Thursday, October 4, 2012

Xie Xie, Taipei

Oh Taipei, you are so very strikingly different from Hong Kong!  And yet, quite similar to that long ago familiar Korea.
Daan Park

I say this for several reasons.  I know I have been to Taipei before, 3 years ago!, but it was my first month in Asia and I think since my perception of things has changed.  The first thing that reminds me of Korea is the lack of Western people, things, and languages.  I remember thinking that Taipei had great English...I guess compared to Seoul.  After living in HK for year it was really quite shocking at the language barrier.

Another sad similarity; shit wine!  Just like being back in the good ole ROK.  Only wine available is a) over priced garbage at convenience stores or b) super over priced decent wine at select grocery stores.  Again selection limited.  There's a reason I live here.

And finally the street food.  Ohhhhh the glorious street food.  Available almost everywhere, and almost always delicious (ly horrible for you).

Grilled squid is amazing!
But, the overall opinion was that we LOVE Taipei.  The weather was ideal, although I think atypical.  Beautiful sunny crisp days with a light breeze.  It felt like fall.  Well a subtropical fall at least.

CKS Memorial
And there doesn't seem to be anyone living in Taiwan.  We never saw crowds.  We were never pushed on the sidewalks or MRT.  Didn't even have to wait in line at immigration.  Sidewalks clear.  Hotels available.  Life is good.  Perhaps I have been in HK a little too long when I have come to expect someone to sit on my lap on the MTR....

Doggie bows
But yeah, awesome.  Night one, get in and go directly to Garrett's apartment in Guting, which is kind of a university area.  Good to see Garrett again, and it reminded me again of Korea.   Older style apartment, lots of motorbikes around, drinking cheap beers on the couch...good times.

Day 2 and we explored the city. We didn't have a set agenda so we just wandered.  Started at Chang Kai Shek (sp?) Memorial, which was my favorite site to see on the last visit.  Then strolled for hours down random streets, stopping to sample whatever looked good, and made our way to Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world.

DTF stair picnic
We marveled at the height, and quickly descended to Din Tai Fung.  I don't know if you've heard me rave about DTF before, but I have.  It's a wonderful Taiwanese dumpling place which I have frequented in Korea, HK, and now at the flagship in the shadow of T101.  Not wanting to let the beautiful weather go to waste, we go our xiao long baos to go and sat out in the sun enjoying the best little soup dumplings in the world.

That evening we went over to Longshan Temple which is beautiful, and then over to the night market to marvel at the cobras (no snake blood shots this time) hanging in the restaurants trying to lure the tourists in.

Sunday we woke up early and head straight down to Wulai, one hour south of Taipei.  We had booked a hotel, and luckily found someone upon our arrival who spoke decent enough English to help us find it.  This town is no bigger than one city block long with a few alleys leading off it, but I guarantee we would have spent hours wondering without this mans help!

Top of the waterfall

The hotel was beautiful.  Overlooked the hot springs below which fed directly into our own private tub with a simple phone call!  We spent the afternoon hiking a few km up to the highest waterfall in Taiwan.  We caught the cable car up to, well we didn't know what, just knew it was the top of the waterfall.

Turns out there was a whole 'resort' on top.  This was probably the place to be in the 90s, but geeze, place be worn down! Paul totally loved it, I loved his enthusiasm.  It was really beautiful, they just had these weird gimmicky things along the way.  Example; a lake to row boats; no water.  A water ride; green icky water and not running.  A 'cloudview tram'; no train to be seen.  Parrot on a stand; sqwaked like hell hath come every time you look at it.

We had a good time wandering around, smelling fresh air, seeing the next 'would have been cool back in the day' trap.  Then head back into town for amazing local street food and hot spring relaxing.
View from breakfast at our hotel

Next morning we head back to Taipei after breakfast to do some more wandering.  I'm telling ya, no people in Taiwan!  Sidewalks were amazingly clear, and we had so much fun seeing what was around each corner.  We rounded out the day with a trip to the best night market, Shiin.

Shiin Market
We ate the best food of the trip; grilled spicy corn, grilled spicy squid, and then got pedicure (me), and massage (Paul).  Then hit a night market near our hotel where we found the best simplest food ever; onion pancaked fried with egg and kimchi.

Sadly, next morning we had a plane to catch.  This was totally different from any other trip Paul and I have taken together, a mix of sightseeing, relaxing, and no beaches.  Can't wait for Christmas!

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