Taipei Population: 2,650,000

Right: Taipei 101, it's a long way up!

Taipei, (literally northern Taiwan) is the first port of call for most visitors to Taiwan. Strangely, it took me more than six years make it up there. After so long languishing in the south a visit was probably well overdue and so when some friends mentioned going up for a family outing I decided to tag along. The main objective of our day trip was to visit the recently completed Taipei 101, currently the tallest building in the world.

Taipei 101 is 508 metres tall, has 198,347 m2 (2,336,000 sq. ft.) of office space, 77,033 m2 (796,000 sq. ft.) of retail space, and 83,000 m2 (893,000 sq. ft.) of parking space for more than 1,800 vehicles.!

Taipei 101

National Palace Museum

Left: The National Palace Museum undergoing rennovations in 2005

Address: 221 Zhishan Rd. sec-2
Tel: 2881 2021
Admission: NT$100
Hours: 9am - 5pm
Free English Guides at 10am and 3pm

Taipei Hotels

The "National Palace Museum" houses the largest collection of Chinese art and artifacts in the world, much of it spirited away from the mainland by the retreating Guomindang (KMT) during the civil war, least it fall into the "wrong" hands. Despite being labelled "theives" by the communists they may have done the art world a favour as many treasures of China were destroyed during the cultural revolution.

Long Shan Temple

This is probably the most famous temple in Taipei and it's still an active place at various times of the day. The main deity is Guanyin, the goddess of mercy but a whole pantheon is represented within the temple. Long Shan Temple was built in 1738. Nearby is an active market and "Snake Alley" which is also popular with tourists.

Long Shan Temple is dedicated to Guanyin, the goddess of mercy.

Address: 211 Guangzhou St. sec-2
Tel: 2302 5162
Admission: Free
Hours: 6:00am - 10:20pm

Snake Alley

Left: Lots of surprises in "Snake Alley"

Snake Alley (huaxi jie) is within easy walking distance of Long Shan Temple. It once had a racy reputation as a bit of a red light district though the brothels have all since been closed down. Still it is possible to buy aphrodisiacs and there are a few old ladies selling dildos in the active night market.

Along snake alley itself are the restaurants specialising in snake meat. It is possible to see snake handlers displaying cobras and pythons outside the eateries making "Snake Alley" a popular spot for tourists.