In my last post I talked about Taipei’s difficult past and the things I had learnt in the first part of my ‘Old Town Taipei’ walking tour. Our guides from Tour Me Away really knew their stuff and were excellent in retelling history in an engaging way.
After our brief history lesson in 228 Peace Memorial Park we moved into the present day and walked to the Presidential Office Building, where the current President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, works from. Tsai is not only Taiwan’s first female president, but she’s also the first non-dynistical national leader of an Asian country. Basically, she’s made it into the top office off her own back and without any family favour-calling or name-knowing. So not quite ‘first female leader in Asia’ but an historical achievement nonetheless! Her election last year was a landmark for both Taiwanese politics and social values in Asia. I’m still beaming thinking about it.
After a quick group shot outside of the Presidential Office Building, we headed to Inner City market (which I think was actually a collection of markets including Huashan market). As markets go, it was a pretty good one. A bit of everything a person could need was there but of course the highlight for everyone was the food and drink towards one end. I wish I’d taken some photos but again, too busy enjoying myself.
The guides also took us round the corner, through a small door and up a rather suspect looking narrow staircase to one of Taipei’s oldest ice-cream parlours. It’s called Snow King Ice Cream and is famous for having weird flavours, like pig knuckle, wasabi or brandy! There’s plenty of tamer flavours too and pretty much every fruit-flavour you could imagine. I settled for safe but tasty guava. However adventurous or not you are, make sure you check it out. I remember it being a little more expensive than I expected but it’s still worth it. Plus all the ice cream is handmade in store by the staff!
Stuffed with snacks, we made our way to trendy Ximending which is just packed with people (mostly young people), fashion shops, cartoon and anime-related stuff, music, jewellery, tattoos. It’s a pretty cool place. We also passed a temple or too along the way, which was squeezed in amongst the modern offerings.
Xinmending is also where the old Red House Theater is. It still functions as a theatre today and showcases various young musicians as well as filming screenings and festivals. The theatre also plays important roles in the gay community and is part of Taipei’s annual Gay Pride celebrations. Taiwan is probably the most gay friendly country in Asia! It’s only one of the first to legalise gay marriage 🙂
And that’s where our tour wrapped up. I can’t recommend Tour Me Away tours enough, or just free walking tours in general! I couldn’t have found a better way to learn about Taipei, and Taiwanese culture, than hearing it straight from friendly local guides whilst seeing everything first-hand by foot!
If you love temples as much as me, stay tuned because in my next blog post I’ll be talking about my evening tour around magical Longshan temple, Taipei’s oldest place of worship.