Jun 222010

Taipei (Tuesday, June 22, 2010)

The Western Pacific Geophysics Meeting was being held on the East side of Taipei, at the convention center close to the insanely tall Taipei 101 building. After another breakfast of fruit and starch, Chang bundled us into a taxi. The driver dropped us off at the Taipei World Trade Center, which looks very similar to, but is one block short of, the convention center. Once we figured out where we were supposed to be, the kind ladies at the registration desk assisted us in finding Dad’s “board” where he would post his paper. After the application of much sticky two-sided tape, we were done with that and we strolled around looking for a snack. Hot beverages and piles of cakes beckoned but staff made us wait until the first session break when hungry attendees swarmed the area. Around this time, I made my exit.

I headed to Taipei 101 to look around. Taking a shortcut to the back side, I set off security alarms when opening a door. Whoops, let me go around the other side. Although tourists were heading to the elevator for the ride to the viewing levels, I was more interested in a bottle of chilly iced tea. At 11:00 AM, most stores were closed, and I felt fortunate when I eventually found a Family Mart. Back on the street, I headed toward the MRT station to catch a train across town.

It was hot, really hot. I saw vultures circling over head as I lost momentum. Okay, not really, but I lost some time ducking into an air-conditioned mall when it turned out not to have any way to get all the way through. By the time I reached the MRT, I was running late. I compounded the error when I transferred at Taipei’s main station. There are so many different lines heading in the same direction, by the time I figured out that any of them would work, I missed the one I should have taken. But eventually I arrived at the offices of Winkler Partners, a law firm which assists us with Trademark-related matters in Taiwan.

I met up with Mark McVicar, a Canadian who came to Taiwan over a decade ago to learn the language. He recently got married to a woman he met in Taiwan, so it sounds pretty permanent. I got a quick tour of the office, including the living roof (a large portion of it is planted) and rainwater capture system. But we were soon racing across town to beat the rush to a popular restaurant: Din Tai Fung. I’ll admit that in order to avoid ruining the adventure, I did not mention having eaten here before. I took numerous photos of the food as we tried some of the same dumplings, and some new ones. For dessert, we roamed now nearby Yongkang Street to a popular shop serving shaved ice topped with various kinds of sweet stuff. We had their famous “avalanche,” featuring chunks of very ripe mango, mango syrup, and a shot of sweetened condensed milk perched precariously atop a mountain of ice crystals. Don’t wear your best clothes here.

Mark hailed me a taxi and I headed back to the convention center. Well, the driver stopped at the trade center again, so I had to urge him on around the corner, where there seemed to be some kind of police action. In the chaos, I decided not to ask for a receipt. I would regret this later when, after about an hour, I realized that I had left my pocket camera in the taxi. All those lunch photos gone. (Fortunately, the other photos were backed up to the laptop the night before.) Later I would try tourist services to see whether I could make a claim somewhere, but the call was cut off and I just gave up. Hope whoever has my camera is enjoying it.

Meanwhile, back at the conference, Dad surprised me by announcing that he had been hanging out at his poster area for a couple of hours and missed lunch. We dropped in to a place at the trade center which seemed to be closing but which steamed some dumplings for us. Being completely stuffed — with dumplings — I was only able to sample one or two. Not bad. We headed back to the convention center and I wandered the exhibit area while Dad pitched his ideas to others in the poster area. As the day wound down, we peeled the article off the board for potential later use and headed back to Chang’s apartment.

The apartment is close to Yongkang Street, and we returned there for a light meal of sushi from a conveyer belt chain restaurant named Sushi Express. The offerings were of decent quality, but as more customers requested special orders or takeout, the belt stopped being replenished and the selection became uninteresting. To fill up, we headed up the street to Thanh-Ky, a small Vietnamese restaurant jammed with tables. Through a side door, we could see flames from the outdoor kitchen licking around the blackened sides of rounded saucepans. It’s street food with indoor seating. In addition to delicious deep fried imperial rolls, we tried several soups; unfortunately, I can’t recall the details. When we could no longer think about eating, much less eat, we strolled home, stopping once again at the fruit stand for the half price overripe fruits. The feasting would continue in the morning.

At the apartment, we watched the American television series House, which now is out in a huge DVD box set with Chinese subtitles. The maladies were bizarre, and the character interactions inexplicable. Perhaps plausibility was exhausted in earlier seasons? But sadly, it was much easier to recover from dinner on the sofa than to figure out how to pack overnight bags for our trip South in the morning.

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