Can Taiwan be more Chinese than China?

Feelings of a weekend in Taipei

Independence, «freedom from being governed or ruled by another country»; most deeply, if I may – «the ability to live your life without being helped or influenced by other people» (Cambridge Dictionary).

This was my second attempt to fly to Taipei. The first one was a month before: the flight was booked, the hostel too but some little issue that occurred with my visa in China (long story) forced me to postpone the trip to a month later, that means October 2019.

As most of you probably know Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan; as some of you might probably know too, Taiwan is not China.
I don’t do politics here but a little explanation is due: the Mainland of China – better said the People’s Republic of China – does not recognize Taiwan as an independent State, but Taiwan – Republic of China (without “People”) – does recognize its own independence since 1912.
As said, I’m not here to discuss political matters therefore I will go on with the story of my weekend in Taipei – hope you’ll understand.

You know, I love travelling and I really enjoy travelling with the right company, but there are times when I prefer to travel on my own because…
Because then I’m free! Free to take the days off I want, free to book the hostel I want, plan the schedule I want and eventually change the plan because – guess what – I want.
Independence. What a beautiful word.
I like to think at myself as an independent woman, one of those able to count on their own and walk their own steps and this is most probably thanks to my amazing parents (this is to make them happy when they’ll read 😛 ); travelling alone makes me feel independent and empowered therefore once in a while I organize solo trips to stay with myself.
The weekend in Taipei was one of these.

Flying from my beloved Nanjing ❤ on a Friday evening and landing to Taipei Taoyuan Airport at 23:10, I grab a taxi to get to my hostel which is worth a mention:

The Bouti City Capsule Inn.
I loved it! Clean and in a great position.
My cube-bed was comfortable, even if not as spacious as the one in Seoul.
Plenty of bathrooms available.
The staff was nice but the breakfast could have been better – especially the coffee.
I highly recommend it.

The morning after I chose to start by the most famous symbol of the city, the Taipei 101.
This skyscraper is visible from almost every corner of the city and the first “view” I opted for was the one from the top of the Elephant Mountain – easy as it sounds, the name comes from its elephant-like shape.

You can easily get there by MTR (metro), Xiangshan station (note: a single ticket costs around NT$ 25; the metro works from 6am to midnight more or less). The trailhead is about eight-minute walk south, it will follow a steep climb up so don’t forget to take some water with you because you will not find any kiosk on the way.
Various trails take you to different viewpoints but don’t worry, there are bilingual maps at key points so even if you don’t read Chinese, you won’t get lost.

Useful tip: purchasing the local travel card called EasyCard makes traveling around the city coin free. It serves local buses and metro and it’s even accepted as a prepaid card in some convenience store and supermarkets. You can buy it in the same convenience stores or in the MTR stations.
Similar to this is the Taipei Pass thought for tourists (24/48/72 hours for 180/280/360 NT$; a 5 days pass will cost you 700 NT$).

30 minutes walking distance from the Elephant mountain is the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall; dedicated to the Father of the Nation, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, this building preserves some displays of his life and of the Revolution he led. Having no issues with walking from a spot to another – actually I think is the best way to appreciate the real life of the place you’re visiting and to develop sense of orientation – from the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall I started my one hour walk through the city until I finally got to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, a beautiful Chinese-style building coloured of white and blue (not exactly the colours you would find in the Mainland). I have been there for a long while because I was waiting for the guard mounting ceremony: I was told that it would have been quite a show so I checked on the internet what was the “show-time” to get myself a spot in the front row.
Luckily while waiting for the guards’ “dance”, I was entertained enough by the many stands of souvenirs and food set in the park below the Mausoleum – I think they were there for some fair.
Time finally came and I could record on tape the whole ceremony: it was worth the waiting honestly because the five guards were following a slow choreography swaying their guns from hand to hand for almost 10 minutes.

If you already follow my blog or my Instagram page, you know how much I love eating and trying local dishes… What’s better than food markets to taste a bit of everything?! Taiwan surely is a good place for street food markets.
Ningxia night market was where I got my “dinner” that day. During the day this street is a normal road with little and tiny restaurants on both sides, but when the sun goes down you can barely walk for the number of stands and carts that reverse on the street to sell food and drinks.
For people who are quite familiar with Asian food, especially Chinese, the majority of those delicacies will not be completely new but there still are some stuff that you don’t find anywhere else, I am referring for example to the “small sausage in the big sausage“, a small pork sausage wrapped not in a hot dog bun as it could seem, but in a sticky rice sausage.
I did not love.

Another typical Taiwanese sausage is the sausage on a stick, fat, greasy and deep fried. After these, wouldn’t you try some sweet? Ice cream runbing is what you need: a white spring roll filled with ice cream and crushed peanuts.
With the stomach full of fried and junky taiwanese food, it was time to call the day and go back to my cube for sweet dreams.

First stop of the second morning was the tea-growing district called Maokong, on the outskirts of the city. MTR to the Zoo, then few minutes more walking to take the Maokong Gondola, the cable car that pulls you up over the mountain into Maokong, where visitors can sip local tea and enjoy the views of the city from tearooms and restaurants.
(Note: if you travel with the EasyCard or the Taipei Pass you will need to purchase the extension for the Maokong Gondola)
Maybe it was because I did not drink tea, but the place didn’t impress me too much so I just took a stroll, some photo of the view – obviously dominated by the Taipei 101 – and proceeded back down to the city.

Have I already said that Taiwan is a good place for street food markets? Afternoon stop: Shilin Market, where I had the best Bubble tea of my life; in China I drank it many times but this drink was invented in Taiwan in the 80s so if you drink it somewhere else is like eating pizza out of Napoli. 😛

On Monday I still had the whole morning to go around; on my list: the Taiwan National Museum and Dihua Street; FYI the first one is closed on Mondays – not a big bummer for me because I would have visited only to fill the spare time – but it’s located in the 2-28 Peace Memorial Park. Built in 1908 on European model, this was the first urban public park in Taiwan; its current name is in recognition of the 2-28 Incident occured in 1947 during the protests against the Chinese government set in place by Chiang Kai-shek.
Before heading to the airport, I had my last Taiwanese lunch in Dihua Street; known for its Chinese medicine and fabric shops, in this characteristic street you will also find cafes, restaurants, art studios and antique shops.

To get from the city to Taoyuan airport, you can choose between two types of train departing from Taipei Main Station: the Express or the Commuter; the first one takes 37 minutes from the station to the airport and costs NT$ 160, the second one is a bit slower and cheaper.

I had enough time to opt for the Commuter and I also had enough time to make the consideration that Taipei somehow looked more Chinese than the Mainland of China – or at least than the bigger cities of the Mainland of China.
There was this atmosphere of ancient in the air, maybe given by the decadent old buildings, by the fact that the city was left as it used to be, lacking in modernity; or maybe my impression was given by the pride of being Taiwanese, of speaking Mandarin but still feeling proudly independent.

Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the page…
I’ll read ya!

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