As I sat inspecting my chicken wing for any visible sign of avian flu, Gina motioned towards my right as a bunch of overly skinny Asian Hooters girls began dancing to Hey Mickey, You’re So Fine
. Watching them gyrate with several hula hoops wrapped around their waists, wrists and neck, I found a bit of amusement in what we, as Americans, export to the rest of the World. I know the politicians and economists beat their drums over trade deficits, but honestly feel we export the most important commodity in the World - entertainment.
We had arrived into Taiwan just hours before and endured a lengthy cab ride on the wet, congested highway from the airport to Taipei. Exhausted and unmotivated, we sought the easiest dining option upon check-in and decided to embrace a bit of Americana. What we hadn’t bargained for was the terrible meat product being pawned off as chicken. Dissatisfied with our meal, but amused by the Chinese speaking Hooters girls’ attempts to mimic a culture they clearly don’t understand, Gina and I concluded the latter offset the former and returned to the hotel. After a quick shower and email check, we fell fast asleep.
next morning, we awoke without a plan. Unlike other countries we had visited, we didn’t feel that Taiwan warranted the exorbitant cost to procure a Lonely Planet
since we’d only be staying 4 days - Google would have to do. We fumbled around for an hour trying to decipher Simplified Chinese script with Babelfish, review anonymous user comments on Yahoo and peruse city guides, before determining our frugalness was a mistake. Abandoning our research project, we headed out to locate a post office.
In an attempt to lighten our packs in advance of Japan, Gina and I decided to ship home some of the unnecessary things we’d been carrying since Tahiti. We stopped at the concierge to ask directions and were given a highlighted map as well as detailed instructions - naturally, we got lost along the way. Having encountered nothing but friendly Taiwanese since our arrival, Gina and I quickly found ourselves interrogating an unsuspecting bank worker for further directions before finally locating the post office. It wasn’t a surprise to find ourselves quickly caught in the cliché, lost in translation. Gina laughed as I used some made-up sign language to pantomime our need for packing supplies to
the puzzled clerk behind the counter. The game of charades took about 5 minutes before the clerk had an epiphany, excused herself and returned with two collapsed boxes.
Completing our task, we hit the streets once again to explore Taipei. With each passing block we walked, one facet of Taiwanese society became very apparent, an affinity for surgical masks. In fact, most Taiwanese appeared to take the surgical mask trend to a whole new level sporting patterns associated with Burberry and other fashion designers - something we found truly novel.
Dodging a combination of office workers on their lunch break and seemingly crazed moped drivers on the sidewalk, we somehow found a mass transit stop without an altercation. Since we had no clue what to see or do in the megalopolis associated with cheap clothing and children’s’ toys, Gina and I decided to hit the attraction which landed Taiwan on our around-the-World itinerary in the first place, Taipei 101. The structure, containing 101 stories is considered the World’s tallest building by the goofy standards set forth by the body which bestows the honor (though the Chicago Sears Tower is still the tallest man-made structure when including aerials), has
the fastest double-decker elevators in the World and the largest mass dampener. We boarded the train and rode for five stops before resurfacing in a completely foreign area of Taipei. Luckily, Taipei 101 rose on the horizon, unobstructed by any adjacent structure.
As we approached the monolithic amalgamation of glass, steel and concrete, Gina and I found ourselves impressed with its Chinese-influenced architecture. Having frequented both the Sears Tower and John Hancock in Chicago, the 43-second ride to the 89th floor observation deck dropped both of our stomachs before depositing us and another 12 tourists 1000 feet above sea level. Excited to view the enormity of Taipei from an elevated position, we were both disappointed as we emerged from the elevator to find a hazy sky.
Over the next hour we pretended to identify objects described by the audio tour, unwilling to accept our layover in Taiwan as being a bust before packing-it-in for the evening.
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