Archive for the ‘Taiwan’ Category

[Editor’s note: This is the second post in our temporary “Two for Tuesdays” campaign to catch our blog up to near real-time.]

12/6/09: Taipei, Taiwan

Dear Nice Ladies at the Salon,

I’m sorry. I’ve never been to any salon, let alone one in a foreign country. My wife made me come after beating me in poker last night. (We played insane pineapple double board – like Texas Hold’em, but with three down cards and two flops – you should try it sometime. She hit a straight and beat my flush draw.) She was annoyed by the big tuft of hair that the barber in Kathmandu missed last week. Anyway, this is no excuse for my ineptitude.

First, I do know a little Mandarin! I even studied it for three years in middle and high school. I really have no idea what you were saying, but I knew that all I needed to do was answer “Wo yao” and we’d move to the next step of the massage/hair wash/haircut. For some reason though, I froze and the words would not come out. I felt like the kid who passed out at the Spelling Bee last year. Only he got right back up and spelled the word. I stood there like an idiot until you called the other lady over, the one who knew the words “wash hair.” Sorry about that, I know she was busy.

Second, I knew to go back to my chair after the hair wash, I really did. Especially after you motioned me that way for the third time. It’s just that when all the Asian women are getting their hair washed they look the same. So I didn’t realize that it wasn’t Zhou and Tina lying there and I just wanted to see how they were doing. I should have used my eyes to see that Zhou was already back in her seat ready for her hair dry. Sorry about looking creepy there.

Third, I know that when you hold two fingers together and look puzzlingly at me it means that you want to know if I think the length is ok. That’s not even Chinese after all! It’s the same reason Lego’s instruction manuals are always done in pictures, not words – it’s a universal language. Apparently everyone gets it except me. As they say, “One size fits all, unless you have a gigantic head.” And my head is pretty large, as you probably noticed during the cut. My problem though was I wasn’t sure how short I wanted it. I was fine with the old haircut and the big tuft – I wanted to make sure my wife was ok with the length. I’m sorry I made things harder than they should have been.

Lastly, I just wanted to say the back massage, hair wash and hair cut were all very nice, and as unmanly as this is, I quite enjoyed them. I wish you would have charged more, as I feel guilty about paying less than $10 in a city that’s not particularly cheap. However, I will not be going back to a salon anytime soon. When I get back home I have football to watch, iron to pump and lawns to mow. So please don’t think that I’m not returning because I didn’t enjoy it.

Sorry again,


Thought of the Day: In a trip full of new experiences, seeing friends every now and then reminds you how important they are and how you should do everything you can to spend time with them.

Pictures of the Day: It’s hard to walk a block and not find a restaurant with the Curry name in it, but Jo’s House? Now that’s a winner. (Side note: Jo’s House is a loser – it is no longer in business.)


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12/4/09 – 12/6/09: Taipei, Taiwan

I guess Tina was worried that we hadn’t been eating well enough so far on our trip, because she and her boyfriend Michael WOULD NOT stop feeding us. Not that I’m complaining about that.

On Friday, they took us to La Zhong Jian, an all-you-can-eat hot pot place.

Midway through our hour and a half time limit, while Michael and Tina were upstairs filling up a plate with clams, beef, scallops, quail eggs, corn, mushrooms and cabbage, Kevin and I had the following conversation:

Z: So I was thinking for tomorrow –
K: Don’t talk during food time!
Z: What?
K: We’re on a timer! We don’t have time for pleasantries!

Kevin ate until he felt sick (a common Kevin theme at all-you-can-eat places), and I’m sort of proud to tell you that I ate 10 scoops of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. They were very small scoops.

After dinner, we went to a tea house, where we sat for two hours playing Spades and drinking bubble tea. I love Spades, and I love bubble tea, so I was pretty much in heaven.

Then on Saturday, they took us to Kanpai, a grill-your-own-meat barbecue place. The atmosphere was kind of loud and crazy, but the food – I honestly don’t think we’ve had a better meal since we left home.

If you kiss for 10 seconds, they give you a free plate of meat. We're so there.

After dinner, they took us to their favorite gelato place.

Tina and Michael shared a cone, but Kevin and I are anti-sharing, gluttonous pigs.

After that, we went again for Spades and bubble tea. Because our stomachs really needed the exercise.

And then today, before we left, they managed to feed us pancakes and eggs for brunch, hamburgers and fries for lunch and sandwiches and chips for a light afternoon “snack”. You know, so we wouldn’t go hungry on the 20-minute ride to Taipei airport.

Since we started planning the trip earlier last year, we went through a lot of changes in our itinerary. Taiwan was the last country we added, and I don’t know if I can fully express how thankful I am that we decided to do that. It was so wonderful to spend time with Tina and to meet Michael and to hang out with good friends. Really really really wonderful.

Tina and Michael, you guys are awesome and we love you.

P.S. I am still full.

Puzzles for Postcards

Hidden Presidential Surnames (Remember, at least five letters long, can be hidden forward or backward)

After his foul-mouthed rant at the judge, the defendant was unable to retract what he said.
The sun has yet to rise and I am about to go shopping to beat the Black Friday crowds.

Thought of the Day: Stationary stores that sell navy blue Pilot G-2 .5mm gel pens = amazing.

Picture of the Day: We met up with our friend Jessica from Vandy and had bubble tea at Fish House in Ximen, where you sit on swings!

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12/2/09 – 12/3/09: Taipei, Taiwan

You can’t go to Taipei without visiting the tallest building in the world*. To me, Taipei 101 slightly resembles open takeout boxes stacked on top of one another. And they do have a really awesome food court in the basement of Taipei 101. But I’m sure it’s all pure coincidence.

Kevin's long arms made this picture possible. It only took three tries to get Taipei 101 in the background.

We went to the 88th floor of the tallest building in the world* to look at the largest damper in the world*. This would have been more exciting for me if I knew what a damper was. Kevin and I discussed it and decided that it is something that hangs from the top of the building that helps center it and keeps it from swaying when the wind is blowing. This simultaneously made complete sense and no sense at all to me. I mean, just think about it. We’re going to hang this 730-ton ball from the very top of the tallest building in the world*, and this will help STABILIZE the building?


We also went up to the 91st floor to the outdoor viewing deck, where Kevin walked around by the outermost fence to enjoy looking out at the landscape of Taipei while I remained huddled by the door, shouting at him. “Are you SURE this building isn’t going to fall over? Didn’t you see that damper?? Can we go please back down now? Please?”

[Sometimes I have a(n) (ir)rational fear of man-made structures. Like really long bridges, underwater tunnels, small airplanes and tallest buildings in the world*.]

We celebrated our safe descent back to solid ground (on the fastest elevator in the world*) with a yummy dinner at Din Tai Fung, a famous soup dumpling place, with our good friend Tina, who is the most awesome person in the world**. Hi Tina! Tina, with her awesome Chinese reading skills, ordered for us, while I attempted to make a few suggestions. “Something something beef something. Let’s get that!”

We ended the meal, at my request, with an order of three mini sesame buns, one for each of us. At first, Kevin adamantly refused to try the sesame bun, stating as his reason: “It’s black. Foods aren’t supposed to be black!” We finally convinced him to try a small bite of my sesame bun, which, to his immense surprise, he actually liked. The following conversation then occurred:

K: I don’t want the last one though. I’ll just have a little bit of it. Will you split it with me?
Z: Ok.
One minute later
K: I feel so conflicted. It’s black! But it tastes ok…
Two minutes later
K: Ok, I think I can eat this whole thing.

I didn’t know whether to feel really proud or really unhappy. He ate my portion of the sesame bun! But he ATE a sesame bun! (I suppose it must have rankled a little bit, because the next day at lunch when Kevin asked for a bite of my corn dog after having finished his own, I immediately replied, “No! You ate my part of the sesame bun!” What can I say? I am a petty, grudge-holding person.)

The next day, Tina, Kevin and I decided it would be a good idea to rent bikes and ride up to Guangdu along the riverbank. I think this may have been the best idea ever**. I tried to convince Tina to ride tandem with me, but on our one-minute test drive, Tina kept shouting, “Watch out! We’re going to crash!” I guess she didn’t want to spend the next three hours yelling at me, so we each got our own bikes with baskets instead.

I'm having the time of my life. Tina is scared witless, but gamely trying to smile for the camera.

Look Ma, no hands!

We ended the day by sampling the culinary delights of the Shilin night market.

To show you just how far Kevin has come, food-wise, in the last three months: after having stretching his mental limits to eat an entire sesame bun only one day before, he still had the mental capacity to try: 1) congealed pig’s blood on a stick and 2) stinky tofu.

I am so, so proud.

*Although the superlatives are no longer technically true since Burj Dubai is breaking all the world records for everything, Kevin maintains that Burj Dubai doesn’t count as the superlative anything in the world because 1) as I type this, it’s not open yet and 2) Dubai is making the stock markets go crazy.
**This superlative is true.


Thought of the Day: Every city should have diagonal pedestrian crosswalks at major intersections. It’s awesome.

Picture of the Day: Kevin jumps over the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall.

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