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Sunday, February 01, 2004



My first winter

I wrote this in my favorite cafe near the place I call home. It's been almost two months now since I arrived in Taipei. Winter should be over by now, because Chinese New Year represents the coming of Spring, but I still feel cold. I'm grateful that today is shiny, I miss the sun. I sat by the window so I can feel the sun crawling in my covered-by-jacket body. It had been raining endlessly since the Chinese New Year, like it's always been every year. The rain and the wind and the cold hard marked my days, make my days so short and spent too much in bed. Now I cherish the sun, the color of the leaves in the trees that start changing. I welcome the Spring, and say goodbye to my first winter in Taiwan. The first winter in my life.

Two months now and I finally get myself settled---well, you can say so. I love my neighborhood, I know where to go to eat now, I know how to arrange my budget now, and I know how to get around my town.

I stay at a district called Xi Men. It's well-known as a pedestrian shopping area. A nice and crowded place. You may compare this place to Pasar Baru, in Jakarta, only in a so much bigger scale. Xi Men is very dynamic, the motion never cease, the signs never sleep. Everyday I found myself tracking in the jungle of billboards, ads in so many different shape and size, color and picture that change according to the new products. This is the area where housing and shopping blend. People rent the walls of their houses for the advertising purposes, which make the area become so merry.

I love this area because it had become so convenient to do things and to get anything I need. Transportation is easy; it's not so far to get to anywhere, buses are a lot, bus stops are anywhere nearby, as well as the MRT which operates until midnight.

Food is abundant, but...--yes, there is a but here---a lot of buts actually. When I first arrived in Taipei I noticed that there are soooo many restaurants, and cafes, or call it anything, a place to eat. I noticed that you can find restaurant almost anywhere in town, and so often they are almost like no distance from one to another. Abundant, in short. And I noticed how these people love to eat. Chinese people love to eat; that's why those restaurants never feel lonely. And there's also a lot of night markets---actually, Taiwan is well-known for its night markets---street market that starts usually around 6 or 7 pm and lasts till midnights or above. Mostly they sell food, a vast variety of light foods that people usually grab and take to their mouths while they enjoy sight seeing in the market. I have tried a lot of foods and come to conclusion about how these people are creative in creating new varieties of food. I mean, compared to what I see in Jakarta, here they can make anything, from, anything.

But---here comes the but---the taste of those foods has never been very satisfying. For us Indonesian tongue, it'd be always lack of taste. Especially lack of salty taste. Whereas this taste is so important that lack of it ruins all the taste of food. And chilies rarely used here. Mostly, Taiwanese foods would taste too sweet, or the sugar seemed to be in wrong place. There are kinds of food that do not need any sugar, but they seemed to put sugar in almost any food, so sometimes the taste is funny.

After the two months of search, I finally came up with several favorite foods: First, it called suan la thang. It literally translated as sour and chilly soup, a soup that taste like its name, and has a lot of contents in it: egg, tofu, carrots, some other vegetables, and my favorite cu syie (pig blood---sorry), that is hard to find in Jakarta. Suan la thang usually taken with kuo tie, a Chinese snack that already well-known elsewhere.

Second, it called tian pu la. Translated as sweet and not chilly. It's a food made from wheat flour, and maybe from some fish, because it taste similar to empek-empek in Indonesia. In a lot of streets in Taiwan you can find people sell tian pu la along with other fried foods.

Third, hmmm... I can't think of anything else. So little, right? That's why I told you there's so many buts in the food. Sometimes when I'm hungry I'm confused of where to go. The alternatives are so abundant, yet so little. Well, of course there's always McDonalds everywhere, and you can easily grab some instant food at 7-11 which open 24 hours a day.

If you think noodle is the generic food here, well, maybe you're wrong. Noodle is good and cheap and everywhere, in Hongkong and a lot of places in China, but not here.

In Taiwan, they love to eat shabu-shabu. Maybe it's one of the remains of Japanese colonial. There's a lot of Huo ko (a name for shabu-shabu) restaurants, where a variety of foods cooked by the customer himself in a boiling cook pot in front of him. During winter, people flocks to make each of these restaurants crowded.

Well, enough about the food. I will manage to write about other things in my next writings. I'm sorry that this blog has not been updated for a while. I miss you all, my friends.

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