With a couple days to kill before we’d be able to move in, we took some time to play the tourist and spent Friday afternoon in a riverside town about 40 minutes north of Taipei, Danshui.
The trip was off to a rocky start because of a dispute on the train over how to properly pronounce “Thank you” in Mandarin, but after a moment to ourselves in our respective restrooms, Colin and I set out to enjoy the area.
I’d hoped for a place to get in the water and had stuffed my bag with bathing needs, but this wasn’t the place for that. Now if you were looking for cutesy charms for your cell phone (we were) or fried squid balls (we weren’t), you would find your haven in Danshui.
We strolled along the boardwalk, popping into the occasional shop to marvel at the enthusiastic displays of jewelry, charms, toys, and keychains. The stores had AC, too, a welcome relief from an outside temperature of 33 degrees C (91.4 F) and sticky.
These bangles glittered and jingled and made little to no sense to one without a background in Asian cartoons. Taiwanese teens bustled around me, picking out charms to show their giggly friends. Colin handed me a keychain with a drawing of an “otopns,” some sea creature that is surely a close relative of an octopus. I held a tiny bear with “I’m ❤ loveholic” on its chest, but put it back in a moment of unhappy indecisiveness. Shops later, I would choose a tiny blue turtle with a bell to live on my new phone.
We moved on, and I had an eye out for a bite to eat. Like most of this trip, the norm for signage in Danshui is to use Chinese characters, not Pinyin, which is the system for writing the Chinese words with the Roman alphabet, so I don’t even have a chance at naming what these stalls were selling. I was able to tell that they were meats on sticks, squids on sticks, fried balls on sticks, hard boiled eggs on sticks, and towering ice cream cones in green, pink, yellow, and purple flavors.
I’d hoped to seek out some seafood that I’d heard so many good things about (it’s an island, after all), but between Colin’s unease at trying something from a street stall and my fear of mystery meat, we stuck with what was easily recognizable: eggs and ice cream.
And tea! I’m ❤ loveholic of these tea shops. Not hot tea, though I think you can get that too, but iced. And fruity. And with tapioca pearls or passion fruit seeds or lychee in them. The tea I chose in Danshui was not actually as tasty as some of the others I’ve had: white gourds drink with pearls. It tasted, just, sweet. I’ve had to describe many things that way since arriving. These are new sweets that I’m having trouble associating with other sweets I know. It’s quite exciting.
Danshui is a play-place for the Taiwanese, especially younger ones. Large groups of yellow-T-shirt-clad elementary-aged kids were led like ducks through the crowd, smaller groups of teens, some in school uniforms, queued up for ice cream, Taiwanese grandmothers sat on shaded benches under their umbrellas and nagged whiskered Taiwanese grandfathers sitting in stretched-out undershirts.
One group of older kids rushed toward me on the boardwalk, camera extended. A tall, skinny boy asked if I could take their picture, and they rushed back to pose in front of the river, the lot of them flashing the peace sign. He rushed back to retrieve the camera, and once we were out of earshot, Colin mused they had just wanted an excuse to approach us.
It was pleasant to be away from the incessant bustle of scooters and taxis, to have completely open air on one side of us, and to smell a sea-salty, greasy mixture instead of one overpowered by auto exhaust. So what if it was a bit more humid here?
Then Colin made me climb the stairs of a pedestrian bypass to go across town and find some local food specialty, but after getting over said highway only to see more up to climb, we decided we weren’t as hungry as we were drenched in sweat, and that we’d rather get back on to air conditioned MRT to return home.
I fell asleep without realizing it that night (does one ever realize when they fall asleep?) and was rudely awoken at 10:30 by my cell phone, causing me to nearly topple my computer, perched precariously on my lap. Who on earth—?
“Hello? I’m calling from The China Post. Are you available to come in for an interview on Monday? How does 2 o’clock work?”