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 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.
Finally, up we zoomed, and we wandered around taking in the 360-degree views of the city below.
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.
Hundreds of people inside chanted prayers, lit incense, prayed, and offered food and flowers to the gods.
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.
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.
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.
It was an excellent day for three Hsinchuites. (Gesundheit.)