A homebody in Taipei

I’m a homebody.  In the end of February this year, out of the blue, I wanted to see Taipei.  12 days later, I packed my stuff, and flew to Taipei.  I toured the city and the nearby places for close to two weeks.

This is one of the beauties of retiring early.  Not only the work-related stress is gone, an impromptu trip becomes possible.  No more need to ask for bosses’ approval for the time off.  All I have to do is to reserve the flights and hotel, grab my passport, and go.

Why Taipei?

Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan.  Growing up in the mainland China, Taiwan is always a mysterious place to me.

What does the island look like?  Are the people really living miserably?  As a kid in 1960s, I was told “they lived deep under the water and hot in the fire”.  I want to see it in my own eyes.

Another reason is:  having lived in US for so long, I always miss the Chinese food, a lot.  I want to go there, and enjoy the food.

And the warm weather in Taipei definitely attracts me.  It was still in mid 40 degrees (7 degrees in Celsius) in Central Ohio in March.

What I saw:

When the airplane was approaching the Tao Yuan airport in Taipei, I was really getting excited.  Suddenly the long flight fatigue was gone.

I lifted the window shade next to me, and just stared at the beautiful green island like a child.  I was wondering: how the world did Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jian Shi) and his troops escaped from the mainland China, and touched down to this place in 1949?  Quite a history.

The public transportation in Taipei is very cool.  The metro has a very good coverage across the city.

One EasyCard can be used for metro, bus, train, and even taxi.  I also used the same card while taking the bus in the cities Taichung (Tai Zhong) and Keelung (Ji Long).  Is that neat?

People there are just living a normal life, not miserable at all.  They are polite, and kind.  As a first-time visitor, sometimes I needed help in directions.  I’m very impressed by their hospitality.  Thank you.

People don’t push and shuffle when taking the escalators, metro, and bus.  They wait outside the yellow lines quietly, one after another, in a perfect order.

When I went to Yang Ming Shan (such a gorgeous Shangri-La, with green mountains, and tons of flowers), the bus waiting line was very long, as it was the flower blooming season.  Surprisingly, nobody was cutting in line.

A homebody’s quirky views:

  • People wear a lot, aren’t they sweating?

The temperature was in 70s, or 80s (mid 20 degrees in Celsius). To me, it was already summer.

But people really bundled up, with jacket, and sweater.  I was one of the few who had T-shirt.  Some even wore the face masks.  Don’t they sweat?

Most of the ladies dressed up nicely and formally, even on weekends, and when riding those crazily-fast and scary mopeds.  Obviously, I was too casual.

When taking the metro, I always saw some gentlemen who were probably in the age of 70s.  They wore sharp business suits and ties.  It looked they were still working.

They made me feel a little bit guilty as an early retiree.  Should I work for another 20 years, instead of goofing around?

  • Beethoven’s music Fur Elise (For Alice) played on the trash pickup trucks:

Before the trip, I heard about this odd thing, and put it to my verification list. A garbage truck playing Beethoven’s piano music?

It’s really true.  I was laughing, when seeing the people (who were running restaurant) chasing the truck and music, with the bags of trash in their hands to dispose.

I wonder if Beethoven were alive today, how would he feel?  Sad, angry, or happy?

  • Stinky tofu:

Have you heard about the food stinky tofu?  It smells like the salad dressing of blue cheese, only 100 times worse.  The street food stands are convenient, but I hate the smell of the stinky tofu.

Under the hot sun, when the wind blows, the smell goes miles away.  It mingles with the smell from the street drain and sewage system.  I can’t understand it, why some people love that food.  Is this the reason others wear the face masks?

  • Valentine’s Bridge:

Tamsui (Dan Shui) Fisherman’s Wharf in Taipei is one of my favorite places.

On the Valentine’s day of 2003, the bridge was renamed as Qing Ren Qiao (in Chinese) by the President.  The locals translated it to Lover’s Bridge.  I prefer calling it Valentine’s Bridge.  What a romantic name.

Sitting at the boardwalks, staring at the ocean, I knew, within 100 miles, that was the mainland China.  A lot went through my mind …

The second time I went to Tamsui (Dan Shui), my main purpose was to witness the sunset on the Valentine’s Bridge.  But, the sun was hiding behind the thick cloud, too shy to come out.

I was not too disappointed.  From the distance, I heard the beautiful Chinese music.  A recording, or someone playing it?  Following the sound of music, I found the source.

Across the Valentine’s Bridge, a gentleman was playing flute.  Sometimes he played Hu Lu Si (one kind of Chinese musical instrument, made from bottle gourd, also called calabash).

That made my day perfect.  I was sitting there for hours, enjoying the nostalgic music, with the background of the white bridge, and the blue ocean.  Thank you for the joy of music, Sir.

  • Some fun stuff:

One day, I was visiting a park in Taichung (Tai Zhong).  One big sign showed: to the left were the 5-star restroom, and the gazebo to enjoy the moon.  It was around 1 PM.  Surely there was no moon then.

What’s the 5-star restroom?  This is what I found out.

Once a while, when taking the metro, I saw a poem that was framed and hung on the wall inside the metro cabin.  Most on the wall were the loud commercials.  In this city full of hustles and bustles, the poem provided me some peace.

Can’t wait to get home:

After 11 days of slow travel and good food, I just couldn’t wait to get home.  When checking in at the airport in Taipei, the lady was asking me where Columbus Ohio is.  I told her, it’s in the middle of nowhere, that’s my home, and I love it.

Back home, the daffodils just started blooming.  I didn’t miss a thing.  The fresh air without stinky tofu smells so good.  Home, sweet home.

That’s the adventure of a homebody in Taipei.

Have you ever been to Taipei?  How does an impromptu trip sound to you?  Where do you plan to travel to this year?

Take a look at my eBook, a mini-memoir on Amazon: “DAD’S BICYCLE: Journey of A Chinese Family”.

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6 Responses

  1. Steve says:

    Sounds like a wonderful impromptu trip Helen. I have never been to Taipei but it is on my list of places to visit.

  2. GYM says:

    Awe I’m so glad you got a lovely trip to Taiwan! I want to take an impromptu trip too (another one on parental leave but having a young baby makes it more difficult… long flights and babies don’t mix well). I really like visiting Taiwan, I was there in 2009. I am amazed at their hospitality, and recycling (lots of recycling and very environmentally friendly and conscious there). Did you see construction workers who were actually mannequins waving their arms to “slow down”?

    I really liked Dan Shui too, I thought it was very romantic. Did you have the eggs there (I think they are famous for their eggs).

    That is interesting that growing up in China, you thought that Taiwanese people were living miserably! That’s good that you went there to find out for yourself 🙂

    Haha, I kind of like stinky tofu!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi GYM, hehe, you kind of like the stinky tofu. That’s quite an adventure.

      Yeah, in 1960s and 1970s, China was an isolated country. We had to believe what we were told: we lived the best life in the world (though many people like me were lack of food daily), the people in Taiwan, US and the western world were living in misery.

      Hey, I didn’t see the construction area mannequins, that must be hilarious. Didn’t see the eggs in Dan Shui either. I spent too much time on the boardwalks and the area near the bridge. Dan Shui is a fun place. Yeah, the people there are very conscious about the trash disposal. Trash cans were rare in the public places, and I had to bring a trash bag with me just in case. And no food or drinks allowed in the metro or buses.

  3. Joe says:

    That sounds like a great trip. We visited Taipei with a friend about 15 years ago. It was great for the most part.
    We had these breakfast sticky rice rolls for breakfast quite a few times. It was kind of like sushi, but with pork and some other crunchy stuff. We really liked it. I didn’t see sticky tofu when we went. We also went up the the hot spring to soak. That was really great too.
    The only bad thing was the reflexology foot massage. We were all limping around after that. Never again…

    I think it’s awesome that you are happy to be home. It shows that you’re happy. I’m much more restless.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Yeah, I’m more a homebody. Prefer the home comfort and familiarity than the adventure.

      The food in Taipei is pretty good. Restaurants are all over the places. I’m probably too sensitive about the stinky tofu. I heard about the hot spring spa in the areas of Bei Tou and Yang Ming Shan, and never tried it. The foot massage you had does sound bad, and it defeats the purpose of massage.

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