Friday, February 14, 2014

Taipei – getting to know the city a little

We completely overslept this morning, day 2 of our Taiwan adventure. Perhaps our jetlag experiment didn’t work… or we just were really tired from our journey. Actually, I think it may be the latter, because it’s 22:15 as I start writing this post and I think I am suitably tired, but not exhausted and I think I will sleep well tonight again. I think we’ll know for certain tomorrow, but no signs of jetlag yet. Fasting seems to work!
Today our missions were:
·         Check out the Taipei MRT (Mass Rapid Transport)
·         Go see the Taipei 101
·         Go to the Shilin night market
·         Get a little lost
We succeeded in all of these. We were initially planning to go find the Shilin district to make sure we could get to it later this evening, but when we got on the train we decided it was a doddle and wasn’t necessary. Being from gas guzzling South Africa, I’ve had very little exposure to tube travel, I’ve been on the London underground a few times, on the Paris metro once, and on the Cologne and Basel trams before but I don’t think any of these can really beat the Taiwanese. This place works like clockwork. Queues pained on the platform to suggest where to board and get off the train, I’m sure London didn’t have those when I was there.
The train itself was super clean and almost too symmetrical. As I looked down the length of the train, I thought I was in a mirrored elevator, where the image repeats forever. It doesn’t help that the culture is so homogenous here…
I saw an advert for “Comfort Women” in one of the stations… what’s with that? There were signs in the train about sexual harassment, it’s surprising in such a law abiding country! I also remember hearing the train’s motors whining like an unhappy puppy…interesting.
Old Taipei South Gate
We got out at Taipei Main station and decided to walk one or two stations down towards the old city. We walked past the Presidential building, but unfortunately it was too late to go for a tour. There were military police everywhere, it was the government district, but still there was a guy guarding what looked like a bulletin board… what the…? On the other side of the wall, on which the “bulletin board” was hung, there was a severely dilapidated single story building in what looked like a traditional Chinese style architecture… what the…?
We then saw the old south gate of Taipei, which is an impressive old building; unfortunately it was now a traffic circle so we could not access it.

National Theatre Building
We then continued on Aiguo Street towards the National Theatre… now that is one impressive building!

And around the corner was the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial. Another imposing building!
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
With a much larger than life statue, and 2 guards with an hourly changing of the guard ceremony, which we missed.
Chiang Kai Shek in bronze

We then looked around the museum two floors down, where we met an interesting guy who told us about the exhibition of calligraphy there. He also said we should go to one of the hot spring spa’s north of Taipei, which we may try tomorrow. We went downstairs to buy a few curios, and saw a girl stamping her “passport”. It seems that all over Taiwan places produce stamps for you to say that you have been there!
So of course I bought one, and have been trying to find stamps for it ever since!! There’s something about a passport full of stamps ;)
We then went in search of lunch and walked down a random street into what looked like a mom and pop diner serving deep fried chicken and veggies with soup on the side. Yum Yum. We tried not to eat the rice ;P and it was only $100 something like R40. It reminded me of KFC, without the salt and the batter and the horrible tasting secret herbs and spices. It was just good crispy chicken. And the soup!! Wow, it was in a huge cauldron with what looked like chicken, celery, seaweed and egg in it. It tasted divine.
Yummy something lunch
Taipei 101 was a bit disappointing as it was overcast, so the $500 would have been wasted. The mall was a mall like any other, once you’ve seen a mall, you’ve seen ‘em all.
A rainy Taipei 101
The public art in Taipei has been fantastic, it seems like it’s everywhere. From oil paintings suggesting pictures of trees, birds and dragons, to these changing photographs shown below.

Public Art Changing
If I remember correctly it’s about the connection between age and youth.

More public art changing
As the images change each block has text or other pictures displayed quickly. Some poetry no doubt.
The Taiwanese seem so friendly! On the train we met an old man promoting a free Taiwan recognised as a state by the rest of the world. I get his point, but what do you do about it. China is huge, Taiwan is small… I know it’s much more complicated than that, but I don’t know enough to hold an opinion.

Cabbage omelette something
The Shilin night market is huge, we got off the train and went towards it, but missed the main market place for at least an hour while walking around the other shops in the district. It was vibrant and busy as expected and the food was everywhere. We had a few things which we have no idea about, but they tasted good. I think the first thing was some kind of omelette with cabbage and spicy salt. We had something else that looked like squid encased in jelly and deep fried, tasted good. We then had a pile of veggies packed into a cone and smothered in batter, also deep fried, also yummy. We then went looking for veggies and found the “real” market and it’s food court. But we were almost full and there were very few veggies to be had, but I see another trip in the near future.
Renalda holding some sweet ginger tea
There were other interesting things like pigs livers and hearts and chicken “runaways”/walkie talkies/ie chicken feet. We found a place to serve us what looked like a pile of spinach on top of another pile of garlic, with some broth on top…did I say yum? We also found some sickly sweet ginger tea.
We couldn’t finish it between us. And I finally found a decent portion of veggies, broccoli, cabbage and seaweed, steamed and mixed with a spicy salt. The seaweed was fantastic.
After that, home time.

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