Quick Weekend in Taipei

Exploring Taipei (台北)

While in Tokyo, I took a quick side-trip to Taipei, Taiwan. I had already been to China twice before and once to Hong Kong and Macau, so this trip would complete my visits to all parts of “China” and the fulfillment of a promise to a good friend that I would make sure to visit Taiwan. So, after work on a Friday, I headed to Narita International Airport (NRT) and took an Eva Air flight to Taipei Taoyuan Airport (TPE).

I landed late at night, cut through immigration quickly due to my APEC card, and attempted to get cash from an ATM. Luckily, the fourth ATM (and final one I saw in the terminal building) worked.

As I rode on the Taxi to downtown Taipei, I was struck by how different the city was to both Tokyo and Shanghai / Beijing / HK. The roads looked very American and the driver traveled at incredibly high speeds relative to taxi drivers in Tokyo. As we made our way from the far-flung Taoyuan Airport to Central Taipei, I noticed the city was criss-crossed by curving rivers and rising mountains.

The next morning, I left my hotel to go for a quick run in nearby Da’an Forest Park. The park was full of people, mostly retirees out for their morning walks or tai chi. After a quick breakfast and shower, I headed out into the city to walk around. I told a friend that I would make sure to visit the 228 Museum, so I started walking in that direction.

As I walked, I was struck by how much Taipei echoed other cities I had visited. To me, the cityscape seemed more similar to Vietnam than to China, which was a bit unexpected. I happened to walk past the first Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐), which was crowded with eager guests spilling onto the streets (keep in mind, it was only ~8:30 AM).

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Memorials and Governments

My first real stop of the day was the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. It’s an imposing presence in the city center and while it’s an impressive structure, the similarity to the front of The Forbidden City is undeniable.

I eventually reached the 228 Museum on my friend’s recommendation. While I’m not one to criticize use of local language, it was somewhat frustrating that this museum’s exhibits and history existed almost entirely in Chinese. This more hidden part of Taiwan’s history could be much more accessible to international visitors if there was a bit more English or other languages in the exhibits.

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