It's now Saturday and I'm sitting in the 5th floor "Barista Coffee" in Taipei 101. The building is the world's tallest, and the first 6 floors comprise an absolutely gigantic shopping mall. As usual, everything is immacuately clean, the people are supremely friendly, and the choices are seemingly infinite.
Upon arriving, I headed straight for the basement "Grand Market", a Pan-Asian food court so big I actually did get lost. I had fried meat rolls (w/ a spicyish duck sauce) and steamed pork dumplings. Both were worlds better than any equivalent dish I ever had. After eating, I pursued the first few floors of the mall. Many stores are lines we have in the US- Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Swatch, etc, etc. But others are new to me- there's a Japanese clothing company called "Kenzo" with really nice stuff. So I popped in for a look, only to find the lowest priced shirt at $1900 TD (a little over $500 US!).
Now I'm sitting on the 5th floor sipping what happens to be an amazing cappucino and all I can think is "WOW!" The cafe is housed in a giant closed atrium so that the skilled ceiling is approximately 300 feet above my head (give or take 100 feet). There are metallic bracing and columns throughout the atrium space, which when paired with the stark white walls and neon-colored fluorescent lighting, make the area feel a bit like Coruscant. Compare this to what I did just prior...
After a visit to Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall (where by the way I was given a complimentary English tour and 2 free souvenirs) I headed in the direction of Taipei 101. To get here, I transversed a very traditional area. Covering an expanse of about 5 by 5 blocks, local merchants lined the streets with foods, crafts, and religious items. There were tables filled with fresh seafood, steaming bowls teeming with bean curd, and Buddhist monks selling paraphonalia (I purchased paper money for 30 cents...make sure to burn it if/when I am gone!). Anyway, to make a long story short I walked through this passage with Taipei 101 looming overhead the entire time- a strange and interesting mix of past and present. That's pretty much what Taipei has been.
Now I need to rest, for tonight I intend to visit Dinhua market. I hope everything is well in Paris, the US, and elsewhere!
Oh and, as a reminder- I must talk about Longshan Temple and Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall!