Taiwan: Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Park & Taipei 101

Wow, what a day!

Despite the title, we managed to fit SO MUCH more then those two locations into the day. Its 8pm now and we have only just now returned to the hotel.

This morning saw us getting some breakfast from 沒事”早事”坐 which served up a variety of breakfast foods from sandwiches, to egg rolls and more Western-normal toast. Nick and I both opted for sandwiches, which had nice healthy salads served on the side. Nick had an egg and bacon and I had pork and bacon.  Each of us also had a nice big cup of coffee which kept us on the hop all day.

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Something that I found quite hilarious was that the waitress picked us for Australians straight away.  Nick said ‘ta’ when she brought our food over and she said immediately “Are you from Australia?”  I didn’t realise it was such an Aussie-ism.

Our first stop of the day was to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Park. As the name suggests, the monument was erected in memory of Chiang Kai-Shek, former president of the Republic of China and a very important individual in Taiwanese history.  The monument, surrounded by a park, stands at the east end of Liberty Square. It’s framed on the north and south by the National Theatre and National Concert Hall.

The grounds are lovingly maintained with a very impressive wall bordering the garden grounds with some lovely wrought iron work ‘windows’ breaking up the wall.

Before heading to the monument, Nick and I walked through the gardens and saw a squirrel.  We also stopped to feed some koi and were extremely lucky to get to feed a couple of turtles that were in lake. The turtles were so cute, but it was hard to get food to them rather than the aggressive swarms of fish that kept darting in to eat it all.

After this, we headed to the National Theatre to check out the gate there and were really lucky to see some military cadets engaged in arms drills. Somewhat amusingly, I realised the first set was to the tune of “Indiana Jones” whilst the second set was to some funky hiphop music.  The last was to Pachelbel canon.  We managed to get some great pictures and I was amazed by the accuracy and precision the cadets displayed.

After this, we made our way to the monument.  There were two sets of white stairs, each with 89 steps to represent Chiang’s age at the time of his death, leading to the main entrance. The ground level of the memorial houses a library and museum relating Chiang Kai-shek’s life and career and Taiwan’s history and development. The upper level contains the main hall, in which a large statue of Chiang Kai-shek is located, and where a guard mounting ceremony takes place in regular intervals. Nick and I were also doubly lucky with our timing to be able to see the changing of the honour guard.  It was a very official procedure, taking almost 10 minutes of ceremonial marching. Something that was interesting too was that once the honour guard was situated on their blocks, they weren’t allowed to move a muscle. Another man, non-military from the looks of him came and straightened their uniforms for them before leaving the guards to their vigil.

On our way to our next destination, we were sidetracked by a vendor selling fresh pork buns.  We of course, had to stop and try them and we were SO glad we did.  They were absolutely delicious. The outer casing was fried on the base and was really tasty.  The minced pork filling was also amazing and my mouth is watering just remembering this!!

Our next location was Taipei 101 – formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Centre.  It was not only the first building in the world to break the half-kilometre mark in height, but also the world’s tallest building from March 2004 to 10 March 2010. Its designed to look like a stalk of bamboo to symbolise learning and growth.  It had a superfast elevator which was is supposedly the fastest in the world travelling at over 60km/h.  I felt my ears pop HARD going up from the 5th to the 89th floor. A few times!

Another really cool feature of this building is the thought given to its structural integrity in the case of typhoons or earthquakes (both very common in this part of the world). The building features a wind damper which reduces vibrations and sway in the tower by up to 40%.  The damper acts like a giant pendulum which sways to offset movements in the building caused by strong wind gusts.  They had footage during a violent typhoon where the pendulum swung up to 100cms.  Happily, during our visit the pendulum was staying completely stock still. -phew!-

The damper also has a super cute set of mascots (damper babies!) which of course, probably sell Taipei 101 merchandise like hotcakes.  I would have gotten a plushie, but Nick said we didn’t have room in our luggage to carry him.  <Pout>

On the way out of the building, we had a quick look at some of the department stores. They had all the high end stuff like Louis Vuitton, Patek Phillippe (a Swiss watchmaker founded in 1851 – their watches cost more than I will ever see in my lifetime).  This section was very quiet, not a lot of action or high rollers happening here. But we did stop at the food court on the way out.  We shared a plate of Hainanese Chicken and we also tried an apple ice-cream (weird, but refreshing)!

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Nick took this great shot from the MRT Station which shows one of the above ground train lines.  Most of the other lines seem to be majority subterranean.

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Our next stop was the Maokong Village – a famous region for tea growing.  The village is accessible by the Maokong Gondola which is about a 4km stretch with several stations along the way. Nick and I took a Crystal Gondola up which features a glass bottom.  It was quite fun but took about 20-25 minutes to arrive to the last station.

It was a lot cooler up in the mountains and we decided to go for a bit of a trek and explore of the area.  Happily, we found an unobtrusive trail that no one much seemed to be looking at today which led to a spectacular waterfall cave. Again with the video game references, but this place was like something straight out of Farcry 4 or even Tomb Raider. Nick said it was one of the best things he had ever stumbled across in his life. The waterfall on its own was beautiful, but there was also a temple built into the stone face directly next to the falls.  It was well worth the steep flight of stairs I suffered up to see it.

While we were there, a kindly old man told Nick we were allowed to go into the Temple and have a look around but that we shouldn’t dawdle too long – the mountain was about to get some good rain.  He was decked out in his waterproof poncho already and he looked like he knew what he was talking about. So we took as many pictures as we could and then started making our way back into town.

Happily, despite a few droplets, there was no epic downpour to drench us on our return. But we did feel like we had earned a bit of a respite so we stopped at one of the local teahouses – I didn’t catch the name but it was not very far from the Gondola station. It seemed to be a cross between a cafe and a pub.  I had a raspberry and lime iced tea and Nick had a beer.  He had just been telling me it was an expensive beer by Taiwan standards and then the waitress served him up a long-neck.  For reference, the beer cost around AUD$4.

We caught the gondola back down and then made our way to the Ningxia Night Market where we planned to have our dinner. This was a great way to experience Taipei!  The market itself was bustling with people jostling for places in lines for the various stalls. The sights (and the smells) were at turns scary and enticing.  Nick and I supped on some pan-fried pork dumplings and some barbecued meat on skewers (boar, chicken and beef). Nick also had a stewed pork bun (but I couldn’t have any of it, because it was garnished with peanuts).  We also had a coconut water and a sugarcane juice and bought a cheeky slice of chocolate raspberry cake to eat once we got back to the hotel.

There was just so much on offer there and I feel like were weren’t nearly adventurous enough.  There was something there had a very strong, pungent odour (it kind of wanted to make me gag) which we later found out was something called ‘stinky tofu’ (apt!) – I want to be courageous enough to try it, but the smell was quite jarring.  Perhaps another day when I am feeling braver (and hungrier!).

Tomorrow is shaping up to be just as action packed as today.  Stay tuned for more travel adventures!

 

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