Taipei - a place I haven't visited in more than 20 years is a modern metropolis still steep in traditions and culture.
MON - Slumbering Taipei (or was she?)
After hours of flight and transit.. we finally arrived in Taipei at the unearthy hour of around 1am on Dec 5th morning.. part of the city was asleep but part was still quite happening. Our hotel was located just minutes walk from the bustling Ximenting area - the hip and happening place for the young..
TUES - Yangminshan wash-out and Ximenting thrills
The next morning, we slept in a bit and only began our own tour after brunch. We wanted to visit the scenic Yangmingshan - quite an exclusive suburb with rich residences and a university. Normally, we can have a paranomic view of Taipei from the mountain top but alas, the weather was undesirable.. After a winding way up on a public bus where we had to stand and squeeze among the students, we reached the top when the sky began to turn grey.. and soon it started raining!
We went on this tour bus but saw absolutely NOTHING! And even felt nausea due to the twists and turn.. So after that, we gave up `sightseeing' and plunked ourselves in a Starbucks to enjoy a hot cup of coffee and tea..
Our next stop in the itinaray was the Hot Spring. But because of the delay.. it got a bit late and we had to change plans. So I suggested we visit a place called `Taipei Story' - housed in a colonial style bungalow. Although there wasn't much to see really but at least it was quite a relaxing place to unwind..
After it got dark, we came back to Ximenting for dinner followed by SHOPPING! Well, just to walk around and check out the place. There were some interesting stuff we don't find at home and some of the products are quite reasonably priced. And so yeah, we bought something along the way..
Considering it was a weekday nite, the place was still quite happening. Finally we went to a cafe which has swings as seats!
WED - Boring tour - Shilin Night Market
Got up early to join the half-day city tour which was part of our package.. but the tour turned out to be quite disappointing. Our of the 5 stops - two were meant for us to buy stuff! Together with us in the van were three couples from Malaysia and Singapore.
Anyway, the first stop was CKS Memorial and the weather then was gloomy and drizzly. Just snapped a few photos and then we were taken to the grand National Palace Museum which we were told, was among the world's top four musuems! And there, I had the FASTEST ever museum visit in my whole life! Because we only had about an hour or so in total, our tour guide just picked up a few highlights of the exhibits and rushed us from one spot to another.. totally ignoring the other exhibits..
Calling it a whirlwind tour would be an understatement! What a shame, as both me and my friend thought it would be worth it to take more time in the museum.. especially after experiencing the next stop! We were wondering what was this `Mao House' and it turned out to be a shop introducing traditional tribal medicines! Hmmm.. foetus of a deer? no thanks! so we just had to sit through the demonstration part and then one couple actually ended up buying a few thousand ringgit!
The change of guard at Matry's Shrine was next. We were told to feast our eyes on the tall and handsome guards but both my friend and I were disappointed. They are quite tall alright but skinny and wimpy looking - and not even cute at all! Finally we were brought to another shop supposedly selling jades and tallisman stuff.. well, me and even my friend are not a believer in such things and not really interested as well.
For the second part of the day, we met up with my former French classmate who is now based in Taiwan with her husband. We had a walk at the non-tourisy part of Taipei and went over to her place to chit chat for a while before we departed for the famous Shilin Night Market.
We browsed and walked around the place - it was huge! Then we settled for a hot and spicy steamboat which was really filling and then spent the rest of the night shopping around. And yes, the place was very happening and bustling indeed. Among the things I bought was a new handbag which ornaments fell off the moment I used it!! We ended the night visiting a `pets mall' which had many many individual pet shops with many many cute doggies!! I missed my two Js.. :(
Speaking of dogs - Taipei dogs are indeed lucky pets - they often accompany their owners on the streets and some even unleashed. I didn't even spot one stray!
THURS - The inner city and the coutry charm
Met up with my friend again near the Taipei 101 - the tallest building in the world. It was situated at the most modern and advanced part of the city and there were footways linking the buildings together - a bit like Central in HK.
We explored the building and had coffee at the `hedge' cafe area, as I called it.. Speaking of coffee, Taipei is definitely dominated by coffee culture, even more so than here or HK.
After that, we went for an outskirt tour to Jiufen, which is about an hour drive north of Taipei. Our tour guide first brought us to the Nanya caost area where they have some patterned rocks by the sea. Fortunately the weather was pretty good that afternoon.
Then we walked the interesting hilly Jishan Street at Jiufen village. More than three quarter of the shops were eateries of all kinds! Here you can scout for the most traditional and exotic Taiwanese delicacies as well as the more well known food stuff including pastries, cookies, meatfloss and Chinese teas just to name a few..
I spotted this interesting pancake ice-cream with peanuts and coliander, and each of us had one. Yep, it was yummy and refreshing indeed
When we returned to the city, it was dark already and that's when we saw the night view of Taipei 101.
And of course, like all tourists will do, we went up the tallest building in the world to the observatory deck. And experienced the fastest elevator in the world which pressure caused my ears to be blocked! We spent quite a long time up there and even paid extra to go outside.. the wind was sooo strong that even I felt like tumbling over.
On the way out..I made my friends to pose for photo on a sleigh!! :p As time was getting late, ironically we had our last meal in Taipei at a food court! But it wasn't that bad.. we then adjourned to a coffee place just to chill out before calling it a night..
FRI - Bye-bye Taipei
My friend left for airport earlier to catch her flight back to KL while I had a couple more hours.. but alas, it was still too early and none of the shops in Ximenting was open. Ended up having coffee and breakfast at a cafe near the hotel and just loiter in the room to pack up before leaving for the airport.
I had so much time to `kill' at Taipei airport that I ended up being online for the first time.. (thus the post somewhere below) So yes, Taipei was fun.. despite some boos boos (in finding roads and such here and there) But it would have been nice to have at least one more day in Taipei so we could cover the Hotspring and maybe do more shopping.. :p