We nab a cab up to the huge building on the hill, The Grand Hotel. This place is fancy pants. We walk in to a large, ornate foyer area with a Christmas Tree at the end. The ceiling appears to be all gold leaf. They’re playing terrible terrible Xmas tunes but the place itself is mighty impressive.
There are some great looking dinning options but we’re really just looking for a drink. There’s got to be a bar here somewhere, right? We mosey around and take in a few things while we look. There are lots of super expensive gift shops but no bar it seems. Some cool artwork on the walls, a fountain that resembles the one outside Longshan temple, a wall of famous visitors that have stayed here (Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mendela, etc…) , and some history of the hotel, including a picture describing when there was a massive fire that burnt out the top floors of the place… But no bar?
Ok seriously though, where’s the bar? We hop in the elevator and scan the floors. Boom: Sky Lounge on the top floor (duh!). Agent Getz hits the button and we ascend to the top. The doors open and we come out to some signs that say ‘Faculty Dinner’. A hostess greets us as we come around the corner. Behind her is a massive dinning hall with hundreds of tables and a stage. It looks like it’s set up for some type of awards ceremony. Everyone is in formal attire, bowing and shaking hands. Yeaaaah we’re not supposed to be here. A quick survey of the surrounding area does not indicate there is any other ‘Sky Lounge’ to speak of.
Meanwhile the hostess has been politely talking to us in Mandarin while we assess the scene. She’s asking for our name. She wants to know which table we are at. Even though we’re in street clothes and the only white people on this floor it seems we could totally crash this thing. I tell her that we’re here to help and we just need to go back stage and change. Getz cracks up. She doesn’t understand a word. Ok, ok…. so, I really want to say that we crashed this formal gala at the top of the Grand Hotel right now, but the Taiwanese are just way too nice, this girl is way too sweet, and I don’t really want to be an asshole. Well, part of me does, because even in the moment I realize the potential for a fabulous story here. But I don’t take the opportunity. “I’m just joking. We’re not supposed to be here, I’m very sorry.” And we’re back on the elevator down to the lobby. Damn, I guess there’s no bar.
Well that was cool. Almost grub time. We hail a cab back to the metro and hop on. Meanwhile I’ve been using that shitty Fire phone to message my college friend Kristi Page. She saw a FB post that we were here and hit me up to tell me she lives in Taipei. We’ve got the night free so she suggested we meet her at some place called the Beer and Cheese Social House. We’re on the case!
BEER AND CHEESE SOCIAL HOUSE
When we change stations and hop the next train we run into a girl that we’d seen on the metro yesterday. Now there’s a rule here I think. The first time you see another person ambling about a foreign country like you are and they’re just going about their thing, probably a tourist, it’s fine to let them go along their merry way. But the second time you see someone, you absolutely have to meet them and invite them out for drinks. So that’s what we did. She totally recognized us from the day before (there aren’t exactly a ton of white people around) and was quite open to us right off the bat.
Her name is Sara and she’s from Bruges, Belgium. Curly brown hair and her voice is a maple drenched crepe. She’s been travelling around the US and Canada and is now in Taipei. Formerly she was a teacher that worked with children with autism. She’s been travelling for a year now.
Sara is accompanied by a slightly older surfer dude type from Colorado named Damion. They’re staying at the same hostel and went on what sounded like a pretty sweet hike today. Damion is just coming off of a 7 week trip in Japan which he goes into great detail about and it sounds amazing. But then he awkwardly puts his arm around Sara at one point and says “Oh, let’s not talk about that situation we were talking about on the hike”, when she hadn’t even mentioned anything of the sort, and she starts blushing and kind of shrugs him off. I’m sorry, but getting touchy feely when it’s clearly not welcome and bringing up someone’s personal business in front of people you’ve just met isn’t gonna get you closer to second base. It only proves that you’re a transparent douchebag. That’s unfortunate… for both of them.
Off the metro and we chat up our new friends while we walk to the Beer and Cheese Social House. Round a corner and there it is. Really cool place. I wouldn’t say it’s very Taiwanese per se, in fact it’s more like a hipster joint you’d find in Silverlake. There is a great list of craft beers and the menu is basically gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. A few TVs around the place are showing all manner of beer porn. It kind of feels like places from home, and after all of the ridiculous things we’ve been eating this more western fare is a nice reprieve.
A cute, petite, all smiles server comes over in a beenie and gives us some menus. Her English is good but she talks a mile a minute and cuts every word short. She has a ton of energy. There’s something adorable about it and our whole table is grinning while this girl is waiting on us. Agent Getz and I grab a couple of beer flights paired with assorted cheeses, and some amazing looking grilled cheese sandwiches, Damion and Sara get beers. Everything is pretty bomb.
Soon after, my old friend Kristi walks in. We haven’t seen each other in about a decade, but she looks exactly like I remember her. We went to the same college and afterwards we were roommates back in Nova Scotia briefly. Hugs and smiles, I introduce her to the gang, she orders a beer and we get straight to catching up.
After college Kristi went to get her teaching degree. In her last year there she met a dude. They hit it off. That dude got accepted to teach in Shanghai for a year and, even though they’d only been dating for months, he asked her to come with (awwwwww). She accepted and on a whim they both moved to China. Over the next 7 years there they proceeded to get married and spawn a couple of Chinadian kids. Now they’ve moved to Taipei, only been here a year or two. They live in some expat kind of community in Northern Taipei. They’re close enough to the city as well as the wilderness, very much enjoying the smaller metropolis and population, and are absolutely loving living in Taiwan.
Kristi is a great artist and she’s taken her knowledge of art and her experience in teaching and combined them by opening her own art studio where she teaches people of all ages what she knows.
I describe to her how, post-college, I went on to become the greatest undercover Adventure Detective on the planet alongside my esteemed colleagues McBurger and Agent Getz. How we travel the globe in disguise, adorned with all manner of gadgetry and wit, evading Panditos, gathering information and following international clues towards… well, that’s classified. Anyways, obviously she’s extremely impressed.
The Beer and Cheese Social House is picking up a bit. Some super wasted girl can’t seem to handle her IPAs and she’s stumble running to the bathroom every 10 minutes. There are a few different groups now. Our funny little beenied server points to one and tells us that the white guy at the end of the bar owns the place. He’s from Vancouver. That makes sense. Well done sir.
Beenie Server is cracking up with another girl over something. They’re laughing their heads off. She comes over and asks if we want anything else. “Yeah, I’ll have a..” she cuts me off and says “Kochao?”. The girls lose their minds. What is up with these two? You can’t help but laugh at/with them though. “No, no sorry. What would you like?”, “I’ll take a..”, “Kochao?”, the girls are doubled over crying/laughing. We’re just confused. But still laughing.
Apparently ‘Kochao’ means blowjob in Filipino. Her other friend is from the Philippines and little beenie girl just found out this amazing word. I guess they think it’s just the cutest. So naturally every time we order something from there on out we throw in ‘Kochao?’ just to crack up these two.
Getz and I go up to the bar for another round. A mega drunk, eyes half closed Taiwanese girl sizes us up. “You guys are cowboys, look at you”. We do. Hmmm yeah we are both wearing plaid. And both Canadian. Well… this is stereotypically embarassing. “And those curls. What’s goin on with the curls?”.
So it seems we’ve found the drunkest, most sarcastic Taiwanese girl in the city. Her name is Chelsea. She teaches English. Her English is hands down the best we’ve heard from a local. She just wants to bust balls the whole conversation though, “Canadians? Oh I hate Canadians…”, “Tight curl versus loose curl. Which is better? Let me tell you…”. At first this is funny, but she just doesn’t let up and it gets old quickly.
At that moment Super Wastoid girl is cruising through the bar on another stumble run for the bathroom. She bails sideways into a stack of empty kegs, nails her head off of one, and sends a couple rolling away. It’s loud as fuck. It’s impossible not to laugh at this. In that “oohhh ho ho, that smarts” kind of way. She grabs her head and starts crying immediately and people rush over to tend to her.
Damion and Sara are about done after a few beers. I notice they’ve been fairly conscious of how much everything costs the whole time. I mean, they have been travelling for months and months. So on the sly I pull Beenie Server aside and cover the tab. They’re super grateful.
Kristi has to get back to the kids as well so I guess it’s time for a group picture!
After the hugs and email/facebook exchanges, everyone takes off. We grab another drink with Chelsea at the bar. Behind the bar Beenie Server introduces another friend that comes in. Apparently she works there too. “This my best friend!”. It’s too cute, how can you not smile at that? I’m going to start introducing Getz to complete strangers like that from now on.
We decide it’s time to mosey on to the next place. Beenie Server suggests we go to the Roxy Rocker so we hop a cab and go straight there.
The Roxy Rocker turns out to be exactly as it sounds. A darkly lit, rock and roll themed night club. There are three areas to the place, the layout is cool. The room you walk into is fairly loungey with a bar and music playing over the house speakers. Of course we walk in during Interstate Love Song (RIP). There are concert posters, album covers, and murals of famous albums all over the walls and posts. A massive Houses of the Holy mural takes up one whole wall. The bar is busy, we manage to grab a couple of Godfathers.
We head down a narrow hall to the second room. It’s a large smokey dance floor blasting a strange mix of old school rock tunes, dance, and pop songs. Not really feeling the dance vibe with what’s playing, we post up at a table off the dance floor.
It seems every non-Taiwanese person in Taipei is here. Actually it’s an obnoxious, sweaty, white dude fest here. And for some reason while Agent Getz and I sit there, every single guy in the bar eventually makes their way over to talk to us. Apparently, a large contingent of them are here studying Chinese. We meet some English, Scottish, Australian, and American dudes, all at different times. As the music turns towards the unbearable, and the last dude leaves our table to jump in the sweaty fray, Getz clinches it with, “Man, we’re amazing at picking up dudes”. And with that, we’re out.
We go back to the other bar area and get another round. Who do we meet at the bar but insanely sarcastic Chelsea. “Hey cowboys”, “Wanna check out the back room?”, “Sure”.
We go through some glass doors into the back most room of the Roxy Rocker. It has a number of leather couch seating areas. Absolutely nobody is in here except for a girl DJing up a ton of chill old school hip hop tunes. It’s a nice contrast to the rock of the main room and the terrible mix from the dance floor. We park ourselves on a couch and strike up some more convo with Chelsea.
Within 5 minutes we remember why we stopped talking to her back at the Beer and Cheese Social House and Getz is giving me the ‘let’s get the fuck out’ look behind her back. A silent escape plan forms between us. It only takes the ‘I’ve gotta hit the head’/’I’ll get us a drink’ combo to reach escape velocity and we’re back out on the street white guy summoning a taxi in a rush of Houdini excitement.
Get dropped off, nab some post-wobblies from the 7/11, duck under the piano sign, and we’re back onto the stoop of the Dreaming Dragon portion of EEDD. We wind things down in our new usual fashion. Pretty tuckered though, kind of been doing a lot. We dodge Keaton and head inside.
Back in the common area, Drisdelle starts dozing off on the couch. I leave him an honor beer and hit the hay. Deeboodahlackitahcochacoo