Coming to Taipei during Lunar New Year’s is probably the best and worst time to come to Taipei. Because Lunar New Year’s is such a major celebration here, everything is closed! Trying to find a non-fast food meal is like Mission impossible! I also needed to find a suitcase to bring all my favourite snacks here back to NZ, which was a second mission in itself (thankfully, mission accomplished, much to my relief). Despite that, seeing the streets lit up with colourful lanterns and crowds of people adorned in red clothing for good luck makes up for the troubles 😊
Although the Taipei agenda is packed, with us trying to fit in as many activities as possible, I find I am enjoying the impromptu moments as much as the planned ones. On Lunar New Year’s Eve, we marched around the city in hopes of having a sit down at any open restaurant (or venue that was open). When hope was running low, and we were ready to head back to our accommodation for the night, we found a rooftop place with an impeccable view of the famed Taipei 101 (fun fact: the building is named for its 101 floors). Out of all the places in the city, there couldn’t have been a better place to take in Taipei, and for it to be open on such a day really made us feel like luck was on our side. The next day we headed up Taipei 101, with the speedy elevators taking us up to the 89th floor for a stunning view of the city. Arriving just before sunset meant we could catch the day and night views and marvel at how abrupt the line between city and countryside is over here; it almost feels like you can cross a street in the city centre and end up in a field! No outskirts or suburbia here😦
I am finding that the people in Taiwan really outdo themselves with their grand museums! I couldn’t even fit the building into the frame when taking pictures- even when I was standing 100 meters away! The National Palace Museum is without a doubt one of my favourite places we’ve visited so far, and I found my personal favourite artefact ever, the dog carving. Seeing all the historic artefacts really makes me wonder what the carvers would think, seeing their work marvelled at by people from all over the world hundreds or even thousands of years later. As Taipei has a lot more tourists and ex-pats, a lot more people here speak English. However, my brain is currently programmed to only speak in Chinese when out and about, and I often end up replying to shopkeepers and waiters in Chinese even after they speak to me in English, out of habit. I will probably have to rid myself of this habit once I get back to NZ, as I don’t think it’s going to do me much good there, but for now, I think it’s cool to see the locals surprised to see foreigners learning their language and adjusting to their customs. Yesterday I wanted to spend the day exploring the city solo; by the time I realised it was probably time to head back, it was late afternoon, and I had wandered around for hours without leaving the eastern area, so although we have a whole week in this city, I don’t think that it’s ever going to be enough!