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Taiwan – Part 2 November 12, 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.

Click here if you missed Part 1.

Highlight #8 – The World’s Fastest Elevator

The weather was less than ideal for our first trip to Taipei 101, so we decided to return on Day 3 and hope for a clearer view. The skies were still somewhat overcast, but I was determined to visit the 89th floor observatory aboard the world’s fastest elevator. I tried to convince the ladies to join me, but Mullin was the only one willing to come along for the ride.

The 1667-ft., 101-story building has 67 elevator units, including two that service the 89th-floor observation deck and qualify as the world’s fastest. These units rocket skyward at a peak speed of 3314 ft. per minute (fpm), more than 800 fpm faster than the previous record holder in Japan’s Yokohama Landmark Tower. By comparison, an airline pilot normally maintains a climb, or descent rate, of no more than 1000 fpm.

The airliner analogy is sound as you get a similar sensation aboard the elevator as you do during take-off, especially the way your ears pop from the rapid changes in altitude.

The view from the observation deck wasn’t spectacular, but the ride aboard the elevator made the trip well worth it. And yes, I suspect this is the first and last time I’ll ever write about an elevator ride, and acknowledge it as “worthwhile”.

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This picture was taken from…

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…the intersection at the bottom of this picture. This one was taken from the 89th floor.

Highlight #9 – Snake Alley

When we first started discussing some of the attractions that we wanted to visit in Taiwan, Snake Alley was one of the first ones that was suggested.

According to our Lonely Planet guide, the snakes used to be antagonized and killed in front of the customers as some sort of ritual ceremony before feasting on their blood and remains. For some reason, this practice has come under scrutiny and is not openly demonstrated to the public, at least no where that we could find. Stupid PETA.

After asking several locals for directions, we managed to find the infamous Snake Alley. As you’ll see from the pictures below, there are plenty of large snakes on display in front of most of the restaurants that serve various snake by-products. Mullin was feeling somewhat adventurous, and after promising Erin not to drink the snake poison, he basically ordered everything on the menu.

The various drinks placed before him consisted of snake blood, snake poison, snake penis (?), snake bile, and a partridge in a pear tree.

I’ll let the videos below do the rest of the talking.

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Highlight #10 – International Symbol for Underground Mall

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We got a good laugh from this one every time we entered the mall connected to the train station. Apparently this is the international sign for Underground Shopping Mall. Look how happy she is!! Unfortunately, we were unable to find any shoppers displaying the same raw emotion.

Highlight #11 – Shida District

This University district consisted a wide variety of funky bars and restaurants. We wandered around for a while, stopped for a few martini’s, and then ventured out again to find a nice dinner spot. We ended up settling on a very cool pizza place with a patio and a very entertaining menu.

The restaurant was called Maryjane Pizza so it didn’t take Mullin and I much convincing to give it a shot. Turns out that it’s owned by an American couple and the wife was responsible for writing the menu in its entirety.

Aside from the menu description pictured below, some of my other favourites included:

The Meatza – “Looking for a balanced diet? Go away. This baby’s got loads of bacon and it’s sprinkled with our specially spiced blend of pork and beef. The green peppers and onions are just for show.”

Quattro Formaggi – “Parmesan, blue cheese, ricotta and mozzarella. How cheesy? David Hasselhoff doing Michael Bolton covers. With Menudo. In Wisconsin.

The pizza was just as tasty as the menu was funny. A memorable dining experience.

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The side streets were packed with students of all ages.

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As with almost everywhere in Taipei, you can’t go more than a few blocks without finding a 7-11. No exaggeration.

Highlight #12 – Shindiaoling Waterfall Trail

This was the highlight of the trip by far.

As was the case for most of the trip, the forecast was less than favourable and called for rain throughout the day. Despite the poor weather conditions, we were determined to hike the trail to these spectacular waterfalls.

After a short train ride to the outskirts of Taipei, we exited the train at a desolate station that looked like it was straight out of the 60’s. There wasn’t a soul to be seen with the exception of the lone station employee. We followed our directions along the tracks until we came upon an even more desolate small town. And when I say town, I mean small assemblage of battered shacks. Once again, not a single person in sight. We entered the forest/jungle thanks to some lackluster signage and started our trek.

5 hours later we returned completely drenched from one of the most incredible nature experiences any of us have ever had.

We spent close to 2 hours following a somewhat obscure trail through the woods. We had to cross streams of varying depth and length, manoeuver through treacherous rock formations, and climb some fairly steep embankments to remain on course. All this while the rain continued to fall and compromise our footing and permeate our clothing. We came upon some rather large leaves which you’ll see pictured below, and I devised a makeshift umbrella which we eventually attached to Katie’s backpack to keep it’s contents dry.

As our hands started to prune and not a single item of clothing was dry, we heard a low rumbling in the distance that could only be one thing. The trek through the forest/jungle was a highlight in itself and we weren’t sure what to expect from these waterfalls, but as you can see from the pictures/videos, we were all pleasantly surprised and completely in awe.

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This is the first waterfall we saw along the trail. Not bad…

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Our makeshift umbrella. I should have been a cast member on Lost.

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These pictures don’t do it justice. The size and scope of this waterfall was breathtaking.

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The best part about the entire day was that aside from the train station employee, we did not see a single other person for the entire adventure. It was just the four of us and nature.

Highlight #13 – Beitou Hot Springs

This was the last stop on our trip.

Traditional public hot spring etiquette requires that bathers thoroughly wash and rinse off their bodies before entering the bath, do not wear clothing (including swim wear) in the bath and tie up their hair so that it does not touch the water. Most of the public outdoor hot springs in the Beitou area are modeled more after European spa centers and require swimsuits since you will be bathing in mixed company as was the case with this one.

Once again, it was raining but we called ahead to ensure that the outdoor hot spring was open as our flight was leaving in the early afternoon. Seeing as it was Monday morning at 10:30am, the death squad was out in full effect as we were by far the youngest bathers. I’d say the average age of all the other patrons was somewhere between coma and carcass.

Once we acclimatized ourselves to all the stares and various water temperatures, we sat back and relaxed while the rain fell gently and steam rose all around us. It was a perfect way to end a trip we will never forget. It was also nice having a bathing suit and not be faced with the prospect of Mullin’s junk in my face every 10 minutes. But that’s another story.

(We weren’t allowed to take pictures here, but Mullin snuck a couple as we were leaving.)

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While relaxing all together one last time before starting our trip home, we all marveled at how much we had accomplished in just 5 short days. At the same time, none of us ever felt rushed or stressed, it was the ideal mix of relaxation and sightseeing with two perfect travel companions.

We vowed that wherever our lives took us, that we would find a way to experience a trip like this together again one day. We can’t wait.

Stay tuned for our next post about our trip to Shanghai this past weekend.

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Comments»

1. Dyson - November 13, 2009

Good post. Loving the random Mullin urination.

Any after-effects from eating all that snake?

2. Nanners - November 13, 2009

I have thrown up in my mouth repeatedly thinking about eating snake. When you move back I will be VERY skeptical of having dinner at your place.

3. Erin - November 19, 2009

Thanks for that comment Nanners… we’ve been dying for the hype to die down.

Jordan, thank you for continuing to thwart my best efforts to keep the man who will say no to nothing alive on this side of the Pacific.

Highlight #12… my fave too.

Fave line… somewhere between coma and carcass… awesome.

Great post!

4. John Bardos - JetSetCitizen - November 22, 2009

Great pictures and videos.

I don’t know if I would be that adventurous to try all those snake by-products. Your a brave man! 🙂


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