Welcome to Day 3 of Janet and Randy's Taipei Adventure 2018
Tuesday, April 4rd, 2018Woke up at 4:15am and tried to get back to sleep, but finally gave up and got up at around 5:15am. We had originally talked about maybe heading out to Beitou Hot Springs today, but I was still feeling quite jetlagged and didn't know if I would be up for a bunch of walking around.
With the high humidity, it had been quite hazy in Taipei ever since we arrived. Today it seemed a little less hazy, so we decided that maybe we should head to Taipei 101 while the weather was cooperating. The observatory opened at 9:00am, so Dennis suggested that we try to get there right when it opens (as he had heard that sometimes there are long queues to get in).
Randy and I went up to the club lounge for breakfast just after 7:00am. However, today we were the first people in the lounge, and were the only ones there for the first little while. There was a different selection of breakfast items - so it's nice to know that they don't just put out the same food every day (unlike some Marriotts that we have stayed at). Not to mention the amazing selections of foods.
We had decided that we would take the MRT (subway) and meet Dennis at Taipei 101. According to Google Maps, it was going to take us 45 minutes to get there from our hotel. So, around 8:00am, we left the hotel and walked over to the nearest MRT station. On the way, we stopped at a 7-11 to pick up a prepaid card to use on the subway. From our hotel, we had to take one subway line, then transfer to another one line in order to get to Taipei 101. It only took about 25 minutes to get there, so maybe Google Maps assumes that people walk much slower than we do.
Dennis also took the MRT from his hotel, and arrived about 2 minutes after we did (pretty much the train following us). We then headed into the Taipei 101 building. We followed the signs to take the escalator up to the observatory. However, we went up one level and the next set of escalators was blocked off. However, there was a janitor that showed us a nearby elevator that we could take. The lower floors of Taipei 101 is a high-end shopping centre, and the shops don't open until 11:00am. As we were there at 9:00am, we were the only ones wandering around. Getting there isn't as straightforward as one might think.
After taking the elevator, we found another escalator that took us up to the ticket counter for the observatory. There was no line-up, and we got our tickets right away. After purchasing our tickets, we were directed past (many) various shops to the entrance for the elevator - and through/past the extensive crowd control gates. We were able to walk right up to the elevator without having to wait. There was maybe 8 other people in the elevator with us. The elevator was very fast, and it took about 30 seconds to get to the 89th floor. I believe that we were the first group of people to go up, as the observatory level was completely empty when we got there (minus the staff).
So, it was definitely a good strategy to get there right when they opened, as we were able to wander around pretty much all by ourselves for the first half hour or so. It was still a little hazy out - but we did get decent views from the observatory. There were a few shops on the observatory level, and I ended up buying a fridge magnet. As we were wandering around trying to find the exit, we came across a hallway that took us down a little hallway where we could see the big yellow ball that is used as the wind damper (to prevent the tower from swaying too much in the wind). That was kind of interesting.
We followed the exit signs that took us to a non-descript stairwell. We saw that we could take the stairs 3 flights up that led you to an outdoor observatory. However, they had it cordoned off so that you could only access a VERY small portion of the outdoor area. The walls came up fairly high on this outdoor portion with bars above it, so you couldn't get as good of a view as you could from the indoor one. There was an entrance to this little theatre area, where they showed a short movie on how the Taipei 101 building was built. There didn't seem to be any other way to get to the outdoor section or this little theatre other than the stairs - so not very accessible for people with mobility issues. We went back down the 3 flights of stairs, and realized that we actually had to take the stairs back down one more flight in order to exit the observatory.
When we got to the 88th floor, we saw that instead of being forced to go through the typical souvenir shop, the whole 88th floor was this massive high end jewelry store (basically you are walking in a complete circle around the building to get to the elevator down). There was a huge section of coral jewelry and a huge section of jade jewelry. It was quite the shop. We weren't interested in anything, so we cruised right past all the sales people and were able to walk right on to the elevator going back down.
It was 10:00am when we got back down from the observatory. There was a fair line of people waiting for the elevator up. It was very pleasant to spend the time up there without massive crowds, and I think we lucked out with the weather, as it seemed to get much hazier later in the day. So, we picked a good day and time to do it.
In the basement of Taipei 101 is a Starbucks, so we headed there to get some beverages. There is also another Starbucks (supposedly the tallest Starbucks in the world) on the 35th floor of the tower. However, unless you actually work in the building, you have to phone and make reservations ahead of time to go there.
In the bottom level of the building is a high end shopping complex with stores like Chanel and Cartier. The shops didn't open until 11:00am, so we wandered through the mall and headed out onto the street. Nearby are some other shopping malls (with more financially accessible shops such as Adidas and Forever 21). These shops also didn't open until 11:00am, so we just sat outside on a bench until they did open.
We wandered around the shops, but didn't find anything that we felt we must have. We decided to grab some lunch before leaving the area, and it took us a bit to finally find a food court in the basement of the Mitsukoshi department store (it sounds like it should be simple, but it was anything but). The food court wasn't like your standard North American food court with various fast food chains. This food court had some counters that you could order food to eat in the common area - but you actually ate off of real dishes. There were also small self-contained restaurants where you ordered and were served food at one of their tables. We ended up going to a Tonkatsu restaurant. Randy ordered some katsu curry, I ordered pork katsu, and Dennis got these fried katsu rolls that had asparagus in the middle. The food was really good, and we finished our meal just as it was starting to get really busy for lunch.
We wandered around the Mitsukoshi department store a bit (including the Tesla dealership inside), then around 1:00pm, we decided to head back to the MRT station. Dennis had a business meeting with a client at 3:00pm, so he had to go back to his hotel to change and head to the client site. We took the MRT back to our hotel to just relax for the rest of the afternoon. Our feet were still a little sore from all the walking we had done the day before, so we were happy to get off our feet.
When we got back to our room, we noticed a little note had been shoved under our door. Apparently one of us (likely me) had accidentally pressed the Do Not Disturb button (that looks like a light switch) that is next to the door - so housekeeping left the note saying they didn't come in to service our room. Apparently I should not be touching any of the switches next to the door anymore.
We phoned housekeeping to let them know that the could service our room now. As we didn't want to be in their way, we took our laptops up to the club lounge to kill time there. We had some Perrier water and some of little dessert snacks that they had out. After a couple of hours, we came back to the room to find that it had been cleaned. We were both quite tired, so we decided to lay down for a nap.
At 6:00pm, Randy woke me up. It was so tempting to just keep sleeping, but I knew I had to get up. While I was sleeping, Dennis had sent a message saying he was tired from his meeting and was just going to hang out at his hotel for the rest of the night. Which was fine, as we were tired as well.
As it was now dinner time, Randy thought we should head out to the Food Republic food court that was on the main floor of the Carrefour. We took our time wandering around the various restaurants, and Randy finally decided on a udon soup/katsu curry combination and I got some spicy chicken that came with soup and rice. Both were really good, and only cost $7 or $8 each. It was food court style, but with a few places that had their own tables.
After our meal, we headed back to the hotel, where we just spent some time finishing the travel journal for Day 2, watched a National Geographic show on Tutankhamen, and then we went to bed.
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