We arrived in Taipei, Taiwan on the 10th of September and stayed exactly a week. The next day, we took the High-Speed Rail (HSR) to Tainan where the headquarter of the company that Soren used to work for is located. From Taipei, it takes about two hours on the high-speed rail which travels at speeds up to 300 km per hour. In Tainan, we went to the office and enjoyed a box lunch with some of Soren’s former colleagues. By sheer serendipity almost all of Soren’s former colleagues were in the office and he really enjoyed seeing them again and catching up. In the late afternoon we had time to visit a new museum in Tainan, The National Museum of Prehistory. It was having a soft opening and is scheduled to open officially later this year.
The National Museum of Prehistory, Tainan The National Museum of Prehistory, Tainan Archeological layers in the building The National Museum of Prehistory, Tainan Old meets newThe National Museum of Prehistory, Tainan In the evening Chiaoya hosted us to a delicious Taiwanese dinner. A few other colleagues were supposed to join but unfortunately had to work late with a customer. Such is the life of worldwide business. But as luck would have it, we got to see yet another former colleague of Soren’s, Sandra. She invited us out to drinks, and we shared stories until late. Today, Sandra runs her own successful English school. In 5 years, she has grown the school so much that she has added a second location and is constantly looking to hire English teachers. She almost convinced us to stay and teach.
Chimei Museum, Tainan Another highlight of visiting Tainan was the Chimei Museum. It is a private collection of over 4,000 items founded in 1992. The Founder said: “Good works of art are not to be kept just for oneself to enjoy, but to be shared with the public”. It is a terrific museum and well worth a detour if you’re ever in Taiwan. If you are interested in musical instruments it is a destination in its own as it houses the world’s largest violin collection. The permanent exhibition holds amazing art pieces and is wonderfully curated and virtually crowd free. It is truly a hidden gem.
The museum also had a temporary exhibition: “Beyond the Shadows”. Here is the description from the Chimei Museum website: In real life, we are bound to perceive the existence and changes of "light," but rarely do we pay attention to the "shadow" behind the light. Beyond the Shadows is a collection of fifteen artists from Taiwan and abroad, these works have subverted the superior-subordinate relationship between light and shadow and will bring you the most astonishing viewing experience of “shadows” in life. And astonishing it was!!!! We were allowed to take photos so here are a few of our favorites.
Collage of work by Vincent Bal Work by Anila Quayyum Agha Work by Triantafyllos Vaitsis Work by Triantafyllos Vaitsis After a full day at the museum, we took the HSR back to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan where one-third of the Taiwanese population lives. We stayed near Taipei Main Station, so it was easy for us to get around. We happen to be there during the Autumn Moon Festival. One of the largest national holidays after Chinese New Year. It’s mostly a long weekend that you spend with your family.
Golden Chimei Museum On Friday, Joe, a friend and former colleague of Soren, was really kind to take his entire day to show us around and treat us like royalty. We met at the station and went together to Dadaocheng, one of the oldest parts of Taipei and Taipei’s first business district. Today, it functions as a ferry port, but it used to be one of the main shipping port for Taipei City. The first shop in the district opened in 1851 and for a long time, the area was a major trading district and had international business influences. Dadaocheng means “Big Rice Blasts” or “a broad square to dry crops”. We wandered along Dihua Street and enjoyed the covered areas and the old-style buildings. Before lunch, we visited the Museum 207 which introduced Taiwan’s ice industry. Imagine, a hot and humid climate without AC and before the introduction of ice.
Dadaocheng Dadaocheng Dadaocheng DadaochengNotice the tree growing out of the building Joe’s wife recommended the restaurant we went to, the Carp. Joe did the honor of ordering several dishes and each were delicious! After lunch, we visited the Ama museum. An important museum that focuses on the Taiwanese women who became victims during WWII when they were taken as “comfort women”. In other words, forced into sexual slavery for the pleasure of the Japanese military. Taiwan was under Japanese colonization for about 50 years from 1895 to 1945.
Light Memorial at Ama museumEach light represent a woman victimized by the Japanese army From Dadaocheng, we took the red line to Tamsui, the very north of Taipei, where the river goes into the ocean. We enjoyed a nice walk along the waterfront and a stunning sunset. We had never seen the sun that big over the horizon. Afterwards, we climbed up the hill and dined at the beautiful Red Castle, built in 1899. Joe ordered again and we got another amazing meal. From the time, we have arrived in Asia, this was honestly the best meals we have had. Thank you, Joe!
Tamsui riverwalk The Red Castle in Tamsui Mackay Hospital Museum Tamsui Sunset On Sunday, during the Autumn Moon Festival, we went to Taichung, Taiwan’s 2nd largest city and just one hour south of Taipei on the HSR. We had the pleasure of seeing Flora again. Vanessa met Flora in Tainan in 2012 and hadn’t seen each other seen then. She picked us up at the station and we drove up to the mountains. A beautiful escape from the city and nice to be surrounded by the forest. After a little break and catching up by the lake, we drove to another site and hiked up 400 steps for a panoramic view of the city. Along the way, there was a farmer’s market and we got to try a few new things. We tried “Abiu”, a yellow fruit with big seeds and tea seed oil – not to be confused with tea tree oil. The seed oil is made by cold pressing the seed from the Camellia oleifera or Camellia sinensis. For dinner, we did a bit of restaurant hopping to try some of the local delicacies. Vanessa had her first pig feet.
Mountain lake outside Taichung Common but colorful dragon fly Tea time Butterflies were everywhere Starfruit AbiuOriginal from the Amazon but now grown extensively in SE Asia Camellia seeds ready for pressing to tea seed oil After sunset, Flora took us to the roof top of the National Taichung Theater. We had a great view of the city all lit up. And this concluded another great day! We took the free shuttle to the train station and had a reality check – Sunday of Autumn Moon weekend, everyone is trying to get back to Taipei. All trains were fully booked! We stood in line what felt like forever not knowing if we would get out of here. But the Taiwanese transportation system was prepared. They added extra trains running north and with a non-reserve ticket you can get on any train and stand. Everything was incredibly orderly. No pushing, no yelling and no stress. Everyone stood in line as the train arrived, you got on, one by one. When the train was full you waited your turn for the next train. Incredible. We only waited 40 minutes for the train. We stood for one stop and then got seats next to each other.
Colorful FountainNational Opera Taichung Roof top view National Opera Taichung Our experience in Taiwan, has been fantastic. Our friends made our trip very special and we are extremely grateful for their generosity in showing us around.
Cheers to all our friends A big part of visiting Taiwan, it’s the food! When you ask for recommendations of things to do, often there is a big list of restaurants or foods to try. It’s good, tasty and affordable.
Street food Shilin Night Market Street foodShilin Night Market Street foodShilin Night Market Street foodShilin Night Market Street foodShilin Night Market Street foodShilin Night Market The other part that impressed us was how clean and orderly everything was. There are clean and free public bathroom practically everywhere. When we went to the night market, we did not see a single trash can except at the very end of the market. People carry their own bags and never throw anything on the floor.
Shilin Market Overall, we really like Taiwan and hope to return again soon!
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