Our last trip in SE Asia (for this time period – hopefully not forever!) was to Taiwan. We have 2 friends living there and being so close to them (well relatively speaking, the flight was still 4 1/2 hours but closer than 18 plus hours from Portland!) it would be a shame to not visit them.
We stayed in an area close to the domestic airport; I was told this is the old financial area, there’s a university here, and I think my friend might be the only Western person in the area! Lots of fun to walk around; many small mom and pop restaurants, small shops for every need, went to the fish market, checked out the grocery store and the all important Metro is nearby. All in all a very dynamic area.
Many scooters, more than what we see in Singapore and all buzzing around you. Eyes are needed everywhere to watch out for them (though we found the trick is to walk calmly forward and they (scooters) will buzz around you easily. Though hard to think calmly as those scooters are barreling towards you!! Here in Singapore we have the “green man” to walk. In Taipei their green man is animated (I wish I had taken a little video of the green man walking, funny). There is a count down clock above the animated green man and as the time is getting closer to zero the green man walks faster until he’s running. The green man reminds me of the cartoon character from “Mad” magazine (one of the Freak brothers; Freak Brothers – it’s the big feet of the green man, and the loping walk is what reminds me – okay this is really showing my age!)
I booked a tour for us of the Dadaocheng area; “the major street of Dadaocheng are lined with hundreds of old houses. The facades of the buildings reflect architectural trendings in different eras. Some of them suggest the influence of Qing dynasty (the last imperial dynasty of China), while others give way a marriage with european styles or modernism. Despite the diversity in style, they are all long and narrow. The first section is used to run business, showcasing goods from herbs for Chinese medicine, dried foods, bamboowares, to lanterns. The second section behind the court is in its capacity as a living room or warehouse.” This area is known for their fabric; as in a huge building full of little fabric shops (if you have any need for fake fur, tulle, polyester printed fabrics its there; overwhelming is an understatement!) Good thing I don’t need any more fabric. We had a tea tasting in an old tea house (very fun – loved the architecture!) The whole area is being revitalized; keeping the old facades and making the space inside into new functions – lots of art space is the newest thing. The above picture is from the Dadaocheng area (North gate.)
Our next day was a short hike into the city mountains (Taipei is ringed by mountains, lot of lovely green to see, unfortunately though it suffers the same fate as Los Angles, smog. All the smog is captured into a bowl situation. This time of year, not too bad – but I understand it can be bad.) From the short hike we go to Taipei 101; the world’s tallest Green building. The building has a wind damper which is supposed to help the tall building sway and resist the typhoons and earthquakes. The wind damper has now been made into a damper baby toy/mascot. Damper Baby. Had the very famous dumplings at Din Tai Fung (1 Michelin star!) Lots of fun and very delicious!
We spend a couple of days at Sun Moon Lake which is in the middle of the country. Beautiful. The lake is small (about 30 kilometers around), it has a boardwalk/trail around for most of it (biking around the lake is considered one of the top places to go, though I will say, if you’re on the trail it’s great. When the trail stops, you have to go on the road. Well, the roads is narrow and the drivers are a bit crazy. I’m not brave enough to be on the road with the drivers!) We walked around some of the boardwalk, did a boat ride around the lake (though next time we might need to see if we can’t find a private boat to allow us to investigate a bit more of the lake side.) Got to a butterfly garden and saw some of the biggest butterflies ever! We took a gondola ride, not only a great views but we ended up at an Aboriginal center (Taiwan has 27 local indigenous people, and 9 of these tribes were represented.) Many of the houses are original and moved to the village, from bamboo to great slabs of slate (I was surprised to see the slate!) There were displays of, clothes, basketry and wood carvings, lots of interactive things the kids could do (weave, clay work, playing traditional games – the boys tried out a blow dart. John is a natural!)
What I’ve discovered about Taiwan; it’s hotter and more humid than Singapore (or at least during Taiwan’s summer months!) I thought I’ve gotten used to the heat/humidity here (maybe not becoming one with the it, but being able to press forward at least). Taiwan smacked me down with the humidity! On the other hand Taiwan had some of the best food we’ve eaten since we got here!!! Wild boar ribs, ribs with roasted cumin seeds and chili peppers, water spinach with garlic, morning glory greens, spring roll ice cream, beef noodle soup, milk fed pineapples and lots of red wine (okay that last part was with our friends and not in the restaurants). Sorry SIN you have some good food, but I think Taiwan might have you beaten as a foodie destination!
No photos again. The internet where we are is painfully slow; if you’re Facebook friends with me, I’ve posted pictures of our time in Taiwan.
Well this is it. We head back home tomorrow morning. Thanks for listening to my rambles. Will chat with you again when our next adventure starts!