Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reason #8 to Love Taiwan!

So what is Reason #8 to love Taiwan?

For its aggregate awesomeness. A whole bunch of little things that add up to one big reason:

- Auntie Wu-style kung fu shoes. Awesome and comfortable (if ugly)!

- A variety of fascinating beliefs, myths and superstitions

- A wide selection of fruit. This could almost be its own Reason - in our refrigerator right now we have red dragonfruit, white dragonfruit, starfruit, lychees, pineapple, apple, grapefruit, an avocado, peaches and a large mango. Until recently we had a large papaya and a pomelo and if we wanted we could also have longan, guava, grapes, pears, watermelon or any other number of fresh, local and seasonal fruits. We have a giant custard apple too. It's a fresh food lover's dream!

- Tiny dogs in bags

- Sales in major shopping centers promoting "One Week Only - Great Discounts on Offerings for Ghosts and Ancestors!"-type sales.

- conveyer-belt sushi as fast food

- Summer temperatures so high that really, they only serve to make people's jaws drop when checking the weather. It's like an exercise in spontaneous combustibility.

- Taiwan's governing bodies are so much more interesting - unlike Congress or the Senate, the Legislative Yuan regularly makes the sports pages with its antics.

- Whatever you need done, ask around and there's always "this guy I know" who does it. Need a metal clip fixed on a handbag? There's this guy I know. Need your formal white beaded shoes washed? There's this guy I know. Not sure how to go about de-virusing stuff on old computers and putting it all onto one storage drive? There's this guy I know. Want a set of curtains that looks sort of like another set you saw, but not exactly? There's this guy I know. Need the doodad on your whatsit fixed? The widget on your dingbat adjusted? The whatchamajogger on your thingamabob re-set? There's this guy I know. And it's cheap, too!

- I actually found good packaged bottled iced tea - there's a brand in 7-11 called "Wenshan Baozhong" that is just that - unsweetened, unprocessed local Wenshan baozhong tea, iced. I prefer to avoid pre-packaged goods but if it's 200C out (see above post and cat regarding the weather) and the only choice is 7-11, then oh well.

- Waterfalls

- Compelling art, both inside temples and out

- Historic buildings and bustling urbana, right next to each other

- Old ladies who are ridiculously direct. About 2 weeks ago it was Old Mrs. Fang, my Hakka neighbor. Translated from Chinese:
"You rode your bike?"
"Where did you ride from?"
"Not too far - Heping-Fuxing intersection."
"Wow, that's so far. Well, it's good. Your ass looks much better now. Last month you had kind of a huge ass, but now it looks great."
"Thanks, Auntie Fang."

- Cheap, delicious seafood. I am a seafood junkie - octopus tentacles, sea urchins, abalone, white fish, basil-stewed mussels, fatty salmon, toro tuna, barbecued squid-on-a-stick, cream crabs, scallop sashimi, eel, oyster omelets, that weird monster-like pseudo-crab thing that's so expensive, big cuttlefish....mmmmm. Seasonal, too!

- Temple parades! Add here random popping-up of Taiwanese opera and bu dai xi puppet shows on the street.

- betel nut girls as cultural icons

- Beautiful mountain views and pretty good sunsets

- I know most people diss WIFLY (Taipei's almost-all-over wireless network) but I love that it's there, and I have used it a lot.

- bamboo hats. I don't have one, but I want one.

- Street food. Really only Bangkok and *maybe* India can come close to comparing to Taiwan for street fare, and Taiwan's is more hygienic and (I think anyway) varied.

- bus drivers who dress up like Santa Claus in December - and while we're at it, the giant Borg Collective-like Christmas tree of silver and red teddy bears that Takashimaya puts up every year. Creeeeeepy!

- funerals that involve huge pyramids and other structures made of canned drinks - from Taiwan beer to Apple Sidra to Pocari Sweat. When I die, forget the flowers - just buy a giant stack of beer and enjoy.

- hiking trails that are - occasionally anyway - real trails and not stairs

- the guy who hangs out in Guting Riverside Park, just south of Zhongzheng Bridge practicing his - what is it called? It's like a Chinese oboe played at temple parades - at the oddest hours. He's not very good but it's still awesome.

- Spicy food (milder than Sichuan or India but you can always make it spicy)

- butterflies! everywhere!

- 關家婆 - we all live so tightly packed in that everyone is in everyone else's business...which is great because then I can be in everyone's business and it's totally normal. I much prefer it (even with the random comments about my butt) to living in some sterile town where nobody knows anybody else and looking out your window in the general direction of your neighbor's house is considered 'rude'. If we stay here I'll make the best guan jia po (Old Busybody) this island ever saw!

- Obviously, the friendliness of the people - it's so much easier here to make local friends than other places I've visited.

And so much more...

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