Taipei is the capital of Taiwan and the most bustling city of them all! For this particular trip, I went with some of my favorite Taiwanese people: Queen B and Curious George.
When we arrived in Taipei we took the MRT to Ximen. Taiwan is full of night markets that usually sell, forgive me, poor quality crap made in China for very low prices. The clothing always looks very cute, but then you buy it and wear it and the fabric is made of horrible cheap polyester that makes you very hot and uncomfortable. Ximen is a shopping area where locals sell items similar to that you would find in a night market, but these items are handmade, original, interesting, beautiful items. It was very refreshing to see clothing, accessories, jewelry, etc, that are one of a kind, handcrafted. Of course, the prices reflect these characteristics, but it does support the local artists and promotes conscious spending, something large factories have eliminated from the human consciousness.
After chatting with a friend about the things they love about Taipei, she suggested Tamsui, particularly at sunset. Tamsui is an eating/shopping area along a river that has an awesome mountain view of Guan Yin Mountain. It is the final stop on the MRT red line. One of my companions, Queen B, happens to live one MRT stop from Tamsui. When I told him I wanted to go there, he stuck up his nose and asked: “Why would you want to go there?” (Queen B, is a bit of a sass-mouth.) When we got there, I was so excited by the beauty of the place, I asked him: “Why wouldn’t you want to go here? It’s so nice!” I think it goes to show that people simply take the places they come from for granted. I understand this.
We walked along the river, which actually felt like a harbor and watched the sun set to the side of the mountain. There were several shops and food carts along the river with many options for good eating. I found a Turkish stand selling some wrap with mashed potatoes, chicken, and sauce on the inside. The man running the cart was a genuine Turkish man and told me “You don’t like, then no money!” Well, if it was going to be free if I didn’t like it, it was surely worth a try. For $70 TWD, $2.50 USD, there was nothing to regret! As we continued to walk we each found more food. I stumbled upon an ice cream puff. What’s better than a cream puff? An ICE CREAM PUFF!
Upon further exploration, we found several proper restaurants with an incredible outdoor lighting ambiance that we passed by. We also found some nice old Dutch brick buildings, marking an era of European influence in Taiwan. The buildings were still gorgeous, despite being several hundred years old.
The next day we took the red line to the complete opposite end to do a little day hiking. There are a lot of nice, though steep mountains to hike in Taiwan. Unfortunately, summertime weather makes for some pretty challenging hikes. It just happened to be 12 noon, at the beginning of July when we started a hike at 34 degrees celsius, God knowing what kind of heat index we were in. Elephant mountain is a very short mountain to hike, it took us about 15 minutes to reach the top, but that was an incredible 15 minutes. I have hiked that mountain before and the first time was nowhere near as challenging as this time. Maybe I just wasn’t so fit, but I was amazed at how challenging 15 minutes of hiking was. By the time we got to the top, me with my two Asians, I couldn’t help but notice just how much more sweat my caucasian skin was producing than their skin was. I clearly was losing a lot more water than they were. After three years of living Taiwan, I can so clearly see that Asians simply do not sweat nearly as much as other races. Most of them don’t even wear deodorant – and they don’t need to either. It’s not fair! They will even wear long sleeves and pants at unthinkably high temperatures…. and NOT SWEAT! I can’t even imagine how their bodies can regulate a comfortable internal temperature, but they seem to be adapted to the climate.
After reaching the top of Elephant Mountain, Queen B, and Curious George read the signs and realized we could take a trail down that would bring us back to the station. The walk down was certainly a nice change of pace. Sometimes walking back down a mountain can almost be harder than walking up, especially when it’s a downhill without steps, but it was fully stepped, making the walk down pretty relaxed.
Taipei 101 is a 101 story skyscraper located in the heart of Taipei City. It was built in 2004 and was the tallest skyscraper in the world until the Burj Khalifa was built in Dubai. When I first moved to Taiwan that I visited Taipei 101. The cost was about $500 TWD (about $15 USD) to go to the top and check out the view. I went there in the evening, so I experienced a night view, which isn’t as good for taking pictures as a day view is. Once you get to the top of the building, you can feel the sways of the wind ever so slightly moving the floor you’re standing on. It is quite the spectacular experience.
After getting off the mountain we began walking the streets of Taipei, thinking about lunch. We saw some Ubikes and decided it was nice day for a ride. After dealing with registering our easycards to use them we managed to get on and ride around the city. Taipei is a very nice city to Ubike around, the breeze has finally picked up and our muscles were loose from our hike, the only thing getting in our way (literally) were all the pedestrians we secretly wanted to run over and the traffic lights. Taipei is very densely populated and for someone from a place that is very different, it can bring out your inner murderous tendencies. (I’m obviously kidding, just trying to emphasise the level of annoyance high population density can do to one’s mind, I won’t actually murder anyone!)
It was soon getting close to the time we needed to catch our UBUS back to Taichung. We had some time to kill before and decided to find a nice drink shop. We first decided to check the Main Station to make it easier for us to get back. One thing I learn over and over and over again about Taipei Main Station is how you could be there not even close to a meal time and there’s barely anywhere to sit down for food. (Again, you can understand the annoyance of high population density.) Fortunately one of my friends remembered a nice juice shop outside the station. I highly recommend checking around OUTSIDE the station if you want something to eat or drink. This little shop was NOT crowded (much to my peace of mind), and had a very nice menu for coffees, teas, juices and shaved ice. It was a perfect place to chat for a couple of hours before we caught the bus back to Taichung.