Late Saturday, Dec 1st, we arrived into Taoyuan International airport a 40 minute drive southwest of downtown Taipei. Our taxi whisked us to the Howard Civil Service International hotel where our host, Chiao-Ling, had graciously reserved a big room for us. It was a perfect place from where to begin our new Taipei lives!
The first stop to Taipei is to wander down any backstreet for the famous snack foods here. This was a crispy crepe filled with sausage, imitation crab meat, diced chicken, corn, tuna fish, lettuce, carrots, mayonnaise and mystery sauce. I don’t think you could have stuffed much more into this tasty Belgian looking sandwich!
Our first week was filled with interviews and apartment hunting…it was draining to say the least…but we were successful in both landing Taipei city jobs each at a different chain of the Hess American School. Apparently jobs in central Taipei are extremely hard to come by this time of year, so we were very ecstatic!
Chiao-Ling and her team with Wendy and George were a huge help despite their very busy schedules. We visited a conference they put on facilitated by the hkxf.org foundation affiliated with the School of Continuing Education under the Chinese Cultural University. A very thought provoking presentation was held regarding career development coaching. I applaud the efforts of this organization and wish them great success in expanding their reach in Eastern Asia.
After spending hours perusing over the apartment site, 591.com, and looking at various apartments, we were torn on the best option. It seemed our choices (in immediate search mode) were limited to either a 2bed/2bath outside the center, or a studio, maybe 1 bed, in the center. A lot of apartments in the center are also tiny lofts, a lot with no kitchen and tiny bathroom. We even had a realtor tell us Jason was too tall for a place we wanted to see! For a decent sized place in the city center, NT(New Taiwan)$20,000 is a good budget to start with. Outside the city center you can find places for NT$9,000-12,000, though mostly it will be a studio or small 1 bed and a long commute.
Finally we found the best way to apartment search in Taipei. The key is to find a neighborhood you want to live in and look for a real estate agent in the area. We really liked the area around the Shuanglian & Zhongshan metro stops. It’s the west side of the city center, lots of convenient shopping from high end boutiques to local Chinese markets, parks and a laid back feel with great night life around. So, we wandered around before stumbling upon Mr. Yuan who right away printed us out pages of places that were nearby and in our budget. This was Friday early evening, by the time we say the second place we were sold and agreed to meet at 12:00 the next day.
Feeling the call for a beer, we found an inviting alley, played with some dogs in a pet shop, then found a Japanese BBQ oasis. The Fengma Dashan restaurant is one of the most inviting places I’ve ever been and very scrumptious! We sat at the u-shaped bar surrounding the grill and before we could blink had two pints of Asahi and complimentary sushi in front of us.
After dining on grilled chicken, beef, and vegetables we were ready for the bill, but our host informed us not to go just yet. Turns out the host was the owner’s son who goes by the English name, Safe. He got on the mic and introduced us as the Auntie handed around thimble sized shots of rice liquor. We were instructed to indulge and upon leaving, realized we had found a true local gem.
Our first Sat night out on the town was via invitation from Carrie and John Kellenberger of Reach To Teach Recruiting. Carrie sang for a benefit show called A Christmas Cabaret. It was a hilarious tongue and cheek presentation with some holiday cheer I was looking for. Thank you!
The people of Taipei are so inviting and polite. The feeling we experienced our first week was very comfortable, safe, and well taken care of. Thank you to all the wonderful people we came across this week to make it a special one! Special thanks to Alex for shabu-shabu, Rick & Steve for the giant wontons and Peter & Sunny for the amazing Hakka food.
I’ll leave this one with some more eats…