Our last day in Taipei was one of contrasts – we decided to spend part of our last day in Taiwan to escape into the nearby countryside and then return to explore some of the city’s most important sights (both cultural and pop-cultural).
It is surprisingly easy to take a brief sojourn out of the hustle and bustle of downtown Taipei…at the end of the Wenshan line you can board the Maokong Gondola (which, naturally, is Hello Kitty themed!)
The trip takes you from central Taipei, over lush mountains and up into the tea growing area of Maokong.
With great views back over the city, some lovely walks and an abundance of cafes selling all the tea based goodies you could imagine, Maokong is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown Taipei.
The gondola also stops at Taipei Zoo – I’m not a huge fan of zoos and we didn’t really have enough time to stop but people I’ve spoken to say it is a nice one…and it would have been interesting to see ‘panda diplomacy’ in action.
Continuing with the Hello Kitty theme we re-fuelled with a very special lunch! A full report on Taipei’s food offerings will be up on Friday so be sure to check back but as a sneak peak….
Having had our fill of all things pink and cat shaped we spent our final afternoon in a slightly more high-brow fashion – visiting the Chiang Kai Shek memorial and learning a bit more about Taiwan’s incredibly interesting history.
Built to mourn the passing of the former president of the Republic of China the Memorial Hall is not only beautiful, it’s architecture is suffused with meaning – for example, it is octagonal because the number eight is associated with abundance and good fortune and the number of steps (89) represents the age of Chiang Kai Shek when he died.
The surrounding park, housing the National Concert Hall and National Theatre, is just as beautiful and perfectly manicured.
If you are a history buff in anyway don’t miss the museum on the ground floor of the memorial, which has some great exhibits and lots of information on Chiang Kai-Shek and Taiwan’s history.
As a slight diversion to the day’s events, this is probably a good place to mention our visit to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial on our first evening. Not only is this another impressive monument but it doubles up in the evenings as a rehearsal space for Taipei’s teenage dance troupes. And if, like me, you spent a large proportion of your teenage years (and possibly beyond…) watching the Step Up franchise this is possibly the best people watching option Taipei has to offer.
Although I left Taipei feeling we had definitely made the most of our time and seen a lot of what the city had to offer, the taste of Taiwan we had over the weekend left me very sad that we hadn’t had enough time to explore the rest of Taiwan. I’m determined to return and explore the stunning beaches and subtropical evergreen forests at some point soon!