Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The stories behind my favorite pics from our Taiwan trip this year

The bf and I have a serious case of wanderlust. So we found ourselves traveling again this month. Now, it's Taiwan, the land of xiao long bao (which we didn't have) and beef noodles (which we also didn't have). I just went to Taiwan last year actually, but it was a guided tour. This time though, I'm with the bf, and he and I would be winging it. So here are my favorite pics from our Taiwan trip, dear reader, with an interesting story that goes with each one.

Our flight to Taiwan was delayed for 2 hours. Lots of groaning from fellow passengers every time the voice over said that our flight will be further delayed. As if their groans could translate to the flight being less delayed, no? Futile effort. Anyway, when we arrived in Taiwan, the weather was beautiful, and their airport's gorgeous. Took this pic just before the point where you can't take pictures anymore.

Love how the bf is framed in this shot. Taken at the Bopiliao Historical Block. Unfortunately, some of the establishments are closed, as they're preparing a block-wide exhibition on people with special needs. But we were still lucky to catch a few exhibitions on the history of 18th century Taiwan and Taiwanese cinema. Now if only the captions had English translations, it would've been perfect.

The first night market that we went to was the Raohe Night Market. And we hoped to sample all those iconic Taiwanese street food thingies that we would see. Here's the bf getting his dose of cranberry juice. Quite refreshing actually. Cranberry juice is so expensive here in Manila. So pricey that you finish it expecting to see gold flecks at the bottom of the cup.

I love Taiwanese food, although the flavors in one dish aren't as broad as those in Thailand, where you have spicy, sweet, sour, salty, and savory in every dish. The bf and I notice a slight herby aftertaste to many Taiwanese dishes. I don't find it unpleasant though, but it does provide a slight difference to all the Chinese dishes we're used to here in Manila, where the flavor is sometimes just salty and saltier.

We sampled the roasted wagyu cubes (fabulous!), the candied tomatoes on a stick (weird! but good!), grilled octopus tentacle (bit tough, and grotesquely big, very Chthulu-ish), the grass jelly drink (no strong feelings on this one), the Taiwanese sausage with raw garlic (love this!), the peanut ice cream with crushed peanut brittle and chopped cilantro leaves all wrapped in a spring roll wrapper (so goooood!), the pork paper, and the dozens of milk teas on every corner.

The sun was really shining so bright on our second day that it was hard for me to not be squinting the whole time. I have squinty eyes when the sun's up, and I can't even keep them open sometimes. Interestingly, I'm not a big fan of tinted sunglasses. Anyway, this was taken at the Presidential Office Building, well, technically at the parking lot near the Presidential Office Building.

Saw this old man buying something from a vending machine at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. I think I love this picture the most.

The requisite jump shot. The person taking this picture kept saying, "So good! So great!" And she had us make several jumps. One thing about the bf and I is that we don't do things half-assedly. So when somebody says we need to do a jump shot, then we'll make it something extra, complete with fugly facial expressions and awkward body poses. Also, hitting the ground is another story. I thank my omega-3 supplements for giving me flexible joints (and icky fish breath).

The view at the top floor of Taipei 101. You have to pay NTD 600 (USD 20) to see it. I think it's worth it though, as you'll get a full 360-degree view of Taipei. Also, the elevator ride from the ground to the top is an experience in itself. It lasts for only a couple of minutes, and there's a cool animation that charts the progress of the elevator in real time as it ascends. And the elevator goes dark during those few minutes.

Once you get to the top floor, be prepared by a deluge of tourists taking selfies as if the building were to collapse tomorrow. Still, you can always find a spot where you can be undisturbed. I think they have a limit as to how many people can go up at any given time. It could also be interesting to go to the top floor at night and see all those city lights.

Should you decide to go down Taipei 101, you'll get to see its tuned mass damper on your way to the elevator. Quite a feat of engineering, if you ask me. I've always wondered how they managed to get this at this height. I know the answer's just a Google away, but I want to never stop wondering. Or maybe I'm just too lazy or forgetful.

Calves for days. This one was shot by the bf, at the Martyrs' Shrine. We witnessed the changing of the guards here, which was quite different from the one at Chiang Kai Shek Memorial. For one, you can literally march with the guards as they go to their posts. I wonder what all these guards feel, being surrounded by tourists and all.

That day was hot, dear readers. I had flop sweat, which was also probably running down my butt. And we were there in the middle of the afternoon. I just knew I'd be getting sunburned around the back of my neck in a couple of days, which always happens. The bf had to constantly stop me from scratching and scratching and scratching.

A pagoda, also at Martyrs' Shrine. I love pagodas. They don't seem to perform any function other than make the place beautiful. Much like a gazebo. Now I wonder—if there's going to be an Asian version of The Sound of Music, will they do that "I Am Sixteen" number in a pagoda? Stuff of wet dreams, I tell you.

On the train, on our way to Pingxi. The last time I was here, I went on a boring tourist bus, with a very friendly tour guide whose English was so difficult to comprehend that I just tuned out. It was quite an experience taking the train. We took 2 trains actually—one to get us out of Taipei, which took around an hour, and another one to get us to Pingxi, where we planned to do more touristy stuff.

I envy Taiwan's train systems. They're so efficient. In Manila, arrghh, I just can't. I don't even take the trains here because they're like hell on Earth during rush hour. But in Taiwan, you can even get tickets without speaking to an actual human.

So the bf and I were seated on the train when someone boarded and told us that we were in his seat Confused, we showed him our ticket and tried to ask him if he can point us to our correct seats. He just looked at our tickets, and said, "No seat number." Whut? Turns out that if you get your tickets using a machine, you're not assigned any seat numbers. But when you buy your tickets from the counter, the person gives you a ticket with a seat number.

The last stop of the Pingxi Old Rail is the town of Jingtong, which is so quaint and quiet that I want to live there. There's nothing much to do here, so you have an hour to kill before the next train arrives. The bf and I ended up having coffee at this really charming cafe where we were the only customers. Good coffee, but very, very expensive. My latte cost NTD 250 (USD 8).

The waterfalls at Shifen, which is a good 20- to 30-minute walk from the place where they release sky lanterns. Not shown in pictures are the hundreds of tourists taking selfies with the waterfalls in the background.

Another thing about Taiwan is that they love their milk tea. There's like 3 different milk tea stalls in every corner. I love milk tea, but I can't really tell why one milk tea stall is better than another. In Taiwan, it's probably easier getting milk tea in a food court than water, which we experienced unfortunately. We were in a food court at a mall and I couldn't find a stall that sells bottled water. I'm guessing that if we stayed a few more days in Taiwan that if you cut me, I'd bleed milk tea.

I like my milk tea straight up, with none of those pudding or pearls or jelly or fruit bits. Those pearls are weird. They're black, gooey, stick to your teeth, and don't even taste anything. They take way too much space in the cup. Anyway, don't you love these Hello Kitty cups? Perfect for gay guys, no?

At Jiufen, where we again overwhelmed by the number of tourists. I can't even recall if there were this many the last time I was here. My advice to anyone going to Jiufen: just skip it.