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We are what we think & my blog entries reflect how I think. Have a sip of the poison of my mind.. It's not always lethal.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Taipei Day 4: of Shopping, a Gay Pub & Night Markets

It's the 4th day of our second trip back here in Taipei. The feeling I'm having about this is neither here nor there. I don't know if you've experienced it before but being halfway through a holiday trip is the twilight zone between knowing your holiday is gonna end soon and you are halfway to having to go home and returning to the grind of normal life, and the fact that your holiday is down to half-life remaining for you to enjoy yourself and indulge in what's left of your trip.

It's like a tug-of-war and you are what's getting tugged.

That's a bittersweet feeling, for sure. So I'm telling myself to focus on enjoying what's left of this trip and squeeze every ounce out of it; kinda like squeezing an orange dry until it's all wrinkled up in order to savour its sweet juice to the very last drop. So yeah, we are gonna squeeze the juice out of the day and make no apologies about it.

Beancurd
There is this store selling beancurd along the stretch of stores and shops just outside our hotel and we wanted to experience it, so we are here now having a taste of their beancurd with almond nuts.

I had to interrupt the young dude manning the store and he had to stop playing some game on his iPad when I placed our orders with him just now. The beancurd is not bad, but we are not floored. I'll conclude this as a 'experience it once and move on' deal. Beancurd is not something that can really satisfy your hunger, so it's off to 西门町 now to hunt for a proper meal on this lovely freezing morning.

西门町 in the morning (click to bloat for clarity)

During this time in the morning, 西门 is just starting to come alive as the shopkeepers prepare for business for the day. So we found this little place which is similar to a Hong Kong mini restaurant eatery and I'm having a plate of fried rice here while my Lioness is having some soupy thingy.

My fried rice is palatable and quite fragrant because it's fried with eggs but I don't really like the soupy dish she's having; it has a kind of taste I've never quite experienced before. Put a new unfamiliar experience into your mouth and swallow it and there's a chance you might not like it just because the taste is alien to your taste buds anyway, even though that doesn't necessarily mean that the food is bad. Anyhoos, whatever.

We had our very first meal in Taipei here
Moving on after our meal, we came inside this small shopping mall where we had our very first meal and dinner at this particular restaurant inside during the very first night we arrived in Taipei 2-and-a-half years ago. The restaurant seems quite out of place, since just right outside it is an entire clothing section occupying the entire floor.

Nevertheless, it's good seeing it again and peeping in from the outside, I can see the same seat we occupied during our first time here and this makes me picture our past selves sitting there having our Japanese dinner. Well, I think I've mentioned somewhere before within this blog that I can be emotionally attached to places I've been to.

There is this street at the side of the main area of 西门町 we didn't visit before, so that's where we are heading now to squeeze this unexplored side portion of this trip's orange to see what we can experience there. So when this small shopping mall with the handle 'Shinjuku Plaza' pops into view, I just have to go in there to see for myself if they are really selling Japanese Shinjuku merchandise. Here's how the inside of this little mall looks like upon entering:

True enough, there are boutiques here selling Japanese fashion stuff but not in entirety. It's a mish-mash of Japanese and local fashion, actually. And some of the boutiques here are situated in the most isolated places within the mall - within the stairways. It's at one of these stairway boutiques where I bought a pair of funky pants.

It does make me wonder how some of the boutiques here fare and survive, considering the minimal crowd flow and the fact that it's situated just outside the fringe of the main shopping area of 西门. But it's a wednesday morning, so perhaps this can't really be the constant situation here, i'm hoping.

Anyway, the boutique personnel here really know how to dress up and for that matter, I have been really impressed by most of the boutique sales girls here in Taipei - lots of them dress to kill and I did catch myself saying 'Wow' under my breath at the sight of many of them. Compared to the general fashion scene back home, it's no contest hands down.

Of course, you may present the argument that on home ground, our weather is too humid to dress up fashionably but hey, even though it's freezing-ass cold today, lots of the sales girls working inside the shopping malls are wearing thin material summer dresses (why should they wear their coats and jackets inside heated malls anyway) funked-up by accessories, vibrant colours and even summer hats; fashion that not many girls back home dare to experiment with where most of them just play it safe wearing mostly black or some other non-cheerful colours and without much (mostly without) fashion accessories, which the Taiwanese are masters in mixing & matching with.

Now that we are done exploring Shinjuku Plaza, we head out and came into this CD shop since my dad-in-law has requested my Lioness to hunt down a karaoke CD of songs by some Taiwanese artiste. After this, we strolled back to the main area of 西门.


Back at the central area of 西门, we decided to try out some of the snacks sold here. She bought this chocolate-coated thingy on a stick. For me, I'm now waiting for my mochi (muah chee) to be made from a street stall as you can see in the pic. Mochi is basically fried flour coated with peanuts and I wanted to find out if the Taiwanese version tastes any different from home ground's.

While all these are going on, I can't help but feel a tinge of lost as I know that we are approaching the last day of our trip here. It's a subtle feeling but it's there alright; it's a little voice that tells me to cherish every remaining moment since I heart Taipei lots.

Once my mochi is ready, I took it to a corner and begin to chow down on it and I'm quite surprised to find that it tastes exactly the same as ours back home. Not that that's a bad thing though, since the similar taste is a good one, so I ain't complaining. Besides, the cold makes one hungry easily and makes everything you usually like to eat more palatable. The cold makes your taste buds livelier somehow.

So my take about the mochi freshly made from the street stalls here: they are basically made the same way from the same ingredients as the mochi back home. However, the Taiwanese mochi bought in ready-made packaged forms have more variety in assorted tastes & flavours, which is something lacking back home - just like the Taiwanese folks have more varied tastes & styles in their fashion sense as compared to the drab 'play it safe, don't jump out of the usual regular box' herd mentality 'fashion sense' back home.

Gosh, even the differences in creativity and variety carry over to the food department - one ventures out of the comfort zone while the other chooses to remain in it.

Next, we have to get some yummy snacks for the Homies back home. See the pic on the left? This shop is a great place to get packaged snacks and it's just a stone's throw away from the 西门 train station's exit nearest to the main area. Just stroll around 西门 and you should come across it. This place makes for great last-minute snacks buying.

They sell exotic stuffs like ducks tongues too, though those are to be consumed, not meant to be packaged and kept for days. Speaking of ducks, I love their duck drumsticks, those are really yummylicious.

The alley next to 红楼剧场 (the building on the right)
We continued shopping at 西门 before heading back to the hotel to dump everything we've bought in our room and rested for some time to catch our breaths and recharge ourselves. That's right, the shopping ain't over yet.

By now, late evening has fallen and the plan is to go back to 五分埔 to shop for more clothes, but there is something I have to do here first: go back to 小熊村 for a drink just like what we did during our first trip here. This pub is situated just behind our hotel in the alley behind 红楼剧场, a cultural museum.

小熊村 means 'Little Bear Village'. Endearing, isn't it? We discovered this little pub during our first time here when I saw the lights and seats from a distance outside 红楼剧场 that scream 'Pub' to the observant eye and the perceptive mind.

小熊村

Right, so the name is endearing but I've concluded that this is also a gay pub, since we saw groups of men who kinda behaved & gave out such vibes when we first visited this place.

Yummylicious Caramel Macchiato
I have no problem with that since we are being left alone in peace here. I'm straight and even though I don't agree with nor condone the sexual orientation of gays, I don't discriminate against them since they are humans too and since I wasn't and am not being harassed here, I'm cool with coming back since I really like the ambiance of this place.

I just have to make sure that I don't drop anything here and having to bend down to pick it up. Just kidding.

And of course, we just have to have their caramel macchiato once again and a mug of beer for myself too since my Lioness doesn't take alcohol. Anyway, perhaps we are here too early since me & my Lioness are the only customers sitting here at the outside seats embraced by the cold.

At 五分埔

After our drinks at 小熊村, we took the train and we are now back at 五分埔 to hunt for more clothes, which is the main agenda for this trip. Oh, I just have to show you the co-op washrooms here, since we do not have such toilets back home which are shared by both gender in such a manner.

As you can observe, the only thing separating the men and the women within this same washroom are the cubicles - half of the cubicles have the female symbols on the doors while the other half have the male symbols; all within the same washroom.

My gosh, this washroom really stinks, I'm outta here.

The cafe near 饒河夜市

We've heard that 饒河夜市, another well-known night market is quite within walking distance from 五分埔. So now that we are done here at 五分埔 for tonight, we begin asking the locals here for directions and while walking towards 饒河 after a short period of time, we decided to stop at this cafe just a stone's throw away from 饒河 for some hot beverage since the weather is really cold.

I'm happily sitting at one of the outside seats (again) sipping my coffee when I look to my left and realize with horror that just next to me right now is a stall selling 臭豆腐 (smelly bean curd). My gosh, I can't stand the smell of those things but luckily, the smell didn't drift over my way and I didn't catch whiffs of those things, so I continue to sip my coffee without having to change seats, phew.

The main entrance of 饒河夜市
After we were done at the cafe and moving on, we found and reached 饒河夜市 and the view of the main entrance of the 夜市 before me now is exactly what you can see in the pic there. Blogging like this is like taking you along with me on my journey, dear reader, and that's a pleasing thing.

So we are walking around and browsing the wares here at 饒河 and my take on this night market is that it's just like any other regular 夜市 in Taipei. Maybe we've missed something, but this night market is like any other; not that that's a bad thing, though.

In conclusion, if you've been to any other 夜市 and you don't have enough time for this one, I don't think you will be missing much. But as with any other places, visiting this place just for the experience and the memory is good though.

View from the other end of 饒河夜市
I'm glad we are here when the weather is cold because during our previous trip in the month of September, the weather was hot and humid and walking through a night market under such conditions, what with the fumes from the cooking of the food and snacks and the trapped heat under the tarps everywhere, you feel sticky, scruffy and dirty all over and everything combined just saps you of your energy. Not pleasant.

Shopping and moving around in colder weather sure as heck is a lot more pleasant and I'm finding myself to be a lot more energetic. Anyway, I found more wild boar sausages here and bought a couple of them, munching while walking around. They are cheaper here as compared to those at 九份 but the sausages sold at 九份 are tastier.

That kinda make sense economically: 一分钱, 一分味, heh.

The bus stop where our bus never came
The plan is that once we are done at 饒河, we'll take a bus from here that goes back to 西门, but it's getting close to midnight now, so both of us started to hustle our way towards the bus stop.

So we are at the bus stop now for some time already but the bus we've been waiting for didn't come. I'm beginning to think that perhaps we've missed the last bus back to 西门. So my Lioness went into the dessert shop behind us and the middle-aged woman in there told her that there shouldn't be any more buses heading towards 西门 at such an hour.

Inside the cab
All is not lost and the Universe didn't explode, for 小黄 came to our rescue. '小黄' means 'Little Yellow' in Mandarin and that's what the Taiwanese affectionately call their taxis. You've guessed it; their taxis are all painted yellow. If you are not a Chinese, you'd probably have thought initially that the name meant something racist when I mentioned 'Little Yellow', didn't you? Far from it, there's nothing racist about this, the name just denotes the colour of their cabs.

Besides, why would the Taiwanese intentionally give self-derogatory racist names to their own cabs? Come on now, everybody knows that only SPGs are racist against their own kind, mm-hhmm? Racism sucks balls, by the way.

Well, it's déjà vu as we are sitting in the cab heading back to our hotel since we took their cabs too during our previous trip to Taipei; not once but twice - once during an afternoon and once during a night then.

We are having some chit chat with the cabbie and when he tells us that booking for a cab over the phone in Taipei is cheaper than flagging one down on the road for the journey, I find myself having trouble wrapping my mind around such a concept. This doesn't make much sense to me but I'm not a Taiwanese, so who am I to question their rationale for doing things their way.

(I'm still scratching my head over this one till today, though).

Anyway, tomorrow will be our second last day in Taipei for this trip before we have to make our way to the airport on Friday afternoon for our flight back home, which means that tomorrow will be the final full day we have to enjoy Taipei from morning till night.

So come with us tomorrow, we'll take you to visit the Taiwanese monument of Love that overlooks their northern sea, among other things.


- De Lion Speaks

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