Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Taipei, Taiwan

One whirlwind trip after another found us in fabulous Taiwan. When we first arrived in Manila Taipei was on my list of places to visit but there seemed like such more exciting places it fell by the wayside. It was a must-visit after some very good valued airlines tickets got us there for a long weekend. As is typical in our travels, nothing is ever what we expect and Taiwan was no exception.

Lucky for us we have a good friend here in Manila who lived in Taipei for years and was generous enough to plan our whole itinerary. She also arranged for her former helper's husband who is a driver to take us around for the weekend. I was a little nervous about having the whole weekend planned out hour by hour. Usually when we travel our plans are on a whim. We have a list of things we want to see but we just go with the flow. Typically our children surprise me with their easy-going attitudes and this was no exception. One of these days I will just learn to appreciate and accept that they are travelers to the bone through and through rather than worrying. Each morning we left the hotel around 9 and didn't return until well after dinner time and we were able to experience a lot of Taipei both inside and outside of the city.

The first night we flew in and after getting settled in at our hotel went out to explore. Taipei comes alive in the evenings as there are dozens of night markets. We headed to one of the larger ones, the shilin night market where we did a little shopping and tried all sorts of interesting food.

The next morning after breakfast at our little boutique hotel we were picked up by Truckee (sounds like it's spelled) and headed to an antique market. Clearly my friend understands our penchant for shopping as she arranged for us to see this treasure trove.
We were there early as the merchants were coming in to set up their wares. Many of them brought their treasures in tapestry lined Chinese boxes and laid them gently on cushions. Others had regular stalls and just flung open their doors. Around every corner there was another alley full of row after row of vases and statues, paintings, coins and jade. It's amazing how much communicating you can do with a calculator!
Treasures found include a painting that just makes us feel good, a drawing of two children and their grandparents which reminded both Nate and I of his parents, an oddly shaped vase and a tall lanky statue of a Chinese man. All in, I think that was a successful day but it was our shopping day so before heading to a pottery village outside of town we stopped for a great lunch of dim sum where we were happy to find that Taiwan is family friendly! We even managed to round up a fork for Holden as chopsticks are still a little tough for him, especially with noodles.

With full bellies and happy hearts were headed to Yingge, the hub of Taiwanese pottery making. We were transported back to America as we wandered around "old street" as it was just like a touristy part of any-town USA. Loads of ceramics and pottery to buy and even Holden had a good time finding special treasures along the way. We managed to purchase a few goodies and not break anything, with two children in tow, I consider that a success!

Taking in the incredible scenery that Taiwan has where there are luscious green mountains everywhere we headed back through the tunnels into Taipei and downtown to see the Taipei 101 building. It is still "officially" the tallest building in the world at 1,667 feet tall and the elevator to the top goes a whopping 37 mph. Holden thought it was the coolest thing EVER. I found it a little disturbing to be standing near the window and feel the building sway as people walked. We beat the rush and were able to see the sunset as well as the night lights of the city.

It was a long day and the following morning found us up a little later. Truckee came to fetch us and we headed out in the late morning for a relaxing visit to a spa and hot springs in the Yang Ming Shan National Park. There were so many hot springs to choose from, mandarin orange and iced coffee flavored pools, private hot tubs overlooking the mountains, fountains jutting out of the ground and rain shower beds. Clearly we were as exciting of a view for locals as the actual view was for us.

Afterwards we headed back through the gorgeous but motion-sickness inducing mountains full of switchbacks to have a late lunch at din tai fung, a Taiwanese original which seriously has the best dumplings in the world. All six floors of this restaurant, once on the NYT top 10 list, is filled to capacity all the time with crowds waiting outside to get in. And let me tell you something, I just found out they have one of their chains in LA. If you are in LA, go!

Heading out from dim sum heaven we found our way to Longshan temple. When we arrived I expected something similar to the temples we visited in China or Japan. No, this temple was alive with worshipping and chanting. I was so struck by the sincerity and intensity of it I couldn't even pull my camera out. I am sure no one would have even looked twice but I felt uncomfortable even being there, like I was intruding on their peace and connection. It was very moving as they chanted and went from station to station with offerings and incense. It was probably one of the most spiritual moments I have had in Asia. I felt that these people had such a tie to their beliefs. I wish I had photos to share as I saw so many opportunities but this is the ONE I did take.

Heading out we went a night market called "snake alley" where you can buy snake venom and blood or even a whole snake (for your meal). It wasn't my favorite place but the boys, and by boys I mean Nate and Holden, found it fascinating. They don't allow photos of the snakes so none here as well.
We bid Truckee goodnight as he dropped us at our hotel and went out to explore a little more around our neighborhood. We regularly have our "must-finds" in every country which include a starbucks and a toy store. This trip out also required a tube of aloe vera to soothe the slight burns from a day out in the hot springs, oops! Finn officially got a tooth in Taiwan and decided to try crawling...he doesn't quite have the hang of it yet and for that, I am grateful!

Now we are back in Manila and in the swing of things just counting down the days until our trip back to America. More updates coming soon!

1 comment:

Julie said...

Seriously. You guys are so amazing!

I am totally in love with the picture of Holden and the Chinese? man. Awesome.

And Finn????? When did he get so chunky??? Loved it!