Our plans were rained off today for the first time in our entire trip. We had been planning a visit to the local National Park to walk some trails in the mountains and explore some hot springs. But it was raining when we woke up and it’s still raining now (9.30 pm).
We’re staying in Tamsui (or Danshue), which is right at the end of the metro line from Taipei station. It’s a district in New Taipei, the city which entirely encircles Taipei. Tamsui is on the river Tamsui and is famous for its sunsets with sea and mountain backdrops. Unfortunately, it’s been overcast throughout our five day stay so we haven’t seen a sunset. We have, however, had some romantic riverside walks and great food most evenings.
The food in Taiwan has been mixed. We’ve had some really tasty dishes and very reasonably priced. Yesterday, for example, we had ‘hot pot’. A bowl of fish or meat and vegetables in stock is brought to your table in a small casserole and placed on a gas burner. It cooks through and when it’s done you eat it with rice. Very tasty! We had a great vegetarian buffet (pay by weight) and some good noodles. We’ve also had some rather iffy food, stodgy cereal sausages, unidentifiable gristly meat and greasy fried chicken. On a couple of occasions we’ve resorted to fast food, just for a change.
After today’s plans went out of the window we decided to go to the city centre to watch a film. It takes about an hour. The metro system is efficient, cheap and frequent but the lines don’t go everywhere so sometimes you have to get a bus as well. We did this when we went to the National Palace Museum. Everything is made easy for you here, so when you get off the metro there are signs pointing you to the bus to the museum. It was well worth it as the museum is home to tons of Chinese treasures like ancient manuscripts, porcelain and other pottery, and jade work that Chiang Kai Shek brought from mainland China.
Today we got to the station and found the tourist information office so we could confirm how to get to the airport on Wednesday morning. Then we went to watch the Second Best Marigold Hotel, which we both found vaguely amusing, but the plot was flimsy bordering on ludicrous, the characters were barely credulous despite the A list cast and the whole thing was formulaic. Still, it kept us out of the rain.
On the way back we picked up a pizza at Pizza Hut and we’re now ensconced in our little apartment with the tinny tunes from the rubbish truck drifting through the open window. It sounds like an ice cream van. The apartment has been great. It’s on the sixth floor of a normal residential building so we have a small insight into life for a typical Taipei dweller. Most of the residents seem to be young. Our apartment is a studio with a kitchen area but no means of cooking or any crockery so, apart from breakfast, it’s been impossible to self cater. There’s a gym, a pool (currently empty) and a launderette (which we were pleased to take advantage of) in the building and we have a big window overlooking the forested mountain.
Cherry blossom is appearing all over the place at the moment and it feels like we’re chasing it as we’re flying to Okinawa (southern Japan) from here and then heading north as the season progresses. Taiwan has been a real adventure as we had no idea what to expect before we came. Our first experiences were entirely positive and nothing has altered that. Everyone we have had any dealings with has been friendly, polite and helpful, things work efficiently, the climate is ideal (mid twenties for most of the year). It does rain a lot but a consequence of this is the beauty of the scenery which is lush, green and fertile with trees covering the mountains; and rice paddies, fruit and vegetables in the valleys. It’s a pretty small island so three weeks has been enough to give us a taste of life here and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.