Tea in Taipei (and why they call it 101)

TAIPEI, TAIWAN — We had tea in Taipei. It was perhaps the most exotic tea I’ve tasted so far. Unlike the fastfood version, tea in Taipei’s Mao Kong mountains had to be prepared carefully. It was the traditional way of making tea, they said. But the wait was worth it. The traditional tea house in Mao Kong was a treat. We sat on the floor, and we had a good view of Taipei and the 101 (I’ll get to that in a while). Before we got there, we received a one-page “introduction to tea.” It contained the different classifications of tea, how-to’s and all other tips in brewing tea. The procedure was simple to follow. But it was more fun watching them do it, hehe.

Anyway, our day in Taipei started with a several cups of traditional tea (and green tea candies). It was a relaxing afternoon that allowed us to slow down a bit after a day of traveling.

I was in Taipei to attend Acer’s 30th anniversary celebration. Yes, the Taiwanese company is that old. Around 200+ journalists and partners were invited to attend this event held at the Grand Formosa Regent. It was a lavish affair. But what capped the event was the last night’s opera and the meeting with Acer co-founder Stan Shih and his wife. As we waited for our meal to be served during the second night, Mr Shih and wife went around each table to give a toast to 30 years. They looked like a couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. It was a humbling experience.

Of course, we did some shopping. The last night, we ended in Snake Alley, also known as the Huashi Street night market. This place is known for the restaurants serving snakes as an exotic meal (you can also drink the blood if you have the guts to do it). We were not allowed to take pictures or videos there. It was here that I chanced upon the “stinky tofu,” which I have been hearing about. Trust me, the term to describe this local delicacy will stoke your curiousity but it can ruin your apetite if you can’t stand the smell. It is stinky but they say it tastes good.

Snake Alley is perhaps a very tourist-oriented night market, unlike the other market called Shinlin. But it was a cornocupia of food, goods, and services. It was here that we found sex toys being sold in the open. I also found a lot of foot massage parlors, which was popular among tourists after hours of exploring Snake Alley. They sold everything here, including clothes, food, cellphones, toys, dildos, you name it. I also found gaming arcades that featured pinball machines.

Snake Alley was an assault on the senses. The chatter of people, mixed with the blurting invitations by vendors to passers-by, to the smell of the stinky tofu mixed with the aroma of Chinese tea–all these make up Snake Alley. And the snakes, yes, the slithery snakes were there, alive and sleeping. I dared not try tasting them, nor did I see anyone trying them. I also saw some turtles served as an exotic dish.

Of course, the Taipei experience wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building. I was able to get to the 91st floor (Acer held an event up there), and view Taipei from there. See the video I took using a phone camera, and you’ll get the idea how high it is.

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Erwin Oliva

Putting a dent on the universe one day at a time