*I look up to Anthony Bourdain, hence “Bourdainisms” are my adventures and travels consisting of people, places, food, culture, and experiences out of my usual comfort zone.
Over a month ago, I went to Taiwan with my family and here are some tidbits about my trip.
Frankly I’m not the biggest fan of Chinese food especially Taiwanese cuisine other than Din Tai Fung chains, because it’s either too bland, too oily, or it’s just not my cup of… yang chow fried rice, but this trip’s meals were really good.
As tourists we’ve all been tricked into eating in overpriced restaurants, but travelers seek to taste things outside of the typical menu of xiao long bao and assortments of dumplings. Take walks around the city. Neon signs and bustling cues and crowds will always lead you to where the locals eat. Where have the old people been going to eat? Where do the youngsters go?
Night markets without fail are always fun for shopping and food tasting. But food carts by the side of streets, parked beside motorcycles and trucks, as well as simple eateries that look like they’ve been around for decades are also without fail an eating experience.
My favorite traditional Taiwanese comfort food has got to be the fried dough dipped in warm soy milk, called youtiao. I could eat that breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in between! I also get another cup of fresh soy milk to go, this time over ice. It’s like your Chinese Starbucks with only one homemade drink in the same shop at the corner of the street, prepared by the same people that have been getting up at 5 in the morning to knead pastry dishes all their lives. Okay, it’s not like Starbucks, but it’s worth the extra block and cueing up for.
I also have a lot more photos of sushi, just sushi, and more Japanese food than anything else, which gave a lot of people on Snapchat the impression that I was actually in Tokyo or Osaka, haha. And if you know me, you know I’m not the biggest sushi eater, but ever since I tasted the sushi (what an accomplishment for non-sushi-eaters) in the Japanese restaurants in Taipei, I’ve craved it since!
A little history lesson for anyone wondering why I’m eating sushi all the way in Taiwain. Well after the Chinese-Japanese war, Japan occupied Taiwan in the early 1950s and have since maintained working relations and a strong influence in its culture today, especially in the capital seat of Taipei. From the abundance of imported Japanese goods in department stores to all-day Japanese buffets people wait in line for, the “peaceful people” left behind more than just kawaii shopping districts and delicately prepared fresh sashimi.
Taiwanese today are very mild-mannered and respectful. They’re also very disciplined, the kind of people that literally stay behind the yellow line or in between a carefully drawn out path for the next set of passengers to give way to those alighting the platform.
There’s a harmony to their civic-mindedness that’s distinctly similar to how I’ve pictured Japan from what I’ve read and heard, and I feel like I’m the ball of eagerness that’s disrupting their flow, taking pictures here and there.
A huge part of why I enjoyed my trip is because of the boutique hotel we stayed in. Who doesn’t like hotels? But this one’s probably one of my favorites. Other than fast wifi and the Japanese-style toilets (buttons, sprinklers, and a system more updated than my laptop), there’s a coffee shop I can be left in for hours or days even, and I wouldn’t mind.
It’s also where we have our continental breakfast buffet (almost Jordan Peele level of awe), which is the only motivation I have to get out of a fluffy white bed. 6 in the evening is happy hour during which they serve wine, crackers, and cheese. Other times of the day, they offer snacks and sweets. Two words: chocolate & unlimited hot chocolate! 😊 Alright, those were five words for five times the love. Also why I walked down to the lobby in my PJ’s and startled a few people. But I didn’t mind cause the goal was to get to the hot chocolate machine.
In the same lounge, they have a mini library of coffee table books and I enjoyed every one of the six or eight that I read and browsed through. I wish I had more time or that I could’ve taken them home with me. There was no better alternative to spending an afternoon with sniffles and a gross pile of used tissue, reading about the history of toy trains, Barbie, and rare photographs of Amish towns.
Speaking of libraries, we took the bus at around 10 o’clock in the evening, to the famous 24-hour bookstore. To tell you the truth, it was a little bit of a disappointment. However, stationery heaven waited at the basement, but I decided not to get anything even if I wanted everything (again, notebooks and journals) because it was pricey. The other floors were just books, and although overwhelmingly large, only 5% of the stocks were in English and they were really common English books.
Had the bookstore offer a wider selection of English books, then I would’ve felt the way every local felt as they perched on every step and corner of the aisles, flipping through pages till the wee hours. I envied their bliss getting lost in infinite pages for an infinitely longer period of time, while I found myself just completely lost in translation in this forest of a library. But it was a sight to see anyhow.
Taipei is a melting pot of Asian influences and the old and the new. Small dilapidated town homes and shops sit in front of a skyscraper backdrop. In every street there’s something new being built or brewing with a 21st century city grind and craft morning ground; however, the streets are still tainted with a unique brand of Taiwanese culture and portions of Chinese history that waft the city. There’s still a lot I want to see and I wonder how Taipei will be in a couple of years. Till then!