…the train splashed through the dreary, wet night. It slowly squealed to a stop in front of us waiting hoods up in the crooked, crooked rain. A slight haze hung limp around the darkened station. Zssssht go the doors. Look both ways and mind the gap. We’re on. Until next time, Hualien.
Agent Getz, Tha Queebs, and I shuffle through the aisles with our backpacks to our seats. We’re full of pork throat that was disguised as anus. We were on assignment to investigate the capital of Taiwan, Taipei. Only had 3 days to gather intel on the joint, report back to Dr Birdrito, and move on to some leads in Hong Kong.
To speed things up, Agent Getz hits up his old informant Paul the Newf for some info. The Newf tells us to look into the Gongguan area. Could be a good place to start. Could be a trap. Either way, we’re on the case.
The train pulls into Taipei station after a fairly uneventful trip. Only had to dispatch with 4 panda-masked, tuxedo-clad henchmen (Pandedos). Pretty routine stuff: Off the train toss, face down drown in the lady’s room, ear bud garrote, and a classic Queebs curb stomp. Dust off, Zssssht go the doors, mind the gap. We’re in Taipei. Quick imprint of the metro lines and we grab a southbound subway into Gongguan.
Zssssht! We emerge into the streets of Gongguan and the temp is pleasantly cooler than Hualien in the south. The subway lets us off right next to an arterial road, a collection of restaurants, cafes, and bars, and a university (Paul the Newf, you dirty dog). The buildings are taller, more lights, many more people than other places we’ve been, and the feeling is slightly more modern and definitely more multicultural.
The drizzle has followed us from Hualien so priority one is to locate a hostel. Fire up Queebs’ unlocked Fire phone, curse the thing because it sucks so so so so bad, but we eventually find a list of potential safe houses. There’s one nearby so we head off towards the little blue blip on our intermap. The directions are interesting, they’re broken into lane and section cross… streets? So there are main roads and then in between are narrow roads called lanes running east/west that cross with sections north/south? It makes for a cool, walk-able atmosphere with very little traffic and a slew of great looking drinking and international dining options all around. Good call Paul the Newf.
We walk around the area looking for this place called the Hostel Taipei NTU but can’t for the life of us find it. We ask some student-types. They’ve never heard of it but point us in the right direction. Backtrack. Nada. What the hell?
We’ve passed this coffee shop called Zhanlu Coffee 3 times now so we pop in to put our bags down and grab some coffees and wifi for our non-shit phones. There’s a great little outdoor patio and a table opens up just as we walk up. We sit down and through the window we spot some amazing coffee contraptions.
We get the Queebs to inquire with one of the servers and she brings us 3 cups of it with ice, water, and cream to mix to our liking. The coffee is served cold. It is the best damned coffee I’ve ever had! The right proportions of bitterness and subtle sweet with a caffeine zing that put us right back on track. It was glorious.
The wifi for the hostel we were looking for is listed on our ‘searching for wifi networks’ list. WTF? In fact it has a stronger signal than the coffee shop we’re sitting at. Where the hell is that place? Agent Getz takes another look, he peeks around the corner. Nothing. Tha Queebs asks our server. She’s never heard of it. Whacky.
So here’s the thing about hostels in Taipei. Apparently the rules and regulations for operating a hotel in Taipei are quite strict and are geared towards much larger establishments. To get around this, hostel owners are jumping through a few legal loopholes (such as having their establishment underground) in order to offer travelers a non-hotel, cost effective option like you’d expect in other world-class cities.
Unfortunately, this means the hostels are sometimes difficult to find because they aren’t really wanting to advertise their whereabouts since they are playing legal leapfrog. Although, you can simply go to hostel world and find them all listed there. I dunno, it’s weird. Point being, we couldn’t find this one for the life of us.
We opt for a hostel just outside of the area that we’re in called Eight Elephants and Dreaming Dragon (in no way did the cute name affect our manly decision making). Take a screenshot of the location, hail a cab, show him the pic -> He’s on it. Oh wait… what did that say? One more look. Ahhhh ok. Wait. One more look. Ok. He’s on it.
The cabbie finds the right street but there is no evidence of a hostel. Shit, not this again. We’re in a more remote area a few streets away from any sort of main drag. This seems to be a more residential locale. We coin up and get out anyway. The night air is cold, but the rain has stopped. Flip on the Hosdar and begin our search.
Alright it’s got to be around here somewhere. We follow the numbers and find a building that has to be the right one. Right? There are a number of doors. Everything is brick, stone, and metal. Doors are barred and locked down. There are a couple of girls having a smoke outside one of them. We ask about the hostel. The girl points at the metal door. There are 8 small elephant stickers on it. She puts out her smoke, gets up, and opens the door. We’re in.
Through a beaded curtain. Our mystery host calls for someone. A white dude comes up with a warm smile to greet us and a thick accent. Aussie or Kiwi? (I need to get better at differentiating that). His name’s Shawn and he’s nice as can be. We take off our shoes and follow Shawn down a flight of steps to a common living room area. A white guy and an Asian girl sitting on separate colorful, blanket draped sofas look up from their laptops. Traveler nods. “Hey there”.
We snag a couple of rooms. They end up being in another building. Apparently we are currently in Eight Elephants. There is a residence in between here and a second building associated with the hostel that they’ve named Dreaming Dragons. Shawn shows us a page describing the hostel situation here in Taipei so we understand it. Then he collects our rent and shows us over to DD.
Agent Getz uses a secure line to let Dr Birdrito know that we’ve checked in and are on the case in Taipei.
Shawn gives us the tour of DD and leaves us to what seems like an empty hostel. The rooms are great and there’s a nice common area. The fridge has a good stock of Taiwan beer and a plastic bottle to drop change into if you grab one. Honor beers. I like that system. Reminds me of a few spots from our PanAm trip last year. There’s a desk and computer for common use and fun little cartoony signs to show you the ins and outs of EEDD. Great spot we found here, couldn’t be better.
Still a bit of time left in the evening so we flip on the Bardar and head out into the crisp night air. How will we find our way back here? We take note of some signage. There’s a piano shop sign lit up at the end of the lane. That’ll do.
Agent Getz hacks into some wifi network and produces a hilarious list of bars in the surrounding area. Guess which one we went to:
Nope. You’re wrong. While on walkabout we find a place called 45 and decide to dip in there. Up some deadly steep steps to a second floor and it’s a cool bar with a local kind of scene. We get a round of our new signature drink – Godfathers. A super intense movie with an all-star cast is playing behind the bar. I can’t quite place it. Some virus outbreak with a monkey. Possible break out roles for some of these actors. Oh right, it’s Outbreak. Just kidding about the local thing, there’s a table of Brits right next to us.
We make a plan of action for Taipei over drinks. There is a lot of ground to cover here. It’s a big sprawling place with tons to see and do. We draft up a highlights list that should easily fill up the 3 days we’ll be here. We drink until the get the fuck out music comes on and then take the death steps out of 45 back to the street as it closes up.
We stop in at 7-11 for some after eats. Where the hell is that piano shop? We befriend some street cats. Do you know where the piano shop is? Have you seen any Elephants around here? Queenie explains how they clip the stray cats ears, fix them, then release them back out onto the streets. They clean up the place of cockroaches and mice but can’t reproduce. Seems a good plan. Where’s that damned piano shop?
The piano shop sign has the light off but we find our lane home eventually. Really enjoying the vibe here in Taipei. Temp is good. People are great. Too much fun for bedtime methinks. Time for a few honor beers. Plink plink, Krssshht. And that’s when Agent Getz unveils this from his pocket…