Taipei (Sunday, June 27, 2010)
I had run out of cash, and through extensive web searching discovered that my credit union network had a member nearby. With all the lights, however, it took quite a while to reach, and on the way back I decided to cross against lights to save time. This almost was the last decision I made, because in Taipei there are numerous lanes going in unexpected directions, and I unknowingly darted out in front of an oncoming car, fortunately not two seconds too late.
We had become old hands at the HSR, but first we had to get to the station. Not all taxi drivers understood “Taipei main station,” so again it was Google Maps to the rescue. Since we had time to stand in line, we were able to take advantage of a senior discount for Dad, which made the business class fare more manageable. Another trip, another pound cake.
Tainan (Sunday, June 27, 2010)
The Tainan HSR station is not actually in Tainan, but there are frequent shuttle buses to the old train station in the center of town. A man coming from the direction of the buses waved for us to let him haul our luggage. But of course, he was a cab driver, and he wasn’t too surprised when we told him that no, we wanted the bus. The shuttle stops on the far side of the train station from our hotel, so we caught a taxi to the front door.
The hotel, Shangri-la’s Far Eastern Plaza, is so new that it is not listed in either of our guide books. The standard rooms were sold out, so I booked the horizon club level, which meant checking in with a private front desk on the 24th floor. Since our room wasn’t ready, they offered to hold our bags while we went out to lunch. When we lingered in the lounge to review options, they rushed in with news: we were upgraded to a room on the 35th floor that was ready now. This is hospitality. With two king beds and a desk, the couch was in perfect position to trip someone, but we managed. After a little unpacking and cleanup, we were ready to hit the town and grab a bite.
The concierge recommended we head to the Chikan Tower area for sightseeing, and that seemed promising from the culinary perspective as well. Both of our guide books listed Chi kin Dandanman as a good place to try the local danzai mian noodles. Compared with the same dishes at Tu Hsiao Yueh in Taipei, the noodles and the shrimp rolls were only okay. The meatball dumpling was the most interesting: losely joined seasoned ground pork is blanketed with a thick wrapper of rice flour dough somewhat similar to mochi, and doused with a slightly sweet transparent brown sauce. I wish I had tried it in Taipei.
After lunch, we explored two nearby temples. The God of War temple was a bit of yawn, but after a few minutes stumbling around in the Tainan Grand Matsu temple we were approached by an English-speaking guide who helped us appreciate more of the details. In fact, even when we were ready to leave, she followed us from room to room providing a thorough briefing. Eventually we found the exit and made our way back to the hotel to cool down and hit the laptop.
After a couple of hours coercing PowerPoint into building a presentation for Monday, we had to take a break for dinner. We had enjoyed the branch of Tu Hsiao Yueh on Yongkang Street in Taipei, so we thought we would visit the original location. The menu was largely the same, but we wouldn’t have known that without some help: the menu was entirely in Chinese. Fortunately, some bilingual customers on their way out assisted us, and I had brought a brochure from the Taipei branch with pictures of some of the more famous dishes. Sitting at a very short table on the sidewalk was not very comfortable, but the food was good. We were able to stretch our legs on the walk home.
After a few more hours, we finished the presentation and turned in, ready for the big day.