We took a Peach Air flight from Osaka, Japan to Taipei, Taiwan.
After 17 years, Michael was back in the country where he was born!
This "kiss and ride" sign amused us.
After taking the train to Kaohsiung from Taipei, Joseph (Michael's dad), picked us up and brought us to a hotel called the "Military Heroes Hotel." Our room had a great view of a harbor, it was close to one of Michael's old schools, and I was able to see and hear my first Taiwanese garbage truck go by playing music. Yay!
Michael's dad was surprised when I said that I wanted to go hiking in Taiwan--to him, tourism is about eating with everyone you've ever been connected with in that place, so this trip was to be one dedicated to people and food, usually together. :)
We dropped off the dress and suit to be dry cleaned, brought shoes to be cleaned and fixed, and went to a tailor to get two other dresses altered, all while Julia (Michael's mom) clapped her hands in excitement that I was speaking a tiny bit of broken Chinese--not that I understood anything anyone said on the first try. That evening, we went to dinner with Michael's dad's boss's family and they gave me a traditional Taiwanese wedding necklace, which you can see in the next picture.
We stopped by Kaohsiung Normal University while I was still wearing my traditional Taiwanese wedding necklace, and then scoured the town for eclairs (that's all I wanted to salute that it was Christmas Day), to no avail.
Breakfast at the hotel.
I really enjoyed the sushi and the ambiance of this really great place (幕府專賣壽司/Sushi Only 高雄).
We visited some friends of Michael's parents, Aunt Wu and Uncle Lee, who are quite well-to-do and classy and they gave us a tour of their amazing house.
Even Uncle Lee and Aunt Wu's sandbox was fancy.
Their garden (that is the biggest bonsai tree I've ever seen).
One of their antique thrones. I embarrassingly tripped on the footstool.
One of two floors dedicated to antiques.
The top floor had a Japanese garden and a tea room, where they served aged tea and hot water.
Then, they took us out to dinner at their old house, which is now a restaurant called Yì zhuàn lán tíng (I think this is the website for 藝饌蘭庭). Oh wow. I ate this karasumi fish that was caramelized in a flame right in front of us (see the video) and it was really good:
There was a rock garden.
They put up photos of their family history for guests to see.
I think Yì zhuàn lán tíng (藝饌蘭庭) had some of the best Japanese food I've ever had. Wow. Even the fish pieces that had been soaked in something black were good enough to make me look past the spinal cord(!) that fell out of one piece and was promptly eaten by Michael.
I thought we were done, but Michael wasn't always very good about telling me what we were doing. :) Next, we headed to visit his real uncle and aunt (Uncle Lu and Aunt Chen) who often took care of him and Claire years ago. Their Uncle Lu isn't doing so well and Michael and Claire were wondering if they'd ever see him again. It was really touching to feel how much love was in the room, and their uncle even surprised everyone by talking to me in English (they'd never heard him do that before). He told me that I was beautiful with blonde hair (I'll never get Chinese people to believe that I'm not quite blonde like my mom and two of my sisters), blue eyes, and red lips like rubies (or something like that).
It's past 10, we were done for the night, right? Nope. Next we went to visit Aunt Yèshuǐróng (葉水蓉), a woman who knows about traditional Chinese medicine and does the rare art of bird calligraphy (鳥蟲體/niǎo chóng tǐ).
She wrote our names for us, see?
The next day, we visited the Former British Consulate in Kaohsiung. This is the view.
This is a shrine next to the Former British Consulate.
This is Michael's parents being cute as always.
That's a university over there.
And, of course, a monkey.
We visited Michael's dad's work and then headed to the place where our double wedding celebration was to be held.
Here we are doing wedding celebration planning at Han-Hsien Restaurant (寒軒大飯店).
Then, while Michael's family visited Joseph's dad's grave, I zonked out completely for several hours. In fact, I was so out (which is not usual for me) that when the loudest and most annoying phone I've ever heard started ringing, I leapt out of bed and ran around because I thought an alarm was going off. Turns out it was Michael. He ended up having to come up and get me because after having a heart attack, answering the phone was even harder than usual.
We had dinner with friends again that evening, during which time I used a leaf to cover up a fish eye that was staring at me, and then, traumatizingly, Michael's dad noticed and jabbed the eye out of the fish with his chopsticks. I saw it explode. I'll never forget that slow-motion moment as I looked away too late. I couldn't help but yelp.
One of the friends at dinner was this man, 趙慕鶴 (Zhàomùhè), who is the teacher/master of the woman who did bird calligraphy for us. He is the oldest person to have the skill of bird calligraphy, which is called "鳥蟲體" in Chinese (niǎo chóng tǐ).You can see a video of Zhàomùhè doing bird art calligraphy here and read more about him at this Google Translation of Wikipedia.
The next morning, we took a train to Taipei.
This is the view from Michael's aunt's apartment, where we stayed.
We had a wedding luncheon with family members in Taipei. More on that in another post.
We visited Joseph's old professor, 趙相元 (Zhàoxiāngyuán). His daughter, Mary, from New Jersey, told me about her son's awesome company, Boxed (he's the CEO and the company is for mobile warehouse club shopping).
Julia's former student's family, the Chens (諶) took us to dinner at My Home Steak, a buffet style place that had a lot of food I was comfortable with, hurray! After months of being disappointed every time I realized that green ice cream I saw at the store was actually green tea-flavored, I was so excited to find mint ice cream there. I ordered some steak, but what showed up looked so much like pork (it was whitish) that we called the waiter back, who brought the cook down to tell us it was steak. I didn't end up eating it, but I enjoyed some spaghetti and cream puffs, and I learned that Julia and I share a passion for passion fruit.
Claire, Michael, and I struck out to see some of Taipei. This is the night market.
Taipei 101 is the most daunting building I have ever seen.
Our last stop for the night was Liberty Square where we could see Taiwan's National Theater ((國家戲劇院/guójiā xìjù yuàn) and Concert Hall.
With the lighting, Liberty Square seemed like a magical place.
Michael shared his natural modeling abilities with us.
The next morning, we enjoyed church in Chinese (yay!), and then Michael's really awesome relative picked us up to explore Taipei's surrounding areas. First stop: Yángmíng Shān National Park (陽明山).
We got a little silly with stop-motion photography while we were there. Michael says I should tell you that I've learned the secret of levitation.
Then, we visited Michael's mom's friends, Aunt Lin and Lín zhàoxióng (林照雄). Upstairs, we enjoyed hot pot. Downstairs, we enjoyed a hot spring.
It was so hot that I couldn't get in all the way, so I added some cold water. I felt sleepy after that.
The surrounding views were amazing.
Next, we raced against the sun to Yehliu Geopark (野柳地质公园), a place that reminded me of Goblin Valley in Utah.
After that, it was time for another dinner, this time with Michael's grandma's sister-in-law.
She loves fuchsia, is really animated, showed us the "richest" shrine in Taipei, and gave us a wedding present--it was a jade Buddha statue that was heavier than I thought. I dropped it on the table and everyone jumped and I felt dumb and it was lucky that it didn't break. She also gave me a traditional Taiwanese wedding comb for my hair.
Claire, Michael, and I decided to venture out one more time for the evening to another location of a store we'd seen (Net) to find out if they had my size of a coral/salmon-colored coat I liked. They did. Yay, coat!
The next day, as soon as I woke up, I put our bedding in the washer. Michael's mom really liked that idea and did the same several hours later. She kept telling people about how I was so nice to want to wash the bedding at Michael's great-aunt's place, which embarrassed me a little. I hoped it reflected well on her. I kept thinking of how I like clean bedding and I'm sure the next visitor would, too. I also thought of how my mom always told us that her dad liked to say, "Leave things better than you find them."
We had a wonderful lunch with Michael's old school friend, Sean. They jabbered like they'd never missed a day.
Julia called us the next morning to tell us that we could get our feet done at her salon. I thought she meant get the skin scraped and the feet massaged, which I've been trying to get Michael to do for some time.
It turned out it was a pedicure.
Michael and I joined Michael's dad at a lunch for a whole bunch of Claire and Michael's old teachers, who were ecstatic to see Michael. After talking to one teacher, Michael said, "I'm not sure if she remembers that she sent me home one day for not doing my homework." He was too afraid to ask. :)
We spent a lot of time looking for shoes at a street market. It was cleaner than Shanghai and people didn't constantly badger me. Win for Taiwan! I settled on some shoes and was glad to have the store stretch them for my lovely bunions, and then we finally found some blue chukka boots wide enough for Michael's clodhopper feet (I've been looking for the last month and a half) to replace the Sperry shoes falling off of his feet.
I found one favorite and discovered another during our shopping trip: passion fruit juice and some amazing pastries on a stick.
We can't quite figure out what these delicious pastry thingies are called--not Imagawayaki or Obanyaki or Taiyaki, but similar. I would eat them every day if I could.
Though I had asked Michael out on a date for Italian food the day before, Michael surprised me by saying we were supposed to have dinner with some cousins at the same place we'd be having our wedding celebration. Oh, the joys of not understanding what people are talking about. At least after dinner we were able to check out the progress of the decorating for our celebration.
Since it was New Year's Eve, Michael and I decided to go find some ice cream. We again found mint chocolate chip ice cream (!), as well as waffles and a mango milkshake at an antique store/cafe.
New Year's Day: wedding celebration day! (There's a whole post about it coming up.)
I wasn't sure if I could stay awake, but I did, and I finally got my Italian food and date with Michael at a place we found online called Bite2Eat. The food was great and the atmosphere was really hip and clean (hurray!).
On our last day in Kaohsiung, Michael's dad's friend, an author who had used Michael's Chinese name in one of his books and whose name is Xǔréntú/許仁圖, wanted to treat us to a fancy lunch, so we brought one of Michael's old friends who is now a web developer with us.
Honestly, nearly every group meal we had in Taiwan was a big challenge for me, but this may have been one of the most difficult meals--not just because of the normal problem of there being way too much food for me to digest comfortably, but also because there was food that I'm ethically against but that was very expensive and I couldn't let the author nor Michael's parents "lose face." Also, we were sitting in a small room that made it really obvious to our host when I didn't eat something.
I survived, barely, with Michael's help and by telling myself that our trip was almost over, and then Michael's friend Chris helped us find out about digital perms and memory sticks in Taiwan. To finish off our last evening, we visited Michael's aunt and uncle one more time. Hopefully we will get to see them again.
What a wonderful whirlwind of a trip!
15 January 2014
We took a Peach Air flight from Osaka, Japan to Taipei, Taiwan.