We spent two months in Taipei so that we could study Mandarin. But we also wanted to get to know other parts of the island, the foods, the teas, the people, and the culture. For example, the teens in the photo above are practicing their synchronized dances that they’ll perform in school – it’s the thing to do in the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial area. Here’s a look at highlights of what we did when we weren’t traveling, eating or going to Chinese classes.
Tony and I have become avid Asian loose leaf tea fans! We drink it everyday now… and we think the tea drinking helped us shave off a few leftover pounds from Argentina. One aspect of Asian tea that we love is the ceremony around drinking it. It’s not like coffee where you set the machine and churn out a cup o’ joe. Brewing Asian tea requires some TLC… the water should be the right temperature, the tea leaves need to be in the right proportion and the steeping time needs to be just right.
Tea is a VERY big deal in many parts of Asia. In Taiwan, there are tea houses on almost every block and one can go in, taste the tea, talk to the tea proprietor and potentially buy some.
Tony’s aunt is also really into tea and invited us to a special tea ceremony. We drank one tea called gyokuro – a very expensive green tea from Japan. It tasted amazing! It was unlike anything we’d had before – a bit nutty and grassy, and very smooth. Below is a photo of the gyokuro tea server – she came from Japan to do this tasting!
At the end, we ate the leaves which were dressed in lemon juice. Yummm!
We got together with friends who happened to be in town. In Asia, a gathering of friends often leads to belting out cheesy 80s songs at a karaoke bar, so that’s what we did!
Here’s Tony’s college buddies Lew and Chang, and Crystal:
And Tony’s long-time friend from Houston, Eddie and his wife Traci, belting it out:
Visiting Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial
We went to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, honoring the former President of the Republic of China. We won’t comment on the politics here, but he’s quite controversial – read about Chiang Kai-Shek on Wikipedia.
The monument, surrounded by a park, stands at the east end of Liberty Square. The structure is framed on the north and south by the National Theater and National Concert Hall.
Here’s the statue of the man:
Visiting the Pottery Town – Yingge
We went to Yingge town which is famous for its porcelain and other ceramic pottery – especially its tea pottery. The village is located south of Taipei – a quick 30 minute train ride and a great half day trip. It’s a quaint town with cobble stone streets, lined with pottery stores. Most specialize in tea pots, cups and other tea accessories. In fact, at one store, you can attend a pottery class and attempt to make your very own tea cup. We didn’t get a chance to do this, but hope to on a future visit! There is also a Pottery Museum that is worth a quick visit.
We also explored Taipei’s other local attractions…
Taipei 101 Tower
It’s THE landmark building in Taipei and has 101 floors (surprise, surprise). You can go to the top which has an observation deck, but we didn’t do it. It was expensive, very crowded (mostly Chinese tourists) and you really cannot see anything since Taipei is mostly cloudy every day in the Winter months.
Jianguo Weekend Flower Market
This market is open every weekend under the Jianguo elevated highway at Xin Yi Road. It’s actually quite a large event. You can find flowers, plants, and pots of all shapes and sizes. There’s also a separate section for art work and for jade jewelry and other souvenirs and accessories. Do check it out if you go to Taipei.
Da’an Park is what Central Park is to New York City – a large, centrally-located park where people (a lot of people and their kids) go to hang out on the weekends. Check out this sand box! Mayhem!
There’s also a small lake that seems to be a haven for bird photographers – check out the size of those lenses! (OK guys, all together now … “that’s what she said.”)
We also hung out with Tony’s family when they were in town. It was a rare occasion to get so many relatives together from the U.S., Taiwan, China, and Japan.
But mostly what we did was eat. We ate really good food. How good? We plan to tell and show you in our next blog post/food guide. So stay tuned!