It started off with what many would call a Visa Run. I would say that is was more of a crazed late night necessity. I had bought the ticket to Taipei in the lobby of the San Francisco airport. They told me that in order to even get on the plane to go to the Philippines I would need a ticket out of the Philippines. With my limited technology and credit cards that the bank thought were stolen, I attempted to buy a plane ticket to somewhere outside the Philippines. Anytime. Anywhere.
I settled on Taipei, Taiwan because it was one of the cheapest tickets available and I had a friend there. One of those best-friends-forever-no-matter-how-long-you've-been-apart kinda friends. His name is Paul, and little did Paul know, I was coming to visit him…
He was absolutely thrilled. No really, I'm not kidding. He was thrilled. We set off right away to seeing the sights of Taipei.
First things first, he took me to the Chang-Kei Sheck Memorial Hall. Paul, being a foreigner and a somewhat shitty tour guide, didn't exactly know what the monuments were for, “I dunno. I think maybe they were for the the first President or something, or maybe he was a dictator. I'm not sure, but if you go into that building there's a giant statue of him. Think Lincoln Memorial, but for that guy.”
We never went inside to see the giant Lincoln-esque statue, but we did take silly pictures like this…
If anyone ever goes to Taipei, they are going to have pictures of these buildings. I had no intentions of disappointing; I also took pictures of these massive structures. I mean, how could you not, there gigantic, stunning, and everyone else around you is doing the exact same thing. Here is the archway…
And the other humongous famous looking building. It turns out that Paul lives quite close to here, and during my endless wanderings around town, I would often end up there whether or not I wanted to. I never knew one could be so lost and so found at the same time.
I spent most, but not all of my Taiwanese excursion in Taipei. It was a fabulous contrast to my previous travels in rural Philippines. There was Mexican food, fine coffee, Indian curries & sushi. I felt like a woman of the world once again.
I heart Taipei. There are many fabulous things to explore. I will list a few of them here in case you are curious. First and foremost, would be the fabulous & complex public transportation system of Taipei.
The MRT: aka How to Get Almost Everywhere
You can even take the MRT to an area that they call the Xinbeitou Thermal Valley. The whole place is practically a hot spring. You can rent rooms to enjoy your own private hot spring or jump into the public ones. The river running through the town is even hot. It was a hot day, so we hiked into the mountains instead, but not before getting a rejuvenating steam treatment.
Of personal significance to me, Peace Park is right smack in the center of town. It's peaceful and you can take pretty pictures of many things.
But while were at it…
Pretty much any park:
Tapei is extremely well designed, and they remembered to put parks in all over the place for the people to enjoy. The rivers are lined with parks with breathtaking views, walking & biking paths, playground equipment, skate parks and even ROCK WALLS! I was extremely impressed with the whole thing.
As I mentioned earlier, however, I did not stay in Taipei the entire time that I was in Taiwan. I also took an impromptu excursion down the East Coast of the island. I thought that I was just going to the beach, but really, I was going to the beach on the entire other side of the country. Perhaps it was my naïveté or perhaps my complete lack of geographical reference, but I honestly thought that we were just going on a day trip. I, however, was in for a much longer journey.
To put it a bit differently, I was “kidnapped,” if you will, by members of a Taiwanese aboriginal pop sensation. Yeah, that sounds about right.
When I thought I was going to on a day trip to beach they really were taking me to their concert in Taitung in the southern part of the country. I need to learn Mandarin. I didn't even realize that they were in a band when I got in the car. They are, however, quite good and quite popular indeed. There were teenage girls lining up outside hours before the concert. It was a great show.
Since it was my first time in the country, they included some additional sights along the East Coast for my enjoyment. We went to secret beaches on the other sides of jungles.
Visited this amazing temple/hostel in Hualian…
…and spent a few days in this gorgeous town known for its banana pancakes and its surfing; Dulan, with the mountains at your back and the ocean at your feet. I really enjoyed it there.
The trip down the east coast truly made me fall in love with the country. Though I didn't really have the time nor the resources to tour it like I should have, Taiwan definitely grabbed a hold of my heart that week. I will be back, and next time, I think I want to try to circumnavigate the island by bicycle. I was watching the roads, and there's a bike lane almost the entire way! Com'n don't look at me like that. It would only take a few weeks…