The Taipei airport was under construction and dirty. While we waited in haggard lines at immigration a tall uniformed man barked at us to form straight lines in Chinese while demonstrating with his arms and then eventually herding those who didn’t understand. A short girl in a matching uniform with a black Labrador paced up and down the now rigid lines. The dog kept his nose to the ground, running over our feet and occasionally lifting his head when an interesting scent caught his interest. I don’t know if they were looking for bombs, or guns, or drugs. For all I know it could have just been one big farce. The lab seemed more inclined to gravitate to people with food in their bags and he licked a baby in a stroller for a good five seconds before his handler pulled him along.
Taipei is in a state of growth. Driving into the city the skeletal structures of new highways towered above our bus like dinosaur remains.
The little things about foreign countries amuse me. In our taxi was one of those red circle with a red slash signs, but inside of it was a picture of a car, a scooter, and a wine glass. What does that even mean? On a bus there was a “no birds” sign. That’s an interesting problem to have… birds on a bus…
Taipei’s transit system was what impressed me the most. Clean, reliable, and most of all affordable, the prices were mere fractions of Japan’s. I spent less than $10 (usd) on trains and subways which we used generously. Some trips didn’t even cost 50cents.
The people were friendly and funny. I had to make a conscious effort to use English rather than Japanese at restaurants and stores. Which seems strange, but now when start talking to someone who doesn’t speak English Japanese just kicks in automatically, much like I had to fight the urge to use French when I first moved to Japan.
The night markets reminded me a lot of Korea. Lots of dirty little places with suspicious looking merchandise, shop owners willing to haggle over a few pennies, food that looked and smelled delicious, food that looked terrifying, food the smelled like month old dead rat, speaking of rats I saw some of those too.
There’s a lot of coastal towns, which shouldn’t surprise anyone seeing that Taiwan is a tiny island country in the middle of no where really. The views are pretty incredible, but not unlike Japan.
Overall the general English ability was much more capable than my home city of Fukuoka. But then that shouldn’t be strange. Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan so I have to wonder how it’d stack up to Tokyo’s English level, but I don’t live in Tokyo, and the times that I’ve been there I’ve been with Japanese people or I’ve used Japanese myself to get around.
The food is good for the most part. Satomi had some soup that tasted like earth and not in a good way.
We ate some spicy food, pizza, frog, shrimp, dumplings, hot pot, French toast sticks, orange chicken, and lots of other stuff.
I got diarrhea on the 2nd day. That sucked. They don’t flush their toilet paper and in many restrooms they don’t supply you with toilet paper… I had to make some tough decisions that I don’t want to recollect…
I’ve never really been big on traveling. Back when I was still a kid we used to take a lot of family trips. We lived right next to the ocean down in Florida, but my parents had some strange affinity for the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah area. I never really got the allure when I was little. Mountains were a lot less fun than the beach. Mosquitoes thrive in moist forests, there are bears, and poison ivy. There’s less girls in bikinis and more people with guns. It’s not like my parents liked hiking either. We went into some caves, which was pretty interesting until the lights went out. Of course it’s pitch black… I don’t need to be shown what darkness is…
So even now the idea of anything more than a day trip makes me drag my feet, but my wife is the complete opposite. She loves traveling on planes to foreign countries with strange languages and food that shoots straight through you. Which is good because it forces me to move around. I know I live in Japan now, but I don’t really count it as very foreign anymore. And mostly, I’m fine just drinking at home, harvesting potatoes in the fall, fishing in the river next to my apartment, and going to the city for a nice dinner now and then.
Good thing I’m not on my own, eh?