Perfect day in Taipei: Top 6 things to see

Say you want to have an awesome time in Taipei, but only have a day or two to be there. What do you do? What do you see? How can you plan the perfect day in Taipei?

While living in Taiwan, I went to Taipei almost every weekend and discovered the top 6 things to do and see in Taipei. If you’re limited to only a day or two in Taipei, doing these 6 things will maximize your time and make your trip a hit!

 1) Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Chiang Kai-shek is a huge figure in Taiwanese history, so of course there’s a giant memorial for him.

The Chiang Kai-shek memorial is one of Taipei’s main attractions and an awesome photo op. There’s also a museum inside and it’s FREEEEEE!

Chiang Kai-shek aka Asia-braham Lincoln

2) Taipei Taiwan LDS Temple and Yongkang Street

Right smack in the middle of Taipei’s hustle and bustle is the Taipei Taiwan Temple.

It’s actually very small inside and doesn’t function all hours of everyday, so be sure to check the temple schedule before showing up if you plan to do a session.

The temple is also right next to Taipei’s famous Yongkang Street food district, so after visiting the temple, you can stop for lunch.

Jianbing: The BEST Taiwanese food.

Also, if you want to attend church in English in Taipei, the English ward meets in the stake center next door.

3) Taipei 101

Named for its 101 floors, Taipei 101 was the world’s tallest building from 2004 to 2009 and is currently the 8th tallest in the world.

Obviously, you should be several blocks away from the building itself to get a good view of the whole thing.

Or you can hike Elephant Mountain (Shiangshan) to get a view of it sticking out of Taipei’s skyline.

You can also go inside Taipei 101 itself. You can shop, eat, and (if you’re feeling adventurous) take a high-speed elevator to the top (cost 500-600 NTD).

View from the top.

4) Maokong Gandola

The Maokong Gandola is a cable car suspended in the air that takes you on a journey above the forest between the Taipei Zoo and the outskirts of Taipei. You can enjoy a nice view of Taipei and the surrounding hills.

5) Beitou Public Hot Springs (aka Millenium Hot Spring)

Taiwan is covered in hot springs and Beitou is the best place in Taipei to soak in one. Beitou Public Hot Springs is a short walk from Xinbeitou MRT Station. Changing rooms and showers are available. Entry is 40 NTD.

6) Shilin Night Market

A night market is a place where you can buy cheap stuff and eat weird stuff. Visiting night markets is a famous Taiwanese pastime.

Shilin Night Market is one of Taipei’s most popular night markets. It’s right off of Jiantian MRT station. You can’t miss it.

 

And BAM! There’s your guide for the perfect day in Taipei! If you follow this list, you’ll hit Taipei’s top hot spots and go to bed feeling like a Taipei pro.

Note:  Everything on this list is easily accessible from the Taipei MRT and is organized in order of what you should see leaving from Taipei Main Station. If you follow this list in order, you’ll see everything in the most efficient way.

P.S. I recommend buying an EasyCard if you’re going to spend any time in Taipei. They’re cheap and make using the MRT super convenient. You can buy one at any 7-Eleven and most MRT stations.

Top 3 tips for Taiwan

Taiwan is full of beautiful sea views, mountaintops, and the nicest people ever. But since it’s a relatively unknown tourist destination (many Americans still mistake it for Thailand), there are a lot of hidden treasures on the island the casual tourist doesn’t know about. Lucky for you, I spent a year living in Taiwan and I found the top 3 tips to improve your time there.

If you’re planning a trip to Taiwan, doing any of these top 3 things will enhance your trip a bunch!

3) The beach

Since Taiwan is an island, people naturally assume they can visit any beach and have a blast. This is false. Most Taiwanese beaches are rocky, polluted, and unsafe to swim at. But, since I’m from California, I found the best beaches during my year living there. Really, only two stick out: Fulong Coast Park in the north and Kenting in the south.

Fulong is a one-and-a-half-hour train ride from Taipei Main Station, after which Fulong Coast Park is an easy walk from Fulong Station. There’s a sign at the beach warning you to be careful when and where you swim, but it’s safe; the water’s shallow and the waves are small. (Note: There are two beaches in Fulong. One is a hotel beach you need to pay a small fee to enter. The other, Fulong Coast Park, is free.)

I went to Fulong four times but for some reason this is the only pic I have saved.

Kenting is in the very south of Taiwan. There are a couple beaches there. The one I went to is called Little Bay Beach. Again, the water wasn’t rough at all and the waves were small. The sand was more like small pebbles that got stuck all up in my swimsuit area. I loved it.

This is the best picture I have of Kenting. WHY AM I SO BAD AT BLOGGING ???

2) Shoushan (aka Monkey Mountain)

If you want to get up-close-and-personal with wild monkeys (Who doesn’t?), Taiwan is the place to do it. While you can catch glimpses of monkeys on forest trails here and there, the place where I saw the MOST monkeys was in Shoushan by Kaohsiung. Shoushan is a heavily forested nature park and it is absolutely covered in monkeys. Just take a taxi from anywhere in Kaohsiung and you’ll be there in no time.

Formosan rock macaques

The monkeys there aren’t skittish at all; you can see them ambling along the trail or hanging out in low-hanging branches. Just don’t feed them or get too close (for OBVIOUS reasons). (Note: If you do take a taxi to Shoushan, be sure to get your driver’s phone number so you can call them for a ride back into town.)

OBVIOUS REASONS

(Here’s a post about the first time I went to Shoushan  and here’s a video of my dad and me at Shoushan.)

1) Alishan

Alishan National Scenic Area (also called Ali Mountain) is my absolute #1 favorite place in Taiwan.  High in the mountain tops, you’ll find a quiet cluster of shops surrounded by stretches of ancient forest and jaw-dropping mountain vistas. In the year I lived in Taiwan, I visited Alishan four times.

The thing most Taiwanese do when they visit Alishan is book a hotel in the park, spend the night, and wake up really early to watch the sunrise at Chushan Station viewing area. The only problem is that to book a hotel on time sometimes requires planning ahead several months. Even if you can’t watch the sunrise, though, going to the sunrise viewing area at any time of day still gives an awesome view of the valleys below.

The best view of all.

Other things to see in Alishan include the Sacred Trees, Sister Ponds, and other forest paths. Alishan National Scenic Area is actually really small, so you can see almost everything on a day trip (although I recommend staying overnight if you can).

To get to Alishan, take a bus from Chiayi. The bus ride is about 2 hours, but you’re climbing up into the mountains the whole time, so it’s a really, really pretty ride.

 

So these are my top 3 tips for Taiwan! I know it’s not a perfect list, but hopefully you can build a trip around these places or sprinkle them into plans you’ve already made.

Note: I didn’t include Taipei or Jiufen on this list because anyone who visits Taiwan likely knows about these places already. Plus, Taipei deserves a list of its own.

I almost drowned in Taiwan.

It was a rainy day in Taiwan and I was chilling in a hot spring. Cool rain splashed down onto my face like angel kisses as my body lay reclined in a warm pool of water. I felt like a precious baby in the womb.

Next to this hot spring ran a river. It wasn’t a big river, but people liked to swim in it. A rope ran parallel from the riverbank to a pole fixed in middle of the river’s stream. Another rope was tied to another pole a little ways downstream. The idea was to walk into the water while holding the first rope, let go, then let the river’s current carry you downstream where you would grab hold of the second rope and pull yourself back to shore.

I watched as a couple people got into the river and floated from the top to the bottom rope. It seemed fun, so I decided to give it a try.

The water was colder than I expected but I was surprised to find that the river was actually pretty shallow – barely waist-deep. I walked out holding onto the rope, tucked my knees up against my chest, then let go, giving myself up to the river gods.

The current was strong because of the rain and my butt kept hitting rocks because the river was so shallow, but it was decently fun; like going on a waterslide while having your butt hit over and over again.

As the ride was coming to a close, I stuck my hand out to grab hold of the second rope, which hovered about six inches above the water. Unfortunately, I have the hand-eye coordination of a newborn baby’s tongue, so when I tried to grab the rope to stop myself, I missed completely and the current continued dragging me downstream.

I’d been counting on that rope to get me out of the river, but since I missed it, my only option was to swim out. I turned my body and began swimming toward the bank, but the current was too strong and wouldn’t let me out. I’d always considered myself a good swimmer, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get any closer to shore. I just kept bobbing downstream, my legs and arms bumping and scraping against rocks on the riverbed.

At this point, I wondered two things.

First, I wondered whether I was drowning. I decided that maybe I was, cuz I’d never experienced this helpless feeling while swimming before, and that’s probably what drowning feels like.

Second, I wondered whether I was going to die. I’ve always thought that I would have an earlier premonition about when I was going to die, like I would wake up knowing that today was the day. Since I hadn’t had any inkling earlier that day, I figured that, no, I was not going to die.

After deciding I was drowning but not dying, I debated whether I should call for help. Since I knew I wasn’t going to die, I figured there was no reason to be overly dramatic. On the other hand, how was I going to get out of this river on my own?

While I was debating all this in my head, I bumped into a small island of rocks close to shore that stopped my progression downstream. I got hold of a big rock, then pulled myself to my feet. I walked ashore, a little tired and scraped, but not drowned or dead (I was right!).

I walked back up to the hot springs and sat down. I watched the river and wondered whether anyone else would try floating down and what would happen in they missed the bottom rope.

Sure enough, another man walked into the river holding onto the first rope, let go, then floated down and missed when he reached out to grab the second rope. I perked up. Would he almost drown like I had? What would he do to get out of the current?

I was amazed to see his solution: he stood up and walked to the shore.

The whole time, the water had barely been waist-deep. I should have realized because my body kept hitting rocks on the river’s shallow bottom. But I’d forgotten and hadn’t realized how simple the solution had been the whole time.

So I almost drowned in Taiwan. Cuz I’m an idiot.

Fantasy island vacation

Who hasn’t fantasized about being shipwrecked on an island? Quiet, solitude, and the struggle to survive. Sounds like a really good vacation.

Unfortunately, most of us will never get the chance to actually be shipwrecked on an island, but two weeks ago I came the closest that I’ll probably ever get.

Orchid Island is a two-hour boat ride (or thirty-minute plane ride) from the east coast of Taiwan. Even though it’s technically (and officially really is) a part of Taiwan, it’s a completely different world from Taiwan, isolated by water, distance, and bad cell phone reception.

The island is only 28 miles (45 kilometers) in diameter, with one road that circles the whole island and another that cuts through the middle. The coastline is mainly cliff or rocky coral and the west half of the island has some pretty rough waves, but the east half has much calmer water and some sandy beaches, so there are a couple good swimming spots.

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The island is made up of mountains covered in dense jungle with few trails and lots of snakes, so exploring inland isn’t really an option.

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Orchid Island is a tropical island, which means that one minute it feels like the air is trying to smother you with a wool blanket, then the next minute the sky is trying to drown/electrocute you.

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When I visited, there was a big holiday in Taiwan, so every hostel and hotel was filled to capacity with tourists. Me and my crew managed to find places to sleep, but it was definitely  a tight squeeze. Even though the hostels were full, the island still felt quiet and isolated, which made me wonder how much more peaceful it must feel on a normal day.

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We spent our time swimming, hiding from thunderstorms, and trying local food.

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Because the island is tropical, it’s home to poisonous snakes (including sea snakes) and plants, so dodging those made the experience that much more exciting.

The locals were hecka nice and helpful and the pigs, dogs, goats, cats, and chickens that ran through the streets gave the whole experience a rustic feel.

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Even though I probably won’t get to experience being shipwrecked, at least I feel shipwrecked if I go to an island that’s isolated, peaceful, and occasionally tries to kill me.

Super Chicks

My plan was to visit a place called 60 Shih Shan (60 Stone Mountain) in Hualien County, Taiwan. I was gonna take the train to a small village, then take a bus up to the mountain. When I got off the train, though, there weren’t any buses … or literally anything else. No buses, no taxis, nothing. Just me, two old dudes, and a rice field.

As I was checking my phone to figure out my options, two chicks showed up and somehow saw that I needed help (I think I just have a really confused-looking face idk). When I told them where I was trying to go, they told me the buses didn’t run there this time of year. Before I could figure out a backup plan, though, they offered to drive me up in their car cuz “we have nothing better to do.” They drove me up, told me all about the mountain, then drove me to another train station so I could get home. And they took real good pictures of me too.

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These girls were so nice and they reaffirmed what I already knew: Taiwanese people love me so much.

Traveling in Taiwan is the best. People not only want to help, but are excited to help. It’s really given me a pay-it-forward attitude. Now I look for opportunities to help others too. Thanks, Taiwan.

Here are some pictures of 60 Shih Shan. Apparently, it’s best to visit during summer, but I think winter is an alright time too.

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Cat cafe in Taipei!!

I went to a cat cafe today. Was everything covered in hair? Did it smell bad? Did the animals get all up in my food? Was the food gross? No, no, no, and no.

Dog and Cats Cafe is a cozy little joint in Taipei. There are 15 cats, 2 dogs, and 1 bird. It felt very clean, the animals didn’t bother us while we ate, and the atmosphere was waaaay chill.

The food was super great. I went with my pal Jimmy who’s backpacking though Taiwan right now (which is a cool thing to do and I’m gonna start doing it this Friday!). He ordered the rice gratin and I got lasagna and both were *excellent*.

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lasagna

The cats and dogs were real chillaxed the whole time. They basically slept and ignored us. I thought they’d perk up once our food came, but they didn’t pay any more attention to us while we ate than before.

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Once we finished eating, though, the owners gave us some cat treats to feed them — then we got real popular. Couldn’t keep the cats off of us.

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Great place, great food, and great cats.

😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻/10

See more on my Snapcat (username gordygordyblog).

Taipei Museum of Drinking Water

Drinkable water is the only type of water that people should drink. However, most of us take for granted that the water we drink didn’t start that way. That’s why the museum of drinking water. People have been drinking water for forever. Why not a museum?

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This building is Naboo-worthy.

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And wedding-worthy.

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And cosplay-worthy (or is this another wedding)?

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“I’m so glad you came to my wedding at the Taipei Museum of Drinking Water.”

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Very important levers.

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I got to be Mr. Manager!

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Finding my place in the world of drinking water.

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BAAA!!” McKay found his!

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You better believe we took all the FREE drinking water we could!

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BELIEVE.

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If you call someone with good legs “leggy,” does that mean I’m “butty”?

Taipei Museum of Drinking Water 10/10 would recommend.

Looks like crap

POOP IS FUNNY. POOP-THEMED RESTAURANTS ARE VERY VERY FUNNY.

Note: To fully enjoy this post, you need to know that squatter toilets are common in Asia and what they look like.

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Voila. (But never ever this clean.)

Just like any good joke, poop jokes have to be surprising, out-of-place, and so wrong they seem right. And that’s why having a restaurant where all the food looks like poop is funny.

Modern Toilet is located in Ximen, one of Taipei’s biggest shopping districts. If you have trouble finding it, just look for the giant toilet outside.

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Modern Toilet’s idea is simple: put normal food in bowls and dishes that look like toilets. The rest is magic.

Enjoy delicious golden curry while being reminded that poop isn’t always brown.

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Enjoy some refreshing shaved ice while reminiscing about the last time you filled a toilet to maximum capacity.

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Have some chocolate soft serve while embracing what you’ve always thought about it.

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Not only does the food look like crap, but everything in the restaurant reminds you of the special time you spend on your cell phone.

The walls.

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The lights.

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The seats.

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Even the bathroom (aka the “VIP Lounge”).

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This is a fancy potty that squirts water on your bum-bum.

Modern Toilet serves hot pot, curry, pasta, and ice cream. All meals include a dessert (poop soft serve) and beverage. The prices run from 350 NT (hot pot) to 120 NT (big ice cream) and all the dishes are big enough to split between two people. You have to spend at least 90 NT per person when you eat here (it’s a very popular joint).

If you like poop, you’ll like this restaurant.

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I like poop.

Do burritos make us American?

I’ve been wanting Mexican food ever since I flew into Taiwan. In fact, the last meal I ate before flying to Taiwan was a burrito, chips, and salsa.

So, this weekend, after TWO MONTHS of not having Mexican food (two months and four days to be exact), I found a place called Macho Tacos in Taipei.

I was skeptical of how tasty the food would be and whether it’d be worth my money (you can get a decent meal here for 2 bucks but a burrito at this place was 5ish), but the pictures and menu online looked authentic, so I was optimistic.

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Because the menu and pics online looked so authentic, I expected to see Latinos behind the counter when I walked in (Taipei is pretty international, so I wouldn’t have been surprised), but there were just the usual Taiwanese people. That made me less optimistic, but I figured I’d give it an honest shot anyway. I ordered a macho-sized burrito with taco meat.

Mis amigos, I was not disappointed. The lettuce inside the burrito was crispy and fresh, the tortilla held together well and tasted normal, the ground beef was perfectly seasoned, the cilantro-lime rice tasted just like Cafe Rio, and the salsa had all the right juices and flavors. It was muy delicioso, but could have benefited from some sour cream, guacamole, and a side of chips (which you can order separately and I’ll definitely do that next time).

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While I was eating, I felt a connection with the burrito. It felt like I was eating my people’s food, a piece of home.

I remembered working with other missionaries in Russia to make Mexican food: cooking and seasoning ground beef and chili, making homemade tortillas, chopping and mixing vegetables to make salsa (which we’d eat with crackers since tortilla chips aren’t a thing in Russia).

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Why do so many Americans love Mexican food? Why did we work so hard to make it on my mission?

Americans eat lots of pizza, hot dogs, and hamburgers too, which you can also buy at restaurants here, but I think Mexican food is different. Mexican food has a homemade quality and feel that other “American” foods don’t match. Homemade pizza doesn’t taste the same and to make hamburgers or hot dogs at home, you basically just buy packaged meat and buns. But you can make all the parts of a Mexican meal at home without thinking twice about it (except tortillas — homemade tortillas are a pain).

I understand that Mexicans and Americans eat different kinds of Mexican food: Americans mainly stick with tacos and burritos, along with some of our own spin-offs like nachos and chili, while Mexicans have A LOT more than that. But what we call “Mexican” is actually American to me.

So thank you, Mexicans, for giving us your best.

And not to get political but I’m going to: America is such a great country. Sure I get annoyed that the bread and chocolate aren’t as good as they are in Europe and that Americans like to whine a lot on Facebook (“MY freedoms say I can do this!” “Well MY freedoms say you can’t!”), but comparing it to other places I’ve visited (like Russia and Mexico and even Italy), it’s SO clean, SO safe, and there’s SO much less corruption that it’s selfish and unchristian that immigrating into the US is SO difficult.

I have friends from other countries who have college degrees or have even married US citizens (legitimately) yet struggle to maintain a visa or get a green card. They’ve had difficult lives and worked hard to come to America, leaving behind family and culture in exchange for the American dream, but in America they’re getting even more difficulty and harder work with little reward. If their native governments can’t recognize them for their hard work, then the United States should. They can help America out just as much as burritos can.

Anyway, Macho Tacos in Taipei is very tasty and authentic. I saw some Latinos and other Americans there too, so I’m not the only one who thinks so. Walking out of the restaurant, I had to remind myself that I was still in Taiwan, my burrito having temporarily transported me home.

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MONKEYS GOT HATERS TOO

I went into a jungle the next day. By Kaohsiung is a small mountain called Shoushan and it’s a designated national park. I had been there and explored a bit the day before when Taiwan Grandma dropped me off, but I saved the heavy hiking for the next day.

I was very excited to go because there were supposed to be monkeys all up over the place. I’d only ever seen monkeys through glass or in a cage before, so I was excited to see some real ones in real nature. I mean, that’s why people come to Asia, right?

The day before the big hike, I’d looked up how to get there (without Taiwan Grandma scooting me there) and read some reviews of the park. All the reviews said the scenery was amazing, but a lot warned about the monkeys.

I knew monkeys could be a bit crazy (I’ve seen Jumanji), but these reviews said that a single monkey would appear and look all cute, then there would be millions of others surrounding you, their emotionless monkey faces staring you down as they closed in to steal whatever they could from your hands and backpack. I imagined their little monkey fingers touching me and pulling at me and bossing me around like the kindergartners I teach, which made me nervous about going into the jungle alone.

The next morning, I found my way to Shoushan and walked into the jungle. It was 100% covered in trees, the clouds and leaves blocking light from coming in. It was a legit jungle!

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There were a lot of people on the main path, but I took a side trail into what looked like a denser part of the jungle. It was only a couple minutes before I heard rustling in the branches above me and could see monkeys. They were just hanging out in the treetops, chillaxing as branches bobbed up and down in the wind. They didn’t pay much attention to me, but I was still nervous. What if one of them TOUCHED ME ? So I just stood there until a group of Asians walked by, the monkeys not paying attention to them either.

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After the Asians passed through, I decided it was safe for me to go on. A couple monkeys came out of the bushes, crossing my path as I walked. I watched as they crawled over the path, coming close but not too close. They seemed a little afraid, but not as much as squirrels or birds. More like ducks, I guess.

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I made it to the top of the mountain without being touched/jumped on/raped by the monkeys. There were a lot just hanging out in the trees and crawling along the side of the trail. They didn’t beg for food or anything. The pretty much ignored the people and the people ignored them.

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So I don’t know what’s up with all these people cyberbullying monkeys. I’m sure they can be cray, but I think that, generally, monkeys are good people.

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Wooden stairs in Shoushan.
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Path through some rocks.

Dahu Park

Visit Dahu Park in Taipei! It’s a great place to …

… see some very attractive person!

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Me.

… see some squirrel!.

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I mean, it’s probably a squirrel, butt I can’t see the head,so.

… see some cranes!

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~Very Asian.~

… see some little girl trying to hunt a duck!!!

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Little girls and animals. A must-see.

… see some people hunt fish!

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Ha! Get them fish before they get you.

… see some lady take pictures of her dog like it’s a person!!

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Spoiler alert, lady: puppies turn into dogs who get old and die.

… see nerd(s) LARPing!

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Spoiler alert: your dreams will take you as high as that broom, kid.

… feel like you’re at a classy park!!

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Duck (goose?), crane in tree, people. *nice*

… butt last, butt not least, see this cool bridge!

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The Moon Bridge is very cool. Very must-see. Very must-stand-on.

As you can see, we all need to go to Dahu Park. It makes you feel super classy and it’s v v cool. #Taipei #ShareThisPost

Elephant Mountain

You’ve heard of elephants, you’ve heard of mountains, but have you heard of Elephant Mountain? Elephant Mountain is a mountain in Taipei (A mountain in a city! What is this, Lord of the Rings?). But before I tell you what it’s like to visit, let me give you a little history.
Taipei is also known as “Elephant City” because of the elephants that rule there. It all goes back to when Babar the first elephant king came to Taiwan.  People and elephants used to live in peace. They co-owned businesses and threw parties and stuff. It was pretty cool.
Anyway, Babar crossed over from (wherever elephants are from) and was like, “We can do so much better.” So he started a war with the humans. Since elephants are so much bigger than ordinary people, the elephants won and they continue to rule Taipei and most of Taiwan (but mostly just Taipei) to this day.
It’s not a big deal. They just get to cut in lines and have preference in elections (1 elephant vote = 1,000 people votes and there are only, like, 4,000 people in Taiwan anyway so) and offer human sacrifices sometimes. But it’s mainly whatever.
Anyway, so hiking Elephant Mountain is a real snap. There’s a set of old stairs that take you to the top of the mountain in about 20 minutes. It’s a fast hike, but it’s very steep and it’s (of course humid), and (depending on when you hike it) can be pretty hot. All this translates to SWEAT SWEAT SWEAT.
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I mean, it’s just a bunch of stairs going straight up.
So, to be prepared, the most important thing to have is water and sugar water. I’d say have a half or a whole liter of normal water. Sugar water is water with electrolytes and junk added to it. Usually, I don’t approve of non-water drinks, but you’re gonna sweat so much that you’ll feel pretty terrible (I got an annoying headache) if you’re not replacing all the stuff your body’s sweating out. So, bring a bottle of sugar water (I recommend dolphin water – it tastes like a very mild Sprite without the carbonation).
What you wear doesn’t really matter. It’s not a real hike because it’s so short and it’s paved the whole way, so just wear something breathable and comfy (or maybe something you can run in if the elephants get in a sacrificey mood).
The selling point of the hike is the view you get of Taipei 101. It’s almost impossible to get a bad picture of it from on top.

I hiked it with my friend Spirit Sword (middle) and my new friend Xin Yi.
The hike up is real pretty too.
So it’s a draining hike, but the views very very pretty. There are plenty of trails to explore on the way up and on top of the mountain too, so plan to look around for a bit.

And watch out for dem elephants.

Here’s a sweet vid of the hike: