realized that I would no longer be able to communicate in the language or read any of the writing. Although it was a frustrating realization, it made me appreciate my time in Japan and small knowledge of Japanese a little more.
We arrived just as the shop opened and after glancing through the menu, I ordered a serving of beef noodle soup by pointing to the menu picture. This dish is one of Taiwan’s specialties and I was eager to try it again, this time not in the airport. The broth was delicious and hit the spot. However, the brisket wasn’t as tender as I had hoped.
As we slurped down the dish, it began to downpour outside. We had no umbrellas or rain gear so we hunkered down until it let up a little. With a bit of water still coming down, we quickly made our way back to the hotel. Under shelter, we went upstairs to check out the hotel’s happy hour accommodation where we found a wide variety of drinks, snacks, and pastries. Our favorite snacks were the small packages of different flavored peanuts, and I was able to have my first taste of Taiwanese beer.
Once night fell, the weather was better and I was itching to explore more of the city. We headed out to Shilin night market, one of the biggest, busiest, and most famous night markets in Taipei. After getting off of the complimentary bus from our hotel area to the marketplace, we began following the streams of people funneling into the narrow streets. It was so crowded, (warnings of pickpockets were placed all around the entrance), and there were more shops than I expected. All of the people, lights, sights, and smells were so stimulating and it was easy to get swept up in the crowd and lost in the streets.
The vendors shouted to get your attention, food sizzled as you walked by- some in flames, others boiling in cauldrons. I loved being among the bustling crowd, taking in all of the scenery and wishing we had similar markets back at home. One of the smells that taunted my senses was a stall selling freshly shaved peanut brittle. Once shaven, the brittle was added to a scoop of ice cream and then wrapped in a thin dough. I skipped ordering from this stall since it was so close to the entrance. However, when I passed it again upon exiting, I was too full to indulge- a true rookie mistake.
My mom and I ambled along the street, and eventually came to an underground section of the market. This part was primarily a seafood food court, buzzing with movement, shouting, and food everywhere. My stomach wasn’t as hungry as I had hoped, so I let my eyes and camera do most of the feasting.
One of the stalls featured a large roast pig, another served deep fried salt and pepper soft shell crabs. We walked by a man taking freshly cooked bread out of a deep oven, and gazed at the desserts that lined the streets.
Eventually I settled on getting a lemon cane sugar drink (refreshing and not too sour or sweet), as well as some takoyaki (cooked seafood balls). In order to make the takoyaki, the cook spooned batter into circular wells, added in full mini octopus bodies, cheese, and then seared everything with a blowtorch making the tentacles curl up. As the takoyaki continued to cook, they were turned in the circular cavities to give them their spherical shape. Once done, the little balls were boxed in sixes, sprinkled with a flavored sauce and bonito flakes. I ate them- piping hot, on the steps of a building away from the masses of people. While it had been captivating to watch the takoyaki being prepared, I found the balls a little too doughy for my taste.
At 9:00pm, we were pooped and ready to go home. The bus took us back to our hotel area and that night I enjoyed the luxury of a western style bed- something I hadn’t had for almost two months. Needless to say, I slept extremely well, becoming fully rested for another day’s adventure.