Taiwan Day 3: Taipei 101, YongKang Street & Huashan 1914 Creative Park
When you're in Taipei, you would never pass up seeing the Taipei 101 in real life, unless you've seen it a million times before. Since it was my parents and I's first time in the city, we didn't miss the opportunity to look up at this beautiful skyscraper.
On our last day, we woke up early to go to Bank of Taiwan to have a few more Philippine peso exchanged into New Taiwan Dollar. The problem was that the branch that we went to doesn't exchange PHP to NTD and they told us to go to the main office instead (more details in a separate blog post!). So we pushed that plan aside for a while and headed straight to Taipei 101.
Taipei 101 has, you guessed it, 101 floors. It was the world's tallest tower from 2004 to 2010 (The current holder of that title is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai). When I stepped on the escalator taking us from the underground metro up to the street where the tower was literally in the other block, I was in awe. It's gigantic and beautiful in real life!
I've seen some iconic buildings last year (the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore) and they're all amazing in their own way, but my gosh, Taipei 101 was gorgeous. I absolutely love the design and the color! The structure is also made to be super durable during strong typhoon winds and earthquakes. It also has a fast elevator and can transport people from the 5th to the 89th floor in just 37 seconds (Source). How cool is that?
Unfortunately, we weren't able to go up to the observatory deck because we were running out of cash during that day (that's why we needed to exchange some Pesos to NTD). We weren't also able to climb up the Elephant Mountain for a better view of the building. I was with two people who are in their late 50's. Climbing up some steep stairs are not their thing (they've had enough in Jiufen haha!). Next time, Taipei. Next time.
From Taipei 101, we hopped on the metro again and got off in Dongmen Station. YongKang Street is a few steps away from this station.
Of course, I wouldn't leave a country without visiting as many indie boutiques as I can and in Taipei, YongKang Street is lined with a lot of them. From leather goods, clothes, umbrellas to bubble tea and pastry — there's a shop for each of that. If you've been to the Haji Lane in Singapore, YongKang Street is similar to that minus the street art.
We were pressed with time so we didn't get to see all the nooks and crannies of the street. I ended up buying some postcards and Taiwan pins in Ma Ma Umbrella Handmade Market. All the postcards and pins that I bought were made by local artists. They were selling it for around 50 NTD each.
We also stopped by a leather shop selling beautifully crafted bags, belts, wallets, and passport covers, to name a few. The shopkeeper was so welcoming and he explained to us what they do. He said they also make custom designed leather goods. It's either the clients ask them to design something or the clients themselves hands their designs to them and they do the rest of the work. If you also buy anything from them, whether it be a passport cover or a wallet, they emboss your name on it for free.
What interested me the most about his shop was that he looks like he enjoys his job. Before we got inside the shop, he was busy cutting some pieces of leather and he greeted us with a smile. I don't know. Maybe that's just how they are but you can totally see it in someone if they love and enjoy what they do, you know.
If I visit Taipei again, I'll definitely see more of YongKang Street.
Huashan 1914 Creative Park
Okay so I don't have pictures of the park itself and what it offers. Instead, I took photos of this cozy coffee shop that we stumbled upon while walking around the area.
Huashan 1914 Creative Park was a winery complex back in the day but now it has been converted into a multi-purpose creative park for young artists in Taiwan. There are a lot of quaint coffee shops, boutiques carrying independent labels, interactive museums, and there's even a cinema. If you want to know more about the history and the park's purpose, check out this Wikipedia article.
I totally forgot the name of the cafe that we went to. All I could remember was that we decided to go in because we saw some adorable dogs looking out the window. Turns out, they were rescued and untrained dogs so we weren't allowed to touch them #sad.
When we entered the cafe, we were stunned with the design. There were exposed red bricks everywhere, vinyl records, band posters, books, and quirky chairs. My papa liked how resourceful the cafe was and I could tell he was busy trying to remember all the teeny tiny details especially with the chairs because he can use it as an inspiration. He's an engineer so this was very creatively stimulating for him.
We ended our day with a quick trip to the main office of the Bank of Taiwan to have a few more Pesos exchanged and then hopped on the train to Shilin. My mama was busy with shopping for souvenirs while my papa and I were just busy observing everything around us. Then we went back to our hostel, checked out, and hopped on the train to the airport.
This trip to Taiwan is definitely one for the books.
I loved traveling with my parents even though my mama had to find a comfort room every now and then to do her thing because cold weather = frequent peeing lol. It was so nice seeing them behave like excited teenagers. I'm definitely seeing them in a different light now. They're still kids, curious and excited about the world.
My heart is incredibly full with gratitude for grasping the opportunity to make this come true for them. I actually never thought I could treat them to a trip abroad not until I'm like in my 30's or something.
Taiwan is beautiful. Every time I walk in its streets, I feel like I'm in a large movie set. Taiwan's charm is something different. The people are polite and respectful. And even though they don't know a lot of English words, they'll look for someone to help you if you ask for directions. And let's not forget about the food! My god, the food. Taiwanese/Chinese cuisine in general is divine. We never had a bad meal while we were there.
Although our stay in Taiwan was short, it was enough to see sort of the "ground level" of what the country has to offer. The next time I'll visit the Heart of Asia, I'll definitely stay for a week and head to the other cities like Taichung in Central Taiwan and Kaoshiung in the South.
Until we meet again, Taiwan!