I really like Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations.” I think he mixes the right amount of food and culture to introduce new places to his audience. I hoped he would do a “No Reservations” show on Taiwan. Unfortunately, that show never happened. Instead, “The Layover” went to Taipei. “The Layover” has a different premise from “No Reservations.” The idea is a short 48 hour stop in a city. It’s a condensed tour that tries to take in the key things that should not be missed in that city. Overall I liked the episode. It does include various Bourdainisms – there is a parental advisory to the show for a reason. I like what the show was able to cover in the condensed trip format. All of the specifics are available at the Travel Channel travel guide for the episode.
The reason the 基隆 (Keelung) night market was the place to introduce Taiwanese night markets was because of the food and seafood, but it is technically not in Taipei City. It’s on the other side of Taipei City from the airport (which is also not in Taipei City). So if you are short on time, I’d stay within Taipei City and maybe venture to New Taipei City if there is time. The night market scene might look just as bad as holiday shopping in the U.S., but it really is not. Even though there’s so many people, there’s no shoving or trampling. It isn’t stressful at all.
I really like that locals were interviewed (other than the guides at specific food destinations). They spoke Mandarin and Taiwanese. It did not seem like these were random people who were ambushed for an interview, but people who were engaged in conversation. I found it very authentic. Those people reflected the true personality of Taiwan.
I’m so glad that a brief history lesson was covered. The history of Taiwan is complicated, but so important to understand the country. I’m also very grateful that there was an explanation about beef in Taiwan during the beef noodle scene. Beef noodle soup was brought to Taiwan by the mainland immigrants after 1949. Before then, very few Taiwanese ate beef because cows were used to help in the rice paddies, not for food. Nowadays, beef noodle is known as a Taiwanese dish and is everywhere on the island.
The scene in 鼎泰豐 could make a person weep. I almost did. Those dumplings are in a league of their own. I thought the scene was very good and gave the dumplings the spotlight they need.
As great as Taipei is, I hope that Bourdain can visit 臺南 (Tainan) on a return trip to Taiwan. 臺南 was the capital of Taiwan during the Ming dynasty and has unique foods that are specific to the region. There are other history and cultural lessons to be learned there too.