Once I was back at school on Tuesday after the my adventure in Chaiyi and Taipei, the rest of my week was spent in anxious anticipation for the arrival of Winnie, my best friend from college. She’s spending a month abroad traveling with another friend of in Asia and she managed to work out her schedule so that she could spend a week in Taiwan visiting me! Although I knew I’d be working for most of the week, I did my best to plan out a packed weekend in Taipei hitting up all the main tourist attractions.
10/26 Winnie’s Arrival!
On Friday I took a train to Taipei city and met Winnie at our hostel for the weekend. It was easy enough to imagine her being in Taiwan but it kind shocked me when she was actually there standing right in front of me. It was as if my life back in the States had finally collided with my new life in Taiwan. It was in this moment that I realized how much I’ve changed and grown since graduating 1/2 a year ago.
For one, I feel much more confident in myself and my ability to navigate new and challenging situations. Although I’m embarrassed to admit it, throughout my time at Bates I hardly had to do anything to take care of myself. I relied on the Bates meal plan during the school year, and my college roommates handled most of the upkeep of our house (I just cleaned when it was my turn and payed my rent every month). I navigated a short 1/2 mile walking distance to class, the dining hall, and occasionally traveled off campus with Carter or other friends to romp around in the mountains or by the ocean. I realize how much more independent I’ve become. Since coming to Taiwan I’ve been faced with many different challenges that haven’t always been easy to solve, yet I’ve been resourceful and used my (limited) Chinese to find a solution. I’m not afraid to converse with others in Chinese, something that was always a struggle for me even when studying abroad in China.
However, at the same time seeing Winnie suddenly threw me back to being in my senior year at Bates College. I realized how much I’ve missed being with my friends from home and how easy it was to slide back to the same conversations and habits from before.
The first night, we went the night market and reminisced about sailing as we often do. I made a vow to myself that I would introduce Winnie to all my fave foods from Taiwan so we started out strong with some scallion pancakes (蔥油餅) and bubble tea (珍珠奶茶). We also tried some real good sweet potato balls which I haven’t had before. We didn’t stay out too late because I knew she was tired and we had a big adventure planned for the next day. We were going to the Pride Parade in Taipei, the biggest gay celebration in all of Asia.
10/27 Chiang Kai-shek Memorial and Pride Parade
We started out the morning by going to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial in Taipei. It was only a short metro ride from the hostel and coincidentally, was right near the start of the parade. I hadn’t been before and I was pretty shocked by the pure size of memorial. There are several gates and one large structure in the middle of the square. There was a construction project on the main structure so you couldn’t quite see the intricate stone carvings but despite this it was still pretty awe-inspiring. Amy and I walked to the top of the large structure and found two guards standing there. We unfortunately missed the change of guard but it was still very cool! Next we walked through the museum and learned more about the role Chiang Kai-shek played in Taiwanese democracy and independence. The last thing we did was walk around the grounds of Liberty Square, around the outside of the structures.
After touring the memorial, Winnie and I met up with Francis, an ETA from Yilan that also went to Bates. Together we made our way to the parade route. Somehow we got wedged between the gate and the starting point and couldn’t move, much to the dismay of the traffic director who was insisting that we get out of the way. However, we had front row seats which was quite nice! And we kept getting free stickers, face paint, and ribbons.
After the parade was over it took us about 30 minutes to get across the street and out of the crowd because there were so many people! We walked around for a bit and got some food with some of the other ETAs that had traveled to Taipei for the parade. Although we had ambitious plans both Winnie and I were pretty tired and so after hitting up the night market for a second time we decided to go to bed for the night.
10/28 Maokong and 鼎泰豐
The next day we went to Maokong, the same place that I went to last time in Taipei. Once again it was pretty spectacular and this time we rode the crystal floor gondola up to the top. I got one of the macha ice cream desserts I’ve been craving ever since I didn’t get one during the last trip. We also walked to the temple this time which had a spectacular view of all of Taipei.
When we got back, we went to the Taipei 101 district for dinner. Francis had suggested that we go to Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐), the most famous soup dumpling restaurant in all of Taiwan. The entire basement of Taipei 101 was a cafeteria and a large area was devoted to this restaurant. Winnie and I waited in line for only about 1/2 an hour which is pretty lucky. We had the most spectacular soup dumplings I have ever eaten. This is actually the second time I’ve been to this restaurant (which is an internationally famous chain). The first time was when I was in Taichung during high school.
More than anything, what I wanted to show Winnie was Hualien, the place in Taiwan where I spent the vast majority of my time. Check out my next post to hear about our Hualien adventures!