When travelling, you must always consider your audience when speaking to those with limited English. For example, going through customs in Taipei, I omitted my middle name by mistake on the form, and the officer asked if I forgot what it was. “No, I replied, sorry, we just don’t use them back home,…. unless you are in trouble… with your mom”. She smiled at me, and stamped us through, and Josh looked at me shaking his head “I dont think she got that”. We often joke and call this a “Jared-ism” (sorry Jared, its you who brought this to light in Vietnam while trying to explain a hair cut, or while ordering a meal like “if by chance you don’t have that, i’ll have…instead.”).
But, in addition, you must watch for the translation in writing… after ordering “chicken fingers” on a menu at lunch today, I learned my lesson. As soon as the waiter left, it hit me, that we’re not getting chicken fingers, we’ll be getting chicken feet! Ugh. As he brought them to the table in a little bamboo basket, we laughed and I poked them around for awhile, examining the texture, and the poor little chicken, his wee wiggly toes, while the ladies at the table beside us were utterly amused by our disgust and poor judgment. Good thing we got the shrimp fried rice as well.
We spent the afternoon in Juifen, about a 15 minute bus ride from the town of Ruifang, from which we arrived via a 45 min long , older looking “communist” train (as josh refers to them as) for about $4.00. From Taipei station we ordered tickets, found our way up to the platform and nearly missed getting on, for we sat way at the wrong end of the tracks from our car. Oops. Things aren’t quite as precise as Japan. The train arrives on time, but not necessary in the very exact place on the platform that you’d expect. We weren’t alone in scurrying down the isle trying to make it to the right car.
There was a bit of english, in signs and the announcements on the train, but you definitely had to pay attention to hear and understand. We weren’t exactly sure where to catch the bus after arriving in Ruifang, but we did know it was a “Keelung bus” so we went across the street from the station where there were a group of people and waited. Sure enough, it came, and the driver assured us it would go to Juifen. We had to ask him to tell us where to get off as there were several extraneous stops. It cost about $0.65.
It wound us up the mountain, to a busy little old town street, nearly covered over by awnings and lantern filled overhangs. With a wide range of sights and smells, its no wonder people dawdled very slowly up and down. From the grossed smelly mystery meat balls to gelly like colorful treats, to awesome smelling almond extract, incense, and leather works; you see it, you can buy it, eat it or take it home. It’s like costco lunch, there are plenty of samples, if you dare. We bought a large bag of sweetened peanut/sesame snacks for $4.00. Safe and delicious.
For dinners so far, we’ve done the 7-11 special. A chocolate “milk” (so watery), with a piece of fruit. And today , some yogurt with strange geletin squares in it, and a fresh donut from the train station for our substance, while hunting for street maps. We did great for meals yesterday, bad on snacks, today was the reverse. You win some, you toss some.
Tomorrow, our rental car arrives, and we’re hopefully prepared enough for our journey to Wulai with a plethora of navigation tools; everything but an english GPS map. They don’t exist apparently, as there is no need or demand for english maps of Taiwan. Go figure. We must be nuts. We’ve google mapped the heck out of the city route out of Taipei, and hopefully the traffic will be at a minimum during the late morning hours. We’ve appropriately arranged a nice laid back spa hotel for tomorrow night, complete with hot springs!