After a long flight, the plane finally landed in Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport. I collected my luggage and quickly spotted the driver from the hotel car service holding up a sign with my name as I cleared and exited immigration. He led me to the car and we headed for the Grand Hyatt hotel.
Along the way, the first thing I noticed was the number of scooters on the road. It was rush hour and there were literally thousands heading in every direction. The driver told me that there are over 10 million scooters on the streets and roads of Taiwan. One major reason is that parking in Taipei is expensive but scooter parking is free. Soon we arrived at the Grand Hyatt hotel, located in the business, shopping and entertainment Xinyi district. The hotel is in the very heart of the New Taipei and is adjacent to Taipei 101 and the World Trade Center, making it very convenient for business travelers. It offers a variety of amenities including a fitness center, swimming pool and spa. For Diamond Club members, there is complimentary access to the Grand Club lounge offering Continental breakfast, evening cocktails and finger foods.
I slept for most of the flight and was well rested so I went exploring the city shortly after checking in and dropping off my luggage in my room.
First, I visited Taipei 101, which was the tallest building in the world from 2004-2010. There are 101 floors above ground, hence the name. If the weather is clear, I recommend visiting the observatory in the 89th floor, which is accessible via high-speed elevator. The 360-degree view at the top is well worth the cost of admission. Adjoining the tower is a multi-level shopping mall with hundreds of fashionable restaurants, clubs and stores.
Next, I took an easy stroll around Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. A monument of marble and tile erected in honor of the former president, the monument is situated in a 250,000 square meter park oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Taipei. Surrounded by landscaped gardens and ponds, the site also holds the National Theatre and National Concert Hall.
That evening, I headed to the night market in the Shilin district. Taipei’s largest night market, there are hundreds of stalls selling snacks, specialty drinks and lots of cheap products for sale such as clothes, bags, shoes, kitchen items, etc. For the more daring, I recommend Snake Alley in Wanhua district, which is a two-block long night market noted for restaurants serving bizarre delicacies such as snake blood and meat. Summer is quite hot and humid so that weekend I went surfing in Honeymoon Bay. It is a premiere surfing locations in Ilan County, about 90-minutes by train from Taipei. The currents are strong here so it is not the best spot for swimming. For a relaxing swim, Fulung beach on the northeast coast is just an hour train ride from the capital.
Taipei is an amazing place with so much to offer. Anything and everything you need is just around the corner. Sights, sounds, smells, people, everywhere, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Taipei is alive and constantly moving, waiting to be explored.