Day 2: Greater Taipei
Since I was pretty tired by the time I got back last night, I slept very well and was mostly over the jet lag. Breakfast was included with our room, which was served as a buffet in the main restaurant. The spread was very impressive, with a wide selection of western but mostly Asian breakfast and lunch foods. There were plenty of hot options as well as made to order stations for eggs and noodles. The green onion omelette and Taiwanese congee were some of the standouts for me. They also had my favourite marinated bamboo dish, which is a local specialty. I ended the meal with some of the sweetest pineapple and papaya I’ve had.
Our first destination of the day was the famous Palace Museum in the hills of northern Taipei. As we drove up, we passed the Grand Palace Hotel, the iconic first luxury hotel in Taiwan.
The Palace museum was huge and had a large selection of historic relics from China. Unfortunately, the two most famous ones – the Jade Cabbage and the Braised Pork Stone was on loan to other museums at the time. Nonetheless, all the other sculptures were still very beautiful. There are definitely parallels to the Palace Museum in Beijing, better known as the Forbidden City, in terms of exterior design. However, the inside is very different, with a larger focus on art and relics like a single museum instead of a complex of historic buildings.
Afterwards, we headed to Beitou, the hot spring town in New Taipei City. We got lunch at a Taiwan-Japanese Ramen place near the city centre. We were hesitant at first given that we were going to Japan soon, but it was surprisingly good. They also had this game where if you could throw this object down a clothesline far enough, you win a tofu appetizer.
After lunch, we walked through Beitou Park towards the main hot springs known as Thermal Valley. Through the park you could see (and smell) the steaming stream flowing down from the hot spring. We passed by this public spring where you can bathe for only $1. We didn’t have our swim suits though so we passed on it. Once we reached Thermal Valley however, we saw that the gate was locked and realized that they were closed on Mondays. That was a bit disappointing, but we still got some pictures along the park and departed for our next destination.
From Beitou, we took the subway even further out of Taipei to the terminus station of Tamsui. This seaside district was also the set of one of my favourite movies, Secret by Jay Chou. After a short walk along the waterfront promenade, we took a ferry towards Fisherman’s Wharf. From there we walked across the iconic Lovers Bridge and checked out the markets nearby. It was a nice relaxing stroll through the small town. Since it was pretty windy, we decided to take the bus back to the main town instead of the ferry. This was very convenient and much cheaper, while also giving us a different route inland to see.
As the sun started to set, we took the metro back into the city. Since I had heard so much about it, we stopped halfway to visit the Shilin Night Market. Now granted it was still pretty early and not fully dark yet, but Shilin didn’t look nearly as good as Raohe from yesterday. Still, I enjoyed a nice bowl of pan fried soup dumplings. We then hopped back onto the metro towards Taipei 101.
We had only been to the more traditional areas of Taipei so far, so it was nice to see the modern side of this city. Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world until the completion of the Burj Khalifa in 2010.
We ate dinner at the Taipei 101 mall and had bubble tea at one of the original bubble tea chains in Taiwan. It was my first time trying the “panda” pearls, which was a combination of the regular black pearls and smaller white pearls. It was very good and I think I prefer the smaller pearls. We covered a ton of ground on this second day, but didn’t feel rushed or overly tired. This concludes all the places we wanted to visit in Taipei, so tomorrow we can venture further outwards.