I have a little confession to make… I’m not really getting the high pitched buzz out of Taipei that I thought I would. I keep walking around and comparing everything here to everywhere else I have traveled and feeling generally very underwhelmed. It’s kind of odd because when the students complain to me that Sydney isn’t good because, for example, you can’t just stay in your room and buy and pay for everything through WeChat… you actually have to leave your room, or that curries here aren’t good because they’re not spicy enough. I’m always telling them, “It’s not bad, it’s just different and that’s OK”. Travel is about experiencing life and seeing how people live in other parts of the world. I really need to remind myself of this. I’ve been feeling just a tad let down. *hashtag first world problem* … Taipei is not an obvious city like Tokyo or Bangkok, but that’s OK! The magic lies in the moments. And the great thing is that you can get on a train or bus for 30 minutes and be in the country side soaking in a hot spring.
So far, I’ve made two trips to the Beitou Hot Springs. Beitou is the closest and most convenient to Taipei City. It’s only about 20 or 30 minutes on the MRT red line. It was also the first hot spring area to be developed in Taiwan. The first hot spring spa there was actually opened by a German, but it was the Japanese that really developed the area and the whole “onsen” culture. They needed somewhere to relax and unwind after a hard day of raping and pillaging the land. You can certainly feel the Japanese influence in the area.
On the first trip to Beitou, I went to Kawayu onsen. It’s located a bit further up the mountain so I took the MRT to Xin Beitou and then cabbed it from the station. It calls itself by the Japanese pronunciation of the characters for “River Spring” (Kawa + Yu) but of course all the cab drivers only know it by the Chinese pronunciation. Fortunately the kanji for “river” is pretty easy and I could half remember the kanji for “spring”, so I drew them in the air with my finger. The cab driver eventually worked out my air kanji and whisked me off to Kawayu.
It was raining that day, as it has been pretty much every other day, so it was difficult to take many pictures and you can’t take any pictures inside anyway… The few snaps that I have don’t really do it justice.
The onsen was great and felt very Japanese, although it was a little more “rustic” than you would find in Japan. There were no cabs to take me back so I bussed it to Shipai MRT station.
For the second trip to Beitou, I couldn’t be f***ed drawing air kanji and dealing with cab drivers again so I just went to Beitou Hot Spring Resort, two minutes’ walk from the station. The resort itself was of a much higher standard, but of course you didn’t get the mountain view.
The other bonus of going to this resort was that “Thermal Valley”, a river of steaming spring water, was just up the road.
Yesterday, I went to visit Shen Keng “Old Street” which is a rural township in southern New Taipei City and is famous for its tofu dishes because apparently the best tofu is made here and the restaurants here use a distinctive cooking method. There’s A LOT of tofu! Pretty much everything is tofu… All different kinds like regular tofu, stinky tofu, dessert tofu, fried stinky tofu, BBQ stinky tofu, tofu cheese, tofu cake, sweet tofu drink, dried tofu, and tofu ice cream. As well as the tofu, they have a lot of sweet snacks and candies. I wasn’t too hungry so I only tried the tofu in spicy soup and deep fried stinky tofu. Apparently people like stinky tofu. Personally, I don’t get it. It smells like rotting garbage… It’s like “Let’s take a perfectly good food and make it smell and taste bad just for the hell of it.” I had to soak the deep fried stinky stuff in the spicy soup in order to mask the smell and taste. And when you walk past a stinky tofu restaurant, it’s like walking through an open sewer.
I had a “temple” day. I walked around the city and checked out a few of the Buddhist temples: Longshan, Dalongdong Baoan, Confucius and Tian Hou. As is the case with cathedrals in Europe, unless you are a worshiper of that religion or have a particular interest in the history of the structure, they all tend to blur into one after a while, especially Buddhist temples which are mostly built on a standard design. The beauty of these temples lies in the small details: the colours, the flowers, the incense, and the intricacies of the design. The structures themselves are all relatively modern as the original structures were destroyed one way or another.
I discovered this too on my temple walk: Toffee cherry tomatoes on a stick which were surprisingly good!
I witnessed this mother/child bonding moment on the MRT the other day:
Recently at work, there has been a lot of discussion about the issue of smartphone usage, in particular internet and smartphone addiction. While this may have been an isolated incident and probably not the norm, it does make you wonder about the future generation.
And on that note..
I’m off to have dinner in Taipei’s Modern Toilet restaurant. It’s completely toilet themed… Right up my alley… You can get such delights as “Modern toilet turd sub sandwich”, “Poop stuffed pancakes” and “Urine beer”. Yummy, yummy… can’t wait!