Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sweet Street Food

My hotel is located near a big night market that sells a lot of different interesting kinds of food. I've eaten street food in China before but it's different here. First while I usually can't tell the difference between regonal types of Chinese food I can tell that the food in Taiwan is different. It's much sweeter for one thing. I've been told before that food in Shnaghai is sweeter than food in other parts of China but I could never really taste the difference. And while the food in Guangzhou is definitely less spicy than most Chinese food it still tastes about the same to me. But when I have the sausages in Taiwan I can tell the difference. They are much sweeter and so is a lot of the other food. Some things are familiar to me, I've had stinky tofu, a favorite of mine, twice since I landed and noodles and always noodles. But the street food near where I'm staying is really good and very cheap. A lot of people eat it right there on the street at little tables but it just seems to cold to sit outside to me, even though I have only been wearing my sweatshirt. There is also quite a bit of other asian food around. I've seen a ton of Japanese and sushi places, I guess people got a taste for it during the nearly 50 years Japan rulled this island. I've also seen Korean and Thai food a couple of places. Of course there is a lot of western food as well. I've seen McDonalds and Pizza Hut as well as some local knock off chains. Well I'm going to end this here as all this talk of food has made me hungry. Bon appetit.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Live From Taiwan

Well it turns out it's getting pretty hard these days to find internet cafes. It seems with smart phones and free WiFi everywhere no one really needs a place to just use the net. Luckily my hotel has a little coffee shop with a computer in it I can use. The hotel is actually really nice. I found it on TripAdvisor, which I use a lot after Lonely Planet failed me on my last trip. Flying from Guangzhou to Taipei, the capital and largest city in Taiwan, was really easy. I always assumed that since China and Taiwan had such bad relations that it would be a lot harder to go directly from one to the other but it was a snap. It's also nice that as an American I don't need a visa or anything to go to Taiwan. I mentioned briefly before that Taiwan is a very touch issue in China, and I'll get more into that in another post, but it's even a political statement to call China, technically the Peoples Republic of China, China and Taiwan, technically the Republic of China, Taiwan, but I'm not typing out all that every time so I'm just going to refer to the two countries, another political statement, as China and Taiwan.

Today I spent a while trying to print out some of the pages from a Lonely Planet book I bought on the computer and had in PDF format. But the maps didn't print well and I ended up going to a bookstore and buying another copy of the book. The problem is that the book I bought is older than the one I have as a PDF, so much so in fact that the closest subway line isn't even shown in the older book. It's not a problem for everything though as the temples and museums don't really move to much. I saw some Taoist and Confucian temples today which were nice. I took some pictures but I can't really upload them from here so I'll do some sort of photo post when I get back. The Taoist temple had a number of people praying in it. Which basically just means lighting some incense and bowing a bunch. It's still nice to see and actual working temple since the ones I see in China people are rarely praying. The Confucian temple was much more minimalist without any of the statues of gods or big holders of incense. Instead there were a number of rooms filled with old Confucian sayings and some exhibits on the life of Confucius.

I was worried when I came here that I wouldn't be able to understand anyone. I know that more of the traditional characters are used, not such a problem since I'm not literate in Chinese anyway, and the the language was quite different. Well at least for the simple words I know I can still understand the people here. There is a good amount of English spoken as well, which isn't so shocking. I'm actually just down the block from some English teaching school which is very funny to see. I guess English is just everywhere now. Good.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

North and South, My Winter Trip

Well it's that time again, the time where most people go back to work but I stop working for an extended period of time. That's right it's Chinese Spring Festival. As per usual I have almost two months off and I'm planning on doing some traveling. All the traveling I get to do during these off months is easily one of the best parts about working in China. I decided this time to go to Taiwan, which I've heard described as more China than China. Taiwan for those of you who don't know if a little island off the coast of China that China claims as its own. Before the Communists took over in China China was run by a nationalist group called the Kuomintang. They were engaged in a long civil war with the Communists before the Japanese invaded. After the Japanese left the Kuomintang were weakened enough that the Communists ended up winning. The Kuomintang fled to the island of Taiwan where the established there own separate government. The US has long protected Taiwan keeping the Communists from invading, a never ending source of tension between the US and China, China gets pissed if people even suggest Taiwan is an independent country.

Unlike in China Taiwan never had a Cultural Revolution and never took a hammer to its own history so I'm told there is still quite a bit of old buildings and temples around the island. I'm going to spend most of my time in Taipei the capitol but I'll also be going to Tainan and Kaosiung in the South of the island. After Taiwan I'm going up to Beijing to spend Chinese new year with my parents, this will be the first time I'll be in China for the holiday and I'm looking forward to seeing some intense fireworks. Then my whole family is going to Vietnam. I've been to Vietnam before but it was a really interesting place and I'm excited to go back. After that I'll be back in Beijing for a while then maybe I'll go to Hong Kong with my mother before going back to Guangzhou. I made this little map of the trip and I'll try to do a few blog posts as I travel since most of the places I'm going it shouldn't be too hard to find an internet cafe.