- NOTE: This post is based on my original blog entry.
Day 1 – Taipei
The last time I visited Taiwan was back in 2002/03. That was a fun trip because it was the first time I hung out with my cousins all grown up and doing grown-up things (getting drunk). And prior to that was the infamous “Love Boat” summer of 1998 (?)…that’s its own story. This particular trip however was to introduce my sister’s new spouse Dave to our Taiwanese clan. Only my youngest aunt and maternal grandfather made the trip across the pond for the wedding, so the others were waiting to meet the new white guy in the family.
Somewhere between Newark Airport and Taoyuan Airport, Dave’s aunt who had come to Taiwan with us, got a bit sick. She was shuttled off to the hospital the second we landed. Everybody headed to the hospital with her except me, my mother, and one of my aunts who was at the airport to meet up with us. We check into our hotel and try and figure out what to do while we wait for everybody to get back from the hospital. We stroll through a nearby street market, grabbed beef noodle soup for lunch, and walked to the Xing Tian Temple not too far from our hotel. There was a pretty large crowd of people at the temple making offerings, getting blessed, and divining the new year. I snuck around and took photos like a cheeky tourist.
We took a bus over to the Martyr’s Shrine to get a head-start on our touristy stuff. The area was relatively empty when we first got there. But a few minutes short of the hour, we turn around and see a massive group of Japanese tourists accompanying the marching troupe of soldiers as the hourly changing of the guard began. Where did they come from? We headed back to the hotel afterwards and met up with the rest of the group. Dave’s aunt was resting in her room, and the rest of us headed upstairs to the banquet hall to have dinner with I cant remember at this point. Dad’s side I think.
Day 2 – Kaohsiung
We set out towards Kaohsiung the next morning along the western coast. Our first pitstop was the Miaoli Wood Sculpture Museum in Sanyi. At first glance the place wasn’t all that, until we got to the upper floors where all the good shit was. The building itself has actually pretty nice too…interior-wise anyway. Nice spaces and circulation flow. The exterior was ass.
We continued on to Sun Moon Lake. Wen Wu Temple, the massive complex overlooking the lake, was incredibly nice. The rest of the trek to Kaohsiung was pretty long and uninteresting. After we got tired of staring at the girls wearing lingerie wrapping betel nuts inside glass houses, we napped the rest of the trip until we arrived at our hotel, the Kaohsiung Grand Hotel. It’s the sister hotel of the one in Taipei and is equally massive. We met up with part of the clan in the banquet hall for dinner. Aunt number one, uncle number two, great-uncle once removed number whatever…it’s all a bit of a blur. We headed out after dinner to our first night market in Kaohsiung, which was packed like a mofo.
We got up bright and early on the third day to go pay respects to my paternal grandfather at the temple. We didn’t actually have any fruits to offer, or any ghost money to burn, so we prayed extra hard to compensate. We went to Lotus Lake afterwards and strolled thru the dragon and tiger pagodas, then checked out the turtle pond. My sister likes turtles, I don’t know why.
We met up at my aunt’s house for some home-cooked Taiwanese lunch…Dave’s first. After lunch, we did a bit of shopping at a new department store called Megacity, then headed towards the docks for a boat tour. There we met some of my dad’s friends for a cruise around the Kaohsiung harbor. It’s kind of odd cruising thru an industrial port, but also kind of hypnotic. Massive ships don’t really look that massive until you’re right next to it and you realize it’s 20 stories tall.
Dinner was at the Hotel Kingdom for a western buffet style. It was actually the Christmas buffet, the only indication to us that the next day was even Christmas. They did have a Santa running around throwing candy at us.
Day 4 – Christmas Day
Christmas day was our last day in Kaohsiung. We set out in the morning towards the crazy mountain roads that lead to my mother’s hometown of Guangfu. We tried to warn Dave ahead of time. ”Dave, the roads…they are like, crazy shit.” and he goes “Nah, I’ve been thru the Cali mountains. This won’t be any different.” Whereby we reply ominously, “You are not ready” or something. Before we hit the mountains, we made a road-side stop at a fruit stand, where my parents picked up a bucket (literally) of a fruit I’d never seen before. It was good, but incredibly delicate. If you pressed too hard, it opened right up. We looked it up later…it’s called sweetsop, or sugar-apple. I think that’s all that’s worth noting for this day, besides the fact that the mountain roads had Dave crying in the back.
When we arrived in the evening, we paid a visit to various relatives, ate at my grandfather’s restaurant, then headed out to the Ami Cultural Village for a performance. The show was interesting and entertaining, and it didn’t hurt that a good half of the Ami performers were obscenely cute. Where do they find these girls? Thumbs up.
Day 5 – Taroko
We got up early for breakfast at Mataian Park, which may have been the only hotel in the village. Our first stop for the day was Taroko National Park. They expanded alot of the roads since our last visit, and when I say “expanded” I really just mean that they’re no longer one-lane. We roamed the area, headed up the mountain-side temple to check out the big Buddha, had lunch at one of the local eateries, then got back on the road and headed north. Dave went back to crying in the back of the van while we traversed the eastern mountains. We hit Taipei in the evening after traveling thru I don’t know how many long tunnels. I don’t seem to have any pics of what we did that night, and my notes don’t mention anything. But I do recall wandering around looking for a place to drink alcohol, unable to find a damn bar, grabbing beer from a 7-11, and drinking in my sister’s room.
Day 6 – Taipei
Hmm, apparently this is my last day of note-taking. I must’ve gotten bored of jotting down notes.
The day started off with a jaunt to Yang Ming Park high up in the mountains. My relatives had even more sites for us to visit when we collectively let my aunt know that our eyes were bleeding and we just wanted to chill out. She’s the cool aunt, so understood our tourism overdose. We instead detoured to a temple that also happens to be in a hopping area. Though by the time we made our way through the temple, we had to rush back to the hotel to meet relatives. We got an appetizer at least.
I didn’t know who we were meeting for dinner until a crowd of people walked by me, and one happened to holler my name. I’m like, “eh?“…oh word, cousins. And cousins we actually know, and like hanging out with. Bonus. We had grown up with this particular set of cousins (three sisters) since we’re all part of the older generation (my dad’s the oldest son, and the mother of these cousins is his older sister). I also get to meet another male cousin I never knew I had from fourth (?) aunt. My grandmother’s here too, but she just had surgery and didn’t recognize me…sad face. We all chow on food, drank liquor, and try to get my ten year old cousin drunk. When it comes time for pictures, everybody whips out a camera. We spend close to an hour taking random pictures with approximately ten cameras. Asians.
We head out after dinner with just the cousins, and third aunt too, because there wasn’t going to be any shopping without her. We head to the Shilin Night Market, which is still as kickin’ as the last time I hung around the area. Sis and the cousins are looking for clothes, I’m looking for fun tech gadgets, and Dave…he’s just looking for red bean cake.
I’m without my trusty notes now, so most of these recollections are based on my photo collection. Our first stop was the National Palace Museum, which had just finished renovations. We made the rounds, looked at the Ju ware (broken dishes), the portraits (ooh), and the Jade Cabbage (impressive). Next up was the Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial, a modest memorial to the generalissimo of Taiwan.
At night, we headed north to Beitou to meet up with my mom’s side for dinner. They picked this restaurant way up in the mountains that had some gorgeous views of Taipei. We met up with a good portion of my mom’s side, along with one male cousin (surprise) and the three daughters of my mom’s oldest sister (an older cousin and the twins, but a fourth sister was missing). It’s funny to note that the twins aren’t much alike, and the supposed “nice” one is actually a freaky drinker. Every round she’d down hers faster than everybody…it was scary. The “kids” then decided to head out afterwards for continued liquoring. We ended up at a TGIFridays…? Whatever, as long as they bring the sauce, it’s all good.
Day 8 – Danshui
We set out north in the morning to Danshui. My dad took us to a place called Fort San Domingo near the waterside. We’re thinking to ourselves, “San Domingo? Donde estamos??” But it’s apparently an old Spanish fort built in 1629 that had just been recently renovated and opened to the public. There was also an old English colonial house nearby which was the old British consulate of Taiwan. I had no idea any of this was even here. We roam the grounds for a good while, relax with afternoon tea and dessert at a coffee shop on the grounds, then head to the Shilin market for some old-fashioned Taiwanese lunch.
We do other random stuff I cant remember until we subsequently end up at Taipei 101. We’re there with aunts number five and six from my mom’s side since they’d actually never been either and wanted to go shopping. I make my way up to the observation deck on the 89th floor hoping to get some nice photos. I roam around the floor, eat some ice cream, peek at the giant pendulum, and wait for sunset to take some night photography. Except it doesn’t get dark enough for the city to turn on their lights before I have to head back down…damnit. We have a quick dinner at a noodle soup shop near the hotel, then the kids plan their escape. Drinky drinks! The last full day in Taiwan and we finally get to go have some real fun. Our cousins from the other night (dad’s side) meet us at our hotel and we all head out to…whatever area the old Sogo is in (ZhongXiao DunHua shopping area). We ease into a chill bar called Sofa and drink to our last night in Taiwan. Cheers.