September 20-23, 2015
- Mengjia Longshan Temple (龍山寺)
- Ximending (西門町)
- Red House (西門紅樓)
- National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂)
- National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine (國民革命忠烈祠)
- Shilin Night Market (士林夜市)
During the end of September 2015, we found ourselves an opportunity to visit Taipei in Taiwan for three days before heading to Hong Kong for a major family gathering. After hearing so much about Taipei from one of my classmates, I was decidedly excited to see and experience for myself the Taiwanese culture and history. September is one of the better times to go; the weather starts to cool off although there may be a typhoon.
We stayed three nights (September 20-22) at the Park City Hotel- Luzhou Taipei located above the Saint Ignatius High School subway exit. The hotel room is very clean and the hotel offers free self-service laundry facility, which we used before we left for Hong Kong on the 23rd. Upon our arrival to the hotel after the 12-hour flight on September 20th, we were too early to check in so we stored our luggage with the hotel staff. We then washed up and refreshed ourselves before heading down to the subway.
At the station, we purchased Easy Cards for each member of the family. Each card requires a $100 deposit of national Taiwan dollars and then you may add your desired monetary amount to the card. It saves time from having to buy a fare for each trip on the subway. See the Taipei Rapid Transit website for more information. On our trip, we deposited $2000 national Taiwan dollars total and this covered the entirety of our trip and the bus ride to Jiufen (side trip on September 21).
We took the subway to the Mengjia Longshan Temple (龍山寺), a temple that was damaged during World War II but renovated to its current revered state. The elaborately carved dragons guard the tiled roofs.
Inside, one can see people praying and chanting. There are also several Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian statues. There are deity charms and jade bracelets in the temple shop. It was definitely worth visiting.
After exploring the temple and paying our respects, we walked to the Ximending (西門町) district along the busy streets. On the way there, we encountered the red-bricked buildings of Bopiliao Historical Block (剝皮寮歷史街區).
It was still early in the morning and some shops were in the process of opening. We were lucky that a pork and beef jerky shop had just prepared a fresh batch of jerky when we popped in to buy some for ourselves and relatives.
We continued our trek and browsed a couple of the shops and temples, until we finally reached Ximending (西門町)— a popular district for fashion, hip bars, and other trendy shops.
Nearby is the Red House (西門紅樓), a Western-style building that houses cultural exhibitions and performances. Within the same area, there are plenty of bars to enjoy drinks and food. There were some tents or booths being set up just outside the building. I imagine that the nightlife around here would be amazing. Unfortunately, as we were pressed for time, we continued our walking tour of the city.
Our next stop was the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂), a prominent landmark that was built to honor the former President of the Republic of China. The Hall has a pleasant park, National Concert Hall, and National Theater.
Up the 89 steps lies the octagon-shaped white building that houses a grand bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek.
Just on the side of the building, is a large red door leading to an exhibition that depicts the life of Chiang Kai-shek and the history of Taiwan. Tired after the walk and from the blazing sun, we headed into the side streets, looking for a noodle shop. After seeing a long queue in front of the more prominent shop, we finally settled for a smaller place, where we ordered Taiwanese-style beef noodle soup, fried rice, shredded pork with cabbage noodle soup, green onion pancakes, and fried dumplings. Taiwanese-style beef noodle soup tasted sweeter (likely due to the tomatoes) compared to the usual spicy beef noodle soups that we have had in China and even in California. Stephen Jack over at Eating China has a good article about Taiwan Cuisine.
After lunch, we took the subway back to the hotel, got our room, and took a rest.
As it was nearing dinner time, we planned to explore the Shilin district, where the biggest night market is located, and the nearby shrine. When we arrived by subway, we missed the local bus to the shrine, so instead we hailed a taxi to take us to the National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine (國民革命忠烈祠).
This ornate shrine honors the fallen Kuomintang soldiers. The changing of the guard ceremony occurs every hour until 5PM. If you walk up the steps to the gates, you can see the fine details of the gates and the beautiful Chinese architecture.
After witnessing the change of guards, we took a taxi back to the Shilin district. Together we followed the crowd of hungry people to the Shilin Night Market (士林夜市). It was still light out when we reached the market. Everywhere we looked there were food vendors, fun games, and small shops selling clothing and toys.
We walked through the market observing the various food vendors and absorbing the smells. Although everything smelled delicious, we were a little hesitant to try the food, because we were not sure if our stomachs could handle the food. Eventually, after walking around, we went to have dinner at… the Modern Toilet Restaurant (2F., No.184, Wenlin Rd., Shilin Dist., Taipei City 111, Taiwan).
The decor, including the dishes, are all toilet-based but thankfully the food presentation was normal. The restaurant serves Western-style food with rice as the main staple food. Below is a fried pork chop in curry sauce with rice. The food was decent but not outstanding. The main branch is over in Ximending district in Taipei and has more elaborate decor, if you are curious.
After dinner, we explored the market a little more before taking the subway back to the hotel. Along the way, we bought hot drinks from the local 7-11 store to take back to the hotel. It was a tiring day indeed!
Guide to Taipei. (2017). Guide to Taipei. Retrieved from https://guidetotaipei.com/. Last accessed March 5, 2017.
Jack, Stephen. (2005). All about Taiwan Cuisine. Retrieved from http://eatingchina.com/articles/taiwan-food.htm. Last accessed March 5, 2017.