Taiwanese Adventure V: Markets, Dinosaurs, & Saying Goodbye

Day VII: Wedding & Night Markets

We had a very busy day between the Wedding during the day and our night at the Shilin Night Market. (they got seperate entries)

This picture was taken outside of the Market.

Day VIII: Our last full day in Taiwan

Bright and early, Darren, Hildo and I headed out to the Jade Market in search of a gift for Hildo’s wife and a piece of jade for me.

The Jade market is attached to the Flower market, both of which are open only on Saturday and Sunday.

As our taxi dropped us off on the Flower side of the market, we wandered through it first.

The market has a huge orchid selection, and a large area is misted for their well-being.

The markets are huge. The volume of choice was a bit overwhelming, really.

After a while, Hildo found a pair of earrings, and an interesting jar, both of which he purchased.

I found this bit of jade on the right, and we headed back to the hotel to collect Bill, whom we were supposed to bring to the market with us, only he had slept a little late.

The Jade Market sells many pendants which one can have threaded onto a string. I chose a red one, which I was advised is traditional.

I was easily convinced to go back to the maket so that he and Peter could also do a bit of shopping while Hildo and Darren found us a suitable lunch venue.
Thus, more shopping and an excellent sashimi lunch followed.

(naturally, with beer!)

After lunch, we went on a wander towards the Confucius temple.
Unfortuantely, the temple was occupied by a dance off.

There was a lengthy wander to find various sites, which were inaccessible due to construction.

The adventure ended with a can of delicious blueberry lactic acid at the museum’s very air conditioned cafe.

We later headed out to the dinosaur and native American themed Indian Beer Hall, which as you can see from its exterior held lots of promise.

Upon entering the venue, we crossed a koi pond via a bridge with teeth!

The koi pond also contained a large skeleton, the tail of which goes over the bridge.

Heading upstairs delivered even more dinosaurs, even in the bathrooms!

We settled in to order, and enjoyed both the ease of the English menu and the interesting variety of cusine offered.

…and of course, we enjoyed the dinosaurs!
…and we definitely enjoyed the beer!

Day IX: Saying goodbye to Taipei

We headed to the airport after many goodbyes and an excellent breakfast.

As we had a bit of extra time, we stopped into the Starbucks at the airport, and in an effort to find something local, ordered green tea lattes. Admittedly, I seldom set food in a SBX, so while this beverage might exist back home, my assertion that it doesn’t is based on very limited exposure. It was very green.

Caffeinated as one can be from a bright green latte, we exchanged our remaining Taiwanese Dollars for Hong Kong Dollars, and made our way to the gate, beginning our journey home.

Hong Kong Dollars are especially pretty, and they kept us entertained in the next airport!


Taiwanese Adventure, Part IV: Taiwanese Wedding!

Attending a wedding of this tradition was a first for me, and as I failed to find a good account of the various rituals involved, I thought it might be nice to create one. If I’ve gotten some of this wrong, definitely let me know!

Wandering around Taipei, I kept seeing the same adverstisement for a wedding venue. It made me wonder, is this what a Taiwanese wedding looks like? I mean, would our friends dance on a giant cake? arrive at the reception by descending from the sky on a shiny platform? I sure hoped so!

We headed to the Silks Palace at the National Palace Museum in Taipei for the big event.

As the wedding we attended had guests coming from far and wide, the bride and groom opted to have their engagment ceremony and wedding all in the same day and in the same location. Cleverly, a lot of the steps and location changes were represented by changing rooms within the venue; although as a lot of the dialogue and instruction was in Mandarin, my interpretation may not be 100%.

As I understand it:

The engagement process is kicked off when the groom shows up at the bride’s house, possibly with six cars, a dowry in a red envelope, and a boom box playing Peter Gabriel’s, “In Your Eyes”.

Really, It looks a bit more like this:
(Lots of red ribbons for luck!)

Assuming that all goes well, the bride goes with the groom, the six cars, and the boombox to the groom’s parents’ home, where she makes tea for them. Assuming the tea is up to snuff, the groom’s parents will express their support of the union through further contributions to the dowry in red envelopes placed atop their empty teacups.

During the engagement process, gifts of gold are given by the parents to their new daughter or son in law, an engagement ring is given (to be worn in the middle finger), and the couple to be exchange six gifts.

Numbers are very important. The six cars, the six gifts… the wedding party will consist of two or six, but mustn’t have four, as fours are very unlucky.

Then, the bride’s mother will consult the calendar and use the bride and groom’s birthdates to determine the luckiest date for their union.

The marriage ceremony itself was very simple and beautiful. From what I gathered, it is where the parents of the bride give their final blessing, and the bride says goodbye to her parents. Traditionally, this is where the bride will leave home and join her husband’s family. It was a very emotional thing to observe. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room. (I’m a sap and could take few pictures)

After that, it’s festivity time!

We headed up to the reception, where we, too, offered our gifts in red envelopes as well. We were advised that to not give any sum that contained a four or to give four bills.

Gifts are given prior to the reception, and typically one gives a sum of money which should cover the expense of attendance at the dinner.
The money from both sides is counted and recorded in a register.

Finding our seats was a bit of a challenge on the floorplan to the right! With a little help, we made our way to our seats and settled in.

Would the bride and groom arrive atop giant cake on hydraulics?

As it happens, they didn’t, but there were lots of bubbles for the bride and her father!

Traditionally, a reception will consist of a massive, multi-course feast. This one had twelve courses of wonderful food, some of which is below:

Including a little sweet for dessert!

I will go back and explain what all these dishes are, but if I don’t just publish this now, I’ll not do it for at least another week!

Unlike Western weddings, and much to the joy of my husband, there is no dancing.

Another interesting thing about a Chinese wedding:

The bride changes her dress three times during the festivities. Dresses are rented, rather than purchased.

(This was a Western-style wedding, which means a white dress was worn.)

During the feast, the wedding party visits each table and toasts with them.
The toast is done with two hands, with one hand on the bottom of the glass.
As a typical wedding is very large, many people will drink juice instead, as else, the wedding party might be needed to fireman carry the new couple around.

At the end of the festivities, we found that the only guests shuffling around and awkwardly engaging in lengthy, protracted goodbyes were the westerners. The local guests took their leave, right on cue.

We headed out ourselves with two red boxes to investigate back at the hotel…

Taiwanese Adventure, part III (back to Taipei)

Day V: Back to Taipei

Picking up where we left off, Thursday we hopped on the HSR for the two hour train ride back to Taipei.

Arriving around four, we settled back in, and got ready for the evening.

Our first stop in the evening was another of the 100TWD a plate restaurants for a lengthy dinner. Fortunately, we got a waitress who spoke some English!

Peter even showed off his chopstick skills before we went on a semi-successful bar hunt.

So, it wasn’t a bar, but a Chicago-style steakhouse.
Taiwan didn’t seem to have many bars, so we had to expand our definition.

We drank enough that Bill‘s hand vanished and then we walked home, enjoying a snicker at the,
“Sandy Ho Big Shoes for Ladies”.

Day VI: Achievement

Prior to the trip, Hildo sent around this slideshow in the Guardian, which summarized some of Taipei’s many theme restaurants.

We decided to visit out first, The Hello Kitty restaurant, for lunch.

We joined the other waiting people, who were looking at the massive cake display, and we took our place on a hot pink couch for a bit.

We basked in the sugary glow of many a Hello Kitty cake…

…until it all went awry. Hungry Time arrived for Hildo, and there was no going back.

It was a bit like when the Hulk transforms, only there was no violence or green.

We headed to the Italian restaurant next door, and thanks to
some foccacia, peace was restored in our time.

Our entrees were delicious!

Our next stop, Taipei 101 is currently the tallest building on Earth.

It has two observation decks on the 89th floor, and one takes the Guiness Record- holding elevators to get there.

While enjoying the very brief elevator ride, one can watch one’s ascent/ descent, complete with snazzy animation, on the display to the left.

The building’s design was modelled after a stalk of bamboo. There are eight sections, as eight is considered a very lucky number.

The view from the top is impressive, even on a very overcast day:

as is the view from inside:

Later in the day, we headed out to a restaurant that Bill (check out his site) found, Five Dime.

The restaurant is full of carved driftwood and other art by the restaurant’s owner.

The food was excellent; although we didn’t have a seat next to the koi pond.

A Night in Taipei, Sans Bill

This evening, our friend Bill chose karaoke with the wedding crew over a trip to the Shilin Night Market, here in Taipei.

He missed out on quite a bit! After a brief wander around the market, Darren, Hildo, and I spotted a friend of his

Naturally, we had to liberate him from that arcade, and we did with a bit of clever work from Darren.

After all that hard work, refreshments were in order!

But only for a little while, as there was much more to do and see this evening!

There were kittens,
waffles on sticks to purchase,
frog eggs, wow! to drink,

and strange t-shirts to browse!

After we had checked it all out, we decided to take our new friend on the MRT…

... after which we discovered a fish tank in the local subway stop!

The next and final stop was our hotel, to rest up for tomorrow’s adventures!

I wonder how karaoke was…

Taiwanese Adventure, Part I (Taipei)

To give a bit of background…

… a very dear friend and former flatmate of mine (the groom, Roland) found a fantastic woman (Vera) and managed to convince her to marry him.

This resulted in a Zimbabwean-Taiwanese wedding in the midst of typhoon season in Taipei, Taiwan, to which we had the honor of being invited.

Naturally, we said yes. We packed our bags and a set of swim fins, and we headed to Taiwan.
Little did we know, we’d be in for a spot of bad weather, but we still had plenty of good company.

Day I:

After 16 hours in flight, not including our 2 hour stop in Hong Kong, we arrived in Taipei at night.

We arrived at our hotel, quickly unpacked, and headed downstairs to a Japanese restaurant before meeting our friends, whose wedding we had made this mighty trek to witness and the groom’s parents (Christine & Ian), whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know while travelling in Zimbabwe.

It was then that we learned that there really aren’t a lot of bars in Taipei. As it happens, the Taiwanese are not genetically evolved drinkers, which means that gathering at a bar isn’t much fun the next day for most locals. The groom’s parents proudly advised is that this was not cause for concern, as they had found that the presence of a 7-11 on every corner made it easy to make one’s own bar. (Check out the 7-11 link, as Taiwanese 7-11 looks like far more fun than American 7-11.)

That’s right, parents told us to go get beer at the 7-11 and bring it back to their room. Naturally, We did as we were told.

Day II:

Day 2 kicked off with free hotel breakfast and plans to rendez-vous with the groom mid-day.

We took the MRT (pictured to the right) to visit the both the Longshan Temple and the Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall.

The MRT (Metropolitan Rapid Transit), pictured to the right, is super clean and wonderfully efficient. It even has very cute tickets!

Inside of Longshan Temple, one could purchase items of food to offer as a gift to the gods, and many people burned incense. Our friend Rachel was randomly given soup by a woman who insisted that it was for Rachel and not for Rachel to place near one of the shrines. Unfortuantely, I failed to document said soup.

The temple itself is very beautiful and ornate, as you can see from these pictures.
It’s really quite amazing to look at.

The Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall is located in a large square which is also home to the National Theater, The Gate of Great Centrality & Perfect Uprightness (Freedom Gate) and the National Concert Hall.

The building is quite tall and houses a museum to Chang Kai Shek’s life in the ground floor, which we wandered around before heading to the memorial at the top.

This is the view of the square from the top of the stairs:

Inside of the memorial is a large statue (and Ian & Darren):

inside the museum, you can see, but as the sign sternly advises, not touch or enter Chang Kai Shek’s official cars

After all that history, we headed to what is known as the best dumpling shop in Taipei for Xiao Long Bao (aka: soup dumplings).

Conveniently, they do provide directions on how to properly enjoy the dumplings on a laminated card. (The other side is in Japanese, as Taiwan has many Japanese tourists).

We ordered many dumplings (pictured), vegetable & pork buns, and at the end, a red bean bun (pictured, bisected).

After all that, we headed back to the hotel for a bit of quiet time before meeting up with the bride, groom, and groom’s family for dinner.

We headed out to one of a number of “100” restaurants which seemingly dot the city. These often independent, casual restaurants sell small plates (as displayed in the pictures) intended for sharing for 100 TWD each. Much eating did follow, as did a 7-11 run.