After a long 12 hour flight from Vancouver– made better by being in a swank new Air Canada Boeing 787 Dreamliner– we are here– our first day in Taipei1!
Our day started at the Nanaimo International airport– the best little airport ever– a quick check in, quick security, and a quick flight over to YVR. In Vancouver we changed some money over to New Taiwanese Dollars, searched high and low for a ‘Canadian’ luggage tag (which we didn’t find), and picked up a power converter for our gadgets (which we never used – go figure!).
After two on-board meals, and several movies with tender ears from sub-par earphones, we landed in Taiwan. Taoyuan International airport was clean and easy to navigate– hearing Russian, Mandarin, and Japanese in the line for immigration with all sorts of people holding all sorts of passports really made it feel like the adventure was beginning. After a passport check, and fingerprint scan, we were off to Taipei!
We bought a YOYO2 transit card and lined up for the Express MRT3 into Taipei– it was fast and smooth which was appreciated after a long flight. We passed through lush green forests and countryside on the outskirts of Taipei– looking very tropical. Our hotel4 was near the central transportation hub called Taipei Main Station– in Taipei– only a short 15 minute walk from the MRT station.
Outside, the heat and humidity hit me like a freight train– it was 30 degrees and very humid. This is shorts and t-shirt weather folks– even when it rains– and with a typhoon Trami off the coast– it did rain. Did you know that in Taiwan, shorts, t-shirts, flip flops and light rain ponchos are the clothing of choice for many scooter riders?
Our first objective was to check into our hotel, drop off our bags and then explore. Even if I don’t plan on seeing much on my first day, I like to stretch my legs a little and get a ‘feel’ for where I am.
A subway ride out to the Raohe Night Market5 in the Songshan District was just what was needed. Dodging rain drops, ducking under the awnings of the vendors and stalls we managed to mostly stay dry as we tried to get our bearings with the assorted stalls, tables, and counters offering all sorts of food and drinks and figure out the exchange on our New Taiwanese Dollars. New sights and smells – it was invigorating– Stinky Tofu, a common food item in markets and a Taiwanese speciality, is, well, really stinky. Full disclosure– it was the one thing I did not try in Taiwan.
I was struggling a little with my new Fuji X100F- after years of shooting with Nikon- the new camera was taking some getting used to…
The first day in a new country is always a treat!
On our second or third wind (as my internal clock was telling me it was around 5 am ‘Vancouver Time’) , we were pretty hungry– the grilled chicken with cheese melted with a hand torch was delicious and deep fried squid dusted with chili spice and five spice was excellent– not greasy at all. Kei ordered me a ‘bubble tea’ and he swears to this day that there were frog eggs in it… I still refuse to believe him… perhaps that is just wishful thinking on my part. We ordered a pan of pork shumai which were cooked perfectly with a nice crust on the bottom and the pork pepper buns at the entrance of the Raohe Night Market (right to the left of the entrance– you can’t miss the stall) were great and the kind lady gave us an extra one free of charge which was sweet! They are super hot as they come out of the oven– don’t burn your mouth!
Ciyou Temple6 outside the Raohe Night Market was beaufiul in the darkness and rain– the unique construction style of really made me feel like I was in Taiwan.
We made our way back to our hotel via the very clean and efficient Taipei subway– and slept really, really well.
- Taipei, with its population of about 7 million people in the greater metropolitan area, is the political, economic, educational, and cultural center of Taiwan and one of the major trading hubs in Asia. Taipei is located in Northern Taiwan and has a humid subtropical climate. It was declared the capital of Taiwan in December of 1949
- YOYO Card – this is a reloadable subway and bus card – it is your ticket to seamless travel in the Taipei area— we loaded ours with 500 NT$ and it lasted a few days— buy it before you board the MRT to Taipei from Taoyuan International Airport
- I would suggest waiting for and taking the Express MRT into Taipei
- I would recommend staying at a hotel near the Taipei Main Station, because the subway and bus system is extremely efficient (didn’t take any trains, so can’t comment on those).
- One of the oldest night markets in Taipei- Raohe Night Market is a 600 meter market along Raohe Road— easily access from Exit 3 at Songshan Station – MRT Green Line.
- Built in 1753 – folk temple dedicated to the goddess Mazu – apparently built by a wandering monk and Mazu followers who raised money for 10 years to build the temple