Not too many people travel to Taiwan for vacation. In fact, I have to admit that I didn’t have any real interest in ever going to Taiwan until a whole group of our friends from KL moved to Taipei this year. But last weekend, I had the opportunity to discover that, clearly, we were all wrong. Taipei is an exciting, trendy, vibrant city with tons to do, a strong cultural connection, and a real cosmopolitan energy.
Last weekend Alex and I had the pleasure of spending four days in Taipei thanks to our very hospitable friends, Darby and David, who let us stay in their palace of an apartment in Tianmu. We had such a great time hanging out with them and playing with their brilliant 15 month old daughter, Elliette. We also got to visit with our friends Mel and Dave who used to life in KL, which was an excellent surprise!
As soon as we arrived in Taipei we headed out to visit David at work (at Taipei American School), which is in the Tianmu district of the city. Just on that short ride to the school, I fell in love with Taipei. The trendy shops on the street, the busy pedestrian traffic, the bright neon signs, and the obviously cosmopolitan atmosphere gave the city a real Manhattan feeling. Plus, the school is actually right in the middle of a bustling urban neighborhood, which I loved – how great would it be to be able to walk out of school and have the wealth of a city right at your fingertips?
One of the fabulous things about Taipei is that even though it’s a huge city (the world’s second most densely populated city after Dhaka according to Lonely Planet), it’s so close to nature. We were just 10 minutes away from the hot springs, a group of wildly active geysers and only a half hour away from the beach. In just one day we were able to take a great drive through the mountains to get to for a short hike to the geysers, then hang out at the beach, and later enjoy an outdoor sculpture park – all with enough time to make it back for a tasty dinner!
Another day we headed out to the fabulous Palace Museum. Apparently, Chang Kai Shek took all of the ancient Chinese artifacts to Taiwan for “safe keeping” so this museum actually has more Chinese art and history than the museums in China. I have to say, it was pretty impressive – well worth the trip alone. While we were there we bought a very cool scroll for when we finally decorate our apartment. The museum was only about 10 minutes from Darby and David’s house so we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around their beautiful neighborhood and shopping. Then we went out to a fantastic night market just two stops down from the Tianmu MRT station. What fabulous people watching – and some absolutely bizarre food options….
On our last day we headed out to the tallest building in the world, and Taipei’s claim to fame, the Taipei 101 tower. On first glance it looks like boxes of Chinese take-out stacked on top of each other, but once you realize that it’s supposed to look like a bamboo shoot, it starts to make a little sense. The elevator is apparently the fastest in the world – traveling at 60km/h – it definitely made our ears pop. And what a fabulous view of the city from the top!
The best part about our whole trip was the weather. I didn’t realize how much I missed cool fall days (although it probably never got below 20 degrees Celsius, it felt like fall to us). I got to wear some light sweaters, I definitely could have gone for long pants, and the breeze from the mountains gave me goosebumps at night. It was fantastic! According to Darby and David these were the first cool days since they moved in months ago, and the first clear days since the recent typhoons. So, I guess we got lucky!
If you have the opportunity to visit Taiwan, I highly recommend it! Check out my pictures to see a little bit more of Taiwan.