Sunday, September 25, 2011

Is the Restaurant Still There?: A Contrast of Taipei and Shanghai

The first time I visited Taipei was in 2002, and I spent more than two months there.  Since then, I've returned to Taipei several times.

When I think back to many of the places in Shanghai that most captured my attention when I first visited there in 2005 I realize that many of them no longer exist.  The huge bird market near West Nanjing Road -- gone.  My favorite place for a an inexpensive back massage -- gone.  The "old Shanghai" Wujiang Lu food street -- gone.  The various places I ate at -- of those I can remember so many are gone.

Experiencing a lot of change over a short period of time has been the norm for me while living in Shanghai the past 5 years.  So, when I visit Taipei I'm amazed by how many of my "old favorites" from 2002 still exist today.

While this is only my own personal experience, I don't think I'd be stepping out on much of limb to suggest that it reflects some truths about the relative amount of recent change in Taipei and Shanghai.  As far as what to take from that, well I think it depends on your perspective.  It calls to mind a campaign I noticed in Taipei several years ago that essentially said (I can't remember the exact words) "Taipei will progress, but we want Taipei to keep on being Taipei".

The following are some photos of my "old favorites" in Taipei as they appear today -- all food & drink related to keep with the theme of my previous post.  Some of these places have excellent food, some may be more typical but are special to me for other reasons.  I share them as a tiny window into Taipei and for posterity.

Where particularly helpful, I've included links to Google Maps Street View.  Otherwise, I've provided other details on the location.  Maybe someday in the future you can try to find some of these places yourself and see if they're still there.  Of course, I recommend trying the food.

My friend introduced me to this street stand famous for its rice, garlic, & sausage "wrap".
(Location on Google Maps Street View)

I found this simple place to eat in the center of the photo on my own.
A set meal of chicken, several side dishes of the day, soup, & rice for about US $2.50
(Location on Google Maps Street View)

My favorite vegetarian buffet -- just load up on whatever looks good and it's priced by weight.
The first time I ate there I didn't even realize I was eating mock meat (the informative signs didn't help since I couldn't speak/read Chinese back then).  When I later became suspicious I quickly lost any doubt.  After closely inspecting the food I looked up and saw a Buddhist monk sitting across from me.
(Location on Google Maps Street View)

Hui Liu -- a fancier (and pricier) vegetarian restaurant with very good tea.
(Location on Google Maps Street View)

This place famous for its mango-ice is often packed.  Not sure it has the same ownership as before, though.
(Location on Google Maps Street View)

My favorite place for spicy dumplings with peanut sauce is at the well-known Shilin Night Market.
(Shilin Night Market is easy to find.  This eatery is in a front corner of the main food building near the Jiantan metro station.)

One of the many cafes in the area near National Taiwan University.
Years ago I found it to be an excellent place to read some Goethe.
(Location on Google Maps Street View)

Sushi takeout at the Yuanshan metro station.  Nothing special, just thought it was interesting that it was still there.

"Bruma" - A very friendly family owns & runs the restaurant.
(Location on Google Maps Street View)

Typically during the lunch period it's full.  They also deliver to nearby places.

I'm a big fan of their sweet & sour fish (I ask for extra spicy).
This meal with soup, drink, and a small dessert is about US $5.

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