Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in Taipei, Taiwan!!!

During my winter vacation from school, I wanted to spend it wisely by traveling. I only have two weeks off during the school year, so I can't waste them. So I decided to go to Taipei, Taiwan. It's on my list of placed to go while I'm overseas. On this trip I traveled by myself and tour around. I was very nervous but Taipei is one of the safest cities in the world. So with that knowledge, I felt less nervous.

My flight left Seoul at 8:30am, so I needed to wake up very early to catch my flight. I took the subway to get to the next city north (Anyang) to catch the airport shuttle to Gimpo Airport. I also had a layover in Busan, so I was able to get into Taiwan at around noon. Taiwan is an hour ahead of Korea, so not much of a time difference.

I was very tired when I got to my hostel. The hostel I stayed at was called Homey Hostel and I have to say, it felt very homey. The two people who worked their, Josh and Kelly, were both very nice and friendly. They made me feel very welcomed and offered to help me if I had any concerns. I didn't want to sit around the hostel though. I decided to walk around and explore the area I lived in. The hostel had made a map for the guests of everything within a 20 min walking distance. There was a night market nearby, and when I walked through it they were getting set-up. Night markets normally open around 6pm. I walked all the way to Taipei 101, which was about 20 min way. It was so tall, its the 3rd tallest skyscraper in the world at 1,670.6 ft tall. Comparing that to the Space Needle in Seattle, it's over 1000 ft taller.

Taipei 101 from the base
I then went on a night tour that I arranged before I headed to Taiwan. We first were taken to a Mongolian BBQ dinner. The food was descent, it was very busy though. After we were done eating, we went to Huashi Street Night Market, also known as "Snake Alley." We weren't able to really explore the Market very much, we just kind of walked through it. But I was mainly just exploring, not really looking to purchase anything just yet. Right near the market is Longshan Temple. It is a Buddhist, Taoist, and Matsu temple built in 1738. It was night when we went, but it looked gorgeous. There were many people at the temple making offerings and praying to the deities. I felt somewhat awkward taking photos. After the temple, we then went to Taipei 101. Earlier, I did not go to the top, but this time I was going to. I heard that the city at night was a beautiful site to see from the top and it was. The city was lit up with so many colors. The only thing was the outside observatory was closed and so when I took photos, it was through the windows.

Longshan Temple
Night view from Taipei 101
When I got back to my hostel, I was very tired, but some of the other people staying at the hostel invited me to go out for a drink with them. I didn't want to waste my time in Taiwan, so I sucked it up and went with them. I am very happy I did. We went to a pub called Saint & Sinners. I was able to experience a Taiwan beer. Since this was Christmas Eve, when it got to midnight, the bar had a special for tequila shots to bring in Christmas Day. And this is when I had my first tequila shot, but it was very smooth going down. The only thing I tasted was the lime. Anyway, it was a fun night, the people I met were English teachers in Japan. Two of them originally came from Canada, one came from the states, and the other two from England. They were  also going to go to a restaurant/bar the next night for Christmas dinner and invited me along with them. They also invited me to join them the next day.

The next day, we first went to a local bakery for some delicious pastries for breakfast. We went to a bakery that had snowmen pastries, so what better place to have breakfast on Christmas morning. Afterwards, we all went to Tamsui. It is a city to the north of Taipei, and is a popular destinations for locals, especially on Sundays, which is when we went. We also got there just in time to watch the sunset, which is what the town is also popular for. It was beautiful. We also walked around the waterfront shops for gifts. I also tried a popular Taiwanese candy snack. There were strawberries and cherry tomatoes on a skewer, which was then covered with a hard candy. It was really good, even the candy covered tomato.

After we were done exploring, we headed back into the city to get some Christmas dinner. We had made it to the bar, 10 min before they were done serving the dinner special, which was at 8pm. The dinner was very good. I didn't even think I was going to have anything special to eat for dinner anyways, so this was a good thing. They even served each course separately, so once we were done with one, they brought the next one. Our first course was a caesar salad with shrimp, smoked salmon and asparagus. Then we had our soup which was a crab pumpkin cream soup. It was very good, I liked it a lot. For the main course we had turkey and steak. I was happy I had turkey, especially because for Thanksgiving we had chicken instead. And then for dessert we had a Baileys cheese tart. The meal also came with a beer, but once we were all done with the beer we also ordered a cider. The meal overall was very good.

The next day we went to the National Palace Museum. It was interesting to explore the museum. Most of the artifacts at the museum were from China, but it was still fun to look at. We were there for a good amount of time. Afterwards, we went to the Hello Kitty Cafe. We wanted to eat dinner there but they were all booked for the day, and so we ended up just purchasing some sweets to go. It was very good. For dinner, we just ended up going to a cafe and had a light dinner. I had a roast beef sandwich, which ended up being really good.

Me in front of the museum
OMG Hello Kitty
After we got back to the hostel, we said out goodbyes, because they were leaving for the south early in the morning and I was flying back to Seoul as well. My trip was amazing. I enjoyed my time and met new friends. They invited me to visit them in Japan and I invited them to visit me in Korea. There was only one thing that I wanted to go but ended up not having time, but that is okay. I'll just have to go again. It was also crazy how many mopeds were in Taipei, they were like a gang. They were everywhere. There was probably more people driving mopeds around then there were cars, which is a lot.

If you want to look at more pictures, check out my Flickr account.