Heping (Peace)

One of the Herbivore Vegan Restaurants in Taipei

It’s now Sunday May 21st, 2023. Kia ora!

It’s cloudy and drizzly again, but quite warm, although it’s predicted to be quite hot today. A bit like Wellington, really, although hotter!

What a day it has been! I zoomed into my Wellington church service, and then showered and dressed. Then we went down to breakfast, where I just had fruit and coffee. Actually, that worked just fine.

I decided to go to the local Presbyterian church this morning, which was a few minutes’ walk away.  I wanted to see what it was like, although I had not taken into account that we could not easily slip in and out again.  Everyone was very welcoming, and an Elder who spoke English showed us to our seats, and sat beside me.  The church hall was upstairs several floors. There was no altar, but there was an organ, a grand piano, and an upright piano. Of course we didn’t understand the sermon, which was all in Chinese, but we enjoyed the choir, who sang beautifully, twice; the pastor also sang – he had a beautiful voice. And there were three hymns sung by the congregation, to the accompaniment of the organ.  Two of them I knew!  So I was able to join in, to some extent.  Afterwards we sang Amen three times, just as we do for hymn singing in Wellington. But the church in Wellington would be ashamed at the size of this congregation (there were three services this morning!). The singing was just beautiful, all of it.  Afterwards our daughter in law and our grandson were already at our hotel to meet us, so we hurried back there.

Then we joined the rest of the family (our eldest son, and his daughter, and two of his brothers who had arrived last night) at another Herbivore restaurant. The food was wonderful, and I think I’m getting better at ordering. JD ordered a bottle of sparkling wine, which some of us enjoyed; I had a delicious drink flavoured with kiwi fruit and lemon juice. It’s a joy to have drinks that aren’t too sweet. I had a salad with caramelised pecan nuts, pieces of cooked beetroot, sone quinoa, something like crumbled feta cheese, and lots of lettuce greens. One of my sons had ordered a side dish of brussels sprouts with miso sauce, and I enjoyed some of them too. My granddaughter had ordered pancakes, which I sampled too – just delicious.  We did not need dessert afterwards!

We made our way through the huge shopping complex using escalators and walk ways to a Lego shop – truly amazing!  Our grandson was to choose a birthday present (he chose Space lego), and his sister chose a floral arrangement. They also had Eiffel Tower models, the Coliseum, and even a grand piano!  Choosing too a very long time, so three of us retreated to another Moonshine Café where we had coffee and some intense discussions. The other eventually joined us, and then I queued to use a restroom. Never mind, it was very clean, and there always seems to be warm water to wash your hands, liquid soap, and paper towels, with bins that are regularly emptied.

Then we made our way through the Taipei 101 building (the tower) to use public transport to get back to the Da’an district. Our other two sons are staying at the other end of Da’an Park, so they’re quite handy.  It is just so enjoyable to see them all again, and not be trying to entertain everybody!

It’s Monday May 22nd now. Time to think about going soon.

Last night we snacked on cheese and crackers, and fruit in our room.

This morning I went to find the shops I wanted to go to in Heping St, but the bookshop doesn’t open until 12 noon; the boutique was closed, too, with a corrugated iron door (like a garage door), but I don’t know when it opens.  Many places are closed on Mondays, but it still seems busy.

After breakfast I had a shower and then went for a walk in Da’an Park. It is very hot and sticky today, but it’s cooler under the trees.  There were many people there, some exercising, quite unselfconsciously; I watched a group doing Tai Chi. They’re far more accomplished than I am; I think they’re doing a different style of tai chi.  I found a secluded spot, and did the Lotus Qigong twice, but found I could not remember the form we had learnt. I had messaged my son from the UK, who was going to meet me there, but he had slept in!  It’s very hot and sticky outside, I changed to a cooler top when we got back to the hotel.

We were to meet our eldest son at 11:30, which we duly did, and caught a taxi to the nearest subway station, and then a train into town. We ate at a large buffet restaurant on the top of a large building – we had to go up in a glass cage lift to reach it.  There were so many people there!  You chose your food from an extensive buffet, where there was soup, cooked dishes, a salad bar (I did not discover this until later), a fruit bar, an ice cream/gelato bar, a dessert bar, and a place where you could make coffee.  Twice I got up to get more food, and couldn’t find my way back to our table!  Thankfully JD found me, as I’d left my bag at the table, with my phone etc inside.  This really was a marvellous place, although it did remind me of Pizza Hut restaurants back in the day. This was far more up-market, though.  The food was beautiful, and I think vegetarian. I had a small piece of a Mexican omelette, but unlike Taiwanese food, it didn’t have much flavour. 

Afterwards we made our way back to the hotel, using subway train and bus.  The trains are very sophisticated, with barriers so that you can’t enter till the train is there, and is stopped and opens its doors. With quite a crush of people, though, it can be tricky for a group to stay together.  All the technical stuff seems to work pretty well most of the time, although sometimes the card readers cannot read my pre-loaded card.

This afternoon JD picked up our grandson from his pre-school, and we looked at old photos on the computer – when he was a baby, and we travelled to Atlanta to see him and his family – almost six years ago.

In New Zealand, the weekly Covid 19 report was published today. It’s still not great – numbers remain stubbornly high. It reads as follows: there were 12,277 new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand in the week to midnight on Sunday and a further 30 deaths. The 30 people added to the Covid-19 death tally brings the total number of deaths from the disease to 2792.

The number of people with the virus in hospital was 249 with 12 in intensive care.

Last week 11,063 new cases of Covid-19 were reported and a further 26 deaths were attributed to the virus. The World Health Organisation has declared that Covid-19 no longer represents a “global health emergency”. The organisation said the virus was now an established and ongoing health issue that no longer constituted a public health emergency of international concern.

An American doctor believes that more than 800.000 Americans would still be alive today if the US had taken New Zealand’s approach to Covid 19, with many health professionals giving bad advice.

It’s now Tuesday May 23rd.

It’s overcast and raining again.

Last night we had quite an adventure. We were to meet our other two sons, one from Wellington and one from the UK, for dinner. We were to take a taxi to the restaurant from our hotel. We went downstairs, but seeing that it was pouring with rain, I went back up for my raincoat and to put on some proper shoes. Getting a taxi in the poring rain, after 7 pm, was not easy; and then after hailing one, telling the taxi driver where to take us was another challenge. My sons showed him the destination on their phones; that’s tricky, though – does google do Chinese or English? Most taxi drivers have little English, but he got it, eventually, and took us to a lovely, quite modern, vegetarian restaurant.  Our table was set with cutlery!  Sometimes it’s set with chopsticks and little porcelain ladles, but the Taiwanese don’t seem fussed which one uses. I try to start with chopsticks, and go to a fork and spoon if it gets too difficult.

Ordering is always a challenge; this restaurant wasn’t vegan, but the menu helpfully showed a pint milk bottle beside an item if it contained dairy products.  I ordered a fruit salad on lettuce leaves with yoghurt dressing; we ordered a side of vegetables, which was delicious. You could have pizza, but JD had mushroom risotto.  We ordered dessert, too – some kind of cheesecake. Thankfully the servings are small.

Then we set about getting back to the Da’an district, We had just left the restaurant when there was a torrential downpour, that did not let up. We crossed the road, and managed to stand under some shelter while waiting for a taxi to come. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long, and one son had brought a card from the hotel, telling the cab driver where to go. It rained all the way; one feels sorry for anyone driving in these conditions. When we got back, our sons came up to our room, and we shared a bottle of wine together, before they returned to their Airbnb.

In the night it thundered some; today it is still raining, and overcast. But JD an I are to go on a tour, arranged by our daughter in law.  It’s a bus tour with an English-speaking guide, and it goes outside Taipei to visit a tea-growing district. Our son dropped off instructions this morning on where to meet the tour, at a local station, where we have been before. I feel that I’m getting to know this city a little, but the traffic, wide roads, and overpasses are confusing! It’s not as though you can say meet me on Via Veneto, or Fleet Street, or even Cuba Street!

It’s now Wednesday May 24th, D-Day -1.

Yesterday we were to go on a tea-tasting tour at 1 pm. Accordingly we had breakfast at our hotel and walked to the nearby Presbyterian Church to leave a letter for the lovely elder Mei-Ling who had looked after us. After that we had an early lunch at The Dancing Goat café.  It seems Americans really like this place – black coffee seemed limited to Americano or Espresso; I had an espresso, and JD had Earl Grey tea in a mug. We wanted to order waffles, but the friendly host said it was too early for waffles, and directed us to a breakfast combo.  We ordered two of those, and it was amazingly good: not too large, with a small serving of scrambled eggs, some delicious hot bread (baked there), some sweet potato mashed, sliced banana, and some salad, with lettuce and tomato. There was a container of butter, and a small jug of something like cider vinegar. Somehow it all worked, and tasted delicious.

Then we headed back to our hotel, before catching a taxi to a nearby station, since we were to meet the English speaking guide and the others on our tour at the No 2 entrance. Our eldest son had printed off all the instructions, and brought them over that morning.  The No 2 entrance seemed a long way from where the taxi driver had dropped us off, but JD was correct; there was a Park, a Mos burger outlet and a 7/11 store, and we were in the right place, if far too early! But it was cooler today, and there was a mild breeze – ideal for a couple of Wellingtonians.  There were two other couples on this tour – one from the US (American guy, Korean partner); the other couple were from Austria, English speaking, but they didn’t turn up until 1:30 pm! We travelled in a van, which was very comfortable, but not very easy to get in or out of.

I just looked at my word count, so I figure I’d better stop now and describe our wonderful tour in my next blog.  Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

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