Monday, August 29, 2011

Holiday Week Part 2: Taiwan

When I discovered I had a vacation at the end of August, I decided I had to go somewhere interesting outside of Hong Kong. We don’t get many holidays and I’m surrounded by wonders in every direction. I pondered places like Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam and Bangkok, Thailand but ultimately decided on Taipei, Taiwan—though I hope to go the those other places eventually as well. It’s an only an hour and a half plane ride away and was just the right combination of allure and convenience for my budget and time constraints. I knew very little about Taipei and though I was only there about two days, I discovered that it’s quite a nifty city.

I travelled alone, which I was initially a bit nervous about, though I had no reason to be. I’ve learned this summer that I am generally very good at figuring things out on my own and not much really fazes me. For example, shortly after arriving at the hotel Friday evening, I decided to walk to the Xingtian Temple, as it was relatively close. I got a little bit lost, in the dark, in a rather dirty part of a city that doesn’t speak my language very well, and there was lightning and thunder, and trashcans burning on street corners, and thousands of people driving motorcycles like maniacs, and I had no phone. But I was still enjoying myself, not panicking in the least as I went down various dark alleys. I eventually found the temple, ate a burger down the road and made my way back to the hotel a couple hours after I had left. Some of you may prefer the word stupid to laid-back, but I’m still alive right? And don’t worry, Taipei is renowned for its friendly, safe atmosphere and I never journeyed too far from the main drag of 711s and Taiwanese restaurants. Please don’t judge me for getting a burger. I had Taiwanese for lunch and dinner the next day.

On Saturday, I decided to go on a bus tour of the city. Since I was here for such a short time, I chose to swallow my pride and act like the ultimate, stereotypical tourist with map and camera always at the ready. Plus, every guided tour I’ve been on in my life has had an awesome tour guide, and this was no exception with the hilarious Lilin. On the tour, two families (from Hong Kong (!) and Malaysia) and I went to a famous art gallery called the National Palace Museum, the Chiang “Father of Taiwan” Kai-Shek memorial, the Martyrs Shrine and yet another gorgeous Daoist Temple, where we randomly saw a soap opera being filmed. The first three sites are all major landmarks of Taiwan. Check out the pictures below:
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial
The Chiang and I Daoist Temple (never was told the name) Shrine of Martyrs

After the tour, I went to the world’s second tallest building, Taipei 101. In the interest of time, I decided not to go up to the top but ended up going back Sunday. The reason I cut this short was that I decided to go to a baseball game that evening. The game was in New Taipei, which, confusingly, is a different city than Taipei but I managed to find it by train and taxi. This was a major highlight of the trip, as I ended up sitting with the wife of one of the coaches, an American man named Corey Paul who was drafted by the Mariners in the same year as Ken Griffey Jr. No joke. His wife was super nice and I essentially got a free lesson on the Chinese Professional Baseball League from the one other English speaking person at the park. After the game, I went to the Shilin Night Market, which had some crazy, crazy foods. The last picture is the sizzling steak that I got. Not the most adventurous choice, but still yummy and cheap.

Baseball in Asia
White baseball fan in Asia
Crabs that really look like crabs
It was no Pike Place, but still amazing

On Sunday morning, I went on another tour (with another great tour guide) of the northern coast of Taiwan. It was an entirely different side of the area that you can’t get in Taipei. We saw some beautiful beaches, a fishing village and the Yehliu Geopark. I’m guessing this is like Taiwan’s Yellowstone and Grand Canyon put into a much smaller area. The main draw is the Queen’s Head Rock, which really does look like a profile of Cleopatra, or at least how Egyptian artists portrayed her. This tour was with only one other guy by the name of Andrew, a pharmacist who came from Indonesia. Andrew is vacationing in Hong Kong next weekend, so we may meet up again quite soon, bizarrely enough!
Holy erosion Batman!
North coast of Taiwan
Pose like an Egyptian

That afternoon, I went to the observation deck of the Taipei 101, which cost $400. It’s a good thing one U.S. dollar is thirty Taiwanese dollars ☺ Anyway, it was an incredible sight to see a metropolis from 1,400 feet above. I also got to see the giant ball that counterbalances any sort of high-speed typhoon winds or earthquakes. I haven’t travelled much, but thanks to Taipei, Hong Kong and Shanghai, I’ve seen three of the top four tallest buildings in the world. Now I just need to make a quick stop in Dubai I’ll be good to go.

I am so high right now
Called Taipei 101 because it has 101 floors
Other skyscrapers looking like cottages
Supposed to look like a bamboo stalk
The sign read, "Super Big Wind Dampener"

I probably won’t get to go anywhere else exciting in Asia until next January, so I’m glad I was able to have this trip in Taiwan. Overall, it was a memorable, exciting weekend. Soon, back to the grind of playing songs and reading stories to adorable children. Sometimes, I have trouble believing this is really my life.


  1. I was hoping you'd say that you ate a hot dog that you roasted over a burning trashcan. Oh well...

  2. baseball! crabs! 101 floors! wow.