Friday, October 24, 2014

Day 2- Always Look for the Jade

We had originally planned to go river tracing in Wulai today but unfortunately the weather forecast called for rain and thunderstorms so we decided to postpone those plans until Monday and instead packed our day full of the obvious tourist-y destination locations.

Stop 1: Jade Market

 We left the house early to get breakfast and head to the Jade market. I was a little iffy on the location of the Jade Market but felt like I had a good grasp on the map. We got off at the right stop and started heading in the right direction. We stumbled upon the flower market- which my book informed was just south of the Jade Market. We walked in and looked around, and after being a little unimpressed and realizing the vastness of the market we turned around and walked out. I thought I knew where I was going so we continued on up the road. About 25 minutes later we still hadn't eaten breakfast and the Market was nowhere to be seen. We finally stopped to ask for directions/find a bingsha place and found out that we were about 10 minutes away from the Jade Market- by car. We decided to hop in a taxi (Cassidy, yet again put her cab hailing skills to use), and 75 NT later we were at the Jade Market. Now imagine our surprise when we look across the road and find the entrance to none other than the flower market. Once again if we would have just gone a little bit further we would have saved ourselves a lot of heartache. We affectionately coined this phenomenon that kept happening- 
always looking for the jade." 

I have to admit after the Pearl and Silk markets in Beijing I was a little underwhelmed by the Jade Market. I guess the book was right when it said, "It's a good place to go to buy jewelry, trinkets, and religious items, but it lacks appeal if you are just browsing." The market is literally under an underpass of a busy street and has vendors upon vendors selling the same merchandise- jade, pearls, and jewelry. 

Stop 2: YongKang Beef Noodles.

It has been open since 1963 and is on of Taipei's "top spots" for beef noodles. The guide book told us to expect a line for lunch and dinner- and their advice was spot on, the wait for lunch was about 45 minutes. Luckily the lunch gods were smiling upon us and we were somehow lucky enough to be pulled from the line 15 minutes later and seated upstairs. The noodles were 180 NT ($6.00), which is typically more than I would spend on noodles (usually about $70NT),but they were worth every penny. Now most of you know that I am not a huge meat eater- and by that I mean I eat chicken breasts on occasion, the end (with the minor exception of the perfectly BBQ'd all beef hot dog in summer). I would be disappointed if I didn't actually try the beef in the infamous beef noodles so I decided a became adventurous and eat the beef- when in Rome, right? Although I only eat 2 out of my 5 pieces due to the fat and tendon covering the others, the book didn't lie when they said the meat melted in your mouth. It was AMAZING!

Stop 3: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial

A grandiose monument to their authoritarian leader. I am not very familiar with the history behind Chiang Kai-shek, but from what little I do know and remember, he used to be the leader of the KMT in China prior to Japan and Communists taking over the government. Hundreds of people, including Chiang Kai-shek were exiled to China and in return they brought with them (aka- stole) a significant amount of gold and Chinese artifacts-in turn saving them from the cultural revolution that destroyed China's culture. The monument itself was very Lincoln Memorial-esque. Fun fact- there are 88 steps to the top, one for every year of Mr. Chiang's life.

 It was interesting to see and even more entertaining to see the guards stand like statues for an hour at a time. They even had a man that would come around and move their feet and fix their uniforms. We ended up making it to the changing of the guards-and even got a front row seat. The precision was amazing but my goodness it was a long presentation! Pushing hasn't been as big of a problem here as it is in China, but for some reason the man next to me kept trying to edge me out of my spot. Little did he know he picked the wrong person to push around, I hate being edged out and learned how to throw an elbow or two in China. For the sake of time let's just say I won.

Stop 4: National Palace Museum

First I have to say that I dominated the MRT, public transportation ain't got nothing on me! We took the MRT to the bus station to go to the National Palace Museum, a "repeat see" according to the Lonely Planet. The museum is full of ancient Chinese artifacts that Mr. Chiang brought over from China. There are actually so many artifacts that they rotate them on a quarterly basis. After paying $250 NT we got our maps and headed in. Determined to not have any more Jade experiences we decided to go to every exhibit on all 3 floors- WORST IDEA EVER!!! We made it through the first exhibit and after that had to find ways to keep ourselves occupied- I mean you can only see so many scrolls with Chinese writing you don't understand and Chinese writing before you want to poke your eyes out from boredom. In honor of the hundreds of Chinese tour groups that were there Cassidy and I decided to make up our own interpretations of the pieces. This kept us entertained until the second floor, but by the third floor we just couldn't do it anymore. We went, saw a few pieces of Jade (or what little we could see because of the before mentioned Chinese tour groups), and busted out of there, it was literally a NEVER SEE AGAIN in my book, but I've never been much of a museum goer.

Stop 5: Hello Kitty Cafe

Taiwan is known for their themed restaurants. There is the prison restaurant, the hospital restaurant, the toilet restaurant, the cardboard restaurant, and of course the Hello Kitty, and Barbie Cafe. After the disappointment of the national palace museum we got back on the MRT to head to the Hello Kitty Cafe, I didn't have the exact directions so we just got a cab and taxied to the cafe. 10 minutes later I was happy to see the Cafe for two reasons, A: we made it without getting lost, and B: We made it there without dying from our taxi driver watching a movie on his I-pad while he was driving.

Both the Barbie cafe and the Hello Kitty Cafe required a 300 NT minimum per person, so we opted for a photo shoot and treat at the Hello Kitty instead. All of the treats were darling! 

But I settled on this one, I can't even remember what was inside, but I can tell you I was not disappointed.

Stop 6: Barbie Cafe

Ever since seeing this pin on pinterest I knew that this was pretty high on the bucket list (maybe #2 behind the Lantern Festival). Prior to leaving for Taipei I took all the necessary precautions to ensure that there would not be any mishaps or obstacles blocking us from enjoying a nice semi-American meal. I did my research on pinterest, blogs, and news articles, to figure out what was involved, how to get there, and typical prices. I was told that it would be crowded and there would be a one or two hour wait so I had Charlene, one of the Chinese secretaries, call ahead and make reservations for us. this was slightly challenging because it would be the only activity we had to be someplace for- all of our other destinations were come and go when you want. Because of our disappointment at the National Palace Museum we end up arriving an hour before our reservations. Luckily everybody was out BBQing for the moon festival so not only did we get in early, we also had the place to ourselves, which meant one thing- PHOTO SHOOT!! I just wish I would have planned my outfit better and worn pink (or better yet wore the tutu Ashley assured me I wouldn't want/need here). I also with I would not looked so haggard from travelling all day but as I like to say, "you can't win them all." Regardless, I LOVED every minute of the Barbie cafe. It unlocked the inner child in me and reminded me how much I love pink, and tutus, and dolls with matching accessories. I remember asking for a Barbie every Christmas and birthday. I remember the ones with the matching earrings and high heels, I remember the barbie house and limo we used to play with. I remember their elbows and knees would crack at the joints to enable them to "sit". I remember that when their heads would pop off and my mom would put them back on you they would no longer have a neck. Despite their unrealistic body proportions, I do love Barbies, and I LOVED the Barbie Cafe.

The food was really nothing special. It was still really weird, like tuna cakes, and octopus pasta. The meal was around $600 NT (around 10 USD), and included a drink, soup, pasta salad, bread, appetizer, entree, and dessert. The selection was limited so I opted for a potato skin appetizer, and hamburger with fries. I thought that based on my previous meat eating experience I would be able to stomach a hamburger- FALSE, I took one bite and was thoroughly disgusted. So I did what any person in my position would do, I took off the meat and just ate the toppings. Out of all of our activities I would say this was a repeat see- it was so fun, and childish. It made the concerns of the world stop and brought me back to my childhood. I loved it!

Stop 7: The Hostel

We were exhausted! After our dinner we opted to just head back to the hostel and hang out. We debated going to fisherman's wharf but it would take another hour to get to the other side of the city. Instead we just spent the night chatting with the gentlemen about their day and plans for Monday. I feel an honorable mention needs to be given to Josh trying to jump onto our bed- not realizing that the mattress wasn't on the bed and completely falling onto the floor. That took a hit to the ego- but was so worth the laugh!