Sunday, February 21, 2010

Taiwan Day Two

Plan for the first morning: get out of Taipei. Unfortunately, due to increased traffic from CNY travellers, the next available train out of Taipei was at 6:30pm. Suddenly, it was desirable to sight see around Taipei. We stored our items in a locker at the train station (this fact plays an important part later in the story of Day Two). En route to the first landmark, we serendipitously crossed a road with Juno, a friend from the hostel. Another Christmas Miracle! She joined us to see Taipei 101, the 2nd tallest building IN THE WORLD! Or something like that. It is tall: It is possible to pay a high-sum for the high-speed elevator to near-the-top for a magnificent view of the city. However, the combination of Taipei's haziness and our thriftiness pointed us away from the observation deck and toward a photo op with this nearly accurate representation: Juno lives in Seoul and writes articles about travelling (in English) on traveldudes--found over there to the right. Plans for visiting HK and Seoul are already in progress! We all went out in search of lunch--an epic quest when many establishments are closed for the holiday. Ultimately, we found more noodles: But not without stopping by a kindly street vendor for some mysterious and glutinous rice thing:
The Taiwanese are a far more gregarious people than Hong Kongers. Of course, this impression is formed mostly by the handsome man on the train who leaned over to me and whispered, "beautiful". We were offered unsolicited help; strangers wished good health on us for the new year; some people actually smiled. It was like a Chinese Midwest. We even saw a HarvestStore silo in the south.
After lunch, we visited the Longshan Temple, the most famous one in Taipei:
Back at the train station, we could not find the lockers in which we had stored our luggage. It is a large and complicated station, with many levels, exits, and distractions such as a Cold Stone Creamery. When it grew desperately late, we presented the keys to various people and asked, "NAR?!" and looked confused. It worked, as Nar always does. We followed a circuitous path through a parking lot, found the missing lockers, collected our things, and located the High Speed Rail train 15 minutes before departure.
Late that night, we arrived in Tainan, the oldest city in Taiwan, checked into a shady hotel, and met our friendly Canadian neighbors, Hugh and Susan. They showed off the sketchiness of their room, including the naked mermaid stained glass window, which looks into the shower:
As fun as naked stained glass mermaids are, we parted ways with our new Canadian friends, to find food again. At 11pm on Chinese New Year's Eve is a terrible time to look for food in an ancient Taiwanese city. Just as we were beginning to lose hope, we miraculously glanced down an alley and found our grail: Hud La Voos. When we walked in, I almost apologized for interrupting a family gathering. We were quickly welcomed and ushered to the upstairs area. The pub is owned and run by members of an aboriginal Taiwanese tribe. They serve traditional food (including crickets, which unfortunately, were out of stock) and original artwork covers the walls:
We also had the good fortune to meet Lief, whose stunning blog can be found to the right. Lief is really cool, and is therefore from Canada. With 20 years living in Taiwan, he was incredibly helpful to guide our plan and give us useful information. He and his wife own Hud La Voos; if you are ever in Tainan, I cannot recommend this place highly enough! Exclamation! Three lovely ladies performed a traditional dance, then encouraged us to dance with them. Post dancing, a bit sweaty: Then of course, it was time to limbo.
It wasn't a competition, but I won in terms of style and they gave me a free drink! (it was orange juice, dad)
Also, I enjoyed the privacy of the urinal, which I did not use: We danced into the night, then walked back to our shady hotel where we had to open the windows, despite the coldness, in order to air out the unpleasant and mysterious odor. Day Three brings many more surprises, twists, and turns...and some things of which The Mother would not approve, so don't miss it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Taiwan Day One, Or "NAR?!"

I like to flatter myself that the Chinese government is reading this, so first I'd like to say that Taiwan is not a country! But somehow I went there, along with Meaghan, Lindsey, and Gaelle.
I like the idea of a pre-trip photo to contrast it with a post-trip photo where faces may be scratched and eyes gauged:

First night in Taipei, we maneuvered our way to the hostel: Eight Elephants. A Taiwanese flag for a door of maximum security:

We dumped our accoutrements at the hostel, made some quick friends and ventured out to the ShiDa Night Market for food. Mandarin is spoken in Taiwan. My Mandarin is currently limited to "Hello", "Thank you", "I am American", "Delicious!" and "Where?". The last one proving the most helpful when combined with pointing at a map and looking confused. We arrived late, even for a night market, yet in time for these traditional noodles,
I asked the noodle guy if he spoke Cantonese. A long shot--like asking someone in Jacksonville if he speaks Hungarian. However, he spoke Canto--first Christmas Miracle of the trip! Never in my pre-HK life did I think, "Thank God someone speaks Cantonese around here." But in Taiwan, that thought surfaced more than once.
The group with noodles:

A quotidian image of a chopstick wrapper spear:

Upon our return to the hostel, I invited myself to play Apples to Apples with the other residents. Is "residents" the appropriate term? Sounds like we're in an institution. The next morning, after our escape:

In all seriousness, as pink elephants necessarily are, I would highly recommend this hostel. It caters to the new hippie in me. Also, there were a lot of Canadians there--Canadians showed up all over Taiwan, usually doing awesome things. They're my new favorite species. So ends Day One...stay tuned. Four more days to go.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Once, Twice, Three Times...

I really want to live in Quarry Bay (my current 'hood) with "lady always fly away." She sent me an email:
"Hi Camber,
Are you a lady?"

Thanks, parentals, for the apparently androgynous name.

How do I answer such a question? Do I have modest and maidenly airs? How about virtues? Am I virtuous? Who decides about ladyship? I don't drink beer; that's quite ladylike. I read books, such as a lady should. I speak French, the Official Language of ladies.
However, to sleep, I wear flannel pants with my university's insignia embroidered on the leg. Strike one against ladyness. I drink a mysterious milk product from a large rectangular box. It doesn't require refrigeration and expires in 6 months. Ladies be repulsed. If there aren't any clean bowls, sometimes I eat cereal out of water glasses. Ghetto.

I will decide this via online poll. Readership, please advise.

(For the many parties interested in the German model, I have unfortunately not heard back from her. I think if I persist and send another message, it would be very unladylike)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Slap That...and always fly away

I auditioned for the Australian musical "The Venetian Twins." This was a first for me, not just because of the requisite Aussie accent, it was the first time I auditioned for a show for a director I had slapped. I've slapped only one person in my life (which is of course a story in itself, and will unfortunately never appear in this blog) and it was this director.
After reading part of the script, I knew I wanted to audition. After seeing the name of the director, I knew if I auditioned, it would take a lot of moxy. Fortunately, I've got moxy to spare, and am always available for blog fodder, so I went. He was very professional, never mentioning the aforesaid altercation. However, after I read for the specific part, he had me read another scene as a different character, Rosina. In the scene, Rosina slaps someone across the face. The slap was bad; the angle, the energy...just bad. I half expected the director to shout "I know you can do better than that!" But he didn't. I'm sure he was laughing inside. I'll know if I got a call-back by next week. Not holding breath.

If you haven't yet, check out the new blog of Ann--a clever and witty wordsmith searching for a place in the dreary American job market, armed with The Arabian Nights.

The apartment search in ON. I've emailed/messaged at least 10 potential freaks in search of the perfect box. One near my current place is leading in my heart. I would share it with "one lady always fly away." Sounds like a good deal to me.
In a very bizarre turn of events, I also discovered an ad to share an apartment with the German model I met during the commercial 2 weekends ago. Plus, I've been seeing her in JillStuart ads plastered all over the trains. Not sure why a seemingly normal top model wants to share a flat, but I sent her a request anyway. I think I'll have some pull considering our shared history as orange Marge Simpsons.