A Travellerspoint blog

Traveller not Tourist

Or “Falling off the Wagon after 10 months of Sobriety”

There I was, standing in the middle of the Wufenpu district, a glazed look in my eyes, a clear sign that I had fallen off the wagon after a mind-staggering 10 months of sobriety. My thoughts were hazed, my memory of the last couple of hours a Scottish fog at best and when I looked down, there it was – the evidence of my return to the Bad Old Days. Ronni was next to me, holding my hand, knowing herself that once the monster inside of me was unleashed there was no way for it to return until it had satisfied its great appetite. The next couple of hours would be crucial and as long as the beast was fed, there was a slim chance that we would see the evening hours alive and breathing. Looking at Ronni, knowing what had to be done we started to walk towards the MRT station, the beast inside of me already licking its lips at the promise of more food in the imminent future....

But before all of that happened, I must go to where it all began, a small room in the middle of the Ximending district of Taipei, after we had returned from Chiayi. The way back from Alishan was a tiresome one, although we did splurge on the High Speed Rail for the first time, which meant that a 4.5 hour journey was sliced to only about 1.5 hours as we sped along the Western Coast at a phenomenal speed of 300 km/h. The countryside nothing more than a blur, I quietly ate my salad (!!) which I had bought at the 7-11 at the station, yet another clear sign that this was the train of the rich. Leg space like that of Business Class and punctuality that you only get from getaway drivers on a jewellery heist, it was the most luxurious ride we had had so far on our trip.

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When in Sun Moon Lake we had decided to shorten our stay in Cambodia, since neither of us really wanted to spend our last days jumping from one nightmare bus to the other in one of the world’s poorest countries only to get a look at yet another temple. Furthermore, the fact that only a 30 day visa was given upon entry which made it a necessity to leave to Laos only to return didn’t really sweeten the deal. We had hoped to make a side trip to Japan with the 2 weeks we suddenly had on our hands, but that would have meant a loan as large as the average sized American SUV. So it was decided that we would spend the extra time here in Taiwan, mostly because it was a modern and interesting country, but also because the warmth and friendliness we received from its people was something I just couldn’t let go of. And the fact that in total we would spend about a month and a half in a country that people visited on average for one week, would give us the opportunity to dive into the everyday life of the people, visit places that no one has visited before (or at least no white people...:-), practice our Chinese and of course, enter the Year of the Snake together. I mean, how can we resist the temptation of yet another New Year’s fireworks extravaganza??

We knew that some of the places we would visit weren’t the usual suspects on a Taipei itinerary, and that some of them would turn out to be, how should I put it?, BORING, but we were hoping that amidst all the places we had found, we would also stumble upon some jewels...
So in the category of slightly boring we visited two places, which, surprisingly enough, are actually some of the ‘must-sees’ of my “favourite” travel guide (you guessed it!) – Lonely Planet...

Yangmingshan is advertised as one of the most beautiful parks in the Taipei area, with its rich fauna and mountainous terrain. Getting there proved tedious due to the MRT-bus-bus connection we had to take, which brought Ronni to the verge of losing her breakfast. So we got off the bus somewhere in the middle, thinking that there were enough trails to choose from. But you know what happens when you assume? Yep, asses are made :-)

The ‘trail’ was along the road and other than a few opportunities to see the city below us, nothing short of bland...

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The second somewhat disappointing ‘must-see’ was the Beitou hot springs. We had seen pictures online and thought that this was going to be somewhat similar to what we had experienced in the Waimangu Valley in New Zealand; rich, colourful streams, boiling water, sulphurous delights....and rotten eggs of course. Well folks, the term ‘pools’ is used quite loosely, as we only saw a pool (no plural to be found) and as far as parks go, hmmm, do some trees along the road count?

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Mind you, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good is all...

But these were so far the only “downlights” of Taipei. Since New Year’s was neigh, we absolutely had to go visit the famous (well, to the Taiwanese that is...) Dihua market. It is everything you can expect of a Chinese market....and sooooo much more. The noise around you is all consuming, the smell of the food intoxicating, the amount of people streaming up and down the narrow alleys indefinite and the funniest thing of all...we looooved it!! Oh my god, how much we had changed from those ‘give me some frigging personal space moron’ people. Touching? Not a problem! Want to fondle my behind whilst we push ahead? Sure, go ahead! All with a smile of course...:-)

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Sweets were something that was apparently needed for the New Year and since I hadn’t had my Haribo intake since Peru, we poured some into a bag, no matter what the cost, whilst staring at this somewhat fashionable track suit this woman was wearing...

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Oh, and those buns you’re looking at? Well, they went from there...

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to here...

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Sadly, as it turned out, due to my misfortunate accident in the bathroom (I fell and accidentally shaved...), bad luck was upon us since The Beard had been removed and somewhere along the intake of this wonderful food, a stowaway hitched a ride and entered Ronni’s digestive system, havocking it for the next 72 hours...:-(

So when Ronni was finally back on her own two feet we opted for a slightly more relaxed pace in one of Taipei’s many parks. This time round we visited Dahu Park and whilst it was nothing extraordinary, the fresh air, the fact that we were almost alone and the little turtle we saw floating in the water, more than made this day a good outing.

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Which brings us to the beginning of this blog and the unleashing of the monster inside me. What monster you might ask? The shopping monster of course!! For 10 whole months I had bought almost nothing, letting my shirts reach a state of disintegration, my pants turn from slim fit to baggies and my fashion sense deteriorate so much that it started to have an existential crisis.

This was all turned around when we visited the Wufenpu fashion district. Stalls upon stalls upon stalls, as far as my eyes could see. Everything one could ever desire, men’s fashion, women’s fashion, androgenic fashion, robot fashion, poodle fashion...it was all here for the taking and something locked inside of me suddenly burst out of the cage and roared like a warrior....

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Having walked into a narrow shop in the middle of the district I suddenly found myself surrounded by what I could only assume were teenage Asians, they were so slim I could crush them with my toe-nail, hovering around me like fairies and with the help of Ronni I measured jackets, shirts, pants (how did my pants come off??) and much much more. The look of appreciation and wonder on the Asians should have made me feel uncomfortable, but weirdly it didn’t. For him I was Schwarzenegger, he had never seen any of his shirts actually be filled with...meat I guess :-) Ronni said he was drooling, but I think that wasn’t the case. But looking at myself in the mirror, I did suddenly see a guy that was trendy and (wait for it...)...awesome! The outcome....hidden in the bag :-)

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But this was not all, once the shopping monster had been unleashed it had to feed on more, so we headed to the Guang Hua Digital Plaza to “just browse” as I had put it. An hour later we had bought a smart-phone I’m not sure we need and if Ronni hadn’t dragged me out of there I would have left with much, much more...(a camera, a tablet, a netbook, why not a small TV??)....the prices both here and at the Wufenpu district...ridiculously low!

It was the day after the frenzy whilst I was still staring lovingly at our new smart phone, checking the internet whilst on the MRT, that it was decided to spend the day somewhere away from the frenzy and the chaos of downtown. Since it was drizzling and overcast what better way to spend a Friday afternoon than at the zoo? With no high expectations, only the knowledge that the entrance fee was almost nothing, we entered the zoo and saw that we had it almost to ourselves. The rain had swept away most of the families that come here during the holidays, which for us made it only better. As we walked along the paths and looked at the different animals (the ones from Asia most interesting for us) we suddenly found ourselves ecstatically enjoying the afternoon. The areas that were set aside for the animals were quite large and the zoo itself was immersed in a tropical and lush environment of trees and lakes, making it seem as if we were miles and miles away from the city.

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Only at one point I found myself a bit uneasy, but I think I handled the situation quite manly!

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There was a lot of man-love going on here today...

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A lot of exercise as a pre-emptive strike for the upcoming New Year’s festivities and the calories that walk hand in hand with them...

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Some of us had started to eat, well, a little early I must say....

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Whilst others stomped around as if they owned the place...

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Some had decided to take an early nap, as one can never be too rested for when that festive food arrives and you need to gobble up the grub before grandma falls asleep in her soup and your oversized uncle uses the diversion to snatch up everything good from the table...

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And others...well, all they needed to do was stay so god-darn cute...(can I have one mommy, please, please pleeeaaseee!)

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It was a good day out, and I must say, that although the zoo doesn’t appear in any must-sees of Taipei, it was one of the most entertaining and fun things we had done so far.

But my new phone is blinking now, so have to go and see what’s up...:-)

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Posted by yaya2080 23:16 Archived in Taiwan Tagged markets taipei taiwan

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