Taipei 101 might sound like a class you would take freshman year, but it is actually a building in Taipei. In fact, it is the tallest building in Taipei and is currently the tallest building in the world. It provided a good "crash course" for me to learn about Taipei and get an idea about the layout of the city.
We left homebase around 10:00AM and hopped in my cousin's van. The drive into the city is about 45 minutes, and there was quite a view as we entered. As we approached Taipei 101, we could begin to appreciate just how tall this building is.
The first 5 floors of the building are an upscale shopping mall, very similar to the Time Warner Building near Columbus Circle in Manhattan. There are stores like Dolce & Gabana, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Brooks Brothers, etc., spread around these floors. One of the strangest things I saw was at a store that sold message chairs and devices. Called the iGallop, it is a message chair that imitates the motion of a galloping horse. I was under the impression that this motion leads to saddle sore, not a relaxed and refreshed back.
We got tickets to ride the elevator to the 89th floor of Taipei 101. "101" represents both the number of floors in the building and "going beyond the best". The elevator goes from the 5th floor to the 89th floor in under 30 seconds, making it the worlds fastest elevator. While on the 89th floor, I walked around and learned about the city with the help of an audio guide. I learned interesting facts like "the population of Taipei is 2.6 million" and "there are four mountains surrounding Taipei city and they are named after animals" (I forgot which four animals . . . bear, elephant, leopard, ?).
From the 89th floor, we walked up to the outdoor observation deck on the 91st floor. The deck reminded me of the Empire State Building's observation deck, with a tall, hooked fence surrounding the edge. From here we could see the very top of the building and a hazy view of the city.
After riding back down, we stopped for lunch in the food court in the lower level. I had what I would call "seafood noodle stew" from a Japanese fast-food noodle restaurant. It consisted of shrimp, clams, noodles, half of a boiled egg, tomato, cauliflower, garlic, Chinese broccoli, and hot spices (pepper). I washed it down with an apple soda called "Apple Sidra".
Having oriented ourselves with the city from above, we headed back to the van to go to our next destination: the National Palace Museum.