Surprisingly, I woke up at a decent hour at 7:00am. A good night's sleep is essential in getting over the jetlag. After breakfast, Coco, my long time family friend, and I met up at the MRT (Massive Rapid Transit) station. We took the MRT to her office, where we chatted and sat for a while. I have to say, the Taipei MRT is just so awesome. It's clean and efficient. Not only is the service punctual, smooth, and just generally good; it's cheap, too! I rode way across the city at NT$24 dollars, which is 80 cents in US dollars. It took me about 2 transfers, and only 30 minutes!!
Coco's office is set up differently from what I'm used to in the States. But the office is nice and bright, with some desks, and two conference room areas. Out the window, the Taipei street scene looked a bit grim on this cold winter day. But for some reason I couldn't stop looking out the window at the not-so-pretty sight. It must have been the "welcome to Taiwan" honeymoon sensation.
For lunch I was taken to the street stand right around the corner, for the mini personalized hot pot, and the soy sauce braised goodies generally and collectively referred to as "Lu Wei" (pronounced "loo-way"--no pun intended...) I picked the seafood tomato hot pot bowl, without cellophane noodles, but with seafood, to go; It been a while since I've had lu wei, therefore I went a little crazy at the stall and ordered a bunch of different things.
The hot pot stall guy was super efficient. There were a lot of phoned-in orders coming to this tiny little street vendor. There are 8 pots in the making on make-shift stove ranges at any given time; and there are rows of all these assembled bits of ingredients that can be customized upon the customers' request. With amazing speed and precision, our lunches were made and packed beautifully, and we were on our way. The pot was NT$90; for a little shy of $2 dollars I've got a great steaming pot of tomatoes and seafood made to my order.
The lu wei we picked cost about $3 dollars and it was a big bowl's worth of hodge-podge, including broccoli, seaweed, bean sprouts, dried tofu curds, and chicken blood-infused sticky rice squares--yes indeed, just as it sounds, and one of my favorites despite the shock factor for non-Chinese population. Sanitation concerns? As far as I can see, it's no worse than a picnic. Especially, all foods are cooked and packed right on premise. Sure there are some germs; maybe even dust. But as far as I can remember, I have not ever gotten sick on street food; and I can never bring myself to ban street foods because, gosh darn it, they are just that good.
That was a satisfying meal at a very low cost. The only thing I would do differently would be to carry around my own container so that the vendors don't use plastic ware--at least with me.