And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. IT'S THE WEEKEND!!!!! And let me tell you, the Bull is flat THRILLED that he won't have to get on a plane this weekend or the next. Hopefully this will give me a chance to FINALLY close out Taiwan and get caught up on some blogs. That being said - no promises. :-) But all the same, let's roll through another Taiwan update tonight - this one being the return to Taipei.
The B & S were up at 8 AM on Thursday, thrilled to have survived an average of more than 1 earthquake a night and VERY ready to be out of Hualien county. The ride to the train station was easy, and the train ride was smooth as well. During the ride I finished "King Rat," which is another installment of James Clavell's "Asia Saga." I feel that I simply must thank EVERYONE who turned me onto this guy, as his writing's been AMAZING, and I've loved the stories. Next up for me is "Noble House," which very well might be the most anxious I've been to start a book in a long time.
When we arrived back at the Taipei Garden Hotel, they told us that we had been placed in a double bed (but they'd thrown a second double bed in for free in the room - greeeeeeeeeeat...can we just rent it out, then?). As this wasn't what I had in mind, I asked them if there were any King size beds left. After a brief chat in a language I don't speak, they told me that I'd been "upgraded" to the Executive Floor. I thought this was really cool at the time, but I should have noticed that shit eating grin on the lady's face as she handed me the key. This is clearly one more indication why I'm not good at poker. Just remember this little anecdote for now...
We left the hotel and rolled straight over to the Longshan Temple, which was close by and very cool. As we were starving, we picked up some dumplings filled with some unidentified meat substance prior to entering, which was tasty and CHEEEEEEEAP. The area itself was, well, odd, and filled with VERY odd cats. EVERYONE was staring at Whitey 1 and Whitey 2, and none of them looked friendly. One dude, who I honestly do think was trying to be nice, came up to us to chat whilst we ate, but all he could say was, "You food....on map....United States....eat food." Yeah.....not reeeeeeeally sure where he was going with that, but needless to say I felt quite creeped out.
As we left the temple, we noticed a brochure on Taipei, and I couldn't help but gravitate to the attraction I look for in every city - THE TAIPEI BREWERY, BABY!!!!! THAT'S RIGHT - it was time to discover the secrets to making Taiwan's Gold Medal Green Label beer. And with the map in hand and my spirits high, we headed over to the "Jinguo Beer Factory" Metro Stop. Now work with me here - if the stop if named for the beer factory, it would stand to reason that it's close to the station, right? More to the point, if it's named for the beer factory, wouldn't it be logical that the damn signs pointing out would at least be correct? Oooooooh, no, boys and girls - we were just lost in space on this one. And so there I was, a lonely, sober foreigner, desperate only for the sweet ambrosia of rice brewed beer, but unable to determine which way to proceed. And that's when our hero rode onto the scene (literally).
Like something out of "The Wonder Years," this 15 year old kid rocks up on his bike and makes the profound statement, "You guys look lost. Do you need help?" When we tell him we just want to see the beer factory, he tells us that it's RIGHT by his house. 30 seconds later, we're a statistic in Lonely Planet, being led down an alley by this little fella. And sure enough, he points us down the path to the beer factory.
The only problem with this beer factory is, well, IT'S NOT A BEER FACTORY ANYMORE. Oh, no - instead, it's an unmarked building that looks like it should have been demolished in 1862. Consequently, JT and I walked right past it before coming back around and seeing the fermentation tanks. But then another odd moment occurs when, upon entering the facility, a security guard immediately stops us and points us toward what can only be described as an office building. Confused but convinced homeboy sees Ang Mo tourists all the time, we roll into this place.
We walk in, only to see the signs for the Marketing Department, the Tax Department, the Audit Department, etc, and then it hits us - this dude has sent us into the actual working OFFICE. And so we walk out and round a corner, only to realize that we're now in the middle of the recycling plant for the bottles, and we've got plenty of cats actually WORKING who are wondering why the hell two Westerners are in the rows of bottles. We then try another door unsuccessfully before finally, FINALLY, we see a sign that says "Brewery Tour." And so we embark on this pleasant little adventure.
So here's the deal - this "tour" is self-guided with NO signs. The building is old, deserted, and barely lit in places. You go down stairwells and corridors that would have been COMPLETELY at home in one of the Saw movies. It was, simply put, TERRIFYING. I was waiting for Sideshow Bob to pop out with a hatchet at any point and hack us to bits. Seriously - NOT COOL. But hey, at least we crossed it off the list...
Seeking inner peace, we then rolled over to the Confuscious Temple, where we watched the (less than impressive) Ri Dance being practiced. This temple was cool, but it was NOTHING compared to the Boan Temple next door, as as that was AWESOME. Seriously, the Boan Temple, which is Taoist, was one of my favorite experiences in Taipei, as all the artwork was so intricate and detailed. And whilst I have NO IDEA what any of it means, it was cool nonetheless.
Oh, and it should be noted that Muffin Puffin wanted to try "Bubble Tea" on the walk over to the temples, and so she ordered some "Pearl" (or "Big Boobs" as Nancy would say) Tea for the walk. The cup wasn't see-through (they normally are clear), and Jenny didn't really have any appreciation for the weight of the tapioca balls in the bottom of the drink. And so imagine my perfect pumpkin's surprise when she sucked up 4 tapioca balls in her first sip - CLASSIC! I couldn't stop laughing for a full minute - it was simply priceless. Nancy, I think it's safe to say that neither of the Taylors will be ordering it on a regular basis - tripe is your last hope to break even.
After that, Team Taylor went on the usual quest of trying to find booze in the city. And like last time, it was an EXHAUSTING struggle against culture and city planning, but I'm happy to report that Team Taylor prevailed and discovered "Malibu West." It was a cute little place, and the owner was CLEARLY from Cali. I threw up some 2-1-3 signs for her, but she didn't seem impressed.
The highlight of the night, however, was probably dinner, as Team Taylor rolled over to the AMAZING place called "Goose and Seafood." We'd read that it was the consumate Taiwanese eating experience, and it DID NOT disappoint. Now granted, it was a wee bit tricky given that the menus were COMPLETELY in Chinese and NO ONE spoke English, but Jenny and I crossed the cultural divide by looking at other tables, finding dishes that looked interesting, and then handing them to the people at the table and having them mark off what it was. this worked perfectly, and I'm happy to report that we had an AMAZING meal VERY cheap. And the funniest part? When we walked out, we saw Goose and Seafood right beside us and realized that we'd eaten in the WRONG restaurant. Oh, well, no complaints here!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny