A Surprise Party
Taipei, Taiwan: Another day, another
earthquake. This time just a little 4-point-something this morning, but still quite a wake-up
call on the 19th floor of a hotel. I may have forgotten a lot about living in
Taiwan, but I will never forget the earthquakes. Never. Always earthquakes. A
person does get used to them, but still... I am happy we were not at
the top of Taipei 101 during these two earth tremblers.
We went across the sky bridge again this morning for a late breakfast/early
lunch to Din Tai Fung in
the basement of Taipei 101. This internationally-famous dumpling house
originated in Taiwan, but we usually eat at a branch near Lisa & Lenny's house
in Los Angeles. Still (again), when in Rome. The restaurant has several dishes,
but are most famous for their little steamed dumplings and dim sum (thin sheets
of dough enveloping succulent balls of meat, seafood, or a combination). Their
technique is so unusual, Din Tai Fung has earned a Michelin star.
Din Tai Fung dining room
The dumpling making team behind glass walls
I have to make the
So, I've been around. Traveled quite a bit. Lived overseas. This is the very
first time I have seen little canvas bags on folding stands to hold your
purse so it doesn't have to sit on the floor. (Discreetly covered with a
Of course we had Taiwan Pickle (my
Water Spinach, sauteed with garlic -
because who doesn't want garlic-fried greens for breakfast?
Spicy noodles with sesame and peanuts
Steamed chicken dumplings. Each dumpling wrapper is individually rolled,
filled and wrapped intricately by hand at Din Tai Fung. Every dumpling is a
piece of art. I've made hundreds of dumplings and one looked just like this.
Dave and I spent the afternoon at the
National Palace Museum,
which houses a treasure chest of Chinese antiquities. There is no photography
allowed. We have visited this museum many times in the past, and there is no way
the collections can be viewed in a day, or even in a lifetime... but we tried.
It was not completely an enjoyable experience as the museum was so crowded with
tour groups, it was difficult to even move around the galleries.
After the museum, we hopped in a taxi to the
Longshan Temple. About a block before reaching the temple, our taxi driver
somehow rammed his car into a temporary divider in place for road construction.
Thank goodness we were wearing seatbelts or this blog may have been posted from
a local hospital
tonight. B A N G ! The taxi went from 20mph to 0mph in one second. The taxi had
a smashed-in front passenger side bumper and a ruptured tire. The driver limped
along to the end of the block until he was able to find a safe place to pull
over. We hopped out. Not sure what happened to the taxi after that, because we
left him alone to fend for hisownself and continued on to the temple.
Longshan was built around 1738. You read that right. This temple has been a very
important part of Taiwanese social and religious life for centuries.
Scenes of worshippers praying and making offerings at Longshan Temple, and a
close-up of protective ceramic warriors and dragons
The area surrounding the temple was once famous as a red light
district and an area where one could find exotic delicacies (deer penis,
anyone?), and was most famous as a place to find restaurants offering snake
meat, snake soup and snake organs (like bile ducts washed-down with a little
snake blood, which apparently would produce a most... shall we say...
willing member of the male body which would, of course, only produce the
much-desired male offspring). Though quite tame by yesterday's standards, we
still found much to interest us on our walk through the market this evening.
Longshan area market
Roasted Chickens, fresh chickens (including
and a huge array of fresh fish
Randomly, our friends from home were in Taiwan on business this
week as well. Dave and Michael worked in Taipei together back in the day. Since we were
here at the same time, a mutual local friend, C.H., and his wife, arranged for a dinner party this
evening at a restaurant specializing in Taiwanese cuisine. We all met in the
hotel lobby and went to the restaurant. I was surprised to find a table set for
15, instead of a table set for 6. What was going on?
Michael and C.H. had planned a reunion party for Dave! They invited the office
staff from his time in Taipei to join us at the restaurant. It was a complete
surprise to us - and what a wonderful treat. Many of the staff are now retired
or have gone on to other things (it has been nearly 30 years, after all).
Talk about a flashback - how about 1988?
I nearly fell out of my chair when our driver, Marcus,
walked into the room! Marcus, seated next to me in the above photo, was not
only my driver in Taiwan, he was my Chinese teacher, my friend and my
confidant. He knew where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with 24/7...
and this was way before cell phones. At this time, due to insurance issues,
none of the expats were allowed to drive a car, so we relied on a stable of
drivers to fetch us and take us about the town on our daily tasks and often
get us home when we should not have been behind a wheel. Marcus was assigned
to us and he stuck with us our entire time in Taiwan and never once
complained (that we know about).
Marcus had four children, the youngest (a boy) born while we
were in Taiwan. His eldest daughter is a physician, the next daughter is a
nurse, the third daughter and his son are teachers. He has not changed one
bit. As per usual, Marcus and the other drivers discussed my physical
appearance directly in front of me as if I were not even in the room. I am
the same size as I was in Taiwan. Maybe a little smaller. Not fatter. My
hair color has changed.
Dave and I were so very happy this evening and can't thank
everyone enough for arranging this secret surprise dinner. It is amazing how
little people have changed over the past thirty years! We fell into the same
roles, told the same old stories and laughed and laughed. The gathering was
a nice reminder to me about how much my husband was respected and liked by
his office staff in Taipei and how much he enjoyed working with them. What a wonderful
Until my next update, I remain, your overjoyed correspondent.
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