Justins World

The art of queuing

Taipei has no shortage of people. The Taipei Main station a short walk from my hotel and a nightmare to navigatre the first time, has Metro, normal trains, High Speed Rail, Airport MRT and buses all integrating into one sprawling underground complexwhich is also full of steps, malls and lots of confusing signage. Some of the maps have South upwards!

Amazingly though people flow through here like a river the vast majority completely engrossed in their mobile phones, they board escalators and stand to the right, they’ll join queues for food, they’ll queue politely to board the metro and wait for people to get off before getting on. No one seems to get angry, everything just works because everyone is commited to being part of society.

On my second day i headed to the outskirts of Taipei to visit the tea country. To get there a conveniently placed gondola was built and als integrates neicely into the Taipei zoo with a station at the top of the zoo, for the less energetic to walk down anjd another staion for a temple and the final one at Maokong, about 300m higher up then where I started from. The views from up here were well worth the trip and the hundreds of establishments fighting for tourist dollars with the best views and teas was all a bit touristy for me, but the tea was good and so were the views so i didn’t complain too much.

Another place that any travel website will tell you to visit is a night market for dinner. Raohe St night market, was a few stations ride on the metro from my hotel and was still busy later at night as it was during the day. The clay oven baked pork bun is the thing to have here and I joined a queue, which moved along quicker than any queue back home ever does for food. They are even smart enough to have the queue go past the clay ovens to get snapshots of them before we order and get handed a bag with a steaming hot bun in it.

Other dishes I tried were the sweet potato balls, that were puffed up full or air and mostly hollow. Slightley sweet and slightly savoury. Is it a dessert or a main. I doubt the locals know, they add chilli sauce to their breakfast. Also all sorts of meats grilled, fresh juices, milk teas lined the long street, with quite a few side streets, plenty of non food vendors and a few games for people to through their money away playing like throw the hoop onto an item to win it.

I’ve walked all over Taipei, by the third day my feet were exhausted so I aimed to visit some easier to get to and much closer to the metro exit places. The aptly named Longshan Temple metro stop does indeed exit right in ftony of the Banka Longshan Temple. a very traditional chinese temple, complete with a fake waterfall and lots of bright and or golden decorations scattered around the temple. What I found curious as I sat on the stone step reserved for gentlemen with grey hair (hey there were three of us and i couldn’t understand anything they said), where the mix of tourists here to prey juxtaposed against the tourists who wanted to get their insta selfies. This place even had other western tourists, judging by the loud american accents I could hear. Its a beautiful temple, but i prefer them quieter and more serene myself.

One stop away on the metro was the neighbourhood of Ximending, meant to be the trendy place to be in Taipei and all the streets are pedestrian only. Lots of shopping and lots of tourist souvenirs, including phallically shaped chocolate. I did manage to try the Braised pork with rice here and it was quite delicious. Something I’ve yet to try is the boba tea. I’ve tried a lot of teas since I’ve been in Taipei, softdrinks just aren’t that common and i’ve not been anywhere but a 7/11 to buy beer from. The queue today in the sun was too much for me to try here. I’ll find somewhere to try it!

Finally, I visited the Shilin night market. It was just as busy as Raohe St, but more room to move, more side streets and more shopping and less food. The food that was here seemed to have a lot of recommendations from the Michelin guide. Not one to taste grandeur, I found one of the original Hot Star Chicken street stalls. Unlike the franchises that are in Australia, there was no choices here. $90 taiwan (~$4.30 aud) got you a slab of chicken that looked like a schnitzel, seasoned with a seasoning, but the batter/crumb is not the same, I have no idea what its made of and you will find a bone at the end of your delicious chicken, as I think these are pieces flattened but not deboned. It was delicious and the queue of locals was worth joining!

2 thoughts on “The art of queuing

  1. Noel Kemp

    Do the locals react to/with you at all Justin, or, are there just too many (mostly Taiwanese by the sound of it) tourists?

    1. justin Post author

      I think they are very shy with westerners. When I approach for help or ask for help they are very friendly. I think there are a lot of Japanese and Chinese tourists, plus quite a few from SE Asia, like Singapore, Thailand and Philippines.

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