Taipei is a great example of advanced culture and modern civilization in Asia. Was that so apparent in a two-day visit? Yes, it was. It is nearly as clean as Singapore — debris-free streets and no graffiti. The airport is modern, the roads are very good and, if one needs a convenience store, there is a 7-Eleven on nearly every corner. That is not an exaggeration as there are 5,000 stores in the country and possibly more as that number was achieved in 2014. That’s a lot of convenience for a country of 23 million. In 2018, they launched an unmanned X-store. Some fun and fascinating facts about what’s popular in other countries.
Our excellent guide Felix showed us many of the city’s sites in half a day — including Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall with a ceremonial changing of the guard. He is a towering figure in the country’s history, and considered selfless as he dedicated his life to fighting communism. There are photos of him meeting pretty much every dignitary of the era — from LBJ to Churchill, George Marshall, Eisenhower and on. There is a huge figure of him that looks very much like the Lincoln Memorial, which similarity is likely no coincidence.
Included in our tour was Longshan Temple, the Martyrs’ Shrine and the Grand Hotel which now looks very touristy but hosted many celebrities in years past. Our last stop was Taipei 101, formerly the world’s tallest building at 101 floors. We had lunch on the 85th floor which included both the view and delicious local cuisine. There is a massive shopping mall attached to the building with all the usual suspects (brands), modern food court and entrance to the MRT (subway) but we opted for a cab.
A big treat was attending a home game of the Fubon Guardians baseball team. The cheerleaders were quite the sight — they are called the Angels. Get it? Guardian Angels? A little wordsmithing by the Taiwanese. The stadium seats 10,000 (mostly empty), but the fans there were ardent followers who cheered along every half inning with the cheerleaders who dance during the Guardians’ entire at bat. Apparently the home team doesn’t consider this a distraction!
I booked us on an early flight to Hanoi in order to not kill an entire day traveling. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Off we went around 5 a.m. for the relatively short but nonetheless international flight departing at 7:20. Next stop: the beginning of nine days in Vietnam.