Monday, September 06, 2010


Even more delinquent, here are a few pictures from my trip to Taiwan in April.

Above is Longshan Temple in Taipei. It is crazy in there with people and lots of lots of incense smoke. Here's another picture:

1.) Tourist-y things to note about Taiwan. Stay long enough and you will be in an earthquake. Usually they're pretty mild. I was on the 13th floor and it was a significant rocking motion, but if I'd been on the street I probably wouldn't have noticed a thing. The biggest tourist attraction in Taiwan is probably the National Palace Museum with a giant collection of ancient Chinese art. (The "National Palace" in question is the Forbidden City in Beijing. The tourists in question are Mainland Chinese.) We also went to Taipei 101, now the second tallest building in the world. Nowadays, Taipei has a very nice, very convenient subway system. Below are pictures from the Chiang Kai-Shek memorials. It's massive.

2.) Food. You would think that a week in Taiwan (a sub-tropical country) would be bad for my digestive system, the dreaded 'Delhi belly' and all. But I was basically fine, as was Sean. (Oddly enough, Japan was much worse for the both of us.) That was a relief because Taiwan is full of good (and often incredibly cheap) things to eat. Din Tai Fung (twice). Department store food courts are really good -- a giant meal for about $4 USD. Night markets. The Taiwanese love to eat. My grandparents organized a little 13 course banquet for us. And giant shrimp. I can't find the photo now, but we ate some shrimp that were larger than my hand and we saw at the night market these shrimp-like things where the front two legs extended two or three times the length of the shrimp's body. Crazy!

3.) I suppose it's true of anywhere, but Taiwan has really changed from what I remember from trips when I was a kid. The old, dirty, smelly, pushy Taiwan is still there -- in parts. But now there's a new Taiwan: clean (really clean, not just less dirty), orderly, cosmopolitan, yuppie, where the only pushy-ness is from busloads of Chinese tourists. The dog of choice is a toy poodle -- in an elaborate and adorable costume (i.e., you have a cute toy poodle, you must put him in an even cuter bumblebee costume). The parks. The fancy subway. The live MLB baseball shown on multiple channels. The acknowledgement and celebration of aboriginal culture at some tourist spots. The clearest example are the taxis. They still dart through traffic, seconds away from the a crash (one taxi ride involved a full block of driving on the wrong side of the road right in the middle of the city). But they used to be foul, full of cigarette-stick affairs. Now they smell actually good. Really good. Better than any taxi in the U.S. and all the drivers have tiny HD TVs to watch while waiting.

One last thing about old Taiwan. I went to see my Dad's old house. It's in the old part of the city -- a place that was developed early and was probably cutting-edge many decades ago but now seems pretty old in comparison to the other quarters. Across the street is still the same bakery that my Dad loved as a kid. I'd been to the house before, but this time my Dad pointed across the street and to the corner, a few buildings down. That building was (naturally) under construction, but he said very casually, 'that's where the 228 incident happened.' Holy cow. In the annuals of Taiwanese history, 228 is one of the biggest events (read the wikipedia entry about it here). As it turns out, my Dad and his family had gone out that night (to the movies, I think) and missed the actual precipitating incident.

4.) One morning, we tried to fly to Hualien (on the East coast) from Taipei for a day trip, but with poor visibility, the 20 minute flight because 75 minutes of flying in circles before we landed back in Taipei.

Crazy messages on baseball hats worn by actual tourists at the airport: 1.) "World Terrorism. Wow." 2.) "This is my Fuck Cap."

We tried again the next day -- this time via the train. Taroko Gorge is gorgeous, the kind of scenery where -- as Sean whispered to me in the car -- "that's where the pandas are!"

5.) We also went to the Southern end of the island. There are a bunch of little beach towns there (by the way, it doesn't matter where in the world you are, beach towns all look the same). And I guess it was onion season because we drove past miles and miles of onion stands.

Old Ching-era city all: