Three Hsinchuites in Taipei

We met at the Hsinchu High Speed Rail station (HSR) shortly before 11am. Cameron was exhausted, I was frustrated with my helmet hair, and James was winding down after an impromptu game of chicken with a taxi. After grabbing food that resembled breakfast, we bounded up to the platform and rode the train north to Taipei. Thirty minutes later we were in downtown Taipei making our way around the city on the subway.

Our mission: be tourists.

First stop was Taipei 101, a building I’d visited only once before at night.

I'm 5'7". Taipei 101 is 1,670 feet tall.

I was excited about the possibility of feeling an earthquake while we were at the top of the skyscraper. Cameron was talking to everyone who stared up at him. Chef James was on his cell phone discussing a menu for an upcoming event. Inside we bought our tickets and got in line for the fastest-in-the-world elevator, stopping midway through the line to take a green-screen picture together.

Hamming it up. We decided to buy the picture to complete our touristy experience.

Finally, up we zoomed, and we wandered around taking in the 360-degree views of the city below.

Thanks to the holiday, Taipei was incredibly quiet. Normally these streets would be teeming with traffic.

I'm sensing a trend here.

Once we finished touring Taipei 101, we hustled back to the subway, stopped for a bite to eat (in a restaurant where Cameron ordered “cheese coffee”, which turned out to be regular coffee with cream), then rode to Longshan Temple, a famous, multi-century-year-old temple in an older section of the city. A central temple sits in the middle of an open courtyard, surrounded by a perimeter of smaller rooms.

Everyone sang from these little books.

Hundreds of people inside chanted prayers, lit incense, prayed, and offered food and flowers to the gods.

Several tables topped with small plates with worshipers' offerings were throughout the courtyard.

It was a beautiful experience to hear the chorus of worshipers singing and chanting along to the beat of a drum; no matter your religion, it was moving, and I felt closer to my own faith by witnessing the event.

Her skin, clothes and hair are flecked with wax. Click for a larger size.

We left Longshan Temple and went to a nearby street where a few vendors presented their wares. James, a power walker, marched from me to the end of the street multiple times; I ambled along, taking in the sights and trying to keep both guys in my view; Cameron stopped at each display, talking to the sellers and other passerby.

As dusk settled into the city, we rode the metro back up north to Shihlin Night Market, a well-known market bustling with food stalls, clothing stores, knock-off stores, and random-stuff-you’ll-never-actually-need shops.

On the way to Shihlin Night Market, we passed a toilet-themed restaurant. It is definitely on my Must Eat Here List.

I found a Chinglish shirt I absolutely needed that said, “FUNNER: gooder than just fun”. I bought the shirt on Monday; it’s now Thursday night, and I’ve already worn it.

Photo by Cameron. This is a snake stall. Skin it, cook it, drink its blood. Y'know. Normal stuff. Oh, and throw a Chihuahua on the table for good measure.

It was an excellent day for three Hsinchuites. (Gesundheit.)


  1. awesome…Longshan temple is an awesome example of religion in Taiwan. The most interesting thing about taiwanese religion to me is that almost all of their temples incorporate elements of Buddhism, Taoism and Taiwanese Religion Folk Gods….as wikitellmeeverything says “According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the USA, there are about 93% of people identifying themselves as Buddhists, Taoists, or practitioners of Chinese folk religion. However, as with the majority of East Asian religious traditions in general, identification with these faiths does not necessarily mean actual affiliation as it does in many other parts of globe. It is also common for people to practice a blend of the three religions. Some people practice Buddhism exclusively, but most blend Taoist religious practices with elements from Buddhism and folk traditions. It is not uncommon to find a Buddhist temple adjacent to a Taoist temple, or even under the same roof. One example of this is Longshan Temple in Taipei City.”

    1. I don’t think the boys were quite as drawn into the moment as I was, but standing in the middle of the crowd and listening to everyone sing/chant in unison was a pretty powerful moment for me.

      It was so powerful, in fact, than I managed to bump into a woman and upend her offering. Halleluijah!

    1. I’m also a man and live in St. Petersburg, Russia. My entire online presense is a complex ruse.

      Or Facebook is wrong. I guess I should go in and update my profile.

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