It doesn’t happen to me often. That I go somewhere and immediately want to go back as soon as I’ve left. It has only happened with four places so far; Faroe Islands, Bratislava, Seyðisfjörður and just recently, Taipei. Now these are four very different locations, so what made each of them special to me? I’m not really sure how to answer that. It’s just a feeling that I get; a feeling of knowing a place even though I’ve only been there for a few days; a feeling of belonging somewhere. I collect these places, as someday I’ll settle down and I’ll do it in a place that I feel like I belong to. I’ve always had a passion for Faroe Islands and the Faroese culture and I’m a big fan of mountains and cold weather, so that’s where I dream of settling down in the future. But if I ever want to live in a city for a while, Taipei or Bratislava would be my choices at the moment.
So why Taipei? Well, it’s a huuuuge city and I don’t really like huge cities, but it didn’t feel that big to me. Instead of spending money on the metro, I chose to walk everywhere, which resulted in some long walks to places that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought about going to. I got to know Taipei pretty well in just 6 days. My favourite thing about Taipei is its surroundings; there are mountains everywhere! And that means endless hiking opportunities, which is definitely something that I need in my life. And then there’s Ximen. The lively and colourful neighbourhood in the Wanhua District, Taipei’s oldest district; this was the first place that I went to in the city and the place that made me tell the world that I LOVE Taipei after only 4 hours of exploring. And I have to say that seeing individual style was amazing after spending a month in Southeast Asia, where everyone pretty much dress the same. Ximen is undoubtedly the best place to see the many different clothing styles of the Taiwanese people!
Coming from Southeast Asia to Taipei, I was surprised and relieved that no one on the streets were shouting at me, trying to get my attention or asking me for pictures. No one! It was such a relief to be able to walk the streets in peace with no hassle. Maybe that was what made me love Taipei from the beginning. I felt very safe and respected there. Like I wasn’t just some Western girl with pockets full of money (which I’m definitely not).
Taipei blew me away with its friendly people and the endless list of things to do and see both in the city and around the city. I spent three days hiking in the surrounding mountains and three days wandering through the streets of Taipei, listening to the birds singing in the many city parks, studying the most beautiful temples, eating Taiwanese vegetarian food with a new friend, getting blown away by the ginormous National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, enjoying the atmospheric night markets and relaxing for hours on the banks of the Tamsui River.
I didn’t have a set itinerary or a long list of things to see; I just enjoyed spending time in the city and studying every little thing that I happened to come by. One thing that I had to see though was the Taipei 101 with a height of 509.2 m.- the tallest building in the world according to my Lonely Planet book from 2004. Okay, so I know that Dubai took tall buildings to the next level with the Burj Khalifa in 2010, but it was still pretty cool to see. I wanted to go to the top to see the view of Taipei from above, but I decided that the entrance ticket was too expensive and that I wanted to go hiking to see it instead – and have the impressive Taipei 101 in the view as well!
Taipei amazed me with its lively streets, its brilliant cuisine, its relaxed atmosphere and its beautiful surroundings. Instead of travelling down to the East Coast, which was my original plan, I decided to spend all of my days in Taipei and the surrounding areas. In the coming days, I’ll be sharing my stories from my trips to the mountaneous areas and then I doubt that any of you will be able to say that you don’t love Taipei!