Taiwan and Japan

2015 - 2016

Day 2

Taipei City

After a good night sleep we decided to explore the city today.

Our hotel doesn’t provide breakfast, so the first item on the agenda was to get some food.
We went for a short walk from our hotel and found a bustling little street with some shops and street food vendors. We were looking at some cafes, but there was one street vendor cooking up bacon and it smelled really good. As we were watching him make up an interesting looking egg and bacon pancake type of thing, Anth decided to buy one and after such a good review the rest of us were soon in line to buy one too. Even just watching him cook was entertaining, but it tasted amazing!

After breakfast the next thing we needed was to find a place that sells SIM cards. We checked the nearby convenience stores (7-11, etc.) but they all said they were “sold out”. Not sure if this is true or they just don’t sell them at all because every store said the same thing. We went back to the hotel and the friendly staff were able to recommend some nearby places we could buy them, so we headed there.

It took a while to get the SIM cards, but the person who served us did all the work. We had to show him our passport, he took our photos and filled out a bunch of paper work, but in the end we got a 7-day 4G unlimited data plan for about $30. It’s been great having data over here, having Google Maps, Google Translate and Hangouts has been amazingly useful.

The next stop was a CitiBank ATM to get some cash, luckily that wasn’t too far away and we had ticked off all the basics we needed to start exploring!

The first site was the Peace Park, which had a nice lake, some historic and artistic monuments and even some health and wellbeing areas that had exercise equipment, even some adult sized monkey bars!

From there we walked over to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. There is a massive gate at the front called Freedom Square Memorial Arch and the photos don’t show just how big this arch is, quite impressive!
Inside the hall is a giant bronze statue of Chaing Kai-Shek, a famous president of Taiwan. There are two guards along side the statue who stand perfectly still for one hour before a change of guard ceremony.

After watching the ceremony we headed to the train station to make our way to Taipei 101, Taipei’s tallest building. To get there we wanted to buy a train card that we could recharge, but the station where we were didn’t see them so we bought a token for $20 NTD to get us to the next station to buy one.
The tokens look like little plastic tokens, but they are actually RFID chips that you scan on the way in and then deposit on the way out.
Once we were at the next station, we bought “EasyCards” and added about $500 NTD to them and boarded a train to Taipei 101.

Taipei 101 looks amazing on the outside, styled to look like a pagoda and was the worlds tallest building until the opening of Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010. The building is also designed to withstand typhoons and earthquakes with the help of a 660 tonne “tuned mass damper”.

Inside is a fairly typical assortment of fancy shopping and food outlets, but the highlight for us was the food court where we got a really tasty sizzling squid meal for $8 that came with a whole sliced squid, an egg, greens, bean shoots, chicken, cabbage, soup and rice!

After dinner we joined the very long queue to go up to the top to look out to the city. We had to wait half an hour before we our allotted time to go up and even then there was quite a queue - about another 30-45 minutes. Apart from the wait, the view was pretty good up there except the most iconic part of Taiwans Skyline is Taipei 101 so the photos would probably look better from somewhere else!

After queuing up to get back out of the building (and going through multiple levels of gift shops) we made our way to Shih-lin night market. Night markets are amazing in Asia and I wish we had more of these sort of things in Melbourne. This one in particular is big enough to get lost in and had a lot of visitors! Some of the alley ways were so congested that you couldn’t move at all and had to wait for a gap to be cleared.
We bought all sorts of interesting food and there gift shops and games to play everywhere, such a great atmosphere as long as you can handle the crowds.

Amazingly, in a foreign city, in a massive and crowded market I coincidently bumped into a friend from Melbourne! I don’t know how that was even possible with the size of this place!

After walking around for a couple of hours we finally headed back to the hotel. It was another really long day, but a great introduction to Taiwan!