Taipei Thing #19: Walk on those invigorating rocks in a park

13 Jun

Ouch!

Although I was sad to miss out on Jesse House Bakery, the trip wasn’t completely fruitless, and I was able to complete another of Jesse’s suggestions: walking barefoot on one of the rock paths often found in parks in Taiwan.

I had actually been keeping an eye out all week for one of these (I could have sworn Shida Park had one, but I couldn’t find it!), but it happened that Jesse House was right next to a park. Despite the fact that I was parked illegally, and should have been moving along to meet friends, I headed over to take a look. There it was!

Memories

The funny thing about this park is that, like Jesse House Bakery, I remember it from my very first morning in Taiwan. It seems like a million years ago now, though I recall my first glimpse of it quite vividly. I had taken a taxi from my apartment in Gong Guan to the head office of the school where I would be working. The taxi dropped me off directly in front of this park, which is where I was immediately amused by the sight of a group of old ladies country line dancing. I didn’t stop long because I was afraid of being late to my meeting, but I later wrote about the dancers in my journal. (Incidentally, I came across more line dancing ladies just a few hours after my invigorating rock walk. I’ll write about them later.)

As far as reflexology paths go, they are actually quite comfortable, in an uncomfortable sort of way, and are good for improving balance. I’d recommend seeing what the fuss is about, if you ever come across one. Most of the ones in Taiwan are clean and well-kept, and some have railings next to them to help you keep balance.  This particular design is rather unremarkable, but I’ve seen some beautifully-designed paths around Taiwan, particularly in parks close to temples. (Check out some examples here.) If I were to ever build a home, or even to open the homestay I dream of having, I will very likely install a path of my very own.

By the way, in case you have keen powers of observation and are wondering about the marks on my feet…

  • On the left: , a henna tattoo I’d gotten while sitting on a stool on the street in Kenting a week before this photo was taken. Reason: this is one of the characters in my Chinese name.
  • On the right: 我迷路了, a real tattoo I got while sitting across from a naked stranger (also getting a tattoo) in a forest one week before I came to Taiwan in 2005. Reason: this is how I feel every day of my life. Bonus: people ask me about it frequently, and their reactions are enlightening.
Advertisements

Taipei Thing #18: Jesse House Bakery

13 Jun

Jesse House, where are you?

Back when my friend Jesse lived in Taipei, he appreciated having his own bakery – or at least one that shared his name. I’m sure that’s why he wanted me to stop by this place on Song Jiang Road, which I still remember passing by on my very first day in Taiwan in 2005. And since I happened to be headed to afternoon tea with friends, I had a great reason for making a special trip.

Then, I got there, and saw this:

Foiled!

It seems Jesse House has disappeared from this location, as has the Burger King that used to be a couple of storefronts down. Apparently, I don’t spend enough time in the area, or I would have noticed this sooner. Fortunately, Jesse House left the sign up, so I was at least able to figure out that I had the right place.

A bit of research has since told me that the only location still open (unless the website is telling lies) is the one in Gong Guan. If I ever manage to find it, I’ll surely stop and celebrate, hopefully with a danish of some sort.

Sorry, Jesse!

Scooter moment: Visual overload

9 Jun

If this photo were any more "Taipei," it might explode

How much Taipei life can you spot here? Here’s my list:

  • Hello Kitty
  • vertical signage
  • heavy traffic
  • relative calm despite heavy traffic
  • blue trucks and buses
  • as many taxis as there are regular cars
  • scooters
  • unhelmeted child (center of scooter bunch)
  • man picking nose (scooter dad)
  • 4 people on a scooter (scooter dad has 2 more passengers! [sorry if not zoomable])
  • illegal rooftop additions
  • fairly clean-looking streets
  • Western holiday symbols
  • barred-in window boxes
  • an Easy Shop (horribly-named women’s underwear store) next door to a toy store
  • construction (in the distance)

Did I miss anything? What’s missing from this photo? Did you notice there’s not a single 7-11 visible?

Taipei Thing #17: Shop at Bear Mama DIY store

8 Jun

Felting is a hot craft in Taipei recently

Missy M., an all-around great lady and the rocking mama behind Rocking M farm, had recently asked me about wool in Taipei before I began this project, and later sent me some information on Bear Mama DIY, a rather large craft store on Yan Ping North Rd., just north of Taipei Main Station.

I used to consider myself a fairly crafty person, back when I had more time for it (and a bigger house to hold all the supplies!), so I was excited to check the place out. I’ve been to lots of craft stores in Taipei, but this is one of the first that I’d hold on par with my American craft store standards. First of all, it’s large:

Bear Mama DIY

Not quite a Michaels or Joann Fabrics, but a decent size, considering the competition for space in Taipei.

As you walk in, you’ll see tables to the left and right, where crafting classes are held. On this day, the place was bustling with grannies and middle-aged women weaving baskets, with store attendants nearby to help them with any crafting emergencies.

Crafting mamas

One difference I did notice between this store and its American cousins was the level of gaudiness, as evidenced by this entire row of beads that would likely be on clearance in a typical Michaels. Or maybe it was just the harsh lighting – I think American craft stores also tend to feel a little less like grocery stores, with nice displays and elegant packaging, unlike the hot pink in-house packaging used by Bear Mama.

Clear plastic beads, anyone?

You’ll also find all the typical things you’d expect in a craft store, like yarn and ribbon.

Yarn

Ribbon

I did make some purchases, which I carried around in the basket brought over to me by a helpful staff member, though I had to remind myself not to get carried away. Lots of interesting little finds in this store, and I’ll definitely be making another trip when I find the time and inspiration.

PS: If you’re in Taipei, and are interested in taking some crafting classes, you can find Bear Mama’s class schedule here (Chinese only). They also have locations in Taichung, Taoyuan, and Kaohsiung.

Taipei Thing #16: Visit 228 Peace Park at night

1 Jun

Nighttime stroll

Besides seemingly wanting to get me stuffed, Jesse also proposed some exercise – of the mildly frightening variety. His idea was to make a nighttime visit to 228 Peace Park. When I told my friends Curis & Shelley of this plan during our dinner at KGB, they didn’t think it was a very good idea, pointing out that it’s very dark there at night. However, when I was passing sometime after 11:30, it didn’t seem so scary to me.

During my stroll, I ran into a number of park characters: foreigners having a drink next to the pond, a homeless guy digging through trash for something to eat (he found an unfinished bag of Lay’s), a random guy seemingly trying to steal things from the tents along the main walkway (where vendors sell things in the daytime), a guy sitting in front of the stage all alone, with a couple doing the same thing not far way, lone joggers, gay men hanging out by the pagoda, a guy reading the newspaper under the monument, women in business suits hurrying through the park in the direction of the MRT, and students passing through in a loud group. In short, there were still plenty of people around despite the late hour, which made me feel fairly secure. I’m not sure the scene would feel that way a few hours later, but I’m not particularly interested in finding out, at least by myself.

If you’d like to find out exactly where the name of the park comes from, check out this article on the 228 Massacre.

And here are some of the things you might come across in the park:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Taipei Thing #15: Have a KGB Burger

31 May

KGB: Kiwi Gourmet Burgers

Michael Turton suggested that I have a KGB burger, which I had no problem with, since they’ve got two things I love (see below). And I was already scheduled to have dinner and language exchange in Shida with my friends Curis and Shelley, so it wasn’t a tough sell getting them to agree.

Thing I love about KGB #1:

Hunter's Gold

I seriously miss Woodchuck Dark & Dry (now called “802”), which I drank religiously at Gandalf’s, a mainstay of the artsy/musical/treehugger crowd in my hometown until it burned down the year I graduated from college. For that reason, cider is a bit nostalgic for me, and I never miss ordering it when it’s available.

Thing I love about KGB #2:

CC Heaven

I’m not sure I’ve ever ordered anything else at KGB. CC = cranberry & camembert cheese. On a burger! Try it. Trust me, you’ll love it. The one pictured is a “slim,” since I was stuffed from all the other food (and those fries all ended up on Curis’s plate, too), but I still finished every bite because that’s how much I love this burger.

A few more shots ought to do it for this post:

Enormous side salads

Stuffed

Decor

Mmmm. Just writing this post makes me want to go get another CC Heaven right now…

Taipei Thing #14: Eat 甜不辣

31 May

甜不辣 (tian2 bu2 la4)

Jesse sent me on yet another food mission: to eat 甜不辣, otherwise known as tempura.

Kaifu and I had been eating all day already: vegetarian food at 新卡莎, a sharwarma from Mohammed, and red bean & mochi ice from Tai Yi Milk King, not to mention the strawberry iced tea I sipped while people-watching in Yong Kang Park. Furthermore, I was on my way to meet friends for Thing #15 (another food task).

It was a day to make any hungry girl or inner fatty proud. But there was still tempura to be had, and we were able to find some off Shida Road, among all those food stands near the Wellcome grocery store. It really was delicious, though I think I’d be able to appreciate it better on a day when I hadn’t been stuffing my face for hours already.

And for those curious about the black piece on the left, that’s pig’s blood cake (豬血糕, zhu1 xie3 gao1). The video below will explain everything you need to know (and for those who can read Chinese, the subtitles offer some extra fun – check out 4:23):