Archive for November, 2012

Walking along Snake Alley

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

After I dropped off Chris at the airport bus terminal, I wandered around Taipei Main Station…but then I decided to go to one of the most classic night markets in Taipei. Also known as Snake Alley (as I learned later).

On arrival, I let myself wander into the Longshan Temple. In the rain, its classical Chinese red reflected against the yellow streetlights and the rushing waters of a fake manmade waterfall. Modestly, darting between devout visitors, I followed other tourists, attaching myself to a group of Japanese middle-aged travelers who laughed when their guide pointed out a well spilling out smoke. They followed suit and went to the well, waving some of the smoke toward themselves. I scooted to the well and glanced in…nothing particular. Evident that the guide mentioned something amusing, yet beneficial.

Losing interest, I slipped out of the temple and headed toward the nightmarket.

Overwhelmed suddenly by the idea that I was a stranger in a strange land…I convinced myself that I needed to eat. But the feeling of being trapped was so high. The menus that I could not read (beyond the words of small and big). The language that I could not speak (not even my Cantonese could help me). And an annoying self-awareness that I looked like a local, but inside I was so very American.

Then I realized—come on, I looked like an Asian tourist. Someone from Hong Kong, obviously. Someone from Korea, Japan, Vietnam…anywhere else…where they could not read or speak either. I had the benefit of speaking English fluently and clearly. Yet unlike most tourists, I am a single female traveler, traversing on my own.

I spotted an Asian girl with clearly a male Caucasian. Immediately critical, I had a negative reaction to the couple—the Asian girl was obviously from Taiwan. Was she seeking someone of a “superior” race? Was it only attraction? Was it real? To her, was she moving up?

Eventually, I found a stand with fishy type stuff in rich intense sauce. Then I ate cake wheels with cream and taro inside. I passed around a stand with snakes, passing Cantonese speakers…which to my relief, they were somewhat disgusted as I was.

And so then, that ended my journey through Snake Alley. It being nearly uninhabited and empty due to the rain.

And so begins my Asia trip…

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Two weeks ago, I landed in Manila.

“Please ma’am, I am very good tour guide,” he texted me.

Two days prior, he man made eye contact with me as I wandered lost around Intramuros—the historical enclave of Manila, Philippines filled with stories of War War II and colonial influences. Having just arrived to my hotel after a 16 hour flight, I felt dizzy with the humid bright light. The hotel front desk demanded payment for my stay and I reluctantly went outside in search of an ATM. Around and around the cobblestone streets, I walked passing locals, tending to grilling sisig and selling prepaid phone cards. Exhaustion dug at me as I walked around the block and the man on a pedicab yelled out, “Tour?! I show you Intramuros.”

I waved him off, “I am looking for an ATM.”

Insistent, he followed me, “I do a great tour!”

I walked back to the hotel and went inside to negotiate, “I have to an appointment at the Mall of Asia at 4 pm. Can I pay later?”

“Ok, I give you until 9 pm,” she said.

With relief, I turned and went back outside. The man was still there and waved his hands in the air, repeating, “Intramuros intramuros!”

“Can you take me to the Mall of Asia?” I asked.