The Rules of Taiwan

marketSunday, 16 February, 2014

Taipei, Taiwan

One) Night Markets Are The Places To Shop

This one particularly applies for us at the moment because we are broke. Night markets are not only cheap, but they also come with a lot of free samples. You can live like royalty for a quid a night!

These places have some pretty tasty snacks as well. Sure, you may not always fully know what you’re eating. I unknowingly chomped down a stick full of chicken anus last week. To be fair, it tasted fine and only cost a pound – so, while you’re nibbling on your luxury breasts and legs at home, think of all the money I’m saving by eating arse in Taiwan instead. Perhaps the wording of that could have been better.

Not all the food is cheap though, I bought a mango without knowing the price and it came to four quid! I could have eaten four sticks of arse for that! My co-worker later told me that everybody knows not to buy fruit in the night market as they raise the price for naïve tourists – she basically informed me that I was a mug in the nicest way possible.

Oh well, you live and learn – I now know to always say yes to a greasy, fatty round of chicken anus and never under any circumstance accept a luscious healthy bowl of fruit. The rules have changed since the days of school.

There are also alternative ways to spend your money at a night markets other than scoffing your face – you can buy clothes, accessories, and play some fairground type games too. I convinced myself that I had the capabilities to win a prize; this resulted in me paying three quid to throw darts at balloons and walking away with bugger all.

That’s a total of seven pounds on playing darts and eating a mango. So, yes, night markets are cheap, but only if you are not a mug.

Two) Your Favourite Cuisine Smells Like A Tramp’s Armpit

Taiwan as a country has some truly incredible dishes. Yet, the food that locals seem desperate to recommend above all others is ‘stinky tofu’ – that is the literal translation of the food’s name.

When I hear the word stinky, I think of feet, farts and urine – these are not things that I want to taste. This stuff arguable smells worse than all of those things put together! Well, actually, it definitely depends on who is doing the farting. My nan has had us suffocating through some family car journeys in the past. Although, you get the point.

The tofu is usually fried, boiled or put into a soup and you can detect it from two streets away. It makes gone off milk smell like fancy shampoo and a skunk’s arse smell like a desirable perfume. The stench really is that bad.

I must confess, I haven’t actually tried it yet. So, I may well be missing out on the greatest food in the world. However, if the smell makes me want to throw up when I’m two streets away, what would it do to my senses while up close to my nose and in my mouth?

I’m sure at some point during my Taiwan stay I will be able to build up the courage to taste some. Who knows, I may even become a stinky tofu junkie. One taste may have me obsessed and injecting the stuff into my veins between classes.

It’s just odd to me that the locals want stinky tofu to be my lasting impression of their country. I would never demand that each tourist in the UK eats bowls and bowls of haggis. Enjoy our sunshine with a piña colada and a curry, mate. I guarantee that you’ll never desire stinky tofu again.

Three) Bins Are An Unnecessary Luxury

The night markets do actually provide bins, not many, but enough to ensure that the staff are not spending the end of each evenings picking up all the leftover chicken anus and stinky tofu from the floor.

Beyond the night markets though, it’s virtually impossible to find a bin. I’ve previously found myself carrying an orange peel (not the fifty quid night market kind) around in my hand for forty-five minutes, as I searched for a place that I can dispose of my rubbish.

I don’t exactly peel an orange with elegant methods either, my peel had been ripped apart and still had bits of the sticky fruit hanging off it. It frequently fell out of my hand and I had to keep picking pieces of this peel up from the ground as I searched for a bin.

You’d think that I was on a mission from the king the way I didn’t let that peel escape me right up until the point I eventually found it a wastebasket – the one in my house.

I’m actually surprised that there isn’t more rubbish floating about considering the country’s lack of bins, perhaps the locals have more patience or were just taught the correct way to peel an orange when they were babies.

In many instances, the country is actually very environmentally friendly. For example, they have a wonderful bicycle sharing service that allows you to rent a bike for thirteen pence per half an hour – which is great value for money.

The only problem, of course, being that you may find yourself spending thirty-nine pence just whizzing around looking for a bin.

source // wikipedia

source // Wikipedia

Four) The Binmen Deliver The Ice Cream

Ok, that one is not entirely true, in fact, it’s completely false. I mean, come on, I imagine a person who spends their days rummaging through bin bags is the worst possible person to scoop your ice cream for you.

“Excuse me. My daughter’s ice cream has shoelace and bean juice in it!”
“Darren, the work experience kid has done it again. Can I get the refund code?”

The binmen arrive up your street to the tune of a catchy jingle, much like an ice cream man in England would. On my first day here, I ran downstairs with a hand full of coins hoping to get a lovely ice lolly. However, as I made it to the bottom my sense of smell was telling me that every ice cream was stinky tofu flavoured.

I then quickly discovered that they weren’t actually selling ice cream but instead collecting rubbish, the last time I felt that gutted was when I heard that Ken Bates would be taking ownership of Leeds United. He definitely also delivers more trash than ice cream.

The locals wait for the sound of the binmen as if it actually was ice cream. At a certain hour each week, the streets are filled with people alongside their bin bags eagerly awaited the joyful tune of their local heroes.

I suppose all the rubbish ends up at home, due to the lack of street bins – so, they probably have so much gratitude to the binmen for finally taking away the stench. I reckon the binmen over here are like fireman in the UK. I bet they are a woman’s fantasy figure and have their own calendars.

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