Taiwan part 3: The end!

Welcome back, today we reach the thrilling climax of my trip to Taiwan! In this chapter we have hot springs, night markets, day drinking and the town from Spirited Away. But before that we started Friday off with another item on my Taipei bucket list — the cat café. For those of you who weren’t aware, Taiwan is actually the creator of the cat café, an idea that is not nearly as popular as I would like in Toronto. Let me emphasize that this attraction was pure indulgence, of the five of us only two wanted to actually be there. Claire and I were in heaven, the rest were in hell. I have always found the subject of cats to be quite polarizing.

BABY GIRL

After our feline-infused breakfast (I DO NOT MEAN WE ATE CATS) we headed off to Xinbeitou — home of the hotsprings!! If not the best in the country it is definitely the easiest to reach from Taipei. Words of warning to anyone who wants to go hot-springing in Asia: pay attention to the rules regarding bare stomachs for women, speedos for men, bathing caps and gender separate bathing pools. We had to do a bit of research to find one that would allow our bikinis, board shorts, and long luscious hair to co-mingle in hot water bliss. Luckily if you’re willing to pay for one of the chichi resorts (treat yo self!) this isn’t too hard to find. So for the (very reasonable) price of $40 CAD we were given 2 hour access to multiple pools and temperatures, robes and slippers, shower access and a damn good view. This is a really relaxing activity but it sure does make you hungry — luckily Beitou is also known as being one of the best places to eat outside of Taipei. We didn’t have too much time however so we just hit up a sushi place close to the metro station. Not bad but not the best either.

Springing

I wasn’t too disappointed by the slightly underwhelming meal however as that night we were going to Raohe night market — one of the oldest and most well-known — and hopefully one of the best culinary experiences I could find. I had done my research, I knew that these markets were all about eating and I came prepared. The gloomy rainy night did nothing to deter my desire for more shaved ice and I immediately sated myself with some condensed milk and strawberry ice.

Marketing

Shortly after I came upon some salted guava, tiny pancake pastries, chicken skewers, and more that I can’t even remember. In between bites I also managed to pick up some cutesy souvenirs and take in all the sights and smells I could — including more durian and plenty of stinky tofu. Finally we emerged back onto the busy street where we washed down the whole experience with some bubble tea. The best thing about Taipei is that all you need to do to find a good treat is to turn your head.

The next day was our last day together and so we decided to go back to Ximen and maybe take in a hike at Elephant Mountain. Once we had done our souvenir shopping however I was in no mood to hike and so Dharani and I hit a patio while the others went ahead. I also couldn’t resist the idea of a drink on patio with the negative temperatures and snow of Toronto looming ahead of me. We took a seat and spent a very pleasant afternoon people and cat watching in the busy square. (Another reason to love Taipei — cats everywhere!) That evening Christoph returned and we took it easy, having dinner and drinks near our AirBnB.

Sunday morning Dharani jetted back to Korea and Christoph and I set off for our final day trip, Jiufen. (Also known as the town from Spirited Away). We had been extremely lucky with the weather up until this point and so I wasn’t too turned off by the rain, it actually made for a gorgeous and foggy drive up into the mountains. As well the streets are so narrow and mostly covered that the rain didn’t end up being too much of a nuisance.

Cloudy but beautiful

We spent the day exploring the hills and shops and (of course) eating. We had a big order of dumplings and noodles and finished up any souvenir hunting to be done. Finally we boarded the bus back to Taipei for one last shaved mango and our goodbyes. The last day of a trip I always find a little blah, I usually at this point am ready to go home and don’t have much energy (or money) left to do too much. However this time my blah was from a different feeling, it was knowing that this was a false start. I don’t think I’m cut out for a week of vacation, one thing I really miss about being a student is the ability to take a few months at a time to really get the feel for a place. In my mind that mobility is truly freedom. However, I was excited to get back to my friends and family and I had even started planning some fun things for the week ahead. The most important thing about the end of a trip is being able to see the next one in sight, and I resolved then to start planning my next so I wasn’t feeling too sad to go home.

Feeling spirited away?

I could end the post right there, but I promised I would share the actual conclusion. I am notoriously emotional when I am tired and hungry, surprisingly this is exactly how I felt after my 27 hour return home and my night flight with no food service. I arrived in Toronto around 7 am miserable and exhausted, I am pretty sure I had tears in my eyes the entire train ride home and couldn’t help but openly weep on the streetcar (shout out to the girl that gave me her seat!). When the streetcar opened up to my boyfriend waiting with my warm coat and gloves I burst into sobs as he led me home to the breakfast nachos he had prepared for my return. Irrational? Yes. Embarrassing? Certainly. Funny? Absolutely.

And so we’ve reached our conclusion to my first trip to Asia, I can confidently say it will not be my last and that I am eagerly anticipating more trips outside of Europe. Join me next week for a continuation of my weekend trips!

Allison

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