We spent the next couple of days exploring countless art galleries, drinking only a few less milk cheese teas (think tea with a layer of cream cheese type foam at the top that you drink through, something Christy had discovered in earlier explorations), and enjoying life in a crazy big city.
We arrived at Pudong airport Friday afternoon, were fingerprinted and photographed through customs (as is everyone, besides the potential language barrier it’s actually a less intimidating process than going through US customs) and, having not done any research before hand, gamely joined the big queue to get a taxi. Shortly thereafter were in a totally insane, hour long taxi ride into Shanghai. It turns out you can take the train in, and that’s a way better option. Christy had warned me about crazy taxi drivers and it was a fun (although expensive) start to Shanghai. It’s possible his car was broken and the gas pedal only had full throttle or none; I did not think we’d see triple digit speeds given it was rush hour in Shanghai, but he managed!
On Friday we took the hotel shuttle (like the genius travelers we are) to the metro station and then a route down and back out of Taipei way out to the airport. In the final train they had those open shelves by the doors to store luggage. In typical Taiwanese style there were cloth straps that you could hook over the outside of the shelf to close it in a bit, which seemed like total overkill, and the scene was completed when a passenger sitting a few seats away noticed the train was about to depart and nobody had closed them so stood up and fastened them all himself.
The people in Taiwan were very friendly and generous to us, somewhat reserved, and big on queuing up. They seemed a somewhat anal and anxious people (and who wouldn’t be given their political situation?). It’s my kind of culture!
On the far northern end of Taipei lies the famous mountains and hot springs of Beitou. You can take the Taipei Metro all the way out here, which we did on Wednesday afternoon and gamely proceeded to walk to our hotel. “It’s only about a mile!” Half an hour later, sweaty from having hauled our luggage up stone (where they existed at all) sidewalks, and I do mean “up” (have I mentioned “mountainous region?”), and past increasingly amused fellow tourists (“you walk looooong way!” and “hey, we saw you before!”), we arrived triumphantly and learned the hotel has a shuttle to the metro stop. We are expert travelers!
Historical artifacts taken from mainland China! Giant memorials to people who took historical artifacts from mainland China! Politics in Taiwan is hard to escape. Even if they let you use the Escape Sling. Which they did not.