Monday, December 1, 2008

Taipei, Taiwan

Wow... Where to begin on Taipei! The city was unbelievable: warm people, great food, pretty, clean, efficient... an Asian stew with the best of Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese cultures. And yes, there was even a bit of American culture there if you're craving a little Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, or just a simple breakfast with eggs and bacon (that can be hard to come by in Asia).

Tina and I traveled to Taiwan from Xiamen via ferry. I was exhausted and jet lagged, so I missed some of the boat ride, but what I saw was enjoyable and Tina liked seeing Xiamen from the water... We sat on the top outside deck of the ferry in two seats that looked like they were ripped out of the first class cabin of a 70s Pan Am carrier.

We docked in Jinmen (or Kinmen -- the name varies based on who you ask or what guide book you're refering to) a small Taiwanese island. We took a short bus ride to the Jinmin airport and then flew directly to Taipei. It took Tina and me a while to get out of the airport due to cash problems -- the Taiwanese ATMs are complicated! We luckily managed to get some cash and took a taxi to the Imperial Hotel in Taipei.

Tina and I spent Friday exploring the university section of the city. I read somewhere that students make up the most leisurely class in the world. I can believe that after seeing the university section of Taipei. Lots of well manicured, sprawling campuses... cool shops with students lolling around, drinking coffee or tea, riding bikes or mopeds. Tough life!

We met up with Mark Friday night. Our first stop of the night was Dan Ryan's (a Chicago bar. We were hoping to run into some expats who would divulge all the hot spots and city secrets). We didn't meet anyone, but found a nice part of the city. After Dan Ryan's, we found an underground wine bar, then a Japanese-style "shabu-shabu" - a barbecue place... Delicious!

The rest of the weekend is a happy blur. We did so much! We went to Taipei 101 (it is or was the tallest building in the world). Longshan Temple. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial (most of the buildings were under restoration but still one of the best, most beautiful places). We walked around the city exploring side streets, the night markets, trying little restaurants. We also went to the National Palace Museum which holds the best collection of Chinese art since Chaing Kai-Shek took it all with him to Taiwan when he retreated from mainland China. I tried to get Mark and Tina interested in Ceramics -- I think I was able to reach them with some of the clay wine vessels ;)

Overall, our favorite things were the relaxed, elegant pace of the city. We LOVED the MRT (the subway which was incredibly fast, easy and CLEAN... I was chewing gum while walking through the subway station and a guard asked me to spit it out!). The weather was sunny, breezy and warm. The people in Taiwan clearly care a great deal about nature based on all the number of trees and elaborate parks in the city -- I also noticed rooftop gardens everywhere, even in the densest parts of the city. It's obviously an international city -- I think no matter who you are, you will feel a sense of kinship with Taipei since it encompasses so many cultures and the people are friendly. We also loved that there were no "shady" parts... there wasn't the population of homeless people that you tend to see in big cities. I would highly recommend Taipei and I definitely want to go back.

What a great weekend! And nothing like coming back to Xiamen and having a foot massage to work out the soreness of a weekend on our feet..

Ferry Ride
Shabu BBQ
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial
Taipei 101
Longshan Temple
Local Pub
MRT Subway
Palace Museum
Foot Massage


Lisa Wilson said...

I can't believe how long Tina's hair is now!! Glad you had a great time in Taipai!! Very jealous of the foot massage!! we miss you at work Emily and can't wait to see you in January Tina!!!

Anonymous said...

I know! Tina's sporting Rapunzel locks. Everyday's a good hair day for her! I'm jealous... I miss you all too, but not work! ;) My blackberry's not working here so I can't check email even if I wanted to. It's a wonderful thing!