Taipei: 10 travel tips for cyberpunk tastes

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1. Night markets

 

2. Night markets

 

 

 

3. Fucking night markets!

I probably need to get specific at this point.

When most people get ready to leave their job for the day, the stalls and shops of night markets start preparing for business. Around sunset and up to roughly midnight it feels like the whole city is outdoors, having dinner, socializing, playing and shopping in the streets. About a dozen big markets are scattered around Taipei plus every neighbourhood practically has its own, down to a street lined with food stalls every few residential blocks.

One could speak for hours (it has happened) about the energy and character of Taiwanese night markets. But this won’t do them justice.

Indicatively, two of the largest ones are vast Shilin and old Raohe. Locals often consider the large ones too touristy and prefer more earthy ones for their dinner, like Jingmei or Huaxi street, the “snake alley” (the latter is in the old downtown and one can still have snake and its byproducts in there; don’t miss the surrounding alleys; remember, you have cyberpunk tastes). And for your literal street wear there is Wufenpu, all dedicated to clothing.

 

2. Guanghua electronics market

 

A day+night market, complete with its alleys and eateries, selling electronics. Enough said. For good measure, right next to it you have the digital plaza, a kind of techie mall. The higher up you go on its floors the lower-level you get, from flagship stores on the ground floor to capacitors on the fifth. Interestingly, there are chances your gadgets will be recommended and your new computer modded by young women here.
(Note that an actual mainstream gamers’ mall opened next to the plaza just recently; but it’s not part of this list.)
Tip: Cash might be your friend.

 

 

 

3. Temples

You are bound to step into a documentary that you never dreamt of adding to your to-do list. Only that it will be real, everyday life.

The temple and the drone (at Confucius temple, Tainan).

It’s not only markets. Read on for decadence, glamour and crowds. Skyscrapers and noodles.

Shilin residence on a rainy day

Flashbacks from the residence and gardens of late dictator Chiang Kai-Shek, one of the founders of present-era Taiwan.

PS: The current shaping of Taiwan has an interesting and bloody history, less well known to westerners than that of other east Asian countries. Even less well known is that it is not a member of the United Nations, although the tag appears on most of the older electronics and items of your household, I would guess.

Four aspects of tea

Traditional shops with tea-time snacks. In Dihua street, Taipei’s old downtown.

 

Tea, tea ceramics and art exhibitions in CANS Cafe, the tranquil coffee shop in the museum of contemporary art.

 

Tea-tasting and English tea at smith&hsu tea house. Like with many other culinary inventions, when Taiwan embraces them they stop being an “imported” “copycat” thing and they become the thing. In this case, English afternoon tea.

 

…but before the scones, you have to tea-taste and select. “Taste” as in “wine tasting”: Smell the leaves in tiny jars.

Piece of trivia: The menu has a warning next to the Greek green tea against consumption by pregnant women. In Greece, “mountain tea” is considered the most harmless drink. Could mythology have damaged its reputation abroad? :]

 

Queue outside Chensanding in Gongguan, one of the most popular bubble tea stands.

Spending time in queues for specific food joints on a regular basis: a thing that will always perplex me. And the tea didn’t seem different than other good stands’ … However don’t let me be misunderstood. Taiwanese bubble tea itself is one of the best things in life.

From Taiwan to Japan

One really feels that one is a nomad when the time of moving comes. It’s a pain that spans days but one day you’ll be able to say I lived in five different countries in one calendar year. By the way keep in mind that unplanned (but always happening) expenses come in blocks of about 30USD.

Nice guy at passport control went over some page with a magnifying lens, twice. He exclaimed approvingly hearing that I travel alone. He asked if that had been my first time in Taiwan – it was the fourth.

Taoyuan International Airport, I’ve seen you when you were all construction and nothing in the nighttime but plastic covers across future storefronts. I see you now and you, surprisingly, don’t have any convenience stores. No chewing gum for the airplane ears this time but at least there are water fountains in the corridors.

Highlight: A pack of baked soya beans that I was presented with recently. Always present traveling acquaintances with unexpected packaged food. They will need it sooner or later.

The Vanilla Air flight is kind of cute. The wings look adventurously narrow. The 500JPY comfort food of three-cheese pasta soup cup and a croissant was really comforting in my hunted state (the last days have been physically problematic). Most people look surprised by it, but this blogger is a big fan of airplane food and this cheap one made the genre justice.

Japan. Here I come.
With office in the clouds:

Backyard temple

Offerings at the Tianhou temple, Taipei.

The temple is dedicated to goddess Mazu, the main deity in Taiwan. (Right, the main religion in Taiwan is a local one!)

Tianhou is special for being narrowly tucked between other buildings right in Ximending, Taipei’s ultra-commercial district.