Taipei is a city that I fall more and more in love with each time we visit. Chad and I used to live there, way before Z came along. Because of that, we made sure to visit there (for three months) in our travels around the world in 2013, and then just recently went for a quick visit/visa run before Christmas.
We packed up our winter clothes (what few we still have… a pair of jeans and a hoodie constitute winter clothing right?) and headed back to our second, second home, Taiwan.
We arrived at 1 am at the Taoyuan International Airport and took a taxi to our airbnb.com rented apartment. It was cold, and Z was awake. The jostling around after the flight made it impossible for her to stay sleeping while I carried her too-big-for-me-to-carry body and so she was awake the whole drive, well until about 3 am actually… Yikes!
When we arrived at our apartment that we got an amazing deal on, the owner’s father kindly helped us in and gave us all the directions for the house. It was not until he left and we were getting settled and such, that I noticed that the apartment did not have a back door!
The layout of most Taipei apartments is that there is a patio or open air kitchen/cleaning area off the kitchen. This apartment was no exception, except that the door between the kitchen and open-air patio was missing! Oh, and most places in Taipei do not have heating, and neither did this one. Yep, I was freezing… I ended up having to buy a coat at Costco a day or so later, not so much because of the outside air, but the air in our beautiful 9th floor
freezer apartment! I wish I had taken a picture of it, but I think the cold slowed my brain function!
Regardless of the possibility of frost bite (it was a very cold week, between 11-15 degrees C or 51-59 degrees F), I loved the apartment. I was in a great neighborhood, near many shops, restaurants, two 7-11’s, and some breakfast places that made great cheese dan bing for breakfast. It was also close to the MRT (although we rarely used them, taxi’s are so cheap in Taipei, and we were lazy).
Our first night there, our good friends (I used to teach English to their now teenage children) took us to dinner at Mihan Honke at the Regent Taipei and introduced us to Sukiyaki. This Japanese table-cooking includes delicious vegetables, fungi, and thinly sliced pork and beef. All of this is sautéed in a pan on your table with onions, soy sauce, and water. The flavorful end to the cooking is dipping the hot fare in a raw beaten egg and eating it immediately. At first I was a bit wary of the raw egg, but it was delectable! It was all you could eat and I ate so much! Now I am on the look out for a Sukiyaki place here in Phuket, I’m hooked!
That night at the Regent there was also an opportunity to take a picture with Santa’s helper (all the store Santas are Santa’s helpers in our family). After waiting in line after a very large group of people changing their positions with Santa numerous (probably 20 or more!) times we got our chance to take a few photos with the man in red. Z was ecstatic, I think it probably was the highlight of her whole trip!
The next day we went to the Thai Embassy, which was the main reason we were in Taiwan again. We needed another tourist visa to continue our lives in Phuket for the time being. Thailand had changed their immigration laws in the past few months and they were denying tourist visas if a traveler had more than three back-to-back in a year (which we did not)… well sometimes. BUT sometimes it doesn’t matter… the whole difficulty of understanding the Thai immigration policies, is that there is no definite answer. It is truly a crap shoot. This time we rolled the unlucky number (what is it in craps anyways?) and our visa was denied. They mentioned something about we had only been in Taipei for 3 days… we are still not sure why that mattered. We would have to go back to Thailand with just a thirty-day visa exemption. It was really worrisome, they could still turn us away at the airport… Yikes! We strived to just trust God and make fall back plans to go somewhere else just in case we got turned away.
The rest of the week was spent Christmas shopping at Costco, taking Z back to some of her favorite play areas, meeting up with old friends, and checking off a list of things I had made of what I wanted to eat. Yep, you read that right, I like to make lists of what I want to eat when we visit a new place… my traveling life is about the food. Now if only I would learn to take pictures before I eat the food, that would be a good idea (a resolution for 2015 maybe?).
My list of food? I wanted Shabu Shabu, Cheese dan bing, shuǐjiǎo, and beef noodle soup. We accomplished them all along with much more! Hooray for yummy food! I enjoyed it so much, I was actually thankful that I was wearing skinny jeans to keep myself contained… winter clothes for the win!
There was one more fantastic part of our trip to Taipei that I must share. The wonderfully kind family that took us to dinner the first night in Taiepei also gave me a ticket to a Chamber Concert where a String Quartet was playing music from Hadyn, Beethoven, and Tchaichovsky at Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. It was fabulous, not only because of the beautiful music and masterful playing of their cello, viola, or violins, but because they gave me the red carpet treatment and I was able to sit with them in the front row, dead center! It was so amazing, I could hear the musicians breathing, see every finger movement, and truly become one with the music. It was such a treat!
We ended up getting back into Thailand without a problem and can actually extend our 30 day stay without any problem. Then we will have a year-long visa (more on that later)… And what that means is that our 3 month visa runs will end. And it will mean that our travels will be to places that we have never been! We will not feel it necessary to go somewhere just because they have a Thai Embassy that grants visas anymore, we can go anywhere and start traveling again the way we did before: traveling to experience new cultures, places, and FOOD! I am very excited to see what is in store for us this new year!
Now it’s your turn! What does the temperature outside (or maybe inside if you don’t have a back door either) have to be for you to want a coat? What do you make lists about while you’re traveling? Wait, doesn’t everyone make lists?! They do right? Leave a comment and join in the fun!