John Keats once wrote, "O Solitude! If I must with thee dwell, Let it not be among the jumbled heap of murky buildings."
So yesterday (Friday), I was able to go downtown and explore the area around Taipei 101. I have a rather odd fascination with skyscrapers and to be able to go to the observatory in what is currently considered the world's tallest building was simply an amazing experience. With Burj Dubai still under construction, Taipei 101 is considered the tallest building in the world with a height of 509 m (or 1,671 ft). Taipei 101 also has the world's fastest elevator with a speed of 1,010 m/min when ascending and 600 m/min when descending...this translates into- it took less than a minute to come down from the observatory!
It was a clear day so we were able to see for miles from each cardinal direction, and when facing the south side, we were able to identify the College of Social Science at NCCU! The observatory had lots of art displayed from around the region and would match up the artist's homeland with the direction of the country from the Taipei 101 observatory...por ejemplo: if the artist was Vietnamese, the art was displayed on the side of the observatory facing in the direction of Vietnam.
After touring Taipei 101 and walking around the buildings near it, my friends and I decided to take the MRT to Shilin Night Market. Shilin Night Market is considered one of the largest and most famous night markets in Taipei, so needless to say, it was a hopping spot on a Friday night!
We were kind of hungry and tired, so we walked around looking for food and a place to sit down, and finally settled at a little restaurant that serves seafood omelets. One of my friends is a vegetarian (but she eats seafood), so we had to find a place that served vegetarian safe food, which was a little difficult because there seemed to be a plethora of hot pot opportunities, but very few vegetarian safe choices. We passed cart after cart of various meats on a stick, seafood that was still alive, and much to our horror- tons of stands of stinky tofu!
Side note: stinky tofu is just what it sounds like- really stinky tofu! It is a very famous food option here in Taiwan, but smells kind of strong since it's tofu that has been marinated (possibly for months) in a brine of fermented milk, vegetables, and meat. It is then either served grilled, fried, or in soup...there are other ways of serving it, but those 3 are the most popular. Unfortunately for me, it is the unofficial national snack food, and is quite abundant and can often be found smelling up the marketplaces of Taipei.
After eating, we decided that we should venture back to the MRT and start the long journey home and so I consulted a map and my friends dutifully checked to see if I was reading it correctly. It was decided that we needed to ride the red train all the way back to Guting and then make sure that our red train magically switched to the green train, so we could grab our bus at Gongguan. I've learned a lot in the past few days...I'm getting better at it!
So while walking back to the MRT station, a runaway sausage cart came out of nowhere and tried to take me out...luckily, I was able to jump out of the way, and I'm still here today because my friends were able to scream, "lookout!" in English!!!
Moral of the story: be careful when in night markets for 1. stinky tofu and 2. runaway sausage carts!