At this point, our group decided to do our own thing rather than try to meet up with the other 9 staying by the main station. I took it upon myself to create the ultimate whirlwind tour of Taipei and that’s just what we did.
First we made our way to the Taipei 101. I’ve been there before but it is something to definitely see when you’re in Taipei. It used to be the tallest building but has since been beat by many other buildings, but at least it is the tallest building in Taiwan. It’s super easy to get here because the MRT takes you directly to the building and when you get out of the station you pop up and there it is. This giant 101 story building staring at you. We walked in, went directly to the ticket counter and bought tickets to go up to the top. The tickets are about $14.50 USD ($500 NTD) to go up and it has been labeled the World’s Fastest Elevator. I’m not sure if anyone has beat it since it was built but your ears typically will pop twice on your way up to the 89th floor. I believe it takes just under 30 seconds to get from the ground floor to the 89th floor. Imagine walking that…
Once you get up to the top of the 101, you have a 360 view of the city. There are floor to ceiling windows with gift shops and cafes in the middle and you can walk all around and look out to the outskirts of the city. On the super clear days, I’m sure you can almost see all the way out to the coast.
You could spend hours there walking around, seeing the city and reading about all the tallest buildings in the world. There are some areas that you need to be careful if you’re wearing excessively loose clothing. They have some small warning signs to let you know that there are mirrors on the floor so be careful. (My friends are goofs…)
After wandering around, we made our way up to the 91st floor which is only open when the weather is nice because it is a completely open deck with high walls. If you’re short, go with someone who is tall so that you can see over the walls. It’s amazing to realize that you are in an open air deck 91 floors up and you can see out into the world without the green hue of the windows. If you don’t like heights or if you get some version of vertigo, do not go on a mildly windy day. Up there, you can feel the sway of the building. Obviously if you’re standing more along the edge you feel it more but it’s not terrible so don’t be afraid.
After enjoying the sunny view, we walked a few floors down and went to check out the Baby. They call it now the Damper Baby but I remember when I was there back in 2007, it is just the Baby. This is a giant wooden ball suspended in the middle of the entire Taipei 101 that helps adjust for wind and movement of the building. It’s actually quite fascinating reading up on the Baby and what they’ve done with it to help compensate for window and earthquakes. The 101 has actually already survived an earthquake and I remember a family friend recounting it for me. It really is very fascinating to see how a fat wooden ball that weighs 800 tons can keep an entire building standing.
After getting our fill of tall building fun and seeing Taipei from a bird’s eye view, we left and made our way Ching Cheng Hoinan Ji Fan which is Hainan Chicken Rice, supposedly the best in all of Taiwan. This place is a little hole in the wall located in the Songshan district of Taipei. My friend actually heard about this place from one of his coworkers and so we went on a hunt for the food. We actually just knew the area we were supposed to go to but didn’t actually know where it was located. We stood on the corner outside of the MRT station and looked around. So, being the only Chinese speaker in our group, I walked up a little bubble tea place and asked if they knew where it was. They gave me a look and told me was around the corner. At first I was a little put off by the fact that they gave me a look and then when we turned the corner, I realized it was literally right there.
This place only has a few things on the menu, all of which are based around the chicken rice. You can either order it with just chicken and rice or you add some steamed vegetables. Then there are a few additional options that you can add to the chicken. There are probably about 15 tables and everything is served on disposable dishes. They have a great little system where they are constantly making the basic and it sits on what looks like a giant Lazy Susan and they add to each plate as needed dependent on what you order. It is probably about $3 or $4 USD for the entire meal.
When you pick up your food, you sit down and grab the disposable silver wear. There are also huge pots of chicken broth soup with white radishes in it that is all complimentary. We shoveled, yes shoveled, the food down and sat and stared at each other. The chicken was the perfect amount of salty and actually didn’t have too much seasoning added to it which is almost what made it so much better. You could really taste the flavor of the cilantro and the vegetable sides so much better.
After deciding it was time to roll ourselves to our next destination, we cleared our table and walked out back to the MRT station but first, we had to stop and get boba. #bobalife. I hadn’t had it yet in the 24 hours we had been in Taiwan and it was time. We ordered our milk teas and headed back to the MRT. Things to note, you cannot actually eat or drink on the MRT because they want to keep the trains as clean as possible. The bubble tea that you get there actually comes in a sealed cup in a plastic bag. So you get double the protection if you were to drop it. Plus you can look really cool while drinking out of a plastic bag….
From Songshan, we made our way to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial.