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DSC_0236When we sent out our Couchsurfing request for Taipei and this girl from Taoyuan invited us to stay with her, we were a bit indecisive. Where is this place? How far is it from Taipei anyway? What can we see and do there? Or why is it not in the Lonely Planet at all? We shouldn’t have doubted it at all and instead of waiting for a few days to think it through, we should have just replied rightaway with a big YES & THANKS!

We arrived to Taoyuan international airport on Nov 25. As per instructions we took a taxi and after a short ride we were dropped off in a street with nothing but a few houses. No 70 was just across the road and as we headed towards the building we found it weird that these guys have a temple at their ground floor. Despite our friendly ‘Ni-hao’ and English explanation, we were being stared at in wonder until a man came out from next door and in chinese said something like: ‘Ah, foreigners! It must be my house you are looking for. Come in, I will get my daughter.’ As it turned out, papa, as we called him later, hadn’t got a clue about our visit.

DSC_0243DSC_0240Nicky greeted us in her pyjama. She is an English teacher, lived in the States for a while and is a great host! After settling in we were taken to a local market to see and taste some nice or strange stuff. Have you seen a black chicken yet? We tasted some sweet dried pork, seasoned fish skins, tofu in hundred styles, dried grapefruit that is supposed to be good for sore throat and some of the best dried plums we have had. Afterwards we stopped by for a lunch with Nicky’s friends. As Nicky translated, her friend said: ‘I hope they will like Taiwan, otherwise I will be so ashamed.’ We found this in a way very nice and as it turned out later on, she had no reason to be worried.

1463104_769437323071969_1021484669_nAfter we took a break in the afternoon, we were picked up by our host, her friend and 3 of her girl students (10, 12 and 13 years old) to go to a local night-market (which are poular across Taiwan). After being shy at the beginning, the girls grabbed our hands later and walked us from one food stand to another. Mark got a lesson on eating with the sticks and Lucia discovered the source of a horrible smell that we could smell already in Malaysia a year ago. It was a popular asian delicacy: stinky tofu. DSC_0249Stinky tofu is a kind of tofu that is spongy and fermented until it smells like sewage full of dirty socks. The smell spreads into the streets when it is further boiled to be then served for example with kimchi (korean pickled cabbage). The taste is less stinky, but knowing the smell doesn’t help the overall impression. What else we tried on the market… How about chicken crown or chicken bum? In the breaks between food we played some funfare games and rode some old-style bumping cars.

DSC_0296DSC_0304This was an awesome first night in Taiwan and it was not over yet. We dropped the girls at their homes and headed to a place we read about and were excited to try: shrimp fishing ‘restaurant’!

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The one we went to was a big hangar with 3 pools inside. In order from least to most expensive, one can choose to fish in the one for male shrimp, female shrimp or crabs and lobsters.For a fee of 200 taiwaneese dollars (5 euro) we got a rod, bait and 2 hours to spend fishing for shrimps. Whatever you catch you can grill yourself right there or have it prepared in the kitchen. We saw some experienced fishermen eating like kings and some less experienced ones – such as our group of 5 with 2 rods – ending up with 6 pieces to share. Luckilly we were still really full from the night market and from Taiwan beer.

DSC_0355DSC_0344DSC_0374The following day Nicky drove us to Daxi’s historical centre to have a stroll around and admire some of the local art such as traditional clothing, wooden carved products or wooden sandals. We found a pair that is made short and uncomfortable to press a point on your foot to stop you from being hungry. Afterwards, on our way back home, we stopped over at Cheng Kai Shek memorial with tens or hundreds of statues of this man who played a controversial role in Taiwan’s political history. For dinner we stayed in and enjoyed a home-made hot-pot with the family and some of Nicky’s old friends. We also agreed to stay one more night.

Taiwan_2010_02_08_Betel_Nut_12We tried one more thing on this evening. You might know the culture of betel nut chewing from India already. It is popular also across the rest of Asia as we could tell by a few decayed red-toothed smiles in China. In Taiwan they call it bing-lon and sell them at the road-side in small stands decorated with flashing lights or a pretty, summery-dressed girl (Google Images search for ‘betel nut Taiwan’ will give you an idea!). Chewing on bing-lon, that grows on palm trees, there is a red juice comming out. It contains addictive substances which are supposed to give you energy. It gave Mark a spinning head and (temporary) red teeth.

1471139_769436676405367_1871159343_nOur last day in Taoyuan was lazy. We went for a stroll, but otherwise spent time inside with a computer. We were saving ourselves for a dinner with papa. When the time came, Nicky drove us to his favourite restaurant. Papa is a truck driver and so we were not surprised when we parked at the roadside and walked into a dodgy looking shack. The owner and the grill master used to own a chain of taiwanese version of brothels, that went bankrupt, and now has big growth plans for his new F&B business. We are going to be part of it, as our picture will hang on the walls of the new venue. Where to start… We ate, we drank, we talked. Mostly, we were introduced to the local way of drinking. It is common, that everytime someone at the table wants to drink, they will show their glass (almost cheer with your glass, but not really) and then everyone else has to drink too. Unless they said ‘kam-pai’, you are safe taking a courtesy sip. If they did, everyone has to empty their glass and do a ‘look, it is now empty’ gesture. Dear Slovak friends, see, Taiwan is not such a strange place in the end. By the end of the night, we received many beers on the house, a few compliments and invitations to come back.

We were sad to leave this friendly place, but made a promise to come back. And so we will!

Our selection of the best moments from Taoyuan is here.

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Ked na nasu Couchsurfingovu ziadost v Taipei odpovedalo dievca z mesta Taoyuan, boli sme trochu nerozhodni. Kde je to mesto? Ako daleko to bude do Taipei? Je tam co robit a vidiet? A preco toto mesto nie je ani v Lonely Planet prirucke? Teraz vieme, ze sme nemali zabijat cas pochybnostami a dnami na rozmyslenie, ale hned poslat odpoved s nasim velkym ANO a DAKUJEME!

Na medzinarodne letisko v Taoyuan sme prileteli 25. novembra. Podla instrukcii sme nasadli do taxiku, ukazali soferovi adresu a po kratkej ceste vystupili v ulici s par domami. Cislo domu 70 bolo hned cez cestu, no ked sme podisli blizsie, zacalo nam byt divne, ze rodina, u ktorej budeme byvat ma na prizemi domu chram. Napriek priatelskemu ‘Ni-Hao’ a anglickemu vysvetlovaniu sa nam dostalo len udivnych pohladov, az kym sa z vedlajsich dveri nevynoril pan, ktory nam cinsky povedal nieco ako: ‘Aha, cudzinci! To urcite idete ku nam. Podte dalej, zavolam dceru.’ Ako sa neskor ukazalo, papa, ako sme ho potom volali, ani netusil, ze prideme.

Nicky nas privitala v pyzame. Je ucitelkou anglictiny, zila nejaku dobu v Amerike a je skvela hostitelka! Potom co sme sa zlozili v izbe jej sestry nas vzala na lokalny trh pozriet sa a ochutnat nejake novinky. Uz ste videli cierne kura? Otestovali sme sladke susene bravcove maso, korenene rybie koze, tofu na sto sposobov, suseny grep, ktory je vraj dobry na bolave hrdlo a jedni z najlepsich susenych sliviek, co sme kedy mali. Potom nas vzala Nicky na obed s jej kamoskami. Podla prekladu jedna z nich povedala: ‘Dufam, ze sa im Taiwan bude pacit, inac sa budem strasne hanbit.’ To sa nam zdalo svojim sposobom mile a ako sa neskor ukazalo, nemala sa coho bat.

Po odpoludnajsiej prestavke nas vyzdvihla nasa hostitelka a v spolocnosti troch jej studentiek (10, 12 a 13 rocnych) sme sa isli pozriet na nocny trh (ktore su v Taiwane velmi popularne). Po prvotnom hanbeni sa sa dievcata odhodlali, chytili nas za ruky a tahali od jedneho stanku k druhemu. Mark dostal lekciu jedenia s palickami a Lucia v tento vecer konecne prisla na to, co sposobuje pamatny ohromny smrad, ktory sme citili uz v Malajzii pred rokom. Bola to popularna azijska delikatesa: smradlave tofu. Smradlave tofu je druh tofu so spongiovitou strukturou, ktore je fermentovane az kym smrdi ako kanalizacia plna spinavych ponoziek. Smrad sa siri okolim, ked je tofu dalej vyvarane a servirovane napriklad s kimchi (korejskou nakladanou kapustou). Chut uz nie je tak hrozna, ale s pomyslenim na smrad je je tazke si tuto pochutku vychutnat. Co sme este vyskusali… Tak napriklad kuraci zadok alebo korunku. V prestavkach medzi jedlom sme sa zabavali putovymi atrakciami a jazdili na starodavnych autickach.

Toto bol vyborny uvodny vecer v Taiwane a este zdaleka nekoncil. Odviezli sme dievcata domov a vyrazili na miesto, o ktorom sme citali a nevedeli sa dockat ho navstivit: restauracia, kde si sami ulovime krevety. Ta, v ktorej sme boli, bola vlastne velky hangar s troma bazenmi. Od nalacnejsieho k najdrahsiemu obsahovali samcie krevetky, vacsie samicie krevety a posledny kraby a homare. Za poplatok 200 tajvanskych dolarov (5 Eur) sme vyfasovali udicu, navnadu a 2 hodiny rybarcenia. Cokolvek si kto ulovi si moze rovno na mieste ugrilovat alebo nechat v kuchyni pripravit na iny sposob. Niektori skuseni rybari si hodovali na velkych misach, zatialco ini menej skuseni – ako napriklad nasa 5-clenna skupinka – sa musela uspokojit s dohromady 6 kuskami. Nastastie sme boli este plni z nocneho trhu a Taiwan beer piva.

Na druhy den nas Nicky odviezla do historickeho centra mestecka Daxi, kdes sme mali moznost vidiet aj obchodiky s tradicnymi tajvanskymi umeleckymi vyrobkami, ako napriklad oblecenie, drevorezby ci drevene sandale. Nasli sme par, ktory je naschval urobeny mensi a nepohodlny, aby sandale tlacili na cast chodidla, ktora potlaca hlad. Cestou naspat sme sa zastavili v Cheng Kai Shek pamatniku s desiatkami az stovkami soch tohoto muza, ktory hral kontroverznu ulohu v politickych dejinach krajiny. Vecer sme ostali doma a s celou rodinou a niekolkymi kamaratmi od Nicky jedli domaci hot-pot. Tento vecer sme sa tiez rozhodli ostat o noc dlhsie, nez sme planovali.

V tento vecer sme vyskusali este nieco nove. Mozno poznate zvyk zuvania ‘betel nutu’ z Indie. Ako sme vydedukovali z par pokazenych cerveno-zubych usmevov uz v Cine, tento zvyk je popularny i v ostatnych castiach Azie. V Taiwane to nazyvaju bing-lon a predavaju ich pri cestach v stankoch ozdobenych blikajucimi svetlami ci sporo-oblecenymi dievcatmi (zadajte si ‘betel nut Taiwan’ do Google Obrazkov pre lepsiu prestavu). Pri zuvani bing-lonu, ktory je plodom isteho druhu palmy, z orieska vychadza cervena stava. Tato obsahuje navykove latky, ktore vraj dodavaju telu energiu. Markovi dodali tocivu hlavu a (docasne) cervene zuby.

Nas posledny den v mestecku Taoyuan bol pokojny. Okrem kratkej prechadzky mestom sme ostali doma a trochu pocitacovali. Setrili sme sa na veceru s otcom. Ked prisiel cas, Nicky nas odviezla do jeho oblubenej restauracie. Papa je vodic kamionu a tak sme neboli uplne prekvapeni, ked sme zastavili na kraji cesty a vkracali do neutesnej miestnosti. Majitel a gril-majster byval vlastnikom siete tajvanskej verzie bordelov, ktora skrachovala, a teraz ma velke plany pre svoj novy restaurancy biznis. A my toho budeme sucastou, kedze nasa fotka ma visiet na stenach noveho podniku. Kde zacat… Jedli sme, pili sme, radovali sme sa. Vacsinou sme boli oboznamovani s lokalnymi sposobmi pitia. Je bezne, ze kedykolvek sa niekto pri stole chce napit, zdvihne poharik (skoro k cinknutiu, ale nie uplne) a potom vsetci ostatni si musia pripit tiez. Pokial sa nepovedalo ‘kam-pai’, vsetko je v poriadku a vy si mozete len jemne usrnknut. Horsie je, ked sa ‘kam-pai’ povedalo – vtedy sa pije na ex a po vyprazdneni poharika sa slusi ho ukazat naznak toho, ze je uplne prazdny. Mili slovenski kamarati, vidite, Taiwan nam nie je zas az tak vzdialeny. Do konca vecera sme dostali niekolko piv na ucet podniku, komplimenty a pozvania na skory navrat.

Bolo nam smutno, ze sme toto velmi priatelske miesto museli opustit, ale slubili sme, ze sa vratime. A tak aj urobime!

Nas vyber naj momentov v Taoyuan najdete tu.

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5 thoughts on “Taiwan kick-off in Taoyuan

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