Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A jaunt to Kaohsiung!

Our trip to Kaohsiung on Sunday was way too quick, but we had an excellent time. Taichung’s HSR station is a little ways out of town, so we did our usual bit of printing off the Mandarin characters for it at 7/11, then hailing a cab with our directions clutched in our sweaty palms. We rolled through the station, bought some delicious chicken croissant sandwiches, and headed south for the day!

First, we met up with Stanley and Vicky at the family restaurant where Stanley’s parents, sister, and nephew were closing up shop for the afternoon. We were presented with a beautiful box of lava cakes and our very own first ever scooter helmets (decorated like a strawberry and a watermelon)! No one could possibly mistake us for a pair of foreigners in these babies! We took our new helmets on their maiden voyage to a nearby pasta restaurant on a cute little European-style street near the Grand Hi Lai Hotel. We sat down to lunch with Stanley, Vicky, Stanley’s sister Anna, and her son Montana for a delicious lunch of cheesy pasta and our very first “milk hot pot”. Milk and cream are mixed together and set in front of you with a plate of raw beef, clams, and different types of mushrooms. The milky sauce is heated up to boiling and you stir in your raw ingredients to cook your own very tasty lunch! That along with our glasses of cold tea made for a lovely experience!

After lunch we went to a cute little gelato shop called Mumbo Jumbo Gelato where they served a dozen amazing flavours like Earl Grey, melon, pure chocolate, and bordeaux wine. The gelato was perfectly smooth and delicately flavoured. My scoop of Earl Grey tasted exactly like a nice, milky cup of tea. It was great to sit and chat with Stanley, Vicky, and Anna about our new jobs. Anna used to teach English with a cram school and gave us good ideas (and warnings!) about impressing our students’ parents.

Next we met up with Jenny and Milton for the continuation of our Kaohsiung food-a-thon, and we had a delicious meal at a great Thai restaurant called Thai Town Cuisine on the 12th floor of FE’21, a huge department store we used to frequent for movies and lunch. We ordered a group set meal and were served Thai rice, hot fried shrimp cakes, a cold vegetable salad marinated in garlic and chili, spicy stir-fried pork, coconut chicken curry, as well as some cong qing tsai which none of our Taiwanese friends can identify in English, but is a spinach-like vegetable that grows in water. The highlight of the meal was a beautiful steamed whole fish (eyeballs and all!) in a bubbling lemon, garlic, and chili sauce. Milton took on the responsibility of serving it up which was very kind, as I have no idea how to portion out a whole fish. We had a very interesting chat as always with Jenny and Milton about differences between Canadian and Taiwanese culture.

Once we’d eaten our fill, we got into an elevator to head downstairs for a walk to a nearby pier. When the elevator stopped a few floors later, the doors opened and a surprised Taiwanese teenager exclaimed “waiguoren!” (“foreigners!”) to his friends. Jenny laughed, and taught me to ask in Mandarin, “How did you know?”

Our walk to the pier was lovely, and it was so nice to enjoy a warm Kaohsiung night with friends before we headed back to Vicky’s house to pick up the luggage we’d left there in July. She and her mom helped us get into a cab and back on the road for the HSR to Taichung. It was a whirlwind of a day but it was very restful at the same time. I’m so happy we were able to make a trip back so soon after leaving.

PS - In other news, Louise from my local tea shop has finished translating and printing a beautiful English menu for myself and her other English-speaking customers! A whole new world of tea and fruit drinks has been introduced to my daily routine!

The HSR Station in Taichung
The HSR Station in Taichung
Stanley & Vicky!
Milk hot pot
Anna & Montana!
So photogenic!
Brett, Amanda, Vicky & Stanley
Brett & Amanda
Milton & Jenny

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