Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reasons #15 and #16 to Love Taiwan

#15: lots of fun Asian candy!

OK, fine, a lot of Asian candy - especially Chinese candy - is crap. At my friend Karen's New Year's party they set out some local weird white rectangle candy that a student had given her and it was quite literally one of the most disgusting things I've ever put in my mouth (and I've eaten raw stinky tofu fermented for 14 days in rotting vegetable goo at Dai's House of Unique Stink)

But so much of it is actually good.

For example, Taiwanese milk caramels in matcha tea, English black tea, plain, brown sugar and chestnut. All of them super yummy. These caramels are among the best packaged local products made in Taiwan. I have a strong preference for soft candy over hard, so the milk caramels really suit me.

Of course, not all of the great candy available in Taiwan is actually from Taiwan. Above is a melange of candy that we gathered to offer in lieu of favors at our wedding (we mixed it all up in a huge red fake lacquer bowl so people could take what they liked). Most of the above is from Japan: mango hard candy with gooey centers, rose candy which is actually rose-shaped and has a bit of a lemony-rose taste, and Japanese soft matcha candies covered in slightly bitter matcha powder (the brown package is of the Taiwanese brown sugar milk caramels).

Other good choices are Kopiko Indonesian coffee candies (I like the coffee+milk kind) and Ting Ting Jahe Indonesian ginger candy, available at the Indonesian grocery in Taipei City Mall.

Less appealing but always fun for bringing back your culture shock:

Some of the offerings here include durian candy (stink-tacular!), yoghurt candy, taro candy, sour plum candy, vinegar candy and a few others that are downright weird. Note the one that claims it is flavored like "Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee". Heh. Yeah, right. Like that canned coffee in convenience stores that calls itself "Blue Mountain Mandheling". Suuuuure. You aren't fooling anyone. Health food stores sell pink Himalayan salt candy. Yeah, not so much to my taste...but interesting!

#16 - Affordable, accessible massage.

About twenty meters from my apartment - and probably yours as well - there is a massage parlor, and no, not the sketchy kind. I just came back from a really good one hour deep tissue massage, for which I paid NT $700 (about $25 US). You can't get that for less than $50 back home, and you have to travel to and from a spa - not that I've ever gotten a massage in the USA. Here, if I want a ten minute foot or back rub, it's a hundred kuai ($3) and easy to find.

Considering my chronic neck, back and headaches, plus tired feet from being up in front of a class on most work days, having so many options is a godsend. I've never really taken "qi" seriously, or feng shui or what have you, but I have to say when a masseuse pounds on the muscle deep in my shoulder or pelvis and says "your qi is stuck here", honestly, whatever was bothering me enough to go in and get a massage disappears when (s)he's done.

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