February 07

Okay, it's Lunar New-Year's eve, and I'm out doing some errands, while all around me families are preparing for the festivities. The whole city seems more low-key, as if today was the one "off season" day. But I've got my camera with me -- always a distraction -- so I'm seeing what the city does. Actually, this evening I'm going to be busy, so in the morning, I try my hand at getting around on my own. Stranger in a strange land, and he's got a camera.

In the Snake

Okay, I'm a bit ga-ga about the MRT (comes from being a bit of a rail fan, I suppose ;) but I have to admit, the folks in the US can learn a thing or two from this system! I may not be privy to a lot of the MRT's history, but from the perspective of somebody that had to suddenly rely on it to get around, it was absolutely painless. But enough of that. One of the things that's fun about these trains -- this is the red line here -- is that they're all one long coach, in effect. It's fun standing at one end and watching the train snake around the track... as if you're in the belly of some long silver snake making its way around. Oh, and did I mention that it's a smoooooth ride? No clickety-clack here, and no being jostled and thrown around on uneven roadbed!

ShiLin by Day

Somewhat sleepy in comparison to the frenetic night-time tempo, this outdoor part of the ShiLin market is just sort of waking up. Folks are just out for their last-minute shopping and soon they'll be home around the dinner table with family. Right now, it's the staples that are for sale.

Celebrations Begin

While the market goes about its comparatively torpid pace, some households begin celebration. In the foreground a woman burns spirit money, an offering to ancestors long deceased.

Novel Crepe

While out and about, I saw this family making what seemed to be a cross between a tortilla shell and a crepe. The steel bowl contains a thick, elastic, gooey batter. The man takes a handful of it, and with a flick plops the rubbery mass onto the hot-plate, letting it rebound back into his hand... and leaving a milky residue on the griddle. He repeats this action on the other two hot surfaces, and in the meantime, the first one has cooked enough to be pulled off and stacked. At the time, I had no idea what these were for, (later I would find out) but it was so interesting to watch, I couldn't help but stare (and take a picture or two ;)

Corner Shrine

You see these shrines nearly everywhere in Taiwan. Small, incredibly ornate places either nestled on a street corner, like here, or literally surrounded by high-rises, industrial plants, or any manner of contemporary building.

Can You Read This?

Okay, here's what I mean when I say that Taipei is a remarkably friendly place. It seems that Taipei goes out of its way to accomodate the English-speaker. It may not seem so by looking at this sign...

I can!

...but when you think that the Chinese bulletin is followed by an English one, and the fact that spoken announcements are made in four languages (Mandarin, Taiwanese, Japanese, and English, if my guesses are correct) and you can't help but feel that every effort is made to help you get around. Most signs -- and that includes road signs -- are in Chinese and English... at least in Taipei and the immediate area. Travel too far, and you'll have to brush up on your Guoyu (Mandarin) reading and speaking skills, but the city is quite international.

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