Believe what they tell you on TV

...when it tells you Taiwan has some of the yummiest food in the world.

All those Taiwanese variety shows on street food, theme cafes, and those well-designed restaurants - they are not lying.

Our 30min dinner in 3 eateries (L to R):
Wan Kuek or literally "bowl-cake" - rice flour paste with yam, tender pork chunk and salted egg yolk, to eat with the gravy, chilli sauce, garlic and vingear;
You Yu Gen or Cuttlefish Starchy paste noodle;
Ba Bao Bing or literally "eight treasures ice", shaved ice covered with groundnuts, red beans, kidney beans, gingko nuts etc that's been stewed with sugar.

However, don't believe what you are led to believe about Taiwan from watching those scenes of fighting Parliamentarians in the news. The fights may actually happen, but what you should conclude from watching this, er, demonstrative commitment to political participation is not that everyone's a gangster in Taiwan. On the contrary, I think this is just one extreme end of a culture that values civic participation and social responsibility. So when compared to Singapore, where the parliamentarians are spotless in their public conduct, the average Taipei resident demonstrates his civic mindedness in the simplest of ways:

1. Standing on the right side of the escalator going up and down the train stations. Grandmas and grandpas, aunties and uncles - everyone observes the general rule that you should stand aside so that those in a rush can have a clear passage. It's this simple, but it doesn't happen in Singapore.

2. Queuing and waiting for train commuters to get out of the trains before they get on.

3. Don't use plastic bags unnecessarily. Most stores don't give out plastic bags. You have to pay NT$1 for a bag. I think this is part of a campaign to reduce waste. In the cinema (haha, yes, it's our second day and we couldn't resist catching a film!) and the public spaces, the ads are by civic groups or government departments on protecting the environment, learning MinNanYu (or what we think of as Hokkien. I guess this is just a policy of Chen Shuibian's government, to assert Taiwan's "nativeness" apart from China), reporting child abuse etc.

Taipei is a city of books And Singapore, despite the official desire to be a "renaissance city", is not. They may have gangsters, loud Grandmas, media-loving politicians and gossipy media (well, aren't those 2 the same everywhere?), but they have a healthy culture of critical thought, discussion and learning. We haven't made our way to the giant Eslite bookstore, but most of the public buildings we've been to have specialty bookstores, and there're smaller bookstores along most streets.

The bookstore at SPOT cinema, where we caught Hou Hsiao Hsien's Three Times

And to top off a pretty good day, we visited a lively designers' art exhibition at the National Contemporary Art Museum. Outside the museum were these giant illustrations we participated in:

That's all for now friends. It's 10.30am and we're off to explore more bits of Taipei...including going down to Ximending where we hear the Taiwanese pop stars hold their weekend free concerts to crowds of screaming teenagers. We'll go and act like one of them.


Anonymous said…
hey, i wrote you an email
orangeclouds said…
Yes, Taiwanese food, yums...

Try 贡丸汤,a pork ball soup that's hearty n yummelicious, also 三杯鸡,a claypot chicken dish redolent with garlic and wine. I also love the Taiwanese-style shabu shabu.

For more hawker-ish fare, there's the ubiquitous Taiwan-style beef noodles and 牛肉饼 (rolls with thin slivers of beef coated with what tastes like the sweetish 烤鸭酱). And oyster omelettes and oyster mee sua!

And I totally agree that Taiwan has great bookshops...
Unknown said…
ohmigod!! raffles class!!!! and that food looks sooooooooooo good *stares forlornly at own muesli bowl*

and so the yearning for good cheap asian food begins..
Tym said…
Please to visit Page One bookshop if you see it and let me know how it's doing.

And yes, eat up! Eat up!
monk said…
i don't know how you find the time to canvas the city and eat and draw . . . and then blog (to say nothing of sleep), but i'm very appreciative of the reports.

it sounds fascinating, and distinctive, and personal. perfect travelogue one-off.

thanks. looking forward to more -- even if it's just another race to the airport coming out :)
Anonymous said…
the bookstore at SPOT is actually a branch of Eslite - the best bookstore in all of taiwan and i love the place!!! (there's an almost 24 hour outlet at Tunghwa N road). (OC will testify to the goodness of eslite =))

go eat at the night markets and Kao Chi at Yonghe Jie. =)
ampulets said…
a l - yup, we're heading to that giant Eslite tomorrow. Can't wait. We've set aside half a day for it. Tks for the other recommendations :>

tym - that Page1 bookstore at 101 Plaza? Heard they have standalone store as well. Will drop by and take some photos for you!

oclouds - saw that pork ball soup today and almost tried it. Will do tomorrow. And shabu shabu the next. And Mala Hotpot the day after the next...and...and... (samuraibunny - oops, sorry. Aussie BBQ is not that bad. heh.)

40calibernap - more reports about Taipei coming up! but not tonight. we're, J's already asleep.

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