The view from the 85th floor of Taipei 101, the indoor observation deck.

Sunday my good friend Jason W. flew in from overseas to visit old friends and old haunts. Andrew Kerslake and I picked him up at the airport and then hung out in Taipei, hooking up with the acutely intelligent and hilarious Jason Cox, who works at the Taipei Times, then heading to Tamshui to watch the sun set.

After eating some ice cream and ogling Taipei, we went to the 90th floor outdoor observation deck. Here are Jason and I contemplating actually walking up to the fence that surrounds the outdoor deck. After several changes of underwear and a twelve-step program, crying like girls, Jason and I were able to walk up to the fence. Behind us the security guards contemplate putting us in straitjackets.

On the way out to the deck — here’s what 85 floors of stairs look like when seen from directly above.

Andrew Kerslake has a good laugh at the expense of Jason and myself. Meanwhile Jason Cox and his new bride Jennifer actually look up. I couldn’t quite manage that.

The views were spectacular, though hazed over. Taipei 101 is a must-do experience, and include the outdoor deck even though you have to fork over another $100. The wind whipping through the fenceposts makes them sing. “What’s that amazing sound?” someone asked. Pause. “It’s the sound of metal buckling,” Andrew said innocently….

Jason Cox and his lovely bride.

Close up of the city.

JASON: Is there anyway we can ditch this Turton guy? ANDREW: Nope. I suppose he’s just one of life’s little trials.

I hadn’t been out to Tamshui since the late 1990s. So the changes came as a huge shock. Long a playground on weekends for Taipei’s overworked residents, offering some unique local foods and interesting local history, the waterfront has become just another crowded overpriced weekend outing.

At the entrance, Dunkin Donuts faces Mr Donut on the other side (not pictured). Nothing like authentic local foods.

After you’ve gotten your sugar injection from the donut shops, you can pause at Starbucks for more authentic local coffee. If you don’t like this one, there’s another one a few hundred meters down the waterfront.

Fortunately the views have still not been obliterated by development (for a view from the other side of the river, see my post on a visit to Bali).

There used to be plenty of street vendors selling Tamshui fried shrimp wonton thingys, but they have almost all disappeared to be replaced by small shops selling the same old same old night market stuff.

Still, some of the romance remains. Looking north out toward the ocean.

Looking south toward the city.

The crowds are amazing. The night market, it seems, has become the primary model for the Taiwan recreational experience….

Vendors have become shopkeepers.

Still some enjoyable views….

See no evil, hear no evil….

Jason moves in for a shot.

A troupe puts on community theatre along the waterfront.

A little world of peace and quiet…….

Out on the river there was a steady flow of boats….

…sometimes almost into each other.

After many years of living here, in many ways I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate the constant reassuring presence of people, even while I complain about them.

The waterfront was filled with people taking pictures of each other…..

…and lined with caricaturists….

…and with people busking….

…and with millions of tacky shops…

…selling tons of stuff….

We finally plopped down in front of the 7-11 next to the Starbucks to watch the sunset and drink a few beers. One of Taiwan’s simple pleasures: if there are open bottle laws, they aren’t enforced.

The woman in red. This beautiful young lady appeared to be following the three of us. Finally, after she had orbited our position a couple of times, I snapped her picture.

Lots of dog lovers brought what I suppose are technically “dogs” with them. Small dogs are very nice…..deep fried with a little tartar sauce.

Across the water….

Everyone came to the waterfront for a picture…some to take…

…and some to pose.

The Asian Sign of Picture Taking is learned young. I think it must surely be innate by now.

Jason enjoys the sunset and that good Taiwan beer.

Plenty of interesting faces everywhere….

As evening approached, the fishermen went out and the pleasure craft returned…

Fishermen at work.

Andrew and Jason.

One of Tamshui’s most popular fish ball places, where there’s always a line.

Tamshui at night.

On the metro back we spotted this anti-suicide advertisement.

The next day it was hiking outside Taichung. Myself and Andrew (pic from Jason), one of Taiwan’s most informed expats. Andrew is a font of information on the history and culture of Taiwan — if you ever get the chance, just get him rolling and listen. The fantastic Wikipedia page on the Taiwan aborigines is largely from his hand.

Jason tries out his impressive Canon S3 IS on a spider.

I have often observed the tiny orange spiders in the same webs as these large golden orb spiders. Young? Symbionts?

Taichung spills over the west coast plain.

Looking north to Fengyuan.

We stopped by the karaoke place next to the temple and had drinks. Andrew did something that was almost like singing.

A local family enjoys some old Taiwanese songs.

On the way home this huge beetle was having a snack….