Thursday, September 17, 2015

Taipei, Taiwan: Family Time in My Favorite City

Just in case anyone noticed that there hasn't been a post in a couple days, I apologize. For anyone who didn't notice, business as usual.

I arrived into Taipei from Siem Reap late evening, where TA-DAAAA, my mom was waiting for me in the airport!  She had arrived about an hour earlier from the States, and we'd coordinated to meet at the airport.  It was the greatest.  My dad had already been in Taiwan a couple weeks at that point, and my sister and brother-in-law were arriving the next day.  My grandma (on my mom's side) lives in Taipei, and it was her 90th birthday this weekend - hence the entire family convening from all corners of the world.  

It feels like yesterday, but I hadn't been to Taiwan in seven years.  Which means I hadn't seen my grandma, or any of the family that lives in Taiwan (a couple aunts/uncles/cousins) in seven years. #grandchildfail

What It's All About:
Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan - as a brief history, Taiwan is where all the Nationalists from China fled to after the Communist Party took over in the late 1940's. This is how both sets of my grandparents ended up in Taiwan, and why both my parents were born there.  It's officially called Taiwan ROC, or the Republic of China - China thinks Taiwan belongs to them, and Taiwan thinks they're independent.  It's basically been a sovereign state, however - and is incredibly developed with an advanced economy, though there's been a history of shaky relations with China.

Taipei 101 - a huge tower full of businesses and restaurants that was the tallest and most expensive building in the entire world when it was built around 2004
I've probably been to Taiwan 6-7 times in my entire life, and have had the best memories. Not only is a bunch of my family there, but Taipei is incredible - it has the best night markets, street food, shopping, and bustling ambience. I went to summer camp in Taipei for 6 weeks when I was 15 years old - and to this day, it remains one of my favorite memories of all time. 

Also, while I really really loved being in Southeast Asia, it was nice being in a large, developed Asian city where there wasn't constant garbage everywhere and chickens weren't running rampant in the streets.

Cliffnotes of the Trip:
  • Celebrated my grandma's 90th birthday with a ridiculous 10-course fancy lunch (who eats 10-course lunches?? Winners, that's who) - it was amazing because I saw all my relatives from Taiwan that I haven't seen in forever.  There were tons of relatives I'd never even met before, either (namely, my mom's cousins and such - what are they called? Great uncles? Second cousins?  Great cousins?).  
Giant family lunch! Also titled, "Which one of these is not like the other?"   
My grandmother got six birthday cakes because she is a baller
Sisters and cousins. And Sherman, who I'm sure had a thrilling time with a roomful of 30 people speaking Chinese
  • We then went and had another huge fancy celebratory dinner for my grandma at a different restaurant that same night. It was the most gluttonous day in all of history. 
  • Next day, my immediate family went on our own personal walking tour of Taipei, aided by my dad. Please note that neither of my parents have lived in Taipei for over 30 years; therefore it was a little like the blind leading the blind. When my dad took the reins on leading the tour, everywhere we went strangely had a similar history of "This building involved a lot of political corruption...."   I guess he reads a lot of news stories on political corruption?
First up, the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, who was the first president and founder of the Republic of China. They had a very interesting guard-changing ceremony where the guards stomped around a lot
Family and the Taipei Dome, aka big egg building - it's not finished yet but will be a sporting arena and shopping center. Oh, and something to do with political corruption? 
And then I made my family pose with a giant Taipei sign. Color-coordination unintentional 
Sisters and a mom arm

  •  While walking, we found a Hello Kitty food store. WHY does Asia have the cutest things ever.

Ordering a drink from the giant plastic Hello Kitty
And they have Hello Kitty-branded rice!

  • To continue on our trail of gluttony, we went to dinner at an all-you-can-eat sukiyaki place. Basically, one of those restaurants where they give you a pot and then you can have unlimited meat and veggies (and by "meat and veggies" I am basically only referring to "meat") and cook them in your own delicious broth.  Interactive dinners are my favorite. 

All-you-can-eat sukiyaki
The aftermath.  Not to gross any veggie-lovers out there, but we had so much meat that all the water cooked out and our pot basically ended up as a huge vat of oil

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • Irene and I went to go get our hair washed - it's a thing Irene used to do when she was in Taiwan that she remembers fondly. You basically can go into any hair salon, and they will wash and condition your hair, give you a head & neck massage, treat your hair, then dry and style it for you for ~$6. It's the best and I would never wash my hair by myself ever again if I lived in Taipei.
  • Taiwan invented boba tea (aka bubble tea). It's true.

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