Taipei Day 1 (30 Apr 14) – Hello Taipei

It was 5am. The city of Taipei is still sleeping. As I deplaned from a 4 hour overnight flight, walking out of the aircraft a sleepy and quiet airport terminal greeted me. There was hardly any souls around. It is hard to believe this city inhibits nearly 3 million people. This is my first trip to Taipei, though I have been to Taiwan before on business trip some years ago, I did not have time to really explore the country. Moreover I was in Tainan and not Taipei. I have seen so much on TVs from Taiwanese serials to Travel Programmes about Taipei. I was traveling with a friend whom has traveled to this city umpteen times. However his stays was usually in Taipei city itself. We planned to be ambitious and wanted to explore more then Taipei during this trip, given that we only have 4 days here. Clearing customs is swift, partly due to the low visitor traffic at this time of the day. We collected our luggage and soon found ourselves out of the airport terminal. Our transport is already waiting for us.
My friend and I after the immigration in Singapore Changi Airport, getting ready to head to Taipei
Boarded the aircraft and ready to go
Taking off from Singapore Changi Airport
Arrival at Taipei Taoyuan Airport
An empty airport terminal greeted us
An empty airport terminal greeted us
Waiting to collect our luggages
Our ride to the hotel is already waiting for us

The drive to Taipei city from the airport takes less than an hour. As we were driven towards our hotel, the quietness of the city attested to the fact that the city is still asleep. It is hardly the Taipei that I can to read about. We checked into the hotel upon arrival. Checking in was fast, however due to we arrived early, the hotel do not provide complementary early check-in. We paid for the extras and proceeded to our room to rest a little before heading out to explore the city. It was still early for us to do anything, the only shops that are still open at this hour are the 7-Elevens and the Family Marts nearby.

 

Driving to Taipei City from the airport
Driving to Taipei City from the airport
An empty expressway towards the city
Driving to Taipei City from the airport
The hotel that we will be putting up
An empty street of Taipei
Empty street of Taipei

Half a day has passed. My friend and I had woken refreshed ready to explore the city. We headed to the nearby subway station and gotten ourselves stored value tickets. Subway is a very convenient way of exploring the city. The stations are well marked in both Mandarin and English signs. All the attractions within the city serviced by the subway is clearly marked on maps, making traveling by subway easy, not to mention subway is actually cheaper then taking cabs.

Inside the Taipei Subway station
A train has just pulled into the station
Riding on the subway

Our first stop in Taipei was the Longshan Temple. This temple is considered one of the big 3 temples in Taipei and proved to be a great spot to soak up the religious culture of the Taiwanese. The temple is conveniently located opposite the Longshan Temple Subway station. Emerging from the subway station, the temple is just right across the street. The facade of the temple looked like time has stopped the day the temple was built. The temple looked old but very well preserved.  Entering the main gate to the temple, a small garden with some man-made waterfall greets visitors. There are 2 side doors to access into the temple building. My friend and I headed to the door no the right. We bought some incense and candles to offer our prayers to the deities being worshipped here. The main deity being worshipped here is Guanyin, however there are over 100 Taoist deities being worshipped here alongside Guanyin. After offering our prayers, we headed further into the temple. The temple can be roughly segregated into 3 main sections. The first section would be the entrance, where it is sheltered and where most devotees come and offer their prayers to Guanyin. In front of the sheltered entrance is the building where Guanyin was being seated. A modest but grand building, it is the centrepiece of the temple. This building is surrounded by buildings connecting to the rear of the temple, where most of the Taoist deities are located. This is where most of the devotees placed their offerings of fruits and vegetarian meals to the gods. These surrounding buildings form the border of the temple. The roofs of Longshan Temple is elaborately decorated with numerous carvings of gods and mainly Chinese dragons, where it is believed that they are the guardians of the temple.

Signage at Longshan Temple
Facade of Longshan Temple
Man made waterfall
Longshan Temple entrance
Me at Longshan Temple entrance
Hordes of devotees in Longshan Temple
Traditional Chinese architecture in Longshan Temple
One of the deities in Longshan Temple
Hordes of devotees in Longshan Temple
Me inside Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple
The main temple building housing Guanyin

Upon exiting the temple, my friend and I wanted to visit Shilin Night Market – the biggest night markets of all in Taipei. We spotted a market just outside Longshan Temple. As it is still early to visit Shilin, we decided to spend some time walking around the market here. The market here is rather scattered and most of the vendors offered street food of Taiwan here. We walked around for 15 mins and found this place to be rather boring. At this point, my friend proposed to visit Ximending instead. We proceeded to the subway station and caught the train to Ximending.

Emerging from the Ximen subway station, the district of Ximending presents itself before us. This district is where some of the major shopping brands is located. Here we spotted a breathe of youthfulness in the air, as it appeared to be a major hangout place for the youths and teens of Taiwan. As we were coming out of the subway station, it started to rain. My friend and I hurried to the nearby shopping mall to seek shelter. We were a little hungry and headed to McDonald’s for a quick bite. Soon the rain subsided a little, my friend and I went on to explore Ximending. Ximending is really a vibrant place, with no lack of fashion outlets, mainly local designers, arcades and cinema. Other then the shopping malls littered across Ximending area, there are also stalls set up mainly for the night market. Unlike that one that we went to in the vicinity of Longshan Temple, the night market stalls seemed to be a permanent feature, with proper shelters and more sturdy looking fixtures, as compared to their make-shift counterparts in Longshan Temple area. There are certainly no lack of street food here in Ximending area. My friend and I headed for the famous oyster vermicelli that is a must eat whenever one comes to Taipei. Perhaps it is the cool climate that accompanied the rain, the oyster vermicelli tasted extra delicious. As we were walking along the streets of Ximending, we met a couple of youths paddling their wares to raise money for their University event. We chatted a little, they were portrayed to be friendly and welcomed us to Taipei. After eating the vermicelli, we walked around Ximending a little more before deciding it is time for us to head over to Shilin Night Market. As we were walking towards the subway station, I spotted a red building just across the road. My friend and I then proceeded to that red building. Little did we realise it is the Red House. This building used to be a old market building. When we visited the building, it now mainly sells teas and we also spotted a few shops selling local arts. As my friend and I are not ardent arts nor tea fan, we did not spend too much time in the Red House. We headed to the subway next and proceeded to our next destination – Shilin Night Market.

Ximending
Ximending
One of the shopping malls in Ximending
One of the shopping malls in Ximending
Friendly locals posing picture with us in Ximending
Crowded Ximending
The famous Oyster Vermicelli in Ximending
Oyster vermicelli in Ximending
This is how the vermicelli is made

Exiting from the subway station, Shilin Night Market is just right across the street.  I read that Shilin Night Market is the mother of all night markets in Taipei and is certainly the largest. The first impression I got from seeing it across the street is that this night market does not look that large nor does it differ from the other markets I have seen so far. As we were walking into the market, little did I realise I was wrong. The market is certainly larger then what it seem from the across the street at the subway station. As one walks into the night market, the market seem to expand in size and depth. There are shops and stalls that seem to sell everything shoppers come for. There are no lack of food stalls in Shilin Night Market. At almost every turn and every corner, one can find food. These are the food that the locals and tourist alike came flogging for. There are food that can match every pallet and every preference. The food one find here are not just inexpensive, they are tasty too. Coupled with the warmth personality of the stall owners, this market is rather enjoyable to walk in. There are also no lack of things for shopaholics to spend their time browsing and buying in Shilin Night Market. Goods ranging from cloths to shoes to souvenirs and even local delicacies can be found here in the night market. One can literally spend hours and hours in Shilin Night Market to hunt for the suitable goods that match what one is looking for here. Despite being raining, it did not dampen the spirits of both shoppers and stall owners alike, life still goes on and Shilin Night Market is still buzzling with life till the wee hours of the morning.  My friend and I spent around 3 hours walking around Shilin Night Market and decided to call it a night as it is getting late (or early in the morning). After walking around in Shilin Night Market, I came to realise the mother of all night markets is indeed an apt title for this market. We merely skimmed through the night market. I have a feeling that we will be back here again before heading back to Singapore. But for now, it is resting time for we will be heading to Jiufen and Shifen.

Shilin Night Market from across the street
Local street food in Shilin Night Market
Street scene in Shilin Night Market
More food in Shilin Night Market
We had smelly tofu
Fruit juice stall in Shilin Night Market
Lots of locals and tourists came flogging to Shilin Night Market
My friend and I in Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market
The sheltered market area in Shilin Night Market
The sheltered market area in Shilin Night Market
One can find local food in Shilin Night Market
Street scene in Shilin Night Market

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