On to the second leg of my 2.5-week summer trip through East Asia…

Taiwan

Saqib (Julie's husband) in Taipei's Hsimenting shopping district

Saqib (Julie's husband) in Taipei's Hsimenting shopping district

I’ve been to the city of Gaoxiong, but this time I spent all my time in the capital of Taipei (I’ve been there a few times before), where the world’s tallest building kept my eyes gazing skyward everyday and left my heart pounding. Even with a population of more than 2-million people, this fast-paced city still manages to keep its streets and sidewalks clean. The public transportation is actually pleasant to take. Unlike big cities in other parts of the world (I won’t name names!), Taipei feels safe to walk around at night. Families with children play in the park past 10 p.m., and so do Tai Chi enthusiasts.

MUST-SEE

Julie outside Taipei 101

Julie outside Taipei 101

1. Taipei 101. The world’s tallest building. It’s not plain like Chicago’s Sears Tower, for example. Rather, the skyscraper is stacked and wrapped like a present. The view from the observatory on one of the highest floors of the office building is like looking down on a Sim City — tall buildings look small. The observatory also features a history lesson on the next nine tallest buildings in the world. The shopping portion of the building is full of high-end stores and a basement food court.
2. Grand Hotel. Bathed in luxury, ornate decor, and the color red, the Grand Hotel claims to be the world’s only hotel featuring traditional Chinese architecture and style. Dignitaries and leaders of nations stay there. Once you enter it, you want to stay forever.
3. Sogo. There’s a new Sogo and an old one. While the new one is very nice, I still find charm in the old one, which hardly looks old. Scarcity of land forced the developers to build vertically, so this department store is 18 stories tall. You could spend a day inside, from the basement food court (which I like to call “food heaven”) to the aisles of trendy clothing to the floors of electronics and toy’s. The food court is not your typical mall food court; this is a high-class experience.

Saqib (Julie's husband) outside Grand Hotel

Saqib (Julie's husband) outside Grand Hotel in Taipei

4. Night market. The sizzling steak platters and the smell of stinky tofu — which tastes so much better than it sounds — draw you in. The Taiwanese like staying up late and they like heading out to after-dark, outdoor food courts and shopping wonderlands. Shilin is one of the more famous ones.

Next week, visit the world’s most exciting place with me… Hong Kong! Still to come… a journey to the perfect mix of Chinese and Portuguese in Macau.