A Taiwan Summer
It baffles me that already my summer in Taiwan is coming to a close. I feel like I have only been here such a brief amount of time, and yet this week our last set of campers comes and goes. My goal this summer was to do different things than I did last summer and to not limit myself to spending all my weekends exclusively in Taipei. (For those of you who don’t know, I work in northern Taiwan, about an hour’s car ride outside of the capital.)
The first few weekends were mostly spent at night markets and Din Tai Fung. Night markets were a frequent past-time last summer for us as well—you can eat and drink and shop and socialize all in one place all while experiencing the hustle and bustle of Taiwan’s streets. Din Tai Fung is the country’s most popular restaurant; their specialty is the soup dumpling, and boy let me tell you, it really is special… 10/10 would recommend.
One of the coolest places I was able to visit in Taipei (and one of the only photo-ops I have shared so far) was Elephant Mountain. It was really easy to get to the neighborhood where you start the hike—it’s one of the central MRT stops in the city—and the hike starts right next to a really beautiful park that reminded me a lot of Buenos Aires (…I don’t really know why, but the whole neighborhood was giving me BA déjà vu). The start of the hike is walking through a beautiful temple, and then it is just a straight ascent up a million flights of stairs. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the summit, and it is worth every bead of sweat that rolls off your forehead or down your back, I promise. It is a stunning view of the Taipei skyline, a breath of fresh air in the city, and a great place to meet fellow travelers.
One of the weekends, I chose to work overtime and take care of 4 stayover campers. It was actually one of my favorite experiences this summer. We took the kids to a night market in Jinshan, a town relatively close to the one that I work outside of. It was interesting to see the contrast between the bustling night market atmosphere in the big city and the less-densely populated crowd in Jinshan. The kids played carnival games and we got ice cream. After the night market we went to a tiny little restaurant that ended up seriously being one of the best meals I have had in Asia??? The entire Sunday of that weekend was spent at Jin Yong Quan Spa Hotspring, also in Jinshan. It was SO COOL. You pay to get in and then can experience everything that the spa has to offer. We sat in several different aromatherapy baths (like banana, mango, lavender, rose, etc) and and the dead skin of our feet eaten by little tiny fish! It didn’t even feel like work, because the four kids we were taking care of were having just as much fun as we were.
The next weekend a group of us went to a gay bar in the Ximen neighborhood of Taipei. We sat at tables outside and had a blast. That weekend we also visited a part of Taipei near Taipei Main Station called the “Old Streets.” It was a group of five girls, and we all visited a temple whose god was the God of Matchmaking. So we prayed to him to find our perfect man (after describing in detail what that man would be like), burned incense sticks, and ate cookies in solidarity. I am currently anticipating my perfect specimen finding me in the Taiwanese jungle…
My last weekend in Taipei so far was elongated because of what was expected to be a super-typhoon. (Don’t you fret, it ended up being a whole lot less daunting than expected.) We spent the first night at our boss’s house right outside of camp. We went to Costco with her (my second time visiting that establishment while in this country), and stocked up on pizza and snacks and alcohol for the night. She drove us in to Taipei the next morning, and Sam and I got our hair done! I got mine trimmed pretty short and got a beach wave perm, Sam dyed hers back to its spirit color of auburn. We IMMEDIATELY went and watched Inside Out after that, because I had been waiting for SEVERAL weeks for it to come out in Taiwan. It was so worth the wait. I am in love with that movie. A good portion of the rest of that weekend is a blur, mostly spent inside our hostel surrounded by dumplings, assorted other snacks, and good company. I did wander out with my good friend/coworker in the middle of the night just as the typhoon was hitting Taipei and walked around in torrential rain and blustering winds… It was quite fun. And it looked like I had showered in my pj’s once I got back to the hostel. Surveying the damage that the typhoon had done the next morning was quite interesting; nothing catastrophic had happened in the city, but there were some uprooted trees and fallen business signs.
The next time I am going to be in Taipei is the weekend that camp is over. I cannot believe that???? Summers here pass so quickly. But I am happy to be on to my next adventure. The day our contract ends, a friend and I are headed to Malaysian Borneo to celebrate my 21st birthday. I AM SO EXCITED. After that him and I come back to Taiwan for a few days, and then I am off to Madrid!! I will be working as an au pair for a family there and I could not be more excited. A lot of good karma in the air right now and I am so happy about it. I am so fortunate to be able to do the things I do.
I promise to send postcards before I leave this country, and in all of the places I am going to be after here. So if you want one, send me your address!! I hope everyone who is reading this is having a great week. I’ll be updating more frequently now, as I am visiting a lot more places in a short amount of time. Check back soon!