Taiwan, part 1 – a day in Taipei

Photo of Taipei train station sign
A few weeks ago we received an invitation, from my friend
Petula, to join her and her in-laws in Taiwan for the tail end of Chinese New
Year.  We checked out flights, Simon
booked the time off work and away we went.
In the Manila area we have a choice of 2 airports: Ninoy
Aquino International Airport (NAIA) which is the main Manila airport, probably
about 20 minutes away; and Clark Airport, which was an overseas US air base until
1991, about 2 hours away.  NAIA is the
main airport, and Clark is where a number of low-cost carriers operate out
of.  We flew from Clark.
Just getting to Clark is a bit of a mission.  It involved a taxi ride to ‘SM Megamall’ in
Mandaluyong City, just North of where we live. 
And then a bus (Philtranco Express) to Clark Airport (₱400 each, one
way).  But the bus arrived on time, and
we had plenty of time to spare in Clark Airport.
But there isn’t much to do at Clark Airport.  It’s tiny. 
The pre-departure area is a few seats under a gazebo outside.  The arrivals hall has a few food outlets and
a MiniStop (similar to a 7 Eleven).  And
that’s about it.  When you go through
security and passport control there are a few other food stalls and a couple of
small shops.
Taipei was like a breath of fresh air.  After getting a helpful tourist information
lady to write down the name and address of our hotel in Chinese, we jumped in a
taxi.  The driver knew exactly where we
needed to go, straight away.  We were
driven on smooth roads where everyone followed the rules, in a relatively fancy
taxi (Toyota Camry).  We had to pinch
ourselves.  It was such a difference to
By the time we arrived at our hotel it was about 3pm.  We’d started off at about 6:15am.  We were in need of food.  What we hadn’t counted on was half the city
being closed because of the Chinese New Year holiday.  Still we managed to find a small restaurant
serving pork noodle soup.­­ It was tasty, but we weren’t too sure about the
meat.  It didn’t really look like meat
that we’re used to.  We ate the noodles,
some of the soup and then politely paid and left.
We had planned on visiting Xing Tiang temple and then going
to Taipei 101.  But by the time we’d had
our lunch, and then a quick cup of tea it was already almost dusk.  We headed straight to Taipei 101.  There was a massive queue.  No chance of seeing Taipei at dusk from the
top of the third tallest building in the world then.
To get to the top of the tower, you travel in the world’s
fastest lift.  1010m per minute.  That was 37seconds to the 89th
floor.  You hardly had time to think you
were in a lift.  At the top you are given
audio guides and you can walk around to get 360 degree views of the city.  The only issue is that the audio guides are
designed to be used during the day.  At
night you can’t see half of the landmarks you’re prompted to look at.  Still, it was fantastic to see the
views.  It was more fantastic, for me, to
see the giant wind damper after reading about it in this article in Wired Magazine back in 2010
whilst sitting in a campsite in France.
The day’s excitement continued well into the evening with a
visit to Raohe Street Night Market.  More
about that next time…

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