We’ve made it to Taipei! We finished touring the east coast and took a bullet train back north to Taipei. Ever been on a bullet train? This was our first and it was quite convenient. Call me foolish but I did think that the ride was going to feel more … bulletesque. Objects didn’t whizz by in a blur and our faces weren’t pulled back with force. It was, instead, a comfortable 2 hour ride through the western side of Taiwan.
Most of eastern Taiwan offered little to no nightlife. There were very few bars in any of the places we spent our nights in. On vacation, and not vacation, Wade and I like bars. We love the ease of conversation in a bar. The relaxed atmosphere and comfortability of it all. We were on the desperate side of needing one. Walking down the stairs and back out to the rain, we left our cozy studio airbnb not to return until very early the next morning.
Parking ourselves on a couple of stools and ordering beers, Wade and I met a contractor, a photographer, a few others who found themselves in Taipei for work. The topics ranged from moving around the world, comparing electricians to plumbers and of course, Star Wars (because that is a part of my life since marriage). We drank and talked, drank and laughed, drank and who knows what else, the night begins to blur after the second round of shots and the upteenth beer. We made it home, remarkably, able to continue on the next day.
After a boisterous evening, we woke the following afternoon. Wade and I walked, slowly and slightly hunched, down the street to start the recovery process that comes after any good night in a good bar with good people and good drinks. We needed hangover food and Taipei has no shortage of great food. We opted for the classic beef noodle. We had tried it while hiking Taroko gorge from the small aboriginal restaurants, so we needed a comparison. Frankly, Taroko’s won, but the beef noodle in Taipei was nothing to frown upon.
The rest of our Taipei visit consisted of more eating, walking, drinking, walking, eating, drinking, eating, walking– you get the idea. We did not plan much for our time in the city. I find, the best way to tackle a city is find something that interest you and then roam the area surrounding it. We chose to check out the famous Taipei 101. We paid to visit the top then explored the surrounding area through the late evening before heading back to our temporary home.
To make up for the late start the previous day I woke Wade up around 4am to hop in a cab and take us hiking. He was such a happy
camper hiker. We tried to tell the cab driver we wanted to go to the elephant trail. This was a short trail that is 20 minutes of steep stairs that lead to a beautiful overlook of the city. Language barriers got us again, but thinking of our hand signals to the cab driver for this still leads me into fits of laughter. We ended up at tiger trail, a completely different trail on a completely different mountain. Such a happy accident. Elephant trail is popular since it has quick and easy access, but Tiger trail was an hour of beautiful nature and overlooks with the serenity that anyone would want.
At the end of the trail we must have took a wrong turn, I am horrible with directions, but we ended up at the beginning of a lively street market. This was not a common food market where you will see a mix of tourist and locals grabbing food for the evening with friends. This was where the locals grabbed their very fresh meats and produce for the next few days. We wander the market, enjoying the glimpse into a typical Taiwanese day. Children were walking to school, the elders were picking up their groceries and the workers seemed to be grabbing ready made meals for lunch. We were offered fruit and small talk from different vendors. Everyone we talked to during this trip was so kind. The people reminded me very much of the Thai’s, full of smiles and hospitality. Wandering this market reminded us how similar and different cultures can be at the same time.
Our last stop before heading to the airport was a gondola ride Maoking; a village located in the mountains next to Taipei that focuses on growing tea. Taiwan is not known for its sunshine. If you have been reading my accounts on this trip you may have heard me gripe about the rain a few times. Well all this rain does come in handy. Tea bushes love heat, humidity and haze. In return for dealing with this unpleasant weather, Taiwan grows and exports some of the world’s most wonderful tea.
The ride took about a half hour and stops at a couple stations before reaching the top. If we had more time, I would have explored the second stop from the top as well; there seemed to be some pretty walking trails and far less crowds.
So up to the top we went. We were lucky to plan our visit for the first ride at 9 am. This helped us be ahead of the masses that come from the chinese tour buses that take over many areas. Scooting ahead, Wade and I enjoyed some of the popular walking paths in solidarity. Food and restaurants do not open until 11 am and there is no ATM machine so come prepared.
There were countless choices of trails in Maoking. We choose the Camphor Tree , Jiankang and Xiaotienkong trails. None of these were particularly hard, but they all offered good views of the mountains, tea plantations or the city.
Sadly, after these trails we caught the gondolas down, taxied our way to pick up our luggage and like the lazy tourist we are, took another costly cab ride to the airport. We could have taken the subway which would have taken way longer than we cared to deal with our bags and tired legs. Cab ride it was.
Taiwan treated us very well and we are planning to return to strictly stay in Taipei and delve deep into the city. The rest of the country we will remember fondly and my hope is that others will visit and go further than Taipei. The country is full of amazing people, places and wildlife.
I’ll leave you with this weird guy.