30 September 2014


Currently pushing: Starbase Orion and Star Realms. In a shocker, during our entire twenty-five or so hours of flight time, I never even put on a movie. Half of our time was spent sleeping but the other half was spent staring at our iPhones, playing the two aforementioned iOS games. Star Realms is a space themed Ascension, which I played a lot of last year, and it's pretty comparable. But the real time suck is Starbase Orion, which is rightly lauded as the best 4x game (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) on mobile. The hours just flew by as we lost ourselves in virtual battle.

Alright, here with Taiwan part two -- part one here -- even though we’ve been back for a few weeks already. We left Taipei in a rush, after packing in a ton of activities the last few days. Actually, who am I kidding. Basically once we discovered mango ice, my friend became obsessed and we ate it twice a day until we left. And then went straight to Tea Station when we got back to San Diego, for a C+ approximation. The great mango hunt basically took up our last few days. No joke.

While we can’t rightly call ourselves mango ice connoisseurs yet, we did hit up the famed Ice Monster, as well as its sister store, Smoothie House. Actually, “sister store” is a misnomer as Smoothie House was opened up after the husband and wife owners of Ice Monster had an acrimonious divorce. Mango drama! One morning we took the wrong train and ended up in Da-an District after being there the previous night.
SCENE: Yongkang Street, 9am
J: “What do you want to eat?”
F: “Should we just get mango ice for breakfast?”
J: “Yes."
This blog is not about food so I’ll leave that to the experts. But let me highlight this one beef noodle shop. It’s called, well, I have no idea. George and AMR had told me about this killer beef noodle spot by my mom’s apartment but none of them knew how to get there. By sheer serendipity, my friend and I happened to find it on Day 2 of our trip.

This dude was banging out beef noodle soups, Jiro-style, from this tiny storefront and after a moment’s hesitation to determine if it was too hot out for soup, we sat and downed our first bowl of the trip. I didn’t realize it would be the best place we would find, or that this was the exact place George and AMR had talked about. My mom grew up a few blocks away from the shop and she said that her mom had always loved it. Since I literally went back there four or five more times, I got friendly with the owner and he told me that he’s in his thirty-ninth year there. I hope to be there for the magic fortieth. [Update: A Taiwan-based friend found the spot, lucky you.]

Our last few nights, we got to explore a bit more of the city. Ximending for one, the Shibuya/Harajuku of Taipei. I got a few eyebrow raises when I relayed my excitement for the place, since apparently only young people go crawling through that area. I, of course, was intrigued to see what the youth of Taiwan looked like and off we went. As advertised, Ximending was full of people half my age and it was a bit much, like Times Square-lite. Still, I’ll be back to explore more since we were only there for an hour or so. Much of that time was spent trying to convince my friend to buy a pair of Chucks -- he only ever wears work shoes. Pro tip: Chucks go with everything! Another pro tip: The egg tarts at KFC are as great as advertised. Stunning right? In the end, my friend decided that he couldn’t do the shoes, much to my exasperation.

We spent our last night in Taiwan at a karaoke place. As it should be.

Okay, I’m gonna bang out some Taiwanese related media I’d been ingesting pre and post-trip. The Raw and Cooked is a German helmed movie about Taiwan’s culinary culture, with a focus on its growing environmental movement. The trip made me remember Daniel Zarazua’s (successfully funded) Kickstarter for Taiwan is My Home: Stories of the Black and Latino Diaspora, which should be dropping soon. And did I talk about how half of Lucy was set in Taiwan already? Director Luc Besson had visited Taiwan while promoting for The Fifth Element and he talks about the decision to start Lucy there, in this video.

I haven’t had a chance to see Au Revoir Taipei yet, but I really want to. The story is about a heartbroken boy who cooks noodles by day and learns French by night in order to chase after his ex-girlfriend in Paris. The "unfurls over the course of one night" structure is right up my alley. I've already been told the movie is no Before Sunrise, but that's okay, nothing ever really is.

Sidenote: I also noticed that Rajon Rondo was inexplicably popular in Taiwan. I saw more Rondo jerseys than anyone else’s, even Jeremy Lin’s. And this one newly opened coffee shop, Campus Cafe, featured a Michigan plaque, a Rondo jersey, and a Kevin Garnett Brooklyn jersey as main wall decorations. I thought maybe my fan doppelganger had been in Taiwan this entire time. Hello future friend, I'm already excited for us to watch sports together. What's your Line?

Also, I just finished watching High Tech, Low Life, a documentary about Chinese citizen journalists Zola and Zhang Shihe. My former roommate, who works at POV, recommended it and I’m glad she did. It’ll make an interesting supplement to all the Hong Kong stories you’re currently reading.

Lastly, my friend Weiko recently made a Chinese-language romantic comedy set in Taiwan, 100 Days (真愛100天), and while I keep missing U.S. screenings of it, you should try to catch it when you can! The title is in reference to a Buddhist belief that when a parent passes away before their son/daughter is married, that child has one hundred days to get hitched or else the parent’s soul will linger on. Talk about pressure. The script is partly based on Weiko’s own experiences, responding to his mother's death a few years ago. Here's the trailer.