Taiwan: “Five minutes til closing, let’s go see the hippos!”

Day 16 highlights: Ministry of Education, Taipei Zoo, and Taipei 101

This month has been crazy busy, but for my own sake, I’m going to keep recording my adventures from Taiwan.

I’ve come to realize that I usually keep my adrenaline up nonstop for 2 weeks and then crash for 2 days to preserve my energy.  Not the most ideal way to live life but it definitely helped me in Taiwan, because after my 2 days hibernating in the hostel, I got some major sight-seeing done the last few days of my stay.

Amy, Michael, Dr. Heylen, and I met with the Ministry of Education, Taiwan, for lunch.  It was an honor being able to dine with the ministry and discuss what we have learned so far during our stay.  Michael and I were leaving soon so they suggested places we should visit before our departures.

The Taipei Zoo was a tourist spot highly recommended by the hostel staff and others who I met from TCP, so I decided to take a trip to East Taipei via MRT with Chris from Montreal, and Estelle, a solo traveler from Switzerland on this hot but beautiful afternoon.  After staying in Taiwan for two weeks so far, I imagined myself being able to comfortably live in a city where the main methods of transportation are by foot, metro, or bus.  Sure, having a car is convenient in terms of carrying all your groceries back on weekly food trips or protecting yourself from slanted raindrops (where umbrellas are just completely useless), but I felt so much healthier walking and being outside in order to go places.

Chris, Estelle and I arrived at the zoo with an hour before it closed, so we circled the park as quickly as we could, dashing from one exhibit to the next before it was too late.

He was just hanging out on the tree, no big.

Flamingos!

With five minutes left at the zoo, Chris suggested a visit to the hippos.  This is the pygmy hippopotamus, which is relatively smaller than the common hippo, but still very strong!

People commonly combine their trip to the zoo with a ride in the Maokong Gondola, which is what Chris and Estelle and I decided as well.  Covering 4.3 kilometers between Taipei and Maokong, tourists can take this all-glass covered gondola lift and watch the lush green trees pass by.  To be honest, I was really nervous to be enclosed in a car where I could see everything around me, including the ground 200-300 feet below me.  About a minute into the ride I relaxed and started taking in the scenery – there was just something so serene about getting away from the hustle and bustle of Taipei and grazing over the masses of green in peace.

Gondola lift

After our lovely ride and conversations about culture in Canada and Switzerland, we parted ways and I met up with Marisa to finally have a look at Taipei 101, one of the tallest buildings in the world symbolizing Taiwan’s evolution of technology accompanied with a large shopping mall of various name brands.  We arrived at night, where all the buildings and bridges were beautifully lit.

And of course, the famous LOVE sculpture by American artist Robert Indiana:

Marisa and I had a lot of fun just roaming around the city, and we agreed that even after this trip we would stay in touch about our travels and future plans.  It just so happens that she will be in China for the fall semester, and I will be applying for a program in Spring 2012.  We will definitely have a lot to tell each other in the next year!

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