The View from Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
See more photos and videos of the “Changing of the Guards” here.
Wally and I explored The Eslite Spectrum shopping mall in Taipei City. Its displays professional Taiwanese handy-crafts and artistic items. It also offers many unique gifts including a “Mission Impossible Jenga” game which I quite liked.
In the afternoon, I visited the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. It is one of the most prominent historical landmarks in Taiwan and was opened in 1980 in honor of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the former President of the Republic of China. I got a little lost getting there but made it just in time to see the changing of the guards which occurs every hour on the hour.
The two of us went to Din Tai Fung for dinner. The restaurant had amazing service and was quite fancy. They even put a velvet cover over my backpack on the chair next to me. Din Tai Fung was awarded one Michelin Star in 2009 at a Hong Kong location, and is extremely well known. We ordered several different dishes including a Shanghai tofu appetizer, a Taiwanese beef noodle soup, and two orders of chocolate xiao long bao for dessert (my favourite)!
Hiking Wuliao Peak Trail
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The Wuliao Peak Trail is definitely not for the faint of heart. It’s a grueling hike that will get you working up a sweat within the first few minutes, but the view from the top was definitely worth the effort! I enjoyed the many rock-climbing and repelling sections which really added an extra adrenaline rush. Although it was a little scary repelling down a 50 foot rock face with no safety gear. Good thing it wasn’t raining!
Wally and I got a little lost during the final section so we didn’t make it to the highest peak. Overall, we took less than 4.5 hours to complete the hike and going down took no time at all. Also, the cutest dog greeted us at the bottom of the mountain before we started and we saw him again before we left.
In the evening we visited the Feng Chia Night Market in Taichung which is the largest night market in Taiwan. The two of us walked around and browsed through the copious amounts of food/drink stands and retail stores. We sampled a few different foods but I was still full from the all-you-can-eat hot pot meal we’d had for lunch. Taiwan has too many delicious foods to try! Normally, the night market is quite busy but it was quieter when we arrived because it was a week day.
The Amazing View from Taipei 101
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Wally had to work in the morning so he gave me a tour of his office, before I headed off to do some sightseeing on my own.
I walked through a famous bird street and noticed one gentleman with a small bird on the sidewalk. Allegedly, you can get your fortune told by a bird selecting a stick. The fortune teller will then provide you with your fortune according to the length and characteristics of the stick selected. I had already gotten my fortune told in India and didn’t feel the need to do so again. Then, I came to Xingtian Temple. Again, it was busy, filled with Taiwanese worshippers. I stood and watched for a while before looking around and admiring the architecture.
The National Taiwan Museum was interesting. I meandered through the Exquisite Stones of Formosa and the Animals and Plants of Taiwan exhibit. The section on Taiwan’s gemstone industry was very educational. Among the precious stones made from minerals in Taiwan, the relatively famous ones include five types: Nephrite (Taiwan jade), Taiwan black jade, Wen stone, manganese-rich rocks, and chalcedony. Overall, the museum was okay, but I expected a little more. However, Wally said that I should have visited the National Palace Museum instead, so I’ll have to visit it when I come back to Taiwan.
Afterwards Wally met me and we went up Taipei 101 – the 8th tallest building in the world, standing at 508 meters tall. The view was absolutely spectacular and we stayed long enough to glimpse the start of the sunset. At the top we drank Mango Beer Float! Basically, they put a scoop of mango gelato into a glass of beer which tasted great! Taipei 101 is definitely one of my favourite sites in Taiwan.
Dinner at the Modern Toilet Restarurant in Taipei, Taiwan
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On my first full day in Taiwan, Wally showed me around his childhood neighbourhood and previous schools. We had breakfast across from his primary school which had been designed to look like a bird (cool concept). We shared some toast with chocolate spread, a dish with eggs, corn and tuna, and had a few other things for breakfast. I also tried some peanut rice milk, which was delicious!
Nearby, we strolled along Yingge Ceramics Street, located south of Taipei City. Yingge is famous for its pottery and ceramics which is has been crafting for over 200 years. The main street has been rebuilt and looks very modern but still has traditional touches.
Afterwards, we visited Longshan Temple, the most revered Buddhist temple in Taiwan. It was build 1738 and has been reconstructed several times due to damage during World War II and natural disasters. When I arrived, I was surprised to see so many locals inside. Wally and I lit some incense sticks and bowed respectively while taking in the temple. The structure has beautiful hand-drawn painting work and stunning dragon decorations atop the roof tiles. Outside the temple lies a pretty waterfall. I definitely recommend visiting.
In the afternoon, we walked around Ximending, a popular neighbourhood and shopping area in downtown Taipei. It is very pedestrian friendly and is a source of Taiwan’s fashion and subculture. It has also been called the “Harajuku of Taipei” and the “Shibuya of Taipei”. We ducked into a theatre there to watch the movie “Dangal”, an Indian film about female wrestlers making it all the way to the Olympics. It was very long but well worth a watch.
For dinner we went to the “Modern Toilet Restaurant”, in the middle of downtown Taipei. Its novelty really got to me, so I had to go. Everything is toilet themed. The seats are toilets, the menu is in the shape of a toilet bowl, the meals are served in a toilet, and the menu has clever toilet references!