How is it my last full day in Taipei already? If only holidays could last as long as the hype leading up to it, right? Still, this is what makes trips like this special and why it’s important to stay as present in the moments as possible. So where do we begin?
After successfully buying breakfast from a random seller yesterday, I felt able to do the same this morning and bought some very delicious scallion pancakes with a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. These little strips were exactly what I had been fancying and, who knows, might go back to him tomorrow and try one of the cheesy-looking things he has for sale.
It’s another multi-site trip today, which started off at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial. Going into this I had no idea who he was other than a former leader of Taiwan – now that I’ve looked up a bit more about him, I’m glad I went into this semi-blind. At least this way I could admire the grandeur… and it might explain the lack of any information in the site about who he was and some of his actions as leader.
The whole area is huge and magnificent. It’s composed of the Memorial Hall itself as well as a large entrance gate, two large cultural venues and a large amount of green space. Within the Memorial Hall there is a large smiling bronze statue of the former leader as well as two militarymen standing guard.
There’s a changing of the guard on the hour every hour, which was really interesting to see. Towards the end there was a bit where the two incoming and two outgoing guards pointed their guns outwards into the gathering crowd… which was a bit startling as I was pretty much in the direct line of fake fire.
After the changing of the guard finished we walked around some of the accompanying green space and fed some of the fish in the pond. It’s a pity that we couldn’t go inside the concert hall and see the architecture inside, but I guess that’s a perk of actually buying a ticket to a performance.
From here we walked a few blocks to 228 Peace Park, a park dedicated to the thousands killed in the February 28 massacre of 1947 and the following dark events in Taiwan’s history. The park itself is lovely and the central monument dedicated to the victims is really interesting. It’s a very different looking memorial and has features such as a hexagonal paved walkway over the surrounding water and a central waterfall down to a lower level.
This park also has a number of pavilions and some dancing fountains, not sure how often these go, but they started whilst we were there so we couldn’t help but watch. I think you might know from previous posts that I’m a sucker for a water show.
Next was a trip to the first of the two buildings of the National Taiwan Museum. Sadly, two of the four floors were pretty much off limits because of refurbishment, which I would be annoyed by if the tickets weren’t priced at just 75p per person. For that little pretty much any museum is a bargain.
Apparently, during outer visit, it was the more permanent exhibitions that were under refurbishment – so we got to enjoy some interesting temporary ones (as well as one that seemed permanent). The two temporary ones on offer were about microscopic fossils and on the evolution and conservation of elephants, the former featuring some really beautiful images of what these fossils look like. The permanent one talked a bit about the history of the museum and the different people whose research into the Taiwanese aboriginal peoples and fauna helped to further understanding. It was cool how the museum used music to support this exhibit by evoking relevant moods.
Before venturing into the next building we really felt the need for lunch. We walked down the street and were drawn into a ramen joint called River 13… where we literally ordered by picking a number at random as everything was in Chinese. Man could that have gone badly, thankfully it didn’t. The hub got a rather delicious ramen with a garlic pork stock, mine was a more traditional chicken based one. If we were here longer, we probably would have started doing this more often in restaurants… then again we haven’t always been having lunches.
Refuelled with ramen (and some Cranberry Sprite) we went into the second building of the National Taiwan Museum… that it shares with the Land Bank Museum. Two museums for the price of one, if you’re interested in learning about Taiwanese banking. Aside from the exhibit that was set up in the old vault, we pretty much walked through the bank-related ones.
The National Taiwan Museum section is one gigantic room that features an inordinate amount of fossils. Seriously, the central space is shared by multiple velociraptors, a T-Rex, ankylosaurus and some kind of sauropod. From the ceiling there are pterosaurs and plesiosaurs hanging as well as some things I cannot name. Very informative and kinda insane, but in a good way.
It was when I was standing looking at some of the skulls that I must have had the most stereotypical exchanges that I am likely to have on holiday (other than an American in America remarking on how nice my accent is). A middle-aged Chinese man tapped me on the shoulder in order to remark on how tall I was, ask where I was from and then went on his merry way. It was weirdly heartwarming, specially as there was a fuck off massive sauropod directly behind me.
Next on the list was a few stops away on the red line: Daan Park. Some websites list it as Daan Wood Park because of all the trees, which would be an accurate description as many areas of it feel like a well manicured forest. As with all other parks in Taipei, I was in complete awe of the number of birds that could be seen in this park; the most common it seems would be the white egret (whose taking flight is meant to be evoked when viewing Himeji Castle).
It was great to see, at 4pm on a Friday, the large number of people using the park in various ways. Older residents were doing tai chi amongst the trees, others were using the free cycling equipment (where the pedal action was link to waster squirters) and there was a very young Chinese girl singing her heart out to the English version of ‘Let It Go’. Aside from when they’re in motorbikes (where they’re a pain), the Taiwanese people have been so lovely, helpful and well meaning. I have so much admiration for them and hope there is an increasingly bright future for them considering what they’ve been through.
The final stop before dinner(s) was the Longshan Temple. Like with yesterday’s Baoan Temple, the focus of worship in this temple is mostly on folk religion, but there are also places for Buddhism alongside the Chinese gods and goddesses. It was really busy when we arrived with large numbers of worshippers rubbing shoulders with a lot of Chinese tourists (honestly, I’m not sure I saw anyone else there who was neither Chinese or Taiwanese).
The inside was a flurry of activity that it was difficult to know who was in a queue to worship and who was standing around sight-seeing. It was that bit easier outside of the main temple, which had a waterfall on one side and a dragon fountain on the other. Honestly I think I preferred this section, maybe because it was calmer and it allowed me to enjoy the roof decorations whilst not being in the way of worshippers.
It was dinner time and time for our final night market: Huaxi Night Market, also known as the tourist night market. That was our destination, but we actually walked down the bordering Guangzhou Night Market for the most of it.
Here we enjoyed a wonderful plate of fried eel noodles (man I wish I could get non-jellied eels back in the UK for a decent price) for about three quid, a baked pork and scallion bun (not as good as the one from Roahe) and a custard filled round cake (better than the red bean version that we had in Juifen).
We did find the Huaxi Tourist Night Market, but turned back really quickly. There were no real stalls, it was mostly massage parlours and there was a place with life snakes behind glass… which also sold dishes containing snakemeat. I mean I know that this is the old red light district road… but come on. Honestly, I wish I hadn’t realised our error and went on thinking that Guanzhou Night Market was our destination.
A bit of souvenir shopping at the Longshan station underground mall later and we were back near Taipei Main station looking for a top up. Now, since I have been in Taipei there have been a lot of local fried chicken chains staring me down – so today I relented and got myself a really good chicken sandwich from Dico’s to finish off dinner. That was, by now, nearly three hours ago – so it’s time for dessert:
To be honest – I bought this a few days ago, but I wanted to make sure that I had a thing form my lists that could be ticked off today. It’s been a long time since I checked off the hachiya persimmon, or had any sort of persimmon, so I had forgotten just how honey flavoured these could be. The flesh was crisp and I really wish that I’d bought more than one. Oh well, maybe when I’m back in the area – which I hope won’t be too far in the future.
So that’s it for my final full day post, but it’s a late flight tomorrow and I have a major site to see that had to be cut from yesterday’s line-up for timing issues. Oh I wonder what it could be? See you tomorrow!