We take a subway and walk a few blocks to the second tallest building on Earth. No need for a map after we get out of the station – we need only look up to see where we need to go. We enter through the shopping mall, find the ticket office on the fifth floor, and queue up for the 37 second elevator ride to the top. Due to renovations, only the indoor observation floor is open – the outdoor floor is closed. Oh, well.
The view from the top is what you’d expect: grand views a great distance in all directions. It’s cloudy outside, but the cloud base is above where we are. We take pictures inside and out, visit the tuned mass damper, and visit the tiny gift shop. There are several other shops on the observation floor, selling jewelry and coral sculptures; nothing really exciting. The mascot of Taipei 101 is the Damper Baby – a character with cartoon proportions and an oversized head resembling the tuned mass damper. I’m not sure why an inert mass of steel ended up the mascot of the tower, but we took our share of photos with the damper babies (there are several and they’re color coded; I don’t recall what they all do).
We take in the view for about 30 minutes and head out, back to the apartment in time for lunch. Paul take us to his favorite Japanese restaurant and we eat breaded pork cutlets with gravy (pork katsu, I think). I’m reminded of Hatoriya in Mountain View, CA, because this dish was my usual there; they’ve since closed (and, the food here is much better). Best part of the meal was the pudding at the end. We fight for the bill but Paul pulls a sneaky move and pays with his bank card, even after I’ve put cash on the check.
It’s 2p or so and Melinda and I head out again, this time, to check out the gondola line near the zoo. The gondola is basically just another part of the transit system, albeit more scenic than any other part. The gondola crosses over the zoo on its way up to Maokong. We pay our $50NT to ride the regular car (not one that has a clear plastic floor) and the ride all the way up takes 10-15 minutes. Below us is vegetation that reminds one what indigenous Taiwan must have looked like. For all Taipei’s urban density, too, the city ends abruptly and all that’s left beneath us is trees. We *think* the zoo is beneath us, too, but we ever see only one trail and no animal exhibits. The gondola ride itself is quiet, scenic, and sometimes very steep. We were reminded of our ride in Hong Kong, when the temperatures were in the low single degrees C; today was much more reasonable. On Maokong we walk for maybe 15 minutes, just a little ways, mostly to say we did it, and then we take the ride back. It’s about 4:30, probably too late to see anything at the zoo, so we head home. Along the sidewalk near the zoo we found brass animal footprints, with the names of the animals in Chinese. Melinda identified many of them but some were a mystery. I think I could even now recognize the character for horse but I couldn’t draw it from memory.
Before dinner I napped and Melinda checked that the internet was still there (it was). Soon Paul and Martha returned, and we had another guest visit (another schoolmate of Yulin’s and Martha’s, this one who also attended the reception in Tainan). We visit shortly then head to dinner for more visiting. We eat at a Shanghainese restaurant and have a feast for the five of us: dim sum, beans, soup, and the capstone, Peking duck. It was so much food, even for five people – and I’d never had a whole duck before (they bring out the _whole duck_, cooked, and carve it at the table – the take the rest away to use in a soup that they bring out next). We have lots of leftovers this time, and the schoolmate takes them away.
Dinner is occasionally interrupted by phone calls – we’re trying to find where my luggage has gone, the luggage that was ferried directly from Tainan back to Taipei. We learn that the person who carried the luggage is in China today, but her son is back from the States and can help. After dinner we drive to their house and I’m finally reunited with my suit and the crystal swans we received as a wedding gift. I also inadvertently clip a motor scooter while getting out of the car – I opened the door only maybe 5 inches but the scooter was that close to the car. D’oh. No one was injured, only casualty was his spilled drink. Whew.
Tomorrow is our final day in Taipei for this trip. Plan is to visit the glass museum in the morning, return to pack in the afternoon, and head to the airport by mid-evening.