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Published: June 21st 2018
It's apparent the future of an independent Taiwan will remain uncertain, with the spectre of their giant and powerful neighbour China sure to exert an increasing influence over this small island. Nevertheless Taiwan is an economic powerhouse of the region, specialising in the high tech sector and striving to maintain economic prosperity for the country in to the future. Despite my extensive travels throughout Asia over the years this is the first visit to Taiwan, and I'm thrilled to have near on two weeks to explore the island and get to know the people. The world is full of fascinating destinations to visit, and finally I can add Taiwan to an ever expanding list of countries I've been privileged to visit.
The journal left off at the conclusion of a wonderful visit to Hong Kong, from where I boarded a direct flight of just over an hour before arriving in the capital Taipei. The city is striking from the moment of arrival at the airport, everything is modern and clean and the locals are friendly and welcoming. However it pays to be orderly in Taipei, and I was corrected immediately by a lady for not standing in the exact spot
required while waiting to board the MRT in to the city. The metro system is world class, as is the case in Hong Kong, and after navigating a change of lines at Taipei Main Station I arrived at the stop for Taipei 101. This is the most famous building in Taipei, and for a time held the record as the tallest building in the world. It has since been surpassed but is still a magnificent sight to behold. I was getting my bearings after coming out of the metro stop and lazily looked over my shoulder to catch an initial glimpse of the awe inspiring skyscraper. After checking in to the immaculate Formosa 101 hostel it was time to head out and explore the street food the city for which Taipei is justifiably famous. There are several districts around the city where the locals get out and about for a stroll and a meal amongst the multitude of stalls. The prices are cheap and the food is varied and consistently delicious. Here in Taipei you can enjoy noodles, skewers, and a massive variety of other Taiwanese specialities for just a few dollars.
The next morning I headed out to
Tamsui after a recommendation from the hostel staff. This is the traditional heart of Taipei, and absolutely heaving with locals going for a stroll along the water or checking out the markets on a pleasant sunday. It's a rewarding experience to stroll along the old part of Tamsui, and I spent a relaxing day by the water. Wherever you visit in Taipei there's food and shopping options galore, and it's easy to pass a day rubbernecking in this part of the world. I headed back to the hostel in the evening, and after getting my act together headed out again to the markets for a delicious and cheap street meal. The Taiwanese are very friendly people, and after a few days in the country they're starting to win a special place in my heart. They have an easy smile and a greeting to offer all over Taipei, it's a delightful experience visiting the country and getting to know more about Taiwan.
The next day's plan involved joining a day tour of Old Taipei with the exceptional team from Tour Me Away, a free walking tour group formed in 2014 after being influenced by similar companies in Europe. The tour
comprised a lot of history regarding this ancient city, and took us to the parliament building, several monuments, and also provided orientation on the four gates that comprised the entrances to the Old City, although one of the gates no longer exists. The tour team then visited a famous ice-cream parlour with a vide variety of flavours to sample, some being tastier than others. Just as I enjoyed the experience in Hong Kong, rocking up for a free walking tour in Taipei provides a fascinating insight in to the city and it's inhabitants, and for the first time on a tour we had the privilege of two local guides taking turns to share their knowledge and experience about the city of their birth. I find free walking tours endlessly fascinating, and the tour me away team out of Taipei proved to be no exception.
I was out and about again the next morning, and took the MRT to the Chiang-kai Shek memorial hall. There's a museum to enjoy and magnificent buildings set amidst an impressive square. After climbing the stairs to the hall to view the giant statue of the revered leader, I happened to be in the right
place just minutes before the changing of the guard ceremony. The guards perform the ceremony in perfect sync, spinning rifles fitted with bayonets in an elaborate performance for the viewing public. It was great to see the soldiers in action, and I was grateful for the fortuitous timing of my arrival. That evening I headed off for a free walking tour of the famous temples of Taipei, but could not locate anyone at the designated meeting place. Perhaps they had headed off early, or there wasn't enough interest in the tour on that particular day. So I headed out to Longshan temple on my Pat Malone, with the famous tourist attraction looking magnificent in the evening covered by spectacular lighting. The temple was packed with worshippers, and formed such a good impression I took the MRT the next day to revisit the temple during daylight hours.
I must say it's been a fabulous introduction to the charms of Taiwan, with wonderful people and great food for next to nothing at the markets of Taipei. It's taken a long time to finally visit this beautiful island but dare I suggest, basically all of you should be here now!
"Time moves in one direction, memory in another." William Gibson
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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