Sorry, no internet at our last hotel, so this is a catch up.
It was good of Jimmy to work for us on Christmas Day. After our alfresco Christmas Lunch in the a.mart moped park, we met him at the local teahouse nearby to plan our next few days. Oolong Milk Tea – oo! long! oo! more please. It’s rather like a tea-flavoured hot milkshake.
So, the itinerary beginning Monday 26th is: Taipei, East Coast, Taipei and back to Taichung on Thursday 30th. To go right to the southern tip would be way too time-consuming and too far for our driver (Jimmy this time), so we will just be sampling the coast around Hualien and a bit of the Rift Valley. Might get a minor earthquake, as there are two or three per day of magnitude 3 or 4. Jimmy warned us that Taipei would be wet.
We opted to go to Taipei by the new High Speed Rail link, max 186mph, and we were zooming past the cars on the highway alongside.
Top priority was the tallest building in the world, “Taipei 101”, which is over 500 metres tall and actually very good to look at. The enclosed observatory is on the 89th floor (of 101) at 382 metres above ground level. That’s 1,253 ft. The lift from Floor 5 took only 37 seconds to the observatory, reaching a vertical speed of 1.01 kilometres per minute (over 37mph).
Floor 91, normally available for intrepid visitors to brave the open air, was closed for a very special reason: the Taiwan calendar began with their freedom from imperial rule on 1 January 1911, so they are currently in their year 100, as you see on dates round here (and on the contract for this visit). Thus the arrival of their year 101 is about to be marked by a magnificent firework display from the top of the Taipei 101 tower, hence the outside viewing area was closed as they’re setting this up ready for New Year festivities. 101 also signifies “better than 100%” and also, as a binary number, signifies high-tec. Excellent night views over the city.
One of our other priorities in Taipei was to visit the hot springs, so Jimmy decided it would be great for us to actually stay in a hot-spring-water-supplied hotel. The hot tub in our en-suite was amazing and the water too hot to go in! Martin sampled public pools, open air, in the evening, too! They are on three levels. The lowest is just nicely warm (35 degrees) having trickled down from the top pool in which, unbelievably, there were many people apparently not scalded. Second top (45ish?) was the best. Worth avoiding the icy cold pools off to the right.
Tuesday morning: visit to the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial park.
Freedom Square is flanked by two huge traditional Chinese buildings, one a concert hall (closed) and one an opera house; on the third side is a wonderful white ceremonial archway and the fourth is the memorial hall.