Thursday, March 1, 2018

First Two Weeks in Taiwan


taipei taiwan elephant mountain
Taipei 101 and downtown Taipei from the top of Elephant Mountain

              Having finished our tour of the Philippines, we boarded an Air Asia flight and jumped across to Taiwan; the second country in our Southeast Asia tour.  Since Taiwan is a fairly small island we had planned on only spending two weeks there, but of course that didn’t happen (currently on day 18 and still have about a week of things to do).  The trip was going to be quick and easy we thought.  Since having a friend that lives in Taipei, the capital, we had planned to stay with him and use his house as a base of operations to go out into the rest of the country.




baoan temple garden taipei taiwan
Baoan Tample garden


chiang kai shek memorial taipei taiwan
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial


              Things went sideways fast though on this trip.  Flying a red eye out of the Philippines put us in Taiwan a 1 am in the morning and coupled with the long line at customs meant we really didn’t get out of the airport till around 3 am.  We knew we would be getting in super late so we had booked a room at a hotel for the first night and planned to move to our friends house the following morning, but in hindsight we should have just slept at the airport.  Jumping in an expensive taxi we rode into Taipei with who would turn out to be the nicest taxi driver I have ever meet (thanks for your help Henry!!!).  We arrived at our hotel, located down an alleyway, but the door was locked and no one would answer the door.  Sleeping outside crossed our mind, we had done it before in the Philippines, but this was different.  This was an abandoned alleyway in middle of Taipei with no where to hide away.  Fortunately, we had Henry.  After he made repeated phone calls to the hotel with his phone, banged the door a few times, and yelled at the non-existent worker on the other side of the wall, he finally offered to drive us for free to find another hotel.  There weren’t many options at that time of night, but he found one and Henry convinced the owner to give us a considerable discount after recounting our earlier story.  


longshan temple taipei taiwan
Longshan Temple


prayer meditation longshan temple taipei taiwan
Prayer and meditation at Longshan Temple


              After resting up in what was the nicest hotel I have stayed at in a long time (they even had free snacks and drinks), we went out to find our friends house, where, except for leaving to get dinner that evening, we vegged the rest of the day.  This would turn out to be a theme, and reason why the beginning of this trip took so long, for the rest of our time in Taipei.  Having just come off a grueling month-long tour of the Philippines we were tired and needed some down time; plus, I was way behind on this blog.  


bopiliao historical block taipei taiwan
Bopiliao Historical Block with a movie production in the background


old nothern gate walled city taipei taiwan
Northern gate of the old walled city of Taipei


              We spent our first 14 days in Taipei, which really could have been done in probably three, but it was nice.  Taipei is a large city but due to the train and bus system you can easily get around the town with ease; there is also an extensive bike share system in all of the large towns in Taiwan.  Sleeping in most mornings, we spent the evenings exploring the town and seeing all it had to offer.  Though it was easy to get around, it wasn’t so easy to order food.  Most places are, of course, in Chinese and since neither of us speak Chinese we mostly wondered around searching for the rare places that had English translations or pictures.  This, in turn, lead to us eating a lot of dumplings.  Don’t get me wrong, the dumplings here are delicious, but I have probably eaten my weight in different types of dumplings. 


fried dumplings taipei taiwan
Fried dumplings at our regular spot outside the house


spicy noodle wonton soup taipei taiwan
Spicy noodle and wonton soup


              Ordering food became easier over time (we still can’t read Chinese, but I’ve gotten good at matching the symbols to foods I know).  We found that the night markets are the best place to go in the evening.  Each district has their own and they consist of a street or alleyway lined with shops and stalls selling an array of consumer goods and food.  The food in these markets is delicious and usually consists of small bite size portions meant to eat on the go.  Besides these markets we tried a few restaurants that were recommended to us as well; like the best noodle soup places in town, Din Tai Fung in Taipei 101 (a Michelin starred restaurant), and the Toilet Bowl restaurant (where everything from bowls to chairs is toilet themed). 


store dog clothes night market taipei taiwan
Store in a night market selling only dog clothes and carrier bags


kabob stall sanhe night market taipei taiwan
Kabob stall in the Sanhe night market


toilet bowl restaurant taipei taiwan
Me eating a hotpot at the Toilet Bowl restaurant


              It might seem that most of our focus in Taipei has been on food and you wouldn’t be wrong (but really how can it not be with so much great food around), but we did do other things as well.  Wandering the streets of Taipei, we visited countless temples, hiked Elephant Mountain to get a view of Taipei 101 and the town below, visited a few historical sites and museums (one of which we found out was closed after we had walked 45 minutes to get there), took a gondola ride to drink tea at the top of a mountain, hiked Teapot mountain in the northeast, and strolled the wharf of Tamsui Old Street (I admit there was food involved on this one).

oolong tea mountain top gondola
Drinking Oolong Tea on the mountain top after the Gonola ride


teapot mountain drone taiwan
View of Teapot Mountain from the drone


red fort tamsui taiwan
Red Fort in Tansui, Taiwan


              Taipeihas been a great place to visit and well worth the time.  The time being spent, we now venture out to the rest of the country.  Deciding to take to the road for the rest of the trip, we will no longer be staying with our friend, but jumping from town to town as we see what the rest of Taiwan has to offer.  We have the largest Buddha memorial, some hiking and camping, fun on the beach, and a few exciting festivals to see on this part of our journey so I am excited to see where it takes us and I hope you are too.


dji spark drone teapot mountain taiwan
The drone getting a little camera action of its own atop Teapot Mountain

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