When I told people I was going so Taiwan for a holiday, most simply stared. Some, unable to control themselves, blurted “But why?”. One kind man even went so far as to say: “But… there’s nothing there.”
I was surprised because Taiwan is quite a popular destination among Chinese people and is on Travel and Living a lot these days. In fact, what I’d seen of the country seemed spectacular. Yes, it’s Chinese culture again but I am at a stage where I can tell the subtle differences and they interest me. I enjoy Chinese food, and what I’ve tasted of Taiwanese food in HK made me curious for more.
V and I seemed the only ones among our expat friends keen to visit Taiwan.
Our trip got off to an ominous start though. I left our guidebook on the flight. This did not go down well with V, because it was borrowed from the library on his card. I was pretty pissed with myself too.
We got to our hotel in what looked like a busy neighbourhood without event, catching a bus from the airport. My first impressions of Taiwan was that it looks like a cleaner Indian city. I am now beginning to realise that not all Asian cities, even those from wealthy countries, look like Hong Kong, which is in the big league of London and New York. I had a similar sense of disappointment with Seoul, expecting it to be as gizmo-ish as the technology that comes out of it. Where they differ from Indian cities, however, is not just the cleanliness but also the infrastructure. Both Seoul and Taipei have efficient and easy-to-navigate MTR systems and good roads. They are also relatively safe, even for women alone at night.
We then left for Din Tai Fung, a dumpling place reccomded by a colleague. We picked the one loacted in Sogo and though it was in a food court-ish setting and the restaurant didn’t look as run down as we have come to expect authentic Chinese food to be located in, the food lived up to its reputation. We do get xiao long bau in HK, but these were really good, as was the braised beef soup that I had been skeptical about but which, when it arrived, proved to be subtly flavoured with the meat just melting.
Next stop was a night market in Da-an district that was a bit disappointing, owing to the fact that we arrived too early. Taipei is dotted with night markets, which seem to be more about street food that buying things. So, if you’re not hungry, you end up strolling around just taking in the smells.
After that, we went to Ximen-ding which is a Mong Kok-like place where the kids descent and sometimes dress in Manga themes. Unfortunately, it was really unhappening when we got there and we got rather tired and cross. Possibly, after Mong Kok this kind of place is not too special or maybe Monday night just doesn’t bring out the Manga vibe.
A bit disappointed, we headed back to Nanjing Rd where our hotel is and descended into a hot pot place. It’s buffet style – for a fixed rate you choose the kind of soup and then serve yourself your choice of meats, mushrooms, veggies and seafood from the buffet. You also get to mix your own sauce. To finish up, is a selection of different icecreams that really helps cool down your burning tummy.
And then, bed.