Friendly people and monster crabs

A good friend of Alice lives in Taiwan since three years and is excited about the country and the people, which made it to an obligatory stop on our trip. Figuring out that there are affordable flights from Taiwan to Japan boosted our excitement even more. As written before, we had a sleepless night at the airport and on the plane and arrived in Taiwan quite hung over. But once we were off the plane, we started discovering amazing details about this place – on the way to immigration, there were tables providing immigration forms, pens and different kinds of glasses (!!!) for those, who forgot theirs. After an easy immigration, we went out to the terminal and headed to the information counter. The lady explained all our options for getting into the city and also gave us recommendations where to buy SIM cards and so on – in almost perfect English. At the SIM cards counter the next shock: all three companies offer unlimited data at the same price. We approached the vendor of the biggest provider and asked, what “unlimited” really means and despite speaking English very well, he didn’t understand our question – people are not used to those cheap tricks our providers are playing. So it was two SIM cards with unlimited data for us (and we really pushed it to the limits!). We decided to take the train from the airport to the center of Taipei and to take the subway from there. On the way we had a first glimpse on the wonderful landscape of this island, the green hills reminded us of the landscapes in Jurassic Park movies – no smog and smell like in south-east Asia, a completely different world. After the train, we took the subway and had the next positive surprise: Everywhere were signs in English, the pricing system was transparent and easy to understand, the subway system was easier to use, than the ones in large German cities. Out of the subway, we didn’t want to walk the 10 mins to our apartment, so we wanted to take a taxi and here the next surprise: Out of my habit in Thailand and other countries, I tried to negotiate the price before entering the cab, but the driver didn’t understand, what I’m doing, he just pointed to the box and said “meter” – I had to fight for that in Thailand! Next door to our apartment, happened to be a bakery (we are really missing bread!), so first thing after we got settled, we went down to get some breakfast. As Mandarin is the official language and our skills are less than poor, we did, what we always do in such situations – sign language. 😀 The next surprise was about to hit us: the lady in the bakery spoke perfect English, has seen that we are a bit lost and offered to help us! She was super friendly to show us, where the grocery store is, how to get to the subway and of course, we got some breakfast from her bakery. After breakfast our bodies requested some sleep and we switched off until the evening. In the evening we finally met Johannes, who came over from Taichung, two hours away just to spend the next days with us! The first thing we did, was to get a taste of the local cuisine, which can be best described as a mix of the best from China and Japan. First we had some delicious pancakes with meat and cheese from a street kitchen and then a great beef soup, which was the perfect dish for the rainy weather outside. After dinner we met some of Johannes’ friends and had some craft beers and darts – a very welcomed social contact after being on our own for over a month. 🙂 What a day! Full of surprises and friendly people!

The next morning began grey and rainy, but we hoped that Jiufen, a small town on the north-east coast of Taiwan will be far enough to escape the bad weather. After two hours in the bus, we realized – it wasn’t. 😀 It was our luck again, grey deep clouds, so you could barely recognize the stunning landscape and see the ocean for some short moments. Luckily Jiufen has a lot to offer even if the weather isn’t good at all. We (especially Alice and Johannes) enjoyed some local specialties, some of which looked like a mix of pudding and jelly fish – yum! 😀 The town is known primarily for having been a gold mining town during a gold rush decades ago and you can still go through some of the old mining tunnels, which are definitely not made for modern days western people *squeeze*. Today, the main attraction are some small streets in the old town, where you can walk around, enjoy a tea prepared on a charcoal grill and enjoy the mountain view from one of the centuries old buildings around. Jiufen was also the inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s oscar-winning anime „Spirited Away“. Lacking the views, we headed back to Taipei, where we visited the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial (a huge place with a Mausoleum), had some really tasty food and had the chance to take some nice night shots of the city. The only problem was: they switched off the illumination on Taipei 101 just 5 minutes after we arrived there. But we made the best out of it and still had a great day.

First thing next morning was a breakfast with Johannes and his friends at the fish market! As we both like sushi and sea food, we were looking forward to it! And we haven’t been disappointed… The fish market had an entire hall selling live king crabs, which earned this name! Their legs had nearly the size of my arm and a frozen pair of legs weighed over two kilos. And then there was a sushi hall with all kinds of sushi delicacies. Outside of the hall, there was a BBQ restaurant, grilling the fresh crabs and sea food – this must be the paradise! Our budget pulled us back down to earth a bit (no grilled crab 🙁 ), but we still enjoyed one of the best sushis we ever had. After this delicious breakfast, we headed to Taipei 101, the tallest building in town and amongst top 5 worldwide. While Alice enjoyed the view from the top, Michael decided not to push his fear of height and used the time to relax at the bottom of the building. Later that day, we joined Johannes again and climbed the elephant mountain – an impossible task for us couch potatoes without Johannes’ motivational “come ooon, even grandmas climb up here!” 😀 Once we caught our breath again, we weren’t disappointed! The view was indeed astonishing and we’ve been rewarded for all our strains. We even managed to find a less crowded spot to set up the tripod and record a time lapse of the sunset (even though the weather wasn’t great).

On our last day in Taipei, we wanted to see the National palace museum, a place where one can see many treasures from Chinese royal palaces. In fact it’s the largest collection of Chinese art in the world and is absolutely worth a visit. The museum is a bit off the city center and takes a while to reach, but once inside we were again welcomed by an overly friendly and welcoming lady, who first did her best explaining, what is worth our time in the museum and once she found out, that we are Germans, she switched to German and was happy to practice her skills – again, just an amazing experience 🙂 What we got to see inside, was an astonishing view on China’s history over the last two millennia stored in different pieces like presents from foreign leaders to the Chinese emperors, pieces of cutlery, china ware, furniture and art work. It is especially impressive to see the filigree art work from a time when in Europe people were hunting their food with spears.

After the visit, it was time to say good bye to Taipei as we headed down the east coast to Hualien.

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