Into Taiwan

Monday, September 10th, 2012

  • I’m in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, ready to explore another country and culture. Travelling as I do, without a guide book or anything that resembles a plan, I have no real idea what lies ahead but that’s all part of the adventure.

    After settling into my temporary digs for the next few days, I went out and did a little lite exploring before heading to the Shilin Night Market. As introductions go, this market was a really great way to meet Taiwan. Bursting with energy, the colorful market overwhelms your senses from the moment you arrive there.

    The lanes were lined with stores and various food vendors selling a host of different foods from ‘frog eggs’ to Squids on sticks, and fruit to dumplings. I moved slowly through the crowds merging from one musical cloud to the next as the various places blasted their choice of tunes into the night air that was often full of the aroma of something similar to marzipan, though I never found out what that was.

    Unlike other Asian night markets I’ve been to, there were a lot of stalls where locals feverishly played games that I had no understanding of. There was also a strange stage show going on with a woman dressed in traditional clothes singing a slow warbling song while some old man pinned money to red flags behind her.

    At one point I ended up getting some kind of massage that involved me being beaten with a stick for ten minutes, starting with my head and ending at my bum! There were a lot of locals having the same ‘massage’ and many more waiting, but I can assure you it was not at all relaxing.

    “You bad neck,” The ‘therapist’ told me as he felt my shoulders before the massage. “After you feel no pain here I think,” He assured me. Of course, he was right, after the massage I generally felt pain all over and not just in one specific place!

    It would, of course, be hard to find any one picture that could define this opening night in Taiwan. I’ve chosen a picture of people ‘shrimping’ because this is clearly very popular here, or at least in this night market. For twenty Taiwan dollars (UK 45p, US 70c) you buy a small fishing rod that has a hook on the end. You then try to catch as many shrimp as you have the time to collect. Your catch will then be grilled for you to eat. That might sound easy enough, but after a brief try myself I can assure you it is not at all easy. No shrimp for me but I’m not at all disappointed with this introduction to Taiwan.