Friday, February 5, 2016

Taking Over Taiwan: Taipei and Shilin Night Market

After leaving Cleveland on Tuesday morning, I arrived in Taiwan late on Wednesday and since I wasn't super keen on the idea of trying to travel from Taipei to Hsinchu to Tracy's house on my own, I spent the night in Taipei where she met me on Thursday after she got out of school.

I've been to a lot of questionable places throughout my life, but I was a little nervous about going to Taiwan as I had never been to Asia, don't speak the language at all, wouldn't have cell phone service, and would be traveling alone. Since I was arriving at night, I wanted to find a hotel/ hostel that would pick me up at the airport as well as have luggage storage. I wasn't sure how safe Taipei was and since I wouldn't be caught dead lugging a suitcase around Rio or Honduras all day, I felt safer knowing that I'd have a place to keep my luggage with I explored Taipei while waiting for Tracy. So I stayed at Four Points by Sheraton in Zhonghe which is a little bit out of the way of some of the major attractions in Taipei, but the hotel offered a free shuttle service to the MRT (aka, the train) every hour. I had to take a taxi there one time and it cost me NTD100 ($4USD). 

I ended up not having anything to worry about anything because Taipei is incredibly safe, the tourist destinations all have an MRT station, the people are incredibly willing to help as soon as you show any sign of looking lost (and a lot speak English), and everything is also labeled in English. Really, I felt like I was a pro in Taiwan after only a few hours in Taipei and I don't even feel like a pro here in Rio yet. 

I was in a bit of a daze after waking up in ASIA!!!, so I didn't have a huge Taipei To-Do list. My basic itinerary included Chiang Kai Shek, 228 Peace Memorial, Taipei 101, and the Taipei Zoo, if I had time. Which I did. 

Chiang Kai Shek was my first stop and the temple is visible as you exit the MRT station. If you were to listen to the GoPro video that I was filimg, you would definitely hear me say "Holy crap." I mean, seriously, the temples are giant and they were the first temples I had ever seen in my life. I couldn't tell you a single thing about the importance on Chiang Kai Shek, though I am pretty sue he is an important person in the history of Taiwan, but the temples and memorials are beautiful. Every hour there is a changing of the guards ceremony within the memorial which I hadn't necessarily planned on seeing, but I ended up being there right as the ceremony started, so why not stay?

If you're lucky, you'll get your first Asian asking to take a picture with you. If you're really lucky, he'll ask you to take a picture holding his dog. Seriously, what is this?

From Chiang Kai Shek, I walked about four blocks-ish to the 228 Peace Memorial Park where I really just wanted to see more Asian architeciture, but there is also a memorial building paying homage to those killed in the February 28, 1947 killing as well as the National Taiwan Museum. 

After taking way too may selfies, I got back on the MRT and went to see the famous Taipei 101. Which I was just told that was built to look like bamboo-- who knew? Like Chiang Kai Shek, Taipei 101 was right there when coming out of the MRT station. Right. There. 

I went inside and bought my ticket up to the observatory (NTD500, $15USD). Unfortunately, it was incredibly foggy, so I could only go to the 89th floor as opposed to going all of the way up to the 91st floor. The views were also a little... gray. But still, it was really cool. After leaving Taipei 101, I wandered around outside for a hot second. As in, I never even crossed a street. During my wandering, I stumbled across a LOVE sculpture, bringing my grand total up to three (NYC, DC, and Taipei). 

My affinity for zoos took me to the Taipei Zoo (NTD60, $1.80USD) where I saw pandas and little Taiwanese gardeners wearing those conical straws hats. The pandas were part of an exhibit, the gardeners were not. I also ate my first meal in Taiwan which consisted of Ramen noodles and Sprite. #adventurous  

My time exploring solo came to an end when I met Tracy at the train station and we rode to Shilin so that I could experience the famous Shilin Night Market. Taiwan is pretty famous for its night markets (they're exactly as the name suggests, markets that take place at night) and most cities in Taiwan have one. The Shilin Night Market is HUGE; we ended up going twice while I was in Taiwan and I'm sure I didn't see it all. There's a ton of shopping (both souvenirs for tourists and clothes/ accessories for those living in Taiwan) and so. much. food. I wish I had a bottomless stomach and was traveling with a large group of friends (to share in case I got something weird) because I wanted to try everything. I think I tried coffin bread, sweet potato balls with plum powder, wax apples, other various fruits, and bubble tea during our first trip there. We also got to see people who were fishing for little tiny crawfish using some fishing line tied to a stick. I'm not overly sure what it was about, but I was quickly distracted by cutesy socks or wax apples or something else so bizarre. The Shilin Night Market definitely stimulated all of my five senses. A lot. And all night long. 

And as a side note- TOMS booties are awesome and adorable and comfortable and are not cut out for walking over 12 miles through all of Taipei. 

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