Our friend from Los Angeles bought the same return flights from Thailand as we did, but didn’t notice something until after the tickets were purchased. She asked “Why do we have a 17 hour layover in Taiwan?” “That’s because we are going to see Taipei in a day.” One day is not enough, but we were able to visit 2 countries for the price of one.
We spent a little less than one day in Taipei. I was expecting Taipei to be crowded and busy, but it felt fairly calm with minimal congestion. The city and public transportation were clean and modern. The people were friendly and spoke enough English to communicate without much trouble. Some people even seemed happy to provide unsolicited help. This was a surprise to me and is a solid example of why people should experience places for themselves.
After storing our small baggage at the airport, we hopped on a train and headed into Taipei. You can catch the train directly from the airport. It was clean and efficient. The stops are outlined on the app Maps.Me. (offline maps for iphone). We got off at Taipei main station which connects to the rest of the city. Since it was around 9am, we went for breakfast at a chain that my buddy recommended (thanks, Benson!). We navigated to Yong He Dou Jiang. It was a small space, but it was the only place with a line (generally a good sign). They serve variations of soy milk and fried dough. Everything we had was delicious. One bit of advice that has served me well is to take recommendations from locals.
From breakfast, we visited a temple, the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, and then went for Boba tea. Not just any boba tea though… The place that invented boba tea (Chun Shui Tang)! It was reasonably priced and quite tasty (my favorite boba tea places are still OneZo and Brix). By this time, it was around noon and oppressively hot. We stayed in the shade and headed to visit Taipei 101 (it was the tallest building in the world until the Burj Khalifa was completed in 2010). The bottom of Taipei 101 is basically a fancy mall. We decided that we would rather see the megastructure from the top of Elephant Hill for sunset rather than paying to go to the observation deck. It is a better view from the hill and it’s free! As Karl Pilkington from An Idiot Abroad said “You’re better off living in the hole, looking at the palace, than living in the palace, looking at the hole.” I’m not sure that I entirely agree, but there is a nugget of wisdom in there. It was a quick and steep hike to get the iconic view of the city. Mission accomplished. Sweaty and accomplished.
Taipei was enjoyable and we were glad to have stopped here. It is clear that much more time is required to fully appreciate the food and culture. Perhaps next time we will stop at “Type B” 😉
Up next, the New York Salsa Congress and the 2-month cross country road trip…