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Taiwan: Taipei

I wanted to visit Taipei for a while already, it started when I met a few lovely dancers from Taiwan that were visiting Vilnius. In a few days we’ve spent together we shared stories about our countries and we made a deal to meet again in Taipei. It took me three years, but I finally got here!

First thing that already made me much more relaxed - the weather, although it was really humid (no luck drying our clothes..), but it was the equivalent of a late spring in Lithuania and I could finally say goodbye to my winter jacket and boots. 

On our first night we strolled through one of Taipei's night markets which felt like a live performance by itself, people cooking right in front of you in the street, most of the things that you can’t recognise, most of the time it’s a part of an animal's body (literally EVERY part of a chicken) or something that has a consistency of jelly. As we were too mesmerised by smells and options, we ended up going to a restaurant, where Felipe tried to convince me to order an octopus (unsuccessfully though). There's also stinky tofu which smells quite terrible from afar and thereby really owns it's name. 

Just point at it at will be cooked in front of you

The next few days went in a festival mode (Formosa Bounce Festival!) and wow, dancers  know how to bring the house down with their energy! I think people here (and from the countries around) were the best, most reacting crowd so far. Both in classes and during the performances. They give you back so much that I felt like I was in a video game: you’re running, you’re out of energy, you enter the magic room, get some extra stamina points and continue running, that’s what it was like for me this weekend, I got recharged by the shouting and cheering. After one of the classes students went into a full hysterical selfie mode, where they’d come up one by one, each wanting to take a picture, but after a few minutes as we had to get going to the next class, it got really chaotic and we ended up doing an express selfie train (3 seconds for a selfie and NEXT!).

Taipei city is a place where I could definitely see myself spending more time, at moments it reminded me of New York, very alive (24-hour massages, night markets, bookstores), yet very respectful and safe (people leave their bikes unlocked, clothes outside overnight, no one seems to worry about leaving their belongings unattended, etc..). ALSO, plenty of great cafes (with very good coffee and “instagramable” smoothie bowls), restaurants, cute little shops and bubble tea (aka boba) all over the place (a lot of locals said they had to stop drinking it as it’s too “addicting”). 

I stayed in Taipei for another few days to hang out before heading off to Thailand. A bunch of us had an amazing massage day, which was a treat for our danced-out bodies. In the massage place they put all five of us into one room separated by curtains and we all got massaged at the same time, which was cool and a little disturbing to hear the moaning and heavy breathing with occasional demands for a softer massage. I fell asleep at one point and had a dream that the masseuse told me a funny story, but once I woke up I wasn’t sure if it was a dream or it actually happened, so I laughed very cautiously to see, but she just went stronger on the massage, so I figured I better keep the laughs for myself. 

Alice's happy face at the "foot spa"

The rest of the days we walked a lot, went to another night market to try a bunch of unseen things and sea creatures aaaand visited a POOP RESTAURANT. Yes, you hear me right, there’s a restaurant all about poop and toilet, all food is brought in a plate shaped as a toilet or a bathtub, most of the dishes are in a shape/colour (but not the taste thank goodness) of poop.. Meatballs in a sauce, ice cream “dried poop”, etc.. The names really didn’t make us feel more hungry, it’s good we were there only for a dessert, or should I say “quick poop”. Also, the chairs are toilet seats so once you go to the real toilet, you are double checking to make sure you can actually do your business there..

However, I think the most impressive thing in Taipei (apart from the poop place of course) was probably the famous Lungshan Temple in the centre city. We got there with our friend and an ex-tour guide Jason, who did the best tour (so good that other foreigners wanted to join our tour along the way). We got there at a great moment, it was the time of Lantern festival, people were bringing food to the temple, praying, burning incense. This was one of the most beautiful moments of the whole trip, it felt festive yet very spiritual, like a reminder to look around and inside of myself, to ask myself how am I feeling, what do I want to pray for, what do I want to ask of the gods (that time I talked with a god of love, who was portrayed as a cute little old man, a little bit like Cupid but with a long beard).

The little match-maker

Being there made me think that if more religious practices were like that, I would be more attracted to seek spirituality through religion. I guess in general I feel more vulnerable when traveling, especially longer periods of time, it’s a lot of new experiences, so you have to keep your heart open and at the same time, there is this feeling that you don’t have anything to hold on to. Even though I meet people, I meet my friends even, I have my teaching partners around me, but still, I feel that this month is me with myself in a constant change of everything. It’s an amazing and sometimes confusing experience. Sometimes eye-opening and sometimes lonely. At times I think that it's hard to spend so much time with people and I try to find time for/by myself but then at other times I feel fragile, like everything around me is just a fleeting moment that I share with those around me and it will be soon gone, goodbyes will be said and I will be getting to a new place. And I was never a fan of goodbyes. Maybe that’s where the visit to the temple had a very soothing effect on me, I was reminded of the beauty that’s lurking around a corner and the fact that I just need to trust this road and to keep holding my own hand. 

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