Taipei in 48 hours

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readerc54
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#1 Taipei in 48 hours

Postby readerc54 » Sun Feb 05, 2017 9:07 pm

Fountainhall has been encouraging readers to consider the charms of Taipei. Now a travel writer for Khaosod English is also singing the city's praises, describing it as a blend of China and Japan. Here's her trip report:

http://www.khaosodenglish.com/featured/ ... st-taipei/

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#2 Re: Taipei in 48 hours

Postby fountainhall » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:11 pm

Nice article, but it leaves out the gay scene which is what I'm sure many readers here would like to know more about. It is not as in your face as Bangkok or Pattaya but it is certainly there. I was delighted when one poster here, encouraged by my posts, decided to find out for himself. He has since made quite a few visits to Taiwan and has many friends there. The apps are particularly busy as there seems to be a shortage of older westerners on the island. There are bars, saunas, a major gay area at the Red House in the Ximen district - and my favourite of all, the hot springs. There are two that are predominantly gay where you will see up to 100 mostly slim and toned young Taiwanese happily walked around totally nude. These are not saunas, although it is sometimes possible to exchange phone numbers for a later hook-up.

As for the island itself, it is extremely beautiful. Although I had visited on business dozens of times over several decades, I did not really know much apart from Taipei until last June when I took a 5-day round-the-island tour. I had no idea it was so beautiful.

The National Theater in the CKS Memorial Park
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Changing of the Guard at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
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Spring Moon Lake at Dawn
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Spring Moon Lake Temple
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A temple which collapsed in the 1999 earthquake
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Buddhist Centre near Kaohsiung
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Crystal clear water in the south
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The Stunning Taroko Gorge on the north west
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And of course the now very famous Taipei Gay Pride Patrade. Last year around 82,000 took part. This year the date is Saturday 28 October.
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#3 Re: Taipei in 48 hours

Postby thaiworthy » Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:16 pm

Wow. That last picture is glorious. You saved the best for last. They are all picturesque. You may convince me yet to visit Taipei, probably a layover on my way to the US. Thanks for all this effort, Fountainhall!
Whenever you're feeling down, remember that you're the sperm that won.

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#4 Re: Taipei in 48 hours

Postby fountainhall » Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:42 pm

Thanks thaiworthy - you are kind. I have many hundreds more photos but certainly don't want to overload the thread!

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#5 Re: Taipei in 48 hours

Postby Gaybutton » Mon Feb 06, 2017 10:07 pm

fountainhall wrote:certainly don't want to overload the thread!

Why not? It's fine with me. Feel free to pick out some favorites and post them.

Also, I think many of us would appreciate as much information as you can give us about Taipei - ranging from costs, to how those of us who can't read or speak Chinese are going to fare, to the gay scene - especially the gay scene. Bars, hookups, whatever you can tell us.

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#6 Re: Taipei in 48 hours

Postby fountainhall » Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:31 pm

Taipei: Part 1

At GB’s request, here is a lengthy article on the reasons why I so enjoy my regular trips to Taipei. There are lots of photos of both the city and the Gay Pride Parades of recent years (I have been to four) which I shall intersperse throughout the text in the hope of keeping it more interesting. In view of the length, I shall split it into two posts.

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I've been visiting Taipei since 1986 when the island was still under martial law. There was hardly any gay scene then and those who wanted to hook-up would make their way to the Peace Park behind what was a few blocks behind the Hilton hotel (now the Caesar’s Park - across from the main station). Christianpfc made his first trip to Taipei in December and wrote about the Park and other more recent gay areas in his blog. With the city now boasting a large, flourishing gay scene, the number of cruisers in the Park has dropped to a fraction of what it used to be, but it still remains active.

http://christianpfc.blogspot.com/2017/0 ... aipei.html

One reason I love my now regular visits to Taipei – 4 or 5 times a year – is that I find Taiwanese guys the most handsome of all Chinese in all of Asia. Those I have met are always exceedingly polite, most are tall and gym fit, perhaps because all guys must go through a period of military service, and there is clearly a shortage of older westerners on the island. So apart from the friends I have made over the years, when I switch on the apps on arrival at my hotel, within 30 minutes I have several guys wanting to arrange a hook-up. Even at my advanced age, there are always more guys than I can possibly meet.

These are not money boys, merely guys who really enjoy being with older westerners. In recent years, I think only two guys said they would be seeking money. One of my regular friends comes in from the airport area. Even though this means taking an hour’s trip by train and subway, he refuses to accept anything to cover his travel costs.

The Red House Gay area

The Red House Cafes and Bars in early evening
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Gays in Taipei can now gather together en masse at the Red House in the Ximen District. Get there on the Blue subway Line to Ximen station – one stop from Taipei Main station, take Exit 1, cross the road and it opens up on your left. The Red House is an arts centre. Surrounding it on two sides are gay boutiques and shops selling sex aides, around a dozen cafes and restaurants, mostly open-air, and some specialist bars including a Bear Bar and leather bar. This all gets packed with mostly handsome young men on Fridays. Saturdays and holidays but less so during the week.

Nearby the Red House are two saunas. The very large Rainbow which caters more to working class guys and the much smaller Hans Mens Sauna. I have not been to Rainbow for years and am told that older westerners, especially if not in shape, are unlikely to get much fun here. On the other hand, Hans caters to all types. Usually an older crowd, but I have seen quite a few students come in after classes. Entrance is around NT$300 on weekdays and $350 at weekends.

By far the best sauna is Aniki. All the guides claim this is one of the three best in Asia, on a par with Bangkok’s Babylon and Tokyo’s 24 Kaikan. It’s also jam-packed with handsome young Taiwanese most of the time. The problem is that it is expensive. Non-members have to pay NT$1,000 for up to 16 hours. Consequently there are not many westerners there.

Bars

There are several other gay bars around the city. The oldest is probably Funky not far from the Sheraton hotel. Another is one my friends took me to for the first time last October. Commander is a small basement leather bar only a few blocks from The Red House (not to be confused with Commander 2 which is located on the second level at the Red House). This has a seating area, a long bar, a small stage for shows which I’m told start around 12:30 am and, the biggest surprise for me, a dark room. This opens around 11:30ish and is totally dark. So I’m told anything goes. Commander is located in a residential district and it is typical of the politeness of the Taiwanese that the young men manning the door at the pavement warn everyone to be quiet on leaving.

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Currency

A note on currency. The New Taiwan dollar currently changes at 31 to US$1. The currency floats but has seen little change over the last couple of years. There are few moneychangers around town and so it’s best to change at the airport on arrival. Unlike BKK and most other international airports, the bank’s exchange booths at Taoyuan don’t have ridiculous rates. Almost the only difference is that you pay an NT$30 fee per currency changed. Credit Cards are accepted virtually everywhere.

Getting Around

Taipei has one of the best, most recent and widespread subway systems. If you are happy to walk for 15 minutes or so, you can get almost anywhere in the city by the MRT. Short rides cost NT$20. Even long ones are rarely more than NT$35. You can also purchase a stored value ticket which gives you a 20% discount on most rides. There is a good bus service and taxis are plentiful and relatively cheap. If you are out of the city at one of the hot springs and miss the last bus and subway back to your hotel, a taxi will cost you around NT$350 - $400 for a journey of around 30 minutes.

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Transport options from the main international airport are excellent. There are buses to the main railway station, the edge-of-town domestic airport (still called domestic although it now has a few international flights) and a couple of other destinations, most of which will stop at hotels. Costs vary but should be around NT$150. You can also take a bus to connect with the high-speed train to the main station. This costs around NT$200 total – but I have done it once and it is a bit of a hassle as you might have to wait 30 minutes at the train station. Taxis to most of the city are fixed at NT$1,000. Most of the less expensive hotels (i.e. not 5-star) will organize a limousine transfer for around NT$1,300. This is by far the most convenient. Travel time should be around 40-45 minutes door-to-door.

Language

The official language is Mandarin Chinese, although the island has kept the old form of kanji rather than the more simplified form used in mainland China. Almost everywhere in the city signs are in both Chinese and English. Receptionists at all hotels will speak English although housekeeping staff not. Most younger guys will speak at least some English; many speak the language extremely well. Older Taiwanese, especially in taxis, may not speak English. So always have the card from your hotel with directions in Chinese, and get the receptionist to write the name and street of any site you want to visit for the driver.

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Taipei’s Hot Springs

Taiwan sits on a seismic fault between two tectonic plates. So there are not only earthquakes from time to time; there are also areas with a good deal of hot sulfurous water pouring out of the ground. When Taiwan was a colony of Japan, Japanese entrepreneurs developed these areas as hot spring resorts and they can be found all over the island. On the east side of Taipei there are about a dozen such hot springs all concentrated in one small area. Each will have some restaurants as well as the hot springs and if you pay more than about NT$400 for your meal, you get free entry to the springs. If you go only for the hot springs, entrance is usually between NT$250 and $300.

The culture is simple. As you enter, take off your shoes and put them in the shoe rack. Pick a locker, put in your bag and disrobe. Some lockers require NT$20 to be inserted before they can be locked. Make sure you have brought a small towel to dry off once you are finished and keep out of your locker a small bottle of water which you should also bring. It can be thirsty work sitting in 42C degree heat!

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All Taiwanese happily walk around totally nude. Occasionally you will see someone with a small towel covering his front. That’s a sure sign these guys are probably from Singapore where guys are much more shy! As you walk in, you must shower and rinse yourself thoroughly before you dip in to one of the pools. There are two hot springs which are very gay friendly and where you can be sure that at least 90% of the guys there will be gay. In October friends took me to one I had not been to before. I was staggered. At least 100 mostly slim in-shape handsome guys mostly in their 20s and 30s. What a lovely sight! And despite my being virtually the oldest and the only foreigner there everyone was very friendly. No feeling whatever of age discrimination.

To reach the springs, you take the MRT to Shipai station on the red line. The springs are about 4 kms up a hill to your right. The first time it’s probably best to take a taxi from the rank located on the front right side as you get off the train. Show the driver the name card and they will get you there for under NT$150. When you return to the station, there is a bus stop on the other side of the main road and the cost is just NT$15.

The gayest hot spring is now Huang Ding.
Huang Ding Hot Spring
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This is not a large facility. It has six pools, none very hot and only one really cold. The only problem is that it is split into two areas. By the middle is the glass-walled steam room. Hot springs are not saunas and sometimes you will find a father bringing his sons. So there is no sex, although there is usually a bit of hanky-panky in the steam room. Consequently the steam is on full blast to avoid prying eyes from outside!

I much prefer the one I mentioned earlier, Huang Szu.
Huang Szu Hot Spring
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This has a much larger open area with 5 pools, a steam room and sauna and guys regularly saunter from one to another. It is now the first place I hit after dropping my bags at my hotel. Like Huang Ding it is busiest on Friday evenings until quite late, early Saturday evening and Sunday afternoons. Although almost all guys go to the springs just to relax, you can always try to exchange phone numbers for a hook-up at another time if you find someone you really like.

Caveat

Taiwanese tend not to go to bars, saunas and the hot springs on their own. You will usually see them with at least one friend, and more often with a group of friends. As such, it is less easy to go up to a guy to say Hi or offer a drink. You may be invited to join a group, but that does not happen often, So on your first visit it is best to try to make a Taiwan friend from the apps who can help show you around.

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#7 Re: Taipei in 48 hours

Postby fountainhall » Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:45 pm

Taipei: Part 2

Accommodation


Taipei is awash with hotels to fit all budgets from simple bunk bed inns to five-star deluxe. In recent years a lot of small mid-range boutique hotels have opened and I try to stay at one of those. For three years I stayed at the Ambience Hotel. It’s about 12 minutes walk from 2 MRT stations and has a Starbucks about 5 minutes away. Prices here start around US$90 including a relatively simple breakfast.

Ambience Hotel Lobby Sculpture
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Ambience Hotel Room
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I also like the Dandy Daan Park hotel. It sits on the east end of a nice park and is just 20 meters from an MRT exit. Close to the other end of the park is the large National Taiwan University with tens of thousands of students! Rooms here should also be just under US$100 but it does get booked up very quickly. Staff at these hotels are wonderfully friendly and both have laundry rooms for those staying longer.

Sightseeing

There is a great deal to do and see in Taipei that I will only list a few here. A quick internet search will pick out lots more. On a clear day you will want to go to Taipei 101, for several years the world’s tallest building. On a clear day, the view from the Observatory close to the top of the building can be stunning.

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The Chiang Kai Shek Memorial in the CKS Memorial Park is worth a quick visit, especially on the hour when there is an impressive changing of the guard ceremony (photo in an earlier post).

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Image

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Park
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Looking down from the Memorial you see two impressive Chinese buildings on the left and right. One is the National Concert Hall; the other the National Theater. Both are world-class facilities, with the Concert Hall often featuring some of the world’s finest orchestras.

One must-see is the National Palace Museum. Located on the edge if the city, this houses many of China’s most treasured arts and artifacts. When the Nationalists under Chiang Kai Shek were fighting the Japanese in China in the late 1930s, they had all the treasures from Beijing’s Forbidden City and other main Museums crated up. The aim was to prevent their falling into the hands of the Japanese. But after the revolution when Chiang and 2 million of his followers fled to Taiwan, they took with them all those crates, much to the fury of Mao. The Taipei Museum can only display a small fraction of the collection at any one time, but it is one of the world’s great must-see Museums.

National Palace Museum with Photo of the Stunning Jade Cabbage
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Taipei has lots of interesting temples. The main one is the Longshan Temple (Longshan Temple MTR station – one stop from the The Red House) where you will find several structures and lots of worshippers. Perhaps surprisingly, many are young. Further east take exit 2 from Yanshuan station on the Red Line and you are about 10 minutes from the Confucius Temple and several others nearby.

Temple Scenes
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I'll end just by reminding you that Taipei is not Bangkok or Pattaya. You will need a bit of adjustment. But as suggested earlier, try and hook up with at least one Taiwan guy from the apps, on arrival or better still before you arrive. He will help you find your bearings more quickly - and no doubt more!! Good luck!

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#8 Re: Taipei in 48 hours

Postby Gaybutton » Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:23 pm

This is exactly the kind of posting I wish more people would do. Thank you for taking the time.

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#9 Re: Taipei in 48 hours

Postby fountainhall » Tue Feb 07, 2017 3:05 pm

I forgot to mention that Taiwan is also subject to regular typhoons and heavy rains each year. The rainy season officially starts on June 1 and can last till the end of October, and this coincides with the main typhoon season. It is not the ideal period to visit Taipei unless you have a lot of indoor activities lined up!! 18 months ago the worst typhoon in several years zipped through. The following day, a Sunday, I went out to the hot springs. Sadly all were closed. Not only were trees uprooted all over the area, the pipes taking water to the pools had in some cases been snapped. So all were closed for several days.

The Gay Pride Parades always take place on the last Saturday in October. On my first three Parades, the weather was wonderful. Last year was not as good with light rain for much of the Parade. Not that that put a 'damper' on the Festivities. It was still a wonderfully fun afternoon.

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#10 Re: Taipei in 48 hours

Postby fountainhall » Wed Feb 08, 2017 6:28 pm

A few more assorted photos from Taipei Gay Pride Parades over the last few years

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