Week 1 Recap: NTNU, public transportation, Shilin, Taiwanese dentistry

As mentioned in the first post I basically couldn’t use my DSLR at all for the majority of my time here so far, and I’m a noob at trying to vlog, so I don’t have too many pictures and videos for the first few days.  In this post I’m just going to summarize what I did my first week in Taipei, which was mostly just settling in and learning how to live the city life.

Here’s a quick video of the first couple days here…my very first video so do not have high expectations LOL:

Monday 8/24: Registration at NTNU

The main reason I am living in Taiwan for such a lengthy amount of time is because I will be learning Chinese at the Mandarin Training Center of the National Taiwan Normal University (Shida).  It’s a fairly well-known program, and people from various different backgrounds and nationalities come to Shida to learn the Chinese language. This was the first day for registration, and there were way more people than I’d expected. The whole thing took a whopping 3 hours to complete, and was literally 90% just waiting in line and doing nothing. Basically registration was a 3 step process: 1) verify passport information, 2) pay tuition, 3) skills evaluation quiz, 4) apply for and receive student ID card. Waiting to pay for tuition took so long though…I literally waited an hour and a half for step 2.

Since it took so long, I had the chance to get to know two girls who were in line next to me. Both spoke very good English, and seemed to have pretty decent Chinese as well. From what I’ve seen of the people at Registration, many already have a fair grasp of the language; very few can be considered pure beginners.

The skills evaluation consisted of an oral segment—basically just conversing with a counselor to help determine which class you would fit in best— and an optional writing portion, which I opted out of since I don’t even know my Bopomofo (like Chinese alphabet).  After that, I was sent upstairs to input some basic personal information into their computer database.  Lastly, I received a few handouts, a student guide book, and my ISIC, an International Student Identity Card:

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Student guide book, ISIC card, and other handouts.

Tuesday 8/25: Taipei Bus Station and bus life in general

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MRT

This day marked the first time I walked out of my aunt’s house independently! Grandma, and Aunt and Uncle 2 live just down the street from where I am staying with Aunt 1, so I met them there for lunch. They took me to a western-style restaurant at the Taipei Bus Station, and taught me how to use the public bus transportation system. We also visited Hands Tailung, basically a Daiso/Tokyo Lifestyle on steroids, and then shopped around some random small street stores nearby. We took the bus home, and by this time I was getting pretty used to how the bus works. The wonderful thing about Taipei is that there is English everywhere. Every street sign, MRT sign, all the maps, and even the buses are labeled in both Chinese and English. The buses announce every stop in both languages as well, so it’s very convenient for foreigners to navigate the city.

Wednesday 8/26: Taipei Metro Mall

I met up with my Aunt and Uncle again for lunch. This time we took the bus to the National Taiwan University (Taida) area, which has a lot of good places to eat and shop close by. However, Taiwanese restaurants apparently only serve lunch until 2 pm, and they close very strictly at that time. We came a bit too late and had to eat at a different Thai restaurant than the ones my Aunt and Uncle had intended to eat at. Afterwards, my Uncle took me down to the Taipei Metro Mall, an underground network of diverse street shops accessible by many of the main MRT lines. Everything is really cheap there…I got myself a selfie stick and a desk tripod for only 88+30NTP = about $4 USD altogether. Yes, I will now be one of those people who take selfies obnoxiously in public.

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Goodies from the Metro Mall (not including camera).

Before heading back, we stopped by Tim Ho Wan, a quick take-out dim sum place to pick up some of their well-known crispy char siu buns.  My Uncle, who is from Hong Kong, informed me that Tim Ho Wan is known as one of the cheapest Michelin-star eateries. And the char siu baos did not disappoint. I’m not a particularly huge fan of char siu baos in general—they’re usually just a-ok for me. But piping hot out of the oven, these unique buns have a caramelized, crunchy cookie shell (kind of like a melon pan), and the rich Chinese bbq pork filling inside is seasoned to sweet and tangy perfection. Highly recommend if you’re ever in Hong Kong or Taiwan where there’s a Tim Wan Ho nearby!

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Tim Wan Ho char siu buns (baos)

Thursday 8/27: Dentist appointment

A year ago, I was told I would need a root canal, but it costs major $$$ at the dentistry in Irvine that I went to, so we decided to try our luck in Taiwan. Aunt 1 took me to a place down the street that’s run by an old high school friend of hers’ and let’s just say this experience kinda-sorta-maybe scarred me for life. Either way, I’m now scheduled for a root canal on my birthday -______-.

Later that night, Tracy finally arrived in Taiwan! We decided to go to Shilin Nightmarket for cheap food and shopping. The nightmarkets are always a must if you’re visiting Taiwan (or any other Asian country in general). At Shilin, most of the food vendors are organized into a large underground area, which made it unbelievably loud, stuffy, and hot down there.

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Outskirts of Shilin Night Market

Legit fried stinky tofu.  Heavy stink and very garlicky.

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Fried stinky tofu

Tracy and her duck blood stinky tofu soup. Yes, there is such a dish:

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$30 NTP ($1 USD) boba milk tea! Perfectly chewy tapioca and rich, creamy milk tea.

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Boba milk tea

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Sitting area in basement food court

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Freshly made dishes on display

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Teh Tarik – Malaysian “pulled tea” in a bag

Watch my Shilin Nightmarket video!:

Let me know if there’s anything about Taiwan you’re curious about, or if there’s anything you want me to cover in later posts and videos.  My Youtube channel finally has stuff on it so go check it out, and follow me here and/or on Youtube for more FOBification adventures 😀 Until next time!

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