Today I used the Taipei MRT subway system to visit a couple of the city’s main attractions: the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial and the Taipei 101 World Trade Centre.
For my first two days in Taipei, I just walked to reach places of interest. But today’s attractions are further away, so I decided to use the subway system. It turned out to be very easy to use. I bought an Easy Card at the MRT station and topped it up (any remaining balance can be refunded at the end of my stay in Taipei). The card allows for quick and easy movement through the station turnstiles. All of my subway travel today was on the red (number 2) line.
My first stop was the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, opened in 1980 in honour of the former president of the Republic of China. It turned out that the Memorial Hall was closed today for repairs, but that didn’t prevent me walking around the structure and the surrounding grounds, which include the National Theatre and the National Concert Hall
After visiting the CKS Memorial, I walked back to the MRT station and took the subway to Taipei 101 Station – to visit Taipei 101. Built in 2004, the Taipei 101 World Trade Centre has 101 stories and is 508 metres tall, making it currently the 5th tallest building in the world.
For a 600 Taiwan Dollar (about $20) admission fee, you can ride the elevator to the 89th floor observation deck. The high speed elevator whisks visitors up to the 89th floor in only 37 seconds, whilst a visual display notes the current position and speed of the elevator. A sign on the wall, before entering the elevator, claims that it is a ‘journey that’ll change your life.’ Hyperbole for sure, but it is an interesting elevator ride.
There is an outdoor observation deck on the 91st floor, that can be accessed via a staircase from floor 89. But the open air deck proved top be a disappointment. Only a small section of the deck was accessible on my visit, and it is surrounded by vertical metal railings, so there is no chance of a panoramic photo.
One of the interesting features of the building is a 660-tonne steel ball pendulum that serves as a tuned mass damper. The suspended ball moves during high winds or earthquakes to minimise the movement of the building itself. This huge ball can be viewed in the centre of the building, from floors 88 and 89.
To get down from the observation deck, visitors must pass through a Chii Lih Coral retail store in order to reach the down elevator. I was saddened to see that this store is selling real coral as art pieces, to the detriment of the environment. They refer to items as being made from ‘coral gemstone’. One sign in the store advertises a large piece of coral that takes 10 years to grow 1cm. And this piece is 141cm tall x 131cm wide, so it took at least 1,410 years to grow and now it has been ripped from the ocean to adorn someone’s home. Quite shameful. The artwork on some of these coral pieces is very good – but so is the carving of elephant ivory that can be found in Asia!
After leaving Taipei 101, I hopped back on the MRT to the Dongmen Station, where I got off to visit Yongkang Street which is renowned to be a street with lots of restaurants. Despite the reputation, I didn’t see a large number of eateries but I did find two popular places that made it a worthwhile visit.
The first spot was a street food outlet that had a long line of customers waiting to buy the pancake-like offerings. A sign lists the different contents that can be added to the pancakes. I opted for the egg and cheese version that costs 40 TWD ($1.27). It was very tasty and worth waiting in line for.
The next popular stop was the Smoothie House to taste a Taiwanese favourite – shaved ice dessert. The Super Mango Shaved Ice with Sorbet seemed to be the most popular choice amongst the customers that were lined up to buy these large delicious bowls. That’s the flavour that I selected. The bowls are large and could easily be shared between two people.
After finishing the shaved ice dessert, my belly was full. I headed back to the hotel for a few hours to rest and update the blog.
Now I’m ready to head out for the evening to find some street food for dinner.