Taipei City

Mengjia Longshan Temple—oldest temple in Taipei; originally built in 1738, it has been rebuilt and renovated several times due to its destruction in earthquakes, fires and wars

Mengjia Longshan Temple—oldest temple in Taipei; originally built in 1738, it has been rebuilt and renovated several times due to its destruction in earthquakes, fires and wars

Dates visited: December 18, 2014 – December 21, 2014

Taipei City, the capital of Taiwan (officially called Republic of China), was a last-minute addition to our three-week long Southeast Asia vacation since Rohan wanted to visit Taipei 101 (the sixth tallest building as of January 2015). His friends had visited Taipei 101 a year ago and based on their discussions, he had gotten interested in four aspects of the building—(1) measuring 1,667 ft (508 m), it used to be the tallest building in the world from 2004-2010, (2) it has the world’s fastest passenger elevator, (3) the “damper baby” mascot, and (4) buying the damper baby mascots for his friends since they hadn’t been able to purchase them during the visit.

Rohan was tremendously excited to make it to the observation deck on the 89th floor of Taipei 101 (101 is because it has 101 floors). The elevators have a maximum speed of 1,010 m/min (3,313 ft/min), equivalent to 37.6 mph (60.6 km/h) and blast you to the 89th floor in just 40 seconds! The visibility was okay during our visit, but the view of the city is nothing to write home about. Rohan went nuts posing with the damper babies (the damper baby mascot is based on the building’s damper that is used to reduce the swaying of the tower during strong winds) and finally got to buy the damper babies for his friends. The look of relief and satisfaction on his face was priceless!

We visited several beautiful temples such as Mengjia Longshan Temple, Dalongdong Baoan Temple, Taipei Confucius Temple and Ciyou Temple (a hidden gem near Raohe Street Night Market). While the temples started looking the same by the end of the day, it was fascinating to see throngs of devotees praying and offering gifts to the deities. But it was even more fascinating to learn about the concept of Jiaobei blocks or moon blocks… …these are crescent-shaped blocks that you use to seek an immediate answer from the god! You ask the question and drop the blocks—depending on their resting position, the answer can be a yes, no, or unclear so ask again. Simple as that!!

I had the most fun at Raohe Street Night market. It was my first “night market” exposure and I was totally in awe of the Saturday crowds, energy and ambiance I did not have the guts (or the stomach) to try street food but just the sights and smells convinced me that it must be absolutely delectable. The market was jam-packed with locals, tourists, food carts, shops, restaurants, and being jostled and pushed around was a part of the experience I will never forget!

We made a whirlwind visit to the National Palace Museum (since we were jet lagged) to see the famous Jadeite Cabbage and the Meat-shaped Stone. Since there were no crowds (we visited the museum couple of hours before extended closing hours), I had ample time to observe and inspect these two antiquities and I still do not know why people queue up for hours to get a glimpse of a cabbage and a meat-shaped piece of rock, when there is so much other awesome stuff on display! Maybe I should use the Jiaobei blocks to find that answer… …

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