March 22, 2017 – Taipei, Taiwan to Suzhou, China
Thanks to jet lag, I was up at 6am and ready for the day by 7am! First stop, of course, 永和豆漿大王 (Yonghe Soybean King)! We’ve been coming here since we were little kids. Our typical order: 燒餅油條 (fried dough), 豆漿 (soy bean milk), and飯糰 (rice ball). Yessssss!! Crispy fried dough inside thicker baked dough covered in sesame seeds dipped it in soybean milk and soy sauce! And then to top that off a rice ball with fried dough, egg, shredded meat, and pickled veggies. Best breakfast ever!!
I was quickly stuffed and decided to walk around. In under less than 5 minutes, I found myself in a park. As I walked through, I found the inviting entrance to the CKS Shi Lin Residence across the street. I love these grounds. Last time I was here with my family, we probably covered only half of the park. Not too far from the entrance was a slightly hidden staircase up to a Buddhist pavilion/terrace or something. I obviously had to climb up. It was a pretty short climb and the views at the top were amazing. I could see the tree covered mountains and the city below. It felt like my own little secret being the only one on top. I walked around the park for a little and headed back to my grandma’s, only after I stopped by 2 bakeries of course.
I was off to Shanghai Pudong Airport next. My flight was out of Sung Shan airport in Taipei, a short MRT ride away from Shi Lin. For a local airport, this was pretty big. It was spacious and felt pretty empty. My China Eastern flight served eggs and rice that looked pretty questionable…
When I landed in Shanghai, my mom was there to greet me! She had taken a 2 hour Didi ride (similar to Uber) to pick me up. Thank god she came because I don’t know how long it would’ve taken me to figure out how to get to Suzhou. First we had to take the high speed rail to the Shanghai subway. This thing can travel up to 430 km/hr (267.19 mi/hr). For some perspective, typical cruising air speed for long-distance commercial passenger flights is 878–926 km/h (546–575 mph). It was pretty cool. They’re very proud of it. After maybe a 20 min ride, we took the Shanghai subway almost to the very last stop to Hongquaio train station. By the time we arrived, we only had 10 minutes to pick up our Suzhou bound tickets. It sounds like a lot of time except this train station is massive and China’s population is huge. There were lines everywhere for everything and it was crowded. We ran around with my luggage trying to find the ticket booth (which ended up being on the other side of the station and up the stairs). Then we had to wait in line to pick them up (they have an electronic system but it’s only for Chinese citizens) and then we had to find the gate to board our train. We caught our train with maybe 3 minutes to spare. It was so unpleasantly hectic and painful. I was wearing booties with a small heel and my feet were killing me at the end of this. This train was a slower high speed rail but we got to the Suzhou subway in under 15 minutes and took another 10 minutes ride to meet my dad who picked us up by car (yay!).
Three hours after landing, we went directly to my parent’s pearl tea / boba shop for some boba (duh) and food. It was so exciting to finally see their store in person after seeing pictures and hearing all about if for years! It was real!! The store is located in a shopping center that’s driven off the business of a big grocery store chain, Carrefour. The interior of the store is actually super nice! The food was delicious and my mom’s clear boba was so fresh and chewy! She had called her employees in advance to tell them I was coming 🙂 I felt so special. We had her speciality chicken and rice, red bean and grass jelly soup dessert, and a waffle. The boba was my favorite. I wish I could have this boba all the time!!
After I ate their entire store, we stopped to pick up some groceries at Carrefour. This place was the size of a Costco, except a lot brighter like a Target. Unlike Costco or Target, this place was EMPTY. We may have seen 3 other customers in this entire place. It was a little eerie. My mom was trying to find yellow soy beans so she asked two store clerks who were just chatting it up. One of the guys was basically on his phone the entire time. He responded to my mom you’re looking at it. That’s all we have. Without bothering to move. The other clerk did show my mom where the organic beans were. After his buddy walked away, he just put his phone on top of a counter and leaned half his body against the counter playing on the phone. He wasn’t even pretending to work! No wonder this place is expected to go out of business.