This is the first in a series of poorly titled posts about my recent trip to Taiwan. It was full of fun, beer, sightseeing and dumplings.
The trip started on tuesday evening, when I dashed out of school 2 hours early thanks to Ono-sensei’s generosity. I got all the connections and managed to have a couple of beers, so all went well. Soon enough I was on the flight to Taipei, where I managed to bag another couple of beers, this time free. I caught the last bus into Taipei from the airport, and at about 1am found the unmarked door to Eight Elephants hostel. The hostel was one of the most interesting I’ve stayed in; incredibly fun, relaxed and full of friendly people. But the longer term guests there were absolute insomniacs! The first night I probably managed to get about 3 hours sleep, so after that I quickly switched to a private room upstairs.
Despite the lack of sleep I hit the streets of Taipei with vigour and vim the next day. First up was the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, a huge monument to the controversial leader of Taiwan. It was at the south end of a huge square, with fantastic temples and monuments on all sides. The Memorial Hall and the arch facing it were both of a similar style to the Sun Yatsen Memorial I’d seen in Nanking, while the other two were wonderful Chinese buildings in Forbidden Palace style. I wanted to see Chiang’s grave (I’d then have seen Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Sun Yatsen and Chiang), but I couldn’t locate it. After the Memorial Hall I went to Taipei’s most important temple, Longshan. Again it was colourful and full of life, and people. While temples in Japan are sombre and quiet, in Taipei they were all full of people praying, and mists of incense. Longshan felt like a real, working temple, and was on the corner of a block right next to busy market streets. From Longshan I went to the Ximen area, and chilled out for a while enjoying the sunny weather. I also went to the 2-28 Peace Park, which was really nice. Around 2 I headed back to the hostel, picking up some cheese dumplings from a street stall that someone had recommended to me; they were delicious, and dirt cheap. And I taught the lady there the Japanese pronunciations of the Chinese characters for her shop (I’m not sure how much she wanted to know them to be honest). I dozed on the sofa in the hostel for an hour or so, then went out again to visit the world’s tallest building, Taipei 101. I’ve been up a few reeeally tall buildings now so the experience wasn’t novel, but I guess its pretty cool to go to the world’s tallest building, even if it will only hold the title for a few months before something else takes over. After that I ate in the basement food court, which had styles from all across Asia so I, of course, plumped for Japanese seafood ramen. I met my friends Tibor and Meghan in a coffee shop in Ximen in the evening, but they were pretty wiped out from a day trip, and my 2/3 hours sleep was finally catching up with me. So I left to check out Snake Alley before heading back to the hostel. On the way to snake alley I found one of Taiwan’s infamous betel nut girls; girls who sell the addictive nuts by the side of the road, often skimpily dressed. This one was a fully clothed women in her 40s, just my luck!
I bought some of the nuts; they give you a caffeine like buzz that lasts for about 10 minutes, and turn your mouth blood red. Plus they are absolutely disgusting. Anyway I went on to Snake Alley, which was a bit dissapointing; only one snake, and de-shelled baby turtles for people to eat!! 😦 😦 That made me feel glum, so I returned home. At the hostel I had some cake, and chatted with the really nice hostel owner; a girl who’s just finished uni called Heather, who knew a lot and was incredibly laid back. By 12 I was ready to die, so I crawled into bed and got the 8 hours sleep I desperately needed.