TAIWAN

Taipei, Taiwan: Snake Alley: Huashi Street Night Market

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The infamous Snake Alley is now a well-publicized tourist venue, home to much more than vendors serving exotic reptiles.  There you can find stinky tofu, durian, and turtles (the variety served on a plate). The ‘alley’ is littered with vendors and, among them, cages containing the snakes.  They pick up a python or whatever and make a slit down the underbelly of the snake. The vendor then pulls out the main artery and the blood then pours out into whatever receptacle is available. This blood is what is offered for sale to anyone in the shop, or anyone inspired by the gruesome spectacle.  The blood is served in shot-glasses alongside several other concoctions, the contents of which vary, and may or may not include anti-venom.  If you are lucky, the vendor will also serve a portion of snake soup – a light broth including what is unmistakably a segment of a snake’s body.  Don’t shy away from the soup.  The dish is actually refreshing and the meat can be surprisingly tender.

Among the more scarring scenes witnessed: a worm like object was crawling along a countertop, reeling its head upwards, when I realized that the vendor specialized in turtle, and the ‘worm’ was a decapitated turtle, grasping for air in its final moments.

Snake Alley is located at Huashi Street (Between Hsiyuan Rd. and Huanho South Rd.), Taipei, Taiwan Province 108.  Cabs are the best means of finding the alley.  An iron stomach is the only way to stay.

Written by Jason Summerfield

Taiwan: Hualien Farglory Ocean Park: A Marine Ecology Theme Park

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In Hualien Ocean Park there rests an almost depressed goofiness that is unmatched in Taiwan. On its face, the park is a marine life themed pit-stop of amusement rides and generic aquatic mascots. However, don’t let the blasé preliminary specs deter you. Hualien Ocean Park takes its modest traits from something kitsch and transcends them into sublime hilarity, not unlike that possum theme park in A Goofy Movie. Hualien Ocean Park is situated on the cliffside of a mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean. If you don’t quite realize the enormity of this while getting soaked on the log flume or while barreling through the miniature roller coaster, the ferris wheel (which hugs the cliff itself) will drive the point home, and the cable car won’t let you forget it. These rides, while straight out of a New Jersey boardwalk, yield a view that is dizzying and divine. The mascots have giant eyes and perpetual grins.  As is to be expected with any water park, there are dolphin shows (sans screenings of The Cove). And of course, the park is serves as a contemporary distraction to the region’s main attraction: Taroko Gorge, the grand canyon of the pacific, a massive crevasse of sheer mountain sides, elegant shrines and pools of water.Hualien is located on the Eastern side of Taiwan.Trains from Taipei to Hualien run frequently and the trip takes 2-4 hours. However, the trains are heavily trafficked and can be quite crowded.Hualien is a rural area. Once there, the only way to get around is by foot or by cab.

Hualien Official Tourist Website

Written by Jason Summerfield

A Taiwanese Take on 7-Eleven

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This entry is a cheat, but it must be said. The Taiwanese 7-Eleven is convenience as it is meant to be.  The Taiwanese 7-Eleven dispenses with the dingy feel and rotting air of American gas stations and opts for something more user-friendly.  It is a place where the little pleasures in life shine, and shine they do.  The Taiwanese 7-Eleven is a brightly lit place with well-stocked shelves, filled with the usual sugar bait and carbonated liquids.  They are home to Slurpees, WiFi and other commodities.  They are a reliable air-conditioned escape from the stifling heat of Taipei.  More importantly, the food is not to be shied away from. The tea eggs are savory, energy giving morsels (the brown eggs sitting in brown liquid).  Wash one down with a cold soda, the kind with a marble on top that you jam back into the glass bottle, and prepare yourself to be pleasantly surprised by the variety of products and services that are available.

If you are in Taipei, 7-Eleven is everywhere.

Written by Jason Summerfield