Maria Holland

Chiang Kai-Shek, Sun Yat-Sen, and Abraham Lincoln

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Today was the first day I got to see Taibei with a native.  This summer, I had a Taiwanese language partner at the U of M, and when I told her I was going to be visiting her country, she set me up with tour guides for both Saturday and Sunday.

Carlos, Keiko, and I met our guide, Wesley, near the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.  The entire area includes the Gate of Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness

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as well as the National Theater and the National Concert Hall,

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but the main attraction is the memorial itself. 

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While the outside is distinctively Chinese, the statue inside is reminiscent of nothing more than Lincoln (although Chiang Kai-Shek is smiling).

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We got to watch the changing of the guard, which featured a very distinctive marching style and a rifle-tossing exhibition.

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It was really cool to see all this with a Taiwanese and to hear his perspective on the history of Taiwan, which I don’t know a ton about.  I found it really interesting to think about the course of history if Taiwan – a fairly large island (as islands go) conveniently located not too far off the coast of China – hadn’t been there for the KMT to retreat to.

We met up with Wesley’s sister, Becky, and her boyfriend for lunch.  I think it was dimsum, a type of Cantonese food – enormous jiaozi and baozi, a delicious stuffed pastry, and fantastic meatballs with sticky rice.  For dessert, we had 豆花, which is a soup consisting of sweet soybean pudding (almost tofu) and ice, and I also got the chance to try a drink made from pure sugar cane. 

After lunch we went to the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial.  It also featured a Lincoln-esque statue and guard, plus a museum with English-speaking tour guides!

We then went to Taipei 101 (tallest completed skyscraper in the world) for some shopping. 

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Most of the stores were the kind that are ridiculously expensive even in America, but I did find the most wonderful bookstore, with shelves and shelves of English books.  You know me and book stores . . . I bought the newest David Sedaris book for me and another book as a gift.  We didn’t go up because it was really expensive (over $10 US) and because due to the weather, the highest levels were closed to the public. 

For dinner, Wesley took us back to the Shi Lin Night Market, where we got to explore everything it had to offer. 

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The place is actually huge, so I’m glad we went back and gave it a second chance!  In addition to many delicious treats – Thai green papaya salad, a new mystery fruit, juice, etc. – I had my least favorite meal in Taiwan.  It was called an oyster omelet, but I got mine with shrimp.  I expected egg and shrimp, but they also added a ton of corn starch, which turned into thick, chewy, gelatin.  Then it was topped with some sauce that tasted – I swear – like strawberry jelly.  Not a fan . . .

Beyond the food part of the night market was street after street of shopping stalls.  I bought two beautiful pashminas for about $3 each and a classy watch that will still cover my tan line for $6!

We were pretty tired by then, so we said goodbye to our wonderful tour guide and went back to the hostel.  Some of the other guests went out to a club but I was too tired.  Anyway, I just wanted to dance, but clubs in Taipei have a 600NTD ($20) cover charge, in return for all-you-can-drink. 

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