For a brief moment, the sun peeked through the thick blanket of clouds covering Taipei City. The skyline was awash in hues of magentas wanting to ignite into fiery reds, a moment that never came to be. In a blink of an eye, haze consumed the sun once more, and in response, a cacophony of lights started to twinkle from the city, iridescently hypnotic. In the center of it all, the Taipei 101 stood proud, a colossal monolith pointing to the heavens. I stood back from the railings of a view deck several hundreds of feet above ground and sighed, Taipei, I am back.
|VISITING TAIPEI WITH MY COUSINS AND MOM THIS TIME|
It was less than two months since I first set foot on Taiwan. After unexpectedly falling in love with the city, I checked the interweb and found an incredulously cheaper flight than my first. After a flurry of bookings and hotel arrangements, I was soon flying back to Taipei, this time with my mom and two cousins.
|TAOYUAN AIRPORT AT THE WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING|
We travelled in the middle of January and it was noticeably colder. Temperature was at 12 degrees, something I’m really not used to but was enjoying a lot with just a light sweater on, to the chagrin of my companions who were wearing layers upon layers of warm clothing.
|AFTER LESS THAN TWO MONTHS, HELLO AGAIN, TAIPEI!|
Dropping our bags at Wow Ximen Wow Hostel right in the thick of Ximending walking street, we did a quick pre-breakfast meal at one of the uncles hawking Taiwanese streetfood, a crepe thing with crispy bacons, and proceeded to my rehashed Taiwan day tour itinerary I made for my previous trip.
|CHIANG KAI SHEK’S NATIONAL PERFORMING ARTS CENTER|
|CHIANG KAI SHEK MEMORIAL HALL|
|THE NATIONAL THEATER|
Like before, we purchased a three-day MRT pass for a measly TWD380.00. We were soon tunneling our way to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. The square has a slightly different feel in the mornings. We wandered around a bit, me pointing out places to my companions and acting tour-guidy before boarding the train once again to check out the Shuanglian Morning Market.
|SHUANGLIAN MORNING MARKET|
|THIS IS NOT YOUR TYPICAL CUTESY FOR TOURIST MARKET, WELL, TO SOME EXTENT|
|STREET FOOD GALORE|
I was expecting a morning version of the Taipei night markets but was surprised to find a legit market of sorts. Like wet market legit, complete with pork meat and what-nots. We breezed through the throngs of locals and tourists, taking in the vibrant colors of the marketplace and its dizzying activities.
|WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO DADAOCHENG?!|
Still on foot, we traversed the eerily deserted sidewalks of Jinxi Street and plunged headlong into the madness of Taipei’s old district, Dadaocheng. I was taken entirely by surprise to find this once quiet place surrounded by distinct Chinese-Taiwanese architecture swarming with people.
|EATING OUT AT DADAOCHENG|
|LUNCH IS SERVED!|
The whole street was lined with stalls hawking all sorts of stuff (with free taste!) and the place was packed. Really packed. We went with the swell, darting quick picks on the free food along the stalls before finally sitting our asses off on a square filled with chairs and tables, ours soon filled with bowls of braised pork rice, shrimp dumplings, pork ribs, steamed veggies, fishball soup and Taiwanese tea egg. Lunch time!
|VIEW OF NEW TAIPEI FROM THE DADAOCHENG WHARF|
I still have no idea what the deal was with Dadaocheng being a mad bedlam of people as we wended our way back through the crowd and into the Dadaocheng Wharf to relax a bit before proceeding to our next stop.
|SUN YAT SEN MEMORIAL HALL, NOTHING MUCH TO SEE, REALLY|
We forewent our initial plan of going back to the hostel to check in and decided to push ahead with the itinerary, the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. Its classic arched Chinese roof has always fascinated me during my stay at the Grand Hyatt Taipei, we just didn’t have enough time back then to visit it. Well, it was just as well as the structure nor even its surroundings weren’t really that interesting. Well, I did enjoy watching a few of the locals milling around the place, flying kites and kids running around trying to catch pigeons.
|GOING UP TO THE ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN, AGAIN|
Now clocking in at 20,000++ steps on my pedometer app, we pushed our feet further for the Taipei 101. We took a quick break inside, warming ourselves and looking for a place to change money before going back down to the train and racing the sunset at the nearby Elephant Mountain.
After a twenty-minute slow walk towards the stairs leading to the Elephant Mountain viewing deck, we contemplated if we would still continue. Our feet were dying. But since we’re already here, we might as well push on and let our feet die a dignified death.
|TAIPEI CITY FROM THE ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN VIEW DECK|
Slowly, we ascended the unending steps until we reached the first, then second view deck. As usual, it was filled to brimming with tourists waiting for when the golden hour would bathe Taipei City into a golden urban landscape of jagged skyscrapers.
|GOING UP TO THE HIGHEST VIEWPOINT|
Since we still have a bit of time, I decided to push further than before and see the highest view deck. It was surprisingly just a few minutes away from where we were and the view was even better. Here, you can actually see both the setting sun and the Taipei 101 in a single panorama. It was just too bad that cloud cover was quite thick and the sun was content on simply peeping every now and then from the haze.
|THE TAIPEI 101 RISING ABOVE THE CITY|
We waited until the city became electric before going back down and riding the train again to our dinner, the Shilin Night Market. We were dead tired by the time we took a seat and our meal was served.
It was a long day of exploring Taipei City, returning on already visited places with new twists and experiencing a couple of entirely new ones. It was a first for my cousins and my mom, a second for me. Still, I live for visiting the same places over and over again. Taiwan isn’t a part of South East Asia, but what they say around it definitely applies for Taipei too. Same same but different.