To celebrate Chuck’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, and the long weekend granted in recognition of President’s Day, we ventured to the cosmopolitan city of Taipei. This easy, “local” trip quickly became our favorite Asian excursion to date, and we have already decided that it may warrant a repeat visit … perhaps next time with friends.
So what made Taipei stand out?
As Chuck so aptly put it, Taipei was “everything we hoped Beijing would be.” Taiwan is certainly Chinese in culture, but it has all the heart and soul that Beijing lacked. For instance, we visited temples, wandered the interiors, and observed people who were actually worshiping. The sacred sites did not feel like dusty relics of traditions past, but living and breathing entities for both the curious and the faithful. They were vibrant to the point of appearing gaudy to those of us with Christian backgrounds, but they had a unique beauty all their own.
Additionally,the Taiwanese people were friendly and helpful. Public transit was clean and efficient. I never expect people to know English of course, but it was a nice bonus than many of them did. The food was delicious and the nightlife was beckoning (although we did not plan ahead enough to take proper advantage of it.) The only issue I had was the street food. I ate it and enjoyed it (despite misgivings after watching vendors scoop noodles into bowls with their bare hands), but I didn’t feel great in the aftermath. Not so bad as food poisoning – but it definitely had an effect. Of course, Chuck was fine. I swear that boy has a stomach of steel.
Anyway, we spent most of the first day exploring the Taipei 101 skyscraper, eating the famed dim sum at Din Tai Fung, and wandering Huaxi Night Market, aka Snake Alley (where I also got the most painful foot massage of my life for $10.) I didn’t love all the live animals in captivity, and some of the food selections were a little… unique, but it made for an exciting experience overall.
A particular highlight for me was our day trip to Wulai Hot Springs, about 45 minutes outside of Taipei. It is an aboriginal village famed for its scenery, traditional shops, waterfall, and – as the name indicates – hot springs. It took a little while to figure out where we were supposed to go, but we were pleasantly rewarded once we got there. I’ll let the pictures do the talking!
Our last day in Taipei was spent visiting the historic stuff – most notably the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial. We even got to watch the changing of the guard ceremony, which is similar to the ceremony at the U.S. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Taiwanese version was a good bit more flamboyant and choreographed than the American version, but it made for quite the show.
We finished the trip with a climb up Elephant Mountain Trail, for spectacular views of the city lit up at night. We had hoped to catch the sunset, but it was too cloudy. Still, it was not a disappointment! We explored the lively Raohe Night Market afterwards, where I purchased a Hello Kitty selfie stick without shame.
If we are able to visit Taipei again, I definitely want to hit the things we missed: the historic Wisteria Tea House, the Maokong Gondola, and a few unique nightspots (to include a Prohibition-style speakeasy!)
Good times, Taipei. Good times.