Golden week is a National Holiday in China and it means that the whole country is off traveling somewhere.The option of staying in China didn’t really appeal to us as it is really hard to get plane or train tickets anywhere and the hotels and roads are overcrowded,to say the least.We decided to head to Taiwan,which is very close to Xiamen and which we had been meaning to check out for some time.Our friend Kevin,who is a Taiwanese and works for the ferry service at Wutong in Xiamen got us a combo Plane-ferry ticket which meant taking a short 30 minute ferry ride from Xiamen island to Jinmen, a small island between the mainland and Taiwan and from there getting a domestic flight to Taipei of only one hour.This had the advantage of being both quicker and cheaper than an International flight from here to Taipei.It also gave us a quick peep at the island of Jinmen,which we hope to return to at a later date.
All went smoothly,and we arrived in Taipei and got the metro to our hotel easily too,since as in most places the metro is easy to navigate even if you don’t read Chinese,and everything is automated.Hotel was fine and located very near to the downtown area.(If you don’t know much about the Taiwan -Mainland relationship I suggest you read this )
We then called a girl called Florence from Servas who wanted to meet us and agreed to meet downstairs in our hotel lobby.Florence duly showed up with two friends,all students in Taipei,and took us to visit an art gallery right by our hotel,and then to a new Art Complex which used to be a tobacco factory and which had a large number of special exhibitons, including one on calligraphy and another of Hello Kitty dolls and robots.
After that we all went to have dinner at a Vietnamese noodle place,where we met another girl and her British boyfriend.
It was a great first day in Taipei.
Next day we went to the train station to buy train tickets down to Kaohsiung,the second city of Taiwan,where our flight back to Xiamen was leaving (more of this later) We then walked the length of Zhongshan Road the main street of Taipei,which is flanked by gorgeous colonial style buildings and monuments,and finally reached the famous Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Shrine and the National Theatre building.There was some kind of practice ceremony going on,which consisted of music and lots of kindergarten kids running around with signs in Chinese.All very jolly and picture worthy of course.
We then went round the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial,which was very impressive,especially the changing of the guard ceremony,which was just like the Monty Python Silly walks sketch,with a lot of pomp and stamping of army boots,and rattling of bayonets!
WE then went to see the famous Taipei 101 building,which used to be the tallest building in the world and we wandered around the nearby shopping area,which was full of buskers,street performers and lovely restaurants.There were even some South Americans playing Bolivian music.IT was a great atmosphere and we enjoyed a wonderful Thai meal in the nearby shopping mall.
And this is only our first two days of Taiwan so I will really have to cut this part of the blog into separate posts and continue anon.