Weather: It looks like I went over at a good time as the weather was relatively calm most of the time with 70 degree days and cloudy to partially cloudy days in Taipei. My mom's house in Taipei didn't have air conditioning, but it never really felt too warm or cool while I was indoors. Further south though around Kenting, the humidity definitely stepped up quite a bit to make it feel hotter than the temperature indicated. While we were exploring around Kenting National Park, my brother and I were wearing t-shirts and sweating like dogs, and we couldn't understand how the native Chinese people there could bear to be outside wearing what seemed like thick jackets o_O I guess those people just get use to it over time.
Taipei: For whatever reason, Taipei looked, felt, and smelled a lot cleaner this time around from the last time I remembered. The traffic though was just as crazy as I remembered before as driving in the city reminded me of a continuous game of chicken as drivers would test each other's will to see who's most willing to take any small crack or opening in the busy traffic to get ahead. I'm impressed that despite these driving habits, I didn't see any accidents over the entire trip. As before, scooters were abundant everywhere since owning a parking space probably cost as much as having a house in Taipei.
Taipei 101: Before I got to Taipei, I didn't know that Taipei 101 was currently the tallest building in the world, and at first glace from far away, I didn't feel that it was actually that tall. But once I got up close, well, it was pretty tall :P The stacking trapezoid parts of Taipei 101 I think disguises the fact that there were 101 floors to the building. There's a 5 floor mall built adjacent to Taipei 101 for clothing shoppers, and on the 5th floor, the public can buy tickets to the observatory on the 91st floor. I figured by this point most people in Taipei had probably been to the observatory, but the day that my brother and I went, it was still quite a madhouse to line up to get into the two elevators that go to the observatory. Another interest fact was that these two elevators are also the fastest elevators in the world, and I had no doubt they were fast as we got to the 91st floor in about 30 seconds. The ride in the elevator even had its own little show as the lights would dim and the ceiling of the elevator had a fiber optic show. There was no windows to the outside, so I couldn't really judge how fast the elevator was really going except for the elevator LCD that pictorially showed where the elevator was relative to the building. But even with that, I never really felt that the elevator was going that fast, and then magically, we were on the 91st floor. And as you can see from the pictures, the view from the observatory was very very nice :)
Taiwan High Speed Rail: Apparently, a lot of my parent's friends had said that the new high speed rail had its problems, but the two times that I rode it, it was quite a comfortable experience. The train had a top speed of 300 km/hr, but it was silky smooth and very quiet, so you wouldn't think you were going that fast were it not for the windows showing the blur of everything the rail passed. Similar to an airline seat, you reserve your seat ahead of time when you buy the ticket, but unlike a couch class airline seat, the rail seats were comfortable and had plenty of legroom. A trip from Taipei to Kao-hsiung takes about 90 minutes, so if you ever want to head to the southern part of Taiwan without the hassle of going through airline check-in and such, check out the High Speed Rail.
National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium: If you happen to find yourself in the southern part of Taiwan and have some time, definitely do yourself a favor and check out this aquarium. There's a little bit of something to see for everyone, whether it's fish, turtle, penguins, sharks, whales, and more!
Karaoke @ Partyworld: During the various bus rides that I took in Taipei, I would pass a Partyworld and wonder "do they sell party supplies or something?" Obviously, I was wrong as Partyworld turns out to be the place for karaoke. One of my mom's friend's daughter (let's call her B) called me to see if my brother and I wanted to go one night, and we tagged along. Partyworld was sort of like a hotel, but instead of having rooms to sleep in, each room was fitted with lounge seats, a plasma screen TV, and a computer on the side where you queue up songs. You could also call up using the room phone for food and drinks to be brought in. In terms of singing, I think I did alright, but I probably need to do some more KR practice with my endurance as my voice started to strain by the 3rd song. Some of B's friends though were REALLY GOOD. I'm sure they've done this a lot, but when a person sings well, it's hard not to be impressed. We were out till about 4 am, but even at that hour, there were still people filing into Partyworld sing the night away. Fun times :) I say for the next Houston meeting, we should include Karaoke in the list of things to do :P