Getting From Macau to Taipei
Not a whole lot to report today, unfortunately. Mostly a travel day. Which should’ve been a lot shorter than it was. But tomorrow, we have a big day in Taipei. Our flight was scheduled midday. I tend to book flights earlier and then I feel all rushed in the mornings, so this time I booked midday and found we were just waiting around for the time to pass. I can’t be pleased. At least we’ll be able to check right into our hotel without worry.
Had a lavish breakfast super early. Tried fresh dragonfruit for the first time. Sad that I’m trying it for the first time, I know, but I finally did it. Not sure it’s for me. Seemed fairly tasteless and the consistency was a little smooshy. Looks pretty, though, right?
Navigating the Macau Airport
The Macau airport is small and security really gave us a good run for our money. There were two bag scans. The first one, I got flagged and had to dig through my bag (extra camera battery and an adapter). The second one, Jeff got flagged and had to dig through his (nail clippers). Both events triggered some mild anxiety.
Then, Jeff lost his immigration card. These are kind of important. You need them to leave the country, or you have to hunt down an office at your location and get another one to leave the country. It fell out of his passport when a lady at security was flipping through. We saw it on the floor thankfully and had security grab it for us. A little more anxiety. Random people seemed… interested in us. Which also makes me anxious. Like, what do you want from me?!?
The Flight To Taiwan
After all of this, we sat on the tarmac for an hour or so, but made up some time during the flight itself. Tried some buckwheat balls on the flight. Tasted like rice cakes, so I won’t be hunting them down anytime soon. But they also gave us a tasty little cake treat.
Customs was… customs. I must’ve gotten the uber ambitious trainee because she was grilling every single person in front of her. Meanwhile, Jeff didn’t get asked a single thing. I pared down my prescription medicines for this trip because Asia—Japan, anyway—is much stricter than the US. What’s completely normal for us is illegal here. I have letters from my docs for the meds I did bring, but I really don’t want to test the waters with customs.
More. Anxiety. Was also worried our transfer driver just left due to our delay, but nope, he was there. And release a deep breath. So much worry, all for naught. Meanwhile, Instagram was notifying me I had a suspicious login attempt in Taiwan. Only this time, it actually was me.
Our Taiwanese Apart-Hotel
Our hotel is… meh. I’ve gotten into booking apart-hotels after our stay in Scotland and this one just doesn’t measure up. An FYI that apart-hotels are basically individual apartments with hotel-type amenities. They’re usually nice and pretty affordable considering. We have a kitchenette, a washing machine (excellent considering the last few sweaty days), a living room, etc. The staff is very nice and the location seems good, but our room leaves a little to be desired.
It’s fairly dim throughout, especially in the bathroom. You can barely tell when the light is on. We have to go get towels because they only gave us one, and the hand soap smells like something’s burning. Not sure if that’s supposed to be pleasant, but… no. It’s not for me. (Maybe it smells like buckwheat and has some sort of healing properties. Don’t care. Smells like butt.) We’ll be picking up some bar soap while we’re out.
A Weird Shower & Strange Fire Escape
The shower started dripping a ton of water at three in the morning, almost like it had just started running or was just turning off. That was weird. And we found a wad of cash in one of the nightstand drawers. Looks to be around $140 USD in Chinese Yuan. So, we’ll be dropping that off at the front desk. (Not sure what the penalty for stealing is here, but let’s not find out.) To boot, we weren’t given any coffee pods and only have half a roll of toilet paper. I cry.
We have a balcony, though. And the strangest fire escape I’ve ever seen. It’s basically asking you to strap yourself to a rusty, crane-like contraption and lower yourself down… from the 10th floor. It also has one of the fancy Asian toilets that Jeff loves with the seat warmer and sprayer. It’s almost too warm and a little weird, but whatever. Jeff came out to yell at me once for leaving the toilet seat lid up, but it has a motion sensor on it, so anytime you walk past it, the toilet lid rises. I just started leaving it up.
Earthquakes & Water Tanks
I think it was just last week that Taiwan had a 6.something earthquake. Jeff said, “Woah. Didn’t think about that.” I guess earthquakes are for me the way hurricanes are for Jeff. I lived in Italy and Seattle, where earthquakes are fairly common. And then I’ve been in earthquakes in super random parts of the world, like Belgium and DC (just a few years ago). The one in DC was like a 5.3 or 5.6, too. Not so phased, but then again… I haven’t been in one in a third-world country. Here’s to hoping Taiwan got it all out of its system last week.
Noticing that every building has individual water tanks on the rooftops, which I’ll be looking into. People keep asking if we’ve tried any exotic foods or food stand samples and I would really like to, but… I’ve had the misfortune of travelers sickness in the Amazon after having a drink with supposedly boiled ice cubes. I’m pretty paranoid. I have been having drinks with ice, coffee, and fresh fruit (with thick skins only), but we’ve been at pretty swanky hotels thus far, which I’m sure are very careful about their treated water. Might have to be more careful here, lest I have a remix. No pun intended.
That said, ran into a 7-11 for bottled water and snacks after check-in. Fewer folks speak English here and we were confronted with our very first translation fail of the trip. When asked if we wanted a bag, we said yes, but I guess there’s a bag tax that can only be paid in cash… which we didn’t have yet. Fortunately, a random customer helped us out and we just went bagless. 7-11 is one of a few places in Taiwan that accepts Apple Pay. (Everywhere in HK took it.) There are a lot of places that don’t take cash at all or Apple Pay, but use the Taiwan Card, which is similar to the Octopus Card, I guess.
Taiwan is super green (obviously), but at the moment, there seems to be more green downtown than in Hong Kong. We are located directly across from a city park, though. We’ll see as we do some sightseeing with our big day in Taipei. The interesting thing about our visit here is that I wasn’t initially super keen, but after doing a little research, I think I could spend a week in Taiwan just exploring. I’ll keep you posted.
A Day In Taipei
Oh, Taipei, you sneaky little fox, you! Aside from being completely sun-fried and feeling like my body is falling apart after walking 9+ miles, I have to say our day in Taipei was surprisingly delightful. I read some blog that said Taipei was dull and drab and paled in comparison to other Asian capitals, but I have to respectfully disagree.
The first part of our walk was just okay, but it got better and better as the day went on. I think our hotel is in an alright part of town, recommended by many on all my travel forums, but I would have loved to have stayed in some of the other areas we passed through today. Our area is sort of everything you’d picture Taipei to be—pseudo scruffy high-rises with businesses abound, neon signs up, down, and all-around.
We did get a kick out of all the mopeds. Every light was stacked with mopeds, ten-deep, ready to zoom away in one big pack when the lights turned green. We started calling them motorcycle gangs. Meep meep. (Things really turn up around the 0:17 mark here!)
Dihua, Longshan & Bopiliao
Our first stop, not too far from our hotel, was Dihua Old Street. It’s an old market street with little temples. Interesting enough, but I bet it’s much better later in the day when more shops are open (or even at night).
Longshan Temple & Bopiliao
Continued on to Longshan Temple, which was beautiful with such intricate detail. It might be some kind of holiday because the news was there and there was a massive crowd singing inside. It was like a temple within a temple within a temple. The outside was all landscaped and manicured with water features. Really something.
Stopped at Bopiliao Historical Block. Was an okay space, but Jeff and I guessed it might be more interesting to the Taiwan residents or have more historical significance to them. The Japanese stayed here when they were in power. The end. I read a Trip Advisor review that pretty much sums up my sentiments. “There’s a whole story here, but nothing to look at, so why visit?” Definitely not the highlight of our day in Taipei.
The History of 228 Peace Park
Walked a good distance to get to 228 Peace Park. The neighborhood this park sits in is ridiculously gorgeous. Super tall trees everywhere, nice buildings. Clearly the super tourist area, or government area, or business district, or all of the aforementioned. The park is an incredible space with bridges and waterways and sculptures and tons and tons of green. Turtles and ducks chilling on rocks. A squirrel was even sitting right next to a girl on a bench eating seeds, I shit you not. Lots of people relaxing and enjoying the serenity.
The 228 Peace Park was created out of a tumultuous time in Taiwanese history. I won’t go too in-depth because it’s like trying to describe the Middle East and how it got where it is now, but basically, China took Taiwan from Japan around WW2. There was a lot of police brutality against Taiwanese citizens and, eventually, on 2/28/1947, some folks got together and took over the radio station in protest (same location as the present 228 Peace Park).
The Chinese took back over and Taiwan entered what’s referred to as The White Terror, a period of censorship and martial law that lasted 38 years. Fast forward, Taiwan becomes a democracy and finally starts talking about “the 2/28 incident” in 1996. Can you imagine being silent for that long? 49 years? In the end, they created a peace park in remembrance.
Chiang Kai-Shek & 1914 Creative Park
Oddly enough, our next stop was the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Chiang Kai-shek was the Chinese president in charge during the 2/28 Incident. If you ever have a day in Taipei, this is a must-see.
I have to say, this memorial was stoopid impressive. It was four massive temple-like structures. I can’t even describe the scale of these things. I couldn’t even get the whole thing to fit on an iPhone pano shot. Gardens and mini temples flanked all around. I was truly in awe. There was some back and forth on renaming the place, but the latest Taiwanese president wants to leave it as is to recognize the country’s history. Apparently, you can also walk your cat there.
Finished off our day in Taipei with the 1914 Creative Park. I saw pictures of this place, but wherever they were taken, we never found. The Creative Park is a bunch of cute little artsy businesses and cafes in a compact space. Got some nice pics in there, but at this point, I thought I was dying if heat exhaustion, so we’ll see how they really turned out when we get back. (For the record, I checked and I took one of the photos upside down for no apparent reason.)
Record Temperatures Abound
Long day, but nice. If you can believe it, Jeff actually went to see “The Avengers” at a theatre a block away after all of this. It comes out earlier here than in the US.
The heat and humidity is ridiculous. Got up to 105 today. 9 miles… in 105-degree heat. I’m pretty good about prepping for trips, so this heat is making me feel like an amateur. I do not have the wardrobe packed for it. We were reading mid-80s, and women should dress modestly. In my defense, I found that Vietnam had a record temperature for the month of April today at 110 degrees. It’s supposed to be pleasant in the shoulder season!
Closing Out Our Day In Taipei
My tummy has been a little upset the last couple of days, so I’ve been taking it easy with food and water and downing Pepto pills. Seems to be keeping things at bay. Got some sunscreen. And bar soap since I’m convinced that, along with the $140 placed in our room, there’s acid in our buckwheat hotel soap or something.
Also a positive—I took more pictures today, just… not with my camera. With my phone. We’re getting there. I’ll still have my memories. Whenever I think I should be taking more photos, I always think of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” for some reason. One of my favorite travel movies. The part where Sean Penn, the revered photographer in the movie, tells Ben Stiller that some moments are just for him, not to be photographed. It was a whole thing about enjoying the moment. Anyhow…
A fantastic day in Taipei. Tomorrow, we’re going out and about in Taiwan. We’ll be doing a tour of some ancient old towns and stopping by a geopark with bizarre geological structures on the beach. Should be a good time. I’ve been really excited to do the whole Asian ancient city thing again after Kyoto.