February 2009

My first time traveling Asia – or at least a tiny bit of it – and it was love at first sight.

Getting started

I was visiting Taiwan in February – but when I left the airplane, I immediately knew, I would need nothing else than my shorts and t-shirts. I was spending just ten days and arrived in the middle of the night, so first day's plan was pretty simple: Explore the city. To get an idea of how the city spreads out in the green valleys, there is an easy solution: Taipei 101. At this time it was still the building with the highest accessable top floor world wide.

Down to earth

I was visiting a friend, who studied in Taipei. While he was in university, I kept on straying the city – mainly by foot and busses. Taipei's architecture can hardly be described as "beautiful", but it's definitely an interesting mirror of it's history. Just a hand full of buildings in Taipei are older than a few decades. The city started booming after 1949, the year China's republican government fled to Taiwan.

Streets of Taipei

This first visit to Asia was an appetizer for more. The streets here are always busz, people's work and life form a whole and large parts of it take place on or at the street. In garages, shops, restaurants – some of them open all night, everyday. It's not like everything is on its feet day and night in Taipei. Actually, the city gets amazingly quiet at night. But still there is somebody awake on every corner, running a small snack bar, a betel nut store or selling drinks.


Taipei's city planers must have been prophets. Streets are wide, four- or six-laned. A small scooter still is the number 1 vehicle for private transport, while pedestrians cross the streets on bridges or huge cross-walks.


First, there are the political ones. Politics is a hot potato in Taiwan. The strains between Taiwan – or the Republic of China – and the People's Republic of China on the mainland are omnipresent. The gigantic memorial hall for Chiang Kai-shek, Mao's opponent in the Chinese Civil War, is just one example.

The Religious Ones

A big difference to Mainland China is, that religion was never banned in Taiwan. Traditions, customs and practices are still in use everywhere, not just as a tourist attraction (there aren't tourists anyway). People of all ages come to pray in the various temples throughout the city.

Out of Town

Taipei seems huge, but you are pretty close to the nature nearly everywhere. The city bowl is surrounded by mountains, which can be wilder than expected. After returning from a mountain hike back to the bus station and missing the last one, we experienced what might be called just a tiny typhoon in Taiwan. Rocks covered the road, when we finally found a sweet old couple to take us down to the city.