Thursday, July 17, 2008


Woke up early Wednesday to some warm breakfast breads, soy milk, and the All-Star Game - remember, we're 12 hours ahead here. We didn't stick around to witness all 15 innings, but it was good to see some good old American baseball on the tube.

At around 11am, we headed out to pick up Megan. She was eagerly waiting for her release, so we hopped on the MRT (subway) and went towards downtown Taipei City. We decided to go to Sogo, a high-end shopping mall that caters to people with a taste for international fashion - Givenchy, Kate Spade, Lacoste, Balencia, etc. We window shopped through the 9 floors and worked up an appetite.

Like any good mall, Sogo has a food court, so we ordered up some Japanese udon and rested our legs. For desert, we enjoyed this little delicacy, mango shaved ice. This dish is worth its weight in gold, my friends. It consists of shaved ice topped with fresh mango (it's in season right now), sweetened condensed milk, honey, and a scoop of mango ice cream. My sister and I are discussing opening a stand at the state fair this year and selling only this. We would make a killing.

After food, Dad headed home and Megan and I went back to the Ximen District. We wandered around the shops, discussing the finer points of Taiwanese fashion and her annoyance with FOB-by Asians from SoCal. We decided to get out of the heat by seeing a movie and we settled on Hancock, disappointed that Dark Knight wasn't coming out till the next day. After the previews, we were watching a Japanese kid's anime cartoon for about 5 minutes before realizing we were in the wrong movie. Oops. Megan used her Chinese skills to figure out we followed the wrong crowd, and we scurried off to the proper theatre. My review of Hancock: it was 80% of a movie. Not totally bad, but only because it wasn't a full movie. About the best thing I can say about it was that the theatre was cold.

After the movie, we called my cousin Su Miao (Diane) and her daughter Heidi, who is about Megan's age, and made plans to meet at the Shilin Night Market. I've written about this place before, and not too much has changed. We were wandering through the crowded market when apparently the cops showed up. All the illegal vendors scattered, pushing their carts into alleys and the backs of shops. It was quite hilarious.

After some more mango shaved ice and more Taiwanese iced, gelatinous, soupy, beany goodness, I dropped Megan back off at camp and headed home.

Thursday morning I decided that I needed to work out. All I've been doing here is eating, shopping, and sitting around. So, I walked over to the school down the street and started my routine. It was so humid, I felt like I was going to puke by the end. It took me a good hour, after I had showered, to stop sweating. New Jeremy rule: don't work out in Taiwan during the summer.

In the afternoon, we went out for tea with my aunt and cousins. The restaurant we went to was an Italian pizzeria (I know, weird) where they served us small pizzas, tortes, canolis, and cappucinos until we couldn't eat any more. To the left is my dad with my cousin Lannie.

After tea, Jo, Heidi, and I met up with Megan to go to the movies (again), but this time to see Dark Knight. A strange thing about movies in Taiwan is that you are given assigned seating. We ended up with crappy seats, and Jo complained, scoring us free tickets to a new movie. Peoples: go see this movie! Even from crappy seats, this movie blew me away. If you liked Batman Begins at all, you will be blown away. And, Heath Ledger will win a posthumous Oscar.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


We started out the day by driving west of Taipei city into the mountains surrounding the city. We're staying in the suburbs already, so it becomes rural pretty quickly. After winding through the mountains, we came to the temple that is the resting place of Ama's ashes, and where my grandpa's ashes will be placed. After offering some fruit and flowers to the shrine of the god looking over the temple, we visited the large vault-like room where their urns will be kept next to one another.

The temple is in a beautiful location looking out over green mountains. As Dad said, Ago and Ama always loved the mountains.

After getting back to Uncle's, we spent most of the day inside, eating and playing with Yi Chin, my cousin's 2 year-old daughter. She calls me "Uncle," but is reluctant to play with me (she's rather shy). Noticing that Dad and I were talking in English, she said (in Chinese) that we're talking in "great uncle's language."
It's 95+ degrees outside and humid during the day, so we waited until after dinner to go out and check out the city. We decided to go to the Ximen District, where Megan and I plan to go see a movie tomorrow. As I've posted before, this is the part of town where the kids hang out. There are arcades, shoe stores, clothing stores, karaoke, food, tatoo parlors, and a slew of other things for young people to consume.

I'm not sure whether these kids are weird, or just a whole lot cooler than me. They have hair styles that put American rockers to shame and clothes that make Brooklyn hipsters look like wusses. I've always contended that real Williamsburg hipsters spend at least 2 hours before going out to make themselves look ugly ... Taiwanese kids must sit at home all day thinking about how to pull off their latest fashion suicide. Or maybe I'm losing something in translation...

There were plenty of interesting things to see in Ximen, including this guy, who has drained a squirrel's will to live in order to train it to stand on this girl's hands. This girl was so shy she wouldn't uncover her hair from her face while her friend took a snap with her cell phone.

As always, English is always a humorous endeavor in Asian countries. Here we have two fine examples: (1) "Psycho Nerds," which pretty much sums up the style of kids running around Ximen District, and (2) IM ICEMAN, which I am going to assume refers to the character played by Val Kilmer in the 1986 classic Top Gun. What do these signs have to do with anything? Not sure.

I was quite tired by the time we got done with Ximen; I was also disappointed - Megan and I were planning on seeing Dark Knight on Wednesday, but it doesn't come out til Thursday. I fell asleep in the cab home, but stayed up to show Albert (my cousin) and his wife my new iPhone. It hasn't come out in Taiwan yet, but they are eagerly waiting.

We ate peanuts and mango (the sweetest I've ever had) and killed off some more Johnny Walker before heading to bed. I might finally be on an appropriate sleep schedule now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday/Tuesday AM

After some breakfast, Dad and I headed to the MRT (the subway) to meet up with Megan. She is here on a cultural exhange program for kids in the US that have Taiwanese parents. To say the least, she's not having the greatest of times... I'm glad I can be here to break up the month of what she's dramatically calling "prison."

Dad tried to convince the wardens to let her have another day to attend Ago's (grandpa) funeral, but they wouldn't budge. I'm looking forward to jailbreaking with her for a couple of days, and we're planning on hanging out Wednesday when she has some free time. Gonna go try to see Batman...

After a short visit with Megan, Dad and I took a short walk up the hill to the Grand Hotel. We ordered some Taiwan beers and a sushi/sashimi plate, as recommended by my brother from his last trip. No disappointment here.

Also recommended by Chris was the Grand Tailor. My brother had some custom shirts made earlier this year by the shop owner, so we went in to take a look. He remembered my dad and greeted us kindly. After showing us some fine cashmere wool and cell phone pictures of the former president of Taiwan, one of his clients, he convinced us that we needed to get fitted for new suits. We obliged and within minutes he was wrapping a tape measure around us. Our custom-made suits will be ready on Friday.
We headed back to Uncle's and I took a much needed nap. Upon waking, we went to visit Ago's shrine. Normally, the shrine would have been set up in the apartment where he lived, but it is unlucky to have more than one shrine in the same house in one year (my grandma passed away earlier this year). We presented food and fruit at the shrine, lit incense, and recited some prayers from a book. In the background, recorded chanting played over the hum of traffic passing outside the building. You can always hear traffic in Taipei.

My sleep schedule is all messed up. Right after dinner, I layed down and didn't wake up until 2:30am. Stayed up for a little bit, catching up with email and whatnot, then tried to sleep again, with some success.

We woke up early and had breakfast of soy milk, egg dumpling, and sticky rice. We are planning on heading to the temple where Grandma's ashes are to pick up the urn for Grandpa.


So, just to let you know a few things...

I'm in Taiwan to attend my grandfather's funeral. He lived a long life (96!) and has left a strong legacy.

I'm going to be here for 10 days, along with my dad and sister Megan, who is here on an exchange program. My dad and I are staying with my uncle, my dad's older brother.

I'm going to be blogging as much as possible, but am somewhat limited in my internet access. Purchasing an iPhone 3G before I left turned out to be a good idea. I'm uploading photos from my phone and Twittering when possible. Links to those are located on the right ----->.

I hope that you will post comments and check back daily for updates. Something to break up the workday, right?

FYI, Taipei is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Time.

Much love from Taiwan,

Monday, July 14, 2008

NYC, Tokyo, Taipei

Well. I'm back in Taiwan.

After 24+ hours in transit, I arrived in Taipei to see my dad, uncle, and aunt waiting just outside baggage at Taoyuan Airport. Yesterday (I think - I lost a day), this was a site I could only hope to see.

It started with a cab ride to JFK, only to find my flight delayed from 11:45am to 1:30pm. I had a short layover in Tokyo, so it looked like I wouldn't make my connection. American Airlines was plenty snarky about getting me new connection info (thanks a lot), but eventually I decided this was a blessing in disguise, as now I could manage to have a few pre-flight cocktails.

Wandering over to the bar, I ran into a couple of fellow Brooklynites - Will (Flatbush) and Christian (Greenpoint). I ordered a couple doubles of scotch and settled into my bar seat. After learning that our flight was delayed another hour and a half (supposed mechanical issues), we decided the only thing to do was to drink more beer. Fine fellows, these guys.

Eventually we parted tipsy ways and boarded the plane. Thus began 12 hours of airplane food, movies (Batman: Gotham Knight - recommended), TV (Mad Men - recommended, The Wire - obviously, The Office - yeah, and Big Bang Theory - eh), and bad sleep.

The transfer in Tokyo was rather harmless (except for getting my gift of Johnny Walker confiscated), and I got booked for a later flight to Taipei. 4 more hours of flying and little sleep and we landed in Taipei.

Once we got to uncle's apartment, we settled in eating frest fruit (the most amazing grapes ever - it was like biting into grape drink) and Taiwan beer (also highly recommended). Dad, Uncle and Auntie talked about Grandpa before he passed away. This was definitely a case of "old age" and nothing more. He had a long and bountiful life.

Dad and I stayed up, drinking whiskey and talking about work, politics, and golf until about 4am local time. We turned in for some well-deserved sleep.


The food begins. Dumplings, vegetable buns, and what I can only describe as "peanut milk soup". Expect the theme of "food" to reoccur here.

We are hanging out with my niece for a bit, then heading out to see Megan.