It was bound to happen.
As I mentioned for my day two post, by Tuesday, the lack of sleep finally started showing its negative effects—namely a sour mood.
With a fairly late start, I took the MRT all the way out to the Taipei Expo Park. Around 11 a.m., I found Maji Food & Deli at the park before going to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Maji looked like a gourmet market with a Western café attached to one end and an Asian one on the other side. While two plainly dressed girls literally had a mini photo shoot with their phones in front of this apparently artsy deli, I sat by the window to enjoy my quick Western brunch: unsweetened green tea latte and a smoked salmon croissant. I needed to balance my night market eating.
Other than the food court and park of families and kids (why do I always seem to find myself at family-friendly attractions), the expo seemed quite empty.
I made my way across the pedestrian bridge over the highway to the museum, which also looked so deserted that I thought it was closed.
Luckily, it wasn’t. After paying the paltry 30 NTD (for New Taiwan Dollar, though it looks like TWD also works?) admission fee, I ended up enjoying the museum much more than I had initially expected walking in. Not only did I like the #Instagram-worthy architecture, but I also saw some bizarre shit, which I don’t even think I can describe—or want to, for that matter. Take a look for yourself.
What was less bizarre and more cool was the Quoting Room, a well-designed quiet space dedicated to reading and then writing your favorite quotes from a small selection of both Western and Chinese books provided—interestingly enough including the Lord of the Flies—and attaching the quotes written on slips of paper on the wall. And people were actually reading and writing!
After visiting the museum, I found myself wandering outside under the warm sun, not really wanting to do much, though I still had the National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall on my list, given that I wasn’t able to go the day before.
Often, I Foursquare to pass the time (jeez, like let me be its brand ambassador already), which is especially convenient when in a new city. I saw that a shop with the characters for “red bean pancake” in the name was nearby. SOLD.
The thing about using Foursquare for directions, however, is that you can’t. It’s almost always necessary to cross-reference the location with Apple and/or Google maps, because the pinpointed locations are user-added and are often incorrect by a few blocks. So I was very close to just giving up when I couldn’t find this place amid still empty streets from CNY, until I found the exact location thanks to Apple maps pointing me down an otherwise empty alleyway. Literally the only shop open was the red bean one, flanked by three bad-boy types. Immediately, they gave me a bad impression, as I saw one of the guys stare down the tall woman in heels who had just purchased some cakes was walking away. As I ordered my red bean pancake for ONLY 10 NTD (that’s a whopping 30 cents, folks), they asked where I was from. Our conversation’s an eye-roller (in Mandarin, of course, but really, don’t get any idea that I’m fluent):
“Ohhhh, which part?”
“Nope,” he said dismissively. “But I know it through watching TV.” He snickered.
The other guy snickered with him.
Oooookkaayy. I walked away with my warm red bean pancake, making sure to snap a pic of them before disappearing forever.
The red bean ooozzzzed out of the cake. I ate happily as I winded out of these deserted, narrow streets and back to the main road to take the metro. I love finding these hidden gems.
Now for when it all turns sour.
SUN YAT-SEN. (Somewhat ironic, because I had just very happily uploaded the first “Face Time” interview that I fully edited that took place at Sun Yat-sen University.)
As soon as I saw all the Chinese tour groups outside, I had a bad feeling. I even Snapchatted how I didn’t even want to go in because of them as I walked in, only to delete it before posting. In short, I came out of there ranting on WeChat to my sister about how I “fucking hate Chinese tourists” (lol, me), after having my personal space totally invaded on the second-floor balcony watching the hourly changing of the guards. It sucks having to realize again and again how much I value having personal space with such incidents.
So I thought about heading back to the same Eslite bookstore I visited yesterday, knowing it was within walking distance, but I figured I might as well check out another “creative park,” the Songshan one just behind the memorial hall.
Again, families everywhere. Maybe it’s due to both Chinese New Year and solo traveling that I keep encountering families everywhere and am especially sensitive to them. So again, this was just meh, but I was pleasantly surprised to find yet another Eslite bookstore within the park. At this point, I’m convinced they have a bookstore monopoly over Taipei. I mean, I’ve seen and visited at least four already.
Soon enough, I made my way out and onto a street full of cafés and patisseries closed for CNY, including an apparently popular cronut shop, according to Foursquare. Booooo. Defeated, I wandered a bit before deciding to take the MRT back to Ximending. But before I did, I noticed a foreign couple walk into a café called Nido. Heck, why not.
I’m so glad I went in. The small shop was completely silent, despite most tables being taken by people preoccupied with books or their phones. As I sat at the counter to check out the light menu of coffee, tea, and homemade desserts, I saw that it specifically requests that customers remain silent. OK…I guess that’s cool.
I placed my order and was directed to a private room in the back, where one other girl sat reading at the long dining table.
Despite paying more than $10 for a cup of cold coffee and tiramisu (both AMAZING yet quite expensive even by Western standards, no?), I walked out of that café some hours later feeling totally refreshed, seriously as if I had just gotten a massage. I think it felt especially relaxing after the hell I had experienced at the memorial hall.
After quickly exploring the Hankyu Department Store—grabbing a red bean donut on the way—and then stopping by Taipei Main Station to stock up on L’Occitane products, I made my way back to Ximending and wandered through the streets, enjoying three street performances before calling it a night.
Continue to the considerably better day four at Maokong 🙂