Monday, June 20, 2016

Taiwan - night market and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial

This week, I'm in Taipei, Taiwan to present my work at an electrowetting conference. I spent my first day in-country listening to a variety of talks, with a view that mainly looked like this:

Not the most interesting thing ever, but I am enjoying the networking. Plus, several talks shed light on the struggles I am currently facing in my own experiments. My talk went well, except for the moment where Dr. Really-Important-Expert-Guy asked me a question that I had no idea how to answer and I had to honestly say, "I have no idea. BUT! I would love to discuss it with you." Maybe not the best response, but at that point I just wanted out of the hot seat! Can I also blame it on being jet-lagged and tired? I'm going with it...

This evening I tagged along with a group of new friends to explore the night market scene. A night market is a set of connected streets that have late-night restaurants, little shops, and street vendors. There are many night markets around the city, so this one was close to the hotel and had a fun, party atmosphere. It didn't take long for me to realize that there are mopeds everywhere on the streets! They sound like a swarm of insects when they take off from a stoplight. Vehicles also take "walk" signals as suggestions, so crossing the street is a dance between pedestrians and cars.

Night market, bustling with activity
All the mopeds!
We wandered in to a promising restaurant, but the menu was all in Chinese (duh)! There were pictures of dishes with their Chinese names on the wall, so we all huddled over the piece of paper to match the symbols on the wall to the symbols on the ordering ticket. The waiter eventually had mercy on us and gave us a pictorial menu, so we just pointed - "one of those, two of these..." Dumplings were a definite must. Everything was delicious!!
Trying to puzzle out the menu
We visited Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, which was built in memory of one of China's great 20th century political and military leaders. The hall was beautiful and awe-inspiring, even by night. We were surprised to see a decent number of people walking the park grounds, including several groups of dancers both young and old. Taiwan's youth don't congregate in parks to drink and smoke, they get together to hone their hip-hop moves and choreograph dances! Another symbol of artistry marking the streets of the city was the intricate and beautiful street mural we passed on our walk home. The word "love" and Marilyn Monroe's famous dress pose mingled with panda bears and Chinese characters, showing the intricate weaving together of cultures both new and old.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall - I'm in the top photo, although you can barely see me!
Overall, I have found the Taiwanese to be warm and friendly people, so I look forward to the rest of my stay in this country. Tomorrow is more of the conference!

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