Hello from the land of the Great Firewall. Before I fill you in on my last full day in Taipei, I’d like to say how I am back with no shortage of glaring reminders that I have returned to a confusing country of contrasts, with my first bathroom break at the PoPark shopping center, where I had dinner with my cousin after stopping by on the way back from the airport to get train tickets for Madonna in HK on Wednesday (yeah, lots coming up).
Located at the Guangzhou East Railway Station, the mall seems to have everything—AEON supermarket, the fancy Food Republic food court, plenty of milk tea shops (the never-ending lines for Royal Tea confuse me), Starbucks, Muji, and many more cool shops and eateries. Unfortunately, a bathroom with toilets and actual toilet paper are not included, so as I had to ask a stranger for tissues to pee in a hole in the ground in this otherwise high-end mall, I couldn’t help but chuckle disappointingly at such a nice reminder of being back in China. No napkins at the restaurant we ate at, either, where we were seated at the back right in front of the kitchen, enjoying nice views of waitstaff collecting dirty dishes and such. Sigh.
Anyway. As for Taipei—SO. MANY. STORIES.
Somehow, on a day I expected to be rather uneventful and chill, I managed to collect a handful of the best experiences on my Taipei trip. Having decided the night before that I would scrap my plans to go to Jiufen, the beach town that inspired the anime movie Spirited Away (amazing, go watch it), I wanted a peaceful day—and I got one!
So without further ado, let’s reflect.
The overarching theme of my Spring Festival trip is…Spring Festival. Of course lucky me encountered yet another closing this morning! Skipping again the hostel’s free breakfast (WHY eat when #TAI-fucking-PEI), I enjoyed a nice leisurely 40-minute walk from my hostel in Ximending to Fu Hang Dou Jiang, the famous breakfast spot for soy milk and egg pancakes. Alas, a pink piece of paper attached to a clipboard was all I and other tourist hopefuls saw upon arriving: closed for the New Year until Tuesday, the 16th. 16th?! How much business do they care to lose?
Time to pull up Foursquare again. Taipei Artist Village and MOCA just around the corner, I planned to go there and see if the café people mention at the former would be a good choice. Of. Course:
Not a great start! Finally, I find what apparently is a coffee shop for serious coffee drinkers—as in the roasts are imported and all special-like. Despite how I once paid about $10 for a “special red cup” at Starbucks Kecun and totally not getting it, I figured I might as well check it out with its high Foursquare rating. I had brought my book in anticipation of chilling somewhere, anyway.
Turns out pictures are not allowed, and as much as I like to respect rules especially in a different country, I don’t understand why such rules even exist for cafés. And so, I must share the few I snuck in, because I truly enjoyed the time I spent here at Coffee Sweet, drinking my iced cappuccino with cinnamon (the ice is in a shape of a heart!) and snacking on some toasted bread, while reading and watching the few customers seated at the counter chat amiably with the owners making their special coffee.
Around noon, I decided to head out, thanking the very kind owners and then walking to the Museum of Contemporary Art.
So the museum trip was brief, given that the two floors ended up being much smaller than expected. For 50 TWD, I got an #ARTsy admission ticket:
In one of the exhibits, I wrote a note on what I thought “art x community” equals. Visitors could either leave it in the stack or take it with them, and while some of the previous notes were interesting (a huge “?”), I shamelessly promoted my blog after I wrote my answer to leave it for future visitors.
Even though I wanted to see more, I quite enjoyed the solitude away from the masses.
Having searched some nearby places to go to, I started walking through a greenway with a nice path, benches, and playgrounds. My mom’s favorite, boutique clothing stores lined both sides. The weather, again, was beautiful. I took it slow, passing by what looked like a normal clothing store called One to Sexy and a mother waiting impatiently for her cute girl who was riding happily on a hare amid a cool installation of the classic tortoise beating the hare tale.
I approached Nanjing West Road, which looked like a major shopping street, but instead of joining the crowds, I continued along the surprisingly peaceful greenway across the street. Immediately, I fell in love. In addition to more hipster boutiques, cute cafés were everywhere!
Since I had a light breakfast, I walked into another café (highly rated, of course) and ordered a hazelnut latte and banana bread.
After catching up on some email, I continued walking, soon seeing a classy bakery that was quite packed amid rather quiet streets. Once Foursquare confirmed Miss V Bakery Café was worth a try, I went inside to check it out, deciding on a delicious cranberry chocolate scone to go.
As I enjoyed the yummy deliciousness while peaking into boutiques here and there, I found what’s literally called the Lovely Taiwan Shop, one that also had great reviews. At first, I didn’t know why, because it just looked like a store selling funky, expensive handmade trinkets that you can find just about anywhere nowadays in China, but on the third floor is where the magic happens 😉
On the narrow, spiral staircase, visitors see a sign I found odd:
Two employees waited at a table on the left corner to greet visitors, with the male immediately coming up to ask which country I was from, making me think about that exclusivity sign that I had hoped wasn’t serious. He continued speaking to me in Mandarin, describing what this place was upon my questioning and ending with “free space” in English.
I walked around a bit and was then told that I could write and send a free postcard anywhere in the world. I chose my favorite card and took a seat at a table to begin writing. It definitely felt strange to be alone up on the third floor of this random shop seated at this table with two employees supervising my spontaneous postcard writing. At risk of spoiling the surprise of the card, I won’t say more until it’s been received 🙂
Afterward, as a few new visitors walked up and as I planned to leave, the female employee directed me to a table with red envelopes, telling me to open one. I got the character for “business prosperity,” the employee said, whatever that means, and as if I hadn’t already participated in enough weird activities, I then was told I could write a brief fortune on a piece of red paper and then hang it up on the Christmas tree. Heck, why not. The male employee quickly took my picture as I hung it up. I cheesed and everything.
If I had also actually bought something from downstairs, I would’ve been the model customer that day.
Now if it weren’t for my need to essentially sprint to the top of Elephant Mountain to catch my final sunset over Taipei, I could’ve and would’ve stayed in this area for the rest of the night.
After the Lovely Taiwan Shop, though, I spent precious daylight inside a massage shop, where I met the wonderful Mr. Huang.
Part two coming soon 😉