I have just come back from a wonderful weekend trip to Taipei,Taiwan. If I had to use 2 words to describe what I think sums up Taipei for me, it would be: night market and Hello Kitty.
Taiwan Day 1:
Taipei is only 1.5 hours away from Hong Kong which makes a short lovely plane ride. On the way to our Hostel, we had a sketchy "taxi" driver. He negotiated a price with us but when he drove up to the airport, he drove a nice black toyota car. It probably wasn't the safest idea to get in but Risa, our mandarin speaker, seemed confident that it would be ok. He took us promptly to our Hostel but the entire ride he was basically hitting on Risa.
After settling into our hostel, our next stop was Din Tai Fung a critically acclaimed top 10 restaurant in the world known for their xiao long bao. I love xiao long bao in Houston but perhaps my expectations were too high, they didn't seem any more special than the ones I eat in Houston. They were also quite pricey in Taiwanese standards. After Din Tai Fung, we headed over to Hello Kitty Sweets which is a Hello Kitty themed cafe. EVERYTHING was Hello Kitty - the atmosphere, waitresses, desserts, the restrooms. Hello Kitty is queen in Asia and particularly in Taiwan. The desserts were so adorable! There was Hello Kitty chocolates that topped the cakes, there was even Hello Kitty on the foam of my Almond Cappaccino. The dessert came with a mini dessert, a Hello Kitty jello, and a drink.
Next we went to Taipei 101 which is the tallest building in Taiwan. The stores inside were ones I would be shopping at in the far future when I have 6 zeros in my bank account. We went up the observatory deck and looked at the beautiful night scene of Taipei. Inside the observatory deck there were art pieces from all over the world. After Taipei 101 we went to Shi Lin night market and tried all different types of Taiwanese street snacks. I had quail eggs and guess what - chicken butt! Chicken butt is really tender and it contains soft bones which you can eat although I preferred spitting them out. I also had the OG milk tea since tapioca milk tea originated from Taiwan. Tasted just like Lollicup in California to me.
Taiwan Day 2:
We woke up at 8AM and got coffee and delicious buns! Somehow, I locked me and Floria out of our room so we had to sit around for 1.5 hours before we could grab our stuff to head to Yang Ming Shan. We went to the sulfur volcanos which smelt like rotten eggs. I have to say though, I would smell sulfur anyday over stinky tofu. We went to see the Milky lake and attempted to check out the hot springs. Unfortunately, they didn't open until 6PM. I heard that it's full of naked old ladies anyway. Then we headed to the Chiang Kai Shek memorial which imitated ancient Chinese architecture. From Jackie, I learned that Chinese use green and blue to symbolize the meeting of heaven and earth.
Afterward, we headed to Xi Men shopping district where we spent hours trying to find Sophisca - a chocolate gift shop that literally made everything into chocolate. They had chocolate alcohol truffles, chocolate body parts, etc. Taiwan is one for gimmicks. They particularly enjoy themed shops, for example the Hello Kitty cafe, there is a Jay Chou cafe, the toilet restaurant is from Taiwan, and chocolate sexual body parts apparently. After shopping in Xi Men (CHEAP MAKE UP GALORE) we went to Chiang Kai Shek memorial to see the lit up theatre at night. It was absolutely beautiful. Afterward, we headed one station over to Shi Da night market and went crazy on snacks and cheap stationary. Jackie brought along his maltese puppy and it was so adorable. It reminded me of when Snowball was a puppy and I felt a little nostalgic.
Taiwan Day 3:
We woke up early again and went to the National Palace Museum. Even with a Mandarin speaker, Risa, somehow the taxi driver dropped us off in the wrong place. We were actually 20 minutes away from National Palace Museum. Neverthless, we made the best of it and checked out the Rebel's memorial. We eventually got to the National Palace Museum where they displayed precious Chinese artifacts which Chiang Kai Shek took with him when he feld to Taiwan. We saw many beautiful Chinese pottery and items. Most of these artifacts were beautiful yet practical. They would use these items in daily life such as bowls, jars, etc. As we walked through, Jackie gave me a brief history of China and it got me interested in learning more about Chinese History. I went back to HK and asked Ebe to tell me about Chinese History for our bedtime stories. We headed to the airport after the National Palace Museum and right before our flight, we saw a Hello Kitty terminal. Hello Kitty is so huge in Taiwan it has its own terminal.
Three days was definitely not enough. There was still so much I wanted to see and explore and I vow to be back someday!