Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I’m on my way back from Taipei today and have wrapped up my adventure in Asia that started 10 short days ago with an afternoon flight from LAX and a chance encounter with a dear friend at the airport. Before the events slip from my memory amongst the hurry of life at home, here’s a few snapshots from my time in Taiwan.

The trip began with soup dumplings at a nearby restaurant with Alex, his girlfriend and family. It’s a telling fact of our global community that I can have one of my best friends for 16 years and never have met his parents! This was resolved over traditional Taiwanese pork dumplings whose soupy interior was piping hot and really tasty. Dinner that night was also local fare—I got to try the hot pot Alex had told me about for so long. It’s a sort of bouillabaisse served in a steel pot that was split to allow for 2 flavors of broth. One of the broths was fairly mellow but nice, the other was one of the most unique flavors I’ve tasted in a long time. It was spicy, but in a very herbal way that was both odd and yummy. If you ate too much of it without using the nearby vinegar and ginger dip, it actually numbed your tongue like an anesthetic. Into the broth we threw in a variety of vegetables, tofu, and meat.

Taipei 101 is really an impressive engineering feat—but not that interesting beyond the technical marvel of having such an enormously tall edifice on a volcanic island buffeted by strong winds and rocked by the occasional earthquake. The top level observation deck that was outdoors tested my fear of heights. Once again, I failed the test and exited after circling it nervously one time around. The “super big wind damper” was a highlight, it’s basically a giant steel ball hooked up to hydraulics used to keep the building from swaying too much.

The photo here is of a painting posted in a very visible location when you enter the hotel. Alex told me that it was placed there to ward off evil spirits. Specifically, he stated “they must have trouble with ghosts.” Hrm. I got more of an explanation when one of my colleagues informed me that the locals avoid the Grand Hyatt as it is believed to be haunted by the spirits of those that were killed in a prisoner of war camp that was previously at the same location. I’m open to the idea of ghosts and had a curious incident in my room where a light came on unexpectedly while I was in bed watching TV. I may very well have accidentally turned it on by bumping one of the controls I later found near the bed, but this would have been tricky to do. Interesting!

Here’s me riding the giant cat statue in conference room we used for the workshop we were hosting. Yeehawwwwwwwww super kitty! We took a team photo with all of us mounted on the feline after sneaking in around midnight and passing a very nervous looking hotel employee.

Earlier in the evening I had arranged with the help of a local to take the entire workshop team out for massages. After 9 days on the road and far too many evenings spent sitting in the bar, we needed something different and relaxing before the big event the next day. It ended up being a pretty unique experience, as all 6 of us (all men but 1) were ushered into the same room for our massages. Comedy ensued as the little old men pounded our buttocks throughout the session, even going so far as to rhythmically pound out a bongo beat on our collective behinds at one point.

The sun is coming up outside the window in my economy class seat now and I’m about to embark on one those strange time zone twisted days that last far too long. I’ve got a little more work to do before landing in San Francisco for a brief layover en route to LAX so I’ll hang up my blogger hat for now.

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