Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Came All the Way From Taipei Today

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei

Recently, I went to Taiwan with The Old Man.

Now my country list reads like this: 'Merica, Bahamas, Mexico, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Morocco, Monaco, Italy, Vatican City, UK, Denmark, Austria, Czech Republic, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong (China sorta), People's Republic of China*, Thailand, North Korea**, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan. 26 proper countries (20 of which could even be considred real countries. Sorry, Bahamas, Canada, Monaco, Vatican, Hong Kong, and Singapore), and two more (PRC, DPRK) that I've technically been in without clearing customs.

The Old Man kinda left me in charge of travel/transit related matters, and I learned something I kinda already knew - I'm the best.

As always, click on the pics to expand. Sorry about the lighting - it was raining 100% of the time we were there.

Honor guard at the shrine. These guys put the Buckingham Palace constables to shame. They were like wax figures.

Statue of Chian Kai-Shek. You can see the two honor guards in the foreground.

Taiwan is serious about squatters. This one was on the train. I opted out by loading up on Imodium every morning.

Something the Old Man is good at - thumbs upping a pic. This is the entry gate to the Taroko Gorge in eastern Taiwan.

Bridge gargoyles at the gorge. Try saying that 5 times fast.

The gorge from said bridge.

This temple was dedicated to the hundreds of people who died in constructing the first inland Taiwan highway - right through the gorge.

Pretty awesome little shrine inside a cave near along the gorge.

A shrine near the gorge. There were tons of makeshift shrines all around, this was one of my favorites.

A bridge over the gorge.

The Pacific Ocean, from the other side. I've been in Asia a long time, but this is the first time that I had seen the Pacific proper rather than an ancillary sea. Get a raft, sail due east, next stop Baja.

Longshan Temple, Taipei

Old Man at the National Museum. This was a pretty boss museum, said to have the greatest collection of Chinese antiquities in the world. I really felt like there should have been a large statue of a middle finger pointed at Beijing outside the museum. The museum had a really interesting take on history as well. It was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Republic of China, which was China proper until 1949 and has been Taiwan since Mao took over. No mention is ever made of the PRC at the museum. It's not Taiwanese history presented here, it's Chinese history from a Taiwanese lens.

These statues of dragons with a ball under their foot are everywhere in Taipei. I sort of wondered what they represented, but it was a 4 day trip so I couldn't be bothered to find out. My camera broke right after taking a pic of this dragon, I thought it may have been the finale of Camera Number Five.

It wasn't. Here's the first pic Cam 5 took after its resurrection.


As you can see from the view at the top, construscting this sort of skyscraper in Taipei is kinda like raising this magnitude of building in Omaha. Taipei 101 is ridiculously taller than any other building in town.

Good to know.

101 at night.

Taipei at night.

Night market gate.

A stall at the market where we stopped to get a beer. I was happy to see drunks, gamblers, and whores at this market. Up until this point, I had seen zero vice in Taiwan. Taiwanese people are insanely nice, but I was starting to worry that they may be the Mormons of Asia.

Daan Station, where our hotel in Taipei was. I figured it would be pronounced Da-ahn since there are two Chinese characters, indicating two syllables. However, the locals all pronounced it "Don." Thus, these are clearly the Chinese characters for fail.

Look at the upper right corner of this vending machine. Chi-town represent!

This was a pretty cool pack of dogs we ran into.

Hey, you can't have a photoblog of a Chinese region without the requisite panda shot.

Endnote 1: So, why am I so awesome at travel? On our way out of Taipei, The Old Man and I got on a bullet train to the airport without really paying attention. After a few minutes, I read the list of stops on its signboard. The airport was not one of the stops. I acted quickly and got us out of the train. Once on the proper train, I noticed several locals who had been on our original train boarding ours.

From the train station, we took a bus to the airport. We didn't know if we were flying from Terminal 1 or Terminal 2. The bus driver told us to get out at Terminal 2 for Cathay Pacific. However, the sign on the bus and at the airport said that CX was Terminal 1. English signs at the Taipei airport only speak in airline codes rather than proper English names. I was 97% sure that Cathay is CX despite the bus driver's suggestion (and 3% sure it was CZ, which of course was terminal 2). Turns out I was right, as any airline nerd reading already knows. For the record, CZ is China Southern.

Endnote 2: Taiwan was solid. Maybe I'll move there. It felt more Southeast Asian than Chinese, and I love Southeast Asia. Of course, nobody would ever confuse Taipei's nightlife with that of Bangkok, Tokyo, Bali, Seoul, Hong Kong, or even Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Hell, from what I saw of Taipei, I'd rank its bar scene somewhere below Daegu. While chatting with an Aussie dude who lived there, he said (and I agreed) that the locals are nice as hell, and it rubs off on the foreigners, so most every foreigner is really nice too. I mentioned that Koreans are a lot of things, many of those things positive, but aren't exactly famous for being nice. Maybe there's a similar local influence here. Most every whitey I've met in the Korean provinces has been weird, and most every one I've met in Seoul has been a dick. Clearly, I include myself in this category as well.

In conclusion, Taiwan is a land of contrasts, or as the Indians called it, maize.


Jae-hak said...

it looks like i totally take requests. last post, a comment requested a Taiwan piece, and bam, here it is. feel free to make your own requests. of course, it helps that i was already balls deep into writing this Taiwan thing when i saw the comment requesting it. jokes aside though, i will consider requests. last week of nov is locked down, but i'm open to ideas the next 2 weeks.

Paul said...

Thanks for the memories as Bob H would offer. The Road to Taipie was very good. You didn't mention the dude whose seat you took on the train without any incident. Those folks were exceptionally nice.