A Travellerspoint blog

Taiwan

Made in Taiwan!

All things modern and Panda's!!

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Once we left Myanmar we had a whistlestop visit to Bangkok as we arrived at about 9am and had an evening flight to Kuala Lumpur. We left our bags at the airport and caught the bus into the city. Not having that much time we didn't attempt to do a lot, just wandered around the shops a bit as we got reacquainted with all the mod cons and then we went to the cinema to see Inglorious Basterds, which we both really enjoyed. Then we ended the day with bit of drama as for some reason I'd got it in my head that we were departing at our arrival time. Thankfully Adam realised just in the knick of time. A quick dash through a shopping mall, and a taxi driver willing to put his foot down got us there with before check in closed.

We then had two days in Kuala Lumpur where again we didn't do too much. Staying at the same place meant we got in a few visits to the pet shop we found last time, which was good. We also reconsidered buying the souvenirs we hadn't last time at the malls and squeezed in a trip to the cinema. Definitely worth it as well, we saw the Disney film Up, in 3D! It was really, really enjoyable and I would highly recommend it if you get a chance. It was weird how you got used to the difference though, which was good in a way because it didn't give us a headache or anything like we thought it might. Both of us kept lowering our glasses to see what effect it was having.

The other item ticked off the list was going up the Petronas Towers. There was a little 3D video presentation beforehand which visually was really bad and is what made us worry that Up would give us a headache. The rest of the experience though was pleasant. There is a little bridge that connects the two towers and this is as far as you can go up, it sits at roughly half way. The views were good although within a couple of days we were going to have gone to new heights, quite literally. So despite it being good and worth doing, it has been out done.
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The following day we flew to Taipei. It is a new destination for Air Asia and one of their longer flights so the plane was bigger and newer. We got a tad excited when we thought we were going to get in flight entertainment but it turned out that you had to pay for it. So that was quick a no no, now that we're both fully fledged cheapskates. Still it was nice to be on a new plane and it was fitting as we were hoping Taiwan was going to be the the height of modernity. A little Japan.

On arrival we weren't blown away by the airport and there were no spaceships flying around but we managed to maintain a positive attitude as we boarded the bus. We were dropped off in the city and then had a short walk to our hostel. It quickly became clear that these hostels, which are really the only cheap accommodation, are mostly inhabited by students who are staying long term. There doesn't seem to be that many tourists in Taipei, not backpackers at any rate. While we were there though Taipei was hosting the 2009 Deaflypmics, so we did see a lot of foreigners milling about, sporting their national colours. It would have been good to go see some but it never really worked out. Having found our hostel we were a bit disappointed, it seemed to be a little on the unfriendly side and a bit scruffy. As we were both tired we didn't attempt to see any more of Taipei, we simply popped out for some food before calling it a night.

The next day we got acquainted with the metro which is really good, it's so fast and regular. I don't think we were waited more than 2 minutes. It's also really clean and spacious, it never feels like you're underground.
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Taipei is definitely one of the easiest cities to get around. The first thing we wanted to clap our eyes on was Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world, although not for much longer. Still the main thing is, it was when we went up it! Having caught the metro to City Hall we knew we were now in a modern metropolis. Adam said he thought it was a little like Hong Kong and it definitely had a New York feel with the block layout and they even have an area which they call Little New York. As we rounded a corner the slender form of Taipei 101 shot up into the sky in front of us. It lorded over all the other buildings around it, nothing even comes close and its sleek bamboo style design made it all the more striking.
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The shopping centre which sits at its base did not open till 11am as was the norm across Taipei which became a little frustrating at times as we are early birds these days. Still we found an entrance round the back and it turned out trips into the sky kicked off a little earlier. Once we'd purchased the slightly pricey tickets, we were shepherded into a lift and it all got a bit futuristic.
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The lights were lowered, the ceiling began to twinkle and a little screen showed our 30 second rise up to the 89th floor. Once the doors opened we all hurried over to the floor to ceiling windows to gaze out at a miniaturized Taipei, with little toy sized yellow cabs zooming about the place.
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It really was an amazing birdseye view and we were given hand held devices which took you on a little tour around, explaining the different things you could see. It was a very slick operation and we both loved it.
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We went up to the next floor where there is outside access, unfortunately the view is not so good as the walls are so high but still the air is nice and fresh. Then we saw a little video documenting the building's construction including the installation of the massive damper ball which sits at the 88th floor.
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This counteracts the affects of strong winds or an earthquake on 101 and you can can go down to see it. We spent quite a long time at Taipei 101 because it was all really interesting and impressively done. When we were back down at a normal level we had a quick look round the mall but it was quite pricey. It had a kind of 1920's old Hollywood feel which made us feel even more scruffy, we departed quickly before we were tempted to spend any money. Unfortunately this resistance would begin to wane in the coming days.

Outside we mooched around the malls, getting a feel for the city. Everything is on a grand scale, the roads are wide and straight and there is a distinct order to things.
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Out of all the cities I have ever visited Taipei is the most orderly, nobody would dream of jaywalking. This said it never felt stuffy or oppressive in this regard but just how it was meant to be. There are a zillion shopping malls and you can part with your money very, very easily. Which we began to realise as the day progressed.

We caught the metro to the Taipei Main Station as we were looking for the gadget/Anime mecca, we really wanted to immerse ourselves in what we saw as modern Taipei culture, with all of the influences of Japan. In pursuit of this we enjoyed our first stroll down an underground mall.
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They span out from the main station's metro stop. There is Taipei New World Mall and Metro Mall to name just two. Down here you can enjoy air conditioning and a slightly less manic atmosphere as there is no traffic to contend with. I think their construction was mainly due to a shortage of space but the heat also plays a factor.

As we walked along we came across our first amusement arcade which was full of grabber machines. These became a big feature of our visit and I dread to think how much we spent on them but we did win quite a bit and it was always good fun.
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We also discovered a game called Bricks were you sit in front of a large tv screen and working as a team you have to place oversized, plastic, Lego style bricks to help these little people eat the fruit floating above them. Then in the bonus round your speed is tested as you have to match the shape indicated on the screen as fast as you can. A game or two of Bricks became a daily ritual.
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We walked round for hours, going from shop to shop, underground and on top of it. There was so much to take in and a lot of things we wanted to buy because you just wouldn't be able to get it at home. The downside to all of this was my knees, which were really beginning to be painful. Thankfully we managed to find a pharmacy so I could buy some strong anti-inflammatories. I always knew it was likely they would begin to play up at one stage but still it was very disheartening. By now it was early evening so we decided to have dinner and then head back to the hostel. Food thus far had been very disappointing as our expectations of getting some good Chinese food had been high. That night it didn't improve as when we'd ordered we both realised that the restaurant smelt like a farmyard, due to the aptly named Stinky Tofu that people were enjoying.
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Once back at the hostel we were informed that there had been a mix up with our reservation and they asked if we could leave the next day. This wasn't exactly ideal as we had nowhere else to stay and finding somewhere was going to be difficult. As I said before hostels are the only cheap accommodation and even they're not that cheap. We struggled throughout the evening with the dodgy internet as we tried to do some research. In the morning we had two names and we set of on the metro to check them out. The first was a non starter as we could not find the place. We were definitely in the right location but it was no where to be seen and non of the locals had heard of it. Thankfully we had more luck at the Happy Family Hostel. The room was bright and Tom, the man in charge was helpful. Having secured new digs we walked back to pick up our bags.

Having settled in to our new digs we made the decision that we would stay for the entirety of our visit to Taiwan. Although we had intentions to visit somewhere else in the country we came to the conclusion that it would be too expensive and we still had a lot that we wanted to experience in the capital. The rest of the day we mooched about, looking at more shops, soaking up the atmosphere, riding the metro and popping coins into the arcade machines. We still had not found the centre of all things gadgety but we continued to persevere as we knew it was out there somewhere.
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The following day we took the metro out to the Miramax Mall which has a massive ferris wheel attached to the side of it.
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I had been badgering Adam about seeing The Time Travellers Wife as I've listened to the audio book a couple of times since coming away. He was not so keen but gave into me in the end. I came out sorely disappointed as they'd left half of it out and it felt incredibly disjointed, the establishment of the relationship didn't seem plausible at all. Adam having not read/listened to the book had been pleasantly surprised, it hadn't been as torturous as he'd been expecting. We then consumed vanilla icecream which they mixed up with hot fudge sauce and pieces of brownie on an ice cold slab in front of us, it was definitely naughty but oh so nice!

In the afternoon we explored more of the underground malls which really do go on for miles and miles. They have a whole sections just devoted to books, clothes and food. There are also areas which have been set up with large mirrors so that dance groups, of which they are many, can practice their routines. We guessed there must be regular competitions and we would have liked to have gone to one, but we never saw anything advertised.

The next day we stumbled across an exhibition of students work at an art and design university. It was really very interesting and there were lots of imaginative and inspirational displays. The use of light in many was very beautiful and we sauntered round for quite sometime.
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It made me wish that I was more creatively minded. After this we finally found a large shop which was dedicated to gadgets. There were about five floors which were comprised of little shops selling all sorts of things. It was reminiscent of malls that we had been to in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur but it was still interesting. Adam pointed out that technology is so universal these days that it is unlikely you're going to see something truly ground breaking, well not if it is for sale anyway. Still we explored all corners and bought a couple of necessary items, there was no splurging.

The next morning we wanted to visit a Chinese market that was renowned for specialising in traditional medicine. It was a little quieter than we were expecting and we didn't get any great urge to go in and ask for them to diagnose us but we did buy some lovely tea. It was a twist on standard green tea as it was mixed with dried fruits and it smelt lovely. We had a little sample as well and both agreed it was a worthwhile investment.

Continuing the theme we visited a night market. There are lots throughout Taipei and a definite must if you visit. It was absolutely heaving with people despite being a Sunday night.
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We weaved our way down the narrow streets with stalls which were overflowing on either side. At one end we came across an area which was devoted to pets and there were dozens of cats and dogs for sale.
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Most of them in cages which made me a bit sad but they all looked like they were well cared for. Still part of me wished I could emancipate the lot or at least go round and convince all the locals that they wanted a new pet.
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Unfortunately it was never go to be that simple. We spent quite a while looking at each of the cages and there were less expected animals present as well, like a pig and a goat. There were also some exotic frogs which Adam liked and a number of cool looking fish.
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After our stint as Dr Doolittle wannabies we were both hungry and found a place to eat. A little unsure of exactly what we had ordered we weren't salivating when presented with some slightly conspicuous looking noodle soup. One of which had a kind of froth on the top of it. As I said before the food was the biggest let down and we never really had a meal that we completely enjoyed. Everything seemed a little on the sloppy side and not exactly full of flavour as you might expect.

The next day was probably the best day thus far as we went to the zoo! My biggest desire to go was based on the fact that they had a couple of Giant Pandas which are pretty much my favourite animal. We both presumed it was going to be expensive but quite to the contrary it was unbelievably cheap, only about £3 each! We got there a bit early, mainly due to my excitement and I prowled around outside waiting for the gates to be opened.
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In the end though I was glad we did because you usually only get an allotted amount of time in the Panda House but as there were not many people we got to spend a lot of time in there. One of them sat there facing us, with his legs splayed munching on Bamboo for the whole time and he didn't show any signs of slowing up.
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His brother wandered about from one end to the other, sometimes trying to coax his sibling into a bit of play fight however the allure of the Bamboo tended to prove too strong.
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They were amazing to see up close, the density of the fur and their roundedness literally overwhelmed me with a need to hug one, which unfortunately was not an option.
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After the Pandas you may have thought the rest of the zoo would be a let down, but it wasn't there was a lot to see as they literally had every animal imaginable. Well apart from a Polar Bear, that would have been cool. We walked for hours examining everything and making sure we got the most out of our £3.
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We saw Koala's as well which was good because we didn't end up seeing a single one in Australia.
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Adam developed a fondness for a Sun Bear which he called Sam, he was very content having a good chew on some wood and he really reminded me of Baloo from the Jungle Book.
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We then visited the Insectarium where I once again confronted my fear of fluttery butterflies in the name of good wildlife photography. We both got really into it and ended up with some very good photos.
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After the zoo we wanted to take the Gondola/Cable Car up into the hills surrounding Taipei as there are meant to be beautiful views and some tea plantations. However routine maintenance work was being carried out so we caught the metro back in to the city. The rest of that day and the next we indulged our need to shop. Ignoring the feelings of guilt and trying to keep a lid on things a little bit we only purchased things we knew we wouldn't find anywhere else. There was this great shop, it was the Japanese version of the pound shop but everything was cooler and only cost 39p! I could have bought a lot more but we remained selective. Well apart from the bendy chopping board that Adam bought, that said it will be very useful.

My knees were pretty painful by our last afternoon so I left Adam to continue to searching for any other must haves and went back to the room to rest up. He returned with a few more items, and despite being sad that we were leaving as we had both fallen in love with Taipei, for the sake of our budget it was time to go.

Having had a rest I just had enough energy left to make an evening visit to Snake Alley. This is more for tourists than locals, who by all accounts find the whole idea a little disgusting. In this most depraved of places, I'm exaggerating slightly although it did have a very seedy vibe to it, you can eat snake and even enjoy snake blood mixed with your liquor.
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We arrived quite late and if the night had been going strong it seemed to be reaching its conclusion. Seeing the snakes coiled up in their cages I lost any desire, not that I'd really had it in the first place, to choose one for my dinner. Adam being more of an adventurous eater was quite keen to try some but with me not on board he decided against it. I think the slightly sad atmosphere didn't help. We ended up eating another tasteless meal, which was then rounded off with some shaved ice, mango and icecream which quickly looked like a bowl of sick.
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Our food woes continued. Still it was the only real downside to Taipei, everything else had been great and I will definitely be visiting Taiwan again one day.

The following morning we got up, had breakfast, bought a souvenir metro tea towel and caught the bus to the airport. Where again we were slightly disappointed. A little heads up for those who make it to Taipei, there are no good places to eat beyond customs, so don't um and ah over the Burger King, just have it!

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 13:11 Archived in Taiwan Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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