Friday was our second full day in Taiwan. We had a pretty good night of sleep Thursday night and woke up ravenous. I discovered that I should have done some more pre-planning, as we had no idea where to go for breakfast. We did not include the buffet breakfasts in our hotel plan because we wanted to save money. That was our first mistake. If I wasn’t going to plan where to go each day, we should have planned on staying at the hotel. Barely awake hungry people are not the best at finding where to go for breakfast where we will be able to communicate.
After some internet searching, we discovered a little cafe within walking distance. The cafe’s website had some English so we thought it would be a good choice. We set out on foot and reached the cafe just in time to find that they were about to stop serving breakfast. When we went inside, I asked the cashier a question and got a deer in the headlights look. These girls knew about as much English as I do Chinese. After much pointing and repeating ourselves (both them and myself!), we finally ordered bagels and coffee to go. They toasted the bagels for us, packed up coffee, and sent us out the door. The bagels came with what I think was cream cheese but they didn’t give us a knife so we ate them dry on the way back to the hotel. Whoops!
So, lessons learned… don’t assume that the staff speak English simply because there is English on the website. Make sure to check what time breakfast stops, not just what time breakfast starts. And, I desperately need to gain confidence to try out my Chinese. I am shy and an introvert and have had very little speaking practice. I can understand much more than I can speak but I need to TRY. I’m not going to get any better if I don’t start trying.
We walked back to the hotel and ended up drenched in sweat. I don’t think we’re going to get used to the heat or humidity before we leave Taiwan. We’ve discussed moving to another country for awhile to experience life outside of America. Taiwan is on the short list of places to live and we would have to accept and adjust to the heat. It’s brutal!
On the way to the cafe, I noticed this picture menu hanging outside another restaurant. French fries with peanut butter and chocolate syrup. I’m intrigued!
Once back to the hotel, we took showers and rested a bit before deciding to head back out. We needed to get more Taiwanese currency so headed to the lobby to ask my best friend the concierge how to exchange funds. He said that the front desk would do it for us! Marvelous! We traded in the last of our smaller English bills for lots of Taiwanese dollars. The exchange rate is somewhere around 1 US dollar to 30 NTD. Once that was accomplished, we asked the concierge how we catch a taxi. He asked where we wanted to go, took us outside, and showed us how to stand in a specific spot in front of the hotel so that the taxi drivers will pull up for you. He told the taxi driver where we wanted to go, gave us a hotel card to show the taxi driver on the way back, and off we went!
I’ve read numerous stories of how scary the driving is around Taiwan. Yup, yup, and yup. I won’t be driving here anytime soon and I am in awe of how everyone else manages without getting into an accident. It’s worth coming to Taiwan just to watch all of the traffic!
Twenty or so minutes later, we arrived at the National Palace Museum. While in the taxi, I discovered that I had left my cell phone at the hotel so wouldn’t be able to take pictures unless I borrowed Jeff’s cell phone. Pictures are not allowed inside the museum, so I didn’t miss too many photo opportunities. The admissions lines were long and the lobby was packed. I have never seen so many people inside a building before. I read a number of reviews that talked about the crowds, but until you see it for yourself, you’ll never believe how many people you can cram into a museum. Buying admission was very simple and we weaved around all of the tour groups to head inside.
Since breakfast was a bagel and coffee, both Jeff and I were hungry. We agreed that we would visit the teahouse first and eat lunch before exploring the museum. It took a bit of work to find the single elevator that went to the fourth floor, but once there, we were seated immediately. There was a long queue outside the door but there is an advantage to being a party of two! We didn’t have to wait for a table! Thankfully, pictures were allowed inside the restaurant so we had fun with the photos.
Both of us ordered set meal #2, which is the vegetarian option with tea. We also added an order of 蔬菜水餃, or vegetable dumplings.
Lotus stamen root tea
Another type of tea I have never heard of, but was fantastic!
I loved this tea set and would like to buy one for home.
The first dish was some type of mushroom soup. There was a unique taste to the soup which I’ve never had before and would love to eat again.
Jeff with his lunch set.
Our order of 蔬菜水餃. Yum!!
My whole meal minus the vegetable dumplings, since I forgot to take a picture of everything together before we devoured the dumplings.
Dessert – not sure what type of cookie this is, but Jeff said the flavor reminded him of pistachio pudding. The cookie melted in your mouth.
I don’t have pictures of the inside of the museum, but we had fun wandering around. I’m still amazed at the crowds of people, how busy it was. Most of those who were not in the tour groups had headphones on with a portable recorded tour. We just wandered around and enjoyed that all of the signs were in Chinese, Japanese, and English. My favorite exhibit was the paintings done on scrolls. Those are beautiful!!
After a couple hours, we decided that we should probably head back to the hotel. Both of us were getting pretty tired and we still needed to find a convenience store to buy food for Sabbath. We stopped in front of the palace and took a couple pictures on the way out.
The obligatory selfie in front of the National Palace Museum.
We easily located the taxi circle, showed our hotel card to the gentleman standing there, and he found us a taxi and told the driver where to go. I wonder if he enjoys his job, talking with all of the people who need taxis, opening the car doors, and telling drivers where the passengers wish to go. At least it doesn’t require much English. “Where? Wait here. Ok!”
Once back at the hotel, we grabbed a reusable bag (shops charge for bags here) and headed right back out. We found a Family Mart not too far from our hotel, grabbed a hand basket, and started filling it with goodies. Finally! My Chinese studies paid off. I was able to sort of read a lot of the labels so that we knew what we were buying. We only made one mistake – the rice balls contain meat. I didn’t catch the character for meat until we were putting everything in the fridge at the hotel.
And, I found something I had been secretly hoping I would be able to try while in Taiwan. Steaming hot sweet potatoes!!
YUM!! I want to go back and buy another before we leave Taipei. Or maybe once we come back to Taipei with our daughter. Either way, I want another hot sweet potato before we go home!
Back at the hotel, we unloaded all of the groceries and wondered why we hadn’t stopped at a convenience store earlier. They have lots of fresh food, convenient to eat and buy, and it was easy to check out with the cashier (who spoke no English!). Thankfully I could understand what he was saying and asking in Chinese and we were able to communicate. And paying here is really easy. The coins are a bit trickier but overall, Taiwanese currency is easy to use.
We turned on the television briefly just to see what was available. We were surprised by the personalized welcome message!
A couple coffees later…
Now this is a bagel!
Blueberry bagel with blueberry shmear inside. Yum! We may have to buy another of these as well…
We decided to be stereotypical Americans and buy the pizza flavored Pringles. Just because. Surprisingly, they are vegetarian! I’m not too concerned with dairy on this trip, but I am trying to avoid meat. Pizza flavored Pringles are not that great but still have that addictive Pringle quality. Blech. Haha.
We stayed up as long as possible last night but finally crashed about 9:30. We were exhausted. All in all, it was a great day. But yes, I definitely need to learn more Chinese and start being brave enough to actually use what I know.