Taiwan was surprisingly a great port for me. Since it was an on-the-go port addition, many of us on the ship didn’t really know what to expect from the place. I did a great deal of independent travel in Taiwan since this was the last stop before heading back to the US – so that factor may have also played into why I enjoyed it so much. This was also the country where I went to the most art museums, & that’s an almost instantaneous way to make me happy.
Let’s begin with day 1: The ship docked up in Keelung, but my friends and I immediately hopped on a bus that took us to Taipei, which is the capital of Taiwan (& therefore, is where all the action is at). After settling into the hotel my friends got, I took off with my friend Elizabeth to the infamous National Palace Museum. There was a SAS trip there that day, & we basically just crashed that! Haha, Professor Godfrey (the professor that showed us around The Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven back in Beijing) invited us to tag-along to this great trip he was leading. Again, Godfrey’s specialization is in Asian art, so having him there as a direct resource was wonderful. After, Elizabeth and I went to one of the night markets in Taipei where we walked around and stopped for some local grub. We had no idea what we were ordering, we just sort of pointed to something on the menu and hoped for the best. I ended up mainly just sipping the broth and drinking tea - no wonder Asians are so thin! Elizabeth & I then met up with the rest of our crew, and off into the city we went! We took the train to the Taipei 101 area where we club hopped starting off at a nice place called Room 18. We unfortunately ended up the night at this ghetto place called Lava where there were a ton of SASers. Place was packed & the claustrophobia was just too much. After being there for a few minutes, I knew I needed to leave. Long story short, I ended up not going back to the ship and stayed with my friends (Meghan, Chance, Nicole & Elizabeth) in their hotel that night.
The next morning, I woke up and went straight to MOCA Taipei. As you walk towards the MOCA from the train station, there’s a great deal of outdoor work leading to the space. The museum had a lot of interactive pieces which I really enjoyed and a range of themes were displayed throughout. After, I headed to the Longshan Temple and stayed there to pray for a while. As discussed before, as soon as I hit Asia, the spiritual side of me kicked in and I made sure to visit temples as often as I could. The Buddhist method of prayer is beautiful to watch; it’s very ritualistic & calming. The heavenly smell of incense in the air, the hypnotic sounds of the chanted prayers and the traditional architecture that secured all that harmony in balance – all of it was perfect. After the temple, I walked down the market and stopped by a place that does foot massages. The people were really friendly & even through our difference in languages, we still managed to communicate lightly. Sure, things were lost in translation, but that’s part of the language barrier adventure. For example, there was a gentleman getting a massage there also that said something to me and all I caught was “America” – so I just sort of smiled and nodded. I put up my index finger and said “1st time” then pointed down to the floor “here in Taiwan” then gave a thumbs up and nodded “it’s very nice here.” Anyway, next thing I know, when I go to pay, the ladies told me that the gentleman had paid for my massage also – suppose he wanted to MAKE SURE that my time in Taiwan continued to be great!
Later on that night I went back to the Taipei 101 area where I went hotel hopping. I went from the Grand Hyatt, to the W Hotel, etc. Learning from my beloved Miami, all the best clubs/lounges are usually in top-notch hotels – & this holds true everywhere I’ve learned. The W Hotel in Taipei opened just a few months ago and is absolutely beautiful inside. Drinks by the pool, talking with locals and business travelers alike was wonderful. I cut the night early in order to catch the last bus to Keelung where our ship was docked.
The next morning marked our 3rd and final day in Taiwan. I headed towards the Taipei International Flora Exposition which was thankfully still going on while we were in town. From there, I went to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum where there was a Monet exhibition on display! What a stroke of luck! I had no idea his extensive work would be displayed here. I suppose it made sense for Monet’s exhibition to be running during the Flora Expo seeing how his work is garden & nature based and all.
In my last remaining hours in Taiwan/Asia, I did some last minute gift shopping and then headed to back to the ship. Getting back on the ship, we would be facing 11 straight days going across the Pacific Ocean to the US! After being immersed in the Asian time-warp, hopping straight from one country to the next without much of a break, this much time at sea was definitely going to be odd to us. Anyway, it was unfortunately time to say zài jiàn to Asia! ::throws up peace sign – for old time’s sake::