Wanderlust Taiwan- Cafe Sole at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park 松山文創園區, A Heritage Site

I was at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park 松山文創園區 for a playdate with my artist friend and her children. Songshan Cultural and Creative Park had been a tobacco plant since the Japanese colonial days in 1937. In 2001, the Taiwanese government designated the location as a cultural heritage site. In 2011, it was transformed into a creative hub for local artists to exhibit their work to the public. We walked around the center visiting the exhibits, got hungry and stopped at Cafe Sole for a snack and breakfast.

Cafe Sole is not only about coffee but also about creating a dialogue between the environment and the taste of coffee. The environment of Songshan, its history and creativity, brings a uniqueness to the coffee in Cafe Sole. (ok, I did not make this up. This is a direct translation of their About Cafe Sole in the Chinese site). Cafe latte. Cute bear. Excellent coffee. Cafe Sole sources internationally award-winning coffee beans that are produced out of small villages in central Taiwan. Shame on me- I had no idea that Taiwan produces coffee beans let alone award-winning ones. Ham and Cheese Panini. Made with love. Very well executed and presented.Raspberry Vinegar Tea. This is not something you see everyday in New York. Vinegar tea is very popular in Taiwan; it’s similar to the idea of drinking apple cinder vinegar to boost your immune system. The vinegar tea is usually combined with a variety of fruits and flowers.Chocolate muffin. It’s made with good dark chocolate. 🙂

Afterwards, we got freshly squeezed watermelon juice. Nothing can compare to delicious watermelon juice on a hot, scorching tropical summer day. It was a perfect day with culture, friendship, fine coffee and tea. Cafe Sole is a great stopping place for tired feet. Songshan Cultural and Creative Park should be on the list for international visitors.

This experience took place at

CAFE SOLÉ 日出印象咖啡館
at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park 松山文創園區
No. 133, Guangfu S Rd,
信義區台北市 Taiwan 110
+886 2 2765 1388
台北市光復南路133號
Mail: cafe.sole.tw@gmail.com

Wanderlust Taiwan- RaoHe Street Night Market Beef Noodle Soup, 饒河街齒牛香很不好吃

This is the RaoHe Street night market 饒河街夜市 beef noodle soup experience. We went in because the place was packed with people. It was one of the few places that had a store front, running fan, cold bottled water for the foreigners, and AC. As a rule of thumb, a restaurant overflowed with diners is probably a good bet. I was wrong. I think this was the worst meal I had in Taiwan this summer.See the menu behind the man who was staring at the camera? The night market noodle soups are in general about $1 to $1.5 USD cheaper than those in a slightly more up-scale restaurant. Read the other beef noodle post, click here.紅油炒手 Dumplings in hot chili sauce, a famous Sichuan dish. This was good. The sauce on the freshly cooked dumplings that were still tender and warm made the dish. The green veggies balanced out the spiciness.紅燒半筋半肉Braised half tendon and half beef noodle soup. It was tasteless. I don’t know how they stay in business.牛筋和海帶, Beef tendon/kelp/tofu. Meh and blah. We mixed these into other dishes and added a lot more sauce to make them ok to swallow.泡菜, Taiwanese pickled vegetables. Best dish of the night.

The restaurant was busy because they had a store front, tables and chairs, and efficient management of the diners. The wait staff is extremely efficient to usher you in and out. Because of their efficiency, they are able to let you sit down in an air-conditioned room, resting your sore feet from walking the night market. This is the reason why the restaurant was busy. This is how they stay in business by working on the peripherals and not the main product. It absolutely had nothing to do with the quality of their food!

Taiwanese food is almost always yummy and excellent. Having a bad meal is blasphemy in my book. Yuck! 台北市饒河街齒牛香的牛肉麵難吃。真丟臉啊!

This experience took place at

No. 104, Raohe St,
Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105

 

 

Wanderlust Taiwan- How to Be a Proper Taiwanese Woman

I am leaving tonight to go to NY. In the past few days, I have felt the love of the Taiwanese people and embraced my motherland. I love this little Island. I love the good and the bad. It now feels really sad to leave home. I am already homesick.

But I also realized that since I don’t feel authentically Taiwanese, I needed to have an improvement plan for me to work on while back in NY. Here is my action plan, projected timing and current performance.

How to Be A Taiwanese WomanToo bad that I don’t have time to figure out how to insert a table into WordPress. My apologies if the chart isn’t easy to read. 🙂

 

Wanderlust Taiwan- RaoHe Street Night Market Visit 饒河街觀光夜市

This is my only visit to the night market this year. RaoHe Street Night Market, 饒河街觀光夜市, is famous for its food and as-seen-on-TV products. Click here to watch a Magic Comb demonstration from a night market vendor. Click here to read about my prior visit to Linjiang Street Night Market last year.

For those who have never been to an Asian night market, it’s hard to imagine the crowds, noises, smells, lights and the sights. The only thing that came close to the Asian night market is the Plaza Jemaa el Fna in Marrakech, Morocco. It’s an overwhelming experience of the senses.  The temple next to the entrance  A sign demonstrating the proper way of queuing for the stand. 
The queue was long and this was what everyone was waiting for, a Japanese snack from Osaka that looks like a cake and has layers of cabbage, bacon, eggs, and shrimps. Grilled on both side and topped with mayo, Bonita flakes and wasabi.Charcoal grilled abalones and escargots
Fried squid with a multitude of seasonings to choose from Plum candies Pig feet  Eggs cooked by tea leavesBlack sugar cubes. Drinks made from winter melons with black sugar. Waffles with some special flavors: caramel green tea, Yu-Ching mango 
This entire stand is based on the chicken pieces that this man pulled and shredded by hand A variety of handmade dried tofu: sha cha, original and spicy 
This is luxurious night market eating because these people got seats. Most of us eat out of a paper box or a plastic bag while walking and browsing.

Do you think you would enjoy something like this?

Typhoon Soudelor in Taipei, Taiwan – Taiwanese People Are Crazy!

Soudelor was felt in the early morning between 3am and 9am on Saturday, 8/8/15 in Taipei, Taiwan. My high-rise building (I am on the 12th floor) swayed gently by the howling wind. It felt like a an earthquake and was unsettling. Sirens from the police and the EMTs were non-stop last night.

By 3:30pm in the afternoon, bakeries, movie theaters, clothing stores, Seven-Eleven, Family Mart, Dominos, local restaurants, pharmacies, and general merchandising stores are all open and ready for business. Many people were out helping to clean up the streets. I was out running.
     Soudelor exited Taiwan about an hour ago at 2pm. The MRTs are still shut down but the buses and taxis are everywhere. Taipei is almost back to business; Taiwanese people are crazy.

Hear the wind howling?

Typhoon Soudelor in Taipei, Taiwan – PreArrival

image Thursday, 8/6/15 in the Daan District in Taipei, Taiwan

5:40pm on Fridy, 8/7/15, in the Daan District in Taipei, Taiwan

The locals are very nonchalant about the Typhoon.  Around 1pm today, the City officially cancelled work and school for tonight.  No decisions have been made about business and school closings tomorrow. Most people in the City are expecting Soudelor to simply blow over.

Wanderlust Taiwan- The Mail-Order Bride from Vietnam. 沒有緣份!

This is both a weird and a heart-warming story.

Taiwan, being an economic power in Asia, gets domestic workers and mail-order brides from south east Asia. There is a clear social economic status differentials between those from south east Asia and the Taiwanese. By chance, I met a mail-order bride from Vietnam when I went to get a pedicure and exfoliation at a Thai Massage place. Her name is Little Red. She is now 28 years old. She married a Taiwanese guy who was 30 when she was 18. Little Red has been in Taiwan for ten years now.

Little Red spoke Mandarin with a heavy accent. I could not place her accent so I asked where she was from. Because I also have an accent according to the local Taiwanese, she and I bonded over our accents and she told me her life story…
She married the Taiwanese man to get out of her impoverished village north of Ho Chi Minh City. Because she has a skill as an aesthetician, she has always worked outside the home and was never made to take care of his family, cook and clean. He treated her well but was unwilling to have children with her, hence leaving her with no protection later on in life. He already has a son from a prior marriage. She ended up divorcing him because she said they are not destined to be together. Little Red said, “沒有緣份!”

Little Red is strong, determined, and wants a better life for herself. Her ex-husband was kind enough to her, according to her. But she wanted more. Little Red made me think of all the women in unhappy marriages or even abusive ones. Divorce rate is more than 50% in the US but is only about 33% in Taiwan. Asia has a very conservative stand on divorce. Think of what she did in such a conservative society with no family backing her up! Little Red is strong despite her upbringing and a lack of education. She learned Mandarin; she has a skill and she is not afraid to make a new life. I admire her!

Now the weird part: My exfoliation apparently was for the entire lower body. That’s correct: my Mandarin is not that strong when it comes to cosmetic vocabulary. So she made me take off everything below the waist and had me put on a diaper-like black paper panties in a hot little room.

The second weird part: I forgot to wear my sandals for the pedicure and was in a rush to leave to pick up my daughter at camp. Little Red took the sandals off her feet and gave them to me to wear so I wouldn’t mess up her work on my toenails.

I could not say no. Out walked my bright orange toenails in Little Red’s brown sandals, still warm from her feet.