Taipei, the cosiest metropolis in Asia. With a population of roughly 7 million (metropolitan area), it’s hardly a small city, but walking around in the streets of Taipei there’s little of what I’ve come to expect from Asian capitals. Taipei 101 stands out like a lighthouse, not only because it’s 101 floors tall, but also because most other buildings are 10 story-buildings or lower. It makes Taipei positively quaint.
I visited Taipei a little over a week ago, and our 4-day adventure encompassed sightseeing hot spots, street food, hiking in the mountains north of the city, and plenty of water, bubble tea and ice cream to cool down in the humidity. In Taipei, bubble tea is a must.
If you ever get to visit Taipei, the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall should be at the very top of your sightseeing list. It is one of the most impressive buildings I’ve seen, a massive temple dedicated to the former leader of the Republic of China and Kuomintang, who fled to Taiwan following the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War. The building is 76 meters tall, with a double roof shaped like two octagons. At the upper level of the structure, you’ll find a statue of Chiang Kai-Shek, and the stairs leading up to it has 89 steps, representing the years of his life on earth.
The square in front of the memorial hall is also important for Taiwan’s political history, having been the centre for many protests and demonstrations. The most monumental of these being the White Lily Student Movement of 1990 that led to a fundamental change in Taiwanese political structure (allowing for direct election of the president, and popular election for the now-disbanded National Assembly).
Living in Asia, I sometimes forget how dramatically different countries like South Korea and Taiwan are today from what they were only 20 years ago. South Korea’s first president with no military background was Kim Young-Sam in 1993, and Taiwan ended 38 years under martial law in 1987. The times they are a-changin’.
Also on your to-do-list: Shida Night Market (eat smelly tofu), shrimp fishing, guard ceremony at the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, skyline photo with Taipei 101 in the background (preferably from the top of Elephant Mountain), Mengjia Longshan Temple, eat beef noodle soup, visit Eslite Bookstore (it’s open 24/7), visit Ximending for cosplayer spotting, bathe in hot springs, and eat loads of food.
Here are some of my photos from our weekend trip.