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Turning 28 years old... wheres my walking stick!?

Taipei Travel Blog

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Crazy Sculpture outside the exhibition centre

People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Jacek (Poland) Lim (Singapore)

On my flight from Manila to Taipei, i was sat next to a very nice Polish guy called Jacek, and we chattered away for the entire flight, swapping stories and looking at each others photographs. When we landed i enquired how he planned to get to the centre and he told me that as he was in Taipei on business, he was expecting to be picked up by a business associate and he may be able to score me a free lift. It actually turned out that 3 people had his name on boards, so he had to select which of the people he would take the lift from! Luckily there was room in the van for me too and around 30 minutes later we were dropped off at a convention centre in Taipei.

Beimen (North Gate)
Sadly the driver got a parking ticket whilst letting us grab our bags, now where's the karma in that?

I said farewell to Jacek who was going to check out a bicycle convention and then had to try and navigate my way into the centre. A free shuttle bus was luckily running from here to the nearest subway station and from there it was a 15 minute ride to Taipei main station. I checked into Family Hostel, which was run by John Lee, an extremely friendly local guy, who kept the place well maintained and just what i was looking for. It had been a long few days, so after a couple of hours i was ready for an early night.

On Friday morning i awoke with the knowledge that i was now nearer 30 that 25, but put a brave face on and went to see John to pay for my room.

Scooters parked up on a Taipei street
The cost was normally 350TWD a night, but he agreed to do it for 200TWD as a birthday present and then gave me another 50TWD to go and buy myself a beer! How kind is that! This put me in a great mood for the day and i went out already captivated by the Taiwanese generosity, having also received a free airport transfer the day before :)

My morning began with a McDonalds breakfast and a quick visit to the Beimen North Gate, before heading on to the Presidential Palace, where i expected to just have a quick look around the outside and move on. I was therefore surprised when i was told to hand in all my belongings and that i would get a free private English tour of the grounds. A very nice lady spent the next 2 hours walking me through the building and explaining each sections relevance and also introducing me to Taiwans history and political situation.

Taiwanese flags fly by the Presidential Palace
I was completely enthralled by it all and it gave me the perfect start for my trip around the country.

Interesting things included the low door knobs, which were placed where they were not because the Japanese (who built the building during colonial rule) were small, but because it made them bow when entering the rooms. There were also plenty of art works dedicated to the year of the rat and supposedly this is its golden year! I also learnt that within Taiwan, the citizens cannot withdraw money from their banks or do transactions without having their seal with them. In the olden days to have your seal stolen was a disaster, but now they use the seal and signature and an identification code.

I was also told about the ruler Chiang Ching-Kuo, who was the first really popular leader, due to him been able to associate with the common people.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial front gate and hall
He had a Russian wife, which i found quite surprising, who had to excommunicate herself from her family when ties between the KMT and Soviets broke down. There was also no official back door within the Palace, it had been renamed the Western door, as its at the back door where underhanded dealings go on in Chinese beliefs.

Equally surprising was to hear bad feelings towards the first leader Chiang Kai-Shek, as he is on the money and has many memorials around the country. In fact, many of the Taiwanese don't like him due to his military regime and implementing marshall law. His face has actually been removed from some of the bank notes already. Finally we got to discuss the current political situation and i had to ask the question of whether re-unification with China was ever possible.

A view from the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, the National Theater on the left, National Concert Hall on the right and the main gate centre.
I was told that Taiwan is currently its own country, which i agree with, but that if China returned to democracy, then re-unification may be possible within time. Unsurprisingly the idea of re-uniting whilst China has its current government didn't seem like something the country wants or needs!

After my insightful trip around the palace, i crossed the road and entered the 2-28 Peace Park, which is dedicated to those who died in a rebellion on 2-28-1947. The park contained some nice sculptures and pavilions and made for a pleasant little stroll in the early afternoon. Nearby was the reconstructed East Gate, which was just down the road from my next star attraction, the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.

The entrance is in the shape of rather a grand triple archway, which is flanked on either side by the National Concert Hall and the National Theatre, both of which were sadly undergoing renovations.

Incense smoke drifts into the air at Longshan Temple
Passing through the arches you get a stunning view on all four sides, but in front stands a huge flag pole with the Taiwan flag flying proudly and the imposing Hall a little distance behind this. I climbed the 89 steps leading to the Hall, which represent Chiang's age when he died, and entered to see a large seated statue and some wierdly colourful decorations. Downstairs in the hall there is a musuem, which includes two of the impressive cars that he was chauffered around in, and some historical photos and memorabilia.

Continuing my tour around the city, i made a beeline for the Botanical Gardens, which were right next to the National Museum. I tried to find the 'marvellous lotus pond' that the Lousy Planet described, but only found a dirty patch of water, so having seen as much as i cared to, i moved on to Longshan Temple via Xiaonanmen (Little South Gate).

Odd sculpture at Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
I sat outside the temple for 20 minutes to eat some sandwiches and watch the people milling around the temple. Once inside, it was a real beehive of activity, with people praying, burning incense and rolling fortune dice (dont know their real name!). There were some interesting water features and ornate carvings to also capture ones attention.

I was starting to feel a little weary by this point, but moved on to the Red Pavilion Theatre and then caught the subway to the business district, mainly to check out its archtectural feats. The Chunghwa Television Building was first on my list, followed by the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, which contained a guarded statue of the great man. From here i also got my first view of the World's tallest building, Taipei 101.

Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
Sadly it was a pretty foggy day and you could only just make out the very top of it. After entering the complex and having a nosy around, i enquired to the visibility at the viewing deck and after receiving a negative response, decided to go to the top another day.

By this time it was dark and my stomach was rumbling, so i decided to head to the recommended food court within the building and have my birthday Dinner. After wandering around and checking out the menus i settled for pork and cheese breadcrumbed, with a mushroom gravy, rice, soup and salad. It looked pretty revolting in all fairness, but tasted ok, which is the main thing! I headed home to the hostel to call Julia and my parents and let them shower me with well wishes and love!

The hostel had a pretty nice communal area, so i headed up there to see if anyone fancied celebrating with me and was pleased to see an Aussie guy called Hayden had a bottle of spirits on the go and seemed all too keen.

Lady dressed in traditional outfit at Lin Antai old homestead
Sadly by the time we were going out, he appeared to be a little worse for ware and turned abusive on several taxi drivers, who we stopped for a ride, but didn't know where we wanted to go. I therefore decided that id rather spend the night in the hostel with a few beers and chat online with Julia, which worked out pretty good in the end.

The following day i headed to the northern parts of Taipei and began by trying to find the Lin Antai Homestead. As i was having no success in locating the place, i had 1 Taiwanese guy walk me for 5 minutes towards the general area and then a kid in his teens ended up walking me the next 10 minutes! It was really kind of them and strengthened my positive early impressions of the people. Getting there was actually the most interesting thing about this part of my day, as i found the site itself to be a little dour.

Entrance to the Martyrs' Shrine
There was some woman in traditional dress who made for a nice photo opportunity, but other than that, nothing really captured my imagination here.

My next stop was far more impressive, as i timed a trip to the Martyrs Shrine to coincide with the changing of the guards. There were plenty of people who had the same idea and quite a crowd turned up to watch the proceedings and try and take funny pictures with them, when they were stood stationary! The buildings themselves were also very impressive and i was lucky enough to have most of the complex to myself once the guards had changed and people had dispersed. It was through this fact that i caught the 2 guards chatting between themselves when they thought nobody was around. When one caught a glimpse of me he started shushing his colleague and i left with the knowledge that these soldiers don't actually perform the duties that they are trained to do, which i actually found a touch disappointing.

Changing of the guards at the Martyrs' Shrine

The Grand Hotel was next on my agenda, which is an impressive looking state hotel, and after this i moved on to Hsiahai City God Temple and Dihua Market, neither of which particularly enthused me. I headed back to the hostel and spent the evening chatting with some of the long term guests in the hostel, who are teaching English in the city. There was also one wierd English guy there, who was either very drunk or very drugged up and i began questionning if this place was some kind of mental asylum when Hayden turned up again a bit later, smashed again!

Day 3 in Taipei began with a trip to the National Palace Museum, which houses the best collection of Chinese art in the World. The museum is extremely well presented and holds many interesting artefacts, but museums struggle to really hold my attention span for too long, so i hung around for 2 hours before deciding that i wanted to go for a walk in the adjoining Chih-shan garden.

Grand Hotel
It was only a small area, but was really pleasant to walk around and there were plenty of families there feeding the swans and fish.

In the afternoon i decided to hunt out 4 buildings that Lonely Planet listed in its top 5 Contemporary buildings of Taipei. As i was wandering the streets a rather wierd thought came into my head. Every day you pass 1000's of people on the street, thus on average you must see around 3 people who share the same birthday as you and 3 people whose birthday it is on that day! Don't you think thats wierd? I do!

Anyway, I found the first building i visited, which was the China Life Insurance Building, pretty drab, although the Hang Kuo building over the road was very nice. I walked on to the Core Pacific Living Mall, which i thought was quite an interesting structure and finished up back at Taipei 101.

National Palace Museum
In the area there were some political rallies going on for the upcoming elections, but it all seemed pretty orderly and safe so i decided to ascend Taipei 101 as the weather was reasonable.

Taipei 101 is not only the Worlds tallest building at 508 metres, but it also has the Worlds fastest elevator, which travels 1010 metres per minute. It was aboard this that we were shot up to the 89th floor viewing platform, which is still 12 floors below the summit! The building was started in 1997 and it took 6 years to complete the exterior, which is designed to look like the shape of bamboo. I climbed to the 91st floor where you could walk around outside and also down to the 88th floor to see the baby damper, which counteracts earthquakes and typhoons.

Taipei 101 shines across the city
On a clear day, im sure that the views would be spectacular, but on this particular day there was still a lot of fog within the city limits and this combined with dirty viewing windows on the 89th floor, left me a little disappointed.

I finished my day back at the hostel with a few beers and a movie and got the pleasure of meeting Lim, a Singaporean Leeds fan. We chatted about the state of our beloved football club and it was nice to know that some foreigners still supported our boys! I crashed out a little after midnight and the following day went to the train station, still unsure of where i was heading. The words Chiayi blurted out of my mouth as i reached the counter and thus thats where my ticket took me!

Deats says:
Thanks a lot :)
Posted on: May 15, 2008
sarsoml says:
Great pictures!
Posted on: May 14, 2008
portia says:
You have done a pretty good job of seeing taipei, even some places I haven't seen...
Posted on: Mar 24, 2008
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Crazy Sculpture outside the exhibi…
Crazy Sculpture outside the exhib…
Beimen (North Gate)
Beimen (North Gate)
Scooters parked up on a Taipei str…
Scooters parked up on a Taipei st…
Taiwanese flags fly by the Preside…
Taiwanese flags fly by the Presid…
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial front gat…
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial front ga…
A view from the Chiang Kai-Shek Me…
A view from the Chiang Kai-Shek M…
Incense smoke drifts into the air …
Incense smoke drifts into the air…
Odd sculpture at Sun Yat-Sen Memor…
Odd sculpture at Sun Yat-Sen Memo…
Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
Lady dressed in traditional outfit…
Lady dressed in traditional outfi…
Entrance to the Martyrs Shrine
Entrance to the Martyrs' Shrine
Changing of the guards at the Mart…
Changing of the guards at the Mar…
Grand Hotel
Grand Hotel
National Palace Museum
National Palace Museum
Taipei 101 shines across the city
Taipei 101 shines across the city
Taiwan Main Station
Taiwan Main Station
City architecture
City architecture
My birthday breakfast :)
My birthday breakfast :)
Beimen (North Gate)
Beimen (North Gate)
City centre architcture
City centre architcture
Taipei street
Taipei street
Presidential Palace
Presidential Palace
Military vehicles outside the Pres…
Military vehicles outside the Pre…
Presidential Palace
Presidential Palace
Presidential Palace
Presidential Palace
Dr Sun Yat-sen statue
Dr Sun Yat-sen statue
East Gate with Chang Yung Fa Found…
East Gate with Chang Yung Fa Foun…
Sculpture in 2-28 Peace Park
Sculpture in 2-28 Peace Park
Sculpture in 2-28 Peace Park
Sculpture in 2-28 Peace Park
National Museum of History, viewed…
National Museum of History, viewe…
Sculpture in 2-28 Peace Park
Sculpture in 2-28 Peace Park
Taipei sign made from hedge in the…
Taipei sign made from hedge in th…
Pavilion in 2-28 Peace Park
Pavilion in 2-28 Peace Park
Pavilion in 2-28 Peace Park
Pavilion in 2-28 Peace Park
Pavilion in 2-28 Peace Park
Pavilion in 2-28 Peace Park
Pavilion in 2-28 Peace Park
Pavilion in 2-28 Peace Park
Pavilion in 2-28 Peace Park
Pavilion in 2-28 Peace Park
Pavilion in 2-28 Peace Park
Pavilion in 2-28 Peace Park
East Gate with Chang Yung Fa Found…
East Gate with Chang Yung Fa Foun…
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial front gat…
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial front ga…
National Theatre
National Theatre
National Concert Hall
National Concert Hall
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial hall
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial hall
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, the Taiw…
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, the Tai…
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Ceiling within the Chiang Kai-Shek…
Ceiling within the Chiang Kai-She…
Statue of Chiang Kai-Shek within C…
Statue of Chiang Kai-Shek within …
Chiang Kai-Sheks cadillac, inside …
Chiang Kai-Sheks cadillac, inside…
Inside Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Ha…
Inside Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial H…
Interesting architecture in Taipei
Interesting architecture in Taipei
National Museum of History, viewed…
National Museum of History, viewe…
Man worships at Longshan Temple
Man worships at Longshan Temple
Fish fountains at Longshan Temple
Fish fountains at Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple
Worshippers burning incense and pr…
Worshippers burning incense and p…
Incense burning at Longshan Temple
Incense burning at Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple
Carved bronze dragon at Longshan T…
Carved bronze dragon at Longshan …
Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple - The year of the …
Longshan Temple - The year of the…
Xiaonanmen (Little South Gate)
Xiaonanmen (Little South Gate)
Red Pavilion Theatre
Red Pavilion Theatre
Chunghwa Television Building
Chunghwa Television Building
Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall and Taip…
Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall and Tai…
Guard stands in front of Sun Yat-S…
Guard stands in front of Sun Yat-…
Taipei 101, the Worlds tallest bui…
Taipei 101, the Worlds tallest bu…
Taipei 101, the Worlds tallest bui…
Taipei 101, the Worlds tallest bu…
Taipei City Hall
Taipei City Hall
Taipei 101, the Worlds tallest bui…
Taipei 101, the Worlds tallest bu…
Taipei 101, the Worlds tallest bui…
Taipei 101, the Worlds tallest bu…
Entrance to Taipei 101, the Worlds…
Entrance to Taipei 101, the World…
Inside Taipei 101
Inside Taipei 101
Escalators that take you up just 5…
Escalators that take you up just …
Escalators that take you up just 5…
Escalators that take you up just …
Looking down from the escalator in…
Looking down from the escalator i…
My Birthday Dinner - looks horrid …
My Birthday Dinner - looks horrid…
Water show outside Taipei 101
Water show outside Taipei 101
Taipei 101 lights up
Taipei 101 lights up
The Hyatt Hotel
The Hyatt Hotel
Taipei at night
Taipei at night
The twin towers...
The twin towers...
Lin Antai old homestead
Lin Antai old homestead
Carving at Lin Antai old homestead
Carving at Lin Antai old homestead
Carving at Lin Antai old homestead
Carving at Lin Antai old homestead
Lady dressed in traditional outfit…
Lady dressed in traditional outfi…
Bridge crossing the Danshui river,…
Bridge crossing the Danshui river…
Grand Hotel
Grand Hotel
Pretty flowers
Pretty flowers
Standing guard at the Martyrs Shr…
Standing guard at the Martyrs' Sh…
Changing of the guards at the Mart…
Changing of the guards at the Mar…
Changing of the guards at the Mart…
Changing of the guards at the Mar…
Changing of the guards at the Mart…
Changing of the guards at the Mar…
Changing of the guards at the Mart…
Changing of the guards at the Mar…
Changing of the guards at the Mart…
Changing of the guards at the Mar…
Changing of the guards at the Mart…
Changing of the guards at the Mar…
Changing of the guards at the Mart…
Changing of the guards at the Mar…
Changing of the guards at the Mart…
Changing of the guards at the Mar…
Changing of the guards at the Mart…
Changing of the guards at the Mar…
Chih-shan gardens at the National …
Chih-shan gardens at the National…
Martyrs Shrine
Martyrs' Shrine
Chih-shan gardens at the National …
Chih-shan gardens at the National…
Whos that wierdo?
Who's that wierdo?
Chih-shan gardens at the National …
Chih-shan gardens at the National…
Martyrs Shrine
Martyrs' Shrine
Fish at the Chih-shan gardens at t…
Fish at the Chih-shan gardens at …
Martyrs Shrine
Martyrs' Shrine
Swan at the Chih-shan gardens at t…
Swan at the Chih-shan gardens at …
Pavilion at the Martyrs Shrine
Pavilion at the Martyrs' Shrine
Chih-shan gardens at the National …
Chih-shan gardens at the National…
Martyrs Shrine
Martyrs' Shrine
Hsiahai City God Temple
Hsiahai City God Temple
Hsiahai City God Temple
Hsiahai City God Temple
Taipei main street
Taipei main street
Chih-shan gardens at the National …
Chih-shan gardens at the National…
Taipei Arena with Taipei 101 in th…
Taipei Arena with Taipei 101 in t…
Hang Kuo building
Hang Kuo building
China Life Insurance Co Building
China Life Insurance Co Building
Core Pacific Living Mall
Core Pacific 'Living Mall'
Political rally
Political rally
Taipei 101 and the Hyatt Hotel
Taipei 101 and the Hyatt Hotel
Taipei City Hall
Taipei City Hall
Taipei architecture
Taipei architecture
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
The top of Taipei 101
The top of Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
View of Taipei from Taipei 101
Inside of Taipei 101
Inside of Taipei 101
Baby Damper in Taipei 101
Baby Damper in Taipei 101
View of Taipei at night from Taipe…
View of Taipei at night from Taip…
View of Taipei at night from Taipe…
View of Taipei at night from Taip…
Top of Taipei 101 at night
Top of Taipei 101 at night
View of Taipei at night from Taipe…
View of Taipei at night from Taip…
Taipei 101 elevator - the Worlds q…
Taipei 101 elevator - the Worlds …
A view of Taipei 101 at night
A view of Taipei 101 at night
Me and Lim
Me and Lim
Taipei
photo by: Deats