This is what happens to you in Taiwan:
Before -----> After
To be fair, there several choices made along the way that led to this outcome, such as the "every time you see shaved ice you have to eat it" rule. These delicious beasts will put that little Snoopy snow cone machine you had as a kid to shame.
But shaved ice alone isn't enough to make you look like you're second trimester. To go that far, you need some help from dim sum, fresh out of the steamer. When in doubt, always order an extra item. It'll taste so awesome you'll forget the concept of "feeling stuffed" and gobble it down anyways, plus it would cost 3x as much in Tokyo and still not be as good, so you've got to take your chances. Din Tai Fung is awesome but there's another place one block behind it that was nearly as good and had way shorter lines, making for a good Plan B.
But there's so much more to Taiwanese food than just dim sum, so you've got to expand beyond that. It's all so delicious and you've got to eat your veggies some time. (A quick note to any Japanese people reading this: if you're using the 地球の歩き方 guide book, skip the restaurant 青葉. The food is good, but ridiculously overpriced. You can definitely do better)
But what about later in the day you ask? (Ok, you probably didn't ask, but just run with me here) Night markets! Full of street vendors hawking little bits of deliciousness for just a couple dollars a pop, it's easy to just wander around stuffing your face. The best of the night markets was definitely Shilin, which absolutely blew the other ones away.
All that food will leave you pretty thirsty. Fortunately, Taiwan is also the land of pearl milk tea and doles it out in huge glasses. After drinking this stuff, I want to walk into the Bubble Island in Ann Arbor and kick the manager in the shins for pawning off that rubbish on us unknowing Americans for all those years, when the real stuff tastes this good.
Just to be clear, I didn't spend 5 days and 4 nights doing nothing but eating. I wandered around the city a lot (gotta walk off the calories and make room for the next meal!) and Taipei isn't a very big city, so I managed to get around a lot of it. A typhoon was heading our way at the time, so I decided not to take any day trips out of town on the chance that I'd get caught out, but Taipei has a lot of cool parks and temples which kept me busy.
Visually, Taipei has a lot in common with most of the other big Asian cities I've seen. The boatloads of scooters and backstreet eateries with cheap metal stools are just some of the visual cues that remind you that those these places are on the cusp of joining the "developed countries" list, they still have a little ways to go.
I couldn't resist taking a picture of this movie poster. They were promoting this movie super hard (though it wasn't out yet) and it was everywhere, but all I could think every time I saw was "this guy is so badass he draws rainbows with his sword!" Turns out the movie was "Seediq Bale" which was apparently highly anticipated internationally and was all over the news ahead of the Venice Film Festival. Who would have guessed?
I'm also a big sucker for skylines and love going up high buildings, so Taipei 101 was a must-see for me. It's far and away the biggest building in Taiwan and offers a great view down on the city.
All that eating and walking is enough to tire a guy out and Taipei offers some pretty awesome places to stay on the cheap. The first three nights were spent at the sharp and modern-looking Ambiance Hotel. The location isn't the most convenient for using the subway system but it gets you out and walking around the city, which I actually think is a plus, and at ~$60/night it's an absolute steal.
As good as that place was, splurging on a room for the last night was definitely the way to go. Enter the Studio Suite at the San Want Residences. This place was PHENOMENAL. The bed pretty much swallows you whole in big fluffy goodness .See the TV in the middle of the room? That bad boy rotates 180° so you can watch from bed. The bathtub was like a small pool. They even got the room number as my birthday! So much sexiness. I might not be able to stay at a Motel 6 ever again...
So that's my Taiwan adventure in a nutshell. Check another country off my list of places in Asia to visit. Many many more to see before I head back stateside!