Taiwan! Let’s play I Spy.

Weird! I have a blog. I wasn’t sure I’d want to do any blogging while I am adventuring, and I’m even less sure whether I’ll want to share any of my blog posts with anyone at all. But it does seem like a nice way to write down some thoughts; first, because I type much faster than I write and second, because the thoughts will fade and be replaced by new ones as soon as I leave this 85° Cafe. Speaking of which, a yam latte sounds very strange but tastes very yummy.

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Okay, so! Hooray! It’s my first ever time in Asia! Thank goodness I have a cute Mandarin-speaking partner-in-crime that is showing me around everywhere. I told him yesterday we should at least develop a contingency plan for if we lose each other, because right now, if he suddenly disappeared, I would have no map, very little money, and absolutely no sense of which way is home.

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But! So far, so good. We have been exploring, eating a million delicious things, and spending time with his adorable family. I am already in love with his nephew, but I mean, how could you not be?! Look at that face. My favorite thing about becoming Jonathan’s buddy is how we don’t need to speak the same language or understand each other’s words to giggle together. After all, he’s only one! He probably doesn’t understand most things people say in any language! But with just big happy eyes and smiles, we communicate all the important things. He gets me!

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The other day at the park, Patrick and I were people watching, which developed into a game of I Spy. I actually think this would be a pretty fascinating business idea. What if you made a whole deck of fun I Spy cards for travelers, one for each country? It could have the obvious tourist attractions that you’re sure to see, but could also include more subtle and interesting cultural items. Can you imagine? Travelers would run around foreign cities, trying to find as many items on their I Spy cards as possible! The whole traveler world could start a giant game of I Spy! It would be a beautiful thing. As an example, Spain’s I Spy card could be like this:

I Spy: Spain Edition

  1. The Sagrada Familia
  2. A teenage boy with a rattail
  3. The Alhambra
  4. A whole leg of jamón serrano
  5. Las Fallas festival in Valencia
  6. A child under 5 that’s better dressed than you
  7. Playa Victoria in Cádiz
  8. A plate of paella that you could fit inside
  9. Plaza Mayor in Madrid
  10. People eating dinner at 11pm

Note: I’ve seen all of these things. And Number 6? That one I saw every day I lived there!

Wanna play I Spy, Taiwan edition!? Are you ready?

1. An abundance of brown poodles.

Oh my gosh, everywhere there are poodles. It’s like an infestation. Mostly they are light brown-colored, small, and excessively groomed. And the funniest part is that people push them around in STROLLERS! I haven’t gotten over it yet. I laugh every time I see one. At the park, Patrick and I made guesses about how long it would take us to find poodles in a stroller. I said 7 minutes. He said five. We saw two poodles in a stroller after 6 minutes and 38 seconds. I declared myself the winner of this game.

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2. Taipei 101!

I Spy with my little eye… The Taipei equivalent of the Space Needle! Taipei 101 is a beautiful supertall skyscraper with 101 stories. In fact, it was the tallest building in the world up until some crazy rich people in Dubai topped it in 2009. BUT, Taipei 101 is clearly still cooler, because in 2011 it was classified as the tallest and largest green building in the world! Also, there is a Starbucks on the 35th floor (reminds me of the Starbucks in the Columbia Tower in Seattle!). We haven’t been to the top yet, but we did take some pretty pictures of it from down below.

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3. WHITE TRUFFLE XIAO LONG BAO.

Excuse me!? Din Tai Fung ain’t got nothin’ on this place. We had xiao long bao with pieces of white truffle inside THEM. I don’t know how to emphasize this enough. Patrick said my eyes popped when I ate my first one. They also have basil-infused ones, which are green. And almost equally mind-blowing. I can never go back to the person I was before.

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4. 7-Elevens on EVERY corner!

Okay, so I’m sorry to say that Patrick’s statement about bubble tea shops on every street corner was a bit of an overstatement. In fact, the other day we had to wander around for a whole 10 minutes before we found bubble tea (oh no, the horror!). However, I’m pretty sure when we are walking around, we pass a 7-Eleven every 12 seconds. And the 7-Elevens here are quite remarkable! You can actually buy pretty legit (and not disgusting) meals there! They have a very distinct smell because they all sell hard-boiled eggs soaked in tea, called tea eggs (surprisingly). But that’s not all! Want to pay your utilities bill? Buy concert tickets? Reload your transit pass? Pay your parking tickets? 7-Eleven’s got you covered!

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5. Night markets galore!

Another Taipei specialty is the night market, a magical place that comes alive after dark, full of street food vendors and a billion people. There are small children playing carnival games, bright lights everywhere, and so many delicious smells: fried cuttlefish, assorted meat buns, popcorn chicken, red bean cakes, flavored mochi on sticks… ugh, but wait! Did something die?! Did I accidentally wear the same socks for 129534 days in a row? Did someone mix blue cheese, dirty toenails, and rotten dead animal together? NO! It’s just stinky tofu! This is something that people actually eat (and thoroughly enjoy, according to everyone I’ve spoken with on the matter). But it smells. so. bad! So far, I’ve successfully avoided trying it. But unfortunately for me, I promised Patrick I would try anything he wanted me to try while in Taiwan, aaaaand stinky tofu is most definitely on the list. I will report back on whether or not I survive the experience.

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6. White / Asian couples.

An interesting thing we’ve been I Spying for is multiracial couples where one person is Asian and the other is white. I think we’ve spied probably ten or so. But guess what? All the ones we have seen so far are white men with Asian women. We have yet to spy an Asian man with a white lady other than US! We think this makes us superheroes.

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7. Guess this character!

Family, look who I found in Taipei! You know who he is, right!? I had no idea he was Taiwanese! Please comment or email with your guesses. First correct answer wins a kewpie doll (right, Dad!?).

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8. Ridiculously delicious breakfast for $5.

Okay, so our first morning, Patrick took me to one of his favorite breakfast places. And you see, Patrick has issues ordering a reasonable amount of food. For someone so skinny, he can eat like a 300-pound man; it’s really quite impressive. When I told him that he had ordered waaaay too much food, he argued that it only cost an extra 60 cents! And that we might as well try it. At about $5 for one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had (for two people!) I couldn’t really argue with his logic. We came back again the next day 😉

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9. Beautiful melodies everywhere you go!

I was having a conversation with Patrick recently about how unfortunate it is that the only thing you can really communicate with you car is “hey, you idiot!” or at best, “WATCH OUT!”. What I mean to say is that a car honking (at least in the US) is generally associated with negative things. We think that this is a underdeveloped feature! Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a more extensive car language, such that you could push a special button and a nice happy wind chime sound would happen, which would mean “THANK YOU, KIND DRIVER!” or “you are a lovely human!”?

Taiwan is doing this! My favorite so far is the song that plays in the MRT (Taipei metro) when the train is arriving. It is like a mini-concert, full of beautiful sounds and key changes. I think Patrick should writes words to it and sell it on iTunes. He would make millions, certainly. Another personal favorite is the nice melody played by garbage trucks. Everyone you go, there are nice pleasant sounds and happy humans. It’s great!

10. So much amazing BUBBLE TEA!

Despite having to occasionally walk around for seven minutes to find it, we have had more than our fair share of amazing bubble tea already. Pretty much every day, in that lull between lunch and dinner (the time when I would usually go to the kitchen at Redfin for some chocolate-covered almonds), one of us will say to the other one, “is it time for bubble tea?!”. We even visited the first ever bubble tea store, where they served us an enormous milk tea in a huge beer glass with a handle! I am quite pleased with my new favorite afternoon snack! 🙂

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And there you have it! The first 10 I Spy items that occurred to me (although I could probably come up with 50 more things that have surprised me already!). I’m loving it here: the people are courteous and kind, the city is clean and organized, and the food is INSANE (or as Nathan would say, it’s stupefying!). During the upcoming week, we’ll be heading south to explore some other parts of the island. Stay tuned for updates!

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