Taiwan Thoughts

Taiwan was great. The food, the people, the weather, the public transportation - everything was just so nice. Maybe I’m easy to win over having come from Beijing where things are loud, noisy, and not so clean, but having spent a week in Taipei, I was really impressed with the city

As everyone kept telling me, the food was amazing. The city has a large Japanese and southeast Asian influence, especially on the food. There were a ton of Japanese restaurants, as well as curry places, fried chicken, and tons of street vendors selling an assortment of both sweet and salty snacks.

In addition to Taipei, I also took a day trip to Jiufen, a small village situated in the green hills of Northern Taiwan, overlooking the ocean. It’s especially popular with tourists as it resembles the village from the anime Spirited Away. There are lanterns, tall staircases, and shops packed together selling tasty treats to the throngs of tourists. It was windy, beautiful, and somewhat serene when imagining where exactly I was.

Whatever preconceived notion I had about Taiwan before I went there was shattered as soon as I landed. When walking through the streets, I imagined my life living there and of all the places I’ve traveled in Asia, I could see myself starting a life there. Lots of people speak English, there is a good mix of cultures, there’s no need for a VPN, and it’s an island, which ticks off my “close to the ocean” box for potential places to settle down

As expected, the controversy or “sensitivity” concerning China and Taiwan is alive and well. Both Taiwanese and Chinese have opinions about the island, as do I. However, since I work for Xinhua and was told to keep my blog “appropriate” and refrain from controversial opinions, I’ll keep it to myself. Regardless of the political nature concerning Taiwan, I can’t recommend it enough. I spent a week doing the sightseeing thing and there was plenty to do, including memorials, temples, night markets, and food/bars.

Now I understand that Taiwan is unique, but here’s how I would describe it: a cleaner Hong Kong, a less busy Tokyo, a more fun Singapore, and a more polite mainland. There are less people than the aforementioned places, which obviously makes things easier, but the combination of culture, unique architecture, and the people make Taiwan a must-see travel destination.

Spicy potatoes on the left and chicken & chestnuts on the right. Something that I’ll never get used to is the amount of bones in Chinese cooking. They literally just cut the chicken up and cook it, bones and all.

Spicy potatoes on the left and chicken & chestnuts on the right. Something that I’ll never get used to is the amount of bones in Chinese cooking. They literally just cut the chicken up and cook it, bones and all.

Mini hot pot and a chicken/egg dish over rice at a small Japanese restaurant in Nanluoguxiang

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Ham & cheese ramen with Korean dumplings

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Roasted squid, cucumber, seaweed, yogurt

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One of the many delicious Korean restaurants splattered around Wudaokou

One of the many delicious Korean restaurants splattered around Wudaokou

Korean salad

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Kimchi ramen

Kimchi ramen

First meal on campus

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Korean chicken salad

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Japanese ramen & a quirky bathroom sign. It’s actually a lot more clever in Chinese

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This is Malatong

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You choose all the raw ingredients sort of like Mongolian BBQ style, then they boil it in a broth and serve it as a ramen style soup. Delicious

This is called Mala Xiang Guo

You order all the food separately, then they cook it all together and it becomes a community pot. We had shrimp, tofu, beef, and lots of other vegetables. Sharing food in China has become so normal that imagining eating in America seems so odd

You order all the food separately, then they cook it all together and it becomes a community pot. We had shrimp, tofu, beef, and lots of other vegetables. Sharing food in China has become so normal that imagining eating in America seems so odd

Hot pot from Chongqing is typically separated like this and has a lot more oil

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Hot pot is always good, but I only usually go with Chinese people because it’s a Chinese menu and I don’t feel like playing “just choose randomly and hope it’s good”.

They sure do

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Chicken with veggies over rice

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First in house hot pot. Weirdest food was cow lung

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BBQ at my place the other day

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Amazing what a small metal square with charcoal can whip up. Paper plates from the 4th of July finally came in useful.

Went to a restaurant that only served spicy food

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The menu had pictures of chillies next to items based on the level of spiciness. Which wasn’t very useful because there was no baseline for comparison. So I figure that a 3 chili dish will be edible, and it was, along with copious amounts of rice, beer, and a giant glass of water. All in all, most dishes were pretty tasty. On the other hand, others scalded my entire mouth and left me wondering how people could rationally eat it, smile, and declare it “delicious”

Cantonese Food in Beijing, China

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So my buddy says he knows a good Cantonese restaurant and to clarify, this place was beyond good. We get seated and they plop down a menu that’s about as big as a wallpaper binder that interior designers have you flip through. If that wasn’t enough, there was a lady with a cart full of food that came by every so often asking if we wanted anything.

After tearing through the encyclopedia sized menu, we finally order: “Sichuan style dumplings, steamed pork buns, spicy pork hot-pot style, dumplings with pork broth inside, fried shrimp in a buttery soy sauce, and a side dish of noodles”.

How would I describe this dinner? It was fucking delicious. Really tasty, flavorful, so many different textures, cold beer to wash down the Sichuan spice; it was the perfect meal for a windy December night in Beijing.