|Sunrise view of Taipei 101 from our Elephant Mountain hike.
We hadn't been to Taiwan since 2008, and most of Taiwan felt the same (except for cell phone culture). We did laundry at a blessed self-service laundromat within walking distance of the Grand Hyatt and it was completely reasonable, like less than 2 hours and less than $15 US to do 7 days of laundry for both of us. I think I may be leaning towards rating countries on the basis of the laundry situation, mediated by food, and if so, Taiwan is top tier!
Even though I hadn't studied it in 2 years, my erstwhile Mandarin efforts proved helpful. I could tell servers that we didn't speak Mandarin and needed an English menu; I could apologize; and I could sort of communicate things like here, there, stop, go, want this address, etc. to cab drivers. After Korea, I was amazed at just how helpful this basic non-existent level of language was versus literally *nothing*.
|Hard to tell, but those crowds are all in line for dumplings at Din Tai Fung.
On our first morning's sunrise hike up Elephant Mountain, I listened to the extremely impressively healthy old-folks yell at one another while they vigorously hiked, ran, swung from side to side, used the public free weights, and slapped themselves on their bodies as part of their bizarre, but apparently very effective workouts (judging from their appearances). The language they yelled back and forth reminded me how to listen to the tones and many things I'd forgotten. Zao! Qiang! and my favorite -- Meiguoren, ma? (yes, we are crazy Americans hiking at dawn with all of you who so kindly greet us in English with "Good Morning!" or "Have a nice day!" and occasionally, "Do you need help?")
One of the big treats in Taipei was meeting up with Jen for some shopping at Sogo. I love meeting up with people we know from our non-travel life when we're traveling. There's something so improbable and shocking about the fact that it even happens that makes me super grateful to be alive at a time when things like this are possible.
|This Big Cock Pineapple Cake was for sale all over the place -- confusing, to say the least.
|Shilin night market's indoor basement with stalls and seating -- our favorite.
|That is one happy man with many fried crabs!
|Another great meal at Miaokou: E selected one of the huge tentacles and it was sliced, grilled, and sauced.
|We ate it in the street from the plastic bag, and it was delicious.
|One of the many narrow stairways in Jiufen.