Day 4 in Taiwan – Movies, Ferris Wheels, and Night Markets

This was our last full day in Taipei, Taiwan. We had a blast traveling around the city and making a few day trips to the outskirts. If you missed the first few posts, you can read about them here.

Our Last Full Day in Taiwan

Nicole and I got up and headed to the Starbucks down the street from our hostel. We each had a coffee and some snacks to tide us over for the day. Since the two of us had been running around having so many adventures over the past few days, we decided to take it easy today and just do random fun things around town.

Starbucks breakfast of champions
Starbucks breakfast of champions

Wu Fen Pu Garment Wholesale Area

Our first stop, after Starbucks was to a wholesale clothing market. Nicole and I took the subway out there and walked through dark and narrow stalls filled with discount clothing, shoes and accessories. For a weekday, it was surprisingly empty. There were a few other shoppers walking around the streets stopping into shops here and there, but it was far from crowded. Many of the stalls weren’t even open yet. Mind you it was around 11am when we walked through. It was surprising to see. I imagine the market must get going later in the day.

Miramar Entertainment Park

After the clothing market, we took the subway to Miramar Entertainment Park. We walked around the mall for a bit and watched “As Above, So Below”. It’s a great horror movie if you’re into that genre. After the movie we rode on Taiwan’s second tallest ferris wheel. It had breathtaking views of the city and like the gondola, it had a glass floor to look down and see the ground far below.

Beer and Pretzels

After the ferris wheel ride it started to rain, and thunder, and lightning really hard. We took the subway back into central Taipei and happened to spot a Paulaner Brauhaus. We’d visited one in Munich this past summer and really enjoyed it so we had to stop in and visit while we were in Taiwan. We had authentic German beer and inauthentic Taiwanese pretzels. Nicole also ordered some steamed dumplings, so it was a vaguely cultural experience. Overall, it was quite the combo.

Night Market

After our lunch of beer and pretzels and dumplings, we took the train out to the Shilin Night Market. Of all the night markets we visited while we were in Taipei, Shilin was the biggest. Streets lined with stalls and carts spread out in all directions. The night market had everything from clothing to food to even a carnival right inside the market. There was a temple at the center of the market playing a Taiwanese movie on a projector screen free for everyone in the community. Nicole and I got some chicken skewers and fresh fruit and walked through the market.

 

After our stroll through the night market, it was getting quite late. We headed back to our hostel and packed our things.

Leaving Taipei

The next morning we left the hostel and took a cab to the downtown airport. From there we transferred to Taipei’s international airport outside of town, the same one we used when we arrived. I had a great time in Taipei. There were tons of sights to check our and the people were incredibly kind and friendly. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about visiting Taipei to do so. However, I think you only need a few days in Taipei. I would couple a trip to Taipei with a few day trips outside of the city or even to different cities in Taiwan.

 

 

Day 3 in Taiwan – Spanish Forts, Taiwanese Beaches, and British Consulates

We woke promptly at sometime, probably 9, that sounds about right, and embarked for Bai Sha Wan beach. The beach was about two hours travel north, outside of Taipei and along the coast. It was a beautiful beach and for the life of us we could not properly pronounce it. I asked several people and no one had heard of it. Finally we called the Taiwanese tourist helpline, and I asked. She said “Bai Sha Wan Beach? I do not know about it, but you can visit Bai Sha Wan beach. It is really beautiful.” It sounded the exact same as how I had been pronouncing it.

Getting to Bai Sha Wan Beach
Getting to Bai Sha Wan Beach

Bai Sha Wan Beach aka Bai Sha Wan Beach

So began our trip. We took a subway to the end of the red line then transferred to a city bus and took it 45 stops into the middle of nowhere. Finally we arrived and strolled down to the beach. We rented a small bamboo lean-to/cabana and set up the provided tatami mat. The swimming area was designated by little ropes and buoys with life guards surrounding the swim area stationed about every 30 feet. Clearly Taiwan takes ocean safety very seriously.

Exploring Tamsui, Taiwan

After the beach we took the bus back into Tamsui, the stop at the end of the red line where we got off. We walked around downtown and checked out some of the markets. Up until now, Nicole and I hadn’t been the best at eating traditional Taiwanese food, so we decided to make up for it, in spades, in Tamsui. We tried all kinds of delicacies.

We walked along the city’s little boardwalk enjoying our amazing street food and people watching. There were little booths where you could play carnival games, like popping balloons with darts for a prize, massage places, fortune tellers, and gift shops. At the end of the boardwalk we came to a small beach with a man painting giant pictures rapidly one after the other. He would paint what looked like a random image until at the very end he would turn the picture over and you would realize it was Mozart, or perhaps a castle or mountainside.

Fort Santo Domingo

Not far from the boardwalk area is an old Spanish fort called Fort Santo Domingo. The fort was built in 1629 and during its several hundreds of years of existence, it was burned, demolished, and razed. Originally it was a Spanish fort, then a Dutch fort, then a Chinese fort, then a British consulate. The British turned the fort into a consulate in the late 1800s and later built a consular residence next to it. Nicole and I walked around the grounds and used the building to escape the heat. Both the fort and the consulate were relatively empty with only a few other tourists milling about.

After the fort and the consulate we were pretty beat. It had been a long day and we’d traveled a great distance. Nicole and I took the subway back to our hostel and called it a day. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s adventure of movies, ferris wheels, and more night markets!

 

Day 2 in Taiwan – massages, night markets, and toilet restaurants Part Two

This is a continuation of the very long second day in Taiwan. Part one is about Zhinan temple and pandas. Read it first.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall

From the Zhinan temple, Nicole and I took the gondola back down the mountain and transferred to the MRT. We rode it all the way back into central Taipei and visited the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, National Theater, and the National Concert Hall. The three of them form a beautiful plaza in central Taipei and are definitely worth a visit while you are in Taiwan. Chiang Kai Shek was a military leader closely allied with Sun Yat Sen and was an influential member of the Chinese national party. We arrived on the hour so we were just in time to see the changing of the guard. It was a big production and took close to 15 minutes.

Renting Bikes

From just outside the plaza, we rented bikes for only about 30 cents and rode through town like a band of hoodlums recruiting members into our underground bike gang. Just kidding. We rode to Xiemending, Taipei’s hip downtown area home to massages and toilet restaurants. That’s right, restaurants themed like toilets.

Modern Toilet

We returned our bikes in central Xiemending and wandered around for a bit before our reservation at Modern toilet. We got massages, I played around with some vintage lenses at an outdoor market, and we soaked up the downtown atmosphere. It’s interesting, based on my  limited experiences in Japan, China, and Thailand, I feel like Taiwan is a perfect mashup of all three. It has China’s commerce and availability of products. It’s still somewhat conservative and bizarre in unexpected ways like Korea and Japan, and its a bit tropical like Thailand.

Now to the part that you’ve all been waiting for, Modern Toilet. If you visit one toilet themed restaurant, I encourage you to visit this one. It’s apparently part of a chain and there are several around Asia so you’ll have a few opportunities. The restaurant is off the beaten path and up on the second story off the main road. You really have to search for it to find it.

Inside you’re greeted at a small counter and led to your table. All the tables are bathtubs filled with plastic balls (think McDonalds ball pit) and covered with a sheet of glass. The seats are toilets, with the lid closed. They are not to be used as real toilets. The food is pretty good. Not fantastic, just good, but then again, you’re not going for the food. I ordered the chicken curry, Nicole ordered something else. Both entrees came in small ceramic toilets. Dessert was chocolate ice cream, of course. It was served in a traditional squat toilet.

Modern Toilet
Modern Toilet

Longshan Temple Night Market

After diner we visited some shops in the Longshan Temple Night Market. We bought some incense and an incense holder which I am convinced is actually a back scratcher but we are using it as an incense holder anyways.

It was an amazing, yet incredibly tiring day. We saw pandas and rode gondolas. We ate at toilet restaurants and rented bikes. We did everything.

Day 1 in Taiwan – Skyscrapers, pizza, memorial halls

Over Chuseok break this year, Nicole and I visited beautiful Taipei, Taiwan. It was quite an adventure getting there. First we took a bus from Gwangyang to Busan which was about 2.5 hours. We stayed the night in Busan and visited a little Hamburger joint down by Haeundae beach. The next morning we flew out of Busan and into Taipei, Taiwan.

The Adventure Begins

Nicole and I landed a little after 1pm and by 3pm we arrived at our hostel. We dropped off our bags and started our busy day of sightseeing. Our first stop was at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. Sun Yat Sen was a doctor, one of China’s founding fathers, and also its first president. Nicole and I walked through the exhibit hall inside and even got to vote in a mock voting booth.

Dinner

Pizza, Takoyaki, and Taiwanese Beer
Pizza, Takoyaki, and Taiwanese Beer

From the memorial hall, Nicole and I walked through town the main business district of Taipei and stopped for a bit to eat. Our original plan had been to find a delicious Taiwanese restaurant, but everywhere we went we found international food. It would be like going to Times Square and trying to have a genuine American home-cooked meal. Eventually our hunger got the better of us and we had some italian pizza and Japanese Takoyaki with a Taiwanese beer.

Taipei 101: A sight of seconds!

After our dinner, Nicole and I traveled to Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world. It’s also home to the second fastest elevator and the second most delicious thing I ate in Thailand that day: mango ice cream in beer! Taipei 101 is really cool though. There is a giant tuned mass dampener that’s several hundred tons. It’s a giant ball attached to the building by cables. It’s towards the top of the building and it helps the building to sway less during an earthquake. Another neat bit of trivia is that the actual 101st floor is called Summit 101 and it’s a VIP club. There is little to no information on it. Some people suspect it’s for foreign dignitaries or big spenders from the mall downstairs. Scratch that, I googled it. Here’s some info on Summit 101.

The trip up to the top was neat, the first 5 floors of Taipei 101 make up the fanciest mall I have ever been to. Seriously, the number of luxury/high end stores was absurd. There were tons of stores there I’d never even heard of. I felt really out of place in my Red Bull t-shirt.

Taipei Night Market

After walking through the luxurious Taipei 101 mall, we went for something in the completely opposite direction, a night market! There were cheap items galore. I bought some sushi, and a small notebook. Nicole bought a Totoro phone case. Mostly we just looked at the different stalls on either side.

 

It was a great first day in Taiwan and we were excited for the next day’s adventures!