On our way to Bali, we had a 23 hour layover in Taipei, so we thought: Sweet! Two countries for the price of one :) We took this opportunity to explore this island near where we live, even though their timezone is 1 hour behind ours - giving us an extra hour to explore. (FYI - Okinawa is a quick 1.5 hour flight from Taipei (Tokyo is 2.5 hrs flight from us)). When my dad had visited us in March, he kept saying that Taiwan had a very similar landscape, vegetation, and buildings, similar to Okinawa. (Think rolling green hills with tropical vegetation and cement buildings to combat the typhoons). I would say his assessment was pretty spot on.
Our flight arrived around 10:30am, so we hopped in a taxi and headed to our hotel to drop our bags off. Luckily, our $40 per night hotel was across the street from a metro stop, making it easy for us to get around the city.
Our first stop was at Longshan Temple. Longshan Temple is one of largest and oldest temples in Taiwan, built in 1738 by Han immigrants from Fujian (China) as a branch temple from the original Lungshan Temple in China. This temple is is dedicated to the Bodhisattva of mercy, Guanyin, and there are also over 100 other gods and goddesses worshiped in the rear and side halls. This temple has also had to be rebuilt multiple times due to damage from earthquakes, typhoons, and bombings from WWII because Japanese were reportedly hiding weapons here. This temple had so much color and detail with mosaic like temple decorations, figures on the roof, and elaborate stone and wood carvings throughout. #gettineducated #yourwelcome
Next, we walked over to Huaxi Night Market area and Snake Alley. This two block market in the oldest district of Taipei, Wanhua, has been around for over 50 years and provides all types of various snacks and lots of foot massage spots. Snacks include seafood and delicacies like snake blood and meat, turtle blood and meat, and deer penis wine (#saywhat?!). Because there are so many snake delicacies and drinks, this market has earned the nickname "Snake Alley".
Unfortunately Nate and I didn't eat any snake soup, snacks, or blood (we did see a few signs though). Instead, we enjoyed some refreshing Mango Tea and lunch made up of ribs, meat and cabbage, and rice. Our lunch spot didn't have any English menus but we basically just pointed to stuff that looked good and said yea - some of that please! Don't ask me what kind of meat we had but I'm pretty sure it wasn't snake or turtle...
After our bellies were full, we hopped in a taxi and headed over the National Palace Museum #20hoursleftforourlayover This museum houses the largest collection of priceless Chinese artifacts and artwork in the world, including ancient bronze castings, calligraphy, scroll paintings, porcelain, jade, and rare books, many of which were possessions of the former imperial family. The full collection, which consists of some 650,000 pieces, spans many dynasties but each exhibit only puts on display about 1,700 pieces at a time. Unfortunately no pictures are allowed inside the museum so we couldn't take any but we were overwhelmed by the amount of history and artifacts on display here. I grabbed some pics from google to show some of the pieces on display at the museum below
After getting our culture on for the day, we took the metro over to Guandu Temple 關渡宮 #17hoursleftofourlayover We walked from the metro station, down old Guandu Street to the temple (only about 1 km walk). Guandu Temple is one of the oldest temples in Taipei, dating back to 1661, and is partly Buddhist, and partly Taoist temple, focusing worship on Mazu, the goddess of the sea.
This temple was beautiful. It looked like temples we had seen back in China with it's colors, but this temple took it up a notch with the detailed mosaic like (rooftop jianian) statues and figurines on its roof, as well as carved pillars and wood carvings within the temple. It was gorgeous.
We must have walked up at the perfect time because there was a performance going on at a stage right in front of the entrance of the temple (see videos below)
On the right hand side of the temple, there is an 80m long cave called Kufour Cave (or Buddha Cave) which is lined with 28 devas (a type of Buddhist spirit). At the end of the cave dug through the mountainside, there is a statue of the thousand-armed, thousand-eyed Guanyin (goddess of Mercy), where the hands and eyes are said to represent goodness for all humans. After exiting, you are rewarded with panoramic views of the Tamsui river.
After our busy day temple and museum exploring around Taipei, we headed back to our hotel to rest up for dinner at one of the many night markets in Taipei.
Fun fact: There are a shitload of scooters in Taipei. See the video below of us waiting to cross the street from the metro stop back to our hotel #onlyafewscootershere
For dinner we headed to the Ningxia Night Market which was only a few blocks away from our hotel. They have many types of food here from oyster omelet, stinky tofu, taro cake, tofu pudding and many other traditional Taiwan style dishes. Ningxia is a traditional and popular night market for the locals and tourists and has even earned the nickname "Taipei’s stomach".
Nate and I enjoyed some super yummy dishes including: fried chicken bites, a salad boat sandwich, dumplings, watermelon and mango juice, and stinky tofu with a side of duck blood curd...
My dad has long raved about stinky tofu. You can smell it from at least 5 stalls down and it smells like stinky, sweaty feet... (yum!) if you can get past the smell and actually eat this stuff it tastes similar to an aged cheese but with a tofu texture. Actually was pretty tasty! As for the duck blood curd, it kind of looked like liver but Nate and I were able to take a few bites and it actually wasn't too bad. Not something I would chow down on regularly but not horrible either. #beingfoodadventurous
The next morning we headed back to the airport for our flight to BALI!! (check out our Bali trip here (coming soon!) We were blessed enough to get to fly the whole way to Bali on a Hello Kitty plane #truestory Hello Kitty seats, food trays, silverware, pillows, blankets, safety messages... you name it - it was Hello Kitty. Even the plane was painted with Hello Kitty on the outside. #thankyoutaiwan #travelinginstyle
Taipei - Round 2
On the way back from Bali, we had another long layover in Taipei. We landed late at night and headed straight to our hotel. The next morning though, we went to go check out Taipei 101. This was built in 2004 and used to be the tallest building in the world until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai was completed in 2009. It still holds the title for the tallest and largest green building in the world though standing at 508 meters.
Taipei 101 is 101 stories tall #catchyname It is a symbol of the evolution of technology and Asian tradition with its design and was built to withstand typhoons and earthquakes. At the bottom of the tower is a multi story shopping mall with hundreds of stores, restaurants, and clubs. #getineducated
We found the ticket office for the observatory and headed up. The elevator went from floor 5 to floor 89 in only 36 seconds, traveling at 1010m per minute! #myearspopped #speeddemon I kept telling my fear of heights to shut up when we emerged onto the 89th floor. I just didn't stay next to the windows too long but I survived ;) Saw some gorgeous views and definitely was crazy being up that high and taking in the huge city. Even went outside to the observatory on the 91st floor!
Taipei 101 uses a damper to help make the building more stable (looks like a large ball hanging) To help enhance the safety of tall buildings during earthquakes, Japan invented technology using a damper. The damper isolates vibration and helps dissipate energy, essentially isolating the building from the earth, creating a relative shift that produces a counterforce, effectively reducing earthquake energy. #science
After attempting to conquer my fear of heights by going to the 2nd tallest building in the world, I had worked up an appetite! We decided to have lunch at a Michelin star dumpling restaurant located on the basement floor of the Taipei 10, Din Tai Fung. You can tell they get A LOT of business because their system was efficient! The have different queues for 1-2 people, 3-4, 5-6 and 7+. You take a number once you check in and basically watch a screen for your groups number to be seated. While you're waiting, you place your order on a little menu card and hand it to the hostess. Once you are seated, your food arrives within 5 minutes. Pretty legit!
We decided to enjoy some pork fried rice with egg, veggie and pork wontons, steamed shrimp and pork dumplings, and truffle and pork dumplings. Easy to see why this place has received a Michelin star! The dumplings were amazing and cheaply priced. The truffle and pork dumplings still make my mouth water every time I think about them.... Mmmmm #dumplinglover
We had enjoyed our quick layover in Taipei but had to skadaddle to the airport after our lunch to take our short flight back to Okinawa.
Enjoy the pics below of all the cool themed waiting gates at the Taipei airport :) #styl'n
Follow in our footsteps:
9ine Hotel (1st hotel we stayed at - convenient location (close to public transit), decent rooms, cheap price)
No. 255, Section 2, Yanping N Rd
Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
+886 2 2557 4999
No. 211, Guangzhou St, Wanhua District
Taipei City, Taiwan 10853
Huaxi St, Wanhua District
Taipei City, Taiwan 108
National Palace Museum
No. 221, Section 2, Zhishan Rd
Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111
8:30AM - 6:30PM, 8:30-9PM Fri & Sat
Entrance: $250 NTD, Audio guide $200 NTD
+886 2 2881 2021
Taipei City, Taiwan 112
Ningxia Night Market
Ningxia Rd, Datong District
Taipei City, Taiwan 103
5:30PM - 1AM
HolyPro Hotel Taipei (2nd hotel, ok quality, cheap price, located very close to Taipei 101 and public transit)
No. 15-2, Section 2, Keelung Rd
Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
+886 2 2345 3511
Taipei 101, No. 7, Section 5, Xinyi Rd
Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
9AM - 10PM
Entrance: $500 NT (ticket office on 5th floor)
Din Tai Fung
110, Taiwan, Taipei City, Xinyi District, City Hall Rd
11AM - 9:30PM
+886 2 8101 7799
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!