Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The bad news was that the typhoon's going to Tokyo. Doh! Oh well, can you do? So anyway I'm here in Tokyo now. I didn't do much besides get to my hostel and buy some curry and pork for dinner. It did rain a bit, but not too much.
First impressions of Tokyo... well right now it's not as humid. That makes me happy. I'll hit the town tomorrow and see. =)
Din Tai Fung is famous because they supposedly used water with healing properties to make their baos. This is of course BS, but it's a selling point. Each bao is individualled wrapped a specific number of times so they all have the same number of folds.
If you're too lazy to read the instructions above I tried to make a video on how to eat them.
In my opinion the food is good, pretty darn good, but not that good to warrent the high prices. The prices in Taipei compared to the branch in Arcadia were about the same.
I don't think you have to go all the way to Taipei for Din Tai Fung. There's a branch in Arcadia (near Los Angeles) and they pretty much taste the same.
Taroko Gorge and Joe and Sarah from Tainan. I even met this dancer Lydia that gave me her phone numbers and said to call them when I was her city, she'd be willing to show me around. The lady that gve me a tour of Tainan went out of her way to show me a side of the city I would have missed; this isn't an isolcated case, I also met another American Charles that had the same experience in Taipei. Entire families have stopped what they were doing to take me to my destination when I was lost. The people here are just too kind. The night markets are a wonderful way to eat on a budget, everything looks, smells and tastes so good. The mass transit system in Taipei is top notch. There's plenty of hiking and beautiful scenery. Shopping of computers is not too bad either, but really, the prices are pretty close to those in the USA, so only buy if you find a great deal.
There are cons of course.... the weather is pretty much awful. It's hot and humid all the time, and while I was here I sat through three typhoons that altered my plans more than I'd like. I had to miss mountains, lakes, islands, and beaches because of them. There are stray dogs everywhere. People here love them though, they'll feed them and pet them. They just don't want to actually keep it, so they become like community pets. The problem is stray dogs can be dangerous and there's dog poo poo on the street. Joe from Taipei said the dogs are not a big deal because every Taiwanese kid knows how to fight against them: you just through rocks at them. I guess if that's what works.
If you do not speak any mandarin I would say it would be easier to stay in Taipei, but I know plenty of people that didn't know any mandarin that circled the island by themselves.
I think compared to Hong Kong, Taipei can't really compete when it comes to being a big city like the New Yorks of the world. The shopping and views from Hong Kong are better, things are open later and everyone is always shopping for electronics. Taipei has these things on a smaller scale, but it also has so much natural beauty to offer, a unique history, and some really nice people. Oh yeah.... be sure to bring meds for your stomach though.
I had a wonderful time in Taiwan (except for the typhoons) and look forward to my next visit.
Some more Food
Digital Plaza Revisited
Underground Society around the Taipei Power Building. One of the few bars that features Rock music. I think this was a small local band. Not very crowded, small bar, but it was fun.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
If you go to Tainan you must get some Shrimp Rolls. They are damn good! Nuff said. Chaou's is very well known for theirs. You can find them in the Anping section of Tainan.
This type of noodle was started by fishermen who needed work during the off season. They would walk around with cries of noodles. When someone wanted them the fisherman would set his things down, cook the noodles, and let the person sit and eat there. Once finished the fisherman would pick up everything and continue looking for more customers. They no longer do this, but the style of noodles has stuck around.
Inside is like a chicken pot pie but with chicken and some seafood.
In my last blog I wrote about a lady that took me around Tainan on her scooter and took me to get some Tainan food. Here's the food we got.
No hostel listings online for Tainan either, however I have a Taiwan Youth Travel Card which also comes with a booklet full of discounts for hotels, hostels and museums. Luckily for me a dorm was listed in there for $320 NT - about $10 USD. It's called the Tainan City Labor Recreation Center, http://labor2.tncg.gov.tw/recreation/. However once I got there and showed them my Youth Travel Card they discounted the dorm to $260 NT a night - which is about $8 USD a night. Not only was it only $8 a night but it was also the cleanest dorm I have stayed in yet!
Ok, let's get on to some of the sites of Tainan.
Temple of the 5 Concubines
The Crown Prince of the Ming Dynasty was in Taiwan when the Ming Dynasty fell to the Manchurians. Knowing he would be hunted down he decided he would commit suicide. He told his Concubines that they could go on with their lives, becoming wives of other men, or nuns, or whatever they wished. However upon learning the Prince's desire to commit suicide all five Concubines committed suicide in a show of fidelity to the Prince. Two of the Prince's Eunuch's also committed suicide in a demonstration of loyalty as well. Their story is now honored at this temple where the Concubines are buried.
One of the few remaining city gates from the old Tainan City Walls. It was build in 1736, originally 14 such gates existed.
Koxinga was a General for the Ming Army. When the Ming Dynasty lost to the Manchurians he took his army to Taiwan in hopes of returning to China and defeating the Manchus. During this period the Dutch had already established fortification in Taiwan. Koxinga, now a pirate-warrior with the defeat of the Ming, took back control of Taiwan. He defeat the Dutch,
Chinkan Tower used to be the Dutch Fort Provinta. The pirate-warrior Koxinga defeated this fort quickly though and torn down all but the foundation laid in by the Dutch. The fort was then rebuilt into the Chinkan Towers.
If you look closely at the bumps they supposedly resemble monkey heads. There is an old popular Chinese folk story about the Monkey King. If people wish to honor the Monkey King they do so at this tree.
Originally a Dutch fort known as Fort Zeelandia built from 1624-1623, this fort was sieged by the pirate-warrior Koxinga. After nine months the dutch were defeated and left Taiwan. The fort was renamed to Fort Anping. Back when this fort was being used it was right on the water's edge. Today it is not that close to the sea.
Eternal Golden Fort
During the Qing Dynasty this fort was built as protection against Japan. It was the first western style fort built by the Chinese in Taiwan.
Electronics in Tainan
Of course I had to go check out the electronics/computer shopping in Tainan. If you wish to do so you'll need to head to Beimen Road, just a few blocks south of the Train Station. Look for the section of the road with the blue ink on the side of it in the map below. That's where you want to go.
While walking around the shops I ran into an older lady. We started talking about the computer she was looking at. When she found out I was American she asked if I wanted to hop on the back of her scooter and get a tour of the city. Not seeing the harm, and being on a bit of an adventure anyway I decided why not? So I got on the back of the scooter. She took me to eat some traditional Tainan food, and talked about their history. She also took me to some temples not listed on the Tourist maps. We also dropped by an embroidery shop where the owner gave me a first hand look at his goods and talked about how he made them. I offered to put his website on my blog for his generous tour. If you like his stuff, check out his website for better pictures and to purchase:
There are a bunch of old Temples in Tainan that are still in use today. You can see them on the tourist maps provided by the city on signs along the street. Here are a couple temple tips I wish I had known before being I had gone:
Always walk into the temple through the right door; NEVER through the center or left door.
Always exist the temple through the left.
Leaving Tainan on the High Speed Train.
Taiwan has a High Speed Train which uses Japan's Shinkansen technology for it's core. It reaches speeds of up to 217 MPH.