Tainan 台南 is known throughout Taiwan for its food—but deciding where to eat can be somewhat daunting, especially for anyone who doesn’t very much Chinese. There are literally thousands of restaurants to choose from—in addition to the many night markets scattered around the city. Taiwan, like any highly digital and developed nation, has a vast number of restaurant reviews online, but it isn’t practical to sift through all those reviews without some degree of fluency (or a lot of patience with the shoddy state of machine translation). And, to be honest, I would much rather know how to find good food than read specific restaurant reviews. I didn’t know much about Tainan’s cuisine when I moved there for three months last spring—so with this post I mean to give you the benefit of my experience as a mostly illiterate foreigner attempting to hack the system and eat well in Taiwan’s historic old capital.
Monday, my third day in Seoul, was a series of accidental misadventures and surprise insights. Despite the intensive scheduling of the previous day, much of what transpired was entirely unplanned. I woke up late and went to cash a bunch of traveller’s cheques that I had originally purchased for emergency use in India. It seemed like a simple enough task but it was anything but. I visited nearby Woori Bank where I was told to wait for a teller in the business section. I languished in a chair for a half hour with only a single person in front of me, a woman. The customers already being served by the tellers were taking their sweet time for no reason that I could discern. I waited patiently, not knowing what to make of it.
My time in Seoul has been far more hospitable thanks to the assistance of a family friend, Ellen, who teaches English here. I am extremely grateful that we met in this distant land. It is one thing to have a local guide to show you around and another thing entirely to have someone from your own culture who really understands your motivations for travel. It isn’t simply that we communicate well, though we do—she also gets my travelling style in a way that most people wouldn’t, not without a great deal of explanation.
Seoul is a fantastic change of scenery after the many challenges of Thailand. My experience here in South Korea has been fantastic from the very moment I stepped off the plane. The airport is extremely well-organized and connected to downtown Seoul by rail. I spent all of $3 to get downtown and transferred to the appropriate subway line to reach my hostel without mishap.
The following post is an edited version of a series of letters I sent home to friends and family in Canada while visiting Hong Kong in January 2012. They are presented here as a series of disjointed vignettes that range from the mundane to the profound.
I have arrived in Hong Kong 香港, setting foot in Asia for the first time in my life. I am now safely ensconced in the lovely little flat in the heart of Mong Kok I rented via Airbnb. It is a nice enough place, not too expensive, and seemingly authentic, though I wouldn’t know the difference. There is no lift in the building; it is eight flights straight up the open concrete stairwell from the bustling streets with two flats on either side of every floor. Though sparsely furnished my room emanates something of the style of In The Mood For Love, one of my favourite films set in Hong Kong, and I immediately feel strangely, suspiciously at home despite being so far from it.