Sunday, April 25, 2010

Taipei 101 and tour groups

If you're travelling to Taipei and you fancy a relaxing jaunt to the top of Taipei 101 (at the time of writing the second tallest building in the world), and you really don't like crowds, I would suggest you don't get up with the lark, because it seems half the Chinese people in the world have joined a tour group and all want to go up there with you.

Also, I wouldn't leave it to be the last thing you ever do in the day, because the other half of all the Chinese people in the world have left it until 9pm to head up there.

I do, of course, exaggerate. It's not as if all the Chinese people in the world are trying to ascend Taipei 101 in one day. After all, we know a sizeable proportion are all trying to shove their way to the front of the queue for the Macau ferry. And all the ones whose hobbies aren't shouting or the accumulation of umbrellas haven't turned up either.

What was left was a crowd, stuffing themselves into the lift after staring at pictures of themselves superimposed onto a photo of Taipei 101. What a wonderful thing technology is. Ten years ago we didn't have the ability to take a digital photo of a bemused man every ten seconds, superimpose it onto a photo and immediately display it on a LCD television. And now we have it, all it's useful for is to annoy the people further back in the line for the lifts, who have to wait for the subject of each photo to stare at themselves on the screen, and then lumber on to the lift. It's almost as if the people running Taipei 101 felt the queue was running too smoothly, and had to inject some complexity.

Two hours later, there's nobody queuing up at the escalators, so if you do fancy some 89th floor action, wait till everyone else is at lunch.

Up top, everything is very impressive. Then again, I'm always impressed by buildings that don't fall down, so you could say that the designers of 101 had it easy. As easy as it can be to build a honking great skyscraper taller than anything ever before, in an earthquake zone. But I digress.

New additions: there's now an audio recording that you can listen to as you wander around, pointing out signs of interest. This is quite useful, although occasionally it mentions an either non-existent or plain invisible octagonal-roofed building somewhere, leading to rage and frustration.

There's a gift shop, still selling 101-branded tat, there's half a floor of overpoweringly kitsch and possibly environmentally unfriendly coral carvings, and while we were there, a woman with a seven inch thumbnail, that I assume was fake, but if not displayed great devotion to growing an Enormous and Terrifying Talon. Perhaps it's considered good luck. Much like it's good luck to tape a fruit knife to your hand, to add a frisson of that "oh-my-god-I've-just-stabbed-out-my-eye" feeling to your day.

Enormous Thumb Nail

Oh, and if you can persuade your girlfriend to break her toe and hobble around, they'll give you an extra ride in the staff lift to the external observatory level, rather than have to take the stairs. (Injured girlfriends still have to walk downstairs, mind.)


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