101 and a zoo without animals?



(Reading time: 5 minutes)

We love skyscrapers, towers, lookout points, hilltops and mountains. Basically, any elevated place offering a panoramic view into the distance. So, including a visit to Taipei 101 on our “to-do” list was a must for us.

Taipei 101, at 509 meters, is Taiwan’s tallest building. It has 101 floors and its construction resembles a bamboo stalk. One of the fastest elevators in the world (1010m/min) takes you up to an observation deck on the 89th floor, which is more than enough for admiring the surroundings. You see, there are higher floors available for higher prices, but it really isn’t necessary.

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However, what we found even more interesting than the views was this yellow ball.

It’s called a damper. It’s a 660-ton stabilization system designed to help the building withstand wind or earthquakes. It counterbalances its swaying.

There is even a short educational documentary about it. You’ll be guided through it by little characters called “damper babies” (because cute mascots are almost a necessity in Asia), and they’ll explain the functioning principle of the stabilizer in a simple way.

And then we went to the zoo.

On a Saturday.

Yep, we did that.

Going to the zoo anywhere in the world on a weekend is, of course, a hassle! There’s a high concentration of families with children, carriers, strollers and dogs everywhere, and this is even more true due to Taiwan’s population density. We’ve never seen so many strollers in just a few hours! And since we’re in Taiwan, why not make it a guessing game – is it a stroller for a child or for a dog? We were at a zoo, so numbers spoke for children, but otherwise it was about 50/50 (maybe even 60/40 for dogs).

Taipei Zoo is beautiful, looks like a botanical garden, but it’s unusually divided. Visitors walk along common paths, from which they have to turn into selected “zones” (e.g., birds, African fauna…) to reach the animals. Then they have to go back to the main path from that zone and find the entrance to another area with different animals.

Pandas are the most popular. And here, the common Taiwanese activity – standind in line – showed its true colours. In this case, lining up for a photo of a panda lazily lounging behind glass. We unanimously agreed not to join the queue. We took the side entrance straight to a souvenir shop… and behold, who coincidentally also had a view of the panda without having to wait?

We were most interested in the section with native fauna, where there weren’t so many people. It’s quite understandable – in our country people don’t usually go to a zoo primarily to see deer, hares, or squirrels (besides, zoos probably don’t even keep these species, or only a few of them). But for us, Taiwanese fauna was exotic. We especially liked the pangolin, keeping of which is a rarity in European zoos.

After a demanding day full of crowds of people, we headed back to the night markets; traditions are important. This time, we changed the location, tried Raohe Night Market, and experienced déjà vu from the zoo. It was crowded, crowded, crowded! You enter on the right, exit on the left, changing direction isn’t an option, and speeding up is impossible. Step by step equals the maximum pace. But all those interesting meals and smells! Such an end to the day is worth our sneakers being trampled on.

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  • At the time of being built, Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world, and naturally, it still holds the record for being the first building ever surpassing 500 meters. 🙂
  • Taipei Zoo is undoubtedly beautiful. However, objectively comparing not only with Taiwan but also with the Czech Republic, the latter emerges as one of the best countries to visit zoos (both Prague and Ostrava Zoos are of a world-class standard, leaving even supposedly more developed countries behind).
  • Standing in line/waiting is indeed more common in Taiwan than we’ve experienced elsewhere. People often queue up at food stalls at night markets (although there’s another stall selling the same thing a few dozen meters away, occasionally you’ll come across a stall selling something that isn’t available a few meters away), they wait for entry into a restaurant until being seated, or until there’s space on the bus (see the article “Almost the fourth floor“), and even in clothing stores in a mall…
  • The pangolin is a great animal architect; its scales help smoothen and strengthen the underground structure while digging tunnels forward, and they push back the excess soil when retreating from the burrow. Try explaining the concept of selfish gene to it when its tunnels are subsequently used by other underground animals.
  • In the zoo, we really wondered for a moment where the animals were until we realized that we had to enter one of the “zones.” We walked straight ahead on the main path for quite a while, thinking we would eventually come across an enclosure…



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