These past two nights, I’ve been coming home feeling utterly exhausted yet totally satisfied. After the first full day in Taipei, I already know I’m going to need a good massage (or two) after this trip.
The first morning, I went downstairs to Meander Hostel’s common area to have a cup of black tea. Knowing I wanted to save my appetite for a day of exploring and eating, I couldn’t eat anything, even with the free fruit, toast, and other light breakfast foods laid out on the kitchen table. So as I sat at the table to sip my hot tea, I chatted with a Spanish guy with glasses who managed to get a week’s stay for free in exchange for monitoring the breakfast area and the hostel at night (he told me he had only slept an hour the night before). As if to prove it, he would intermittently get up to cut some more fruit, telling me duibuqi (sorry), since he apparently is also learning Mandarin, having first assumed I was Korean, given that “a lot of Koreans stay here.”
Meanwhile, I chatted with a French woman who happens to work in a rural town two hours away from Guangzhou! What a coincidence! She’s fluent in Mandarin, French, and English. Maybe others, too. I’m jealous.
Despite having a pretty shitty night’s sleep, even by my standards (I can never sleep through the night without waking up at least a few times), I somehow had enough energy to power through a day full of walking, walking, and more walking.
Seriously, I will say this now and will say it again: If you visit Taipei, you MUST get the unlimited 4G data card. It’s both a blessing and a curse, because having data makes it entirely too easy to just plan your day as you go. Done with one attraction? Foursquare and Google what’s nearby. Want something to eat? Foursquare the best food within walking distance. Want to take the metro? Google or Apple map it.
As a result, I walked more than I ever thought I would—and now, my poor feet are begging for a pedicure and massage.
It being Chinese New Year’s Eve, however, many places were closed or had special hours. So instead of sipping tea and enjoying delicious scones at Smith & Hsu, I ended up still enjoying a lovely breakfast at the only decent-looking nearby shop that wasn’t Starbucks at Yamazaki, a Japanese bakery. I still did go in to Starbucks to check out the prices and selection. Similar to McDonald’s, the Starbucks in Asia are so much better than in the U.S. in terms of variety and special drinks. Google it. Or if you’ve seen Cosmopolitan’s recent Snapchat Discover story, you would know.
Afterward, I walked to the 228 Peace Memorial Park. These days have been absolutely beautiful, and I had a pleasantly good time taking a stroll through and taking pictures of the pagodas and scenery before walking to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, also home to the National Theater and National Concert Hall.
Despite the buildings themselves being closed, I still loved soaking in the sun—and taking selfies 😛
Afterward, I explored the neighboring area as I made my way to Longshan Temple, where I actually got the sticks to pray and everything, heh. It’s about a 30-40 minute walk, but yay for the nice day out.
Thanks to the helpful attraction info posters at Meander Hostel, I knew that I should use the crescent-shaped blocks to try asking yes or no questions. Many people can be seen holding pair in their hands while silently asking their question, then dropping the blocks on the ground to see how they fall: a block flat and another block round is a “yes” answer. What I didn’t know until now after Wikipedia-ing is that both flat and both round do mean “no” but both flat mean: “either it can be an emphasized ‘no’ answer and a sign that the gods are laughing at the question, or that they are laughing because the querent knows the answer to his or her question.”
I’m actually convinced it’s true now, because I even reflected on this afterward (I kept getting both flat) that the answers I got made sense probably because I deep-down already know the answers to the questions asked.
Many thanks to Foursquare for recommending the best oyster and scallion noodle shop. For literally $1.69, I got a delicious bowl to eat on the side of the street, as the line continued growing outside this small shop.
Then more exploring, including getting a haircut, where a kid who looked like she was still in high school washed my hair with a bottle of shampoo without any water, making me seriously wonder how I was going to get this rinsed—until she led me to the back where there were the sinks that every hair salon has. WHY do shampoo in the chair then?! Thankfully she wasn’t the one who cut my hair. An older, seemingly more experience woman from Tainan did. (Yes, we briefly mentioned the recent tragedy). Despite my huge doubts in the beginning, I’m completely satisfied with my $21 haircut.
Not so satisfying? Waiting in the long line for the fried chicken nuggets that everyone seems to love. This being Asia, should I be surprised that even something advertised as nuggets still have bones in them? Also, the chicken itself was not even that good. The fry on the skin was too hard to justify the always long lines for this place.
Phew. That was just day one.
Photos have been edited and uploaded for day two (yesterday), but now it’s time to start my third day! 😀
EDIT: Continue on to my wonderful day two.