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Taiwan – Part 1 November 1, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Taipei.
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We received so much positive feedback from our 4-part, 10,000 word marathon Beijing conversation that we’ve decided to never do it again and go back to my long-winded essays with way more detail than necessary. Get comfortable in case you doze off.

Whatever you were doing about a month ago (the weekend before Canadian Thanksgiving), no matter how much fun you were having – I can assure you that our weekend was better. Period.

Despite not seeing the sun once for 5 days, a minor earthquake while we slept one night, and the threat of a super-typhoon looming over the entire trip, it was one of the most memorable holidays we’ve ever had.

Before arriving in Asia, I had no interest in ever travelling to Taiwan. I knew very little about it other than it doesn’t get along with China and it produced most of the toys that I played with throughout my childhood. But after speaking with some of the other teachers that had lived and worked in Seoul, they convinced us that Taiwan was a must see.

When we started discussing this trip with the Mulloskey’s over 6 months ago, we identified a variety of different potential venues for this 5-day holiday which is known as Chuseok or the Korean Thanksgiving. Shanghai was under consideration but was voted down because Katie and I will be going there next week to see Tiger. Guam and Philipines were both strong contenders but a bit far and pricey during this holiday. Both got levelled by Typhoons so we made the right choice in retrospect. Taiwan was right in the crosshairs of the said Typhoon but veered off course the day before our departure. It was actually bittersweet for Mullin and I as we were both secretly hoping that it would hit so we could experience a Typhoon. Erin and Katie did not share our same passion for extreme weather conditions.

Upon arrival in Taipei, we immediately headed for our hostel which was conveniently located in the heart of Taipei right next the main Subway/Train Station. We could not have picked a more ideal location and I must credit Erin and Katie for their research and preparation. I contributed very little to the decision-making on this trip and was very lucky to have such good travel companions that provided such wonderful, hassle-free options. Mullin was there too.

After dropping off our bags and marvelling at the room that the Mulloskey’s snagged (we were on the 22nd floor), we headed off to our first sight-seeing destination – Taipei 101.

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TAIPEI 101 is currently the tallest building in the world, at least until the Burj Dubai is completed later this year. Completed in 2004, TAIPEI 101 rises in 8 canted sections, a design based on the Chinese lucky number “8”. It is a homonym for prosperity in Chinese, and the 8 sections of the structure are designed to create rhythm in symmetry, introducing a new style for skyscrapers. The building is also designed to resemble a growing bamboo, a symbol of everlasting strength in Chinese culture.

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When it first came into view upon exiting the subway station, my immediate thought was that it didn’t seem as big as I expected. As we slowly approached on foot, it occurred to me why this may be the case. It’s the only skyscraper in the vicinity. We’re used to large elaborate skylines with numerous skyscrapers that provide a scale for just how large the world’s largest structures actually are. This one was all by itself with nothing of consequence nearby. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely impressive, but it must get lonely without any other friends around to show off to.

Taipei 101 was the first of many highlights throughout our 5-day journey. Rather then bore you with the excruciating minutiae of every last detail, I’m going to focus on my personal highlights in a photo essay style format (in no particular order).

Highlight #1 – Beef Noodles

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Two of my favourite words (beef & noodle) are joined together to form my favourite meal(s) from our trip. Taiwan doesn’t have a defined specialty cuisine, they simply steal from everyone else. We enjoyed foods from all over – Indian, Malaysian, Middle Eastern, Thai and American (McDonald’s). These beef noodles came from a nice food court that had the widest variety of cuisines we’ve ever seen. I actually ate two plates in one sitting and then came back for lunch again the next day to enjoy them one last time. Let’s just say that me and the lady behind the counter would have been on a first name basis, if she could speak English.

Highlight #2 – Top Gun Huanlien

On day 2 we took a train a few hours outside of Taipei to a more remote area. While looking for accommodations we were pleasantly surprised by the occasional fly by of Taiwanese jet fighters. Most of them were just landing at a nearby air strip but Mullin and I still did our best to break the record for most Top Gun references between two human beings. We also completely abandoned our search for a hotel and left that up to the girls while we wandered around the small town trying to get footage of one of the Migs. Success!!

Highlight #3 – Massages

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These pictures speaks for themselves. I can’t remember the exact cost of a foot massage but it was somewhere between free and the cost of a happy meal. Throw a TV showing baseball into the mix and I probably would have paid for 100 happy meals to enjoy such an incredible sensation. The only downside was that Taiwanese people must have rock-hard feet because they absolutely rubbed the shit of ours, to the point where it was painful. I gave my guy the universal sign for take it down a notch fella, but it didn’t matter. Fortunately the Yankees were getting trounced by the Rays so that helped dull the pain.

Highlight #4 – Taiwan Beer

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It’s cheap. It has a cool can. And it’s delicious. Kudos to Mrs. Algate for this artistic shot, worthy of their next ad campaign.

Highlight #5 – The Toilet Restaurant

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We passed this restaurant and had to take a picture. All the seats inside were toilets. Check out the tasty sample dish on display in the front window. We actually thought about going inside as the menu looked pretty decent, but we were worried that the food would end up being kinda shitty. Badoom ching.

Highlight #6 – Sean Mullin

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If you know him, you’ll understand everything I’m about to say. If you don’t I think his personality and positive outlook on life can be summed up in my favourite quote of his from the trip.

“It smells good. I feel good. I’m happy.”

Another famous quote of his which wasn’t actually first said on the trip, but perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to be Sean Mullin:

“Enjoying life as much as I do is absolutely fucking exhausting.”

The other great thing about Mullin is that he’s so busy enjoying life that he frequently likes to leave things behind. Here’s my Top 3 list of things Mullin forgot and had to run back for while we were travelling.

1) Passports in an open locker at the spa (realized they were gone 20 minutes before boarding a train)

2) Umbrella on the subway. It was pouring and fortunately, Erin was nice enough to share hers. I don’t think this is the first time this had happened.

3) His jacket on the plane. This happened at the very end. We were exhausted after a long day of sightseeing and travelling. As we were about to say our goodbye’s, Mullin realized that he left his jacket on the plane and spent the next 2 hours trying to get it back. Katie and I were home in bed within the hour. Mullin never saw the jacket again.

Highlight #7 – Taroko Gorge

This is my new favourite picture and one of hundreds that we took this day.

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Would you believe that we got it on the first take? Good, because we didn’t.

Taroko Gorge is an impressive 19-km-long canyon, situated near Taiwan’s east coast. The area of the gorge is also identified as Taroko Gorge National Park.  The most phenomenal aspect of the park is the amazing scenery. In a single afternoon you can travel from rugged coastal cliffs through a maze of subtropical forested canyons to high elevation subalpine coniferous forests. In about 20 kilometers the landscape rises from sea level to some of the tallest peaks in Taiwan at over 3800 meters.

We hired a private driver and visited three distinct parts of the National Park. The pictures below are divided into the three respective areas that we visited.

Shakadang Trail

Shakadang Trail is also known as “Mysterious Valley Trail”, which is named because more than 40 years ago a group of young folks entered the river valley and found it very secretive. This place has attracted more and more travelers, and thus everyone is used to calling it “Mysterious Valley”. It was officially renamed to “Shakadang Trail” in 2001 again in reference to the name of the river. This trail is built along the river cliff so travelers can easily observe both the folded rocks and ecosystem beside the river shore.

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Eternal Springs Shrine

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Swallow Grotto Gorge

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For an entertaining and much more detailed account of our trip, check out the Mulloskey blog right here.

Stay tuned for Taiwan – Part 2, coming on Tuesday.

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Comments»

1. Erin - November 3, 2009

One of my favourite posts yet…. of course I am mentioned, which I’m sure is feeding slight egomania on my part. Seriously though, amazing trip. Love the photo essay, you’ve captured the best of those days in a way that reminds me vividly of great times shared with great friends. As you once were kind enough to relay to me in the thick of my ‘is anyone reading this’ phase… don’t let our illiterate friends bully you out of your elegant prose. Great post guys.

Let the making fun of this comment’s cheesiness ensue.

2. Dyson - November 4, 2009

What’s with the references to MIG fighters? Are you not aware that the U.S. is the biggest supplier of arms to Taiwan? Are you also not aware that the MIG fighter is of Russian design? Are you also aware that Taiwan builds its own fighters?

And here I thought you were doing meticulous research on this blog. For shame.

3. Dyson - November 4, 2009

God you make me so mad!

4. Taiwan – Part 2 « 2009: An Asian Odyssey - November 12, 2009

[…] here if you missed Part […]


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