Ednora and I were looking forward to this. It had been a while since we had been in a country with actual price tags – the cost of something being the same for everybody. Taiwan was our surprise destination, but with a bit of common sense, Richard, Mark and James had kind of worked it out.

Our first full day in Taipei helped us realise that this place was hot, very hot. We had an incredible breakfast – as swanky as Ednora and I had had for months. It even served orange flavoured lattes, which were glorious. To walk off our gluttony, we headed to Lungshan Temple, which was holding a huge food offering festival, which we were told would be given to the homeless. Taipei 101 was the next stop; the gigantic skyscraper overlooking the city. Mark, Richard and James went to the top to check out the night time views, reporting back that it was stunning. That evening we visited our first night market, Raohe Night Market to be precise. The food was eclectic, experimental, and exciting, and most importantly, delicious. The food here was great.

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The top of Taipei 101

The next day we got the train to Ruifang. We then jumped on the wrong bus and the driver shouted things at us and frantically pointed where to go. Then two women on the train intervened by shouting at us and him, and then he shouted back, and then we shouted ‘what? what?’ and then he shouted at us more, and then the women shouted at him, and then shouted at us, but somehow it led us in the right direction and then when he drove his bus past us he shouted out of the window, and then there was no more shouting.

Ruifang was famous for its huge gold mine, and upon visiting, we learnt a few things:
  • Gold (Au) derives from the Latin word, Aurum, meaning shining dawn.
  • The Incas considered gold the sweat of the sun.
  • British PoWs were forced to work in these mines for the Japanese. They worked at 40 degree heat and were beaten if they didn’t fill their quota. They were forced to the forecourt of the complex every morning to pray for peace.

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At the museum, learning and laughing, and that’s what’s important in life.

After the gold mine, we headed to old street market of Juifen where we walked through cobbled streets among the mountains. It was quaint, not unlike the narrow paths of Brighton. Of an evening they somehow managed to squeeze recycling trucks through the street, where the vehicle was no more than 3 inches from the wall. People had to escape into stalls and shops so as to not get their Achilles tendons scraped. Oh, and the recycling vans played Greensleeves at a thousand decibels.

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A fat cat

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The recycling van getting pretty close

The next day we headed to Taiwan Zoo, which was ridiculously cheap, and for one of the most famous zoos in the world (mainly for housing giant pandas), made it all a more positive experience. This was the biggest zoo I had ever been too, and a zoo where I couldn’t think of any animal I didn’t see.

We then jumped on a bus and headed to the nearby region where all the hot springs lived. At the entrance of the public spring a lady stopped us in our tracks and shouted at us for not having swim shorts on even though we were wearing them. This confusion and increasing rage made us bail and instead went to a hotel for the hot springs they offered inside. This resulted in a far nicer experience, more or less having the entire spring to ourselves, and were all completely naked. Lads, naked. This brought back fond memories of Japan.

It was the next day and Richard was gagging for a coffee, but not just any old coffee. He wanted a coffee from Fika Fika, winner of the prestigious Nordic Coffee Awards, and it was in Taiwan! We got there and it was full of cool people. You know, people with Apple Macs, coffee and a slice of cake, working on their “projects”. You know the type, those people who “do lunch” and “check their diaries”, or “write their memoirs”. Bloody writers…

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That coffee made him so very happy

The lads went for a massage whilst Ednora and I chilled in a café. Then we headed to Democracy Park. This was a gigantic space with a theatre, concert hall, and a palace-type building. It was a hub of activity. There were street performers of multiple disciplines. James and Richard thought that the best way to take in the views was to make a Rocky montage video. Here is the audio to the video: duh dududa dududadududuh duh duh dududuh dududadududuh da da daaaaa da da duuuuuu etc..

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Democracy Park

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We popped into a pet grooming shop to check out the hounds.

It was the next day we had to bid farewell to Mark, Richard and James. We dropped them off at Taiwan station as they headed for their long flight back to England. In the same breath, our Australian visas had hit a bit of a wall. The medical side of our application had been backlogged, and our flight to Melbourne was a mere few days away. It was looking unlikely that we would be on the flight.

It was back to Ednora and I and we needed to do some trekking. Our trekking choice was Elephant Mountain, named so because apparently the mountain was shaped like an elephant. Upon looking at it from its top, this rumour was absolutely true. It was stunning. The views of the city were incredible, and the routes you could take were vast. It was boiling hot, but worth every minute.

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Taipei graffiti

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At their iMax

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We had decided to make the call. Our journey was to be cut short. We were waiting and waiting for our Australian visa to come in and it never materialised. It was time for home, for now. We booked our flights out of Taiwan to the motherland to surprise family and friends on our impromptu return, which was great fun, but only temporary – as Australia beckons.