May 4, 2016
We spent a good chunk of the morning organizing our backpacks and giving items for Mom to bring back home for us. What a load off! My luggage feels like it’s 10 pounds lighter (Tim: probably because it is 10 pounds lighter). I caught up on my blog entries while Tim went to Yong He (our regular breakfast place) to get breakfast for everyone.
We didn’t end up leaving the apartment until just before 2pm. It was nice to be able to just hang around and fully relax and not feel like we had to see something or go somewhere. We didn’t have anything on our agenda since Mom was busy with her own plans. Since we’ve been in Taipei with her, she’s been non-stop busy meeting up with people who want to see her. The one thing that I wanted to have before leaving Taipei was bubble tea (a few times) and the gua bao (pork belly hamburger) we had in March.
Tim and I walked to Gongguan and cut diagonally through the National Taiwan University (NTU) campus along the way. It’s very hot here, about 32 degrees celsius with humidity. My back was sweaty the entire day since I was wearing a backpack and a cotton dress (it wasn’t pleasant). This is preparing us for hot weather to come during our SE Asia part of our trip in June.The pearl milk drink and the gua bao stand in Gongguan was highly recommended to us by Tim’s cousin, Karen. Unfortunately, when my sister and Noel were in town, we didn’t hear about it until the day they were closed. We’ll have to come back with them another time. I feel bad, the gua bao was on my sister’s top eats for Taiwan.
When we arrived in Gongguan, the pearl milk stand had a line up but surprisingly, the gua bao stand didn’t have a line up (Tim: maybe because it was not really lunch time). The pearl milk line wasn’t too long but by the time we got to the front of the line up (5-10 minutes) the line up had curled around 3 times! We just beat the crowd of students. We took our lunch to the NTU entrance benches and sat and enjoyed our cheap and delicious lunch. As I was eating the gua bao and biting into the best pearls I’ve ever had (super soft, warm and chewy), I kept thinking, “this is amazing”. I’m really savouring the good and cheap food in Taiwan because I know when we get to Australia, everything is going to be more the double the price and probably not as delicious.
After we finished our lunch, we decided to walk to the Roots Canada Lodge store and an Eslite Bookstore. We had noticed that Taiwanese people love Roots clothing when we first arrived in March. Even when we were in Korea and Japan, when we saw people with “Roots Canada” t-shirts, we knew they weren’t Canadian, they were Taiwanese. Coincidentally, Mom brought a brochure back from Roots back home that says “Roots loves Taiwan”. There’s a campaign by Roots Canada and Tourism Taiwan that shows pictures around Taipei as well as suggestions on where to go (it’s a pretty nice pamphlet). The store on Robson just had a grand re-opening on May 3rd and Mom was asked to look for Taiwanese dancers for their event. Pretty cool!
Any how, we were both interested in going to a Roots store in Taipei and the one we saw the other day while in the car had a Roots Canada Lodge restaurant. They served Canadian food – like Nanaimo bars, bacon cheeseburgers and poutine. We went into the store to see if they had any t-shirts that said Taipei on it because one time we saw someone who had one on. Tim asked the sales associate and she said those t-shirts only come out once a year and it’s usually in September. Roots clothing isn’t cheap and it’s definitely not cheap in Taiwan. A plain zip up hoodie is around $140 CAD (almost double what it would be back home).
We then made our way across the street to Eslite (the 24 hour bookstore). We hadn’t been to this location before, only the one near Taipei 101. Tim was looking for the Marie Kondo book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” in Chinese. He has been recommending this book to a lot of people and wants his parents to read it as well. I haven’t finished it yet, and I’m recommending it to others (Tim’s not happy that I haven’t finished reading it since it’s so short). We wandered around Eslite and browsed around at all the floors – besides books they have a lot of neat shops to look at.
On our way back to the apartment, we stopped at a CoCo bubble tea and ordered a passion fruit tea. This was one of our favourite drinks here as it’s super refreshing. With the heat, I wouldn’t have minded if it were all slushy. I know they opened a CoCo in Vancouver and I probably won’t go there this summer since it’s going to cost 4 x the price for what we had and I would have had enough bubble tea in the past 3 months to last a year.
We came back to the apartment to rest up and cool off before dinner. Tim and I had been going to a hot pot place a lot in March and we had a stamp card that only needed one more meal before we got one free (yes, we went that much). Hot pot isn’t something you crave during hot humid weather, but since they blast the AC so high in Asia, it’s always perfect.
As soon as we walked into the restaurant, the waitress recognized us. For the most part, the restaurant isn’t a tourist destination or even on most people’s radar (we couldn’t find any information on it in English at all). I guess she hadn’t see us in a month so when she saw us she asked us where we’re from etc. It’s basically Tim answering for both of us explaining that he’s Taiwanese and his parents were born here and then they look at me and ask what I am. Then he says, her family is from “Tai San” then they say, “you should teach her some Mandarin” and we all smile and laugh.
We ordered two types of beef as usual and enjoyed our last meal there. We both put a lot of fresh garlic in our sauce, so now today we both have severe garlic breath. When we were done, Tim showed her our stamp card and she said usually you are supposed to use the free one during your next visit (which is what Mom told us would probably happen) but Tim said this is our last day in Taiwan so she let us have the free one. Our meal was 270 NT = $10.71 CAD for the both of us.
After dinner, we walked back towards the apartment and went to the Linjiang Tonghua Night Market (this is like our neighbourhood market since it’s so close). I wanted to buy some more dried guava for my family, fresh cut guava (for me to eat tomorrow), and a phone case (since mine was in horrible and dirty shape). We didn’t eat any food at the night market since we just had dinner. I bought a new phone case, which wasn’t that cheap but cheaper than home ($9 CAD). I know how cheap these phone cases could be, so anything sold in Taiwan isn’t cheap compared to China. My former co-worker asked me if I wanted phone cases before she went to China one year and I said I wanted one that you could put cards in. She told me it’s buy 1 get 9 free and showed me the Chinese website. I said I only wanted one and she’s like, it’s okay you can have them in 9 colours. So when she came back she gave me a box with 10 cases in it, and they’re the exact same ones in the night markets here.
We headed back to the apartment and packed up and went through all the items Mom is bringing back for us. It’s such a big help that she’s here to bring a lot of things home for us. I have a bunch of clothes that I didn’t end up wearing much and I know won’t be good for Australia and SE Asia. You really don’t need much clothing while traveling (Tim: which is pretty common advice, yet lots of people don’t adhere to) and especially in the humid heat, Lululemon or any dri-fit type of items are the best.
I’m a pretty sentimental person so whenever it’s the last day or last of anything, I do get a bit sad and reminiscent of all the good memories. During our time in Taipei, we became very familiar with the Daan area. Even as someone who isn’t great with directions, I got to know Daan very well. I’m happy that we got to see so many people while we were here and were able to spend 2 weeks with my sister, Noel, and Nate. Even passing by the apartment we stayed at or going around to sites we visited together, I think about them.
Steps today: 24,000