Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Taiwan: Part 2

Vacation time came to an end and it was time to get to work!

We had been staying in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. Taipei is very western and the area in which we were staying was very posh. The tournament venue was in a mall in Taoyaun. The difference between Taipei and Taoyuan is sort of like the difference between Manhattan and Queens.

Did I mention that the tournament was held in a mall?!!! Below I have included some home video as evidence because I didn't think that anyone would believe me. Sorry about the quality of the video: Please don't watch if you get seizures or motion sickness or if you are just irritated by crappy visuals.

The tournament activities got started with a press conference which aired on live tv. It featured an emcee and a Taiwanese rock band. Here is a clip of the U.S. players being paraded across the stage:

Here I am playing Allison Fisher in the TV Venue:

That was my first ever "JumboTron" appearance!

Here are the practice tables:

Note the batting cages and roller skaters in the background and the family of five playing next to me.

Here is the regular venue, it was in the lower level of the mall which was also a sports complex. The tables were situated in the center of a roller rink:

Note my husband's wandering attention... I think he's in love... :)

I was proud of how I played and how strong I stayed mentally in the very different conditions, but sadly I didn't advance out of my group. Oh well... vacation time again! Drinking in the bar with the other also-rans, sleeping late, and gorging on the hotel buffet were all good consolations!

On our last night in Taiwan, Harry and I made it to one of Taoyuan's night markets. There we had stinky tofu (the benign kind) and oyster omelets with some sort of pink goo on top. We couldn't leave until we had finally found and eaten pig's blood cake (since I had blogged about trying it.) The blood/rice combination was very mild and vaguely burrito-like and mostly it tasted like the cilantro and peanuts that coated it.

Our flight back was markedly less pleasant than our flight there, as it was a packed house. I call back seat middle!!!

After kissing the ground at LAX, we headed to the local unmemorable Radisson which we will remember forever for its proximity to Denny's, and for its sweet, sweet facilities where we slept for 16 hours straight and did laundry. The next day we celebrated our homecoming with an Oki Dog: America's own bizarre food.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Taiwan: Part 1

I'm now in Alpine, CA preparing to start play tomorrow in the WPBA San Diego Classic. I was a little too busy to blog while I was in Taiwan, so I will give everyone a quick recap of my trip...

Flying Out:

My husband, Harry, made the trip with me as this was, by far, the most interesting place that pool has ever sent me. We flew on China Airlines from LAX to Taipei (14 hours.) Luckily we had a row to ourselves and were able to sleep half the way there. Other than that, we watched some movies, did a lot of stretching and walking around and drank about 4 liters of water.

Funny thing about China Airlines...

What is the record of China Airlines?
Since 1970, there have been nine fatal events involving China Airlines. The three most recent China Airlines events involved the A300-600 and the MD11 and there were a total of more than 460 fatalities in the two events. The estimated fatal event rate for China Airlines is about 11.4 fatal events per million flights. This is more than triple the rate of most major airlines in North America and western Europe.

Yikes! My in-laws showed me that after I returned to LA. I'm glad I didn't see it before I left. No wonder the tickets were so cheap.

Arriving in Taipei:

For first time ever, I had a person at the airport waiting for me, holding a sign with my name on it. (Thanks, Mr. Tu, for making all our arrangements!) Harry and I were too disoriented to pay attention to too much, so we checked into the hotel as quickly as possible, only to find ourselves wide awake at 3 am.

Taiwan is a full 12 hours ahead of New York, so we had turned night into day and day into night. I didn't fully appreciate "Lost in Translation" when it came out, but maybe I need to watch it again.

Day 1:

Having slept through the complimentary hotel breakfast, we stuffed ourselves with a variety of steamed buns from the local bakery. Pretty much anything tastes good when surrounded by sweetened white bread: red bean and coconut paste; tuna fish salad; sweet potato. This same bakery had a tantalizing concoction called "Toast Pudding" which sadly I didn't get to try. I wanted to because it combines two of my favorite foods: toast and pudding.

After breakfast, we visited Taipei 101 - the world's tallest building.

We rode the world's fastest elevator up to the observatory and then back down and then we stumbled around the mega-mall (one of Taipei's many.) We gazed blankly at floor after floor of Western luxury goods (three times as expensive as in the U.S.,) trying to stay awake all day so that we would adjust to the time change.

It was raining very hard that night so we ended up at another mega-mall, the So-Go, for dinner at Din Tai Fung (which specializes in soup dumplings.) A very nice English-speaking stranger walked by as we were waiting to be seated and made some suggestions about what we should eat. By "made some suggestions" I mean "ordered our whole meal for us with little room for discussion." Luckily he had good taste and we had our best meal in Taiwan.

Day 2:

We headed out for a day trip to Wulai, to soak in the natural hot springs and eat indigenous foods.
Wulai is located about an hour and a half south of Taipei and can be reached by a combination of subway and bus (or in our case subway and psycho-taxi.) The subway in Taipei is much cleaner than the subway in New York, and we were less afraid when our fellow passengers struck up conversations with us. The 40-minute ride by bus took 10 minutes by taxi. The driver laughed when I looked for a non-existent seat belt and then he proceeded to pass every car on the winding two-lane mountain roads .

We had ourselves a good soak and afterwards we used pantomime to order lunch in a local restaurant. Our charades got us a wonderful meal of small fried fish, steamed glutinous rice filled with pork and tasty bamboo soup.

With my tournament activities scheduled to begin the next day, we headed back to Taipei. Back at the hotel I took a zombie nap and then had a massage. What a life!

More to come...