Taipei – The Magic of the Unexpected

Big cities have a life of their own and one of the things I love most about them is how you often encounter the unexpected.  When I was lucky enough to spend extended time in New York City, I’d sometimes leave our apartment intending to go to one place & end up elsewhere.  On the way to the grocery store, I might stumble upon a street fair, or while walking in Central park, I once actually saw a huge flash mob.  Taipei brought back those memories for me, because we had a lot of random, unexpected experiences today.  Our day was planned as one thing, but it ended up being quite another – little things we never expected that made the day even better.  It was truly magical. 

Local dancers were doing a performance for cruisers when we disembarked the ship.
My homies
We were relieved to know that there was no shuttle bus today. We could simply walk to the metro.

We started the day by heading to Taipei 101, which is one of the main tourist attractions in the city.  It’s a large skyscraper with a shopping mall and an observation deck.  We didn’t care to spend any time on the observation deck, but thought checking out the mall and the food court would be a good place to start our day.  

The mall inside Taipei 101 is high-end with stores like Harry Winston and Tiffany.

We weren’t overly excited by another mall, but it was centrally located.  Plus, by the time we got near the city, it was already lunch time, so food was a priority.  Food courts are great ideas when everyone wants different things and that was the situation today.  Fred found Indian food and the rest of us settled on Thai.

Kayla was not overly excited by the Thai food we ordered.
Fred fared slightly better with an average-tasting Chicken Tikka Masala dish.

We only stayed in the mall long enough to eat.  Then we headed out the same way we arrived, intending to take the subway to our next location, but we were surprised by what we saw outside.  There was a parade!

Participants lead the parade with a stunning orange and yellow dragon.

The parade mainly consisted of a series of decorated cars.  We watched for quite a while as car after car passed by with various game, cartoon, or anime themes.  I’m not really sure which ones they were.  I think the kids might be able to tell a little more about each individual car, but even they weren’t familiar with most of them.

Some of the themed cars from the parade outside Taipei 101.

After watching the parade, we headed to Liberty Square.  It was a short ride on the metro and we wanted to see this enormous, impressive square in person.  When we arrived, we were surprised to find a festival going on!

Taipei National Concert Hall at Liberty Square
the main gate at Liberty Square
Kayla and Kyle needed to take a break away from the crowds.

I didn’t take any photos of the huge crowds, but there were huge lines and tons of people everywhere.  Whatever type of festival was going on was definitely popular.  Since three out of four of us are introverts, we decided to move on 🙂

There were a couple of streets that Fred insisted that we visit during the day.  The first was Dihua Street, which is known for its fabrics and Chinese medicinal herbs and tonics.  It does have other types of stores and art galleries mixed in and it’s apparently become a trendy area.  There was actually a fashion show going on when we were there – yet another surprise that the city had for us!

This is the view walking from the metro toward Dihua Street.
a view of Dihua street in Taipei
This is just one of the many places we saw with fabrics for sale.
If you are in need of fabric, Dihua street is the place to get it!
another view of the street

One of our favorite places today was this little art shop that we saw near the beginning of our walk down Dihua street.  It had a lot of little items for sale, most of them carved out of wood.  It was great for souvenirs, since it had tons of magnets, keychains, bookmarks, and other similar items.

Fred bought a magnet here that says “handsome”. It’s on our fridge now. We do think he’s pogi 🙂

This is actually a photo taken of the exterior, but I believe these were offered as both coasters and magnets in the EyeDesign art store.

After leaving EyeDesign, we soon became aware of the gathering crowd.  After we passed by this little temple, there was a red carpet!  Clearly something exciting was about to happen and Fred didn’t want to miss it!

People stand in line to light incense at a small temple while a fashion show is going on just steps away.
Several puppeteers polish their techniques before the show begins.
The crowd gathers at the red carpet waiting for the show to begin.

Fred stayed and watched the fashion show, making friends with everyone in the vicinity who spoke English.  The kids and I opted to walk further down the street checking out the Chinese medicine shops.  There were a couple of friends back home that I wish I’d had with me today so they could tell me what to buy!

I got a peek inside one of the Chinese medicine shops.

As you can see below, while Fred waited at the other end with the crowd, we got to see the entire lineup of dresses.  We didn’t intend to cheat and get a preview, but sometimes it just happens that way, right?

The fashion models wait in line to show their dresses to the crowds a couple of blocks down the street.

After walking until our feet hurt, we went back to grab Fred and head to our last destination for the day: Yong Kang Street.  The main reason for us visiting this street is the dumplings.  Din Tai Fung is known for having the best dumplings in Taipei and we were not about to miss great dumplings!

A shot of the crowd waiting for tables and takeout at Din Tai Fung

It took about 30 minutes for us to get a table, but the restaurant has a very efficient system.  You’re given a menu and order form while you wait, so you just turn in your order as you’re being seated.

Fred and Kyle share a joke while Kyle enjoys the fantastic food at Din Tai Fung.
Kayla was so happy to get this dessert – red bean buns. She was literally clapping and squealing (albeit in her quiet Kayla sort of way) in the restaurant!

As we were leaving, we found out that there’s a location in Los Angeles, so we’ll be going there once we’re done with our travels.

OK, let me touch on the dreaded bathroom issue.  Not all of the bathrooms are like the one below, but yes, you do run into what I refer to as the “squatty potty”.  It’s not my favorite thing about traveling, but I just chalk it up as part of the adventure.  I do prefer the toilets in Tokyo, though.  Do a google search and you’ll see why.  Think high-tech with plenty of buttons & relaxing music and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.

We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto!

After leaving the restaurant, we were all getting tired, so we decided to head back to the ship.  The closest metro stop was in a nearby park and it was filled with Pokemon Go players!

Pokemon Go players gather in a local park as we head home.
At the metro we saw a group of dancers practicing their routine.
Kayla and Fred rest against the wall while we wait for the train.  That is Kayla’s famous greeting:  the “tongue face” – just in case you’re wondering 🙂
The trains were packed with commuters, since it was rush hour.

We had such a wonderful day and truly enjoyed all of the random things we encountered here in Taipei.  It was truly magical and one of my favorite ports so far!