Sunday, August 26, 2007

Taipei Tales- Part Two

After spending the better part of the first day lying around in the hotel room while the boy attended his conference we headed out to town in the evening to visit the Dutch fort of San Domingo in Danshui. Unfortunately the Fort closes at 5:00 pm so we made the best of our time there by hanging out near the Danshui waterfront/Fisherman's Wharf . The waterfront has the organic feel of Mumbai beaches with young people walking around with ice cream, shops selling knick knacks and alleyways with old chinese herb shops. If you are into cheap bracelet-y things then the waterfront shops here will make you feel like the proverbial kid in a candy store...with money to spend!

~Sunset at Fisherman's Wharf, Danshui
Next stop was the famous Shilin Night Market which is conveniently located under the Shilin MRT bridge. A night market is a big bazaar which continues well into the late hours. The one at the Shilin is specially famous for its snack vendors. A combination of my seafood allergy and a lack of English signs made the food here very overwhelming for us. We settled for a McDonald's instead. It was the culinary low point of the entire trip but the folks manning the McDonald's were super nice and went out of their way to make us feel comfortable. Later on the Boy stacked up on his Engrish teashirts (Baby Drink Topics Beer, anyone!).

~ Crowds at the Shilin Night Market

Transportation in and around Taipei happens to be quiet efficient and contrary to public opinion and Lonely Planet , one can travel around quite a bit with the help of a bilingual map, some name cards* and good pointing skills. Never attempt to pronouce place names and you might as well forget the concept of street names, it will not get you anywhere. After three days, we realised why the taxi drivers would look confused when we mentioned Grand Hotel, yet one look at the name card and we would be there in a jiffy. You see the Chinese word for this hotel is Yuanshan da fandian, which translates to big hotel in Yuanshan. Street names on the other hand deserve a post of their own along with why Lonely Planet rules. The Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is highly efficient and covers the city extensively. Station names, announcements and ticketing is done in both languages. There is also a bus system but here only the bus numbers are in English. One is better off taking a taxi from the nearest MRT station as taxi fares are quite cheap.

* these are business cards written out in both English and Chinese scripts.

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