Sunday, February 20, 2011

“Nihao” Taiwan - Part 3

Sunday! We decided to get out of Taipei for the morning, so we visited Danshui. This town is on the northern most part of Taipei, as it is located on the opening of the river into the ocean. Sunday brought us the best weather, it was over 60 degrees and overcast, it was quite nice. Our first stop: Starbucks (a real treat because I hardly see them in my area of Japan) and decided which direction we should head. Danshui is reminiscent of the Dutch influence in the architectural design. I even found my own cafe (Amanda’s Cafe)!

We walked along the river and bought a ticket on the ferry that would take us to the tip of the harbor, it was about a 10 minute boat/ferry ride to “Fisherman’s Wharf”. To be honest, I was disappointed in the wharf. I expected more things, but maybe it’s not a popular place to visit in February. We saw the sights and headed back to Danshui. On our way back to the train station, we sampled many Danshui-ian food shops. First, I had a glazed strawberry set (delicious) and then we went and sampled some pancake-like goodies (one was filled with red beans (azuki) and the other was some creamy potato mixture). Both were good and we got them fresh, which I think made them even better.

We took the train to our next stop of Beitou. It is famous for its hot springs resort. Literally, that is all it has, hot springs and more hot springs. If you didn’t know, Japan and the Japanese LOVE their hot springs (or onsens). Lucky for me, I’ve come to love them too! I already know that I will miss them when I leave. We planned on going in the public hot spring, which is pretty popular, but once we got there and saw how packed it was, we realized we could live without the hot spring experience. Up to this point, we hadn’t had our daily bubble tea experience. So, we set out for a bubble tea shop. After about 15 minutes of searching, we finally found a little shop and ordered ourselves some lovely bubble tea. Sitting at the train station, plotting our next move with a refreshing bubble tea in hand was just the way I pictured my Taiwan vacation!

After Beitou, we continued down the same train line to the 2010-2011 Taipei International Flora Exposition. This was something we stumbled open when we went to the Shilin night market on Friday. There were thousands of people, so it was hard to miss. We got our tickets and walked around. They had competitions for the Chinese New Years and the displays smelled fantastic! We walked around outside but due to the rain, we didn’t last long. About 15 countries also had displays of their country, I found the American display and surprisingly enough, I saw the one and only “Spuddy Buddy”. Now those of you who aren’t from Idaho or didn’t play golf at Idaho, you might not know who “Spuddy Buddy” is. He is the famous potato mascot that Idaho uses in its promotions. He is also famous in the golf world thanks to the Idaho Golf Teams! I spotted several “Spuddy Buddy” displays and I was quite excited. After a walk through the gift store, we called it a Flora Expo night. The expo started in November and goes through April. It was huge and we only saw about a third of the entire display but it was pretty cool. It would definitely take a full day to see the whole show.

Soon enough it was dinnertime and my map listed two curry restaurants but somehow, we didn’t find them. Since it was Sunday night, I figured that they were probably closed. Instead, we found a T.G.I. Fridays, something I’ve only been to once or twice in my life. I feasted on chicken fajitas, since Mexican food is nearly impossible to get in Japan. It was amazing, let me tell you. After dinner, the rain had set in and it started to pour. Instead of going to a nearby night market, we called it a night and headed back to the hostel. We took a detour through the underground mall but didn’t see anything that fancied us.

What I learned. Japanese was more useful than English. Everything was incredibly cheap and for the most part, fairly priced. Taiwan is the 7-Eleven CAPITAL! They were everywhere! Literally, right across the street from each other, just to make it more convenient for you. I found it odd that in a lot of situations, foreign food/businesses would be located next to each other. For example: I saw a Starbucks, KFC, and McDonalds lined up one after the other.

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