Maria Holland

Posts Tagged ‘Taiwan’

I’m Home?

In Uncategorized on October 11, 2009 at 11:45 pm

The second and third times I came to China, I was fortunate enough to return to a familiar place and to people I knew.  When I arrived in Xiamen a month and a half ago, though, neither of those were true.  Yet in the span of that month and a half, Xiamen has come to feel like home.

I have a fairly fluid concept of home.  As a second-generation Army brat who still refuses to call herself a Minnesotan after living there for 15 years, I can’t point to one house, city, or even state as my home in the way that a lot of people do.  To me, home is characterized by several things, most of which can change location fairly rapidly or even coexist in multiple locations at once:

  • People I care about and who care about me
  • Familiar surroundings
  • A private bathroom, all of whose occupants I personally know – this is surprisingly important to me!
  • A long-term purpose (studying, working, etc., as opposed to traveling)

Anyway, as the time of my departure from Taiwan approached yesterday, I found myself looking forward to returning home – to my familiar surroundings, my roommate and other friends, my own bathroom and my own bed, and to my stable situation as a student.

This homey feeling was epitomized in the first few minutes after exiting the ferry quay.  I walked to the nearest bus station (which of course I knew) and while I waited for the correct bus (confirmed after a quick glance at the Chinese bus schedule), I saw two friends ride by on their motorcycle.  Later on in the evening, I went to the cafeteria and ran into several friends.  I also returned to dancing and was greeted with smiles and questions about where I’d been.  Perhaps even more telling, I didn’t have the greatest time at dancing because I’m starting to become a little frustrated with my lack of improvement.  It’s okay to show up and mess around for a few weeks, but after a month I feel like I should be getting a lot better – I’m here for the long-term, after all.

Yesterday and today are mainly filled with unpacking, laundry, and various other tasks that had been put off during the vacation – like this journal!  After a few straight hours of typing, I managed to finish my journal from Taiwan.  I’m going to link the posts that I made while in Taiwan to the fuller posts, so if you wanted to read more about something in particular, you can go to those posts (Taibei and After Taibei) and click on those topics.

As far as a little broad summarizing of the trip:

It was amazing.  I am so happy that I spent my vacation this way, making the most of the time off to see a lot of cool things in Taiwan.  I feel like I really got to see Taiwan – cities and nature – in the 11 days we spent there.  I would like to return some day, maybe in two years when the Alishan railway is open again.  I would like to see more of the east coast, preferably sans typhoon, especially the Green Island.

I liked Taiwan.  In a lot of ways, it seems like a parallel universe where China is free and orderly.  The abundance of natural resources and beauty is pretty incredible.  (Unfortunately, the abundance of natural disasters was also pretty impressive).

I also had the most wonderful travel companions.  I spent the most time with Carlos and Aleid, and we enjoyed so many interesting conversations about our countries and shared so many laughs over the ridiculous things we saw and did.

The trip was really affordable.  I paid about $200 to get to and from Taibei (via ferry and plane) and another $100 or so on travel within the country (pretty good, considering the amount of ground we covered).  We managed to keep our sleeping costs low – $110 for 10 nights!  My biggest expense was probably food which, at $13 a day, was about twice what I spend here in China.

It was also fairly convenient.  A few years ago, the Taiwanese government authorized an agency to make suggestions as to the best way to attract youth and backpackers.  A lot of their measures, like the free cellphones and discounts on public transportation, really made things easy on us.

Now I’ll end with some observations of Taiwan – the good, the bad, and the funny:

  • There are a lot of people in Taibei.  This is not a particularly novel observation, but I’m going to share it anyway.  At 6 million people, it is larger than LA by several million and isn’t too far behind New York.
  • They wear a lot more face masks.  I’m not sure if this is because of the increased threat of swine flu in concentrated populations, or just a practical measure while riding motor scooters (see below).
  • There are freaking tons of motor scooters, apparently the most in the world per capita.
  • It is very orderly in Taiwan (especially Taibei).  I made an ass out of myself twice by acting like a Chinese – standing on the walking side of the elevator, and standing in front of the door of the metro train.  In China, there are no such rules; the rule is that the person who pushes hardest goes first.
  • There is less smoking, no eating in the metro, and everyone wears seatbelts – all because of well-publicized rules with accompanying fines that are actually enforced.
  • There is so much Western stuff!  The short list: Starbucks, Coldstone, Apple, Twix, Cheetos, Kinder, facebook (!), donuts, MLB, Subway, Toblerone . . .
  • There is less staring here (although I did have my picture taken by a stranger for the first time).  I found it interesting to note that even in such a huge and diverse urban center as Taibei, there were still less people that looked different than in my small suburban town of Coon Rapids, MN.  Granted, most people in Coon Rapids are Americans, whereas the mostly-homogenous population of Taibei includes Taiwanese, Chinese, Singaporeans, Malaysians, and Filipinos, but I’m talking about appearances here.  I would have to say that the average American town, regardless of size, has more diversity of appearance than any city in Asia, regardless of size.
  • The way people dress in Taiwan most of the time actually would fit in in America.  Less high heels and frilly dresses than China and, while still present, there is less Chinglish.
  • Taiwanese girls wear more makeup than Chinese.  Unfortunately, I think that many of them take it to the extreme.  Example: fake eyelashes EVERYWHERE.  Go to a night market, and the girl selling you stinky tofu more likely than not has false eyelashes on.
  • They sell juice made from bitter gourd, which I just refuse to believe tastes good.
  • For a country that views bikinis as too revealing (which is what we were told) there is an unacceptable number of people walking the streets of Taibei in underwear.
  • There are a ridiculous number of 7-11’s.  Family Mart and Hi Life are also big.
  • There is an extremely noticeable lack of trash cans in every part of Taiwan that we went to.  If every convenience store had one, it actually wouldn’t be that bad, but the truth is that the convenience store-to-trash can ratio has got to be around 4 or 5.
  • As if it weren’t bad enough that Taiwan uses traditional characters and Wade-Giles instead of Hanyu pinyin, they also write in pretty much whatever direction they feel like – left-to-right most of the time, but top-to-bottom and (worst of all) right-to-left are also common.

Typhoons, Earthquakes, and Now Rockslides!

In Uncategorized on October 9, 2009 at 11:37 pm

We started the morning at 8 and bought bus tickets to TianXiang, which is in the center of the Taroko Gorge National Park.  Taroko is a massive marble gorge and Taiwan’s most popular tourist destination.

The gorge is pretty epic.  I hadn’t been too impressed by the pictures and I’m afraid you won’t either, because it is simply too big to be pictured. 

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We had read about a lot of exciting trails to take, but found out that most of them had been closed due to rockslides.  In fact, we decided to check one out anyway and came across a rock slide – in the middle of sliding. 

As an alternate plan, we climbed up to a nearby pagoda and temple. 

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The temple was just how we pictured Buddhist temples – in a remote, hard-to-reach mountain location, surrounded by nature and accompanied by a vegetarian restaurant.  Carlos is vegetarian and since he always lets us order meat, we ate there for a change.  The most unique dish was a soup made of lilies! 

Around 1, we set off on the walk down to the entrance to the park.  Many people had told us that it was a “3, 4-hour walk”, which caused us to make two assumptions: 1) that it was going to be 3 hours maximum, as Chinese people walk very slow and seem to quote walking times accordingly, and 2) that it was a commonly-walked path, most likely on sidewalks and such.

Ha!  We are such newbs at this whole “Chinese culture” thing obviously.  80% of the walk was on the shoulder of curving mountain roads, less than a foot wide; the other 20% was in tunnels that were sparingly lit or, more often, completely unlit.

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We took one side trail, which was indicated to be Level 1.  As the steps consisted entirely of natural rocks and tree roots and we had to go through a pitch-black tunnel, over a shaky suspension bridge, and under a waterfall, we wonder what a Level 5 trail would be like!!

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As if all this weren’t enough danger and excitement, there was the ever-present threat of rockfall. 

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One of the most famous trails in the park was closed due to a particularly bad rockfall fairly recently, so we instead got to take the scenic tour through a 1.2km tunnel.  Awesome . . .

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We trudged along, in and out of tunnels, enjoying the scenery but a little bit less as we approached the four-hour mark and were not too far past halfway.  Humbled and tired, we flagged down a car and asked the driver for a ride, which he graciously offered.  Judging from how far we drove, we were at least another hour away on foot.  Yet, as we ate dinner, the restaurant owner cheerfully told us that it was a “3, 4-hour walk” and that he himself had done it.  I guess it could be . . . if you didn’t stop to look around or take pictures, and had a flashlight and complete disregard for your life. 

We bussed back to Hualien, where Carlos and I parted ways with Aleid and took a train back to Taibei.  It felt almost like coming home, because the train and MRT stations were so familiar, we knew where to go for the hostel, and we knew our friend Alice was there waiting for us.  I even got my same room! 

Aleid’s Birthday Sunrise

In Uncategorized on October 8, 2009 at 11:32 pm

The day started with a 5 a.m. wakeup call.  We got dressed and went downstairs to meet our driver for a sunrise tour!  It was Aleid’s birthday, so it was even more special. 

The tour started with a long drive through curvy mountain roads.  The first stop was called a “father and mother tree”; we didn’t know why it was special but everyone else was taking pictures so we did too.

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The next stop was the sunrise.  We had pictured a secluded location somewhere in the mountains, but obviously forgot that the Chinese like to share these special moments with as many people as possible.  We had the pleasure of being accompanied by at least 100 other tourists, all speaking in normal conversation tones throughout.

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When we arrived, a few rays were just peeking over the mountains.

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A few minutes later, we saw the sun crest the mountains.  It was pretty cool. 

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The next stop was a sacred tree (shèng mù, not shèng mǔ, which is the Virgin Mary) that was 2,700 years old.  It was so massive I didn’t even try to take a picture of it.

The last stop, and Carlos’ favorite, was the monkeys!  They’re a native species to Alishan, and were just chillin’ on the side of the road when we pulled over.  I think they must be fed well by tourists, because they were not afraid of us at all.  In fact, they even tried to get in the car!

I took a delightfully warm nap and then we went to lunch.  I got pork fried rice, but to be adventurous we also ordered a dish of “Fried Dragon Thread”.  It turned out to be normal fried greens, but sure sounded exciting!

Our driver came around noon, so we got back to Chiayi around 2 in the afternoon.  Once there, we explored our options for getting to our next destination, Hualien (on the east coast by Taroko Gorge).  Quick, here’s a map for reference:

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There was a train directly there (passing through Taibei, but we wouldn’t have to change trains), but it cost over 1000NTD ($35).  Despite a tempting offer from an aggressive tour guide to drive us there in a taxi for the low low price of 10,000NTD ($350), we opted for a bus to Taibei.  It was only 210NTD ($7), and it left almost immediately.  I slept and read, and 3.5 hours later, we arrived in Taibei.

In Taibei, we looked for the cheapest way to complete our trip to Hualien.  We got a train headed that way for 450NTD, which means we saved 400 ($15) by opting to figure out our own route.  We only had about 20 minutes before departing, but the three of us have quick layovers down to an art.  We made a quick dash upstairs for a bathroom break, ATMS, dinner (bread), and birthday cake for Aleid. 

We started with the cake, which was slightly challenging as we tried to pass the tall, wobbling cakes between us on the moving train.  Then I ate my French loaf, with the mysterious milk (the only characters I could read) substance.  At first I thought I had just forgotten what butter tasted like, but I think it was actually sweetened.  Either way, it was delicious.

In Hualien, we went for a walk to see the city a little bit and stopped at an internet cafe, then I showered and went to bed. 

After Taibei

In Uncategorized on October 8, 2009 at 10:47 pm

This will likely be my last post until I return home to Xiamen in about 48 hours. Since I last wrote I:

We are in Hualian right now and are going to Taiwan’s most popular tourist destination tomorrow, the epic Taroko Gorge. Then back to Taibei for the night and home to Xiamen!

An Entire National Park To Ourselves

In Uncategorized on October 7, 2009 at 11:31 pm

It was hard getting up this morning because we did have a window in the room – just a fake one.

We ate breakfast at the hotel and then met with a woman who sold us a package to go to Alishan.  It’s pretty expensive without public transportation, because it’s pretty far, so we ended paying 500NTD ($16) per person, each way, to get a van and driver to take us up there.

The ride up was very interesting.  We started in a tropical zone (complete with forests of palm trees) and ended up in the cold mountains of Alishan National Park.  There was a lot of evidence of typhoon damage along the way, and some of the pictures Carlos took look like ground zero of a bomb explosion.

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Alishan feels like the location of a natural disaster.  You can tell it was popular once – for example, they have a Starbucks and a 7-11 – but the fact that both stores are closed only accentuates the abandoned feeling of the village.  It’s also very cold: around 15ºC during the day, much colder than we were expecting to experience in Taiwan. 

Our beds were comfortable and warm looking so it was tempting to stay in the hotel, but we went out instead.  We took a 3-hour loop around the park, which was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip to Taiwan. 

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It was incredibly beautiful – quiet, totally green, with a mixture of mysterious fog, blue skies, and dappled sunshine through the forest.

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The paths were all man-made and very walkable, with a good mixture of up and down.  Except for an occasional lack of maps at crucial points, it was really well-made for visitors. 

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We saw parts of the track of the Alishan railway, which is supposed to be the best way to see the park.  Unfortunately, it too was damaged by the typhoon, so maybe I’ll have to come back in two years to ride it . . .

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All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon.  The walk wasn’t strenuous like mountain climbing, so while I felt like I had done something, I wasn’t exhausted or sore afterwards.  After dark, the temperature dropped to 12ºC or so, which combined with the incredible humidity, was very uncomfortable.  It constantly felt like everything had been washed and only dried 80%.  We had hotpot for dinner, which helped to warm us up, and then returned to our warm beds. 

Fishies Nibbling on My Toes!

In Uncategorized on October 6, 2009 at 11:30 pm

We woke up at 7 again today – rather, Coldplay (our alarm) started playing at 7 and we studiously ignored it for at least a half hour.  Once we were up, we enjoyed breakfast at one of the many corner bakeries in Tainan.  The food was great – I bought a questionable loaf of black (?!) bread with bacon and some mysterious, possibly-cheese substance inside, a delicious sweet bread, and a fantastic blackcurrant smoothie.  Sometimes risks pay off!  It would have been truly idyllic, if only our location had been a little bit more secluded instead of near a busy intersection frequented by every resident on their loud motor scooter. 

We got train tickets to Chiayi for noon, which was only 40 minutes away.  In Chiayi, we were warmly greeted by agressive guides who urgently wanted to know the answer to the question 你要去哪里? (Where do you want to go?).  I couldn’t begin to count the number of times we were asked this; it was truly ridiculous and became a running joke between Carlos, Aleid, and I. 

We had hoped to use Chiayi as the starting point for a trip to Alishan National Park in the center of Taiwan, but it turns out that public transportation is temporarily down due to damage from the August typhoon.  Here’s a rough translation of Carlos’ conversation with the ticket seller:

Carlos: Can we take a bus to Alishan tomorrow?
Seller: Probably not.
Carlos: How long until the buses will be running again?
Seller: Probably two years. 

We figured out that when Chinese people say “maybe” or “probably” it means yes.  We had another plan, though, and decided to go to nearby Guanziling, known for hot springs.  We paid 300NTD ($10) to use one resort’s springs, which included “swimming pool, Supersonic Aqua Massage pool, mud pool, and fish pool”, according to their literature.  They had a few outdoor springs, which we got to enjoy together – delightful 40ºC water feels amazing on sore bodies.  The natural springs in Guanziling are muddy, and one of them was accompanied by a bucket of mud to be slathered all over before entering. 

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This was nice, but my favorite was the fish pool.  It was a small wading-sized pool filled with tiny golden fishies who nibbled on anything they could reach – namely, feet.  It was very weird.  I had to begin very slowly, putting one heel about an inch into the water and getting one nibble before pulling it back out, but eventually I worked up to full submersion for minutes at a time.  It wasn’t unpleasant at all, just . . . very weird and tickle-y. 

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After a while outside, we split up and went to the indoor (nude) springs.  They had a very nice facility, with a large muddy hot spring and a smaller, pleasantly cool one.  Aleid and I went back and forth a few times, then showered and rejoined Carlos. 

The other thing to see is the 水火洞 (Water and Fire Spring), which is a small cave where methane continuously bubbles up through water and burns, causing the spectacular and rare sight of fire on water.  The man at the information center told us it was 20 minutes away so we decided to walk, but after stopping to ask for directions that turned out to be the driving time, not on foot.  With the help of some very friendly restaurant owners, we called a driver and paid her 300NTD ($10) to drive us up to see it. 

It was really cool because we waited until dark to see it, and were absolutely alone during our visit.  It felt like midnight, not 7 p.m., as we climbed down the stairs to the spring.  Once we got close, we could see the glow of the fire, but the full frontal view was the most amazing.

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We were able to stand pretty close – close enough to feel the heat and hear the sound of the gas bubbling up through the water.  It was a really special moment. 

Out of gratitude to the helpful women (and hunger, I suppose), we asked them to prepare three of their specialties and have them ready for us on the way back.  Thus, we had a delicious and convenient dinner that we ate in the total silence of the deserted bus stop.

After returning to our hotel, I continued looking through the Lonely Planet for another treasure that we were overlooking (like we had almost missed Guanziling).  I decided Puli looked nice, with its teaching Buddhist temple and hot springs.  Carlos made fun of me for this, because it seems like every town has a temple and hot springs.  In fact, we decided that Taiwan is made up entirely of 6 things:

  • temples
  • hot springs
  • street markets
  • scooters
  • 7-11’s
  • parts that were ruined by natural disasters

Typhoons Have a Way of Ruining Plans

In Uncategorized on October 5, 2009 at 11:29 pm

We woke up at 7 this morning, hoping to leave for Hualian at 8, but the weather was not agreeable to this.  There was crazy wind and rain outside, and the east coast was supposed to be just as bad, if not worse.  We reevaluated our plan and, after a few hours of poring over the Lonely Planet guide, Carlos and Aleid and I left for Tainan.

Now a quick note on Taiwanese geography.  Taiwan is shaped like a leaf, much longer north to south (400km) than east to west (150km).  The location of the major Taiwanese cities is really easy (if you know Chinese) because they are basically named TaiNorth (Taibei), TaiSouth (Tainan), TaiCenter (TaiZhong), and TaiEast (TaiDong).  (China does this too; Beijing is the Northern Capital and Nanjing is the Southern Capital.)  Anyway, we started in the north and were now heading south.  Here’s a map, with Xiamen and Jinmen marked as well, for some perspective:

Taiwan 1

We got there pretty cheaply – a bus for 220NTD ($7) – but the bus was really nice.  It was roomy with large windows and even individual TV’s!  The ride was kind of long, but it was the perfect way to spend this rainy day.  I dozed off and on, catching some beautiful scenery along the way (as it was dry in TaiZhong). 

Unfortunately, this just got our hopes up for no reason.  Tainan was exactly like the Taibei we had just left – gray and rainy.  After getting a hotel, we started a walking tour of Tainan.  As far as we could tell, Tainan consists entirely temples and churches (at least 2 Catholic and several Protestant).  Not really my cup of tea – plus it was dark and rainy.

It was interesting to compare Tainan to Taibei, where we had just come from.  It seems more Chinese, in that it is more messy and less organized (Taibei is very clean and orderly).  There are also a ton of English-learning centers, and perhaps even a higher density of Western restaurants and stores than Xiamen.  I think the relative abundance of foreign things makes Tainan feel bigger than Xiamen, despite having only 750,000 people to Xiamen’s 2.5 million.  I like the bakeries on every corner, but otherwise was not very fond of Tainan. 

A Precious Carving of . . . Cabbage?!?

In Uncategorized on October 4, 2009 at 11:22 pm

As I was bending over to close my locker last night, I felt the building move.  I thought it was some typhoon-strength wind, but Alice didn’t feel it so I wrote it off as vertigo.  This morning, though, I found out that it was an earthquake!  The epicenter was near Hualien on the east coast, but it was felt in Taipei.  That was my first earthquake ever!

This morning I went out by myself for the first time to go to Mass.  I took the MRT to ZhongXiaoXinSheng, successfully transferring lines.  I went to Holy Family Catholic Church, which was recommended to me by some Catholic friends in Xiamen.  Incidentally, they were also in Taibei this weekend, so I got to see them at Mass. 

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The church is very big and much more modern-looking than my churches in Xiamen.  The priest was Filipino, maybe, and spoke very good English.  His homily was very interesting because he tied two topics together, one very Chinese and one very Catholic.  The day before was 中秋节, or Mid-Autumn Festival, and Chinese people have a custom of sending mooncakes to each other, which are symbolic of the full moon that we all see no matter where we are.  He connected this to the Eucharist, the other circle-shaped food that connects all of us believers, regardless of distance. 

The congregation had a much higher proportion of foreigners than my church in Xiamen, so I think the message was specifically geared towards that demographic.  It definitely resonated with me at least, being so far from all the people I care about but comforted by the universality of the Body of Christ. 

At the end of Mass, they welcomed Carmen and John (my friends) back, visiting from Xiamen, and asked all visitors to introduce ourselves.  Then we went down to another room for food and fellowship.  It was everything that I had hoped to find in Xiamen, but didn’t, so I greatly enjoyed the morning.  

After Mass, I walked back to the station to meet up with Aleid and our new tour guides, my friend’s sister and cousin.

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We began the tour with one of Taiwan’s traditional foods, beef noodle.  We ordered it with half beef, half beef tendon, just to try.  I didn’t like the consistency of the beef tendon (very gelatinous), but the beef was among the best I’ve had in China. 

For dessert, we went to another 豆花 place.  I tried a variation and liked it a lot better than the original.  Mine had a lot of shaved ice, which was drizzled in honey for sweetness.  It also had tapioca pearls and jellies made from sweet potato and taro, which I don’t like in drinks but were delicious in the dessert. 

The main event of the day was the National Palace Museum, which was good because the weather was really crappy.  (Typhoons do that, I guess.)  The National Palace Museum is pretty famous, because Chiang Kai-Shek got away with a lot of ancient Chinese treasures when he retreated to Taiwan – my guides told me that the stuff in the equivalent museum in Beijing is cheap.

There were a lot of vases, as we expected, but some interesting treasures.  My favorite was a sculpture of bokchoy, or Chinese cabbage, made out of jade. 

Jade Cabbage

Initially, I thought it was totally ridiculous, but it grew on me as I thought about it.  First of all, it is quintessentially Chinese.  Bokchoy is eaten in everything here, and I believe it is even considered to be symbolic of prosperity.  Secondly, the artistry is quite impressive.  The artist used the natural coloring variations of the jade to mimic the coloring of the vegetable. 

After the museum, we continued to a big clothes shopping area.  It was massive, but very odd – they wouldn’t let you try on the clothes, and I don’t just mean that they didn’t have fitting rooms. 

We ate dinner in a small place on the street.  It was very simple Taiwanese fare – Chicken and rice with a side dish of bamboo.  Salty and delicious.

Again, it was great to have native people show me around.  Another bonus of today’s tour guides was that we spoke Chinese more than English.  Up until today, the only new word I had learned was ‘lighter’ (打火机) when I was trying to help out another American at the hostel.  Today, though, I learned ‘century’, ‘jade’, ‘dynasty’, ‘guava’, ‘bamboo’, ‘ginger’, ‘popular’, and more!

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. 

Taibei!

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Well, it is the end of my third day in Taibei and I have been having a wonderful time. There are no lack of adventures to report on and no lack of pictures, either. Look forward to hearing about:

Of course, this will all be accompanied by my deep thoughts on Taiwan and China.

We have another day of touring tomorrow with some friends of a friend here in Taibei, including the National Palace Museum.  If today was any indication, it should be wonderful! Monday we leave Taibei for an as-yet-undetermined location.