The fact is, I am a Scrooge when it comes to money. I don't like buying things. I don't like buying things I don't need, and I don't like paying more than I absolutely need to for the things I do need.
I keep mental lists of all the places in town it's cheapest to buy things. It's cheapest to buy oatmeal at a mom & pop dry goods store. It's cheapest to buy fruit and vegetables at the big wherehouse market on ZhongZheng. It's cheapest to buy dish soap at the 10 NT shop two blocks from school, and it's cheapest to buy meat at the Welcome market any time after 5:00PM, when they mark it down.
I'm a sucker for a bargain, which is why, when something is not a bargain, my reaction is completely adverse. Enter, last night:
James and I went stomping around for the bus for the mountains, which we discovered is located...DUN DUN DUN...on the other side of the train tracks. We had never been to the other side of the tracks before. It was crazy. It was intimidating. It was Vietnamese and Thai?
Apparently, the other side of the tracks is where all of the Southeast Asian immigrants do their thang. (Or their Trang, or Tran, or Nguyen.) We were so excited because as in the Bay Area, immigrants = good food. After a day of romping in the mountains, we picked out a funky looking Thai place and sat down.
Big uh-oh when the menu was opened and the prices were double the prices at our favorite Thai place on the other side of the tracks. And at the place, the waitress is angelically nice, whereas at this one, the man was mildly stand-offish. I asked if we could leave, and we did. Hungry and stranded in Southeast Asia OZ, we doddled up and down the street, not particularly happy. We walked into a Vietnamese restaurant only because we were tired and ready to eat.
The menu was not only in Chinese but in Vietnamese...which is no help because I don't speak Chinese or Vietnamese.
This is where the night gets funny, I promise. James found something with beef and rice he wanted to eat, so he ordered it. I was stumped and tried to ask the woman "What do you like to eat?" but somehow she had no idea and just pointed at random things on the menu. I nodded when she found something she said was noodles and vegetables and really good. We crossed our fingers.
Still pretty grumpy from the overpriced Thai menu and wandering around in the dark, that's when the Vietnamese karaoke started. Ear shattering, whiney, and incoherent, the six metrosexual Vietnamese guys sitting at the table across from us were loving it. We sat there in shock, unable to talk about how awful this all was.
The food came to the table. One dish was seafood and rice, and the other was celery and something like greyish ramen noodles. The best part: both dishes had been generously sprinkled with giant pieces of organ meat - hearts, livers, etc. Also greyish. Sweet Gods of Dining, WHY?!?
Have you constructed the visual yet? Grubby restaurant with a group of possibly flamboyant, possibly simply attracted to very outlandish hairstyles, males, screaming Vietnamese karaoke, while the miserable white people choke down their livers and celery.
You just have to laugh sometimes.