On a whim back in January, I decided to join a friend on a scuba diving trip to Palau. After a month of anticipation February 4th finally arrived when I was finally able to leave the snow and cold weather behind and board a plane for a warmer weather and what is becoming an annual adventure to Asia. Francois lives in Montreal, so we met in Vancouver and flew to Taipei then Palau. The length of the travel in total with layovers was about 30+ hours, but we were lucky enough to have a seven hour layover in Taipei. We had booked a private tour in Taipei during our layover; after travel time into the city (about 45 minutes) and having to be back at the airport an hour prior to our next flight, we ended up with about four hours to see Taipei. And those four hours were packed with more sights than most people would see in several days!
Our guide, Christine and her husband Jan (pronounced Yawn) picked us up at the airport. Francois had originally booked the tour with Christine’s tour company, but it turned out that Jan was actually the tour guide. Hailing from Holland he settled in Taipei about 23 years ago when working for the airline company KLM, and met and married Christine. Because he can’t read and/or write the local language to the standard requirement for a tour guide license, Christine is the registered guide, and we benefitted from a two -for-one guided tour, with Jan explaining the history and culture and sights in perfect English, and Christine liaising with the cabbie and locals in her native language and keeping a close eye on the clock to make sure we kept to our itinerary. They were kind, warm, very thoughtful and most hospitable making our four hour visit to Taipei a most enjoyable stop-over event.
For the duration our 45 minute cab ride to our first destination Yan proceeded to show us a powerpoint presentation on an ipad on the background of Taipei, the history, geography (complete with images of its topography), popular food (Jan had 50 slides of pictures of descriptions of the most popular food in Taipei, the most intriguing to me being ‘stinky tofu’) and also included a customized itinerary our of half day together based on Francois’ earlier request: markets, culture, architecture, no shopping).
First stop: a fish market, or ‘wet’ market. My request:)
Outside of the building housing the fish market there were blocks of street markets. For those of you who have followed my blog before, you will know that street markets are one of my favourite places to roam, discover new foods, people watch and of course, take pictures. This one did not disappoint.
The locals were super friendly, smiling at us with a small bow. My friend teased me that it is my curly blond hair and blue eyes that attracted all the attention. I prefer to think it is our big smiles, curiosity and interest in their culture and positive energy. Realistically, it’s probably a combination of both. I loved these people immediately.
This man on the street saw us taking tons of pictures and hammed it up for the camera.
Christine, made an extra effort to find us some street food breakfast, which may have been one of the healthiest breakfasts I’ve had in a while: a vegetable wrap (with rice paper) with a most delicious peanut powder/paste inside – delish! Then she insisted we have a bean paste dessert. It didn’t look that appetizing, but it was my type of dessert – mostly savoury with a bit of sweetness (apparently the Taiwanese don’t love tons of sugar – awesome!) and a pudding-like consistency, topped with a date.
This was the type of place I could explore for hours. Alas, our itinerary begged us to move on.