(Photo by: Amy Chyan)
TFW you’re nodding off early in the evening the day you land, go back to your hotel to “nap” and the next moment that your eyes blink open, it’s somehow past midnight. You wake up groggy, confused and very hangry. Although Taipei isn’t a 24-hour partying city, here are 5 things you can do at all odd hours of the day when your body’s internal clock is feeling slightly confused.
1) GO FOR A SWIM
I often find that when I travel, I still like staying active. (Let’s be real, there’s something called 5 meals a day when in a foreign, delicious country.) But asking yourself to get into sets of burpees and squats isn’t the easiest thing to do on vacation. (Sure, you’ve packed your running shoes, but those are to be worn when you’re hiking a mountain for that Instagram picture!)
Swimming pools usually have early hours, whether at your hotel or the local community centre.
It may be intimidating to look up a community centre, but Taipei’s community centres are equipped with pools and even the basic gym. You pay NT$120 for an adult entrance fee and can stay as long as you want.
The pool I hit up this time is the Taipei Zhong-Shan Sports Centre. It’s open all year round except Chinese New Year Even and CNY day.
I enjoy swimming during sunrise when the rays are shimmering through the water, but this pool like most pools at these local sports centres are in B1 the basement. However, the Zhongshan pool is 50m long, which is a nice change from the usual 25m. You’ll just have to be cautious that if you’re trying to go for hard laps, many of the elderly in the morning go at a leisurely pace.
And remember to bring your own towel, shampoo and soap. (Everything is a bare minimum there, unlike the eucalyptus towels and Kiehl’s shower products at Equinox when I had a membership in NYC…)
Oh, one more thing. Swim caps are MANDATORY at all pools in Taiwan and generally men are not allowed to wear baggy swim trunks. Happy swimming!
2) BROWSE A CONVENIENCE STORE
Most convenience stores are 24-hours so don’t worry if you look like a psycho going in there at 3 a.m. Don’t be alarmed if you see someone with bags of personal belongings sleeping at the tables they have set up for patrons to eat food. Often the homeless take shelter there. They’re usually not bothered by the employees since it’s a mutual understanding.
What can I say about convenience stores in Taiwan without going into a post that deserves its own? For starters, erase the image of a gas station convenience store from your head. It’s not like that! Convenience stores in Taiwan are well air conditioned, bright and always stocked to the brim. (And there’s always new products to discover.)
You can find a shelving wall just for one category of beverages, for example an enormous choice for milk teas. You can find ready-made-food for on the go consumption like sandwiches, onigiri (triangular shaped rice wrapped in seaweed) and even hot foods like curry rice, dumplings, noodle soup or pasta.
All the hot foods are microwaved and a great way get to your fix when jet lag has you wide awake in the middle of the night.
I’m really not doing the Taiwanese convenient store justice, but here are some food items they sell that I love:
-mini cream puffs from Family Mart (8 to a package–4 chocolate, 4 vanilla)
-pre-peeled roasted chestnuts from 7-11
-fruit platters of local, in season fruit at either place (guava, apples, papaya, pineapple, dragon fruit, grapes)
3) EXPLORE A WET MARKET
These outdoor markets are open relatively early. Most aunties like to go with an umbrella to shade themselves from the blistering sun! So don’t be freaked out of the edge of their ‘brella is poking you in the side of the head. They mean well for their porcelain skin.
These markets can be loud, intimidating and messy. (A pile of corn husks in front of a vendor ain’t hurting nobody!) As long as you keep a smile on your face and with eyes that look like you’re just exploring, no harm can be done.
What I like about the wet markets is how different they can be. There will be a man trying to sell a bunch of aunties the newest as seen on TV magic mop, but there will also be a vendor selling fresh passion fruit.
The hottest item at the Dongmen Market was surprisingly a line up for an assortment of roasted nuts! (Like a Bulk Barn without labels.)
For those that are squirmy about seeing meat being butchered in the open or fish flailing around on ice, it’s going to be there.
Often these markets sell ingredients, but also have vendors offering ready made items you can take home to add to your meal.
4) 24-hour restaurants
And it’s NOT a sketchy diner? Welcome to Asia! The newest star in town is of course Ichiran Ramen from Japan.
I will update once I conquer that bowl of slurpy noodle even if it means eating it during sunrise.
5) Let me get my breakfast first! And come back to this.