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Welcome to Day 2 of Janet and Randy's Taipei Adventure 2018

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

After falling asleep so early the night before, I ended up waking at at 3:15am.  I tried to go back to sleep, but finally got up at 4:15am and decided to catch up on my journal in the living area of our suite.

However, the living area did not have any individual lamps, so as I was trying various light switches to turn on the lights, apparently one of the switches next to the entrance turned on lights in the bedroom.  So, I ended up waking up Randy as well (oops!). I was somewhat awake anyways.  So, I spent a couple of  hours catching up on the journal and organizing photos.

At 5:45am, Randy decided to go for a run.  He got back in time to shower up and be ready for when the club lounge opened for breakfast at 7:00am.  We got up there just as it was opening, and Dennis met us there a few minutes later.  For breakfast, the club lounge put on quite a spread (very impressive for a club lounge - and one of the best ones I've seen).  There was bacon and sausages, made to order eggs/omelettes, pastries, meats and cheeses, smoked salmon and fruit.  There was also some grilled pork with ginger soy sauce, and a baked potato with meat sauce casserole (which Randy dubbed the "potato lasagna, as the consistency was similar to lasagna).  Both were really good.  The service in the club lounge is amazing.  They brought us tea and coffee, and as soon as we happened to be finished with a plate or glass, it was whisked away.

We sat and chatted for a while, then went to check out the fitness centre and outdoor pool - which was on the same floor as the club lounge.  We then decided we should go try to buy some sunscreen, as the weather was going to be quite hot.  We hadn't brought sunscreen with us as we only did carry-on, and it's hard to find travel-sized sunscreen at home.  We went across the street to Family Mart, but it was quite a small store and didn't have any sunscreen.  So, Randy and I went to the Starbucks next door to the hotel to get a latte for Randy and wait until the Carrefour opened at 9:00am. There is always a challenge of ordering when in a different country/language.  But the workers here are pros

Shortly after 9:00am, the three of us wandered over to the Carrefour.  We managed to find the sunscreen section.  There was a large selection, but 95% of the sunscreen was 50 SPF with whitening properties.  We finally managed to find a 27 SPF (odd number) that didn't specifically say whitening - but we didn't know for sure as there was very little English on the bottle.  Dennis picked up a bottle of the same sunscreen as well.  We wandered around the food section for a bit.  There was no one else in the store, but it was 9:00am on a Monday.  We were even asked by a fellow shopper if we needed help - very friendly people here.  We paid for our purchases and then headed back to the hotel.

As it was starting to warm up, Randy and I put on our bathing suits and headed to the pool, while Dennis decided to go work out a bit.  Once Dennis finished his work-out, he came to sit with us at the pool for a bit.  We hung out until about 11:30am, when the sun went behind the building and the pool was in shade.  We rinsed off, then met Dennis downstairs in the lobby.

Dennis was moving to a different hotel - the Sheraton Grand Taipei for the rest of the week.  So, we took a taxi to the hotel for him to check in.  His room wasn't ready yet, so he just left his luggage at the hotel, and we went to hit up a nearby Starbucks for some drinks.  We had a food tour planned for 2:00pm, and the meeting place was about a 20 minute walk from his hotel.  The plan was to wander through the Peace Park and Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial on our way to the food tour.

On our way, we decided to stop at a Starbucks near the main train station.  This Starbucks had seating areas on the 2nd and 3rd floors, so we grabbed some drinks and got some window seats on the 3rd floor.  After finishing our drinks, we walked a couple blocks to the Peace Park.  The park is a nice green space with little ponds and lots of trees.  At one end of the park, there was this play area with various contraptions to work out/play on.  So, of course we had to try a couple of them out.

By this time, it was just after noon, and the temperature was around 30 degrees.  So, it was a little warm out.  We tried to stay in the shade where possible, but at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial - there was just wide open space.  We didn't stay too long there anyway - as we had to continue to the meeting spot for the tour.

Due to Dennis's excellent navigation skills, we arrived at the meeting spot (Dongman Station) at exactly 2:00pm.  Our guide's name was Judy.  She was born in Taiwan, but grew up in Vancouver, and moved back to Taiwan later.  For the food described below, refer to my Taipei Food Tour folder in the photos link.

Our tour basically took us in a big circle around the Dongman Station area.  We started at a little food cart about half a block from the station.  This cart sold sian bing - which is a generic term for pastries.  There were different flavours you could get - cabbage, red bean, pork, daikon radish and chive.  Randy got the pork, Dennis got the cabbage, and I got the chive.  Along with the main ingredient, they were filled with clear rice noodles and egg. They were very tasty.

We continued down a back street and we were walking past a fruit vendor that happened to have some limes on display.  Judy was explaining to us in Taiwan, lemons are called limes, and limes are called lemons.  The fruit vendor then offered us a fruit called a canistel.  We had never heard of a canistel, and neither had Judy.  The fruit vendor cut up a fruit for us to try.  It tastes like a cooked sweet potato - which was very interesting.  Judy liked it so much, she bought some for herself.

Just a little further down the street, Judy took us to a restaurant that serves fish ball soup.  The dough that the balls are made of include fish paste to give it a slightly fishy flavour.  The dough is then wrapped around some minced pork.  It was really good.  Even Dennis liked it, and he isn't a huge fish lover.  Judy had also ordered a dish of dry noodles.  The noodle dish had bean sprouts and garlic.  However, it was a little too much garlic for my liking - and I couldn't eat very much of the noodles.

When Judy does morning food tours, a trip to a local market would be included.  However, since we weren't able to start until the afternoon, the market was already closed.  But she still managed to find some other places for us to eat.  And going later was actually better for places like the fish ball soup restaurant - as during lunch it is super busy.

Our next step was a vegetarian food stand.  She ordered us a vegetarian wrap to share.  We had a choice of sitting there and eating it, or taking it to go.  As we were quite full already, we decided to get it to go.  We continued on our tour, and the next food stop was for green onion pancake.  I thought that this would be similar to the green onion cakes we have at home, but this was more like a wrap with green onion, cucumber and hoisin beef in it.  Again, it was delicious.

While we were waiting for the green onion pancake to be made, Judy popped a few stores down to pick up some strawberry mochi for us to have later.  Mochi is a little dessert dumpling with red bean paste on the inside.  This version of mochi also had a whole strawberry.  Again, we were quite full, so we just took it to have later.

The green onion pancake place was right next door to a scooter repair place.  So, we had an ambiance of scooter exhaust (and noise) while we ate.  In Taipei, a lot of people ride scooters, and you see them parked all over the sidewalks.  So, you also see a lot of scooter repair places.

We wandered around some residential area, and then went to a place for a different type of bing (pastry).  I had the sesame flavour, Randy had red bean, and Dennis had the pork.  Again, they were all delicious.  We continued on to a restaurant that serves Japanese specialties.  Judy purchased us a dish of tomato wedges with a ginger sauce.  Again, we were really full, so we got them to go.

After wandering around for almost 3 hours, were getting a little tired and thirsty, so Judy took us to a boba (bubble) tea place.  Randy got an earl grey milk tea with the boba (jelly) in it.  I got a green tea with boba, that also had some citrus slices in it.  It was really good to sit down as we had done a lot of walking throughout the day. 

We had a nice chat with Judy, and then she walked us a short distance back to the same train station we had started at.  We said goodbye and then started walking to Dennis's hotel.  By this time, our feet were quite sore, and Randy was hobbling along by the time we actually arrived at the hotel (as he had gone for a run in the morning, he had logged more miles than the rest of us).

Dennis got his room key, and we went up to his room to relax for a bit.  We were all too full to even think about supper - but we did cut up one of the strawberry mochi to try it.  It was really tasty.  We left the tomato wedges with Dennis.  He ate them later and said that the tomato wedges were just like any tomato wedges, and that the ginger sauce was a much stronger ginger flavour than he is used to.  Randy and I took the vegetarian wrap back to our room, but we didn't eat it as we were way too full.

After hanging out with Dennis for a bit, we took a taxi back to our hotel.  The early morning and jet lag were really getting to me, and I was very tired by the time we got back (around 7:00pm).  Both of us were feeling quite crotchety from all the walking, so Randy did some research and found a foot massage place that was just across the street from our hotel.  He went downstairs and got the concierge to phone and make an 8:00pm reservation for us.  I was so tired that I almost fell asleep waiting the half an hour until our appointment.

When it was time to head over, we decided to take a different exit from the hotel.  We hadn't seen much of the hotel other than the reception area and the path from the door to the elevators.  So, we were quite surprised to find that further back on the main floor of the hotel was this huge marketplace area, with food places and stores various types of merchandise.  We didn't stop as we were on our way to our appointment, but we would have to go back and spend some more time checking it out.

We arrived at the foot massage place, and it appeared that we were the only customers at that time.  This was quite a fancy place.  We were shown to some chairs where we took off our shoes and were given slippers, hot towels and a cup of tea.  We then were guided over to the foot baths, where we soaked our feet in warm water (which felt SO good), and were given about a 15 minute foot massage.  Then we were sent over to these big arm chairs and ottomans where they actually performed the main massage that lasted for 45 minutes.  The massage felt really good, and it definitely made a big difference for us (although due to our tiredeness - I was having difficulty staying awake).  Once the massage was over, they brought us a fruit plate with some cherry tomatoes, pineapple and some fruit that tasted like a cross between an apple and a pear.  I have no idea what it was, but it was good.

Because of the area that we were staying in, the foot massage probably cost more than some other places.  But for $40 (CDN), I felt like we definitely got our money's worth.

We were finished the massage just after 9:00pm.  We headed back to our room, and went straight to bed.  Randy had turned on the TV and came across an episode of Mayday that coincidentally had to do with an airplane crash here in Taipei.  The crash was at the city airport that is not far from our hotel.  I tried to stay up to watch the ending, but finally conked out at 9:45pm.

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