Taipei

Taipei was a place I had little interest in visiting. However, it’s proximity to Hong Kong and fact that I would get to travel with a friend contributed to Taiwan being visited in June 2015.

Underwhelmed

Arriving late at night the first thing we did was find our hotel, more difficult that could have assumed. Having taken a coach from the airport to the city we were marooned in the middle of a road. Fortunately, my friend is tri-lingual and communicated to a taxi driver our “hotel”. The “hotel” was shabby and calling it a hotel is an overstatement.

Taipei

The sunshine Gods were smiling down on us as the weather was glorious. Basking in golden rays we begrudgingly had to descend to the subway which is very efficient. We made our way to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

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The grounds were vast and allowed walking around the area to be lovely and pleasant. The memorial, dedicated to Chian Kai-shek, former President of the Republic of China is a little plain. Despite this, the grand size and dominant statue make this a worthy visit.

Armed guards stand on duty at all times in sweltering conditions. Kudos to them for remaining still as beads of sweat enveloped there manly faces.

Time your visit right, or just be fortunate (as were we) and get a chance to witness the changing of the guards. Not as quintessential as Buckingham Palaces changing of the guards or as impressive as the Swedish Royal Palace’s changing of the guard, but still interesting in its own right. Synchronised gun manoeuvres are always a sight to behold.

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We stopped for ice-cream in a nearby kiosk and purchased a small bouncy ball. Who knew how childish two twenty-something’s could be? Chasing a fiendishly erratic bouncy ball around the grounds was a memorable moment.

Ice-creams consumed and we had ended up in the centre of Taipei city in Ximending which echoes Causeway Bay in Hong Kong.

The streets are wide and with an abundance of shops, dining options and an LGBT area it is likely that some portion of your trip will be based here. Explore at your leisure.

Taipei 101

Taipei 101 is one of the top landmarks in Taiwan and is extremely beautiful…to look at from afar. This is my problem with the building. The engineering masterpiece is sadly very dull when standing inside on the observation deck.

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I visited at night hoping for a vibrant scene of lights to flood into my eyes. Sadly, Taipei is not a city of skyscrapers. Instead, buildings are short and rarely reach 10 stories. Thus, the view from 101 is anti-climactic. The glare and reflections from inside the observation deck also distract from the overall enjoyment.

My friend and I headed to Tainan but returned a few days later for a last hoorah.

Zoo

A mission was forged before leaving Tainan. We wanted to see Pandas and we were going to make sure we did!

Taipei Zoo is big, huge, humungous! The animals were all a bit dull as they lay lifeless under the scorching heat but some were unfazed. The monkeys were having a right jolly on their little island oasis inside of their enclosure.

The panda enclosure was a defining moment. This would be my first time seeing a panda eating. Treats were left dangled in hard to reach locations for the panda, encouraging thought for the cute and cuddly mammals.

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At times I felt it was a little cruel, teasing the hungry pandas who were standing on their back legs desperately trying to claw on a piece of food that was dangled from above. It was like watching a toddler trying to gain access to the cookies on the top shelf. It was all to encourage animalistic instincts so the zoo was being good.

The penguin enclosure was disappointing though. There were four penguins…correction…there were two penguins and a mirror. The zoo had seemingly forgot to include penguins in the enclosure so had, in a state of calamity, decided to use a mirror to fool the park guests. I wasn’t fooled.

I wasn't joking

I wasn’t joking

The zoo is big and they are constructing more enclosures but only come if you are a die hard animal lover.

Cable Car

Fortunately, next to the zoo is a cable car (Maokong Gondola) that travels up the hilly surrounds.

The cable car is cheap, especially compared to Hong Kong. The views are breath-taking and the journey is long. You can ever opt for a glass bottomed cable car without extra cost! This was a great way to see Taipei and take photos of the city with Taipei 101 building.

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Food

Wondrous and splendid. This small island has food that will give you life long yearnings to return and eat more, more, and more.

7-Eleven, a major convenience store operating globally is mind blowing in Taiwan. Freshly cooked food, hotdogs, sushi and beef wraps make 7-Eleven the must visit café in Taiwan. Yes, a café! 7-Eleven has seating areas so grab a chair and eat.

Taiwan also offers a magnitude of night markets. In Taipei we went to Shilin Night Market. It was a stupendous visit as my stomach stretched, stretched and stretched to accommodate all the food I was chomping down. Fish, meat, vegetables, cakes and juices thrust their way into your senses, overloading you with every step. Go on an empty stomach and make this your dinner, reservations not needed. *Be sure to try Coffin Bread its delicious.

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Whilst here I even tried a penis lollypop. Yes, a lolly shaped like a thick phallus. Sucking it in public was a little embarrassing but there’s no shame when no one knows you.

Not only do these markets serve food but also entertainment. I went fishing for shrimp which was surprisingly difficult and I scooped fish onto a paper thin catcher that would tear in water. I won a fish but decided to leave him with his pals for a while longer.

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Souvenir stools, games, food and drink make Shilin the top attraction in Taipei.

A restaurant that I just had to visit was the toilet themed restaurant “Modern Toilet”. Having seen images of people eating out of toilet bowls I knew I had to go.

The restaurant is always busy so after a 30 minute wait I got the chance to chow down on a green curry floating in a toilet, whilst I sat on a toilet. Quirky is fun!

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The food was a little over priced and the quality so so, but the memories and ambience more than made up for that.

Bubble tea is the signature drink of Taiwan but as someone who dislikes tea and is surrounded by bubble tea stores in Hong Kong the “novelty” is unappealing. However, my friend assures me that they taste great and that it is a must try when in Taiwan. Be careful that your edible pearls are not made from tyres as a recent investigation had uncovered in mainland China.

Hotel

Hotel offerings were slim on Agoda.com. Taipei has few hotels and were mostly overpriced. I stayed in the King Garden Business Hotel. It was basic, ugly and they still had a snowman greeting me in the middle of summer.

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The staff were friendly but the hotel was rough. Our room was positioned directly behind the reception and our bathroom door was clearly related to Thor’s hammer ‘Mjolnir’ as only those who were worthy could open it. The worst part of it all was the smell of cigarettes, my biggest pet-hate.

Fortunately I stayed only one night but would never wish to return.

The Amazing Race Destinations:

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

 

 All images taken by myself. Follow me on Instagram: Arik_Dane

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