Food and Religion

I have a confession to make (other than being a day behind with the blog): For my first two meals in Taiwan, I had McDonald’s. (I’m sorry if you just threw up in your mouths.) It’s not that I like McDonald’s – I don’t really, at all. But I didn’t know what else to eat. Let me explain:

So as you know if your a loyal reader of this here blog, I got to my hostel about 3 pm on Friday and passed out on my bed. Well I woke up at 7:30. I didn’t really have the energy or interest to go out and party, but I did want to explore my area of Taipei a bit, and I was a bit hungry. My hostel is in one of the busiest parts of town – I think it’s the part called Old Town Centre, but who can know for sure. It might be Zhongshan, or something else. But it’s around there. Anyway, it’s a bustling area – I’m only maybe half a mile from Taipei 101, there are shops, banks, 7-11’s, and plenty of places to eat. So fresh off my nap, I walked down my street, keeping my eyes peeled for a restaurant I’d seen in my guidebook. I never did see it, so I just kept going. Along the way, I saw plenty of food stands, tiny restaurants, bigger restaurants, and vending machines.

Here’s the problem – this language barrier’s a bitch. In Europe, we could at least make out enough written words to get by. But this here Chinese language is baffling. Obviously, it’s not related to English at all… and as I walked past all those delicious smells, I was foiled time and time again – no English menus, no pictures. I didn’t know what to do. I was too tired and I didn’t want to deal with trying to get some food when a) I wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone, and b) lord knows what I’d get on my plate. In America or France or Germany it’s one thing – you’d probably be able to recognize what is served to you. But in this part of the world, you’re playing tummy roullette. You may get cow bladder, tofu in a guitar-shaped mound, or whale penis.

Of course I could have just risked it, but I didn’t. There’s a McDonald’s a block from the hostel, and so I gave in and got a chicken sandwich combo. Of course I still had to point to the picture to order, but at least there were pictures.

Fast forward to breakfast time. I wake up, starving, and in no mood to walk around in the harsh, humid sun and deal with last night all over again. So I went back to Mickey D’s, at 10:41. Well, they’re breakfast rules are the same here as they are in the states. And that means breakfast ends at 10:30. Not a minute later. And so for breakfast, I had a spicy chicken sandwich, fries, and an “iced tea.” My stomach was confused and not pleased.

By the afternoon, I decided that pissing off my tummy with McDonald’s couldn’t be any better than pissing it off with a little adventure. I found an awesome blog that this girl’s done for years, reviewing various eateries around Taipei. But in the end, I just said screw it. I needed to get out, see more of Taipei during the day. I figured I’d eventually get hungry enough to just eat somewhere, or scavenge in the garbage. Either way, food would be had.

All of this is overshadowing what I did yesterday evening. I went to a couple of the cooler temples here: the Confucius Temple, and the Bao-an Temple.  These places are amazing. I don’t think any explanation could do them justice, especially since I really don’t know much about the religion over here. But I’d love to learn more. So in lieu of words, here are a couple pictures (and I’ll post all my temple pics in a gallery after the jump at the bottom of this post):

The main hall(?) of the Confucius Temple

The main hall(?) of the Confucius Temple

Temple 6

The Bao-an Temple

The Bao-an Temple

After spending time about an hour at the temples (they’re right by each other), I walked around for a tiny bit and saw this little eatery – small, no door, the kitchen’s basically right on the street. It smelled so good… but of course there was no English menu, no pictures. But I was starving because I hadn’t eaten since my McDonald’s “breakfast.”  After some hesitation, I walked in.

I took this pic after my meal, but for the sake of a flow, we're putting it here. Do enjoy.

I took this pic after my meal, but for the sake of a flow, we're putting it here. Do enjoy.

The woman you see in the picture above smiled at me, and I asked her if she spoke any English. She spoke maybe 2 words of it, which are of course 2 more words than I know in Chinese. So we realized there was a communication issue. She said “noodles or rice?” and i said noodles. But that was about as much as we could get across to each other. So with a smile on her face, she told me to just go sit down… and 5 minutes later she comes back with this amazing dumpling soup (really just dumplings in a broth) and a noodle bowl that was equally great.

The dumplings in broth on the left, and the Tan Mien on the right

The dumplings in broth on the left, and the Tan Mien on the right

She said the noodle bowl was called Tan Mien; the dumplings in broth had a name with three words, and my brain isn’t good enough to remember that. But it was delicious. Definitely better than McDonald’s. By a mile. After I finished I walked back to the front and asked how much. “Fifty-five,” she said. Fifty-five New Taiwan Dollars (that’s the currency here – NTD). For those who don’t know, $1 US = roughly 32 NDT. So that means that my kickass meal cost me a grand total of about $1.50. Excellent.

I think I kinda like it here.
After the jump, see all my photos from the temples and my dining experience.

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~ by Nick on July 5, 2009.

8 Responses to “Food and Religion”

  1. It may be a little late for this but according to the Animaniacs Ni-hao (pronounced knee-how) is how hello sounds in Taipei.

  2. Great stuff, man. If you can eat well for a dollar-fifty for every meal, then I might come join you. I’m giving Bonzo and Birdie a bath tomorrow, wish me luck. I’ll be reading about your adventures.

  3. all you need to know is “tai gui la” = “that’s too expensive”, “pee ju”= beer, “shiu shiu” = “thank you”. that will pretty much cover about 75% of your needs in any mandarin speaking country.

  4. You guys are the best. 2 of you are giving me language tips, and the other’s bathing my dog. I owe you guys steak dinners or some shit.

  5. I loved the pics Nick… 🙂

  6. Ni-hao Ma (said Knee-how-MAH) actually would be like ‘hello, how are you doing today?’ but the literal translation is something like ‘have you had rice yet today?’ Woh-hun-hao (like ‘whoa-hun-how) means ‘I am doing ok’ Dunno if that’s any help…but it’s all I know 🙂

  7. […] I didn’t love Taipei. I mean, the things I blogged about – the Temples, Danshui – were very cool, but there are temples all over Taiwan, and while Danshui is a nice […]

  8. […] Taipei for the weekend with some teacher friends from school. I haven’t been there since my first five days in Taiwan. Now that I have a slightly better grasp on this country, I’m pretty excited for […]

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