In just a few short days, Taipei has become one of my favourite places. It’s a wonderfully manageable city and very easy to get around. This is largely thanks to the MRT metro system, which has a dense network of underground lines in the city centre and extends all the way to the distant suburbs. The service is very frequent and easy to use; we haven’t had to wait for more than a couple of minutes for a train. Fares are $20 to $30 (about €0.50 to €0.75) which is extremely reasonable.
When we arrived in Taipei on Monday, we each bought an EasyCard and loaded it up with $500 worth of value (approx €12.50). This can be used on buses, metro, suburban rail and the Maokong gondola (which is not a boat but a cable car).
The “Hello Kitty”-themed cabins fail to make the ride any less terrifying
The main advantage of the EasyCard is that it makes it much more convenient to hop on and off buses and metro, since you don’t have to buy a ticket each time. You buy it (and top it up) from a machine at any metro station, and then when it’s time to leave Taipei, we can return the EasyCard and they will give us back any money that we haven’t used.
The EasyCard can also be used to hire a bike from the “YouBike” service. This did not work for me, however, as the registration process requires a mobile phone number and it would not accept my Irish phone number. However I was able to hire a bike at the kiosk using my credit card.
Cycling turns out to be a very enjoyable way to get around Taipei. The streets don’t have cycle lanes as such, but cyclists are well catered for, and there are dedicated cycle ways along all the city’s river banks. The one thing to be careful of is drivers (including taxi drivers) turning right without indicating.
One of the major sights in central Taipei is the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial, dedicated to the memory of the former president of the Republic of China.
In front of the central monument, which houses a huge statue of CKS at the top of a steep flight of steps, there is a paved area flanked by two impressive public buildings (a library and a museum) built in the form of temples. On a more human scale, there are also attractive gardens north and south, with trees, ponds and wildlife.
Another impressive building in Taipei is the Presidential Palace (formerly the Governor General’s office).
Ximending is an area of youth culture, and I stopped to watch this band rehearsing on an outdoor stage at the “red house”, an octagonal red-brick converted warehouse building in Ximen. Here’s a short video.
I got thirsty cycling around in the heat, so I bought a can of Hey Song Sarsaparilla from a vending machine. I was curious, because we don’t have sarsaparilla drinks in Ireland. I liked it. I also liked the fact that the drinks in the vending machine only cost $20 (€0.50).