One of the best things about this series is that it has taken me to many places I have never visited before. Taipei was one of those places. I’m ashamed to say that I knew very little about it before I went. It was on the list because it is routinely touted as the best city in the world for street food.
Bye-bye to Bobby again and I caught the 12.30 from Heathrow. It’s a long flight, about eleven and a half hours, and I travelled with Steve The Soundman, and our cameraman, Mike. Everyone else was already out there.
Great hotel again, with some lovely art deco features, but as usual, I had very little time to explore it.
I love travelling and I meet wonderful people wherever I go, but I was really struck by the number of smiling faces here. Everyone we met was so kind and helpful. It’s a polite culture, like so many far eastern places, but not at all stuffy or formal.
Street life is hectic – and I could see instantly why this would make such a great episode. There are bikes and people everywhere. Food stall after food stall and markets with produce that would make your eyes water, never mind your mouth. You’ll have to watch the show to see what I mean. We filmed in an astonishing fish market, though we were asked not to film in the restaurant there in case our presence upset the diners. Believe it or not, that’s quite an unusual response, but I think the manager was properly putting his paying customers first. We made a quick change of plan, and convinced a store owner just down the road to let us shoot a recipe in front of their shop. This was the kind of spontaneous stuff we were hoping for.
It’s a slim place, I noticed. I don’t think I saw anyone overweight. This might have something to do with the small, regular meals they eat, rather than the big sit-down glutton-fests we often indulge in. There is a lot of eating out. It’s so easy and so tasty that many people live off street food.
We usually managed an hour or two of downtime before bed. We’d sit outside one of the many bars within ten minutes of our hotel, usually with a scotch or a beer, watching the flickering neon, fast food stalls and gambling joints. It’s buzzing but relaxed. Busy but friendly. And studded amongst the thronging streets there are temples to make your heart burst. I managed to visit a fair few, but I’ll need to go back to do them justice. They really do take your breath away.
Look out for the fear in my eyes when we filmed the snake sequence. I’m petrified of them but I think I hid it pretty well. It didn’t help that the store owner had lost half his fingers to one of the things. Who knew that snakes ate fingers?!