October 31, 2010
One of, if not the, most famous landmarks in Taiwan is Taipei 101. As you are very likely to see this building, even if only from a distance, I thought a post was overdue.
The design is meant to look like a bamboo shoot, and it is indeed 101 floors high. It really is visible from many areas of Taipei, so if you see a gigantic bamboo shoot, that's Taipei 101.
Despite being the tallest building in the world from 2004 to 2010, it oddly doesn't look that tall when you stand next to it. To get the full effect though, take the rocket like elevator to the indoor observatory on the 89th floor. There is an outdoor viewing platform on the 91st floor which you can reach by climbing a flight of stairs, but it is not open all the time.
It's worth the NT$400, even if like me, you aren't that great with heights. Actually the large windows (which of course you want in an observation deck) do give great views over the surrounding area, but they were a bit much for me. I took a visiting friend up to have a look, but I had to be coaxed out of the elevator.
Apart from the observation decks, for the visitor Taipei 101 is essentially an upscale mall. You'll find all the high end brands well represented from jewelry to bags and clothing. Probably not the place to buy souvenirs of Taiwan, but it is probably worth having a stroll through.
There's a pretty extensive food court on B1 and if you haven't experienced a food court in Taiwan, you should give it a try. There is a large of fare to try, from Western fast food outlets to more local dishes. There's also a supermarket with many imported items, so if you have a sudden craving for something from home this is good place to try.
As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the best book shops in Taiwan (especially for English language books) called Page One is located on the fourth floor. On the same floor you'll find a variety of "open air" cafes, in the sense that the plan is open of course serving mostly Western style afternoon tea. There are also an array of fairly high end restaurants should you be looking for somewhere more relaxing to eat.
In the same area as Taipei 101, called the Xinyi District (map), you can shop your heart out at one of the many malls (if Taipei 101 wasn't enough). There's a multiplex cinema, a couple of night clubs and an ever increasing number of restaurants. It's also a good place to come in the evenings (although the view from Taipei 101 will obviously be different), but the general area is quite pretty at night.
While it is definitely a more Western experience, Taipei 101 and the surrounding area is worth visiting to gain an appreciation for how Taiwan is developing. Just remember to add some cultural bits to your itinerary as well.
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