Taipei is a nice city but it’s relatively non-descript and could be any city anywhere. It has the similar SE Asian rain protected sidewalks in Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Singapore - the latter two which it’s often compared. Taipei seems to share some of the cultural and history of Hong Kong but lacks the buzz. It has the same orderly feel as Singapore but lacks the modern glitz of skyscrapers (Taipei 101 is the only building over 30 stories) and shopping malls. My hostel was located near Taipei 101 so I was able to view the tower at different angles and different times throughout my visit. One night I hiked to Elephant Mountain for a view of the city skyline. It wasn’t a steep hike but with the humidity my shirt was wet all the way through with sweat.
The next day I went to the National Palace Museum which has the best collection of Qing, Ming, etc. Chinese art. Chinese art mostly consists of vases and earthenware cast in porcelain. The paintings are typical “flat” images on a scrolled paper. In 2,000 of practice art very little advancement of technique appeared to have occurred.
I ate lunch at Modern Toilet in the Ximen area of the city. Taipei has several themed restaurants - eat in an airplane, at a hospital, etc. - this was the eat in a bathroom out of a toilet themed restaurant. After lunch I walked around the Sun Yat-Sen memorial to the elite bookstore - a five story mall / bookstore. I got my haircut at QB House which was a similar setup to the one in Hong Kong. For dinner I ate at a local western place - grilled cheese - the place was packed with hip Taiwanese
The next morning I walked around the Daan area of the city. A art gallery, flower market, and jade market were set up on adjoining blocks beneath a city overpass. I had a cup of coffee at Mr. Brown Coffee - Taiwan’s leading coffee export - again it wasn’t anything too special compared to all the other coffee places in town. I continued walking through Daan before eventually reaching the shopping areas around Taipei Main Train station. From there I took the metro back to the hostel to avoid the sun.
The next day I went to 85C coffee shop in Guting. This is a major Taiwan chain that has started to expand to California but the coffee was average - in a city with 1,000s of individual cafes this place didn’t stand out. I had an amazing dumpling lunch at some random place I found on the walk to the Chang Kai Shek memorial. The sun has beating down so I headed back to the hostel.
One night I ate a pineapple shrimp and a sausage meal at Tanghua Night Market, consider one of, if not Asia's best, street dining scene.
At night I took the metro to the end of the line in Tamsui. It felt like I arrived at the New Jersey shore. There was all sorts of games and food and people walking about - the only thing missing was a boardwalk. I walked around the Tamsui area before heading all the way up to the Fisherman’s Wharf and Lover’s Bridge area. For all the people around there seemed to be a dearth of restaurants. There's a point where all of Asia starts to look the same but this section of Taipei was incredibly unique. It truly felt like I was transported to New Jersey.
The Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall and Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, respectively.
For additional Taipei photos see FLICKR ALBUM.