Taipei. Oh, Taipei. In two days, I’ve lived two weeks. What a sensory experience. The food. Oh, the food. It really is everywhere. People here know how to eat. They work hard and relish life’s pleasures. The temples. The history. The monuments. The superstitions. The traditional. The avant-garde. Taiwan has it all.
1. Longshan Temple
The incenses were burning. The red candles were everywhere. Prayers were uttered. Wishes were made. In the chaos of it all, some people sat still and meditated with their beads. Built in honour of Guanyin: the Goddess of Mercy, you simply can’t miss Longshan Temple if you’re in Taipei. For starters, there were more worshippers than there were tourists. Hooray!
The building itself? Gold. Red. Green. Yellow. Dragons on every turn. Step outside and you’re back to high rise apartments and modern conveniences. Just remember to buy a talisman on the way out. Love? Safe travel? Good luck with exams? They have you covered.
2. A famous fortune teller
After you’re done praying for what you want, you can even make a trip to Longshan Temple Underground Mall to get your fortune read. Perhaps it makes more sense if you go to the temple after – especially if the good old oracle has said something you don’t want to hear?
Having grown up in Singapore, I am no stranger to the custom. I’m always cynical, but I also enjoy being entertained. If I’m paying for something like that, I never pay more than what I would for a ticket to the movies. Thankfully, my partner in crime has the same outlook.
By some random stroke of luck, we landed ourselves one of Taipei’s most famous fortune tellers – loved by celebrities local and foreign. She read our palms and pulled out our birth charts. I have no intention of repeating what she had to tell us.
She offered us the opportunity of having a bird pick out three cards for us to a reading. We both politely declined.
3. A home-cooked restaurant meal
Taipei is full of small mom-and-pop restaurants that serve home-cooked food. It’s my favourite thing in the world and boy did we go all out today. After walking around in the neighbourhood, we finally settled on a place where no one spoke English and we got a plate of one of the two dishes they served there.
Roasted chicken, duck and pork with rice; served with a side of iron eggs, seaweed and cabbage. Healthy, flavoursome and scrumptious: every yummy bite tasted like it was good for you. I’ve eaten similar things in Singapore, but the Taiwanese flavour profile is quite different to the Singaporean one – despite the fact that we eat so many of the same dishes.
No complaints. So far both my mouth and my digestive system have been very very pleased.
4. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
One of the most spectacular areas I’ve ever seen in my life. If it wasn’t for all the selfie sticks and iPhones around me, I would have thought that I was back in the 15th century waiting to meet the Emperor (who probably didn’t have time for me).
Grandiose. Ornate. Epic. It’s a place that will leave you speechless and make you go wow, wow, wow many times over.
I can’t say I’ve seen anything like it. It’s a celebration of all that was beautiful about Chinese history as well as the man who was instrumental in making modern Taiwan what it is today. My favourite thing about Taipei so far.
5. Shilin Night Market
No trip to Taipei is complete without a trip to this extremely famous night market. It’s like a carnival, a shopping mall and a food court all in one place. Foods I’ve never seen before. Random bits and pieces on a stick. Balloons. Soft toys. Darts. Shoes. Clothes. Gizmos. T-shirts with funny sayings. Where does it even begin and where does it end? I have no idea, but man, oh man… Just don’t stop what you’re doing cause I like it.
Taipei. Oh, Taipei. You have been very lovely to us. I can’t wait to see how you’ll surprise us next. On that note – it’s another early start tomorrow. Till next time, sweet dreams and goodnight.