"Happy Holidays" to you all! Sorry it's late. Christmas was busy and happy, and I'm still catching up on my sleep. Remember that whole "I'm going to post all of my Taiwan photos and stories before our trip!" thing? It's looking bleak, but here's a start.
I really liked Taipei. It was cold and rainy, and our airbnb was depressing, but the city was fun to explore and we met some wonderful new expat friends. Calm and chaos seemed to hang in tandem amidst the crowded streets, corner temples, and alleyways. Also, the food. We ate a whole lot of delicious food, my favorite of which may have been the first of many scallion pancakes we bought from street carts around the country (not yet pictured, you'll have to wait). We slurped up two bowls of beef noodles in a very busy, very small but well-known restaurant with what appeared to be locals on their lunch break with little time for pleasantries. The peanut noodles seen above were cheap and wonderful and purchased on the street near Longshan Temple. They cost about $1 US and we shared them. On our metal street table sat a communal cauldron of spicy chile paste thick enough to hold its tiny silver spoon straight up in the middle. I miss those table condiments. They're sadly missing in most Korean meals, which tend to lack the complexity of spices and flavors seen elsewhere in East Asia and which do not lend themselves so much to table customization.
In Taiwan, you can customize just about anything. I won't tell the same story that every other traveling blogger who's visited Taiwan has, but google "ordering bubble tea" and you'll see what I mean. Bubble tea originated in Taiwan and I drank a lot of it while we were there. I really liked that I could order it the way I wanted, with only a bit of sugar and ice. If you've never had bubble tea, it's traditionally made with red tea - which we strangely call black tea in the Western world - milk, sugar, ice, and colorful tapioca pearls in varying sizes. I'm certain I ordered bubble tea in every major city we visited and the process was always complicated and personal!
Longshan Temple was a fascinating place to visit and I enjoyed sitting on the temple grounds for 30-40 minutes or so, watching people go about their spiritual activities. Long tables were adorned with gigantic lotus flowers and edible offerings. It was here that I first caught sight of a set of jiaobei, crescent moon-shaped blocks used in Chinese temples to pose yes or no questions to the gods. One cups them in their hands while identifying themselves and posing their question, then drops them to the floor and interprets their arrangement.
Dearest Taiwan, as I write this, I'm missing you too much. Your food; your people; your delicious bubble tea. The feels that clung to me as I left through your gates. I'll return again soon for more swooning before our next adventure begins: three days and counting!