Sunday, November 17, 2013

big days in taipei

Taipei was an unexpected, but welcome, stop on the journey. It was our first taste of China before we spend a month on the mainland after a stop in Tokyo. We thought it'd be nice to see China minus Communism, so we had something to compare it to.

The first thing that really hit us that we were in China - we know Taiwan isn't China, but everyone there considers themselves Chinese, they speak Chinese, so close enough - so the first thing that made us really feel like we were in China was the stuff written on the streets. We saw many signs and other things first, but there was something about the Chinese on the streets that just seemed strange.

Since we didn't have too long of a time to spend in Taipei, we decided to have some full on tourist days out (something we really hadn't done much of on the trip so far). So we hit the mean streets of Taipei. The first stop was the Xingtain Taoist Temple. It is supposedly one of the most used temples in Taipei and it lived up to that. Tons of people flowed in and out of it, making offerings and getting blessed. It was a fun experience to stand in the middle of it and just watch everything going on. The temple had some really cool architecture too; they love their dragons.

Entrance to the Xingtain Temple.

Next stop was the Confucius Temple, which is a copy of the temple in the town that Confucius grew up in. But before we got there, we made a stop for Maggie to have a photo op with one of the town's spokeswomen.

  The Confucius Temple was very detailed and intricate with things to look at everywhere.

After our tours of Temples, it was off to the Shilin Night Market, one of the largest in town. Taiwan is known as one of the best places in the world for street food so we had to give it a go. Like most night markets in Asia, there are many things available - some more appealing to a western palate than others.

We decided on three different meals throughout the night. The first was a seafood egg omelet covered in corn and other sauces. The next was mushrooms wrapped in bacon, and finally we got a baked potato smothered with cheese.

The hard thing with street food at a crowded market like this was finding a place to eat it. Luckily there was a Taoist temple that seemed to be the popular place to sit on the steps and enjoy the fare.

Our next big day out in Taipei involved going to a part of town called Taipei 101 because of the skyscraper of the same name. There are tons of high end clothing stores and malls around the area that you can peruse for hours. Malls in Taipei go down as many stores as they go up.

Taipei 101 at (cloudy, foggy) day and night.
For dinner we were felling like some good ol' American food so we headed to a restaurant owned by a Chicagoan for a fantastic meal that left us quite happy. (And some amazing BBQ sauce!)

Our final big day in Taipei started to a trip to the National Palace Museum. It has the largest collection of Chinese artifacts in the world. It's called the Palace Museum because most of its collection was taken from the Forbidden Palace and smuggled to Taiwan before the Communists could deal with it. So even though it currently is not kept in a Palace, they kept the name.

You can't take pictures inside of it, so all we can show is the outside. But inside there were many great ancient artifacts. We saw Bronze pots and pieces of jade from as far back as 6,000 BC. While the western world was making clay pots, China had already mastered the art of bronze and making some really beautiful stuff. They also had a whole exhibit on snuff bottles that we wished we could have taken pictures of for Andrew's mom who collects them... but alas, no pictures. There were very few western tourists there and mostly it was Chinese tour groups that moved around with a pack mentality we had not seen before. It was like watching schools of fish or flocks of birds, the sheer precision they used in moving quickly around the place.

The front of the National Palace Museum.

For dinner this night we went to a world famous chain of restaurants called Modern Toilet. The whole place is filled with bathroom humor (sadly there was no poo poo platter, though). You sit on toilet seats and eat off of tables made out of bathtubs.

Maggie uses the toilette much more cutely than Andrew.
The restaurant is famous for serving meals in bowls that look like a toilet bowl, but sadly ours came in a bathtub. Desert at least came in a squat toilet, though.

Out flight out of Taipei was very early in the morning and the Taipei airport is an hour outside of Taipei and there were not cheap hotels in the area, so what are we to do? Sleep in the airport, obviously. It was actually a lot nicer than we thought because we found some plush sofas in the food court that we never got kicked out of.

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