Arriving In Taipei, A Great, Interesting Modern City, and Meeting Up With Our Friends

Arriving In Taipei, A Great, Interesting Modern City, and Meeting Up With Our Friends

We landed in Taipei early on a rainy evening.
Our journey from home to Taipei had been long, since it included an overnight stay in Denver, an early morning flight to Vancouver, and finally a long flight to Taipei.

By the time we arrived in Taipei, we had blurry eyes, and felt relieved that we had already booked dinner featuring a vegetarian set menu at our hotel.

Our friends Wendy and Joseph had wanted to pick us up at the airport and take us for a typical Taiwanese dinner.
Despite their repeated offers, we persistently refused their generosity, and insisted that we would be too tired to enjoy their company.

They suggested that instead they would come to our hotel to take us for lunch the next day.

Our Vegetarian dinner feast at the hotel was composed of fourteen beautifully crafted dishes.

1- Vinegar marinated black bamboo fungus
2- Shredded fresh sweet peas
3- Beancurd skin filled with mushrooms
4- Cooked pine nuts sprinkled with seaweed
5- Marinated tomato slices in plum sauce
6- Braised superior bird’s nest with pumpkin and bamboo fungus
7- Braised snow peas with yam and bell peppers
8- Seasonal Pumpkin soup
9- Sautéed assorted vegetables
10- Sautéed fresh lily with gingko nuts and asparagus
11- Braised black mushrooms with seasonal vegetables
12- Steamed vegetable dumplings
13- Seasonal fruits
14- Double-boiled lotus seeds and red dates with fresh snow fungus

Taiwan is a Food Heaven for vegetarians, with more vegetarian restaurants and eateries than any other city in any other country in the world.
The food also tends to be light, prepared with very little oil, with almost nothing deep fried or greasy.

After a refreshing night’s sleep, we went down to the lobby, where we met up with our friends, Wendy and Joseph.

We had met Wendy and Joseph years ago, when we all were enrolled in the same Japanese Language school in Sapporo, Hokkaido.
We became friends and have stayed in touch through the years.

Wendy and Joseph inspired Jules and me from the moment we met them.
They have a vast, generous spirit and a “Can Do” attitude that allows them to live a great and adventurous life, befriend new people all over the world, and enjoy many interesting adventures.

On this trip, they invited us to walk with them along the East Coast of Taiwan.
We planned to walk together a part of the way, and then to join a group of their friends and walk in a larger group the rest of the way.

After meeting in our hotel lobby, we took an enjoyable walk together around Taipei city, and then we were treated to an excellent lunch of many Taiwanese traditional dishes.
One of Wendy and Joseph’s lovely daughters, Chris, joined us for lunch, and after hearing that we love to walk and hike, she suggested that we go for a hike after lunch.

Joseph, who has retired from work, has a much busier schedule now, compared to when he was working full time.
He is enrolled in art classes, he studies French and Spanish, he meets with a group of fellow students to read a book in Spanish together, and he and Wendy recently started taking modern dance and yoga classes.

After lunch, Wendy took us to “Elephant Mountain,” located a short walk from the restaurant where we ate lunch.
It was a very steep climb up many stone stairs, and we were rewarded with beautiful views of the city and its iconic “Taipei 101” skyscraper.

The path continued even higher into the tall mountains that ring the downtown, and Wendy said that if you wished, you could hike for hours.
It is amazing that there are such mountains in the middle of a busy city.

Taipei is surrounded by tall mountains, which provide a great escape for nature lovers who are looking for a hiking challenge.

Since we were jet lagged and tired, we did not climb all the way up, but instead walked towards a temple at the base of the mountain.
The mountain is rocky with tall slabs of stone and lush tropical vegetation.
We could hear the prayers and chanting as we neared the mountain temple.

This Taoist temple is spread across the slopes of the mountain, with a few cave shrines and a huge stone carving of the temple’s god or guardian deity.

A major celebration was going on, and the temple’s priestess was chanting and performing a puja ceremony.
Volunteers were painting Chinese symbols on red paper for people to take home and hang by their doors, to bless their homes and family for the new year.

I lined up to participate in the blessing ceremony.
It included the priestess taking a gulp of water and spitting a spray of the water from her mouth into my face and then on the back of my head.
I enjoyed it so much, I was in Heaven.

For the next three days after our hike up Elephant Mountain, my leg muscles were hurting.
I was surprised and a bit concerned about recovering before we were to start our walk.

But I did have a few more days in Taipei to recover, and in a few days of walking around this interesting city, my leg muscles did recover.
Still, I was very surprised by the fact that my leg muscles hurt after that climb, since normally I am a strong walker and can walk for many hours per day….
It is the climbing up many stairs that usually tires my leg muscles.

One of the things that I love about Taipei are the ancient temples, beautifully decorated with elaborate and colorful designs.
While in the city we visited a few of these temples and admired the stunning guardians painted on the doors, the stone carvings on the columns and walls, and the amazing roofs decorated with dragons, lions, roosters and peacocks.

People were praying, burning mock paper money, lighting candles and burning incense.

Another highlight of this city are its many night markets.
While other cities around the world have many bars and night clubs, Taipei has dozens of night markets, in which you can stroll and eat, snack, shop and have a fabulous time.

On the weekends and holidays some of these night markets are so packed with people that it’s hard to even walk.
But on regular nights they are simply a must to visit.
We loved some of the night markets and got to try different foods and stroll among the lively markets full of happy people, high energy and interesting shopping.

There are also a few old closed factories in Taipei, that have been converted to cool shops and arts and crafts shopping areas.
One such factory is an old tobacco factory, and the other, an old Japanese sake factory.

We saw interesting contemporary art and lots of creative design in the shops that have sprouted in and thrived in these renovated spaces.

There are numerous historical restorations around Taipei that are worth seeing, showing how people used to live and study during the fifty years that the Japanese occupied the country.

We spent some time in Eslite, Taiwan’s biggest multi-level bookstore, where I bought art manuals to study Chinese painting.

There is so much to see, eat, experience and do in Taipei.
Every corner is full of interesting things to see and kind people to meet.
Like a man we met who had adopted an old street dog whose back legs were paralyzed.
He put Ray-Ban sunglasses on the dog, and took him to the park, where the old dog masterfully dragged himself around with the help of his strong front legs, looking like a cool war veteran that the hardships of life had not beaten down.

With blessings and light,

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