Friday, March 30, 2007

la isla bonita

For our last full day in Taipei, we headed up to Danshui, the end of the MRT line and the place where the river empties into the sea.

An old port town, Danshui is the home of a university, and several forts dating from the times of Dutch and Portuguese trade and expansionism. One of these forts is Fort San Domingo. Though it's not an incredibly striking building, it was interesting to learn about the local history and especially the role the Dutch East India company played in opening China to trade. Again we were able to borrow English earphone guides, this time for a rental fee. Though they were helpful, they were not as thorough and polished as those at the 2-28 Museum; most of the information coming out through the headphones was written, sometimes verbatim, on the posters scattered around the fortress grounds.

After visiting the fortress and walking up and down the boardwalk, looking at the ocean, we tarried for a few minutes in the market streets. We were able again to find boba coffee, which was exciting, this time writing down the characters for what we wanted on another scrap of paper and showing it to the juice john. Chewing on tapioca pearls, we made our way back to Danshui station. Though we had sighted a veggie restaurant sign on our walk, the shop was closed.

Back in the city, we disembarked from the subway at Minquan West Road, intending to check out Caves bookstore, the notable English language bookstore. Unfortunately, again, they didn't have much in the way of Taiwanese lit in translation - perhaps a few countable on one hand, and very expensive. We then found a veg restaurant with a buffet - Song Ching - where we enjoyed a very fresh, cheap, and varied heaping helping of dinner.

We had planned to go to see Chinese opera at Taipei Eye - the LP had said there were performances on Thursday through Saturday evenings. Showing up about an hour before the supposed showtime, though, we were disappointed to find out that the LP had been wrong: showings are only scheduled on Friday and Saturday nights. As it was our last full day in Taiwan, we had missed our chance. Note to self: write LP and tell them about this mistake in their guidebook.

We headed again to the Shida night market, as it was the same neighborhood as the cafe we had been told to visit, Mo!Relax, owned by some friends of friends. This was a great place, and the young proprietors Dizzy and ShiChi were so super cool and friendly. He's a designer, she's a translator, and they use the cafe as an office, working on their own projects at the same time as overseeing the business. When we went, all the tables were full of friendly lounging hipsters, many with laptops. Definitely a rad place to hang out, feeling more like a living room than a cafe, with a homey atmosphere and shelves full of cds and design books. I'm in the process of co-writing an article about these guys for Ping Magazine, so more on them to come. But in the meantime, an excellent place to check out if you find yourself in Taipei.

At about one a.m. we said our goodbyes, laden with gifts from the gregarious couple, and caught a cab back to our hotel for a few winks before having to pack up and head back to Tokyo.

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