Andy: We are still in the same dodgy hostel for the remainder of our time in Taipei. This place is one of the worst hostels we’ve stayed in so far but that’s a story for another day.
For the second half of our time in Taipei we were fast approaching the Mid Autumn Festival. We had seen preparations in Vietnam before we left and were thrilled to find out it was celebrated here too. It is a harvest festival which is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar which coincides around mid September or October. The moon is in a glorious full state giving plenty of light to the locals to see what they cook on their BBQs!
No-one seems to know where the BBQ tradition comes from, but everyone seems to be doing it in parks and open spaces etc, and why not! Everyone must have over-purchased though because we were seeing BBQs going on for the next few days on pavements, balconies and shop fronts!
We took a walk along the riverside and not only were there multiple groups enjoying their BBQs, there was also multiple karaoke stations set up, but also a ballroom dance floor and spaces for aspiring girl groups to belt out the latest Chinese hits.
Seda: As we walked further along the Tamsui riverside we came across some cafes and bars next to a ferry pier. The celebrations in that area seemed a bit posher compared to what we had seen earlier. The karaoke was replaced by a saxophone player and BBQs were replaced with posh drinks and ice creams. Audiences were either sitting in cafes/bars or on the pier side stone benches.
There were firework displays on both sides of the river, and with the full moon and elegantly lit modern buildings and bridges, it made a spectacular sight.
The next morning in Taipei was a bit like the early morning on boxing day in UK…Not a soul on the streets other than us crazy kids! We needed lunch and the good thing about our current location is that there are many small food stalls around here as it is the surrounding area of Taipei Main Station. A huge number of people come and go everyday and quick Taiwanese food of course is in high demand.
If we still fail to find a good dinner option, in spite of these lovely alternatives, Andy would call for a takeaway, or go and fish to feed us!
We had a lovely lunch as the city eventually did wake up. One of the main dishes of Taiwanese cuisine is braised beef noodle soup. As expected, I had checked this soup out in a few different locations and luckily found the best one in a small restaurant where Andy has found this yummy sausage rice bowl…win win! The guys there didn’t speak English but they did speak the universal language of good food and miming.
Andy: Something that we’d forgotten all about from our time in Japan a few years ago, but had come flooding back to us firstly in Seoul, and now in Taiwan was you need to look up as well as down when searching for shops, cafes and restaurants. What I mean by this is that unlike England, businesses of any kind can be on any floor of a high rise building. You may see a sign for a restaurant you would like to try, but it may say 8F for example. This means it’s on the 8th floor, and to get there you may have to walk through 7 other cafes or restaurants, but most of the time there’s a lift. Sometimes though, even if there is a lift it’s well hidden down a little alley. We’ve had this scenario when searching for a hotel we’ve booked and they can sometimes be a little tricky to find.
Another museum we visited in Taipei was The 228 Museum and Peace Park. Whilst researching things to do in Taipei this kept coming up, but we couldn’t really find an answer as to what 228 meant. It all became clear when we went to the museum thankfully. During the Japanese rule of Taiwan some struggling people resorted to selling cigarettes on the black market. Japanese officials didn’t like this and whilst putting a stop to it someone accidentally got shot, causing an uprising against the Japanese by the Taiwanese people. Unfortunately later in the day, more people were killed as the protests continued. This happened on February 28th (228) 1947 and since then those killed are remembered every year on that date and the museum commemorates them.
We also visited the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) the same day. It was rather a strange place with short violent movie clips being projected onto the walls in the buildings stairwells of all places. However, it did have this rather cool, if slightly unnerving feature…
Seda: A very good example of how small the world was our meeting with Shaun and his family just outside of National Taiwan Museum while having a quick picture. Shawn studied engineering at Warwick University and lived in the area for a while. Our chat revealed that his wife Tiffany lived in the Leamington Spa area and had also been familiar with life in the UK. Later on, Andy and I were reflecting on this unbelievable coincidence as we were enjoying the pineapple cake they had generously given to us earlier.
The number one place to visit in Taiwan apparently is the National Palace Museum. So, we took a train and a bus to get there and went to see for ourselves. It was great having a bus ride too as it’s always very enjoyable to have a glimpse of a bit of local transport experience.
It’s a huge building spread over 3 floors housing thousands of ancient Chinese artefacts including scrolls, documents, art, pottery, furniture and of course the Jadeite Cabbage! It has been called “the most famous masterpiece” in the entire National Palace Museum, so of course we had to see it for ourselves.
Seda: Having visited the British Museum and spending 7 hours there, I’m not going to lie to you, I wasn’t massively impressed with the National Palace Museum of Taipei. Of course Chinese pottery is worth seeing but if “the masterpiece” is a carving of a Chinese cabbage with a camouflaged cricket on it, then forgive my disappointment in paying 10 of our precious pounds per head to see it. The building itself was striking though!
After taking the bus back to the station there was another market in the area we wanted to visit. Shilin Night Market is said to be the biggest and best in Taipei. Here we tried the famous Taiwanese wraps which was a bit naughty as it was very oily but Andy and I shared it so that means no calories, right!?
Andy had already made friends with the security guard at the pier and learnt all about the boats that make two evening trips on the Tamsui river. We had planned to do it on our last evening which worked out really well. We shared this boat with some old dears as Andy put it.
The light show Taipei gave us that night was spectacular. It was a lovely way to say goodbye to a great city we had spent 10 wonderful days in.
On our way back from the pier, our route took us through the Ningxia Night Market again where we could finally enjoy a late dinner. This however was not as easy for me as it was for Andy because every edible thing that was sold on the stalls was pork, even the traditional ones I know as vegetarian dishes were sold as pork added version. As I was getting hungrier and angrier, we have found this lovely steak stall which was more expensive but my generous husband kindly said “yeah whatever” so I ordered one. I said well done in many variations; well cooked, long cooked, very cooked… And guess what? It was pink when they put the plate in front of me! Thankfully the guy agreed to put it back on the hot plate,he’s chopped it into small pieces, cooked it more and served it after smothering it in some sauce so I could not see whatever the colour of the meat would be this time. Good news this time, it was delicious. The picture below is of somebody else’s plate as it looked much better than my incinerated one!
Then our last day arrived unfortunately. We had already planned to do all our favourite things one last time on that day. A quick walk took us back to the Ximen Walker where we would surely visit our favourite bubble tea shop, but first we needed breakfast/lunch which turned out to be a dish we had not tried before. Andy opted for a flat bread with egg and bacon whereas I had a rice roll that contained chicken, fried egg and this delicious flaky thing that we kept seeing but I never tried with the fear of it’s resemblance to Japanese tuna flakes. It was absolutely lovely. I love that the Taiwanese use rice for wraps, burger buns and deserts, in fact rice for everything! Who needs bread when you have sticky rice!
Andy: We had a lot of time before heading for the airport but we were not feeling very energetic. If we were back home, we would be resting much more but while travelling all our time is spent trying to see more and more of a city and we get exhausted sometimes. I guess it would have been different in our 20s!
Only one of the cinemas was showing an English movie and that was called Angel has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman. It was a very loud action movie that wouldn’t be my number 1 choice any other time but was very enjoyable that day as we sat with our popcorn and drinks. I had read about travelling people watching English movies at cinemas every now and then to get that feeling of “home”. Can’t say I disagree.
**Correction** – In the previous post about Taiwan we mentioned dorayaki cakes. Well, since posting that we found out they are actually called a Wheel Pie or Wheel Cake and that a Dorayaki is something completely different. We wouldn’t want to be giving out duff information now would we, just in case any of our lovely readers were packing their bags for Taiwan just to taste a Dorayaki, I mean Wheel Pie!