Taipei, Taiwan

October 02, 2015

More long weekends = More opportunities for travel.
It was about time, too, since I hadn't gone on a trip since this time last year when I went to Tokyo. As the weekend grew closer, the news about Typhoon Dujuan became somewhat of an issue... buuuut it was too late to turn back.

Leaving late Saturday night, we arrived at our hotel in the wee hours of the morning after a 2 hour flight and 1 hour bus ride. This is when the rain began. The rain didn't really end for three days, but it didn't stop us~

Our first sight to see was the National Palace Museum. I usually like to begin a trip with something that opens me up to the history/culture of the place... but this was not exactly the museum for that. We came to realize that it was a "palace" museum meaning that it contains things that once belonged to a palace. We essentially got to appreciate the expensive things that rich people once owned.

For lunch we stopped by one of the most recommended restaurants in Taipei, Din Tai Fung. The place is famous for dumplings and waiting. Lucky for us, we must have arrived after the lunch rush because we were able to get in within 10 minutes. Another person we met said he waited for 90 minutes. Yikes. Anyway, the food was great. We got pork xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), vegetarian dumplings, egg and tomato soup, braised beef noodle soup, and black sesame buns. Yum.

Next up, with the typhoon looming, we made a trip to the mountainous town of Jiufen. Getting there took an hour by bus out toward the east coast. It used to be a gold mining town but is now mostly a popular tourist attraction. The town was also apparently the inspiration for the movie Spirited Away. The weather got progressively worse, so we probably weren't able to peruse as comfortably as we could have. Hmph. But it was beautiful regardless and the weather made it interesting.
First stop: ice cream and peanut pastry/burritos.
Finding our way back to the city was... moist. Yes. Moist. Air was fog. Wind was rain. Shoes was puddles.

The next day was Typhoon Day, so we tried to enjoy the outside world while we could.

Typhoon Day was also Mid-Autumn Festival day, so some places were closed including Longshan Temple. We took pictures anyway and moved along.

Ximending, apparently referred to as the "Harajuku of Taipei", was anything but closed. We explored the area, jumping between the overhangs of buildings to stay dry. We also stopped for lunch at another commonly recommended restaurant, Mala Yuanyong Hotpot. You choose your broths and meats, then choose from a buffet-style of items (meat, fish, vegetables, tofu...) to boil in the hotpot. There was also all-you-can-eat Haagen Daaz. I was on board.

The late afternoon was typhoon time. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but the "category 4" was a bit worrisome. Luckily our hotel room didn't have windows, so we were able to avoid that aspect of danger, but were also unable to see the happenings of the outside world. So, without much choice, we hung out in our hotel room. Somehow Final Destination 5 came on TV which seemed wildly inappropriate, but we watched it anyway. 

The next morning: Post-typhoon. Going outside, there wasn't too much debris or any sign of the typhoon at all. The weather was still a bit damp and grey but it was the best weather we had seen since we arrived, and we wanted to see all there was to see on our last full day in Taipei. 

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. This memorial was built to honour the former leader of the Republic of China. He served in mainland China beginning in 1928 until after WWII in 1950 when he moved to Taiwan. Chiang Kai-Shek was the leader of Chinese Nationalists who opposed the Communists (led by Mao Zedong) throughout China's Civil War. He maintained presidency in Taiwan until his death in 1975 when his son took over (wikipedia). Surrounding the memorial were elegant buildings which housed a theatre and concert hall.

Taipei 101 was the world's tallest skyscraper until the Burj Khalifa took over in 2010. In 2011, Taipei 101 became the largest environmentally-friendly building in the world (wikipedia).

Anyone who has travelled with me knows that I'm not a foodie traveller, but the food in Taiwan was really good. I guess I had no real expectations. But. Yes. So good. Fried tofu, General Tso's chicken, beef somethings, and green somethings. And later: mango bingsu.

For some reason I thought this temple, Xingtian Temple, was the temple of the god of war which sounded epic, but I was wrong. That's another temple entirely. Xingtian is, rather, a temple devoted to a patron god of businessmen named Guan Yu (wikipedia). This is a relatively new temple and is one of the few that I've seen being so busy which made it more interesting. I'm always really hesitant to take photos inside places of worship, so I don't have many.

There were people all around bowing, praying, and throwing around small red stones. Curious about the goings on, we found out that they are called Divination/Moon Blocks. People ask a yes/no question to the gods, and can receive an answer based on the way the blocks land.

Last stop in Taipei: Shilin Night Market. Night markets seem to be a pinnacle in Taiwan and it doesn't seem like you can go there without experiencing one. Shilin Night Market is said to be the most popular and largest night market in Taipei. Opening around 4pm, night markets are abound with food vendors as well as souvenir and other shopping. We spent only a little while here before hopping on a bus to get us back to the airport.

I can't say exactly what I expected from Taipei, but I was really blown away. It was very different from other bustling cities I've visited in East Asia; the people were so considerate and helpful... the places we visited were never over-crowded or anxiety-inducing... the food was amazing. I loved the city and would love to go back to see what Taiwan has to offer outside the city.

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