Taipei, Days 5-7: Ceramic Cockroaches, and More General Awesomeness

-by Amy Yen

So you may have noticed that I totally failed to blog the last few days. This was partly because the last few days mainly consisted of non-stop shopping & eating & there’s really not much to say about that except that, yes, in case you are wondering, I am still really, really good at both of these things. The other reason was I really wanted to catch up on some of the fall TV premieres I am missing this week. I caught the premieres of Fringe (AMAZING), Gossip Girl (rebounding nicely) & FlashForward (surprisingly disappointing). I hope to do a full review post for all of these on the plane tomorrow. Hopefully I will find time somewhere during those 13 hours.

So anyway, last few days in Taipei. We checked out the Ximending District, which has kind of a Times Square vibe. Lots of shopping geared at young people. Yes, I got a “I love Taiwan”/”In Case it Wasn’t Clear, I am a Tourist!!!!” t-shirt. What can I say? It was $4. I also got two pairs of jeans at about $13 US each, with free tailoring. That’s what some of us (you know who you are) call “value.”

We also visited my Aunt Jessica in Yingge (New Taipei). We went to the Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum,  where we saw a lot of confusing modern art, including a ceramic insect display, which featured a cockroach close in actual size to the one my dad killed in my grandma’s living room the other day, except, of course, the one my dad killed also had wings & looked a lot meaner:

giant roach

Today, we had lunch at a fabulous Asian barbeque place that was so awesome, I wanted to make sure to give them a shout-out here. If you’re ever in Taipei, go to Yuan Shao Barbeque. It’s kind of Korean-style barbeque, only served around a five-course meal. It also has pretty much the nicest service I have ever experienced. Go, enjoy. Prepare not to be able to move for several hours afterwards.

We had dinner with my cousin Emily & her family near Taipei Arena, a tourist-heavy area with a lot of hotels & western chain restaurants so disoriented Americans, lost in a foreign land, can find some familiar places to remind them of home, like beacons in the night. Beacons in the form of T.G.I.Friday’s &, it turns out, Hooters:

Really?!?

Really?!?

So anyway, that will pretty much do it for me in Taiwan. I’ll be back in LA around 3pm Sunday & back at work, bleary-eyed & jet-lagged on Monday. Taiwan was awesome, beginning to end, pretty much I loved every moment. Except for the moments involving giant homicidal cockroaches.

I’ll see y’all soon.

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Tainan, Day 4: Bullet Train Down Family History Lane

-by Amy Yen

Day 4 in Taiwan, we finally ventured outside of Taipei. It was unbelievably easy to do so, due to Taiwan’s awesome new High Speed Rail (HSR) system, which cut a trip across the entire country to Tainan—which in my childhood used to take approximately six hours by traditional train—down to about an hour & a half by bullet train. And because I was dragged out of bed at 7am to take said trip, I passed out within the first minute & woke up on the other side of the island. Um, awesome.

In Tainan, we met up with my uncle Joe & his family, who are some of those long lost relatives I remember vaguely from my trips to Taiwan in my youth, back before I had those annoying obligations like needing to attend college. The result of not seeing said relatives for 12 years is they have the overriding impression that I do not know Chinese, like, at all, which is not true. Actually, I understand Chinese fluently & speak it pseudo-fluently, like I’m not going to pretend like I’m as good as I should be because, let’s be real, I bailed on Chinese school in like third grade, but come on. I can follow a conversation about typhoons just fine. But I didn’t mind much because, hilariously, what ended up happening was I would actually get congratulated on being able to answer basic questions in Chinese, like “what would you like to drink?” & “would you like some more delicious Asian pear?” If only it was this easy to impress people in America.

Aunt Jessica, Uncle Joe, Mom & me enjoying delicious Chinese shaved ice in Tainan

Aunt Jessica, Uncle Joe, Mom & me enjoying delicious Chinese shaved ice in Tainan

The other thing we did in Tainan was go walk around National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), where my dad attended undergrad, studying & rather unfortunately learning to despise industrial design, which is why he eventually went & got a bunch more degrees in other majors in the US instead.

Mom  & me at NCKU

Mom & me at NCKU

Anyway, it’s a lovely, sprawling campus & we had fun taking obligatory tourist-y pictures in front of their giant oak tree, which is apparently like 14 gazillion years old. We also went & got Chinese shaved ice at a shop near the campus & I got to hear cute stories about how my mom used to meet my dad at that very shop all the time back when they were dating because she worked right around the corner. Awww.

Tomorrow…I’m not entirely sure, but if I had to guess, probably more shopping & eating.

Taipei, Day 3: Look Up in the Sky! It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane!

-by Amy Yen

Today’s major highlight, besides, you know, more shopping & eating, was a trip to Taipei 101, still—until December anyway—the tallest building in the world. Seriously, folks? This building is really, really impressive.

taipei101

What an impressive feat of architecture. Because there’s nothing that comes close to it in the city of Taipei, you can really see it from miles away. At night, it’s lit up with messages, like the way they light the Tower at UT Austin. Last night for example, it had Taipei 1<31 lit in pink. Very cute.

The bottom floors are actually part of an ultra-upscale—I’m talking like Rodeo Drive, times five—mall. It’s beautiful. Seriously, it’s like the most beautiful mall you could imagine. I mean, I couldn’t remotely afford to buy anything in it or anything, but it made me feel like kinda a big deal just walking around in there. It’s awesome.

The mall also sold a lot of overpriced souvenirs featuring the Taipei 101 mascot, which is this robot-looking thing that I am posing with here:

taipei101mascot

Look, we’re even wearing kind-of matching outfits, ha!

Mom & I also had some lovely/snotty overpriced tea at a cafe-slash-flower shop up on the 35th floor, with a great birds-eye view of Taipei, a la Reunion Tower in Dallas. And listen, I appreciate the business idea of selling overpriced tea with a view to tourists as much as the next person, but we left hungry, so afterward, we went & got some absurdly cheap & delicious noodles from a street vendor. It was better than about 90% of what I’ve had in the US.

Up next…day trip to Tainan, where my uncle-who-I-haven’t-seen-for-about-12-years lives!

Taipei, Day 2: Jade Cabbage Fever

-by Amy Yen

Quick post because we just got back from Night Market & I’m exhausted. Just wanted to post a quick update of day 2 in Taipei. We went to the National Palace Museum today. Here’s me in front of the outside:

nationalpalace1

Sadly, no pictures were allowed inside, but we saw all the main attractions, including the Jade Cabbage, which looks exactly what you’d expect a jade cabbage to look like & which is marketed hilariously aggressively by the museum. For the right price, you can walk out of there with a jade cabbage souvenir keychain, cellphone charm, paperweight, compact mirror or USB port. Here it is in all its glory:

jadecabbage - image from Google Images

What was even more awesome than the Jade Cabbage was the Meat-Shaped Stone, which is a stone that someone ingeniously carved to look exactly like a piece of deliciously marinated meat. Seriously:

meat - image from Google Images

I mean, come on. If that’s not art, I don’t know what is. 😉

Anyway, day 2 was a major success on the shopping front, where I scored a hot new bag for 190 Taiwanese dollars (roughly $5 American) & shoes for 350 (about $11). At Night Market, we got the most amazing melon tea of all time & of course, Chinese shaved ice with red beans, taro & tapioca pearls. Mmmm-I’m-going-to-be-400-pounds-but-it-will-have-been-worth-it. 🙂

Okay, that’s about it. Talk to y’all later.

Greetings…from Taipei!

-by Amy Yen

Hey folks. So I’ve been thinking about moving my blog over to this sparkling new, personal-online-brand-friendly address for a while now, but I couldn’t think of what I wanted to blog about. I’m vacationing in Taiwan this week, so I thought this would be a good excuse to finally get this sucker going. So, welcome to my new blog! 🙂

So, background. I was actually born in Taipei & lived here until I was four. Then my parents & I immigrated to the US so my dad could attend college in the States. I still have lots of extended family in Taiwan, but I haven’t visited in like 12 years due to school commitments. This visit is only about 10 days, which is woefully not enough for the amount of eating & shopping I have planned.

We got in about 5am local time on Sunday & made it through immigration & swine flu swine_flu_man_in_mask_airport_432screening(!) with no problems. As some of you know, I’ve been fighting through my yearly bout with maybe-bronchitis the last two weeks, but thankfully I got over the fever stage last week, so I didn’t end up getting quarantined for my duration of my trip here. Seriously, they are not messing around with the swine flu business around here. We had to pass through fever screening on our way out of the airport & if basically if you’re spiking anything above like 99, you can wave your trip goodbye. It’s scary stuff. Also, it turns out the mask-over-the-face look is totally IN. Get yours today!

So anyway, we are severely jet-lagged so we mostly spent the day alternately walking around complaining about the humidity, which is like 400% here, & sleeping.

My memories of trips to Taiwan in my younger days are all kind of hazy, but a few things definitely remain true:

  1. 7-11’s in Asia are about 45 times more awesome than they are in the US. Not only are common everyday items totally branded Hello Kitty & other cuteness, but they sell lots of delicious snack food to eat on the spot, like tea eggs. Mmmmm tea eggs.
  2. Riding in taxis in Taiwan remains a wonderous experience. Not only are all cabs totally clean & don’t smell in any way, but the drivers are totally not crazy & are actually nice & seem to want to help you get to where you want to go in the fastest route possible. I don’t understand it either.
  3. Insects are going to be a HUGE problem for me here. I have already seen the largest cockroach I have ever seen in my entire life in the kitchen at my grandma’s. I did not react with grace & poise.

Plans for the next few days…National Palace Museum, Mucha Zoo to see the pandas, cross-country day-trip to Tainan to see long lost relatives & more eating & shopping. Stay tuned.