Lately I find it difficult to put pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard buttons. One minute I’m enjoying life immensely and in the next second I want to crawl under my covers and cry. All signs of culture shock and resultant stress, I know, but it makes it difficult for me to accomplish anything. I ride the bus and all I think about are all of the emails I am going to send, the people I will talk to on Skype, and the novels I will write on my blog; but then I arrive to my dorm room surrounded by people I don’t know and are invading my privacy OR something small trips up my self esteem— like inability to communicate what I want to eat— or difficulty in finding something I need at a store– or just being alone for too long at a time with no one to share my experiences with. And then I do probably the worst thing and isolate myself more, not even talking to you guys back home. Okay, that’s my wallowing for today.
Despite the mood swings, I have–in fact–been doing things during the past week. Last weekend I went to three different places, each progressively farther and farther from campus and each with progressively stranger and stranger foods to share. The following is a review of each place.
ShiDa Night Market
Shida Night Market is located in a sequestered area off the Taipower Building stop, not too far from National Taiwan University–> Hence the reason why it is packed with college students every weekend. I took a trip there by myself on Friday night on a mission to find a frozen yogurt shop I read about on the internet.
YoFroYo is another shop capitalizing on the frozen yogurt craze that started in South Korea a number of years ago and is just hitting other foreign cities (ie: DC). It is located across from the Subway sandwich shop in ShiDa. When I got there it was very busy, packed with young students sitting everywhere they could find a spot to sit. I was able to order quickly, however. For $55NTD (About $1.75USD) I got a small cup of original tart flavor topped with green tea mochi balls and mango jelly. Delicious! It definitely satisfied my froyo craving…that is until I happened upon a shaved-ice stall later that night.
Dessert already had, I decided that maybe I should try and find a little more substantial nosh for dinner. There was a long line outside one stall in the night market and I was curious to check out what they served up. I’m not sure what they are called exactly, but a group of women were continuously and rapidly forming small balls of dough filled with meats and veggies at an alarming pace. I got in line and pulled a number to wait my turn to order. After the dough ball is formed it is placed in a large steamer with a little oil that fries the bottoms. When the steaming is complete, one woman pours some seasoned oil? (i think?) on top and sprinkles sesame on top.
I bought 6 for $30NTD; You can also order them in dozens, which it seemed most people were doing. They come out piping hot and you can put some spicy sauce on top for some kick. I ate mine with a giant toothpick they gave me–not a very easy feat while walking, especially since the balls have a tendency to fall apart when they’re soft. But mm mm were they good!
I was a bit restless the following afternoon. Tired with the thought of just hanging out on campus all day or the area by Taipei 101 yet again, I decided to take a trip to the end of the red line on the MRT and see what I could see. The end of the red line is DanShui, a popular weekend destination for many Taipei denizens. The ride was about 40 minutes from Taipei Main Station (the central stop of the MRT).
DanShui is set on the banks of the sea, so it is particularly known for boating and its fresh seafood. My first trek was down and through the old historic street that is similar to a daytime night market–vendors sell all different types of strange food and toursity gifts. I gulped down an aiyu bing (lemon jelly drink), which was extremely refreshing in the sweltering heat and sampled a bit of fresh-made cold, brown sugar mochi. It was so good, I just had to buy a box! Only $100NTD for a big box of fresh mochi 🙂 From there, I walked along the waterfront which is designed much like a boardwalk I might see back home. Plenty of food, of course, and dozens of boardwalk games line the row. I stopped into many small gift shops to mooch off their AC. Many of the gift shops were really frilly and packed with cheap junk. This one nearly made my eyes burn:
DanShui was just what I needed–though I was by myself, I had the ocean to calm me. There’s nothing quite like the smell of the sea; and no matter where I am I cannot help but think of Maine–forever my favorite place one Earth– when I am by the ocean.
Of course, not everything went quite as planned. I wanted to check out the Fisherman’s Wharf area, which I had read was a popular and fun, newly renovated area built up for tourists next to the fish market and marina area. Fisherman’s Wharf didn’t look very far away on the graphic in my brochure–about as far as the end of the historic street was to the MRT station–so I decided, why not walk it? Bad idea. Stupid stupid stupid. I walked and walked and walked and walked and no Fisherman’s Wharf was to be found. Though I did stumble upon this interesting community parade making its way to downtown DanShui:
Something told me to just keep going, though. Yeah, it was a sign that pointed “that way to Fisherman’s Wharf.” Ha. Anyway, after about an hour+ walk in draining, sticky, heavy heat I arrived to the Wharf area. And it was kind of a let down to tell the truth. There are a bunch of small overpriced food vendors and upscale restaurants, an arcade, a bridge (ok, the bridge is kind of cool) and not much else. The place was also almost too sterile, if you ask me. It was too different from the rest of the area.
Lover’s Bridge is known as such because many Taiwanese soap operas/romance films have been filmed here.
I took the no. 26 bus back to the MRT station (much faster and much more comfortable), then went for a short stroll down the boardwalk area again. There were many more people there since it was getting cooler outside and it was approaching dinnertime. I stopped at a tent that was selling fresh-caught steamed squid and bought a small bag as a dinner snack.
Then it was time for me to tuck-in and head back. A bit worn from the day, I enjoyed the long MRT ride back reading the book China Underground by Zachary Mexico, which I highly recommend for some light reading.
Last part of the entry will appear in the next entry