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Taiwan!

My travels continue! I've barely stopped over the past three weeks, I have to slow down or I'm going to burn out at this rate, ha.

I had very few preconceptions about Taiwan and so it was an interesting stop in my journey! If I thought I stuck out in Singapore, that compared nothing to Taiwan! I think I saw maybe only two other non-Asians in all of Taipei. I was like 'where are all of my fellow tourists at?!' But it turns out all of my fellow tourists were Singaporean and Japanese going by my eavesdropping. There were thankfully some English signs at the major stations and very rarely around some of the tourist hotspots, but that was all.

With this in mind, I opened google maps and chose the most interesting looking thing within walking distance of Taipei Main Station.

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And soon arrived at this incredibly long wall.

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Then this fairly epic gate.

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And this, I believe, is the National Theatre.

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And this the Concert Hall.

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The photos do no justice to the sense of scale. This was just... awesome. Huge. This was the Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall.

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This is presumably Chiang Kai-Shek. I am embarrassed to say I still don't know anything about who he is (okay, felt bad enough to wikipedia him, cannot figure out exactly how to summarise who he is despite being a leader and important political figure throughout WWII and until 1975, here's the link for some fairly dry reading) although it did feel a little strange seeing such a massive statue of person as though deified, even more so when you consider he died less than forty years ago. I wonder if you'd get the same feeling at the Abraham Lincoln memorial.

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The view of the rest of the grounds from the memorial hall.

At this point I wandered off in the most interesting looking direction and milled about aimlessly for a while, since I felt pretty sure I had already peaked in my touring and nothing else could impress me.

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UNTIL BY PURE CHANCE I FOUND MY FAVOURITE CAKE STORE IN THE WORLD, 85 DEGREES C!

There's a store in Sydney that I really like, I had no idea it was a chain! Turns out it originated in Taiwan!

My mandarin was tragically limited to 'hello', 'thank you', and 'sorry' (the latter two being frantic last minute youtube memorisations) so it was a little difficult, but luckily all the places I went there was at least one person around who spoke English - quite well in fact, with no discernible accent - and in the places that didn't gestures worked just fine. Hooray for Arabic numerals being near universal! This was enough to flail my way into purchasing some cake, and omg, what cake it was.

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It was even better than the Sydney store's fare. So light and fluffy. Simple, really, but superbly executed.

By this point though, I was thoroughly lost and didn't know where I was going but also wasn't in any rush so didn't resort to Google maps.

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I did see this map on the side of a school of China. Sadly useless for navigational purposes.

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At this point I stumbled across the botanical gardens entirely by accident! It should be mentioned that the weather in Taiwan was absolutely perfect, so even though the gardens themselves weren't all that impressive after Singapore's, this was a lovely stroll.

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Sat down to rehydrate, and came across a heap of squirrels! Squirrels are interesting to Australians, okay. It's a thing. We don't have them.

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I believe this was maybe the rear of National History Museum? Would probably look a lot more impressive when all the lotus are in bloom.

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This was creepy and awesome.

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I don't even know, it was just insanely detailed and amazing.

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...Merlion, is that you?

Around this point I found what appeared to be a Japanese tour group and kind of nonchalantly followed a distance behind them to see where they would go next.

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Jackpot! They led me to Longshan Temple. This is the outer gate.

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This is the Temple Entrance. The dragons and all the details were mind-blowing.

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The place was also packed. This was one of the (many) rear temples. It was temples all the way back! Lots of incense burning and praying so I didn't linger long.

This was basically my first day in Taipei.  I spent the rest of the day lost in the crazy rabbit warren that is Taipei Main Station trying to find my bus bay. It was nightmarish, it literally took hours. There was some signage but it was so sparse and random and misleading! My feet were already killing me from walking around, it wasn't until I found a photo walkthrough someone had posted on their blog that I was finally able to locate the correct station, much less the right bay.  Gah! Seriously, how did I travel before I had a smartphone? It seems miraculous looking back.

Luckily my hotel was chock full of multi-lingual staff. Actually my hotel was incredibly amazing, I apparently vastly misjudged what my dollar was worth in Taiwan as what to me was kind of middling - not super budget but a pretty awesome deal for an airport hotel - was actually freaking luxurious. (It was helped out by getting the room on sale). The shower had magic frosting glass. I kept turning it on and off like a child with a shiny new toy. I am not mature enough for high end hotels.

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The rest of Taiwan in no particular order... this was one of the night markets, though still only afternoon so only a handful of the stalls were open.

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No idea! Another temple! At this point I was no longer impressed by them.

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A kind of cool building in Xieminding. This appeared to be the shopping district.

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More Xieminding. The shopping in general seemed pretty good in Taiwan, I didn't really take advantage since I'm trying to save both on luggage and money but the prices looked pretty excellent. Not Thailand excellent maybe, but better than Japan and Singapore for sure. I left Taiwan with a lot of spare currency.

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Taipei 101! By this point I had figured out the train system so it saved me some walking. It's more fun to approach super-tall buildings on foot though, so you can truly appreciate their scale.

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Inside Taipei 101 there was an 'exhibit' (cough cough jewellery store cough) filled with coral gemstone jewellery and carvings. Some of them were so beautiful and insanely detailed it felt like they should have been in a gallery instead of a store, really.

Since I have a great weakness for tall places I naturally headed for the observation deck. But it is apparently super-popular (or I chose the worst possible time) as there was a massive queue to get in, and incidentally also to get out.

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Still, the view was pretty good!  It was getting dark by the time I made it up, this was the only photo that didn't come out horrendously blurry.

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Saw this on the bus on the way into Taipei. Would have loved to explore the mountains a bit more, some of the natural scenery looked amazing.

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A truly creepy thing in Taipei main station. There was water running across the body from the head to soak into the grass.

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Sun Yat-sen memorial hall! Didn't actually go inside this one as it was pretty crowded and also there appeared to be something big going on? Actually there was some sort of big thing going on everywhere I went, maybe I accidentally managed to stumble onto Taiwan festival or something, all the signs were in Mandarin so who knows!

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From the grounds. The Taiwanese love their manicured flowerbeds.

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Some kind of weekend markets/festival? There were a bunch of huge banners about marking the dates, so possibly the latter.

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A neat little landscaped park I wandered through.

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According to signage in the area, this is most likely The Grand Hotel. I tried to get a better view but wound up horribly lost and on some bike path that also apparently sometimes took cars, god, I don't even know. Road in Taiwan are insane you know? Road rules appear to merely be suggestions and right of way apparently goes to the biggest vehicles and there are fleets of motorbikes everywhere spilling into the gaps like liquid death. I was super happy whenever I found an overpass or anything to avoid crossing the road. I eventually just started loitering around intersections until a local turned up and crossed with them.

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Side view of the Grand Hotel during my stint of being super lost.

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Monument at 228 Peace Park.

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Mini-pagoda at the Peace Park.

There was a lot more cool stuff in Taiwan but after a while you get a bit numb to overcrowded alleyways and epic temples and stop taking photos of them, heh.

Next up, Japan!  Actually there will likely be a few posts about Japan, it's far too much to fit into one post!

Hope everyone is keeping well!

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
shangrilove
Dec. 10th, 2013 04:35 pm (UTC)
Wheeeeee you look like you had lots of fun in Taiwan. I am absolutely amazed by the blue sky in the pictures you took, when I was there in the summer, everything was covered in such a thick layer of grey smog. I was there for a week and not once did I see a blue sky.

I love all the cake shops they have in Taiwan. I mean Cafe 85 degrees is nice, but since living in Europe/North America, I take my coffee pretty seriously and theirs is way too watered down. But still, they have a nice dessert selection and it's always fun to try their new creations. But there were some amazing hole in the wall places around that had amazing food, especially macarons (I think I was there for the macaron craze).

Have tons of in Japan, I love reading your travel posts!
sinnatious
Dec. 11th, 2013 01:17 am (UTC)
Wow, I've heard a few people say something similar, guess I got lucky with the weather! Especially right now, with all the awful air in China at the moment probably drifting over.

Lucky I'm not a coffee drinker! Their cakes were top notch though, for sure, it would be super easy to have your diet consist of nothing but desserts there, heh.

Thanks!
thesundaywriter
Dec. 10th, 2013 05:59 pm (UTC)
the memorial hall looks so impressive, and i love the gate!
my suburb has squirrels, they're rare but you do see them scurrying across gates on occasion
lol distant relative of the merlion, the merdragon!
sinnatious
Dec. 11th, 2013 01:18 am (UTC)
We need a merwolf to complete the set.

Neat! I saw a couple of squirrels in Singapore too at the Botanical Gardens but they were much too speedy to photograph.
sillk
Dec. 10th, 2013 06:37 pm (UTC)
Hey you!

First of all, Happy Belated Birthday! *\(^w^)/*

Then, yes, I'm still following your posts. Especially the cosplay and travel posts. And especially the last two travel posts!

Because the funny thing is, I'll be doing a little Asia trip next year as well! Some days in Singapore, one week in Malaysia and one week in Taiwan ^-*
sinnatious
Dec. 11th, 2013 01:42 am (UTC)
Hey hey, thanks! Good to see you still around.

Nice! It should be awesome fun. If you hit Malaysia you should check out the Lego Resort! I saw a heap of advertisements for it in Singapore and kept thinking 'damn, I should have gone to that'.
sillk
Dec. 11th, 2013 06:39 am (UTC)
Thanks for the tip, but there is actually a Lego Resort here in Germany.

...Ah. But if you ever stray all the way to south Germany, give word ^v*
sinnatious
Dec. 11th, 2013 09:58 am (UTC)
:O Serious? Why I am only now hearing about all these Lego Resorts everywhere?!
kotoshin
Dec. 10th, 2013 09:59 pm (UTC)
Happy belated b-day to you too! man, if I'd known you were going to Taiwan next I'd have tried to leave you directions to the Xieminding doujinshi stalls.

I grew up in Taipei for the first 9 years of my life so misses it horribly. D: food is so insanely cheap and good there.

85 degrees were started by a few post-grads who came back to Taiwan from oversea studies, and they have a central kitchen and the chains basically ORDER all their wares from central kitchen each day. My maternal grandma found out once when she went to buy a specific cake and the counter girl was like "gimme five min, I haven't unpacked everything from delivery yet so not sure if it's in stock" XDDD

The wiki entries on Chiang Kai-Shek is bad because he's such a pivotal and controversial figure in RECENT chinese history. Not sure how the eng. version is, but there's wiki edit wars on the chinese ver ALL THE TIME from mainland China and Taiwan.

REcent chinese history makes me angry and foam at the mouth, so I'll digress from rants on that other than the signage. OH GOD the signage. this is a stupid political war thing leftover.

Chinese is HARD to phoenticize. Taiwan first came up with one version, which mainland China did NOT recognize and came up with their own (and unrecognized vice versa). Given China's population base, pinying soon exceeded Taiwan's in usage/popularity. Thing is, when Chiang Kai-Shek's party LOST power in Taiwan - the new government is headed by a dude who is DUMBER than Bush jr. and tried to undo a LOT of sensible work in education and came up with his OWN party-line-endorsed one. So one street oft has 3 diff phoneticizations. DX

(stupid education reform example: doing away the multiplication table in MATHS cuz it's too hard for kids to memorize. instead of 2x4 =8, you memorize 2+2+2+2=8. WTF)


Dude's now in jail for massive embezzling and bribery, so serves him right. (basically this is a known and accepted practice in chinese politics, but you HAVE to keep your word and actually do a proper job so everyone saves face. not him! he sold to MULTIPLE bidders and just didn't bother carrying promises through for positions/exclusive market/construction contracts so they ALL TURNED and ratted on him. only diehard supporters believe his 'innocence' now, basically.)

/rant. urm, and yeah, Taiwan's FULL of temples. being mostly fishermen, we had a lot of temples for praying for their safety and stuff. I keep wanting to see an actual medium session sometime. XD;


on something happier before I forget: the creepy trees are actually banyu. The hangings are 'breathing roots' and can sometimes put down and become support for the main tree. this is why Banyu is sometimes known as the 'walking tree' and one tree can seem like an entire GROVE. (the roots spread out along the main to become new support trunks taking in air/water/soil and sometimes even AFTER The main body dies the rest of the tree is fine)
sinnatious
Dec. 11th, 2013 01:46 am (UTC)
Nice! Small world. Thanks for all the back story there, gives everything a bit more context! Heh, and probably for the best you didn't direct me to doujinshi stalls, it might have been bad for my luggage limit. :P

Banyu are awesome! I've seen similarly propagating trees at home before but none that looked like that.
caterfree10
Dec. 11th, 2013 12:01 am (UTC)
All this looks so cool! And idk about you, but I loved all the temple pics. Then again, I am a sucker for dragons and since all of them had dragons, I might be slightly biased. x3

But yea, good to know you're having a lot of fun on your world tour so far! Can't wait to see the Japan pics. C: And hey, I'm applying for the JET program right now so I might seem some of those places soon too x3
sinnatious
Dec. 11th, 2013 01:48 am (UTC)
The temples were pretty awesome. Haha, dragons everywhere.

Thanks! And that's brilliant, good luck with the JET application!
firedraygon97
Dec. 11th, 2013 03:22 am (UTC)
Taiwan! And Chiang Kai-Shek! I haven't heard that name since grade 8 history, haha.

That duck thing is extremely creepy. Imagine waiting at the station alone and then it started moving towards you...!!

Safe travels to Japan!
sinnatious
Dec. 11th, 2013 10:17 am (UTC)
D: Someone needs to make a horror movie of it!

Thanks!
rafira
Dec. 12th, 2013 10:53 am (UTC)
wow, gorgeous photos. i'm really glad you posted them!


caaaake
sinnatious
Dec. 14th, 2013 08:52 am (UTC)
So much cake, you have no idea. XD
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )