June 5, 2018
After a long flight from San Francisco, we touched down at Taoyuan Airport just outside of Taipei. Much like I’ve seen in many other destinations, there was an excellent express train into the city that was fast, clean, and reasonably priced. We were greeted by the city lights after emerging from Taipei Main Station, but despite there being many cars and motorbikes all around, it was surprisingly quiet and peaceful.
“Just go to the places with a long line.”
The first stop after dropping our bags at the hotel was the nearby Ximending Night Market. While the main station was quiet, the market was bustling and packed with people. This area was mostly centered around shopping, but here there were a number of food vendors scattered along the streets. In these situations (when there are too many options and very little English), I’ve always found it best to just go to the places with a long line. This was the right decision, and it was well worth the wait in order to get what turned out to be a perfect scallion pancake filled with the toppings of our choosing.
Another popular, and worthwhile, tourist destination near Taipei is the Maokong Gondola. In addition to providing spectacular views, it’s also the most efficient mode of transportation to the gondola’s namesake mountainside town: Maokong. This area is known for tea — from the station, there is a long winding road with tea houses scattered along the way. Despite the fact that the temperature was well above 90°F while we were there, we couldn’t pass up sampling the local tea while having lunch outside.
After three days in Taiwan, our next stop was Hong Kong. It was a quick flight; we went from being at the Taipei airport to Victoria Peak in Hong Kong within a matter of hours. “The Peak” is accessible via tram and, while packed full of tourists like ourselves, provides incredible views of the city. I could tell you more, but I’ll let the picture below do the rest of the talking.
We spent one afternoon retreating to a nearby island: Cheung Chau. The regular ferry takes about fifty minutes; there is also an express option that shortens the trip to thirty. I would have been content with the ferry experience and views alone, but that was only a small slice of the afternoon. We wandered around the streets, enjoyed lunch by the water, and sipped cold beers on the beach. It was a completely different world from the hustle and bustle of the city, yet was only a short boat ride away. I’d recommend a visit to Cheung Chau or another one of the nearby islands to anyone visiting. It’s a great way to get a view of the surroundings from the water and to explore a different side of Hong Kong.
In my next post, I’ll be venturing back to Europe for a long weekend in Paris.