There are a whole host of day trips that are accessible from Taipei thanks to the efficient MRT system. This was one of the main reasons we decided to stay in Taipei for so long, as there was a long list of destinations that sounded appealing to us, just a 30 minute train ride away.
Maokong was a priority day trip for us, described as one of the most scenic spots to drink top quality, local tea in Taipei. It’s a picturesque little village located at the top of a mountain, providing breathtaking views of the city. Maokong is accessible via cable car, so we hopped on a glass-bottomed gondola up the mountain, watching the lush tropical jungle rolling beneath our feet as we gained height. The village itself was more or less deserted when we arrived at 11am, which we thought was quite a leisurely start to the day. But it seems the Taiwanese are late starters (shops and cafes also appear to open after 10am most days), which was ideal for beating the crowds. We strolled along the roadside and selected a teahouse that had a wonderful patio with a backdrop of Taipei city. We sipped our tea alfresco, enjoying the panoramic views and the ever-present, all seeing Taipei 101 building that towers over the rest of the city. We drank Cassia Tieguanyin Tea (earthy, slightly bitter and nutty) and Wenshan Baozhong Tea (smooth, floral and with a buttery aroma), both local to Taiwan. After our leisurely tea party and delectable green tea ice cream, it was back down the mountain.
We took the MRT to Taipei 101 observatory in the financial centre of town, which is one of the main tourists attractions that we vowed to climb up as soon as we had a clear day. This skyscraper is Taipei’s major landmark, standing 101 stories high at 1,671 feet. Taipei 101 was ranked the tallest building in the world in 2004 and remained in top position until 2009 (when Dubai’s Burj Khalifa dominated the tallest tower playing field). It also used to have the fastest lift in the world, transporting us from the 5th – 89th floor in 37 seconds. The tower represents and is an icon of a contemporary Taiwan, modernly designed to withstand typhoons and earthquakes. Its flexible yet resilient design includes a ‘wind damper’. This steel pendulum is suspended, swaying offset movements in the building caused by strong winds. It was a spectacular view at the top and the observation deck was vast, including an outside viewing area. It was great to see Taipei from a bird’s eye perspective, allowing us to appreciate the lush mountainous vegetation that blends so seamlessly with the swarming modern metropolis.
Before dinner we made a quick detour to Dalongdong Bao’an Temple, a Taiwanese folk religion temple built in the Datong District. It was one of our favourite temples in Taipei, nestled in an unassuming neighbourhood amid traffic and residential buildings. Bao’an temple is a very charming wooden construction that grew more photogenic as the light faded and the Chinese lanterns began to swing and glow in the twilight.
We decided to avoid food night markets on our third night in an attempt to try something less artery-clogging. Little Burma was highlighted as a top food spot in the city so off we went to another part of the city via the MRT (Lawrence is becoming an MRT whizz). We’d been zig-zagging all around Taipei on the MRT and it was great not to be limited by the size of Taipei as the speed, ease and cheapness of public transport meant there were no boundaries as to where we could venture! Unfortunately upon arriving at Little Burma the streets appeared deserted and the restaurants were closing up. It seemed this place was more of a lunchtime food location. When we eventually found somewhere we didn’t recognise any of the food as typically Burmese from our travels there back in January. We had high expectations and knew the Burmese dishes we loved and craved after, so couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed.
We ended a busy day of walking and adventuring with a beer and rested our weary legs in the hostel ready for a good night sleep.