We started the morning with a drive to Bi Long Temple, which we last visited in 2009, before Vale was in existence. The temple sits buried in the side of a lush green hill, and you can actually see its eaves peeking through the jungle from my parents’ living room on the 6th floor of their building. It was a bit rainy again, so we had to be careful up the very steep steps of the temple, but the view was as beautiful as ever. The grounds of the temple, like last time we were here, were essentially empty. The only sign of human existence was the chatter of a caretaker coming from within one of the buildings. Otherwise, there was not a person in sight. The air at the top of the stairs was crisp and still, and the atmosphere was meditatively peaceful. From this distance and altitude, even the city seemed quiet and serene.
After the temple, I went to get a haircut while Kyle and my mom had coffees at Louisa. My haircut was relaxing and luxurious, and only cost $18 which included a nice head massage.
After my pampering, we made our way back into the city, into the Xin Yi district, where Taipei 101 is located. My mother had made reservations for us at a restaurant inside the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi mall. She had raved about this Japanese buffet numerous times and emphasized to all her friends visiting from out of town or overseas to hit this place up first, walk in the door as soon as it opens, and stay until the buffet hour is over some 3-4 hours later. She claims that when my Aunt visits from Malaysia (Dad’s sister), they do not even speak to each other while lunching here, in order to avoid wasting valuable eating time. This reminds me of the stories my mother told me of when she frequented buffets as a youth; she explained that she would stay for as many hours as possible and eat her money’s worth with her friends. Good to know some things never change.
The buffet was quite fancy, and featured numerous goodies, including several different types of sushi, delicious mushrooms, quail eggs, a kimchee beef soup, grilled fish, grilled shrimp, spicy anchovies, some kind of pickled red flower, marinated fish skin (tastes way better than it sounds), and all-you-can-drink Taiwan beer. The dessert bar featured all kinds of cakes, donuts, and puddings, which were also excellent. They also had several different types of “vinegar” drinks throughout the buffet, including plum vinegar, aloe vinegar, and some kind of berry vinegar. I put “vinegar” in quotes because it was more like a very tart juice, and paired nicely with the seafood.
After “lunch,” which ended close to 4:00 p.m., we took a short walk through glamorous shopping areas to get to the metro station, and came across all kinds of lovely holiday decor. This entire area was very much a “look, don’t buy, unless you want to go bankrupt” sort of place.
Vale fell asleep around this time, and we took the metro one stop to Hou Shan Pi, where the Wu Fen Pu fashion district is located. Jenn may not have the best sense of direction in general, but she knows exactly how to get to the hidden alleyways of Wu Fen Pu from the metro station, even after a 6-year absence. The shopping here contrasted starkly with the Louis Vuitton and high-end, ritzy mega-shops we had just traversed. Jenn loaded up on clothing including a sweater, a couple of shorts, a skirt, and shirts ranging from $1.50 – $7, among others, and grandma bought Vale a bunch of cute, cheap clothes as well.
Jenn showed up in Taiwan with a suitcase filled 90 percent with chocolates and small gifts for relatives, and very few clothes, and thus had been borrowing socks, tank tops, and shoes from her mom up to this point, but bought more than enough to re-stuff her luggage. This approach, long-favored by Jenn, saves luggage space, and also provides and excuse to go shopping.