One Day in Taipei

Jet lag be damned!  With only one day off, I needed to make it count.  So, I set out on Sunday to explore Taipei and found a delightful city filled with temples, art, shopping, easy transportation and friendly folks.  What’s not to like?

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I always love to just walk a city to get a feel for the people and culture.  Taipei 101 is THE building in downtown so off I went to get a view of this famous building.  Along the way,  many shops had opened and the shoppers were out in force.  As in many China cities, there are little clothing boutiques and drugstores (no OTC meds just beauty items) everywhere along with the high-end luxury brands like Gucci, etc.

I was first struck by several differences between Taipei and Shanghai, where I lived a few years ago:  drivers of cars and scooters seemed to actually obey traffic signals and stay on the roads vs. driving on the sidewalks as they often did in Shanghai.  Crazy! I felt a little safer in Taipei though I still was cautious crossing streets.  The streets were clean yet I didn’t see the street sweepers that you would on mainland China who cleaned up after everybody.  I’m thinking the Taiwan citizens seem to be very tidy and I’ve yet to see the many smokers or public spitting/urinating that I got used to after living in China.  Not knocking my former home in Shanghai because it was awesome but the differences were noticeable.

After seeing Taipei 101 in the distance and it is a lovely unique skyscraper, I jumped on the blue line subway and off I went to Longshan Temple.  The subway was clean, staffed and signed in English.  For less than 50 cents, I arrived across town and walked through a lovely park where groups of men were playing games and socializing, very similar to Shanghai life on a Sunday.  Packed with locals burning incense and praying at the Temple, I was one of the few Laowai’s enjoying the experience.

A fellow traveler from Warsaw, Poland was nice enough to snap my pic at the koi pond, where a cat stalked from the roof above.  I love meeting new people on my adventures.  On the subway, a mature lady smiled as I sat next to her and, though not an English-speaker, she gestured at my map and seemed excited when I got off at the Temple stop.  Another lovely gal in the subway was toting her pup in a front-facing backpack.  I need to get one of these for Thor!  He would love to be carried around to see the sights.

After taking in the Temple, I was off on the subway again-first the blue line, then transferring to the red line and finally taking a cab the rest of the way to the National Palace Museum which was on the outskirts of Taipei by the mountains.  Tour groups of China tourists dominated the galleries where for only about $12.50 US, you can view three floors of treasures from jewelry to vases to calligraphy, all ancient and beautiful.  The only gallery not packed with people was the Tibet exhibit.  Hmmm…  Every item was behind glass to protect from the hordes taking it all in.

The jet lag finally kicking in, I jumped in a cab to get to the red line, then the green line and arrived back at the Westin ready for room service and a good night’s sleep.  Wish I had more time in Taiwan to explore-a vacation with Thom is definitely now a necessity!  Monday we start meetings and then off to Hong Kong on Tuesday-the journey is just beginning!

 

Back Home Again in Asia

I didn’t realize how much I missed the Asian culture until I landed in Taipei last night.  The sounds, the smells, the friendly people!  Waking up to a cloudy view of the mountains and the local neighborhood after a 20+ hour journey to get here from Boise to Seattle to Tokyo to Taipei, I couldn’t wait to get out on the streets and explore!

 

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Hat courtesy of caution cone/vest?  Staying safe on the crowded streets of Taipei!

 

This is a business trip, hopping to a new city every 2-3 days for meetings, so hubby Thom is not along for the adventure.  I’m on my own and, after lengthy conversations with the Westin staff and maps in hand, I started to just wander.  Of course, the hotel team tried to talk me out of walking around “too far!” but I like to walk and they aren’t used to visitors wanting to do that.  I get it and just smile and keep on walking.

Originally, I had planned to book straight to the National Palace Museum via the subway but a combination of uncertainty and self awareness that I get lost easily plus a desire to absorb the local culture vs. art, I decided instead to try and find a temple nearby.

First, though, I noticed a Alice in Wonderland theme in the Westin lobby bar and checked out the adjacent gardens where it looked like a wedding might be taking place today with decorations everywhere.  How fun!  Wonder if the bride had an “Alice” dress to walk down the aisle?  She will definitely need a parasol as it is quite wet here today.

Instead of a temple, I found a delightful street market where I was the only Laowai, aka foreigner, in sight.  Fish, fruit, meat, pigs feet, dry goods and handmade noodles in stalls lining the narrow alleyway-it was packed with shoppers and very reminiscent of my old neighborhood where we lived in Shanghai.  I thought of my friend Patti when I saw the cherry tomatoes merchandised in the fruit stalls next to the apples and oranges.  Yes, Patti, tomatoes are considered fruit.

As I reviewed my map, still hopeful I could find the temple, a 20-something young man walked by me, stopped and considered, and then came back to offer his assistance.  How kind and friendly he was to help me plus he spoke English!  Even with his guidance though, after a few more blocks, I gave up and just enjoyed the journey.  Glad I did too or I wouldn’t have seen the quiet neighborhoods or the lovely lady in the “cautionary” hat displaying her lovely fruit or the antique noodle maker cranking out the sheets of pasta.

 

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Making noodles

 

Ahh, to be back again in Asia is indeed a beautiful thing.  After a few business meetings, I’m off to Hong Kong (TurboJet to Macau at night for fun!), Shenzhen, Shanghai (home!) and Beijing.  Two weeks of work and fun!

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If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a scooter!

 

Dublin Westin Delights

After a very long flight, really only 6 hours from NYC but felt like more, we landed, grabbed the bags and off we went on the one of many double-decker buses to the city of Dublin.  AirCoach double-decker bus is only 6 euros one way to get to downtown and from my perch in the upper front seat, it was thrilling/frightening to see just how close the driver could get to the car/bus in front of him (I’m guessing less than an inch) and how he could maneuver the big rig through Dublin’s curvy tiny streets.  With the entire downtown all torn up and under construction for streetcars being built, it was traffic cones galore for the bus to avoid.  WTF-who tears up the Entire Fauking City??  Hint-do it block by block Dublin urban planners.  Pedestrians beware-those buses go fast and do not stop—look left for oncoming traffic and cross with the lights in a group-safety in numbers!day-1-5

After sweating and silently screaming just a little bit, we were dropped off a block from the hotel and in the midst of Freshers Week at Trinity College near our hotel, The Westin.  Freshers are the college freshman who were packing the streets to get enrolled and meet/greet with upper classmen.  We learned to avoid this block as we walked Dublin.  Red heads are everywhere.  The ginger runs strong in Ireland. 

After the long flight, we decided to check in and take a quick nap before heading out for our first adventure.  The wake-up call was quite interesting—a loud banging on our door and the guest clerk subsequently opening up the door just a little bit to ensure we were indeed awake.  This was certainly personal service.  As we were dead to the world with jet lag, we appreciated their dedication to making sure we got our asses out of bed to see the city.

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Exiting the hotel after nap time, we asked the doorman to verify that where we were going was on the next block.  Instead of just pointing as most would do, he proceeded to walk us to the corner, talking and assisting the whole way.  Now, here’s a guy who has been trained in world class customer service.  Never point when you can show.  I appreciated his efforts.

BTW, we got breakfast buffet included in the Westin package and the next day after a 12 hour catch-up sleep, it was delicious.  Lots of pastries, Irish soda bread to toast, Irish cheeses and Irish yogurt.  Yes, there was fruit but it just didn’t call to me like the carb and dairy offerings. 

All in all, the Dublin Westin delighted this weary jet-lagged traveler.

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