I recommend that upon arrival in Taipei, Taipei 101 should be the first place you visit. This recommendation is not because this building is a feat of human engineering and a major tourist must-see in Taipei.
Going to Taipei 101 first is probably the most practical first stop of your visit because from the top most floor’s viewing lounge, you can see practically all of Taipei in one leisurely stroll and really get a sense for where everything is in the city. This is excellent for developing a mental map of the whole place before you descend upon it. We didn’t get to Taipei 101 until about midway through our trip, so as soon as I got to the top of this colossal building and saw the resources available in the viewing lounge, I immediately regretted not making it our first stop.
What makes the viewing lounge an excellent area recon center is that it’s not just a look out of the window. The lounge itself is like a mini-museum, and they have audio guides in multiple languages that take you around to all the points of interest in this sprawling metropolis along with a history lesson of the construction of Taipei 101. And that’s not even the best part–there are massive touch screen screens all over the place that have time lapses of the view outside with floating buttons of all major points of interest.
If we had gone here first, I know I would have had a much better time navigating the place and even may have found some new points of interest to put on our itinerary. See these time lapse touch screens in action:
Aside from the practical navigational purposes of going to Taipei 101, it is also a pretty darn cool stop. I really enjoy watching that Extreme Engineering TV show, so I was geeking out a little. From the first moment I heard about Taipei 101, the one part of it I wanted to see the most was the damper.
Maybe it has something to do with having grown up in Los Angeles and lived through countless earthquakes, but just being in the presence of a such a brilliant and massive work of practical art like this just left me in awe.
Unlike Los Angeles, Taiwan has frequent typhoons along with their earthquakes (both of which I’ve experienced in Taiwan before), and the terror of a typhoon is put into perspective when you listen to the eerie sound of the whole building swaying even on a clear and cloudless night.
Normally, the damper looks like it’s sitting still, just the way it looks in this picture taken on the same night as the video above.
However, during a typhoon, the thing apparently swings back and forth like crazy. It’s a miracle of science that the building isn’t torn to shreds, ripped off level by level by the high winds of a typhoon. Here is some video that was playing at the exhibit showing the massive damper moving during a typhoon:
Even if extreme engineering isn’t your cup of tea, I think everyone can get a kick out of the high speed elevators you need to take to get to the top. Watching how quickly those floors tick by can be pretty thrilling, especially when you feel the pressure of the speed and change in altitude as you ride the world’s fastest elevators.
Finally, if all you really want to do is hang out, shop, or eat, Taipei 101’s got plenty of that to go around. There are countless specialty stores, restaurants, food courts, and even a pretty huge bookstore tucked in a massive corner to provide a little something for everyone there. The inside of the mall is a pretty impressive space:
Also, if you’re feeling like some high class dining with a most awesome view, you can enjoy some fine dining up on the 85th floor. Our crew went to Shin Yeh 101 because it served Taiwanese fare. A lot of people tell me it’s expensive food that doesn’t taste all that good, but I’d beg to differ. You definitely are paying for the ambiance, location, and view, but the food is pretty darn good too. Street food has its charm, and maybe I’ve become more pampered over the years, but I definitely thought it was worth the money on all fronts.
Of course I went and ordered some oldies but goodies off of the menu that I grew up with. First, I had to get the hanji (yam) rice porridge, even though it’s like the most common every day dish ever.
Next, I had to get my grandpa’s favorite dish and concurrently one of my favorites, too, slices of dried fish egg. As my late gramps would say, “Oishii!”
Further feeding my nostalgia, I ordered my favorite dish that my late grandma used to always make for me, liver cooked in a wine soup. The cooks didn’t disappoint my sentimental craving.
Of course, nothing could top off the meal better than a candle-warmed pot of hot high mountain oolong served in glimmering porcelain.
Before you leave Taipei 101, don’t forget to check out the gift shop where you can find souvenirs, especially the adorable damper mascots.
Next up, the three hundred year old Lung Shan Temple (Dragon Mountain Temple) in Taipei, Taiwan.