The. Single. Biggest travel holiday in this HUGE country.
So, we chose to avoid the crowds by traveling early. We went to Taiwan early in February, returning to Beijing before the actual holiday.
Why Taiwan? I tell you, Taiwan won the toss-up because we need new phones that will function on the Chinese system, but purchasing here means they would include, by default, the "Golden Firewall" and block our favorite western apps. So Taiwan was a good choice.
Now, 20-ahem years ago, my family lived in Taipei. I was sent to a high school in the States, so I was only there for the summers, but still, I thought it might be conveniently familiar. BWAHAhahaha.
I was happy to be a tourist.
I'll share the trip in pictures below, but just a few observations:
1. Taipei 20 years ago is where I learned how to cross a city street. "If there's no car coming, cross, wherever you are, regardless of the lights or nearby crosswalks..." This habit has been a great benefit to me here in Beijing. However, in Taipei now, people actually cross with the light, always. It was weird!
2. BUT... crossing with the lights is a necessity, as the traffic moves very fast. In Beijing, traffic is a bit slower. Maybe it's the quantity of vehicles; maybe it's the greater numbers of bikes, scooters, 3-wheeled delivery trucks, etc.
3. Taipei is noisier than Beijing. Beijing is a city of 21-25 million, depending whose stats you read. Taipei is about 3 mil. (New York City is about 9 million, for comparison.) However, the motorcycles and motor scooters here are often electrically powered, and many cars here seem to be flex fuel. It makes sense, because Beijing has developed so much in the last 10-20 years, there aren't many loud, old vehicles!
4. This is not a new observation, but a deeper understanding of what I knew already in high school: Taiwan is clearly separate from the People's Republic of Ch*** in many ways that I can't discuss here, but now that I'm learning Mandarin... I STILL can't read any characters in Taiwan. It is a different written language.
5. The island of Taiwan is bisected by the Tropic of Cancer. This led me to believe we were taking a tropical vacation! It was foggy and rainy most of the time, and only in about the 50s. Still, a lot warmer than where we came from!
Okay. The trip. We spent one day in Taipei, shopping for electronics, and then launched on a 5 day tour of the island.
|First night - Taipei, the hotel claimed "bathtub in every room"||.|
Temple first, then pagoda, about a 25 minute hike away. SO FOGGY!
|Same lake, the next day.|
|This temple was destroyed in a hurricane in the 80s. It's been rebuilt.|
|An active monastery. Fo Guang Shan|
|These Jade Buddhas are the largest such collection.|
|They had a million of these!|
|The southern tip. Bounded by the Pacific Ocean, Bashi Channel, and Taiwan Strait. OCEAN!|
|Banyan Tree. My new favorite.|
|Shrine for money burning. (in effigy)|
|In a big historic site in Tainan|
|Taipei 101 = 101 story, tallest building in Taipei.|
|The view from Taipei 101.|
|My curry lunch in a toilet themed restaurant!!|