The first week of May in Japan consists of a series of holidays lumped together called Golden Week that effectively give everybody the week off. We've decided to spend our Golden Week in Taipei, Taiwan. It's been a while since we've been dumped into a country were we've had zero language ability. I think I'm physically incapable of controlling the tone of my voice. If anyone's witnessed the horror of me playing the Rock Band video game on vocals, you'd know I fail even the easy level. Thus, tonal languages are not for me. Thankfully transportation has been ridiculously easy thus far. The subway is very simple, and, unlike Tokyo, the maps are always bilingual. Weirdly enough our travel agent booked us at a hotel catered to Japanese cliental, but I guess it's nice to have everything in a language we can sort of read instead of one we can't read at all.
So far, we've been EATING. Taiwan is incredibly vegetarian friendly. This afternoon we planned to have lunch a fancy veggie buffet but our map was wrong. Once we had given up and started to search for a different place to eat we actually passed a tiny dive of a vegetarian shop. This has never happened when we've traveled before. Thankfully we've memorized the characters for vegetarian restaurant. As we stood looking confused at the menu painted on the wall, a woman came up and spoke nearly perfect English and offered to help us order. Greg ended up with a veggie beef bowl and I had some sesame noodles. Our massive meals were only about a $1.50 each. That's another thing I'm loving about this place; it's so cheap. I've heard it's expensive compared to most of Asia but compared to Japan I feel positively rich here. I bought a giant cup of tea for $1 and used my new favorite food selection method of smiling and pointing randomly at the menu. It's worked great so far.
After lunch we went to the Miniatures Museum of Taiwan, which basically consisted of many impressive dollhouse scenes. Weirdly enough, most of them seemed to have been built by bored mid western Americans. Here's a tiny playroom:
There was one that looked like a crazy cat house, complete with litter box using kitties:
After that we hit up an electronics market and then we went to Taipei 101, the former tallest building in the world. The world's fastest elevator shot us up to the 91st floor in 37 seconds flat. The weather wasn't great, so here's the best shot I could get:
Visibility decreased rapidly beyond that point. You also get to see the Super Big Wind Damper that keeps the building from tipping over. Yes, that's the official title.
Then we headed to a vegan hot pot place and ordered entirely too much food. The concerned and friendly English speaking waiter had to walk us through what to do because we are useless foreigners. I went with the super spicy Szechwan pot and although my mouth was on fire it was divine.
Other observations thus far:
- The smells are intense. Japan never really smells like anything but walking down the street here it goes from intensely horrible to intensely awesome and back again every few seconds
- Traffic is insane. There is not an inch of sidewalk without a scooter parked on it. We've nearly gotten hit a few times and we already witnessed an accident.
- I've seen a few stray dogs but it's weirdly not depressing. They're really friendly and well fed so I think street vendors look out for them.