Wanderlust Taiwan- Night and Day

It has been two weeks since I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan.  This is the half way mark where I stop being hungry. I look at a sea of food options and no longer feel the zeal for them.View from my balcony Taipei 101 seen from a neighborhood street Can you imagine leaving all your shoes outside your apartment for all to see and smell? At Taoyuan International Airport for the sunsetTai Chi for morning exercise. Matching pink shirts and black pants in 90 degrees weather. Another morning exercise ritual  This is my compadre in running.  See how she is dressed from head to toe.  She even has a mask on for the morning walk. Given the modern feel in Taipei, sometimes I forget how traditional Taiwan can be.   

It’s a gray world we live in.

Für Elise by Beethoven- Played by Garbage Trucks in Taiwan

Taiwan has class. The garbage trucks play Für Elise composed by Beethoven every night when they pick up the trash. The trash collection is very different in Taiwan. There is no curb side pick up. There are no dumpsters. You bring your trash to the truck when you hear the music. You line up at the designated collection point in your area. You bring trash, sorted into regular trash, recycled items, and compost.

It always happens at night.
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Here is the sorting of a building recycled items while the truck is there.

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Area residents bringing their recycled items to the truck to be compressed.

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Here are the composting bins. You bring your kitchen scraps and any organic compost and dump them into the appropriate bins. It looked a little messy and liquidy to me. Gloves please.

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It was weird to be snapping photos while people were taking care of their trash. People line up to take turns with the various trucks.  It was a very orderly and quiet business, conducted under the dim street lights as you can see from the photo, while listening to classical music.

What do you think of this process? I am not a fan of hauling my trash out at 8:30pm at night but am impressed by the composting offering and the classical music the trucks play. It gives a whole new meaning to Beethoven’s romanticism. 🙂

National Taipei University of Education, 國立台北教育大學

I have been back to the US (my home) since August 18th and frankly the reverse homesickness has set in. Here is where I spent an enormous amount of time this summer.

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Day time view of the campus
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Night time view of the campus

台北教育大學 www.ntue.edu.tw

106, Taiwan, Taipei City, Daan District, 和平東路二段134號
+886 2 2732 1104

 

Happy Meal at Kyomomoyama 京桃山, Miramar Mall Taipei

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This is what I considered as a complete happy meal: fresh sushi, rice, miso soup, tea and a quiet and air-conditioned seat in a restaurant. Food quality was acceptable. This happened to take place on the food court floor of the Miramar Entertainment Park.

Miramar Mall
No. 20, Jing Ye 3rd Road
DaZhi, Taipei

A Civilized Experience at the Westin Hotel Taipei

Have I complained how hot it is in Taiwan yet?  Averages in the high 90s in July and August, with high humidity and a possibility of thunderstorm most days.  The sun is bright and always on top of you. In the first few days, I was a sun seeker: tank top, short shorts, just taking in the glorious warmth.  Soon after, the parasol or the “sunbrella” quickly opens up as the first ray of sun hits my shoulders.  Coupled the sun with walking being the primary mode of transportation, I am constantly seeking a nicely furnished place to duck in that has a strong AC and without mosquitos.  That’s why the experience at the Westin Hotel the other day felt so civilized.

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This is the tower of desserts. They may look beautiful and up to par for being tasty desserts. But my verdict is that they are better looking than tasting.

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The tower of desserts were served to us while we sat in this cushioned, fluffy big sofa while looking out to a Japanese garden with a waterfall feature and a pond while AC strongly blasting cold air at us. Just superb!

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Who can resist a heart-felt hot chocolate?

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For those who are hungry, this is the most tasty sandwich in a civilized afternoon tea setting in the city of Taipei.

I live like the locals when I am in Taiwan.  I go to small noodle stands without AC, sit by the side of the road.  I go to small restaurants that has not updated their decor since they first opened and with their AC cover on the floor.   I go to the nigh market and farmer’s market and eat things on a stick and out of plastic bags. These are fresh, delicious and extremely yummy food at an incredible price.  But they lack ambience and the comfort that I am used to in the States.

I also walk everywhere in Taipei and that means sweating and soaking through whatever I am wearing during all the walks.  It was a nice change of scenario to be  in the Westin for a slow afternoon, enjoying the beauty of the dessert and the AC.

I highly recommend the Elite Concept Cafe at the Westin Hotel Taipei, especially if you go with a friend who is a member of the Westin Hotel and has a discount card where the entire afternoon spent with eight middle school friends turned out to be only a little more than $10 per person.

This experience took place at the

Elite Concept Café

THE WESTIN TAIPEI

133 Nanjing East Road, Section 3

Taipei,104 Taiwan

Map

Phone: (886)(2) 8770 6565

The Essential Skills for Food Court Eating in Taiwan

Taiwan is hot. Although there are many cheap places for food, most likely eating in those stores/stands are not as comfortable (think not AC’ed enough) as eating in an upscale mall, airport, tourist attraction sites, or the movie theaters. Therefore, it’s essential to figure out what to eat when presented with numerous choices, each seems better than the last, while fighting against the crowd to get to your preferred option.

Here is what I do.

First, I assess the mall and figure out its clientele. Usually, if the mall caters to international travelers, the price point is higher and the food is not necessarily better. If the mall caters to the local population, the food may be great but it will be hell to find a spot to sit.

Second, I queue at the store that sells more authentic Taiwanese food and has the longest line of customers. When the line is long, the food is usually good.

Third, I avoid any Western cuisines. They tend to be horrible for someone who lives in the US because they are Asianized. Somehow the taste is changed to suit the Asian palates.

Lastly, be decisive. Once you take a quick survey of the food court, it’s time to queue at a store while you send your friends to find a spot to sit. The food in general will be good, if not pretty good, if you follow my advice.

Here is one successful outing at The Mall, located at No. 203, Sec. 2, Dunhua S. Rd., Taipei. The Mall caters to the international crowd but the food was very decent and the ambience refreshing and pleasant.

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Pot stickers, 黃金鍋貼

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Breaded, fried pork chops with noodles, 排骨細麵

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Pickled vegetable with pork noodles, 榨菜肉絲麵

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Beef noodle soup with hand cut noodles, 清燉牛肉麵

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Here are the menu and prices for 朱記

Bon Appétit! May your tummy be filled with yummy food.

Random Pictures of Taipei 2

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Sunset seen from the Ferris wheels on top of the Marimar Mall, 美麗華百樂園

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View from the Ferris wheels with Taipei 101 in the background

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View from the Ferris wheels, clearly showing the surrounding mountains

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Helicopters on the ground of Songshan Airport, 松山機場

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Food truck selling peaches in the east commercial area, touting that he planted these organic peaches himself.

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Food truck selling roasted duck at the corner of my building, half a duck for $170NT or approximately $5.7US. See that big metal tube? The interesting fact is that he roasts them right in the truck.

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Awkward English: Professional sponge for seniors, better use a thicker one?

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Let us be your primate?

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You are not in Asia if you don’t see rows upon rows of scooters

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Korean celebrities are everywhere in Taiwan as are their electronics

Weird Combo, only in Taiwan – Squid Rice Vermicelli Plus Citrus Soufflé for Dessert

Met an old friend yesterday for lunch near the Zhong Xiao Fu Xing MRT station, 忠孝復興捷運站。 We happened upon this little eight-seat food stand that serves the freshest squid 小管 with rice vermicelli 米粉 in seafood broth.  This is a very well-known dish in Taiwan and the long line at lunch validated its popularity.  We were lucky enough to be seated.  This lunch took place at the

台北市大安區忠孝東路四段頂好名店城 B1
B1 level of the Welcome Commercial Center at
Zhongxiao East Road Section 4, Daan district of Taipei City

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Squid with rice vermicelli

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Pan fried fish belly. Yum!!

Afterwards we visited the Sogo department store nearby and shared a citrus soufflé at Afternoon Tea, a Japanese store and food establishment. Too bad the soufflé tasted eggy- more like the Japanese steamed egg than a French dessert.  Yes, we dug into the soufflé before taking the picture!  You can find the menu and the uneaten dessert pictured here.

AfternoonTea at Sogo

Having Pho in Taipei – Where Supply Meets Demand

What about food from Vietnam?  There has been an insurgence of cuisines from Vietnam and Thailand in the recent years.  It’s unclear to me exactly why that is but this trend appears to follow the number of the brides the Taiwanese men import from Vietnam and Thailand.  Ok, I know I sounded a bit judgemental just now.  To be a tad less biased, I should also mention that there seems to be an insurgence of western cuisines with the number of Taiwanese women who married white men and brought them back home.  Aha, now I am just discriminating everyone Taiwanese regardless of gender or their spousal choice.  Who am I to judge other people’s happiness?  This is globalization where supply meets demand.  Love comes in all different forms.

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Love this bowl of pho (cooked beef) with glass noodles.  You can add all the condiments, ranging from fish sauce, white vinegar, chili, to soy sauce of various darkness.

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Love this bowl of noodles in a slightly different way – love the raw beef (pho done  the right way) and the regular thin noodles.

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Tender love for this bowl of noodles – it’s chicken with chicken broth.  Nothing too special but comforting.

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Love love the stewed seaweed (Kombu) with green scallions.  Love the iodine and the umami it gives.
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Love the softness and the hardiness of the daikon.

Seeking Plain Food in a Gourmet City

My zealousness during the first week in Taipei, Taiwan landed me with some digestive discomfort.  I felt bad enough that I stayed away from the spicy and the spices in the past few days.  I must say that seeking plain food in a city that is known for delicacies of all kinds was pretty challenging.  So you be the judge on how plain the foods are.

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Steamed white rice with scallops, seaweed, carrots, and green sprouts

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Steamed white rice with grilled eel, sweet sauce, sesame, seaweed and ginger

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White rice in a stone pot served with cod roe, tea, seaweed, and green scallion

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Udon noodles in dashi broth with seaweed and mashed daikon

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Chinese buns.  One of my least favorite foods but it is simple carbohydrate and very plain. I was on this plus black tea for two days!!  I did not bother to take a picture of the buns I ate.  The photo here is from http://www.25011963.com/product.cgi.  I am sure their buns are very delicious for other people.

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No fluff white rice with little fish on top.