- April 23, 2015 -
I arrived in Taipei,Taiwan after a short flight from Hong Kong and immediately slept for a day as I had spent the entire night before celebrating Halloween. My host was understanding and allowed me to rest before treating me to a bowl of noodles and seafood at a local restaurant. I came to find quite quickly that the American dollar goes very far in Taiwan and can afford you a lot of food!
The next day was cloudy but warm so I set out to truly see the city beyond just my host's neighborhood. First up was Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, a monument in memory of the former president of the same name.
Passing by this palatial memorial and its surrounding gardens I was surprised by how many Chinese people I saw from mainland China. If the People's Republic of China still claims that Taiwan is a part of its own country, why would the government allow its people to come here and go to a monument that celebrates and negates that narrative? In fact, inside the hall is a small museum that tells the story of Taiwan's political revolt yet there didn't seem to be any hostility.
Perhaps it's just one of those things that Chinese people shrug off and think "well, we know the government isn't always telling us the truth." I know I've certainly had those moments as an American abroad.
Before leaving the gardens, two young men stopped me and asked me to take a picture for them. I saw from their camera that they were Japanese and struck up some conversation with them. One didn't speak much English but the second was quite friendly and introduced himself as Yuki and explained that they were traveling during a break from university. We chatted a bit then parted ways.
Taipei is not an incredibly huge city so I next walked over Mengjia Longshan Temple. Nearly three hundred years old, this temple is a spiritual oasis in the middle of the urban capital. Smoke and incense are constantly billowing as worshipers leave offerings of food and pray to the various shrines. I was particularly taken by a practice where people were throwing pieces of wood painted red and cut in half moon shapes. I took it to be some sort of fortune telling but couldn't determine any sort of pattern to it.
Around the the temple is plenty of street food so I snacked on some sort of fried meat and enjoyed bubble tea while wandering around the streets.
As the afternoon got later I trekked over to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. This was the man who led to the downfall of the Qing dynasty and whose name I already new from living in Wuhan, the launching point of his revolution.
Here I did some people watching, saw the changing of the guards (which included a little boy in police uniform mimicking the guards, awww!) and viewed Taipei 101, one the the tallest buildings in the world.
While wandering the market, a young man suddenly froze in front of me and stared in awe. It took me a minute to register his face but I soon realized it was Yuki, the young man I had met earlier! We laughed at the coincidence that we should run into each other in such a large city and chatted a bit more.
I told him that in a couple days I would be traveling to Japan but didn't have any solid travel plans within the country. He gave me his contact information and said if I ever was to come to Osaka I should let him know.
Now I know many of you might think, "A young girl traveling alone and you're going to take a strange man up on an invitation like that?"
To which I reply, yes. And that's how I got three days of free housing and home-cooked meals in Osaka!
What's the craziest thing you've ever said "yes" to while traveling?