February 06
In The Air Again

Well, the Taiwan portion of the trip was pretty much in shambles owing to the weather and diversion from Cambodia via Macau... (you try getting any sort of transportation during Lunar New Year... it's next to impossible) so the remainder of the trip was more of an impromptu exploration of Taipei and the immediate area.

I have to say that Taipei is one of the friendlier cities I've visited. Even though I might have been the only westerner around, I never felt out of place. I wasn't a curiosity (except to small children who might not have seen a six-foot person before ;) and I was always treated with no less courtesy than afforded anyone else.

Little Bit of History

The flight happened during a historic window of opportunity... between January 29 and February 20, China and Taiwan agreed to "direct" flights, as opposed to having to land and change planes in some third destination. Even so, there's a requirement of flying through Hong Kong airspace, so that's what the in-flight trip display shows. Technically, Macau is exempt from the requirement, but I guess the pilot wasn't taking any chances.


For getting around, the MRT -- Taipei's subway system -- can't be beat. It's fast, efficient, and clean. I mean really clean! Forget about New York's graffiti-riddled subway, even the Bay Area's BART is starting to get shabby, but the MRT, despite often being packed full, remains almost surgically clean. Of course, the fact that no smoking, food, drinks, or even chewing gum is allowed anywhere in the system contributes greatly to that. Hey, I'll live with that minor inconvenience!

Geek's Paradise

One of the first places we went to was Guang-Hua market. Imagine a combination between flea-market, carnival, and trade show all packed up into one confined space, with vendors packed full of almost every imaginable electronic doo-dad -- and the corridors packed full of people (not just geeks, I might add! ;) -- and you begin to get a flavor of the place. If you know what you want, and are willing to negotiate, you can get yourself a lot of cool stuff for unbeatable prices!

The Strip

And it's not just inside one building, imagine an entire street, with people selling computer systems, digital cameras, flat-screen monitors, hard disks, games and DVD's, MP3 players... you name it, it's there. And one thing to be said about the people: they know their stuff! They're not just shoe salesmen that decided to sell techno-trinkets instead.

Dinner on the Town

Okay, haggling down some fellow for some electronics goodies builds up an appetite. So after dropping the loot in the room, it's time to head across town to the ShiLin night market. A similar sort of atmosphere, but for food instead. Imagine a two story parking structure, with the lower level filled with semi-permanent booths selling all manner of dishes from calamari soup to oyster omlettes to steamed dumplings to beef-bone soup to shaved ice.

See-food diet

No haggling here, but there's really no need to; most of these dishes will run you from 40-100 NT$ (roughly US $1-$3) so for the equivalent of $10 US you could eat your fill... assuming you're willing to try new things. Skiddish eaters need not visit, but if you've got an open mind, this place is an experience! (I'm up for a lot of things, but I have to admit, I haven't quite decided to give "stinky tofu" a try; my one past experience left me with an opinion I will spare the gentle reader... email me if you want my unvarnished opinion ;)

Homeward Bound

The ShiLin market, oddly enough, isn't found at the ShiLin stop of the MRT. You'll need to get off the one before (to the south) of it: Jiantan station. The southern-most extent of the market is just across the street. Anyway, it's time to go home, with both belly and wallet full.

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