An interesting weather description at the Taipei Airport
the park by our hostel
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
The choice of Taipei as our destination for Children's Day Weekend had a lot more to do with plane ticket prices than anything else, but I'm really glad I got the chance to go. For one thing, I have been considering teaching there in the future because the jobs are well paid and the climate is nice. For another, it was a whole lot of fun.
The glow of euphoria was still upon me when I woke up at Maddy's on Saturday morning and we headed for the airport. The universe was most definitely happy with us because we were informed at the ticket counter that there were no more seats in coach and we would therefore have to endure an upgrade to business class. Fiiiiiiine. On the way through security my skin, warmed by a slight sunburn, set off the heat sensors they had set up to find sick passengers and I was stopped for a quick temperature check. I was informed that I didn't have swine flu, so all in all it was a positive start to the day.
After stopping for some extremely necessary mocha lattes, we realized we were a bit late to our gate. With a little hustling, we made it in time and settled into our cozy business class seats with our lattes and the Wall Street Journal. We wanted to look the part. A few glasses of complimentary champagne later and we had arrived.
A large sign in the Taipei airport informed us that the weather outside was "sultry," and I thought that sounded like a great time. We hopped a bus into the city and my spirits brightened even more (if that's possible) when I saw the blue skies and palm trees. I could definitely do this. We dropped our stuff at our hostel and immediately set out for some exploring, lunch at a veggie restaurant, and some serious lounging in Peace Park. It was Saturday, so we felt it was our obligation to check out the Taipei nightlife as well. We went to a really cool club called Luxy where a DJ played some awesome music while we danced all night long.
The next day, we rallied for some sight seeing even though our skulls were rebelling. We visited a beautiful and unique Confucian Temple first. Then we headed to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial which was a gorgeous, absolutely huge white building with an intricate blue roof. It was in the middle of a large public square where some sort of health fair was taking place. The Taiwanese are seriously into giving out free samples, and I am seriously into getting them, except for one weird drink that Lacy described as "a little bit like dirt in my mouth." Later that night, we headed to Taipei 101, the World's Tallest Building. It was really cool to see, because it towers of everything else in the city and I really love the design. The building itself looks like a large bamboo shoot and its exteriors are walls of glass. Conveniently Taipei 101 also has the World's fastest elevator. It only took 36 seconds to get to the observation deck on the 88th floor. Later we headed to the famous Shillin Night Market to try out some Taiwanese street food. We had oyster pancakes and Thai papaya salad (oh how I missed you!!!) But we were way to scared to try to the stinky tofu, a fermented dish that smells like dead bodies. I just couldn't get past that minor detail.
Tragically, our beach day turned out to be the only rainy day of our trip. Instead of the glorious day in the sand I had been dreaming about we decided to visit the hot springs in a local town about one and a half hours away by train. We went to a nice little hotel whose owner, Oliver, was very eager to befriend us and make sure we were comfortable. "I love Americans. I want American friends, they are so nice." he told me enthusiastically, "But Koreans and Japanese I don't like." he added ominously. He gave us a gorgeous room with a private mineral bath to relax in, which also allowed us access to the larger rooftop hot spring. Maddy and I decided to splurge on massages first and soon two Taiwanese women arrived at our room. The next hour can only be described as the most painful thing that has ever happened to me. These women took the term deep tissue to the next level. Not wanting to seem like a baby, I gritted my teeth and tried to go to my happy place, hoping I wouldn't end up covered in bruises the next day. It turns out both Maddy and I contemplated whether our massages were anything like real torture at several points during our ordeal.
My date with pain behind me we headed upstairs for some relaxation. The rooftop hot springs were immediately dubbed "The Grotto" for their resemblance to Hugh Hefner's backyard. There was even disco lights. Someone had the bright idea that Oliver should take our picture for his hotel brochure and within minutes he had set up a tripod and the picture became a full on photo shoot. I hope we end up on a billboard somewhere.
Maddy and I left the other girls and headed back to Taipei because our flight was leaving the next afternoon. We have gotten used to restaurants never closing in Korea so we were dismayed to find the Buddhist Vegetarian Buffet we had trekked all over the city looking for was closed when we got there. Instead we ate Pizza at the world's classiest Pizza Hut ever. A poor substitute and we felt kind of defeated, but I won't lie, it was damn good.
We flew back to reality in Korea where I was happily not quarantined for swine flu and for the first time I was "coming home to Korea." It felt really nice. When I opened my apartment door I just flopped onto my bed happily. I had missed my little apartment and I immediately felt comfortably at home. It seems I'm settling in.