Taipei Taiwan Travel Guide for First Timers

If you are planning a trip to Taiwan for the first time, there are several areas worth visiting to make the most of your trip. While there are multiple beautiful, historic areas, the following are my personal favorites for Taipei travel. Please feel free to use this as a sort of personal Taipei travel guide when planning your Taipei vacation.

Taipei 101

We start our Taipei tour at Taipei 101. This is a skyscraper located in the Xinyi District. In 2004, it was listed as the world’s tallest building at 1,671 feet. It held that title for 6 years until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai eclipsed Taipei 101 in 2010. The tower boasts 101 stories and features an outdoor observation deck on the 91st floor like the Empire State Building in New York City where you can see beautiful views of the surrounding areas.

The bottom five floors of Taipei 101 feature a luxury shopping mall with upscale shops such as Burberry and Louis Vuitton. On the 88th floor indoor observatory, you can see the 730-ton mass damper, basically a giant ball that acts like a pendulum to counteract the buildings sway during high winds. Without this damper, people on high floors can actually suffer from motion sickness from the constant swaying of the building! Taipei 101 is a city icon that is visible for miles across the city. Every New Year’s, Taipei 101 attracts tens of thousands of visitors to see its spectacular fireworks display.

Ximending Shopping

If you are into shopping, you can’t go wrong with Ximending. This is the shopping area in the Wanhua district of Taipei and is considered to be the fashion capital of Taiwan. On weekends, Ximending streets are closed to traffic and becomes a pedestrian shopping mall. The area is popular with street performers of all types and, because it is a hotspot, you can catch celebrities hosting small outdoor concerts, album launches, and other events.

Ximending is also famous for its “Theater Street” where there is a concentration of several movie along Wuchang Street. For history buffs, though, the most famous theater in the district is the Red House Theater which was built in 1908 during Japanese occupation and is still an operational theater with regular performances.

Yangmingshan National Park

If beautiful sights are what you look forward to when travelling, then I can’t recommend Yangmingshan enough. It is the largest natural park in Taipei. Yangmingshan is great for hiking and has numerous trails that can last an entire day or just a couple of hours. Popular trails include Seven Stars Peak which will take you to the highest peak in Taipei at 1120 meters (3600 feet) or see the stunning waterfall of the Juansi Waterfall Trail.

Each February through March, Yangmingshan is the site of the Yangmingshan Flower Festival when several varieties of flowers such as azaleas, camellias, and especially cherry blossoms reach their peak bloom. Every evening of the festival, cherry blossom trees are illuminated for a particularly romantic sight. Visitors can also have lunch and dinner at one of many restaurants such as The Top or Grass Mountain Chateau for spectacular vistas of Taipei below.

Between the beauty of the cherry blossoms and the views of the city, Yangmingshan is a well-known romantic spot for lovers all over Taipei. From April to May, when calla lilies reach full bloom, you can pick your own lily flowers for only a few dollars at one of several flower farms.

Lastly, don’t miss out on Yangming Shuwu, also known as Yangming Villa, the beautiful summer retreat of the late president Chiang Kai-shek. Yangming Villa house and gardens are maintained as they were when occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Chiang. The house is a two-story traditional Chinese home, with reception rooms and offices on the first floor and the Chiang’s personal residence on the second floor where their paintings and personal photographs are still displayed. The gardens are especially beautiful in the Spring when the flowers are in bloom. As a bit of trivia, it’s been noted that several bushes are planted in bunches of five – to symbolize the “5-star” rank of General Chiang.

National Palace Museum

Next, we find ourselves at the National Palace Museum which opened in 1965. If you love history, this is the place to be! National Palace Museum has a humongous collection of 700,000 permanent exhibits of Chinese Imperial history and artwork that spans over 2000 years plus prehistoric Chinese artifacts and artwork that dates to the Neolithic era, or better known as the “Stone Age”.

The most popular item in its collection is the Jadeite Cabbage. Carved during the 19th century, it is a piece of jadeite that has been shaped to resemble a head of Chinese cabbage and has a locust and a grasshopper camouflaged in its leaves. Legend says the sculpture is a metaphor for female fertility, with the white cabbage stalk representing purity, the green leaves of the cabbage representing fertility, and the insects representing children.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Another historically significant landmark on our trek to learn about the history of Taiwan is the Chiang Kia-shek Memorial Hall. This is a national monument that was built in honor of former Republic of China President Chiang Kia-shek. The memorial marks the geographic and cultural center of Taipei. It is the most visited attraction by foreign tourists. The pagoda style memorial hall has a presidential library and museum on the ground level.

The main hall features a large, seated statue of Chiang Kai-shek, much like the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The memorial hall and its surrounding Liberty Square plaza encompasses 60 acres and includes many ponds and garden spaces. The plaza also houses two of Taipei’s performance art buildings, the National Theater and the National Concert Hall.

Beitou Hot Springs and Public Library

My favorite place to visit while in Taiwan is an area called Beitou. Beitou is a mountainous district north of Taipei City and is most known for its hot springs and its magnificent public library. The mineral waters from the many natural geothermal vents in Beitou are famous for their healing and therapeutic properties. An entire industry of hot springs bathhouses and hotels have sprung up in Beitou offering aroma therapy, massages, and hydrotherapy. There are a lot of places where tourists can soak their feet in the hot springs stream. Be sure to visit the Hot Springs Museum. When it was built in 1913, it was the largest public bathhouse in Asia at that time. Today, the museum offers a glimpse at its bathhouse facilities and Beitou’s history.

Next, visit the Beitou public library. Its wooden structure that fits seamlessly into its Beitou Park setting. Through use of eco-friendly features and design, the library is Taiwan’s first “green” building. The library opened in 2006 and was built to reduce the usage of water and electricity. To do this, architects used large windows to allowing in natural light and a solar panel roof to provide the electricity needed for operation. Also, the library collects rain water to be stored and used to flush its toilets.

Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf

Our final stopping point is Tamsui. Tamsui is located on the western tip of Taipei and our favorite place was the Fisherman’s Wharf. We learned that not only do the restaurants that dot the Fisherman’s Wharf boardwalk provide the freshest seafood available, it also provides breathtaking sunset views. Fisherman’s Wharf still functions as a harbor for local fishermen and they proudly provide harbor for 150 vessels! Our favorite walk is across the “Lover’s Bridge” pedestrian bridge, named as such because it opened on Valentine’s Day 2003.

Its architecture resembles a sailing ship’s masts. It was about a 3-minute walk across the bridge, which at sunset is magnificent. Lover’s Bridge is also a great place to catch the yearly fireworks show and concert that the city hosts each year to celebrate Chinese Valentine’s Day (which occurs in August and not February 14th). Another way to experience Tamsui is to take a ferry from the Tamsui Ferry Pier and disembark at the Fisherman’s Wharf. The ferry is a cheap way to see terrific views of the Tamsui waterfront. A one-way fare costs only $2 USD and takes only about 15 minutes.

Health Care in America Needs an Update

American health care needs an updated treatment plan. The quality of care is not the issue as we have some of the best medical care in the world. People will fly in from different countries just to take advantage of our trained medical providers. But our health care policies are very short-sighted and in need of repair. I see two major flaws with our current health care system.

One is that routine preventive health care is unaffordable for many families. For many the only type of health care that they can afford is a plan with a high deductible. This type of insurance is necessary for major injuries and life-threatening situations. But in the end it leads to a lack of preventive maintenance. With such high deductibles people are hesitant to go to a doctor for the routine care that might prevent major problems down the road. And, most high deductible plans provide no dental care at all.

This is like taking a car to a mechanic only when the engine seizes up or the transmission fails. What we should be doing is changing the oil and maintaining the air pressure in the tires. Under the current state of health care this is not possible for many. As a nation we are going to face much higher costs for medical and dental care as our population ages.

The second issue is the large number of people who do not have any insurance at all. If health insurance is anything like car insurance I am forced to pay not only for my own injuries but also for the injuries of all those who choose to go without insurance. The affordable care act, commonly known as Obamacare, made an attempt to rectify this issue. In my opinion Obamacare caused as many problems as it solved but in this one area it got it right.

Obamacare certainly isn’t perfect. And Republicans are now in the process of attempting to repeal it. I can understand their logic in doing so. However, I have not seen any type of plan they have proposed that addresses the issues of preventative care and the uninsured. Whether it is Obamacare, or some other plan, something needs to be done about the large number of American citizens who live off of the hard work of others. And the fact that preventative health care is not affordable.

America is a great country. We are a very resourceful people. Most of us work very hard to provide for ourselves and our families. We should be smart enough to know how to provide high quality, and affordable, health care to all of our citizens. It may cost us more in the present but it will pay big dividends down the road.

Spacecraft Washing Business – Sure, There Will Be A Need For Spacecraft Washes

Have you ever driven your freshly washed car through a mud puddle on the street, or had a bird dropping right on the hood just hours after paying the carwash for a deluxe car wash? Well, what do they say; ‘it happens’. After spending years in the cleaning business, washing cars, trucks, boats and planes, I’ve seen it all. I’ve personally cleaned the biofoul scum from the water line of yachts, plastered migrating butterflies off the bumpers of long-haul trucks, and dead bird carcasses off the leading edges of private jets. Let’s face it, here on Earth there is a lot of stuff floating in the air or puddled on the ground – but that is here, what about space?

Well, even though there appears to be only one molecule per square meter in space, space craft travel faster and will a lot of molecular matter when traveling afar. There was an interesting article in AstroWatch News Online on June 29, 2018 titled; “Milky Way Rich in Grease-Like Molecules, Study Finds,” which stated:

“The researchers found that there are about 100 greasy carbon atoms for every million hydrogen atoms, accounting for between a quarter and a half of the available carbon. In the Milky Way Galaxy, this amounts to about 10 billion trillion trillion tonnes of greasy matter, or enough for 40 trillion trillion trillion packs of butter.”

Before you get excited, the article goes on to note: “This space grease is not the kind of thing you’d want to spread on a slice of toast! It’s dirty, likely toxic and only forms in the environment of interstellar space (and our laboratory). It’s also intriguing that organic material of this kind – material that gets incorporated into planetary systems – is so abundant.”

Thus, if our spacecraft do “Boldly Go” and explore the Universe, no doubt they will come back totally dirty and need SpaceCraft Washing. Well, I guess as technology changes so too does industry. I know this very well as a former up-start in the car wash industry, as I was the first innovator to come up with a mobile car washing business.

In the future, Spacecraft Cleaning and Detailing might become quite a lucrative business. Think of all those ‘private space’ companies that wish to take up space tourists? Each flight they will come back totally dirty and filthy, with greasy film all over them. It probably will be hard to clean off having been frozen on the hull of the spacecraft and then backed on at super high temperatures during re-entry. Perhaps this could be a future TV episode of Dirty Jobs!