So anyways, I’ve been wandering around this city for five days now and have to say I’ve fallen more than a little in love. I understand very little, I’m doing a lot of pointing, I’ve melted in the mid summer heat and been washed away in typhoon season rains, I’ve even braved the aptly named stinky tofu at the night markets. There are more posts to come, but here are my absolute must do’s…well, five of them…
1. Taipei 101
Sure, it’s no longer the tallest building in the world- I think something in Dubai has taken that accolade, but Taipei 101 is still pretty darned impressive. And, with a lift that does hold a Guinness World Record- for the fastest elevator in the world- it’s absolutely worth doing. Actually no, it’s a Taipei must do.
The lift, capable of a pressure defying 1010m in 1 minute, takes just seconds to whizz us up to the 89th floor.
Once up there, the view is amazing- especially on a clear day.
From Level 89 you can walk up another couple of flights to the outdoor observatory, and then back down to level 88 to see the giant gold coloured iron ball that centres the tower and keeps it stable even during earthquakes and typhoons.
It’s at this point that the going can get tough.
As with most attractions, the exit is via a gift shop- or rather a variety of gift shops. Then there’s the going down queues. Can someone please tell me how if a lift can get you down in 30 odd seconds it seems to take for ever to move a queue of people?
Anyways, the usual warnings- it’s busy during weekends.
The closest MRT is City Hall. From here it’s a walk via Taipei World Trade Centre.
The ultra posh shopping centre below. It’s full of lush brands that I’ll never be able to afford- or could never fit into if I could afford them, but it’s still oh so beautiful.
2. Taipei Zoo
During the summer many of the animals go into hiding. I don’t blame them.
Having said that, the grounds are lush and green- which, in the radiated concrete heat of a Taipei summer day- is a relief.
The pandas are the star (and controversial) attraction here (it’s a political thing that would take an entire post to explain), but only one is currently on display- and he had his back to me. There was a circle with a line through it on the picture of the other one, which concerned me a tad- until a couple of girls on the Maokong Gondola told me kindly not to worry. Apparently Mamma Panda has just given birth and is now enjoying her time in recuperation. Phew.
Taipei Zoo MRT will pop you out just a couple of hundred metres from the front entrance. There is a Maokong Gondola station at the top of the zoo, and the main station about 500m from the zoo gates, so why not make a day of it with a trip up to Maokong? Incidentally, Maokong is a must do, but I’ve already posted that one :).
60NT$. The little shuttle train is another 5NT$- and well worth it on a hot day- even if you are, like me, sharing it with seemingly thousands of excited pre schoolers.
3. A temple or two…or more
The Taoist temples here are quite simply gorgeous and ornately detailed. Look up and you’ll see rows and rows of red lanterns- just like the ones in the opening scene of Indiana Jones…the 2nd one, that is.
I’ve seen so many temples that I’ll post my top 5 next Friday.
MRT stations are close to most.
Free. If you want to burn some incense and pay your respects (I usually do), it will cost anywhere between 10-40 NT$.
Regular readers will know that I’m not much of a shopper. I can’t be faffed with cheap tat and generally want to come home with something I can’t buy back in Australia. I do, however, enjoy a good night market, and am a sucker for those feng shui amulets and things.
For those of you who do like to shop (and I’m guessing that’s pretty well most of you…) you have a heap of options.
Major department stores like Sogo have a few branches in town. MRT Zhonxiao Fuxing will drop you at two of them, with just a few blocks walk to Breeze Centre- which has a great food hall underneath. Actually most of the shopping centres have good food halls underneath. A set meal (dish plus rice plus accompaniment) will cost you anywhere from 120-180 NT$.
Ximending (MRT Ximen) is a pedestrian circular mall from which 8 streets shoot off. If you’re after younger fashion, some local designers, and more edge than the mall high end brands, come here. There’s also street food a plenty…although I’m still looking for the penis shaped waffles I was told to keep an eye out for.
After all that daylight shopping, if you still need more, there’s always the night markets.
WuFenPu (MRT Houshanpi) is easily the largest clothing market. In fact that’s all it sells. It takes up a few blocks and it’s way too easy to get lost in there.
There’s not a lot in the line of food though- for the best eats Raohe St Market (just down the road a bit) would be my pick. It’s a bit of a walk, but follow the crowds.
It’s cheap to eat here- although be prepared to chew as you’re jostled along. Portions are small and manageable to eat on the run. Braised pork and rice (lurou fan) will set you back 20NT$. Stinky tofu is about the same, and all the usual Taiwanese snack foods and noodles are represented here.
Your hotel should have an MRT map with a guide to all major shopping centres and night markets.
That’s really depends on what you buy…
5. Jump on a train
The MRT is great.
There’s signs everywhere telling you what you’re not allowed to do (no eating, no drinking, no spitting, no chewing gum, no chewing betel nut) and there’s signs telling you how to do the things that you might want to do (cough or take a phone call).
In case you forget, there are reminders about personal music devices and how they should be kept personal. There’s reminders about how to use the escalators and there’s reminders about who you should give up your seat for. there’s even a safe standing place on every platform for women travelling alone.
The trains are busy through most stations, so be prepared to stand (especially in rush hour). On the upside, they’re clean, cheap, quick, regular and on time. There’s a route that will take you to or near most attractions, temples and shopping spots in the city- and beyond.
Wow, it’s far more developed than I expected. I think I was thinking it’d be like Cambodia etc (though I was in SE Asia in the mid 1990s so guess Cambodia and Vietnam are all different now as well).
I went back to Taipei in late 80s as an forward “American”, when I went back in ’08, I felt that America was behind in the times. Taipei 101 was impressive, and the shops/food so accessible. People seemed happier in Taiwan my second time.
The mag-lev trains cut traveling time on the island in quarter time (I think, or less). Things were so different. And the things that remained – the temples and their beauty, the busy-ness of them and the smells of incense… Love.
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