Back tracking now that I have some internet access and am in Taoyuan International Airport waiting for flight back to Vancouver (so soon!)
Back in March when I was planning the latter half of my Asia travels, I considered visiting Taipei en route to a week in Manila. Geographically, it made sense and I was looking forward to revisiting a city I had previously visited as a young child now, with fresher eyes and wanting bigger perspective. I’ve been in Taoyuan International Airport most after YVR, and last December in a layover, I had some time to recall my late Angkong’s love for the city and this trip was looking forward to visiting some memorable spots.
Now that I’m old enough internationally, one of my favourite things to do when visiting a new city is to spend at least one night experiencing the area’s local nightlife- bar, club, what have you. It’s interesting to compare the local scenes and how people spend their off time, whether it be in a Russian-themed hotel bar in Shanghai earlier in June (!!), a random round of shots in resto bar in rural Kaiping (ha!), a late night / morning out in Hong Kong’s iconic Lan Kwai Fong, or various hidden bars in Manila. Didn’t manage to do so in Taipei, but the next best thing that’s just as interesting to me is taking local transit. I consider people-watching a past time, so it’s always interesting to observe the way people act on transit as indicative of how their society works (well, without staring too obviously hehe). While Vancouver’s transportation system isn’t as extensive as Asia’s, MTRs/ MRTs are pretty standard wherever you go, Taiwan included. But it’s taking local buses that can be challenging.
This time wasn’t too bad as we made our way to the National Palace Museum via MRT and bus, and made it there in one piece I might add! The last time I was at the National Palace Museum I was with Angkong, and I recall four men very kindly lifting him up in his wheelchair up a few flights of stairs to the resto/ café at the top of the museum. (Other observation: Asia isn’t as thoughtful towards those with disability in their urban planning as North America is. Shame.) We got to the top and he ordered a set of appys as the two of us waited for the others to arrive, which set the stage for one of the first ‘conversations’ in Hokkien with him that I can remember. One of my favourite memories as well. I had totally forgotten about this café so it was a such a happy surprise to revisit this place, now San Shi Tang teahouse and just take in a beautiful view (and a very large thunderstorm).
You ever recognize a situation that could be déjà vu- there’s all this familiarity and yet you’ve never totally experienced it all before it? Had the lucky opportunity of sitting in on an after school English class facilitated by one of Kojen Da An’s most senior and extremely talented educator. The class for about 13 10-year olds was unconventional, deviating from what’s imagined as a typical afterschool English tutoring place. Kojen’s philosophy is rooted in an interactive based facilitation, so kids play games to help cement learning and to help maintain interest. Point cards are also awarded or given away to incentivize motivation. Interesting. Could have really used a teaching perspective like that back when I was in mandarin school during my precious Friday nights! Needless to say it was cool to finally put an actual experience to what I’d always been curious about or imagined. While very different from my expectations (and this is not necessarily bad), the experience definitely cemented what I knew before from what my cousins have told me: Asia’s education culture varies quite vastly compared to North America’s – again not a bad thing. It’s hard to imagine myself in such an intense culture! Makes ya grateful for what you experienced.
*Side note: also bumped into an ACAM colleague at Taipei’s main station in a restaurant sitting right next to us. So cool! The degree is literally everywhere in my life- all about that transpacific movement!!
The three days there unfortunately were ridden with thunderstorms and rain. But at a certain point weather can’t be a deterrent from exploring when time isn’t on your side! The last night in Taipei, finally made it to Raohe night market after waiting out what we thought would be only a quick bout of thunderstorms. Was glad to have visited this market instead of Shilin, because at least Raohe was somewhat covered and attracts less tourists. Sitting on a moist plastic stool on a table poorly covered from the rain on the side of a street, I munched on a bao with ground pork and pepper and enjoyed a tofu dessert very similar to taho people watching as motorcycles sped by. The tofu place was a really popular one, people in ponchos fighting the rain hopped on their bikes just to take out some dessert. A very real moment.
And with that, 3 days in Taipei came and went very quickly! I didn’t wanna push myself too hard because I came down with a fever the first night- the lack of sleep, and all types of fatigue were finally catching up to me. And with one week to go in Manila, I told my immune system to behave itself because I was so looking forward to eating all my fresh mangoes!!