We asked the check-in agents in Melbourne to check our bags through Kuala Lumpur, through Manila, and on to Taipei since we had a 24 hour layover there and would need our bags. Our travel experience once we arrived in Manila (oh, how I hate thee, Manila airport) was pretty awful, though. At the Manila airport, they made us wait 2 hours before checking into our flight to Taiwan. Once we could check-in, there were major issues. They couldn't find us in the system. We waited. And waited. And waited. I logged onto China Airlines' website to check our flight status, and, to my complete horror, the flight dates were not for that day but for 5 DAYS LATER. I about died. I had our printed itinerary showing the flights were for the correct day, but the airline website was showing otherwise. Thinking of spending 5 days in Manila made me want to cry oh-so many tears. However, after so much waiting, they finally got us our boarding passes--with our bags checked through to Salt Lake City instead of Taipei. UGH. I told them that we had specifically checked them to Taipei so that we would have our bags for our long layover. It took a lot more time to get that all settled, so that, by the time we got to our gate, the flight already should have been boarding. BUT, thanks to Manila airport's inability to function, our flight was an hour and a half late. I had scheduled out our 24 hour layover pretty tightly, since there were a lot of things I wanted to see and do in Taipei. But given the new circumstances, our plans had to change significantly.
Once we got to Taipei, our worlds were rocked. Everything was in Chinese--not a shock--but what was difficult was how little English was spoken. American tourists often take for granted that foreigners will have some kind of handle on the English language wherever you are. And generally, it's true. Even in Thailand--a country with a significantly different language and alphabet--I was able to get around without issue. But, likely due to the percentage of the world that speaks Chinese, Chinese-speaking countries don't have the need for English like other areas do. We arrived at Taipei Main Station which is just enormous, and did our best to understand the transporation system and how to get to our desired destination: Raohe Night Market. Somehow, we made it there. The market was a cool experience, though my mood had been irreparably damaged by all the nonsense travel issues we'd had to sort through that day.
Raohe Night Market is in Eastern Taipei and is a very popular night market. It was fun to walk around and see all the different food and products available there.
I had forgotten how Asian markets smell--like durian fruit. Despite how much I despise that smell, the market was super enjoyable and interesting. Brandon bought kebabs from a couple of different booths, and we bought what we thought were fresh fruit popsicles but what ended up being jello on a popsicle stick.
We were both exhausted, so we headed back to our hotel around midnight. The next day we were up bright and early to go to the Lin Family Gardens and Mansion.
We took the MRT to the area and stopped by a delicious bakery.
Since we couldn't read the chinese signs telling us what the different breads and pastries were, we bought what we thought looked good and interesting. It was all delicious! We passed by markets and a temple along the way--I always appreciate seeing the devotion of religious people all over the world. It was CROWDED.
It was also incredibly hot and humid: 86 degrees and 89% humidity, but we enjoyed the gardens so much even in those conditions! They were beautiful.
This tree was amazing!
After the gardens, we headed to Wu Fen Pu--a wholesale market area in eastern Taipei. We thought we would spend a lot of money there, but we left with sunglasses and a passion fruit slushy.
We also saw many, many shirts with terrible English translations. I've always loved those--you see them in every foreign country, but Taiwan was like a gold mine.
Next, we walked to a place called Sushi Express that we had seen earlier that morning. I was determined to have sushi while we were there, and I'm so glad we did! Sushi Express was awesome. Everyone sits around a rotating sushi buffet, and each plate is only $1. I'm obsessed with the place now. We filled up on sushi for less than $13. Fresh sushi.
Our last stop was for some Taiwanese candy before heading back to the main station to catch an airport bus. We actually explored the station a bit since we thought we had extra time.
But we got so lost. So lost that we ended up paying for a taxi because we could not, for the life of us, find the right part of the station for the bus we needed. By that point, we had already walked 16,000 steps, and it was only 1:30. My feet wanted to die. I wish we had more time in Taipei, but it gave me a little taste of China--hopefully to be indulged later on in life! It was a great end to a phenomenal trip!