Apologies for the late post. My time in Taiwan has been packed with so many activities that I haven’t had time to post, which I suppose is a good problem to have. 🙂
For day 3 (Tuesday) of the trip, we were able to meet up with my host’s cousin who is a tour guide and was happy to show us the sights. My host explained that Zhubei is known as “The Windy City” here in Taiwan and upon awaking on Day 3, I found out what that this name is deserved as the wind was howling between the high rises as rain started to fall. Rain and wind won’t stop us from venturing out, of course, so off we went to catch the HSR in Zhubei to get to Taipei city.
The Zhubei station is fairly new and very clean – much nicer than taking BART or Muni in San Francisco! After arriving in Taipei we met up with my host’s cousin who acted as our guide through the rest of the day. We partook of a traditional Taiwanese breakfast before heading out to the National Palace Museum. Sadly, photos were not allowed at the museum so I don’t have any to post here but I do highly recommend a visit…though I also recommend watching out for the Chinese grandmas. There were dozens of Chinese tour groups snaking their way through the museum and it became apparent that if one of the grandmas in the group wanted to see something that another person is looking at, mimicking a bulldozer by running into that person and moving him aside seemed to be standard procedure. After an hour of being pushed, prodded, and nearly knocked down by little old ladies who didn’t seem to mind that I am quite a bit taller than they are, I finally held my ground once and pretended not to notice. For my efforts I won a death stare that I could feel originating near my midriff as the offended grandma was calculating just what kind of barbarian was so rudely blocking her path. Now you know what kind of a person I really am (bwah ha ha ha ha >;).
After the Great Battle of Laura vs. the Chinese Grandmas, we headed back to the city and its fashion district. Why? Well, my host and traveling companion wanted to look into getting custom suits tailor made. Our guide has some good connections there so off we went. We went slightly away from the main road down a typical smaller side street to find the tailor.
Inside, the fittings began and I was able to sit back and enjoy the show as my friends has their measurements taken (and no, no clothing was removed for this – get your minds out the gutter!).
We aren’t the most fashionable people so this was a new adventure for all of us. Choosing fabrics, suit cuts (American? English? Italian?), and colors was a bit too much to ask for these guys today so that will have to wait for another day or two while my friends venture into the world of fashion to learn more about things like the difference between notch and peak lapels. This will surely be entertaining (for me, at least).
With our heads still filled with thoughts of tweeds and silks we ventured out to (what else?) a bakery. Women having custom clothes made would likely immediately be thinking of dieting but not us – we headed straight for the carbs!
My host’s favorite bread is a scallion bread which turned out to be a sweet bread topped with scallions. It had an interesting flavor and texture: the bread itself had a very soft texture (like wonderbread) and was quite sweet while the topping of green onions was very savory. Being a baker with a western palate, I’m not sure about the flavor or the texture as I’d typically want that sort of bread to be completely savory and have a texture that it is a bit more dense, but it was cool to sample some of the local breads for sure!
After a horrific experience drinking what was supposed to be coffee on our United flight from SFO to TPE, we were in dire need of a good cup of joe to warm us up and caffeinate us for the rest of the day. We headed to SPOT Cafe Lumiere in Huashan Creative Arts Park where our guide’s roommate works as a barrista. The park was much less crowded than it was on our previous day’s visit due to the rain and the fact that it was a workday but there were still quite a few people out. We sat down at a table where the cafe’s horse mascot was glaring at me from across the table (ha!).
The coffee was decent and the service excellent, which was a welcome change after the airplane coffee that was likely filtered through a pair of used gym socks. It’s election time in Taiwan so we also received a little political postcard with our lattes.
More later in Part 2.