Off to the other side of the straits

Until I flew over, I didn’t realize it had actually been 4 years since my last visit to Taipei, but it’s a real shame, because Taipei is one of my favorite cities in east Asia.

As a tourist, there’s actually not THAT much to do there, unless you’re really really into the Imperial Museum, or eating, but as a mini-break from being in China, and, again, as someplace to eat well, then Taipei is great.

First off, one of the more charming things about the city is both how nice the people are and how provincial the city seems. While beset by all the problems of a large modern metropolis, Taipei’s citizens are overwhelmingly nice. So while dealing with pollution, economic stress, traffic, the people of Taipei uniformly put on good cheer, are polite and are decidedly not grumpy, which already is a welcome change from Shanghai.

I have to stop here and mention one thing – for a long portion of my life, I had a terrible image of Taiwan. And I’m going to say it was completely unfair. But here’s the background. When I was young, my maternal grandfather visited Los Angeles. I’m not sure how many times he came, but it was either once or twice. He treated the entire large Chung family out to dinner in Arcadia or Monterey Park or some San Gabriel Asian bedroom community. That meal was not only one of the worst Chinese meals, it was one of the worst meals I’ve ever eaten. Cold, insipid food. I may not even be remembering correctly, but we thought it was a Taiwanese restaurant. Strike one.

Then when I went to Cal, my roommate Rich and I fell into an anti-Taiwanese state of mind. Possibly because we were two Cantonese guys surrounded by a bunch of Taiwanese guys or more likely our neighbor Fred who was Taiwanese and he never failed at any opportunity to show off how much money he had or tell us how terrible a school Cal was – he eventually transferred to UPenn/Wharton.

Anyways, I missed a lot with this anti-Taiwanese attitude until I started to go for work in the late 90s and early 2000s and fell in love with the country and the city of Taipei and now its one of my favorites.

With four years between trips, I used the excuse of the 2013 Taipei Fubon (half) Marathon to fly over and re-discover the city.

The first stop: Night Markets! We went to Tonghua in Xinyi District – which is near Taipei 101 and city hall. It’s the not the big night market, but it’s central and food focused.

With my friend Jordan.

We ate this amazing green onion pancake first.

Here we are in line

So they make the pancake and then he cracks an egg in the hot oil and places the pancake right on top of that. So you get this gooey, still soft egg with this delicious onion pancake all around.


Then more fried chicken pieces. With lots of other (um) fried stuff in a bag.

Then we had these little pastry things – she had taro and I had corn

Of course, we needed to have Taiwanese shaved ice

Here is Jordan choosing some vegetables. For some reason she had bitter melon. Blah.

One last dish – almond tofu!

It probably wasn’t the best idea to go on a food binge two days before running a half marathon, but when you’re in Taipei, I think it’s really really important. Thanks for taking me around Jordan!

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10 Responses to Off to the other side of the straits

  1. Rich says:

    Fred transferred to UPenn? Hadoken!

  2. Terence says:

    @Rich – Didn’t he at the end of freshman year? I totally thought he did.

  3. Dad says:

    Name of that restaurant was ??. I think the food gets worse and worse as time pass and memory fades.

  4. Rich says:

    It sounds like something he would do. Hope he took his gaming fightsticks with him haha!

  5. WoAi says:

    Whenever anyone asks me what Taiwan is like, I say “all the good things you have in China without all the crap”. It’s quicker to get to Taipei than Beijing, but for some reason, I don’t go that often either. Need to rectify that.

  6. terence says:

    @WoAi – Well, without the crap. And the economic development. Many people in Taiwan want to move to the Mainland because the job opportunities on the island are often dead-end (ish). If anyone is the least bit ambitious, they’re looking outside of Taiwan. Quality of life is really high though.

  7. terence says:

    @Rich – Am I misremembering this? I really though he transferred to Wharton at the end of freshman year.

  8. Dad says:

    Chinese does not show up on your blog. The name of the restaurant was Mui Tzi.

  9. Rich says:

    You know, I didn’t keep in touch with him. Hope he’s still throwing fireballs wherever he is.

  10. Pingback: Taipei Living | you used to be alright

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