Saturday, February 12, 2011

Adventures in Taipei: Part II

So picking up where I left out, our next stop in Taipei was Lung-Shan Temple, which was insanely packed with people since this was a New Year celebration after all.

Year of the Rabbit! As people came into the temple they held their hands in prayer and walked beneath this before heading inside.
The temple was pretty cool and the surrounding area was busy as well. We were in the area again another night when the temple was closed but since the night markets are up and running there was still plenty to do close by.

After the temple we went to a big shopping district that's similar to Seoul's Myeongdong area.
There were a bunch of street vendors and also some funky stores with items that I guess could best be described as weird cutesy type stuff you'd be likely to find in Japan. They did however have Mickey Mouse oven mitts which I came back to buy on our last night. They are adorable and hanging in my kitchen. My love for Disney has no international bounds.

While we were there we stopped at a Cold Stone's for ice cream. I know, I know! I went all the way to Taiwan and got American ice cream but in my defense this particular Cold Stone's offered a Peanut Butter Cup concoction that I just couldn't say no to. You can find Snickers and Twix bars in Korea but not Reese's Peanut Butter Cups which is a sad affair. Hey, when you're away for a while you learn to indulge in the bits of home wherever you can find them.

That first day out wandering, and really the whole time we were there, I snapped a lot of pictures of Taipei's favored mode of transport: the scooter.
I see a lot of scooters in Korea, mostly driven by food delivery people, but in Taipei it seemed like everyone was riding one. We saw lots of kids riding along with their parents, like the girl in the picture above who is actually standing. I swear there were even times when we saw entire families on one scooter. There would be one kid in front, then the mom, then another kid, then the dad. It was crazy! Who would ever think a scooter could stand in for the family sedan. Considering how tight many of the side streets were though it really made sense. There's less congestion if people are getting around on smaller vehicles.
We ate our first dinner in Taiwan at this delicious little restaurant called Kiwi Gourmet Burgers.
The Wiki Travel guide for Taipei recommended it and if you ever go to Taipei and are hungry this is absolutely where you should go! The guys who run the place are from New Zealand and they serve up beef, lamb, chicken, and veggie burgers with a variety of toppings to choose from. I had the blue cheese burger with beef and a side of garlic fries and it was fantastic. They also had beers and ciders to choose from which made Heather and I happy because you can't find hard ciders in Korea. 

It had a really cool atmosphere too. It's funny because you wander along this busy street then turn down an alley and suddenly there's this bright little restaurant packed with foreigners. We were able to snag one of the two outside tables and it was such a good night for outdoor eating. In fact our entire trip we had amazing weather. This time of year it rains a lot in Taipei and all through the northern parts of Taiwan but we didn't see a single drop. The temp was consistently in the 60's and even when it was overcast we were still comfortable in just sweatshirts. After the freezing cold January here in Korea (my utilities bill was much higher this month) it was a really nice reprieve.

Thursday we spent our whole day at what was probably my favorite place in Taipei:
I love zoos and Taipei has a beautiful one. The animals looked well taken care of and they had a huge variety of animals from all over. Ticket prices were amazing too, only 60 TWD which is about 2 US dollars. And it's super convenient to travel to because it has its own stop on the subway which luckily was only six stops from the station closest to us. At least three hundred of my pictures are just from the zoo. I'll try to restrain myself.
Macaque island.
When we entered the zoo we were issued tickets to visit the panda house at a specific time. We saw this one panda up a tree outside before going in and there was another snoozing in the big indoor area.
See mom, I fulfilled my promise to get in at least one picture!
The zoo has a train that takes you around but we didn't use it because the line was insanely long. It's a huge zoo but still very walkable.
I still have no idea what this animal is but he was in a pen with a monkey and a swan so I think they just took the weird leftover animals and figured they could keep each other company.

Maokong Gondola.
I'm not sure what is happening here but it warranted photographic evidence.
The hippo pen was being cleaned when we came by, they aren't actually restricted to such a small space.
The zoo was such a blast. It was a gorgeous day and like I said it's a great zoo. And it may have been because it was a holiday and so families were out in droves but we also saw tons of kids. That's pretty typical at a zoo but no matter where we went in Taipei we saw lots of wee'uns, way more than I usually see around Korea. Again, it may have been because of the holiday but I know that Korea has been having problems with low birthrates and the Ministry of Health has actually started turning off the lights in their building at 7pm once a month to encourage workers to go home and make babies. So it was interesting to see the difference in the number of small children between the two countries.

And the best part was that Taiwanese parents loved getting compliments on their kids. I'm telling you, our trip turned into a "point out the cutest kid" game, they were all so adorable. If the parents even noticed us looking in their direction they would beam and say thank you and tell their kids to wave and say hi. We were riding the subway once and all the seats were full so this kid, probably eight or nine years old, got up and went to stand with his parents so that Heather could sit down. It was too cute.

After the zoo we nipped back to the hostel for a pre-dinner nap and then headed out again for food. The restaurant we wanted to eat at was closed though and since Kiwi Gourmet Burgers was conveniently located just down the street we ended up back there again for dinner, heh. But it was more than worth it to eat there two nights in a row. And even though it wasn't Taiwanese food, the burgers were New Zealand burgers so technically we did eat some foreign cuisine. And I will jump through any loop hole that puts delicious food on a plate in front of me.

Part III to come!

Trivia of the Day:  Taiwan's rapid economic growth in the decades after World War II has transformed it into an industrialized developed country and one of the Four Asian Tigers. This economic rise is known as the Taiwan Miracle. It is categorized as an advanced economy by the IMF and as a high-income economy by the World Bank. Its advanced technology industry plays a key role in the global economy. Taiwanese companies manufacture a large portion of the world's consumer electronics, although most of them are now made in their factories in mainland China.

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