Okay, so my last two blogs were a bit of a general spiel about Taiwan. This post is going to detail the things I did, and would therefore, on account of my having excellent taste, recommend to others to either do.
Tainan. I only had one real day in Tainan, and so it was a bit of a whistle stop tour, on the back of a locals scooter, trying to soak up the sounds and the smells while adjusting to being in a totally new continent. We went to see the Confucius Temple, which built in 1666 makes it one of the oldest and most important in Taiwan.
We also popped to Chihkan Tower, which was pretty. Hundreds of students have left copies of their exam timetables in the hope of divine intervention helping them achieve good grades.
Everywhere you look in Tainan there is a temple, to be honest, by the end of the day I was a bit tired of them. But they’re incredible beautiful structures and definitely worth popping in.
Tainan’s food is also worth a mention. Back in the olden days the city was the capital, and in an attempt to show off its wealth added sugar, an expensive item, to all it’s food. Today, despite having lost its capital status, sugar is still added to the food, savoury or not, a sprinkling goes in. The Tainan style of eating is cool too, it’s much more of a snacking culture, and throughout the day my guide took me to various eateries where we tried something new, all in all adding up to a full meal throughout the day. This started with some super tasty fruit (Taiwan’s mangoes are divine, and just in season), then some local sausages- original= tasty: stinky tofu= not so much. We went for coffee, and then down on to the streets where food sellers lined the road. We chose Spring Rolls- the biggest spring rolls I’ve eaten. The fillings are laid out on display and you choose what you want, then they cook them in front of you. So tasty, and fresh. We then went to a little cafe- the most hipster place in Taiwan I’m sure, where I had tea and Early Grey Cheesecake homemade by the owners mum. So good.
In Taipei, one of my favourite experiences was trying local Taiwanese tea Wang De Chuan, a shop that’s been selling tea since 1862. I met a lovely young gentleman, who despite being in training for 7 years is still not considered a tea master. His lengthy, pedantic tea making process was fascinating and the shop itself was beautiful. So excited to try the tea I bought.
I took myself on day trip to Wulai, a township in the mountains. It was far an away one of the best day’s I’ve ever had. After walking through the town, and taking a tiny rickerty train up to the waterfall I followed some signs to a park and disappeared off into the hills and the trees for an adventure on my own. Other than the wildlife that I stumbled across (namely a frog who scared the shit out of me) I saw no one for two hours. After six intensive days of being surrounded by people and having to be my most upbeat and engaging self, it was the perfect way to relax. I forced myself to be intrepid, and to climb higher and walk further, even after a leech attached itself to the sole of my foot and freaked the bejeesus out of me. I was sweating and knackered, and pretty much out of water by the time I reached the top of the trail, but as I headed back down to the village, the heavens opened and the temperature dropped. After waiting for the monsoon to pass in a little cafe, I headed out to find the hot springs I’d seen when I’d arrived. I came prepared with my towel and bikini, and was delighted to be taken under the wing of an ancient Taiwanese chap who showed me around the very basic site, and chatted to me in very broken English until it was time to go home. After I got the bus back down to Xindian I did some shopping (and bought the best hat EVER, much to the great amusement of the shopkeeper), and hung around until it got dark. I then crossed the suspension bridge and followed the hiking trail off to the left hand side. I’d been told that route would be full of tourists that I could follow, alas it appeared I was the only one, so again intrepid, I forced myself along, navigating past the enormous snails to try and spot some FireFlies. I have never seen fireflies, and wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the eventual sight of a ball of light flitting between the trees almost moved me to tears. It was early in the season, so there was only a few, nonetheless, for those whom lightbugs aren’t a local occurrence they are well worth a look out. Back in the city, I changed and showered (much needed) and headed out to Raohe Night Market in Taipei, where I ate incredible food (hot peppered beef pockets) and drank the best mango juice I’ve ever had.
Roache Night Market
The next day I went to the zoo. Taipei zoo is the biggest zoo in Asia (I think) and is also where Ang Lee shot parts of Life of Pi. There is also some pandas. Also I love zoos. I then popped to Dongmen courtersy of a lovely American girl who assured me that I could get an insanely tasty onion pancake right near her hostel. We then headed to Shinda where I tried Bubble Tea- and I must confess that, while it is famous for being amazing, it really did not do it for me. At all. But I also did a bit of clothes shopping (cheap and stylish, best in the city by my reckoning), so it was all good in the end. We topped this little expedition off by sharing a huge bowl of Mango Shaved Ice- probably one of nicest things I’ve ever eaten. EVER. After bidding farewell to my new friend, I headed out to Longshan Temple, which I loved, and by going at night, right before closing, I missed all of the crowds, which is perfect. I swung by a few of the night markets in the area, but they didn’t really float my boat.
On my last day, in the the rain I made an attempt to see Taipei key tourist hot spots: Confucius Temple, National Museum, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, Museum of Contemporary Art, Baoan Temple, and the Peace Park. I topped this off with a horrendous 20 minutes getting lost in the world of Taipei Main Station’s underground lair in a vain attempt to find the bus terminal to get the the airport. And so ended my time in Taiwan. I left as I’d arrived, under a gloom of prematurely grey skies, with the air heavy with moisture and the rumble of thunder and lightening. I’d been fortunate that my trip had been at a time of year before the heat gets unbearable and before the storms come too frequently. This post is over. Taiwan in a few days and only 1200 words.