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taiwan diaries, part the third: taipei (b)
December 8, 2004 (Thursday): My parents, my brother, my grandparents and I boarded a bus to Pacific Green Bay. On hindsight, I think it was the worst idea in the world. So what if we went to a beach-type thing (the 'beach' is too small to be really considered one, in my opinion)? It was near winter and it was raining; hence, it was absolutely freezing. Not only that, the bus journey was also 1) expensive; and 2) long. NT$70 (approx. S$3.50) per person, and the ride was an hour and a half.
Can you imagine? It's almost like going to Kuala Lumpur. My poor dad used to teach in a school located somewhere in that area for three years. I would've died already if I were him.
So, we took the Metro to Taipei Main Station and took a bus from the bus station. Reached the hotel, Howard Hotel, at close to 4 p.m. Which is stupid. What the hell can you do for the rest of the day? Absolutely nothing, that's what, and abso
So, once I got off the bus and after the bus driver (who bloody scared me with his fast and almost reckless driving) drove off, I realised that I left an umbrella on the bus. I was carrying one out of three umbrellas; I sat in front, behind the space behind the driver, and there was a railing in front of me. So me being lazy me, I put the umbrella on the railing, thinking that I'd definitely remember to take it with me when I get off the bus.
But nope, I was wrong. I have way too much faith in myself. And it was a stupid, stupid, STUPID move, because it was raining quite heavily too.
Thank goodness my grandma made up for my stupid move. She brought along two sheets of raincoat with her, so I wore one while she wore the other. It looked bleeding dumb but at least I didn't get my hair wet, which was the thing of which I was worried the most, as vain as that sounds.
We had to walk quite a distance to the hotel, and that 3 minutes or so was the coldest I've ever felt the whole time I was in Taiwan. It probably was the thing that aggravated this small cough that I already had prior to that moment. The wind was blowing rain water into my eyes which irritated the contact lenses, so I had to pull the hood of the raincoat over my eyes like a retard; more importantly, I had to pull my freezing hand out of the sleeve of my jacket and expose it to the cold. Wasn't comfortable at all.
After checking in, I checked out the hotel room. It wasn't that great. I so prefer my hotel room in The Gold Coast, Australia (I still remember that cute porter guy who smiled at me). This picture was taken out of boredom while I was walking along the corridor to my hotel room:
I wanted to take a shot of the view from my hotel room of the ocean, which was breath-taking, but I didn't, because...uh, either it was because my phone was out of memory, or because I couldn't open the sliding door that closed off the balcony to me. Or maybe it was both. So, too bad.
My brother and I discovered HBO so we watched a crappy shit movie "Double Bill" for the rest of the afternoon/early evening, while my folks went to the tiny beach. I didn't want to go 'cause it was FREEZING, and because I'd already watched like an hour of the crappy shit movie and hence wanted to finish it. It was crappy shit though. Peter Gallagher did not save it at all. And the blond woman cannot act. Yes.
(My long fingernails are making it hard for me to type on this laptop. Nails keep going into the spaces between the keys and making disgusting scratchy noises whenever I hit the keys. Irritating.)
And dinner was horrendously hideous. It was included in the hotel package. We dined at this "western" restaurant in the hotel. I ordered a plate of vegetarian "spaghetti". But guess bloody what? My "spaghetti" came without tomato sauce or even the slightest DROP of cream. It was, in fact, Chinese fried noodles with too bloody much oil and spaghetti instead of the usual Chinese noodles.
IT SUCKED HORRIBLY. I immediately regretted my choice, but when I tasted my other two alternatives, I realised that there wasn't a choice to begin with. The cod with peach was too fishy and gross, and the salmon...was a salmon, and I hate salmon, so I found it fishy and gross too. And it was a set menu thing, so everyone had to order a salad, which was dumb. Why the hell should I order a stupid salad that I know for certainty that I wouldn't eat? In the end I only ate the canned peaches and the tomato (I only eat tomatoes raw, or liquified cooked tomatoes in the form of spaghetti sauce). I hate eating raw vegetables, however good the salad cream tastes. But the soup was pretty good though. I got a shock when I saw that my seafood chowder was green in colour. (Should've taken a picture of it but I left my phone in the hotel room.) The bread was also very nice; soft and yummy.
But that's about it. My mom had to twist the waitress's arms and legs to get her to change the cake for me. I suspected that it was yam; took a bite, it tasted like shit, so I refused to eat it, which says a lot about the cake, because I love cakes and would eat virtually anything, except black forest and weird Singaporean flavours like durian and yam. In the end I got a nice brownie instead which made me very happy.
So that was the shitty dinner. After that I spent S$3 going online and posting that entry to which I'm too lazy to link; not very exciting stuff though. What's exciting about the night is that I took a very hot shower when I went back to the room. It was really nice, but I think it was what brought on the fever. The changes in temperature between the time when I was under the hot water and when I turned off the water to shampoo my hair and stuff was pretty drastic. One moment it was piping hot, and the next, freezing cold. Very extreme and all.
And it didn't help that soap went into my nose while I was washing my face, and as a result, I sneezed non-stop for about ten minutes after my shower when I was trying to wear my clothes. It was so bad that I used up one roll of toilet paper on my nose.
After that, things just got really bad. I wanted to read Flaubert's Parrot but my mom and bro were watching Minority Report on HBO and it distracted me, so I watched it too. I'd just like to say that the ending really sucked. How anti-climatic and boring. I missed about an hour of the show so I didn't know what was going on, but it was intriguing enough for me to keep watching. Nice twist about the guy who supposedly killed Tom Cruise's character's kid Shawn, but the ending. Jeez. They could've done better; left much to be desired.
I had a horrible night. I wore my Slam Dunk jacket to sleep as it was really, really cold (and the air con wasn't on). At about 3 in the morning, I woke up. Went to the toilet and all. Only slept again at 4-something. And I felt shitty as hell; the head was throbbing but I couldn't sleep. Probably shouldn't have drank coffee at night, but still. And I felt hot and feverish and it was so difficult to breathe because of all the muck in my throat, so that whenever I breathed, the chest hurt a little.
Absolutely painful. I slept so damn well that I woke up at 7 in the morning by myself. I usually need people to drag me out of bed in order to wake up that early.
So I pulled a long face throughout breakfast. I didn't even eat the seaweed thingy with sesame oil that I would've devoured in a matter of seconds on a normal day. The oil totally turned me off, although it wasn't overly oily and all. In the end I didn't eat much; just drank some water, a bowl of soya milk, and a piece of bread from yesterday's dinner which had already hardened so it sucked as well.
Isn't my life sad? I think it is.
I almost didn't go with my family (sans my grandparents who went back to Yonghe immediately after breakfast; took the bus by themselves and all) to the Juming Museum, as I didn't really feel very up to it. But I really really really wanted to go, so I went in the end. Had a shuttle bus thing that took us there. It's located in the hilly regions, and I was quite scared while I was on the mountain road or whatever. I don't like going to places via such paths.
For the uninitiated and the ignorant, Juming (朱名) is a Taiwanese artist who is famous for his sculptures. He recently had an exhibition in Singapore. If you've seen four black people somewhere in the middle of one of the roads that lead to Raffles City, in the Harbour Front area if I'm not wrong, that nice sculpture which I really like is by him. He has his personal museum which he designed and which is funded by himself, and it's a really, really nice, gorgeous place. 80% of the exhibits are outdoors, and luckily, it drizzled only for a while on that day so the trip wasn't totally wasted.
I also saw Andy Warhol's Mao Zedong in his collections gallery. I still don't get pop art though. What's the point, really? I don't understand it.
Juming's sculptures are...okay, I'll let them speak for themselves.
Also in his Taichi series:
Part of his Life series:
I don't remember what this is:
There were also two ponds. I saw swans and really cute ducks. I love ducks, have I ever mentioned that? There were four ducks on land beside the pond, and two of them shat. Haha. It was funny. I wanted to touch them but I was scared of scaring them away, so I didn't. I don't understand how ANYONE can eat such adorable creatures, but I guess that's just me.
I took a picture of a piece with a political slant on my phone but I unfortunately deleted it to free up memory. Bloody hell! It was intriguing. Another part of his Life series (I forgot the real title but that's the gist of it), he took newspaper articles about one of the countless elections that Taiwan had and election props like banners and posters and all, pasted them with cloths that depict a person's clothings, drew a few faces, and made a political statement. Too bad I didn't get what it was. But I liked it a lot. I have a photograph of it but I'm too lazy to scan it in so too bad.
To be honest, I don't understand art. I just see something that's aesthetically-pleasing and complex enough to be intriguing, go, "Wow, that's cool", and that's that. But what's to be done about that, right?
So anyway, we left for Yonghe a while later. Chilled for a bit in the hotel; I slept. I was tired and sick and feeling lousy. I felt lousy too on the bus; felt lousier on the train; felt absolutely lousy while walking back to the Lane 52 apartment. I wasn't even up to eating at Mos Burger, which really goes to show the extent of how shitty I felt. I never pass up a chance to eat my favourite food in the world, and I was also very keen on checking out the Mos in Taiwan. So, yes, poor me.
And it was so bad that the doctor I went to see thought that I was autistic. He asked me what was wrong with me, and I gave him a one-word answer: "Ke sou." (Cough.) More appallingly, whenever I answered him, he went, "Huh?" Like he couldn't understand me. I guess it didn't help that I either grunted or gave vague one-word answers, but still. And when he knocked on my back and asked me if it hurt inside, I had no idea what the hell he was saying, so I just went, "Yeah it hurts" in Chinese, because it does hurt, but I didn't know what the difference was between inside and on the surface; still don't, for that matter.
As a result, he examined my piss. I had to pee into a bloody cup and it was gross. I couldn't aim properly so I got some of the piss onto my jeans. YUCK YUCK FUCKING YUCK. I feel sick now thinking about it. The doc thought that I had kidney failure or something, just because I answered his question wrongly, just because I didn't know what the heck he was asking. Ugh.
And at one point of time, he said something like, "不太会表迖吗?", which is roughly translated as, "You don't really know how to express yourself?"
See, I told you he thought I was autistic. How insulting. But I don't blame him; there I was, all 18 years of age, giving one-word, monosyllabic answers and sometimes relying on my dad to tell the doc what was wrong with me. The doc even asked my dad if I was a local.
No, I'm not Taiwanese; hence, my Chinese sucks; hence, I couldn't understand your question about whether it hurts inside when you knocked on my back. Singaporeans have bad Chinese and that includes me. Okay? Thank you.
The doc looked a little like Dick Lee though. Haha! Dick Lee is still hot.
So guess what else? The huge Kuomintang rally was THAT VERY BLOODY NIGHT THAT I FELL REALLY SICK. I went back and slept for two hours, and woke up feeling better, but my dad said he wouldn't take me to the rally anyway. SHIT. Do you know that the Taipei mayor 马英九 (Ma Ying-jeou, or at least that's how I think his name in English is spelled) was there making speeches too? Do you know that he's the most handsome politician in the world? Do you also know that he's super smart, as in Harvard-smart? Do you know that his English is awesome? Do you also know that his Mandarin is beautiful? I really wanted to go to a real political rally, Taiwan-style! Their political is so alive and violent, unlike how dead it is in Singapore.
See, I told you my life is tragic. That was my only chance to experience the kind of shit I was watching on TV in March this year during the presidential elections, and I just HAD to fall sick. Awesome.
Anyway. I forgot about the charity basketball match in which Jielun played and only remembered it when my brother told me about it. So I watched it on TV. But, I shall talk about this in my next Taiwan entry, which will be totally dedicated to him, so stay tuned!
The next day, Friday. Went back to Zhongxiao East Road, Sec. 4, and we bought a box of biscuits for S$45. It's imported from Japan and it's the best biscuits in the world. It has a weird French name, like, La Chapeau Rouge/Rogue, I believe; The Red Hat? I don't know. But it should be, since it has a picture of a girl in a red hat on the cover of the box.
When my folks found out that the store I saw was Xin Dong Yang though, they got quite indignant 'cause there's another XDY store in Yonghe. Haha! I saw the biscuits that first time we were at Zhongxiao East Road but because I was irritated with my folks, I didn't tell them about it. Yeah, how childish. My mom wanted to buy the biscuits after eating the box that was given to my grandparents in Kinmen, so yeah.
The most fucking expensive biscuits ever. Also the best biscuits ever. Again, take the good with the bad.
Next, walked to Jielun's curios shop, Omni by JFK. Address (Jielun fans, take note): Dunhua South Road, Lane 161, No. 52. 敦化南路一段，161巷，52号. Once again though, I'd reserve this for the Jielun entry, so stay tuned for that too!
Along the way, I popped into Mango where my mom showed me a gorgeous skirt that costs about NT$2000 (approx. S$100) which she didn't intend to buy for me so I whined to her like, so what's the point of showing it to me then? It's just like showing a beggar a nice plate of rice and then savagely taking the plate away from him. I have a low propensity for melodrama, but it's there anyway.
I also saw a real NBA store. Oh my god. No way. I think I should've bought that Sacramento Kings cap, but too late. If they had a Stojakovic jersey, I would've bought it! Full of Yao 11 though. Haha. Yao Ming's okay but I'm not big enough of a fan to buy his jersey.
After Jielun's shop we took the Metro to Taipei Main Station. Walked the di xia jie, which is a long long long long long stretch of shops along the long long long long long underpass that led from the huge station (which is why it's called Taipei Main Station) to many many many many many different exits. Although it does not look as classy as CityLink Mall, it's definitely a lot longer with a lot more variety of goods than CityLink Mall. We tend to go for branded, Western goods here, but in Taiwan, they do sell local stuff of their own too. I hardly saw any Western stores around.
I followed my parents to few beads shops that my mom wanted to look at. We went into about three or four and there was one shop that was HUGE. It sold all sorts of beads, from the ugly ones to nice Swarvoski crystals (which aren't expensive at all). In the end my mom only bought this Chinese knot thingy and a packet of some metal thing that looks like small roses. I saw a guy in the shop with a really cute golden retriever though. I wanted to touch the dog, but I looked at the guy's face and quickly decided against it. And when he left, I saw him hitting his dog on the head! God, I was so mad that I wanted to go after him and tell him off. I could totally tell from his face that he was an asshole.
We took the cab back to Yonghe. My first time in a cab during those two weeks in Taiwan. I think. Well, it should be. And then, we went to MOS BURGER.
Let me just say it simply: THE MOS BURGER RESTAURANTS THERE LOOK LIKE REAL RESTAURANTS AND THEY'RE AMAZING. Great decor. Great music. Great ambience. They don't play Britney Spears. They don't put on crappy radio stations and force their customers to listen to stupid DJs spew crap. They have nice sofas and a nice outdoor area that looked romantic and really comfortable. They have tasteful decor, save for the horrendously grammatically-flawed English thingy that was a part of the decor.
In short, very tasteful, very nice. Unlike the joints in Singapore, it didn't seem to target the teen crowd. They played some jazzy music that was quite nice, and definitely better than Britney Spears.
Why is it that they seem to do things much better in Taiwan than we do in Singapore? Even an average McDonalds' is bigger than the one at King Albert Park. I'm not kidding. Did I mention that the Mos has three storeys? Well, it does. Incredible.
Had dinner that night with my grandparents and my cousins and their folks, ie. my dad's eldest brother. That cousin whom I played with a lot as a kid is really pretty. She has such great hair! And her second oldest sister is really pretty too. She has that classy, intelligent beauty and she's apparently the smartest out of all three sisters. The eldest is the plainest though, but she's the most out-going. Very funny girl.
To think that I was so close to the third sister when I was a kid. That day, I didn't say much to her 'cause I didn't know what to say. Oh well. Apparently she spent S$50 on her hair and two hours cutting it. Haha! But it's really gorgeous so I think it was worth it, somehow.
And Saturday. Yes, the big Jielun-filled day which I will also reserve for the Jielun entry. So after the autograph session I got my haircut from a salon that was three minutes away from where I stayed and it's still quite beautiful so I'm very pleased.
Have I ever mentioned how much I love Taipei? Well, I love Taipei. 我爱台北. I wish I could live there.
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