We make holes in teeth!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Taiwan Day 18 - Taipei Day Trip

Full picture set of the day here: Flickr set or slideshow.

Cold and wet rain greets me as I step out of the apartment to go get coffee this morning. I was hoping to get a short ride in before we hop on a bus for Taipei, but this may be Buddha's (when in Rome) way of telling me to take the day off the bike. Yesterday I was flat and disinterested, so perhaps I need a day off to revitalize myself. I decided to figure it out later and walk to 7-11 as fast as I could, since standing in the rain thinking just made me cold. The front cover of the Taipei Times was talking about the cold snap, and verified that snow has started to fall in several places on the island that rarely see snow. There was a picture of a guy holding a thermometer that was sub-zero (Celsius, let's not get crazy here). The subtitle said something like, "Subtropical my foot."

Here's the Taipei Times link.

The rain never let up so I stayed in today, since The Dude abides, even when Buddha speaks. Instead I called the folks to see how they were doing and mulled around the apartment eating small bites of anything I could see. I'm pretty sure we have enough snack foods to last until we leave, which is good since we won't have to buy anything, but also lame because we'll be eating the same stuff for the next nearly 4 weeks. It's hard to believe we're on day 18, but then we really still have 26 days to go, which is plenty of time for me to get fatter. I'm still not sure if I'm gaining weight or not. I'll wait until I get back to figure it out. My clothes still fit so that's good.

off to Taipei for the day, which means a bus trip. Of course, as we left it was beautiful out:

We trekked a few blocks to the train station then over to the other side and 2 more blocks to the bus station, which is really nothing more than a bus parked in front of a small office that sells tickets. We didn't know any better so we just got on the bus, which we later found out was wrong. We were supposed to wait for the bus to pull up to the "office" which would explain why nobody was on it when we sat down. No harm, no foul though, and the bus driver didn't seem to much care.

This is because he clearly had a death wish. I don't know if every bus driver is like this but I'm fairly certain this guy fancies himself either a race car driver or a kamikaze pilot. Every time we went around a turn on the highway I was worried that if we flipped over, we would plunge over the guardrail and 50 or more feet to our certain demise. It didn't help that the TV on the bus was literally playing videos of what to do in the event that the bus rolls over. It got to the point that when we were off the raised highways, I felt better knowing that if we flipped over, we would at least drop directly to the ground and not over the bridge to an uncertain end below.

I was thrilled to be off that blue death on wheels.

Nat's parents came to pick us up, and maybe 10 minutes later we were parking the car, which is just an over-elaborate fiasco with my FIL for some reason. He will literally, and I swear I'm not making this up at all, try to squeeze his car into a spot with a foot on either side just to park 4 spots closer, which is exactly what he did today. I'm not sure why he does this, as the effort involved by everyone makes the 4 spots saved seem more than meaningless. First, we all have to get out of the car before he tries to back in. Next, we have to wait for him to pull up and back at least 4 times. Finally, my MIL has to get into the space to guide him into the spot without hitting anything. He could have easily pulled into one of the empty spots in the 3/4 empty lot. But he insisted on the spot that was closest to the direction we needed to go.

On the walk over he went back to move the car to a closer spot in another lot.

Nat's uncle is a bigwig at Dentsu, which Wikipedia says is "one of the largest advertising brands in the world." All I know is that we show up, hang out and have coffee, then go to lunch. Lunch was a Hakka place around the corner which was decent. It had a few really good dishes like the eggplant, stewed pork, and soup. The pork probably looks the best of them all:

After lunch we went back to the office for another coffee, and Julia got to sit in the big boss chair and draw with the colorful markers. She also found a magnifying glass which we had some fun with:

You can see Taipei 101 from his office too. It's not a great pic but it shows you the cool view. I do miss being in Taipei, it's just another world than from where we are. We "cut our teeth in Taipei, so to speak, and it's just a massively different place than Luodong. I miss the apartment there and having such a cool place to stay. The view:

Taipei is just different. It's a metro center and a white guy is run of the mill there. I think I saw 2 in 10 minutes just at the bus station alone, where in Ludong I've seen 1 in 18 days. People are more upscale, of course. Things are nicer, cleaner. The air is dirtier though. The sense of wonder here is more like if you visit another city in the US than if you go to the countryside where we are. Of course, there's more to do, more to see, and a mass of traffic. Though it does seem like people obey the traffic rules much more up here. I think the risk of pulling out of a side street without looking is much greater with the speeding traffic here.

After lunch we headed back to the car and the sky mocked me yet again. This is the bluest sky we've seen so far. As you'd expect, as soon as we got out of the long tunnel and into Ilan county, it was cloudy and raining. I guess it's just the way things are going to be this trip:

Before we left Taipei, we took a quick pit stop at this snack shop that has small pineapple cakes that Nat's parents often bring back to the states. I was surprised to find they had other kinds of the same cake, though again, I guess I shouldn't be. Their MO is pretty much to identify the single thing they like the most from a place and it exclusively. They did break this rule at the Hakka place in Luodong here, since we went there so often. But for the most part, this is how they roll.

On the drive home, or really before we even got going, Julia was losing her patience. I guess I can understand since there really was nothing kid-specific in her whole day from 9:30 to about 3:00. We finally got home and we all decompressed a bit while Nat's parents put the final touches on their exodus. On one hand, they will be missed as a sort of "normalizing" presence here. On the other hand, nearly 3 weeks with them was plenty. Having 3+ weeks of freedom will be a good thing. And there won't be a full court press to go see the relatives every day.

Plus, we get the king size bed!

After they took off, we did our afternoon tour of town, with a quick stop first to feed the fish in the park, where we saw a dead mouse floating in the pond. Julia looked at it and said, "That's a dead mouse." Then she proceeded to grab a handful of fish food and throw it in the water. I guess she's not really a big fan of mice.

We did the bakery, though something Nat said makes me think that we should break this habit as well. I'm sort of brainwashed into going here because it's something to do every afternoon. I like getting out of the house, but our breakfast is a bit pigeon-holed at this point. It may be time to branch out and go for some of that good greasy food that I love so much. As we were walking to the train station it did strike me that I really haven't gotten enough of my breakfast on during this trip. Breakfast is so fatteningly good here, I really do need to partake more.

After the bakery we hit the Junk Store for some markers and a sticker book, then I looked for a bike shop a block over from the night market but Google Maps failed me. I did find a low-rent liquor store that had some beer, basically more of the same that you can get everywhere. I think everything they sell here is more or less Budweiser, just packaged in a different bottle. Here's Julia playing with her new sticker book while I drink beer out of my monkey mug:

Dinner is noodles, sticky rice, soup, and a veggie, plus an apple we had in the fridge. Total cost was $125 NT. I've been lax in saying how much this gluttony cost. Of course, nothing is free. NT is New Taiwanese dollar, which is the unit of currency here. The exchange rate is currently about 30, which means that the 4 course dinner cost us about $4 and change in USD.

Rest of the night was the sticker book and moving into the new king size bed, which is much softer than the other rock-hard bed.



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