Taipei: A bustling city that embraces modern-day life Getting there Our EVA Air flight landed in Taiwan at the Taoyuan International Airport, where were greeted not only by friendly staff but also by—to my surprise—a robot named “Pepper.” The English- Japaneseand Chinese-speaking robot will scan boarding passes, provide weather updates and destination information, play games, dance and pose for photos. Pepper can also guess a traveller’s age after a simple handshake and a quick stare. I was pleased as Pepper cut a full 10 years off my age. The Regent Our stay at the elegant Regent, located within touching distance of Taipei’s financial, entertainment and cultural centres, set us up for a day of sightseeing and gourmet dining at one of its eight exquisite restaurants. An afternoon at Ah Mei Tea House Soon after our bionic bienvenue, we travelled through the traditional covered marketplace at Jioufen, a northern mountain town, and to the Ah Mei Tea House for some traditional Taiwanese refreshment. We were introduced to a ceremony that has been in practice for centuries—in fact, the first tea trees were discovered in Taiwan more than three hundred years ago. While the most popular form of tea in Taiwan is oolong, black and green teas are also popular. We sipped as we surveyed the view from the tea house, nestled into the mountainside—a procession of emeraldhued hills, fading into the distance. Taipei 101 The towering height of Taipei 101 can’t be missed. Serving as an icon for modern Taiwan, this building puts a sleek spin on traditional Chinese architecture. It was the world’s tallest building until the completion of the Burj Khalifa. A tour includes a peek at the 660-ton steel pendulum that stabilizes the building from typhoons and earthquakes. Panoramas of the dazzling city lights below stretch for miles, and eventually abut the Elephant Mountain. Taroko train I spent two hours on the Taroko Express, travelling from the capital to the east-coast county of Hualien. The railway is named after the Taroko Gorge, the 19-km landmark carved out by the Liwu River over 200 million years. The gorge serves as a popular sightseeing Spot within the Taroko National Park.The marbled rock faces are stunning; I recommend that visitors rent a car and spend a day travelling along the gorge. Gaia Hotel & Restaurant Though I only spent a brief time at the Gaia Hotel, the fresh design and stylish restaurant made a lasting impression. Highlights include the fourstorey lobby with shelves holding more than 5,000 second-hand books for guests to read, a spa and rooms overlooking nearby greenery at Beitou Park.Minimalist but inviting, you won’t find a surface in this building that isn’t gleaming. National Palace Museum One of those places you can get lost in. With more than 700,000 ancient Chinese artifacts spanning more than 8,000 years (from the Neolithic to the modern age), this museum is one of the largest of its kind. Bronze sculptures, jade carvings and ancient books alone provide enough perusing material for several days of touring this national treasure. Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and Lungshan Temple Must-sees for travelling history buffs...Although the Memorial Hall, erected in 1980 in honour of former President of the Republic of China Chiang Kai-Shek, has only been casting its imposing shadow for 37 years, the Temple, on the other hand, has been in existence since 1738 (though rebuilt after being damaged in both WW1 and WW2). Both buildings offer splendid views for fans of traditional Chinese architecture.
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