Taipei Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
Taipei surprised me. I had expected it to be similar to the few places that I have been in China. In fact it was clean, modern, and overall a very pleasant place. Taipei 101, the world’s second tallest building, towers over the city with its stacked teacup design improbably placed among the endless stretch of low rise buildings. The low jagged tree-covered hills provide some relief from the otherwise busy city.
After some time spent walking on the streets or riding in a cab you can easily see why this is necessary. The traffic moves in a sort of controlled chaos with hundreds of motor scooters weaving in and out of clogged roads with seemingly no regard for their own safety or of the presence of the cars around. The one humorous aspect of the streets and the traffic is that the crosswalk signals are animated, with a flashing green pedestrian walking at a faster and faster pace as the time to cross decreases, a nice touch in my opinion.
As I was traveling on business I didn’t have too much free time but I was able to see some of the main sights in the city. While the days were spent working, the evenings left time to stroll through several night markets. With a Taiwanese friend of mine we sampled the various foods at the Rahoe Night Market, soups, skewers of meat, fried squid, meat filled breads, dumplings, fruit juices, red bean desserts, etc. The food was all simple, cheap, and delicious, and with the exception of the pervasive smell of the stinky tofu. Stinky tofu is a Taiwanese delicacy that smells like someone threw up in a bucket of feet, not an appetizing smell. The market atmosphere was great, an environment that unfortunately you just can’t experience in the United States.
In addition to that traditional market I also visited the tourist night market, known for its live snakes and snake dishes. Being the middle of the week the market wasn’t very busy but I still got the chance to sample a platter of snake soup and a row of shot glasses holding snake blood, snake venom, snake bile, and something made from the two penises of the snake, apparently snakes have two according to the man in the restaurant, but perhaps there was something lost in translation. All in all the snake soup was pretty disappointing, not nearly as good as last snake dish I had in Guangzhou, and I question whether the snake blood and venom were actually real, if they were I am sure they were diluted substantially.
For the non-culinary sights the highlights were certainly the National Palace Museum which houses a very large collection of ancient Asian artifacts including some very famous gemstones like the jade bok choy and the bizarre meat-shaped stone, sadly photography was prohibited. Taipei 101 provided great views over the city although the hazy late afternoon sky limited visibility and obscured the sunset. After dark the lights of the city stretched out as far as you could see and the cars and scooters zipped around below. The ride to the top takes about 45 seconds in the world’s fastest elevator, reaching speeds of up to 1 km per hour, straight up. Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall was also impressive with a sweeping plaza flanked by two large traditional Chinese buildings with ornamented décor.
Overall the thing that struck me about Taipei was the moderns and westernization of the city.
After almost a week in Taipei I felt that I had gotten a good grasp of the city and its culture, but after seeing pictures of the rest of the island I really wished that I had more time to spend exploring the more remote areas outside of the city. Despite all the places that you want to see while traveling, afterwards you are always left with a longer list than when you started.