A relaxing breakfast on our final morning in Taipei, the week has passed in the blink of an eye, we’ve had such a fun filled time, seeing and doing so many different things in beautiful Taiwan. Returning to our room, we packed our belongings together managing to squeeze in numerous packets of Taiwanese Oolong tea which costs a small fortune back in the U.K. but is quite reasonable here if you don’t need to buy it in smart presentation packs.
Leaving our luggage at the hotel to collect later, we took the MRT along the Red line to Yuashan where a large Saturday morning Farmer’s Market was taking place just outside the station so we had a short stroll along the aisles, accepting several tasty samples being handed out by the stall holders.
Just then it started drizzling as we searched in vain for the free shuttle bus to the Grand Hotel. Eventually we tracked it down, being located opposite the main bus stops and sharing its stand with Bus 208. The shuttle service only takes 5 minutes to reach the Grand Hotel but with motorway type roads in the vicinity, it’s not worth trying to walk.
The Grand Hotel opened in 1973 long before the MRT came into existence but I doubt this is a problem for its guests who probably arrive by taxi or chauffeur driven car. The hotel is 87 metres (285 ft) tall and of Chinese classical design featuring two dragon heads on its vermillion coloured roof. Each of the eight floors represent a different Chinese dynasty as reflected through the decor.
The sumptuous entrance hall with its floral displays of orchids and lanterns hanging from the ceiling was very welcoming and on its galleried landing we found framed photos of some of the foreign dignitaries who have stayed there, these included Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher and Elizabeth Taylor.
After taking a few photos in the hotel grounds we checked our phone map and made our way in the constant drizzle to the Martyrs’ Shrine about a 15 minute brisk walk from the hotel. The National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine was built to honour the fallen Kuomintang soldiers after the Chinese Civil War and was constructed in 1969. Changing of the Guards takes place on the hour until 5.00 p.m. each day. Arriving at 11.10 am, the ceremony was either taking a long time or was running a little late as we still managed to see a considerable part of it. Basically, at Chiang Kai-shek, Sun Yat-sen and here, the format is almost the same but of course the surroundings differ and each are interesting to view.
At the Martyrs’ Shrine, the Changing of the Guards ceremony takes place under the entrance arch and not in the main building. Tour groups only seemed to view the ceremony from the entrance arch and then return to their coaches. This is such a pity as by walking through the courtyard to the shrine itself, you will find an elaborate shrine complete with its own set of guards. The buildings surrounding the courtyard (see feature photo above) are also of exquisite design.
Still raining, we managed to catch a bus a little further along the main road to an MRT station from where we took the train back to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall which we first visited on Monday. The reason for our return was that having viewed the Changing of the Guards here and explored the grounds, we had failed to notice the existence of a museum on the lower floors of the Memorial Hall.
I’m so pleased we found time to return as the large galleries explained the importance to Taiwan of Chiang Kai-shek as well as displaying two of his cars, his state Cadillac from 1972 and his personal Fleetwood limousine.
It’s a pity that these galleries are not signposted from the main hall as they proved extremely interesting detailing the history of Taiwan and the importance to the country of General Chiang Kai-shek.
The displays include a selection of his clothes, furniture and even a replica of his entire office. Visiting this exhibition is free of charge and entrance is accessed either through an archway at the side of the building or by taking a lift down from the Memorial Hall itself.
Leaving the Chiang Kai-shek Hall we were tempted by the aroma of black pepper pork buns being freshly prepared by a vendor on a street corner. Spotting a few plastic chairs available, we ordered one each, sitting down by the stall to savour the delicious flavour and succulent pork and cabbage filling for one final time this holiday.
Feeling refreshed after our lunchtime snack, we quickly checked our map to locate one final place we wished to visit whilst in Taipei. Just a ten minute walk away was the National Postal Museum a place I’d been hoping to find time to visit, and a rainy, final afternoon seemed a perfect opportunity. A token admission charge of NT$5 (13p) is charged for viewing this large museum with galleries over four floors. I have a fondness of anything post related and am an avid Postcrosser, whereby strangers exchange postcards from around the world, it’s great fun and if you haven’t heard of it and might be interested to learn more, details can be found here.
We found it fascinating to explore the different sections of the museum which covers the development of the postal service from the past to what we see today. Galleries include, stamps, uniforms, machinery and transport. For philatelists there is even a stamps of the world section indexed with a selection of each country’s stamps. Leaving here, there was just enough time to squeeze in a little more shopping at SOGO but it was extremely busy, being late on a Saturday afternoon.
Reluctantly, we returned to our hotel to collect our luggage, the Green World Hotel Grand Nanjing had far exceeded our expectations and I would wholeheartedly recommend it for a stay in Taipei. Luxuriously appointed rooms, good breakfast choices and a convenient location combined to make our stay in Taipei a memorable one, and I would have no hesitation in booking this hotel again.
Returning to the airport with our luggage was simple by taking the MRT to Beiman and then changing to the Taoyuan Airport MRT. Our total spending on our EasyCards for the week amounted to NT$1300 each (£30) which included airport transfers, all bus, train, metro, ferry and gondola rides plus admittance to the zoo.
After completing airport formalities we explored Terminal 1 which contains several themed seating zones. Several cups of Oolong tea and a gift purchase later, we were ready to board our Cathay Dragon A330 airliner for the short flight back to Hong Kong. Service on board was identical to that of Cathay Pacific with the same in-flight entertainment programme. During the flight we were served a substantial snack meal consisting of an Asian style pork roll, an almond and white chocolate biscuit and a carton of iced Oolong tea.
Transferring to our home bound flight to London Gatwick was easy and we found time for a coffee in the airport terminal before boarding the A350-900 Cathay Pacific airliner at 0.55 a.m. this overnight flight taking 12 hours and 15 minutes. Despite feeling very tired we managed to stay awake until after the dinner service and then surprisingly had eight hours uninterrupted sleep making the flight seem much shorter than it actually was. Snacks are laid out in the rear galley between meal times so on waking, we popped down for some salted caramel popcorn, crisps and a muesli bar each which we nibbled whilst watching films. Having seen my preferred films on earlier flights, I started watching a couple more but found neither very interesting so gave up and settled for the route map for the remainder of the flight instead! My breakfast choice of a baked ham and onion soufflé with rolls and preserves just before landing was very tasty, confirming that Cathay Pacific are an excellent airline with attentive cabin crew combined with good service.
Our two week holiday had been splendid and we enjoyed our time both in Hong Kong and Taiwan enormously. It was our first visit to Taiwan but it certainly won’t be our last as it is such a beautiful island with so many interesting places to visit coupled with charming people who were always pleased to be of assistance when needed. We encountered only a handful of western tourists throughout our visit but I would highly recommend a holiday in Taiwan, a very safe country and one with a good infrastructure making it easy to get around by public transport. Relatively few people spoke English but with a smile and some hand gestures we never had a problem. During our two week holiday we walked a total distance of 156.1 miles which was probably just as well considering the number of delicious cakes we consumed! Thank you for joining me on my latest Asian adventure!
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