TIRELESS TAIPEI, TAIWAN
Taipei is like a jumbo box of Crayola’s with every colour of sign competing for attention along the capital’s shop-filled streets of Zhongzheng District. Voluminous crowds and mega traffic round out the stimulating atmosphere. We love it!
Each day of exploring begins with a morning buffet at our Taipei M Hotel, with Rick displaying strange behaviour heaping his plate with noodles, veggies, fish, and such. As long as I have known my husband, these are NOT breakfast foods. “Did you see the bread and toaster?” I mention. “Who wants boring toast?” he grins, grasping another chunk of deep-fried tofu with his chopsticks.
Our first walk takes us to the Presidential Office. The grounds around this impressive building are fronted by military vehicles with soldiers and plain clothes security milling about.
Further along is Liberty Square with its imposing entrance archways.
The remaining three sides are flanked by the National Theatre, the National Concert Hall, and the National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. The latter landmark monument honours the former president and military commander who served as leader of the Republic of China or ROC (Taiwan’s official name) from 1928 until his death in 1975. The white structure is topped with a blue octagonal roof symbolizing the number eight, traditionally associated in Asia with abundance and good fortune. We climb one of two sets of stairs, each with 89 steps to represent this esteemed ruler’s age at the time of his death.
In the shadow of a large statue of Chiang in the main chamber, we are privy to a ceremonial changing of the guard.
It is onward for about 5km to Taipei 101, the financial/shopping skyscraper shaped like a gigantic stalk of bamboo. It’s the tallest building in Taiwan at 508m, and was the world’s tallest when completed in 2004. We zero in on the large food court on the lower level and enjoy a bowl of mystery soup, before unanimously agreeing to take the metro back to our hotel.
For all more distant city districts, the metro is the way to go. We ride to where the red-line ends at Tamsui, a sea-side district of New Taipei.
We follow the crowd to Old Street along the Tamsui River. The day is perfect with the sun framing the backdrop of mountains. Street food sellers offer samples of deep fried sea food, kids fill the game stalls, fishermen throw their lines into the river, singers and buskers draw an audience. A fabulously entertaining time!
Beitou district is a worthy stop on the way back. A gentle uphill slope past a resort, museum and public hot spring pools brings us to Thermal Valley. Steam curls upward from jade-hued water amid lush vegetation. I imagine how 300 years ago the Ketagalan indigenous peoples called this “the place of witches” their sorcery erupting in sulphuric fumes from a bubbling earthy caldron. Then during the days of Japanese occupation (1895-1945) hot spring inns sprung up, rail lines were built to this treasure, which blossomed into the flourishing resort area of today.
One more stop is on our agenda – the famous Shilin Street Market. Everything imaginable for outer body wear is for sale along the endless line of vendors, but - where’s all the inner sustenance!
We are weak with hunger. I mimic eating to passers-by. They point ahead. Onward we forge, and hark – food stalls begin, just in time. We delight in deep-fried cuttlefish and steamed red-bean buns before being happily hotel- bound.
It is a scorcher of a day when we tackle Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan), a lengthy hiking trail of steps. Determined we huff and puff upward, with breaks at platform areas for spectacular views of Taipei 101 and eastern city-scape. How many steps? I have to rely on others who claim around 500 to get to a flattened space known as the exercise area (as if one needs more). The trail goes on, but like most people, we stop here and begin the easier downward trek. Guzzling iced tea at the small café at the bottom has never been more refreshing.
Taipei has a multitude of temples, some of which are Buddhist, Taoist, Confucius.
Standing in the city’s largest temple dedicated to Confucius, my favourite saying of this legendary sage comes to mind, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” The gift of travel fits this sentiment for us, and our wonderful Taiwan experience was heightened by gracious hospitality at every turn.
PHOTOS by Rick Butler
1 Colourful Taipei
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