We talked to a taxi driver at one time to enquire about the sword-makers around Taipei area. The driver told us there might be a sword shop close to a particular intersection by Chong Ch’ing Nan Road, and we should be able to spot it quickly if we were at the intersection. According to his instruction, this particular store should not be too far from the CKS’s Memorial Hall. So, I thought we might as well walk there since we were already at CKS Memorial Hall. Duh! Wrong! What was I thinking?
The two roads he gave us were not intersected at all, and they were very far apart. With the map in hands, we kept walking and walking to look for this shop that turned out to be non-existent at all. People might ask, “Why didn’t you take a taxi?” Well. If I had an address, I would! However, we did not really know where the shop was located! We could only walk and search the area.
Did I mention that it was the hottest day since our arrival? We were so cooked! We finally stopped at Nan Yang Street, near the train station. By then, Da Pong got blisters on his feet. We had to take “cooling” shelter at the MacDonald’s in order for me to go look for Band-Aids and socks! Yes, socks! We had to ditch the sandals for shoes.
On this hot day, we walked upstairs to the second floor of a MacDonald’s in search of a seat. All we saw was students with books on the table. One person often took up a table alone or sometimes with a drink on the table. Anyway, thank Goodness, we found a table with two seats on the second floor at this crowded MacDonald’s by Nan Yang Street! What a miracle! I almost kneeled down to kiss the floor!
Here is my complaint about all the fast food restaurants in Taiwan. Well, the complaint is not really about the restaurants per se, but about the “invaders”. Almost all the fast food restaurants we went to were “invaded” by people, mostly students, who just sat there and used the tables as their study room or lounge for a nap! Do you know how hard it is to find a table at a fast food restaurant in downtown Taipei? It was extremely difficult for us and this happened so many times during our visit to Taiwan, to the point that one of us had to be a scout to look for a table first before we ordered any food. If there was no table, we left!
I understand that kids need space to hang out and to study alone or as a group. (We were all students once!) So, what’s wrong with going to the library? I went to the library above a temple once, for Goodness sake. If we ever want the fast food industry to be able to survive in Taiwan’s tough economy, we need to vacate these kids and provide enough sitting spaces to customers who actually paid to eat there! Unfortunately, if the paid customers could not find tables, they would eventually leave. I know that some of these students are customers as well, obviously with a cup of drink on their table. Sadly, the other customers, hungry and thirsty like us who had a tray of food in our hands, could not even find a spot to sit down!
After the emergency supply of cold drinks and Band-Aids, we decided to give up the search for this unknown sword store. We would just take a taxi and go directly to another store that I had found online the night before. The store is called Non Zhou Tang, located behind the Taipei Train Station. It was a very small shop but almost all the sword stores that we visited were small anyway. The owner at the shop was a very nice man. We were very happy to meet all these helpful and knowledgeable people along the way.
After we left the shop, we accidently discovered one of the underground shopping districts by the train station. While we were enjoying our three o’clock lunch down there at the underground, I suddenly got a phone call from an old classmate of mine. I somehow left my little black book at home before we left Canada. So, I had no contact information for any of my friends. Without my communication book, it was almost impossible to call anybody. I emailed this particular friend the day when I arrived in Taipei to ask him about the others’ contact information. My friend and I decided to meet up later in the evening at a friend’s shop at Si Men Ding.
Since we had some time to kill, Da Pong and I took a bus to Si Men Ding. We sat on the overhang of a subway steps with a milk tea in our hand to watch the amazing scene of Taipei traffic during rush-hours. (If we put a bowl in front of us, we probably would collect some money on the street that day for our trip. ) It was so amazing to sit by the main road and watch hundreds of motorcycles to spill out at the intersections and charge ahead. The zooming force that exploded at the change of light was so powerful and breath-taking. Right there and the, we knew we made a good decision not to drive in Taiwan. By the way, Da Pong made a comment about the air quality in Taipei. The air pollution was so bad that he could “taste” the air in Taipei.
While we were sitting on the overhang of the steps, Da Pong saw some students walk by with guitars. We later asked a girl at a tea house about the location of the guitar store and then paid a visit. After reading four days of my trip journals, you probably can understand by now that we were really casual travelers, maybe with a mission in mind to visit guitar stores and sword-makers. Other than the big tourist traps, we often enjoy visiting little places that suit our interests. This was pretty much our travelling pattern and how we filled the gaps of our time during our visit in Taiwan. The only person who was under tremendous stress would be the tour operator, ME, who had to search and plan for our days in Taiwan.