Taiwan – Day 2 (Part 1)

I have been fortunate in my travels to not suffer from jet lag and, fortunately, this trip so far hasn’t been an exception.  Despite needing to catch up on the sleep we didn’t get before the trip and during the flight, we were all ready to go and explore a bit of Taipei.

We caught the high speed rail (HSR) from Zhubei to Taipei city via business class (sorry, no pics) which was a very nice way to travel indeed.  It amazes and shames me that so many people here speak English while I can neither speak nor read any Chinese.  This is my first time being in a country where I do not speak the language even a little so it’s quite humbling when even the 7-eleven clerks and train stewardesses speak perfect English to me.  Everyone we have encountered here thus far has been exceedingly kind and I genuinely feel very privileged to be able to spend time in their country.

Once we arrived in Taipei, we went searching for a traditional Taiwanese breakfast and found the place but decided not to go in as there was a 2-hour line snaking out of the building.  We decided to head for a street market instead and slowly worked our way through the stands sampling the delectable treats for display.

Day02StreetMarket1

So many fruits and vegetables – some to which I had never before introduced (awesome!) – and meats and fish.  We couldn’t try them all but that didn’t stop us from trying. 😉

Day02StreetMarket2

After our morning repast we headed for a district that sells medicinal herbs to find a tea house based in a historic building that my host had found on his previous visit.  He had brought me some of their red tea after his last trip which was some of the best tea I had ever tasted so I had been carefully rationing it ever since and I needed a refill.

Day02TeaHouseExterior

Inside we were treated to a tasting of 5 different teas starting with the lightest and ending with the darkest.

Day02TeaHouse2I’m sure there’s a word to describe the tea expert who introduced us to these wonderful teas but my illiteracy is compounded by my complete ignorance of such things so I’m going to call him the Tea Master for now because that’s what he was to us (just go with it, ok?).  As we were being served we had a nice view of a small garden in the back which leant a nice air of calm and tranquility after the bustle on the street outside.

Day02TeaHouseGarden

Instead of telling us long stories about the history of the teas or the legends behind them, our Tea Master declared he had no need for such things as his tea could speak for itself, and speak it did.

Day02TeaHouse1

I chose a few teas to bring home and I’ll ration those again.  Rationing will still occur but, hey, that’s incentive to visit again.  Before we left, the Tea Master brought us up to the upper level of the tea house which was covered in traditional tatami mats.  He pointed out some small doors opening up to the street that were used in the old days at night for the owners to see who was outside before letting them in.

Day02TeaHouseUpperLevelAnd with that, we headed across town to the country’s top university, National Taiwan University, to meet up with my host’s father who happens to be on of the top engineering professors there.  I had missed seeing him when he visited San Francisco so it was a great honor to meet up with him.  There was a festival going on at the university at the time which brought out all of the clubs and societies in the university.  After a good lunch we stopped by the most famous bubble tea shop that was clearly a favorite of the college students in the area.

Day02BubbleTea

Our Tea Master discussed at length how bubble tea was not really tea at all and was not worth drinking so it was probably a good thing he couldn’t see us indulge.  I have to say it was good even if it wasn’t “real” tea. 😉

Stay tuned for the undoubtedly exciting conclusion to our Day 2 in Taiwan in the next post.

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