I like Taipei a lot. A lot, a lot.
I remember some moments of panic on the flight in back in June; I was thinking, what the hell have I gotten myself into? Happily, all the aggravation I used to experience in Shanghai… there’s none of that in Taipei. The worst things that happened to me in this town had nothing to do with culture; there was some heat rash, and some flakiness (some of it on my part). But other than that, Taipei was a dream.
So on my last day there–it already seems like a long time ago–I had a breakfast set at My Warm Day. When the kid told me that iced tea wasn’t included in my meal, I dug my heels in and prepared for the inflexibility and narrow mindset that I had gotten accustomed to on the Mainland. I told him, I had this yesterday, I paid extra, I got an iced tea. The kid said, sorry, I wasn’t here yesterday; there’s no drink on the breakfast set that’s sugar free. I’m not drinking sugar, I said, I have diabetes. Forget it. 沒辦法.
I sat down and waited for my drinkless meal to arrive… and the kid came and put this on my table:
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a cup of ice water with a tea bag.
After I had given up on this kid, he comes through for with a creative solution. This glass of iced tea that I drank on my last day in Taipei represents the glorious difference between Taiwan and Mainland China; in the PRC, I would have gotten a shrug and a 沒辦法 oh well. In Taiwan, I got exactly what I wanted, and it didn’t cost anyone anything extra!
I thanked the kid profusely for this profound gesture of independent thinking and graciousness… he probably thought I was over-thanking him, but I was just that grateful.
After that, I got on the 小7 bus to Taipei 101, paid my 400塊 ($15 USD) and got on the fastest elevator in the world, which took me like a bullet to the 89th floor observatory. I chatted with some tourists, took pictures of the various neighborhoods I had gotten to know, mostly ignored all the engineering and cultural exhibits. On the 88th floor there was a café that sold coffee at street-level prices, and a bunch of tables… and FREE WIFI. I ended up hanging out up there for quite a while; facebooking, taking pictures, and appreciating the view.
When I was lunch time, I took the bullet elevator back down and then escalatored down to the food court, which was recommended… imagine that… I was annoyed by some girls who stopped at the top of the escalator to chat and take a picture; I cleared my throat and they got out of my way. I was ready to get annoyed at inconsiderate Chinese people but then I heard them chatting in Tagalog, puñeta! I fantasized about telling them “Alis kayo diyan!” and then chastised myself for assuming they were Chinese, and for being so impatient. This… is totally my problem.
I had a kind of expensive lunch in the food court; steak, spaghetti, vegetables, soup with a pastry cap, a fried egg, and a custard roll; served on a sizzling plate. I was alone at a table for four, but some office workers came and asked if they could join me; a man and a woman. They looked really classy, and were eating Indian food.
It was a quiet meal for a few minutes, and then the dude broke the silence (which I was fine with) and started a conversation. It was the regular “where are you from/what are you doing here” conversation, but the people were totally charming and gracious. They had lunch every day in the food courts (they worked in the offices upstairs) but they had never had Indian food before. Anyway, they were super nice, and when I thanked them for joining me for lunch, they thanked me back. I kind of wish I had taken their picture.
After that I took the 小7 bus back home, and then the Quince back to Shida Road. I wanted to get a haircut before my flight, but didn’t want to go all the way back to the first place I had gotten my haircut… so instead I went to the place where Aussie L had randomly asked them to give him a shampoo/head spa one hot evening when there was nothing else to do.
It turns out the place was pretty hopping on a Friday afternoon. I asked for a shampoo and cut, which ran me about 450塊 ($15 USD). A pretty teenage girl came to shampoo my hair right there in the chair (that’s a thing) and then at the head sinks there was more shampooing and a head massage, and I thought, dammit, did I agree to pay extra for a head spa?
Back in the seat, some kids were reading a magazine in Chinese and then snarking about it in American English; behind me a decent looking guy with a haircut I admired was getting a terrible terrible haircut that made him look creepy. Then the lady came to cut my hair, and she was beautiful. I learned words like 髮蠟 fǎlà “product” and 沖洗 chōngxǐ “rinse” from her. Did I mention she was beautiful?
When I went to pay, there was no surprise charge for head spa.
The rest of the night was hectic; I was hoping to meet EV for dinner but she was held up and I was too nervous about the flight to wait for her, so I bolted. I did some last minute shopping and grabbed some chicken wings and fries for dinner, went back up to the apartment for the last time, and started my journey home.
I packed two suitcases, a backpack, and a computer bag, and I managed to get them from the 5th floor down the stairs to the street in one trip. It was two blocks to the Metro station; I took three separate elevators to get to the right platform with all my bags. I took the direct train to the Songshan Airport, and when I swiped my card to exit, my Easy Card account was negative 2塊. People of Taipei, I owe you six cents USD.
There was an express bus to the Taoyuan Airport waiting for me, I paid my 125塊 ($4.15 USD) and got on. The driver asked me if I wanted Terminal 1 or Terminal 2. I didn’t remember, so I guessed Terminal 2 and went and sat down.
The bus took an hour to get to the airport, which is the same as what a taxi would have taken, at a tenth of the price. We stopped at the first terminal, and everyone got off, and then I got off at the second terminal. It was there that I discovered that I was actually at Terminal 1; the driver had stopped first at Terminal 2. Whoops.
I found my way to the shuttle bus, and was a little dismayed to see that the next shuttle was scheduled for 30 minutes later. I asked the janitor if I could walk to Terminal 2 and he was like, no way. So I went and sat down. Occasionally, the automatic doors would slide open, and I’d hear the janitor trying to explain to other passengers that no, there is no way to walk to Terminal 2.
Luckily, the bus came soon after that. The next thing I know, I’m sitting on the plane to a lady who only speaks Vietnamese, the lady that photobombed my self-portrait, a lady that offered me a handful of longan fruit during meal time.
And the next thing I know, I’m at Seatac, and my sister is driving me home.