Continuing on from the previous post about our first full day in Taiwan, after the visit to the University area we headed to Huashan Creative Arts Park to find a nice location in which to savor our bubble tea. There were a lot of young people out and all kinds of bands, street performers, and arts & crafts sellers scattered throughout the complex. We ducked inside a free art show and came across some, er, interesting things.
The laser cow was admittedly pretty cool even tough I’m not entirely sure of what the message was but my philosophy is, “When in doubt, call it art,” and that served me well for the day. There were some exhibits that didn’t leave me with any doubts like the cool exhibit of a city model made with electronics parts.
Here’s a closer view.
Kinda cool, huh? After wandering around the park a bit more, stepping into shops, watching street performers, and witnessing model shoots, we headed back to Zhubei in the evening for a little rest before heading out to a local night market. The sky was cloudy but we could check out the Taipei tower from a pedestrian overpass on the way to the station.
Since we weren’t in a hurry and didn’t feel the need to queue for the shortest line, we sprung for reserved economy seating in the HSR instead of business class.
Side note: I have to say that economy on the HSR is really nice! There is plenty of legroom, even for my 6’4″ traveling companion, and the cars are very clean and quiet. it would be great if train travel could make a return to the US like this.
We rested our feet a bit and then ventured out to find the local night market. Our taxi driver took a bit of a round about way as neither he nor we were sure of where it was located (doh!) but eventually we made it.
I understand this is more of a “rural” night market but it was PACKED full of stalls for food, games, garments, and sundries. I was still full from lunch but my companions sampled various wares including a takoyaki the size of a baseball which was apparently and surprisingly very good.
We even saw supporters of local political candidates out with signs and pamphlets to plug their choices and a couple of the candidates themselves even showed up to meet the people. I’m not political so for once it was actually a good thing that I stood out as someone not from Taiwan as that resulted in no one coming up to me to try to sell me on their candidate (yay!). On the other hand, standing out in such a way did trigger a lot of stares from people I passed by. I haven’t had that in a long time since I’ve usually been able to blend in wherever I go but this time there’s no helping it. Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with it and I can’t blame anyone for staring and honestly everyone here continues to be very gracious and welcoming. 🙂
But I digress (again) so back to my riveting narrative. We headed towards a 7-eleven when it was time to go home. You might wonder why but there’s a really cool system here where you can go to a convenience store like 7-eleven or a restaurant and ask the clerk/receptionist to order a cab for you. I’ve been told that those establishments gets a cut or some sort of incentive for that, which is pretty cool. It definitely made it easier to find a cab since the night market wasn’t located near a main drag where taxis typically hang out.
As for the taxi, well, I simply must say a bit about our ride home. I was with my host and my other traveling companion so my host sat upfront with the driver while my other companion and I sat in the back. Now, I noticed in my first taxi ride from the airport that there is a sign that says all passengers must wear their seatbelts by law, which seemed logical and fair enough. The two of us in the back seat were in the process of buckling in as our host was doing the same in the front passenger seat when all of a sudden the taxi driver reached over to where our host was buckling in and in a very sharp tone said something that made our Chinese-speaking host stop fastening his seatbelt, freeze, and let the seat belt slowly retract into its unused state. The taxi driver then changed his tone and seemed to be reassuring our host and patting him on the shoulder, which seemed a bit odd.
The two of us in the back seat speak no Chinese whatsoever so we had no idea of what was going on but we took one look at each other and immediately both fastened our seat belts *click* and strapped in without a word. It’s a good thing we did since traffic signals, right-of-ways, speed limits, and dividing lines apparently didn’t apply to this particular taxi driver. Zooming through the streets of Zhubei we were going 2x the specified speed limit, cutting off scooters left and right, and passing over double-yellow lines in narrow side streets. Adventure time!
When we finally skidded to a halt at our destination and climbed out, our host explained what had happened: while he was fastening his seat belt, the driver said to him, “No! Don’t do that!” After our host stopped fastening his seat belt, the driver reassured him by saying, “Don’t worry – if the cops come, I’ll have a good excuse for them. I’ve got you covered.” I’ve been with much worse drivers but this guy’s attitude towards seat belts combined with his unique driving abilities was a first. It’s funny now but…*facepalm*
Ok, one last thing before I finish with Day 2 of our time in Taiwan. My host has a saying which has proven to be true countless times: wherever you are, if there are restaurants one of them is Chinese and if there are people at least one of them is German. My other traveling companion who shared the exciting experience of being in the back seat during the wild cab ride happens to be German and, as luck would have it, our host had found what looked like a German biergarten just a few blocks away from where we were staying. Having survived the cab ride we felt we needed a drink (or 2) so we headed over to check it out.
When we arrived, our host asked if anyone there spoke German, at which the owner of the place immediately appeared and started speaking in German, much to my traveling companion’s delight. After a bit of conversation in German we were seated outside and talked with the owner. It turns out that Deutsche Haxenstube is run by a Taiwanese man who lived in Germany for 25 years before coming back to Taiwan to take care of his mother. It was clear that he was pleased to find someone with whom he could speak in German about Germany and my companion was equally pleased to be able to speak more in his native tongue than he had in the last 6 months altogether.
Before I leave you for today, I’ll just mention that this was the second encounter we had with something unexpectedly German in Taiwan today. We passed by a dentist’s office on the way to the tea house I mentioned in my previous post and this is what we saw:
Yes, you’re reading that right: that’s Herr Doctor Su, Zahnarztpraxis (dentist). And with that, I’ll say good night from Taiwan.