I’m trying to remember, but I think this is the first time that I’ve ever managed to extend an airport layover. I’ve had some planned overnight layovers — Berlin, Vancouver, Seoul — but those were due to flight schedules, not my choice. And I’ve had unplanned overnight layers — Atlanta, Paris, and Moscow come to mind. Eva Air had reasonable rates so Ferda and I decided to spend five days in Taipei on our way from Singapore to Los Angeles.
My very first impression as we walked from the metro to our hotel was that the streets sure look a lot like Japan.
Turns out there’s a good reason for that. Much of Taipei’s infrastructure was built by the Japanese while they occupied Taiwan for about 50 years ending with WW2. Who knew?
On our first morning in Taipei we headed out for some food toward an area full of restaurants according to the map. Oddly there wasn’t a single restaurant on the ground there. We quickly figured out that everything was underground! Indeed we ate at a number of underground food courts during our short stay.
Of the few touristy things we did in Taipei, by far the best was the National Palace Museum.
And the best exhibits at the National Palace Museum were the many rooms of porcelain.
The beautiful pieces went on and on.
There was surprisingly little background information — nothing about Chinese history, for example. Something as simple as a timeline of Chinese dynasties would have been useful. I was also curious about how and when these pieces made their way to Taiwan, but I suppose that’s a thorny topic.
I enjoyed the snuff bottles after seeing a fine collection in Lisbon.
Here are a couple photos of the area around the Chiang-kai Shek Memorial Hall.
I must admit I didn’t learn much there either.
We found a few pretty temples to visit. At Xingtian Temple a kind, older woman who spoke English well explained to Ferda how the divining blocks work. Ferda threw them three times and got three resounding “yes”.
One day at 228 Peace Park we met about 25 other tourists and Andy, our guide for the afternoon.
Andy mostly talked about Taiwan’s history — Portuguese came 400 years ago, then the Dutch in 1624, later Spanish. China took over in the mid-17th century but mostly neglected Taiwan. The Japanese, I guess, were next as I mentioned earlier. Andy spent too much time on the 228 Incident (in 1947; the start of a police crackdown as I understand it), but overall he gave an interesting tour.
A young Taiwanese couple on the tour encouraged us to visit the Lin Family Mansion and Garden the following day which we dutifully did. It wasn’t terribly exciting, but maybe that’s ’cause the mansion itself was closed for renovation. We could only visit the garden.
Back to food. Isn’t that where I started? We ate two dinners at the Ningxia Night Market near our hotel. On the first evening we tried oysters, meat skewers, steamed spring rolls, and here Ferda is with steamed pork dumplings.
You can see the line of people behind her in the above photo. Curious what the hype was about, we waited in that line (behind 38 people!) on our next visit — omelettes with oysters and clams billed as “traditional Taiwanese cuisine”. Indeed it was worth the wait.
We finished off with a kind of shredded/grated ice cream dish called “snowflake ice”, shown here in the mango version. And again, surprisingly good!