12.15.2015 - 12.16.2015 65 °F
I am writing you from a Taiwanese customs prison....
Customs at Taipei's airport was actually really easier, probably even easier than getting back into the US most of the time. It's about an hour drive from the international airport into Taipei and since we arrived super early (sometime between 7 and 8am local time) there were no rooms available, so after freshening up and trying a machine served mile tea at the hotel, we headed out to explore the city for a bit.
The first stop was the National Palace Museum - which involved a nice little metro to bus transfer combo that was relatively easy to pull off for two jetlagged Americans. As we exited the bus, and bus driver dressed in a traditional American Santa costume said merry Christmas and handed out small candies to everyone. Whenever that bus line came by we called it the Christmas bus, although other drivers did not appear to share the same zeal for the Western holiday. The National Palace Museum holds antiques from Taiwan and mainland China and sits on top of small hill, surrounded by mountains in the distance. It seemed like it was national field trip day with hundreds of well behaved uniformed elementary school-aged kids shuffling along in single file while giggling at the two tall white people trying to blend in. I assume they thought Bruce Willis was in town to film a new Die Hard - Yippee-Ki Yay in Taipei.
Feeling a mix of hunger and jetlag we decided to stop in an inviting little restaurant under a bridge and outside of the main metro stop. This was our first of many hot bowls of liquid in which we placed a variety of meat and vegetables to cook and look around nervously until someone at the restaurant hurriedly rushes over to inform us that we're about to overcook our cabbage and bean sprouts.
From there, we were off to see the Taipei Confucius Temple and the Paean Temple. They were both stunning and it is always striking to find these types of temples in the center of a modern urban city.
Lots of small statues and cartoon characters across the city, as seen below
Important time to note that people in Taiwan (really) love motorbike/scooters
After we checked in, we had some time to relax before figuring out our way to one of Taipei's night markets, Raohe (it was recommended by Karly's friend Fiona). The best part of this night market is the beef pepper bun, which is served out of a stall at the very beginning of the market and hard to miss due to the long line and delicious smells.
Due to all the travel and late check-in, we weren't up to stay out very late and headed back to try and get some sleep. We were up early in the morning and used the ancient travelers guide called Yelp to find a walkable breakfast place. On the way, I found a few friends that agreed to take a selfie with me, very nice folks in Taiwan!
Apparently the ole Yelp is also American biased abroad because the breakfast spot serves a weird interpretation of an American-style breakfast along with some milk tea. Pretty, pretty good...
Unfortunately, the dong cake place was closed. Still not sure what these are and this is not the only place we saw these cakes advertised for sale. Very weird considering the rest of the country and advertisements feel very censored and conservative.
Before heading out to the airport, we made one more stop at a beautiful temple inside one of the busier parts of the city, Longshun Temple. There was a full ceremony of some sort happening, so unfortunately no pics from inside the temple but it was quite the experience.
Before heading out, I took a Facebook-appropriate pic with my homie, also known as Horse in the Lobby.