Technology, Art, Innovation, People, Environment and Identity

I’m known for my lame-ass titles, but I can’t take credit for this one. Props to the TAIPEI 101 creative team for this winner! They are dead serious about that acronym. They also say that 101 doesn’t just stand for the number of floors of their tacky self-Orientalizing landmark, but it also represents going beyond 100%.

Yeah! Jia you! (That’s add oil to you. Guangdonghua speakers like me say ga you instead. A bit like ganbatte in Japanese, I think.)

While I won’t be a convert to their crappy sense of aesthetics and offensive self-exoticization, I will try to learn to give 101% because right now I’m giving, like, 65% or something. That ain’t right.

You might think that I’m a bit preoccupied with the negative, but I’m not! I really loved Taipei. Correction: I LOVE TAIPEI. Present tense, baby!

It may not have the most beautiful architecture; but it does have some of the greatest food and people. Could you seriously ask for anything more than great food and people? I mean, eating amazing food with cool people is one of this world’s ultimate pleasures, no?

My hostess with the mostest and dear friend, Julia, postulates that some of Taiwan’s amazing cultural wonders are underscored by the experience of exile, but I’m not so sure since I think that Taiwanese people (even the relatively new Han settlers who followed the KMT over) have carved out their own proud identity. And let’s not forget the Aboriginals and the earlier settlers who well, developed that lovely sounding dialect creatively called Taiwanese!

Frankly, I’m not prepared to do really deeply research and analyse the reasons for the fantastic art, music, cuisine, fashion and pop culture in dynamic Taipei. I’ve got other things to worry about like, um, working off the belly fat I accumulated by eating my way through the city.

I really wish I could give you some good food porn, but I was seriously so into EATING the scrumptious food, I could not be bothered to take careful macro shots. Will written food erotica do? That might involve unwelcome descriptions of the pungent smell of stinky tofu. (Dave thinks it smells like horse poop; I have yet to find a better reference. Feel free to indulge me with one.)

Here’s the short foodie rundown:

All hail the Taiwanese wonderchefs who lovingly nestle meat and/or veggies in carbolicious wrappers! It is the shizzle, mah nizzle. Dumplings of all varieties to suit all tastes! Xiaolongbao, jiaozi, fried guotie etc. etc. etc. (Yes, I went to Din Tai Fung. Yes, it was disappointing and crowded with Japanese tour groups. For the record, the food would have won me over if it were actually hot. Lukewarm food calls for a lukewarm review. The ’soup’ inside those soup dumplings is mostly fat and natural gelatin. You figure out what it is like to eat it semi-cold. Yeah, I know.)

You’ve heard about the dumplings, but what about the buns? Oh yes, there are myriad ways to cleverly combine the protein and the meat (and the fat!) One of my faves? Clay oven buns fresh on the street. Yes, clay ovens on the street! Wheaty goodness on the outside, meaty heaven on the inside.

How could I forget the best steamed baozi in the world? I didn’t forget. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. The belly doesn’t forget.

I had some authentic Taiwanese bubble tea too. Booyah. Or should I say “Boba!” :P

Eating delicious food is certainly important on any worthwhile vacation, but it wouldn’t be a trip without some budged-busting retail therapy. And it wouldn’t be my trip without shoes and bags. I’m pleased to announce that I only bought ONE pair of shoes and ONE bag. Woohoo! That brings my bag and shoe count to 1,346,278. Sweet.

Unexpectedly, after visiting the lovely Bao-on and Confucius temples, I ran into the DIY sector of town in Zhongshan. I could’ve spent the entire week picking out beads and jewellery findings in crafty heaven. I only had an hour. An hour that made me one hour late to meet my poor loyal friend who was being harassed by lao gong gongs at the famous Longshan temple. I am sorry, Julia. I will seek help for my crafty addiction. Or can I buy you off with some custom-made earrings? ;)

Oh! The earrings! Aside from supplies for earring-making, I bought some ready-made beauties from various young and hip neighbourhoods of generally young and hip Taipei. I think that 2 pairs were locally-made, but one was definitely Korean. Everytime I ran into some Korean earrings, sellers would have to emphasize the country of origin. Thanks for the information, but that’s not enough to make the sale. In fact, the higher price due to Korean hype and import costs is a bit of a deterrent. Mr. Street Vendor, I just care if they look good and make me look better.

Taiwan, like the rest of Asia, is very Korea-obsessed right now. I should’ve counted all the April Snow posters for kicks. (Haha! I saw it before you and I don’t worship Harry Potter doppleganger, Bae Yong-joon!) Hey, I’m all for Korean industry cashing in on the craze; but I wish that consumers would be more discerning than, “Hey! It’s Korean! It must be good!”

In case you get the wrong idea, note the following evidence that Taipei isn’t devoid of discerning folks: the charming Museum of Contemporary Art (which is hilariously misspelt on the Zhongshan MRT area maps as the “Museum of Temporary Art”) and the crowd at the Omara Portuondo concert.

That’s right, folks. Julia’s special surprise for me was a Saturday night outing with her friends at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall for a night with Omara Portuondo of Buena Vista Social Club fame.

The concert was as much of a blast as the whole trip. Thank you, Julia!

Unfortunately, I’ve got two essasys to write and a whole lot of the madness, so forgive me for not getting photos up immediately. Once I get them up, I’ll post them with some my signature excruciatingly detailed descriptions.

Thanks for checking in with me. I’ve missed you. :)

4 Responses:

  1. Reese Says:

    squeeeee!!! taiwanese food is the best… all the siopao and the dumplings. mmm… this makes me wants to head home and get some siopao and taiwanese noodles from the taiwanese place down the street. ooh that would be so perfect, i’ve been cravvvving it!!

  2. Reese Says:

    i forgot to say how intensely jealous i am of you. if you have a chance, you should go to my homeland (the philippines). it’s cheap and the food is sooooo good…

  3. momolo Says:

    i love dumplings and am not so keen on stinky tofu. but me mum loves it.

  4. tina Says:

    Omara Portuando ??????!!!!!!!!

    I’m so effin jealous ….

    GOOD LUCK ON YOUR EXAMS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!