08 September 2014

Ilha Formosa

Listening to: Khalil Fong, "I Want You Back." A Chinese pop star whose major influences include D’Angelo, Babyface, and Musiq Soulchild? Sign me up. A friend sent me "Lights Up" in late 2013 and I’ve been selling Fong as the Chinese Justin Timberlake, although that's not exactly accurate. Except for the appropriation part. Still, it’s rare to hear the R&B influences in Mandopop and I "愛愛愛" his stuff.

Yeah, it’s hot in Taiwan, low nineties with stifling humidity. But I don’t seem to mind it this time around. We landed at six in the morning and immediately set off, invigorated by a thirteen hour flight (sounds weird, I know). Even in the span of a few quick hours, I could tell that Taipei was different this time around. Or maybe I had changed in the interim. More likely the latter.

After a week here in 2002-ish, I was ready to go home. The last few days of our trip were spent laying around under mosquito netting and spamming Chinese television, just counting down the hours until our flight back to the States. This time, every sideways alley was an adventure, each boba shop glittered like an oasis, and cheap food called from every corner.

Priority one was getting a smartphone hooked up so I could look up directions and places to go. George and AMR were here three years ago and they told me how easy it was to hook up a Taiwan SIM card. After some searching -- most stores were closed early in the morning -- I got the hookup. It was about thirty dollars (850 NT) for ten days of unlimited data and a handful of texts and minutes. Armed with that lifeline, we were off and running.

My mom’s apartment is in-between two centrally located subway stations and the speed, efficiency, cleanliness, and orderliness of the Taiwan subway puts New York’s to shame. People queue up politely, there’s hardly any loud conversations on the train, and it’s super easy to navigate. Plus it’s dirt cheap.

Taipei is also a city that prides itself on being a 24/7 city and that’s proven pretty accurate, even without having the chance to explore the bigger night markets and nightlife options. We’ll get to those places later in the week, but so far it’s been easy to get food past midnight. And did I mention how safe it feels here? No poop or stuff on the sidewalks...it’s stellar!

Basically I’m starting to think I should move here for a bit. Cheap food, insomniac hours, easy transportation, and no harsh winters. That about covers all the qualifications I’m looking for in a city. Plus I speak the language (sort of). The only thing I can't understand so far is why nobody wears summer gear, as there are more pants and slacks worn here than rationally possible. Are the natives just immune to heat?

Since Yelp doesn’t exist out here -- in Asia it’s only in Singapore -- I downloaded the Taiwan version, iPeen. I can’t read anything but the photos are enough. Basically I just use Google translate to plug in stuff like “noodles, soy milk, breakfast” and out pops some nearby destinations. We won’t go directly to any one spot but I figure where there’s one food place, there’s always ten more nearby.

Strangely, Foursquare has been pretty good too, and it’s actually in English. But the two most useful things I've been using have been these blogs: A Hungry Girl’s Guide to Taipei and Eat Pray Flying. Hungry Girl has been indispensable, as her reviews are lengthy, detailed, and include a ton of pictures. The organization and tagging on her posts deserve a special mention. Check out her sidebar labels, this is how Blogger should be used! And there’s an index. If I ever update Rough Guide to Blogging, hungryintaipei.blogspot.com is gonna get featured big time.

Eat Pray Flying’s Taiwan entries have been a nice supplement too, such as this post about Wu Fen Pu and Rao He Night Market. Like I said, having portable Internet has changed everything. Now off to explore more and then report back. Well, actually, we're headed to a pub to watch replays of opening weekend for the NFL. Because, you know, football.