Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Taipei, Taiwan: Traveling and Our First Day

We headed to Taipei, Taiwan on Friday, October 25th and arrived on Saturday, October 26th.  Jake went to work Friday morning and then we both went to our last Swedish class for this session.  The timing worked out really well because our last class was on the same day we were leaving for 11 days.  We left class a few minutes early to head to Jake's office to catch a taxi to the airport.

Once we got to the airport I had a strange feeling.  The last time we were flying out of Stockholm we were headed back to Olathe knowing we were most likely moving to Stockholm about two months later.  This time it was weird because I knew we were taking a long flight but it wasn't headed home and we weren't flying from home either.  I had a hard time wrapping my head around that.

Our flight was delayed about an hour because their system was down and they had to manually check us in.  Our first flight was about 8 hours from Stockholm to Beijing.  Our seats were on the side of the plane where they only had two seats so we had a window and an aisle which was perfect for a long flight.  This was our 4th long flight we've been on in the last 5 months and we still have two more long ones before we are back home for Christmas.  Overall the flight was really good.  Probably one of the better long flights that we've been on.
Just when we finish our month long Swedish class we have to switch to another language!
We had a 3 hour layover in Beijing before heading to Taipei.  They had some sweet reclining chairs that we enjoyed during our layover.

I think they should have these chairs at every airport!
Our second flight was three hours from Beijing to Taipei.  We had a shuttle pick us up at the airport to take us to our hotel in Taipei.  The nice thing about traveling for Jake's work is that things like that are arranged for us and we don't have to worry about it.  Another awesome perk was that one of Jake's coworkers speaks Mandarin and lived in Beijing for 3 years.  We were so thankful he was with us on this trip.  I can't count how many times he helped us during this trip.  It would have been really difficult without him.

Our hotel in Taipei was really nice.  When we walked in and started checking out the room the only light that was on in the room shut off on us.  I kept hitting the light switches but they didn't do anything.  I was starting to think our room lost power.  We opened the door and the entry way light turned on again but after about a minute it turned off.  I eventually used my phone to light up the room phone to call the front desk to figure out what was  going on.  Apparently you have to put your room key in a holder on the wall.
I have never stayed in a hotel where you have to do this but after talking some of Jake's coworkers apparently this isn't uncommon.
We dropped off our stuff at the hotel and then headed out for some dinner.  We ate some Chinese food right by our hotel.  It was our second meal of the trip and our second time eating Chinese food.  At lunch we used chopsticks for the first time which was good because at dinner forks were not an option.  Actually we didn't use a fork for the rest of the trip.  Jake still isn't sure if he likes how much chopsticks slow him down but he does like that meals last longer :).

Jake's only real day to explore Taipei was Sunday, October 27th.  We met one of his Taiwan coworkers for breakfast that morning at 8:00 which was rough after our long day of traveling but it was good to get started early that day since Jake wasn't going to have much time during the week.
While we were getting ready to head to breakfast we watched the last quarter of the K-State vs West Virginia game.  It was a great quarter to watch!  We scored 3 touchdowns that quarter and won the game!
For breakfast we met at a restaurant that had people lined up down the stairs and out the door.  His coworker Sid was already in line by the time we got there and then we still had to wait another 30 minutes.  We went inside to get a table.  Once Sid and his girlfriend were close to the front of the line he came over to talk to us about what we wanted.  We had already looked around at what people were eating but since the menu is in Chinese it was hard to tell him what to order.  I basically just told him I'll eat whatever he thinks would be good as long as it doesn't have fish :) and Jake said he would eat anything.

To bake the bread they put the dough on the walls inside the silver cylinders.  It was neat watching them work.
The line went down the hall, down a flight of stairs and then it wrapped around the outside of the building.
Jake told me I had to order by picking which characters I thought looked neat.
Waiting for a table.  Tim is on the left in the blue shirt.  He is half Chinese and half Swedish.  I really don't know what we would have done without him on this trip.  Henrik is next to me.  They both work with Jake in Stockholm.
We had soy milk in bowls.  You can get this either hot or cold and it can either be sweet or salty.  I had mine cold and sweet.  Jake picked hot and salty.  Sometimes we couldn't be more opposite :).
Our breakfast was bread with egg and fried bread inside.  It was really good.  The bread can either be thick or thin.  I got the thick one and Jake picked thin.
This is Sid and his girlfriend .  
Sid has been working with Jake the last few years and was so hospitable.  He planned our dinners every night and order for us.  His girlfriend went shopping with me on Wednesday afternoon.

After breakfast we walked around that area for a few minutes before heading to a gondola ride by the Taipei Zoo.
Saw a tree growing through the building.
These are a whole bunch of mother boards turned into outdoor art.
Just a few signs.
We stopped by a farmers' market and tried some fruit.
 We headed to the Taipei Zoo to take a gondola ride up the mountain.  We didn't do much research before heading to Taipei or Beijing because we have been so busy but Jake did look up a few things and the gondola ride was one thing that looked really pretty.
While we were waiting for our turn on the gondola we watched a short fountain show.
Here comes the gondola.
Tim and Henrik

I wouldn't say I'm afraid of heights but I am learning that I am a nervous person in general so it took me a few minutes to get comfortable on the gondola.

Pretty view of the city
Some of the gondolas have glass floors.  We decided to take one with a glass floor to the top, that might be part of the reason why I was freaking out at the beginning :), and a regular one on our way back down.
At the top there were lots of stands on the side of the road selling food and souvenirs.  
The boys had some food.  I don't like trying new foods and it turns out when it is being sold on the side of the road I am even less likely to try it.  I did eat several things on the trip from little stands but not as much as the boys did.

Putting tea leaves in a bag.
Tea plants
We had lunch on the patio.
We also took a nap on the patio after lunch :).
The food was good.  Notice the chopsticks, we didn't use forks in Taipei or Beijing.

Anyone hungry for roasted squid?
They had a few noodles to choose from at their 7 Eleven.
Jake was trying to get a picture of me right before this huge crowd of people surrounded me.  Do you see all the scooters stopped at the light?
Taipei 101 - The tallest building in the world from 2004-2010.
 We went up to the top of Taipei 101.  The elevator ride from the 5th floor to the 89th floor took 37 seconds.
The elevator won a Guinness World Record for the world's fastest passenger elevator.
Pretty good view of the city.

This is the damper in Taipei 101.  It is supposed to help reduce swaying in the wind in the tower by about 40%.
I can't actually read this advertisement but the pictures are pretty self explanatory.  I don't think we would see a ad like this in the US.
Look at all those scooters
 We went to a night market on Sunday night.  It opened around 6:00 pm and closes after midnight.  At the night market you can buy clothes, shoes, purses and of course food from carts :). It was at the night market when I first experienced stinky tofu.  It is very popular in Taipei and Beijing.  And it lives up to its name.  It smells awful!  Tim had some and Jake tried it to.  I tried to stay upwind of the tofu while they were eating it.

Jake decided to try some fried squid.
He said he was good. 
Jake also bought some fruit.
I thought Oreo Milky Milk sounded good but it was about 11:30 pm after two very long days and sleep sounded better so we headed home.
We had a great first day in Taipei.  It was a long day full of lots of great sights and new experiences.  It was also enough to get me comfortable using the metro and walking around on my own which was good since Jake had a week full of long days and I had a week to explore the city.

Here is the rest of our week in Taiwan.

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