a woman wanders again.

A week in Taipei, and I’m *sort of* feeling like a traveller again.

I’d like to say I arrived last Thursday night hopping with excitement and full of the inspiration/clarification/other -ations that should accompany a new adventure, but it wasn’t quite like that. Maybe that’s what four years in Auckland will do to you. And maybe I’m just getting old and precious. In any case, I spent much of that 11-hour flight in some kind of out-and-out neurotism which mostly comprised what the FUCK have I done why did I leave this is insane why am I even here how can I run how can I go to the gym who will I talk to what about my salads I need my salads there are no blueberries here WHAT AM I DOING why am I so mental etc, etc, ad infinitum.

And that went on for a day or two, until I found some chao dofu and some pineapple and a vast selection of Japanese vodka sodas, and I started to chill a bit.

Still, it’s taken the best part of the week to realise a) I’m really here and b) how much Taipei has changed since 2019. Yeah, everyone’s wearing masks, but masks are a part of life in most of Asia: everyone who drives a scooter has always worn a mask.
The night markets feel much the same, albeit smaller (some businesses didn’t survive Covid). Stuff costs more. And tourists are fewer: the handful of non-Taiwanese I’ve seen are most probably teaching or otherwise employed. I seem to be the only waiguoren wandering around stuffing her face with scallion pancakes and tofu pudding.

Because I’m old and boring and weird, I’ve more or less managed to transpose my former routine into my new environment. Every morning I run the 3km each way to Anytime Fitness Taipei, snaking through alleyways and under freeways and halting at every other pedestrian crossing for either 56 or 92 seconds (because nobody survives a jaywalk here). I get an extra dark Americano from FamilyMart and work through to lunchtime, then head to Nationwide Healthy Vegetarian buffet for a paper plate of tofu, egg, spinach, mushrooms, and other things that I half-recognise. Then I walk, and explore, and eventually get back to my grubby little Airbnb for more work. In the evenings I hunt out another weird canned beverage (tonight it’s a salted plum beer) and either head to the night market or another buffet.

Okay, so not quite like my life in Remuera.

Some observations so far…

Taiwanese are always eager to help. Upon arriving at Taipei Main Station (exhausted, muddled, old) I stood there squinting at Google maps for barely twenty seconds before a lady rushed up to help me. If I’m in a tea shop or 7Eleven and my Chinese is too shit for the counter staff to understand, another customer will invariably step in and sort it out.

Everybody walks on the right-hand side: on the footpath, the stairs, in the night market, wherever. Except moi, who has already had too many near misses with bikes and garbage trucks.

People aren’t the best with their peripheral vision. They’ll walk straight into you, or straight across your path, or drag their suitcase across your foot and still not notice you.

My feet are apparently fascinating. It was 24 degrees the other day so I wore sandals, and most of Taipei couldn’t take their eyes off my ugly runner toes (and yet still managed to walk into me).

The traffic is INSANE. The motorbikes roar past my window all night and I haven’t slept more than a few hours straight since I got here. On the road, the phases between red lights are so long that every driver has their foot flat on the pedal: cars, motorbikes, taxis, public buses, anything on wheels. And the red light is rarely obeyed. I stepped out onto a pedestrian crossing today when the neon man turned green and came within seconds of being mashed into the tarseal by an SUV.

But the buses do arrive. Which is one up on Auckland.

It is so CLEAN. Nobody drops rubbish on the ground.

The weather has been absolutely perfect (sorry Auckland) until today, when it hosed down (but still not quite like Auckland).

Taiwanese birds are beautiful! My runs along the riverside are flat and boring (and pungent) but the birdlife is incredible.

Dogs aren’t walked but pushed around in pushchairs or trolleys.

Tea is everywhere. Everyone at any point in time is holding a takeaway paper cup of tea, or a thermos of tea, or some sort of tea-distilling/brewing vessel. There are tea shops next to tea stores next to tea vendors.

Pork is everywhere. In dumplings, in soup, in great glistening gutsy chunks at the wet markets. It can be vile and it can be delicious.

There is more, so much more. But it’s been a loooong time since my last post and this one was something of an effort for the old brain (especially with plum beer) so I’m calling it quits here. For now.


8 thoughts on “a woman wanders again.

  1. LOVE this KJ! Makes me feel like I’m there. You are one very talented YOUNG lady, cos if you’re old…what does that make me?!! Love ya x



  2. Oh, hey to u over the other side of the world!!
    Loving hearing all about your days journeying again!
    Lots of love Ellie. X 😘🌸


      1. You’re funny…. Still, great work!!

        Oh, & have some news to share with u!!!!
        U know this guy I’ve been hanging out with, Paul? Well, he asked me to marry him! Said, yes!! πŸ€©πŸ™ŒπŸ˜

        Ellie xx 🌸

        Liked by 1 person

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