Many, many years ago I used to teach summer writing classes for the Center for Academic Precocity. The students were 8th-12th graders who spent four weeks with me practicing their writing and reading. At the end of each summer session I had conferences with the parents to talk about student progress. My favorite and most memorable conference was with a parent who called at our pre-arranged time and said, “This is Rose’s mother. I’m calling from Taipei Taiwan.”
She said it with equal emphasis on all syllables: Dot Dot Dot Dot. Tai Pei Tai Wan.
That staccato phrase stuck in my head and in my lexicon. John and I would repeat it to each other to evoke an immediate laugh. “Where are you?” I’d ask when he called sometimes in between meetings.
“Tai Pei Tai Wan.”
So when our opportunity to visit Taipei Taiwan came, we jumped at the chance. Though our plans were changed from the original (we would have been on the Phoenix Sister Cities Delegation had it not been cancelled) we were really looking forward to visiting this city.
I wrote this post round-up style and list the 15 most wonderful things we did in Tai Pei Tai Wan.
1. Din Tai Fung–we read so much about it and honestly passed about 10 other Din Tai Fung locations without stepping in, because we really wanted to try the one in Taipei! We arrived famished. We left on stretchers. Nearly. In fact the folks at the table next to us kept pointing and laughing every time a new dish came to our table, which soon became too crowded for even one more dish. We ate like we had never eaten before. Ever.
2. Hotel Eclat–I won’t lie. I wanted to stay at the W but it was for some reason $250 a night more than any other hotel in town for the period we were visiting. Hotel Eclat is a little boutique hotel that got great reviews, and it was super cute and well located. I especially loved the free mini bar, Nespresso machine in the room, and delicious breakfast each morning on delightful china.
3. Fujin Street–I’m not sure where John read about this area, but when we asked the folks at the hotel about it they had never heard of it. It is truly the new “hipster” street. Lots of coffee shops, high design home decorating stores, and even jewelry shops. We really enjoyed a stroll about the area.
4. Taipei Fine Arts Museum–We quite enjoyed the wide variety of exhibits: from a whimsical feature on “food” to a room transformed into a field of flowers.
5. National Palace Museum–Okay lots of really important historical artifacts and the porcelain was in itself worth the trip! We did wait in line to see the Jade Cabbage and the Jade Pork Belly, and while they were fascinating, by the end of our visit I felt like I had been tenderized by the 30K tour group members shoving up against my rear. This museum was so crowded I felt like they should have sold Xanax at the gift shop.
6. Four Beasts–We really enjoyed our hike through the four beasts. We loved it so much we kept going and ended up all the way across town. Some slippery steps, but well maintained and lots to see. Great views of the city.
7. Addiction Aquatic Development–So, I will admit that we spent most of the day walking around, and walked way out of our way to get to this place, so when we arrived and found out that there are no chairs and we would eat standing up I nearly cried. But I took a deep breath and decided to deal. Then we got the menus, which had no English at all. I nearly had a tantrum, until the young, friendly waiter brought me a beer the size of my head and assured us he’d feed us well. So we put our trust in him, and man were we happy with the results. Delicious seafood, sushi, soup. Really one of our best meals in Taipei.
8. Dongmen Market–This is a sweet but small market near the metro stop just past the Memorial. Not touristy at all, and mostly full of Taiwanese over 60. We enjoyed our tour about.
9. CiangKai Shek Memorial–Here is a memorial that screams Taiwan! A truly grand scale. Really beautiful buildings and grounds.
10. The Botanical Garden–We visited Singapore before Taipei, and therefore it is completely unfair to review The Botanical Garden with the memory of the Botanic Garden in my mind (any Singaporean cabbie worth his salt will point out they DO NOT use the al). While we had a nice stroll and enjoyed seeing families together, there were several ponds that had been drained and the vegetation was just not very inspirational.
11. National Museum of History–We enjoyed reading so much information about the long history of Taiwan. Might have been a bit heavy on the scrolls. But we returned on day two to buy a painting from the gift shop.
12. Museum of Contemporary Art–I understand that with small museums (and Contemporary museums especially) exhibitions can be hit or miss. But I was so glad we had trekked to this little gem because there was an absolute maniac genius artist on display, A Tale of Two Cities – Kuo Wei-kuo Exhibition: Gardens of Spirits. The paintings were floor to ceiling surrealistic whimsical images of the artist in various gardens with animals and fish and foliage. It was one of the most beautiful and fascinating exhibitions I have seen in a while.
13. Taipei 101–Shopping Mall. Very tall.
14. Shihlin Night Market–To be honest, it was the last night of our trip and we had managed to do so much we could easily have grabbed a quick meal near the hotel. But we took a deep breath and decided to go to Shihlin Night Market and weren’t we glad we did! Yes it was very crowded but it was orderly. There were a wide variety of stands and we found a basement eatery where we had a wonderful meal cooked on a hot plate in front of us.
15. Taipei Metro. We took one taxi in Taipei. And decided we wouldn’t do that again. The Metro is so much faster. It’s clean. It’s polite. It covers great distances in short amounts of time. Every time we got off the subway and looked at a map, someone would approach us and say “Do you need some help?”
Overall our impression of Tai Pei Tai Wan was, They’re Doing It Right!