Trip Start Dec 11, 2008
32Trip End Dec 13, 2009
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It had been a difficult couple of weeks for a variety of reasons, not least because of the stressful intensive period, so I was excited and relieved as I made my way to the airport early on Wednesday morning. I'd barely had any time to do any research, so I spent most of the journey reading my Lonely Planet guide to get an idea of what I wanted to see and do.
Once in Taiwan, I took a bus and the subway to find my hotel, which was perfectly situated in the busy area of Ximen. It was very reminiscent of Myeong dong, with an abundance of shops and scantily clad girls - so a fine area to be based in. The first thing that I noticed was the unbelievable amount of scooters whizzing around, so I had to take care when crossing the street! In addition, despite the bustling environment, I found the streets to be much cleaner than in Korea, where finding a rubbish bin is like searching for a needle in a haystack at times.
After getting comfortable in my hotel, I braved the heat and ventured to Longshan Temple early evening, where the locals gather to chant eerily as they pray. I got accosted by a man trying to sell something or other, but I wasn't having any of it, especially as he stated that James Bond was from Germany! He needs to work on his selling technique, especially when dealing with English folk...
I then ventured over to the world's tallest building, namely the Taipei 101. It absolutely dwarfs everything else around, and the bamboo-like structure was just begging to be climbed, so I duely obliged...via the world's fastest elevator! I can never resist going to the top of these huge buildings as the views are often sublime, and this was no exception, especially once dark had descended and the sprawling city was lit up.
After the best night's sleep in months, I went a bit further afield to a place called Yongning, home to a temple I wanted to visit. I was annoyed with my guidebook as it said it was a 15 minute walk from the subway station, but this was complete nonsense and I would have wasted over an hour in the searing heat had it not been for a friendly old lady who gave me a ride. The temple was up in the mountains so I could get decent views, though I really wanted to find a spot with the 101 building in the distance - I'd have to wait until the next day for that.
I filled up the rest of my day with a visit to the CKS Memorial Hall, an intriguing structure that housed a gigantic monument inside, complete with armed soldiers looking ominously on. I followed this up with a trip to the Shilin Night Market, although I did manage to get lost en route...easily done in a city of Taipei's size. Still, it was definitely worth the effort as I love the atmosphere at these kinds of markets, with the narrow alleyways and people crammed in like sardines. There is so much going on that tests all of your senses, as the bright lights glow, whilst the street vendors shout incessantly and the smell of the diverse assortment of food wafts through the air...