It’s not Thanksgiving overseas unless you 1) spend countless hours searching high and low for hard to find ingredients or 2) just forget about all those turkey and gravy expectations and hit the road. In the past 10 years, we’ve done both: cook a huge Thanksgiving feast in the Brazilian heat while 7 months pregnant (and then going into preterm labor a few days later), strolling around the Vienna Christmas markets and having pizza with a dear friend and her kids because neither one of us wanted to cook, and organizing potluck celebrations in Mongolia.
This year in Taiwan, we opted to forego cooking partly because our tiny oven barely accommodates a chicken and also because we learned the hard way (remember this?) that we will be fully embracing traveling on U.S. holidays to avoid the crowds.
So off we went to new adventures with the Turner family in search of good food and fish. Well…..let’s just say we found the fish!
On Thanksgiving Day we headed South by taking the bullet train out of Taipei and taxi’d our way to… wait for it….. spend a night with the fish!
When we first arrived in Taipei, we stumbled upon an article reviewing a “sleeping with the fish experience” at the National Aquarium and we thought “well, we can’t possibly not do this!” After lots of trial and error to sort out booking arrangements (thanks to google translate and to Krystsina’s persistence) we checked into the aquarium at 4pm. What we did not know was that not only would we get to spend the night with the fish, but we’d all get a huge immersion course in Chinese with exclusive “behind the scenes” tours (feeding frozen shrimp) and many, many hours of lectures on different types of sea life and …. best of all …. an arts and craft play dough session before bedtime.
After a less than memorable Thanksgiving dinner of salty tiny shrimps with seaweed and rice, we rolled out our cots and set up camp next to the puffer fish and the big tank with a shipwreck. We paid a bit more to make sure we’d sleep away from the crowds and almost, almost had the space to ourselves (sigh….there is always that one person!).
So what’s it like to sleep over on the aquarium floor you might wonder? A few words come to mind: hard, cold, hard; cold…. and did I mention cold? Luckily our (non-traveling companion) roommate set a repeating alarm clock so when it was time to get ready for the “breakfast of champions” (chicken nuggets, steamed broccoli, and „eggs in old spice“) we were more than awake. And yes, it’s interesting when the kids turn down chicken nuggets!
We rounded out the weekend at the beach where the laughter didn’t end and the food …. well …. continued to be ….available.
Chef Peter was not up to par although that certainly did not stop us from trying to sneak food out of the buffet for which we promptly got caught. Luckily, Kenting’s night market fed us well!
And yes, while the food did not deliver, there are a million things to be grateful for:
- Friends who join the laughter when things don’t go as expected
- Waking up to wave hello to stingrays swimming by
- Headphones to drown out some of the noisier roommates
- A ready supply of cortisone ointment to cure insect bites on little people’s cheeks (apparently we were not only sleeping with the fish)
- A recurring shouting from the kids “it doesn’t matter, ‘cause this is awesome!”
- Dads who take over child-caring duties that result in children returning soaked head to toe in their daytime clothing from a “friendly” walk at the beach on more than one occasion
- Monkeys jumping on the bed and leaving trails and trails of sand to gently exfoliate (Dads’ who were in charge) legs over night
- Spontaneous sing-alongs to the finest of 1990’s and early 2000’s European pop (there may have been a conga line to Coco Jambo)
- A new appreciation for red bean desserts (just kidding…. that aquarium “midnight snack” continues to hold a special place in our hearts)
- Kite flying on the beach and subsequent (failed) rescue missions
- Polish apple pie
- And finally, a huge thumb’s up to Taiwan’s finest convenience stores (hello, 711 and Family Mart) for their wine selection.
And that’s another Thanksgiving wrap in our house – one that will definitely be hard to beat!