Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Day 1.75: Ning Xia night market.

We walked out of Chiang Kai Shek International Airport and into sweltering, wet heat. Taipei is unbelievably hot and humid. 9 or 10 at night was a sauna. I was too comatose to think about how bad it would get the next day. I think I sweat a couple of quarts a day wearing as little as modesty allowed. People walked around in full suits and barely glistened. After I got used to it I kind of liked it. Kind of. It takes getting used to. We took a cab into the city. It was amazing. I didn't have much of a reference point, if any: it didn't look like any city I'd ever seen. I tried to stay awake. We arrived at our hotel, the Taipei Seasons Hotel. I kept meaning to take a better picture of it, but never did.

I wanted to pass out. James wanted to go do things. James' idea sounded better. I dragged myself out of the hotel room's air-conditioned splendor and into the night. We wandered for a few blocks, stopping at one of the many 7-11s along the way, and unintentionally made our way to Ning Xia night market. A night market, for those unfamiliar, is a kind of street fair and outdoor market operating during the evening and nighttime hours. Unlike Shilin Night Market, which is supposed to be the largest and most well know, the one we spent a few nights at was pretty modest, spanning a couple of long blocks and a little around the corner.

At the end of the night market was a small library. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, it was closed.

We walked back to the main strip, finding our way between carts of food and various merchandise.

I had pork dumplings and Taiwan Beer, which is kind of the Taiwanese Budweiser. It tastes a lot better, hoppy in a way I couldn't place. I later found out rice is added during the fermenting process. The pork dumplings were delicious. I think it ran around three dollars total.

James went traditional and got smelly tofu, fermented fried tofu that's a national favorite. It looks so innocent in the picture, cute battered cubes cuddled next to chili sauce and bean sprouts. It smells foul, kind of like rotting salty refuse, and reeks from blocks away.

I tried it. It tasted better than it smelled, but I couldn't get over the smell. I liked its vinyl counterpart better, who we met a few days later.

(Smery by Devilrobots and phalanX)

We stopped at one of five million 7-11s again on the way back, where I stood mesmerized by exhaustion and the vast and impression beverage selection. We passed out back at the Seasons, our first few hours a success.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Day 1.5: Narita.

The flight to Tokyo muddled time. Ten hours in the dark cavern of the plane opened to the cleanest, calmest airport I'd ever seen. Narita was quiet and spacious, surrounded by wide green fields. People looked determined but not crazed. No one was making a mad dash for their flight. It was so quiet. It was kind of surreal. Then again, I hadn't slept since the night before. I can't sleep on planes. Lack of sleep softened the edges of everything. We went to the gift shop. I stared at the excellent variety of Hello Kitty zipper pulls, resisted the urge to touch the jelly candies, drank the first of many bottled teas. We found our gate and sat, too zombie-like to make much use of the three hour layover. We did, however, find the children's area:

We climbed over the birds and blocks for awhile, then took our seats. We still had a couple hours before takeoff and a four hour flight. James fell asleep, woke up, fell asleep again. I read Complex and Cosmopolitan a fifth time and wish I'd brought more books. I buy Cosmopolitan and Vogue every time I'm at an airport. Complex was James'. It had a good article on comic books and was pretty well-written. I'd buy it outside the airport.

People talked quietly. Americans distinguished themselves by being talking less quietly. We left the humid, swaying green fields of suburban Tokyo behind and got on the plane to Taipei.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Six months later, I'm no longer in Taiwan.

It's Sunday night. The television's on and James is playing his guitar, and somehow one isn't interfering with the other. An update is long overdue. I came back from Taipei, moved to a new neighborhood, started a new job and turned twenty-two. It was a good year, but I'm behind, not just in blogging but to some degree many other areas too. I'm trying to pull things together, and one part of that is talking about Taiwan.


P.S. I also got a large, orange cat, Fergus Theodore Lannin Cat. He makes high bleating meows and won't let you take a shower alone. I couldn't ask for a whinier, more lovable pet.