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.