Taiwan: Taipei

Winter break was one of the rare moments where I was actually on break. Because of grad school, even though I might get some time off of work, grad school classes will still be in session, leaving me to study throughout the days.  Last winter break though, I was completely free from both work and school.  As usual, a lot of people left the country, leaving me wondering what to do.  Remembering that my friend invited me to let him stay with him in Taiwan whenever, I quickly planned a trip to Taiwan.

I flew into Taipei on New Year’s Eve.  I was a little nervous at first because A) this was my first international trip alone and B) I was meeting my friend at his house, which meant I had to travel for 1.5 hours relying on just myself.  Getting to his place was surprisingly smooth though, and the train staff was extremely helpful.

As soon as I met up with my friend, we were off to see the festivities in Taipei.  Taipei 101, the country’s famed skyscraper/observation tower has fireworks launching from the top when the New Year rolls in.  My friend suggested that we watch it from a local park due to it the amount of people that would be in the building’s area.  The park itself was interesting—people were grilling and launching their own fireworks while there was an outside event which basically was a club under a bridge.  I chatted with a lot of Taiwanese people and random people throughout the night.  It’s been awhile since I encountered people who were so friendly and outgoing.  This was to be a reoccurring theme throughout the trip.

The following day I suggested we go to Elephant Mountain, a “mountain” (but really, just a long set of stairs) that is right outside Taipei 101 and gives a view of the entire city.  While walked towards the mountain, I couldn’t help but enjoy the spring-like weather in December as well as the palm trees scattered throughout the parks.  I don’t know why, but it reminded me a lot of Peru, my home country.

The climb itself wasn’t too hard, just time-consuming and crowded.  We headed up around sunset to get the best view.  It was the right decision.  I could’ve been up there forever.

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Afterwards my friend showed me the various night markets around the city.  Night markets were definitely one of my favorite moments of the trip.  There is just an abundance of different kinds of food everywhere and it’s cheap.  We ate there just about every evening.  One of my favorites was chunks of blowtorched meat.

During the trip I had a day to myself.  I basically went to all the famous spots in Taipei.  Getting around is really easy because of their awesome subway system.  Also, every station has free Wi-Fi and charging stations.  Stuff like this really blew my mind because even though I was on my own, it was really easy to navigate around thanks to these things.

One of my first stops was The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.  Apparently every hour there is a changing of the guard which is very detailed to the point.  I stuck around to take a video:

 

Outside was nice too:

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A closeup of the statue.

I caught some other landmarks along the way:

Temples here are really beautiful.

Temples here are really beautiful.

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While I was walking by, I noticed there was another ceremony of raising the flag down so I stopped by to have a look:

Next time I’ll talk about my unforgettable visit to Jiufen.

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