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.