Taiwan is a country full of contrasts. Beautiful green forests and pristine sandy beaches are followed by blocks of ruined concrete housing estates and abandoned factories. There is a modern transportation and infrastructure, latest electronics accessible for everyone and yet their power lines and internet cables hang in dense bunches from windows like lianas in the rainforest. This country is definitely worth a visit.
We had barely recovered from a crazy farewell party with our closest friends and on 14th of October 2014 we went to the Vaclav Havel airport in Prague. Our equipment consisted of two very stuffed backpacks, one small suitcase and two carry-on bags. At exactly 7:00 o’clock in the morning our Czech Airlines flight took of the landing ramp and it felt more than clear, that there was no turning back. We were moving to New Zealand!!!
At the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam we transferred to the China Airlines plane (recent tragedies of Asian airlines didn’t bring the best feelings to my mind). We had a short stopover in Bangkok, and on 15th October we landed on the Taoyuan airport in Taipei – the capital of Taiwan.
We were about to enjoy wonderful nine days on this small island southeast of China. We spent the first two days in Taipei. We were accommodated in a small cozy hostel Happy Family in the city centre. Our first steps, of course, led to the Taipei 101 – the fourth tallest building in the world. The 509 metres high tower stands over the city like a giant bamboo. Precisely this shape is the tower actually supposed to represent. We were carried up to the top of the building by the fastest elevator in the world running on a speed of 1010 metres per minute and we were greeted by a breathtaking view of the night gleaming Taipei.
Although Taiwan suffers from frequent and devastating earthquakes, it is actually the tallest building that is supposedly the safest one. Taipei 101 is designed to withstand the typhoon winds and the earthquake tremors that are common in this area. There is a giant tuned mass damper (660 tons and 5,5 metres in diameter) hanging in the centre that helps to stabilise the building. If the building is hit by a strong wind, the damper moves in the opposite direction. Compared to Taipei 101 I actually didn’t feel stable at all. We had 3 take-offs and 3 landings behind us and the rapid elevation of the lift made me feel dizzy for several hours afterwards.
Taipei, like most of the metropolis, has a really busy traffic. Locals mostly use motorbikes to go around and the whole city lives in some sort of (un)controlled chaos.
We preferred to use subway instead. Luckily for us the stations were (besides in Chinese) marked also in English. After several minutes of confusion, we actually found out the Taiwanese subway brilliantly planned. As white European tourists we looked extremely exotic to locals. I had never attracted so much attention in my life. However, we couldn’t care less because we couldn’t stop staring at the locals in return. Most of them wore those weird funny face masks.
At first we thought it was because of the thick smog in the capital. Later on we met people wearing the face masks on the beach or even in the forest. Why???
Among other places in Taipei, we visited the Taoist Bao’an Temple, the Confucius Temple, the Beitou hot springs and Taipei Expo Park. All those places were absolutely stunning, but my pleasure-seeking soul (or palate) enjoyed going to local night markets the most. We tried various exotic fruits, that we couldn’t even name, and most importantly my favourite seafood such as shrimps, octopus, squid, oysters and all sorts of shellfish. To be honest I didn’t dare to try the famous duck specialties like duck heads, guts or claws. Maybe next time…