28 days in Taiwan (Part 1)
are you going to Taiwan?
I love Asia and it's one of the places in Asia I haven't been.
my partner has not been to Asia and it's a nice, gentle way to ease him in to
it's exotic, oriental, but also modern.
east meets west.
Before we set off, I had answered that question umpteen times. Taiwan did not
disappoint. It was formally called Formosa from when the Portuguese first set eyes on
it. This meant "beautiful". People often only think of industry when you mention Taiwan. And yet it is so much more. It's people are as graceful and helpful as the Japanese. It's mountains lush and high. The food is a rich culinery delight that mixes indiginous Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
We arrived in Taipei on a late Wednesday evening. Eager to get off the crammed flight, we made our way through passport control, customs and out. After a 50 minute bus ride past the outskirts, we arrived at Taipei main station. Despite the light drizzle, the neon signs blinked and shone as they advertised the myriad shops, hotels and restaurants.
A short taxi ride that involved repeating the hotel name in different ways and showing the hotel address in Chinese writing to the taxi driver ended in Ximen. Ximen is like Piccadilly on steroids crossed with Shinjuku in Tokyo. It is buzzing, happening and full of entertainment for everyone. The streets are lined with stalls selling steaming delights, cafés with teddy bears and swings (don't ask), KTV (Karaoke rooms that are rented per hour), restaurants, bars and so on.
After wandering around in trance and eating at a Japanese restaurant, we retired to our hotel for our first night in Taiwan. We spent the first 5 nights in Taipei during which we visited Daan Park, a green oasis where people picnic and bike and run and Taipei 101, which was the tallest building in the world from 2004 until 2010 when the Burj Khalifa in Dubai was inaugurated. Going up the latter is so fast and exilirating that I literally had palpitations afterwards.
Taiwan, like Japan, has a tradition of hot springs; so we went to Beitou and enjoyed an afternoon of dipping in scalding water, cooling off and taking it easy in these outdoor pools. The atmosphere is so wholesome. Families, young and old, locals and visitors all hang out at the hot spring baths. At night we went to the night markets that are abundant in Taiwan. Shilin night market is one of these colourful places where you can browse all sorts of delights and snack at different stalls.
Over the weekend we went to the jade market where we were bewildered by the choices, stopped by the flower market and also visited the Preseidential palace and Memorial hall. The latter is a monumental place with huge, stately buildings in honour of Chiang Kai-shek, a former president of the Republic of China.
On Monday we would set off to the East coast and then later, further down to the south, to Kaohsiung.