Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bright Lights, Big City- Day 1

The first weekend in September we took the opportunity to enjoy The Moon Festival holiday by heading up to Taipei for the long weekend. The week proceeding the vacation, the program director in me came out and I spent a few hours coming up with an itinerary, locating destinations on the map, confirming details on Pinterest and various blogs, and color coding my book. I even looked up our hostel on Google street view so I would be able to recognize it when we got there.  
And while some of you may think that I went a little overboard (and you might be right), we had a relaxing, stress-free vacation and we never got so lost we couldn't find our way back (the navigating God's were definitely smiling upon us!!!)

Saturday, September 6, 2014
I had already purchased the bus tickets earlier in the week for NT 260 (which is about $5 American dollars). It was a 3 hour bus ride which I spent watching the American movie they were playing, it was some Wolverine/X-men movie- I didn't really care what it was, I was just happy I understood what they were saying. 
Our itinerary for Saturday was as follows:

First stop: Elephant Mountain: this is a beautiful hike up a billion stairs to catch a view of the Taipei skyline. I forgot the Chinese version of hiking is just climbing a bunch of stairs- but at least my glutes got a workout. We stopped at this spot to take a few pictures:
It was a breathtakingly beautiful view. Thinking we had reached the lookout destination we were debating whether to turn around and head back or keep hiking. After 10 minutes of debating, the girls decided to go just a little bit further- and I am so glad we did, because 20 steps away was this lookout point:

This is the actual lookout point, the one where all the photographers go to set up their equipment so nobody else can take good pictures. And to think we almost turned around and missed this spectacular view!!!

Second stop: Taipei 101
Our first stop was this sculpture:

It has always been a goal of mine to take a picture in front of this sculpture. I know there are replicas in lots of places around the world but the first time I saw a picture of the sculpture it was in Taipei- it was meant to be!!

After our golden hour photo shoot we headed up to get tickets to the top of what used to be the tallest building in the world. At first I wasn't going to go up- I had just been up the Stratosphere in February and felt like the experience would be to similar- I mean if you have seen one skyscraper you have seen them all, right?!? FALSE! We went at sunset, which made for some amazing views (or would have if I was a good photographer). All for only NT 500 or $18 (and the cashiers spoke English!!!!!!). We stepped off the elevators on the 87th floor, which was enclosed, and we were trying to take pictures, but it was so CROWDED!! Then we got smart went to the 91st floor which was outside and had breathtaking views of the city at sunset. Views that made us question why we spent so much time on the 87th floor. So once again we should have just gone a little bit farther for a better view. 

What's really cool about this architecture is they have this damper ball on the 88 floor to keep the building safe from typhoon's or other natural disasters. 

Third/Last stop: Rahoe night market/rainbow bridge
We most definitely would not be able to go to Taipei without going to a night market. I thought it would be easier to walk to the night market instead of getting on the MRT and switching lines twice so we started walking until we got to a tricky intersection. While we were looking at the map a kind young man (who spoke English) stopped in the middle of his conversation and asked us where we were going, and let us know that it was too far to walk and a taxi would be pretty cheap. The man was right on all accounts, it was too far to walk, and the taxi only cost NT 75 or $2.50. It was her first time hailing a taxi and Cassidy did it like a pro, it must be all those HIMYM episodes. We spent the next hour exploring what the night market had to offer- I am not a huge fan of night markets, but was happy to help Cassidy find her Hello Kitty sweatshirt (just in time for the Hello Kitty Cafe). I was able to find these yummy dumplings and cranberry juice as well as an awesome Chinglish shirt.

At the end of the night market we found a temple (expected) and a sign for a rainbow bridge (not expected). We debated whether we should go to the end of the night market and once again we proved why we should go just a little bit further. This time we would have missed this view:

It wasn't the rainbow bridge I was expecting but it was still beautiful and relaxing to sit and watch all the families eating BBQ. 

In order to get back to our hostel we decided to take a taxi back to Taipei 101 and catch the MRT from there. Cassidy got us a cab, we sat down and I told him where we were going (in Chinese!!!). We got to our destination at 11:01 after he circled the block and stopped at the longest red light of my life. I went to pay him NT 100 and he tried to charged me an extra NT 20 because it was after 11 am. I was annoyed- just on the principle that it was 1 minute over and he circled the block. I tried to rationalize with him and gave him and he wasn't hearing it so I paid him NT 10 and shamelessly pouted until he said "ok ok". I then proceeded to feel bad for denying this man what would be pennies for me. It was more of the principle- as you can see I am still trying to rationalize it. 

We came back to this arrangement in our hostel. Oh the things we do to save money. 

Stay tuned for day 2 and especially  day 3- it was full of "Classic Tiffanee" moments!

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