Before January, if someone had asked me how many continents I'd been to, I would have said five: North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. But my Asia stop was in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and while the UAE is technically Asia, there always seemed to be an asterisk, like it didn't REALLY count. So getting to hit Taipei and Hong Kong in January officially officially put Asia on my map!
While I probably wouldn't recommend someone fly around the world just to go to Taipei, we enjoyed it thoroughly. It's cheap and clean, incredibly easy to get around on the metro, and is pretty walkable when you don't want to get on the train. It's home to what was the tallest building in the world from 2004 until 2009, the Taipei 101 and the Maokong Gondolo, a ride that takes you over the zoo and surrounding mountains. Unfortunately the weather didn't really cooperate and we dodged rain drops the entire three days we were there. That didn't spoil all the delicious soup dumplings and pork buns that we enjoyed at basically every meal - per usual this trip was food-centric. I can check off dining at a Michelin Star restaurant as we hit Din Tai Fung twice while in Taipei cause it was just so good. Their kitchen is open so you can watch them making the dumplings and buns by hand at high speed. We visited temples galore and had one very aggressive massage...lost in translation would be an understatement. In search of weird street food, we went to the Shilin Night Market - I indulged in some fried milk and had the intention of trying to stinky tofu...but then I smelled it. There are no words.
We then jetted off to Hong Kong, somewhere that I'd been dying to visit for years. Like in Taipei the weather was miserable, colder than it had been in over 50 years with intermittent rain and wind. We made the most of our time, hitting 25,000+ steps on the least rainy day, hitting another Michelin Star spot, Tim Ho Wan, endorsed by Anthony Bourdain for its dim sum but not by us...we were not impressed to say the least. Hong Kong is similar in feeling to NYC, hectic in a bit of a different way, a way that I can't quite put my finger on. There is a ton of green space throughout the rolling hills of the city including an aviary with lots of beautiful birds and a zoo with energetic apes of all shapes and sizes (I'm not a huge zoo fan but it's a walk-through type so it was a fun detour). There's a huge ex-pat population, English prevalent almost everywhere. Besides our failed dim sum meal, all of the other food was delicious, from vermicelli bowls to one of the best beef tenderloins I've had in my life and cocktails to die for at a speakeasy with a secret door that one has to be in the know to find (knowing a local is very helpful!). Dinner one night at Aqua in Kowloon gave us incredible views of the Hong Kong Island skyline. I could go on and on, it was just the best.
While the weather was a bummer, it just gives me an excuse to go back someday and actually see the view from Victoria's Peak (instead of the incredibly dense fog bank and down pouring rain that greeted us after a train ride up) and do some urban hiking. It's a long trip to the other side of the world but it's totally worth it, I can't wait to return.