It was lovely warm, sunny morning so after breakfast we strolled along to the Nanjing Fuxing MRT station on the Brown (Wenhu) line. This overground line differs from the others as it runs on tyres on concrete tracks.
Alighting at Daan station, a residential area of the city, we walked westbound to Daan Park hoping to look in some of the shops along the way but most of them had not yet opened as it was only 9.30 a.m. Our pre planning at home had not included a visit to Daan Park but as we’d seen poster advertisements for it on the walls of MRT stations we were tempted to take a look. This urban park, known locally as ‘the lungs of Taipei’ was a delight with azaleas and bedding plants bursting with colour unlike the Taipei Botanical Gardens which we visited earlier in the week.
It was so nice to see so many people enjoying themselves, a group of retired people were playing croquet, school groups were participating in sports activities such as rounders and an art class had set up their easels to paint the pond life setting.
Returning to the MRT station, this time to Daan Park we were impressed with its ultra modern design, the station only opening in 2015 and featuring a sunken garden and fountain.
Our next stop was to Xiangshan, the terminus of the Red line from where we took the same footpath as earlier in the week to the top of Elephant Mountain so that we could also view Taipei 101 from the summit in daylight.
Climbing all these steps at noon was much harder than on a cool evening but within 25 minutes, allowing for a couple of photo stops, we were at the highest lookout point. Here, under clear blue skies we had some splendid views of the beautiful Taipei 101 building.
Instead of retracing our steps down the vertical staircase, we followed another trail via the Yongchungang Park towards the base of Taipei 101. Very few people were taking this path which was a pity as it afforded much better views of Taipei 101 and the surrounding city. This well maintained path is sheltered by the forest canopy and passes through a narrow gap between rocks known as “A Thread of Sky’ which is only wide enough for one person to pass through at a time.
If you are planning a hike up Elephant Mountain I would suggest taking the vertical staircase to the summit and then returning on this gently undulating but slightly longer path which ends near the Taipei City hospital.
In need of a short rest, we noticed a branch of FamilyMart and popped in for cups of coffee and our first ever Green Tea KitKat. The biscuit tasted good but I think I still prefer the original milk chocolate variety but it’s always a good idea to try something different.
Ready to move on, we strolled through the Xinyi shopping district intending to return here later in the afternoon and continued on to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall which proved to be much further than was indicated on our phone map. We’d decided against taking the MRT as it would have necessitated changing three times but with hindsight that would have been the preferred option.
Changing of the Guards takes place on the hour and it was just after 2.00 p.m. as we rushed up the stone steps to the Memorial Hall. The viewing area was already several deep with visitors and there was no way I was going to be able to see anything. Fortunately, I glanced behind me and noticed several people on a balcony so a quick search to locate the staircase and we ended up with perfect views of the ceremony.
As well as viewing the Changing of the Guards, the hall also contains an interesting museum providing us with an insight into Taiwan’s history and of one of its founding fathers, Dr. Sun Yat-sen. The Memorial Hall is surrounded by the picturesque Zhongshan Park containing a small lake and fountains.
Leaving the gardens we passed the Taipei City Hall and decided to take a look inside. In the foyer we noticed signs for the Taipei Discovery Centre so off we went up the lift to see what it had to offer.
This museum, located over four floors, charts the history of Taipei with informative exhibits combined with some interactive displays. We hadn’t heard about it before entering the building and it’s unlikely that many other people had either as we were the only visitors. The museum staff were very enthusiastic, answering our questions and demonstrating some of the interactive exhibits for us. There was also a floor dedicated to the 2017 Universiade Games, to be held in August, with a large mascot in the entrance foyer too. I’m so glad we took the time to visit this museum and with a few advertising signs at the nearby Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, I’m certain more people could be encouraged to visit as well.
Finally, after all this culture, it was time for some shopping in the Xinyi district where we found a wide range of stylish stores in an attractive setting.
Rather than heading back to our hotel for a rest, we decided to take the MRT to the Gongguan District so that we could take a look around the National Taiwan University campus as it was dark when we visited earlier in the week. Leaving the MRT station at the university exit, we were only a short distance from its central driveway lined on each side with palm trees and flowering azaleas. Hundreds upon hundreds of bicycles filled every available slab of concrete all looking much the same as each other so students would need to remember exactly where they had left their bikes.
The campus covers an extensive area with a wide variety of places to eat, all open to the general public. As we were feeling hungry we opted for one of these and enjoyed an inexpensive yet delicious three course meal with glasses of freshly squeezed watermelon juice. If and when we return to Taipei, I think we would eat here again as well as in the local night markets. On our way back to the MRT station we discovered that the Gongguan Night Market actually stretched along more roads than we had originally thought and was considerably larger than our findings a few days ago.
By the Customer Service desk of every MRT station there is a rubber stamping table. One can go round and collect a different stamp from each station, e.g. the Taipei 101 tower or the National Taiwan University from Gongguan, the station we have just visited. We were unaware of this activity at the beginning of the week but since we discovered the stamping tables we have collected 17 stamps, some of which were from landmark buildings themselves as well as MRT stations. We thought it was a lovely idea and on a future visit we intend to buy the official MRT rubber stamp album to collect them in, this time we just used our own notebook.
Approaching our hotel it was still 23 degrees so we treated ourselves to a large green tea ice cream cone each which we had on the window seat of our room. After the green tea KitKat earlier it was our second green tea flavoured food of the day.