AROUND this time last year, my friends and I embarked on one fun adventure to Taiwan. With little expectations on this trip, thinking it would be similar sights to cities in mainland China, its capital, Taipei, amazed me.
There was an energy and exciting vibe to this bustling modern metropolis that reminded me so much of Seoul. From its national shrines to its natural attractions to its nightlife, skyscrapers and shopping areas, Taipei made me feel like a kid once again.
Going back in time
Taipei’s history is colorful, marred by wars and invasion but it eventually rose and become one of the most developed cities in Asia. We got a glimpse of its past through its museums and historical sites.
The National Palace Museum is the repository of important Chinese art and artifacts which were brought to Taipei during the Chinese Civil War dividing the collection that were all housed before in Beijing. A short ride from the National Palace Museum is the National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine which houses the spirit tablets of around 390,000 individuals who died in wars and revolutions.
We were fortunate to witness the changing of the guards, which we also experienced when we visited the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. It was built in honor of the former president of Taiwan, Chiang Kai-Shek. His statue sits on the main chamber of the hall, which is looking over the huge Liberty Square between the National Concert Hall and the National Theater.
Nature: Steady yet evolving
Taipei, as a city, also has several greens and areas where people can commune with nature. The highest point in the city is the Yangmingshan National Park. There are volcanic activities in the park, due to Mt. Qixing, a dormant volcano.
We arrived at Xiaoyoukeng, where fumaroles and tiny craters are present, with little visibility due to the smoky pits, the cold fog, and the drizzle. Even from afar we could almost smell the sulfur in the air. But the fog was even thicker when we got to the Qingtiangang grassland. We heard the cows even before we can spot their dark skin from the grayish white clouds that screened the surroundings.
Fast forward to modern times
But what is the most visible landmark in the city is the Taipei 101 which used to be the tallest structure on earth from 2004 until 2009 before it was dethroned by Burj Khalifa. Looking at the bamboo-shaped building was fascinating, especially at night when its lights illuminate the dark sky.
There are other modern structures in Taipei, one of which is the Eco Ark at the Taipei Expo Park. Did you know that the building is built out of pet bottles? It boasts as a green building, using even natural means to ventilate its interiors.
Of all the places we’ve been to in Taipei, it was in Ximending, where our hotel is located that we enjoyed the most. At night, people sprout from all corners converging in this shopping haven for its commercial stores, food stalls, and street performances. The clean, secure (there were CCTVs everywhere) and friendly ambiance of Taipei had me smitten.
For a better understanding of Taipei’s geography, it is located at the Taipei basin in the northern part of Taiwan. As an enclave of New Taipei City, which used to be Taipei County, Taipei City is also surrounded by burgeoning cities and interesting sights. Next week, let me take you outside Taipei to the areas in New Taipei City.
Claire Marie Algarme blogs at http://firsttimetravels.com. Follow her as @firsttimetravel on Twitter and Instagram.