Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Taipei, Taiwan

I just got back from a weekend trip to Taipei, where my husband was born. We were a little unlucky, we arrived just in time for the first Typhoon of the season! We spent the weekend drenched in rain, so there were things we just couldn't do or see.

I was able to spend Friday with a good friend of the family who took me to all her favorite places in Taipei - Taipei 101(tallest building in the world for the time being), Eslite bookstore (even better & bigger than Barnes & Noble), lunch at Din Tai Fung and then up to Beitou to see the sulfer hot springs - very very beautiful!

As I was getting ready for this trip, I asked friends here in Shanghai what we should do and everyone talked about the food, especially the night markets with stands upon stands of street food vendors. Andy also has fond fond memories of being a little kid and eating street food like shaved ice with red beans and pork sausage. I wish we had been able to go!!! With the typhoon all the street markets were closed - next trip we'll make it. :-)

Street food aside, we still ate like kings the entire weekend. It was fabulous! Taiwan was ruled by Japan (as a colony) for 50 years and there are still strong influences of the Japanese culture in Taipei which includes many many amazing Japanese restaurants - so of course we dove right in! On Sunday we spend the whole day basically eating at different Japanese restaurants. Yummy, healthy and delicious.

A & I stayed with one of his friends while we were there and he and his wife suggested since it was pouring rain we should go to one of the many hot spring baths (think Japanese style Onsen). It was fabulous - the place we went is called Villa 32 and is up in the Beitou Mountains. Apparently Villa 32 was a private club, but the owner wasn't getting enough business so he opened it up to the public. It's quite a place, the asthetic is very clean, modern but with an asian flare. They have 5 very high end hotel rooms (apparently Jet Li stays here because of the privacy) and both private and public hot spring baths. It's amazing - so relaxing. We went for a 90 minute private hot bath and then enjoyed afternoon tea in the restaurant (which also boasts a HUGE wine cellar with some really amazing stuff).

Here's my overall take on Taipei - it's really fabulous! It's a city of 2-3 million people, that is 10-15 years ahead of Shanghai in terms of social graces. For example everyone lines up at the subway and waits for people to get off the train before calmly getting on the train. If you've ever been in the Shanghai subway you know it's the opposite here. People are so so so polite and nice everywhere!! Taxi drivers seem to be for the most part very friendly, safe and polite. It also has so much amazing outdoor space like hiking trails and parks it seems like it's really easy to just get out of the city for an afternoon.

Don't get me wrong, I really like Shanghai but if you need a weekend away for some peace & quiet Taipei is a great place to go.


Chris said...

I know this is way off-topic, but it might interest readers: the US Department of Commerce is holding a webinar on the sustainable reconstruction of Sichuan schools. Might be an interesting perspective.


Swiss Miss said...

The Swiss could learn a lot from this country apparently. They still haven't figured out how to let people out of a train before trying to charge on.