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Impressions of Taipei

Taipei, Taiwan

Obviously I am able to procrastinate with this blog as well as anything else I might do.

Taipei was a bright and noisy city, lots going on. I stayed in Jim's apartment, accessible by tiny alleyway, but was only a 10 minute walk from a huge modern shopping district and the tallest building in the world. Apparently this part of Taipei has been mostly redeveloped in the last ten years as affluence has been increasing.

I literally spent all my time eating or between meals in Taipei. The traditional greeting is "Have you eaten until you are full?" and so they spend a huge amount of time correcting the situation if the answer is no, and forcing me to try new things if the answer is yes. Jim had a huge list of foods and restaurants that I needed to try, and try them I did. I think I left the country 10 pounds heavier than I arrived.

My first day there I was surprised to not have any jet lag, but I had slept well on the plane, small bladdered seat mates notwithstanding. We ate a traditional Chinese breakfast of take-out, the name of which I do not remember, and then went walking about the area. We decided to go up Taipei 101, the really tall building, even though it was kind of cloudy or foggy.

The view from the 101 was still pretty impressive, and of course they steered us past every gift shop and museum possible. We had to rush from side to side to find view through the fog, but I still managed to get the idea that we were indeed way up high. I got a kick out of these signs telling me that I should meet the "Danger Balls." They seemed to accompany mascots who indeed looked like balls. With legs. In various colours.

The significance of the danger babies and their balls became clear when we entered this one chamber with a huge.. ball in it. Hanging on 6 inch thick braided rope or cable (painted gold, so it was hard to tell) this ball was supported by huge hydraulics. I guess the idea was that this ball absorbed the motion caused by wind and/or earthquakes/ typhoons and other natural disasters. I am not a structural engineer, but come on! A big ball on the 89th floor of a 101 story building is going to save it from an earthquake? what if it shakes on the 79th floor?

Later on Jim and I swapped music from each others computers while investigating the ancient art of binge drinking. In a land where beer can be bought at 7-11 24 hours a day, only the fact that Heineken is considered the highest quality beer stops the entire country from becoming alcoholics. Whiskey and vodka are trying to change that. Daphne, Jim's wife, told me at one point that "one of the great things about Taipei is that there is a 7-11 everywhere." Daphne wasn't a big drinker, but I knew what she was getting at. I am pretty sure I discovered the real reason a 1 story ball is in charge of the safety of the tallest building in the world.

After the 101 Jim and I checked out the Sun Yat Sen Memorial palace. Sun Yat Sen was the founder of MODERN China. He was the first ruler after the abolishment of the feudal system & the monarch government. He is also more widely recoginzed for merging traditional Chinese medicine with Western medicine. (Dodson, 2008 - Thanks Christine). We watched the changing of the guards, which is a very elaborate ceremony involving completely synchronized actions. Synchronized actions became popular in war as a show of prowess after the first exhibition of synchronized swimming in 1783 (Gilbertson, 2008)

Being around memorial halls and a recently developed area there was a large amount of green space. Jim showed me one little pond well known as a good place to dump unwanted goldfish and turtles. Some of the goldfish in this pond must have weighed 6 kilos and were between 2 and 3 feet long.

The rest of Taipei was a blur of night markets where I had to remind myself that goods were even less expensive in Thailand, amazing food, and the ancient art of binge drinking. A little traveler's wisdom - a cheap cigar found at 3am in 7-11 tastes bad anywhere in the world.

permalink written by  Lleviathan on November 6, 2008 from Taipei, Taiwan
from the travel blog: Leif in Asia
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