Written on 28 August, backposted to align with the date of the events detailed within
Link to relevant gallery:Taipei 2009 trip gallery, with captions on most photos
I had a couple of meetings set up on Monday at work, but the first meeting didn’t start until 10am. I woke up naturally at 7:30am, with the sun. (When I travel, I leave the window open for sunlight…it helps me adjust to the time and also to wake up pleasantly in the morning.) Since I had some time, I decided to go for a jog/run. The weather was cool, thanks to some random cloudcover and the hour, so I decided to run in the park across from my hotel. It has really nice paths with little bridges and such. I got to see the morning Tai Chi group dispersing. From GMap, I figure I did around 2 miles in 40 minutes by doing a few laps in the park, which is not too shabby for me. I was exhausted by the time I was done, though…the sun had come out, and I was a sweaty mess. However, the Hyatt has AWESOME showers, so that wasn’t a problem for long. Then, I got dressed and ready for breakfast downstairs. I hesitated to wake my colleague up. While I had Monday meetings, he didn’t, and I didn’t know if he was planning to go into the office. He didn’t know how to get to the office, whereas I know the walk to the office really well, so I also hated the idea of stranding him at the hotel. But, since I didn’t see him wandering around and he hadn’t called me, I assumed he was sleeping.
Work was pretty uneventful. I wasn’t hungry for lunch after a large buffet breakfast at the hotel, so I just grabbed a granola bar and a soda from the 7-11 downstairs. I got done with work early, so I decided to (after dropping my stuff off at the hotel, even though the hotel was out of my way) take the MRT to the Chiang Kaishek (CKS) memorial. I figured it would be a good quick trip. I also just love using the MRT in Taipei. It’s so easy and convenient, and just looking at the ads in the train station (often for American movies that went straight to DVD in the US but are in the theatres in Taiwan) is fun to me. The CKS memorial hall station, in and of itself, is beautiful and impressive. The hallway leading to the memorial is used as a rotating art gallery. At this time, it was featuring photos of street cats in Taiwan, and it gave a link where people could post their own photos to a flickr stream. I waited to peruse the photos for my way back, to maximize daylight time. It was a cool day, mainly because of thunderclouds threatening a downpour.
As you come out of the CKS station, you can see the exhibition hall above and to your right. To get to the memorial, you walk through this winding forested path. It’s very relaxing and nice. There are lots of natural stone benches and trashcans designed to look like ancient urns (but clearly trashcans when you look at the insides, as they’re lined with plastic trashbags and have a steel or aluminum interior). Then, you walk past the exhibition hall to the main courtyard. It’s a huge complex. I don’t know if my photos really convey that, but just trust me that it’s huge. Normally, there are extensive gardens as well as the parks, but the gardens were being re-done. In the courtyard and up on the balcony of the exhibition hall, there were school-aged kids practicing some kind of synchronized marching/dancing routines…kind of like cheerleaders but without the cheering or uniforms. Then I walked up to the CKS memorial building. The stairs to climb up it were daunting. I got winded halfway up and had to take a break, which wasn’t a bad thing since the view is pretty. Wikipedia’s article describes it best:
Two sets of white stairs, each with 89 steps to represent Chiang’s age at the time of his death, lead to the main entrance. The main entrance features a pair of double doors, each standing 16 meters high and weighing 75 tons, that open into the main hall. A large bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek dominates the main hall. The figure is shown smiling, seated and wearing traditional Chinese dress. Inscribed on the wall above and behind the seated figure are the Chinese characters for Ethics, Democracy, and Science. Inscriptions on the side walls read The purpose of life is to improve the general life of humanity and The meaning of life is to create and sustain subsequent lives in the universe. Representatives of the armed forces guard the main hall during its open hours. (The branch of service represented changes periodically according to a rotating schedule.) The changing of the guards take place every hour, attracting many visitors.
When I arrived, the changing of the guards was in progress. A crowd had gathered to watch. The “army” guards were taking over for the “navy” guards. It was a ceremony with alot of riflework and stomping. Once the guards are in place, they don’t move at all. They stand on two pillars to either side of the bronze statue of CKS.
After the ceremony, the crowd dispersed, and I noticed that most people were going to an elevator. D’oh! I apparently could have taken an elevator. 🙂 My guidebooks hadn’t mentioned that the CKS memorial actually has an exhibit hall built into it (in addition to the exhibition hall that is part of the complex), and the exhibit hall is on the first floor, whereas the statue is on the top floor. The elevator goes between the 1st and 5th floors. So, I waited in line for the elevator and took it down to the hall. The exhibition hall was showing a space exhibit about exploration (Link to an article about the exhibit). The space exhibit was pretty cool, except I couldn’t understand any of the signs, so I had no idea what was going on most of the time. It started with the “hall of mirrors” that showed famous historical astronomers. Not shockingly, the historic figures were not entirely familiar to me, as they were Chinese up until Newton. Also, the dates on the figures’ info cards were in dynasties, not Roman dating. Again, this shouldn’t shock me, but it did catch me offguard.
There were 3D exhibit displays showing the way the planets relate to each other. They also had this kind of cool projection screen room where various philosophers and historic figures were talking to you about what they did and about space, but I couldn’t understand any of it. There was a hallway decorated with paintings of clouds and dragons, with sparkly decorations and projections on the floor so that it seemed like you were walking through the clouds. There was a room focused on sound and how sound travels in space. But, perhaps most interestingly, there was a room showing a 3D movie called Quantum Quest. It was voiced in English and the subtitles were in Chinese. So, I sat and watched it for a bit. It was so odd. There was this weird little orange neutered dragon man who I guess represented a light particle, and he was trying to fight some other kind of particle, and along the way, he was learning about planets or something, or how NASA measures planets. It was very confusing. Then, without much transition, it switched to being a “behind the scenes” about the movie, with Chris Pine talking about how much fun it was to work on it, and Amanda Peet talking about her experience, and Mark Hamill saying that it was interesting to be the villain, a real departure…and I’m just like, WTF??? Why are all these American actors doing some movie playing in a space exhibit in China? But, if you click that Quantum Quest link I made at the beginning of this, you can read about the film’s origin. I guess it’s being released for IMAX in China this fall.
After that, I did some shopping in the gift shop and then left the hall to explore the park. (Link to the official site for CKS memorial hall) There are two little parks to the left and right of the hall. Here’s a quote from the official website that describes them better than I could:
On the right and left sides of the park are the Yunhan and Guanghua Ponds. The Yunhan Pond derives its name from the 4 Chinese characters: ?hanying yungen? written by Chu Yi-hai, the Jianguo Luwang of the Ming Dynasty. The words ?Guanghua?,signify the Restoration of China. Each pond is 3000 square meters in size. Both ponds are man-made in irregular shape. The combination with artificial mountains, man-made waterfalls, and arch bridges, creates a beautiful scene. The ponds contain a variety of carp. These were donated by General Ho Ying-ching and other carp lovers, from both home and abroad, when the Hall was first opened.
I thought they were koi, but I guess they were carp. Or are carp and koi the same thing? Hmm. Something to Google later.
After I sat near the pond for a bit (Guanghua pond, to be specific), I wandered back to the train station and looked at all the Tamsui Cats photographs in the exhibit. Then, I took the train back to the hotel. I decided to have Din Tai Fung for dinner (yay!), and I took a cab from the hotel to DTF and back again when done. I had spicy shrimp bags, and I found out that DTF has a location outside of LA now. Yay!!!! Granted, I’m sure the prices aren’t as good ($9 buys you a huge dinner at DTF in Taipei), but at least I can get yummy soup dumplings without an international flight! 🙂 Here’s a link to the DTF USA website, where you can view the menu and offerings. My favorites are the steamed pork dumplings and the shrimp and pork shaomai, or, as I originally learned to call them, “spicy shrimp bags”. 🙂
So, there’s nothing much to report for these days. I went to DTF again with work friends. I ate squid for lunch one day and I had beef noodles for lunch another day. I had lots of meetings that made me exhausted at the end of each day. I went running again once, and I swam in the hotel’s pool. On Wednesday night, I went to New York, New York which is a big shopping complex near the 101 that promises American brands. I’d never been before for the obvious reason that I can get American stuff anytime I want, but I decided to check it out. It was kind of hilarious…exactly the stereotypical worship of American brands that you would expect. But the best part was the Mister Donut at the bottom of the complex. I got an assortment of mini-donuts (even smaller than mini-donuts here) in the local flavors. I had a sesame spice donut, a red bean donut, a strawberry donut, and a mango donut, in addition to the more normal powdered sugar and chocolate frosted donuts. 🙂 They were all tasty. The sesame spice was particularly good, kind of a mix between a bagel and a donut.
On Thursday afternoon, a different colleague and I took a taxi to the airport. TPE airport is super-easy to navigate. You don’t have to take off your shoes or belt for security. You don’t even have to take your laptop out of your bag. The immigration process is extremely efficient, as is security. And, on the other side of security, there’s a big area of carts, for free. Anyone can use a cart as they’re wandering around. So, I grabbed a cart, especially since my bag (with laptop and 2 spare batteries as well as 2 changes of clothes) was very heavy.
There was something interesting at the airport that I don’t remember being true the last time I was there. I think they remodeled and now, all the gates are sponsored by stores. So, like, your chairs for waiting are inside a store, with merchandise right nearby. The seating areas vary in design and accommodations at each gate based on what store sponsors the gate. So, like, the electronics stores had big TVs that you could watch while waiting. The food stores had sample trays and magazines. But, the best gate was the Hello Kitty gate, and I took pictures of it. 🙂
As usual, all my photos from my adventures are in the gallery, and I captioned all of them, often with details that I neglected to mention here, so make sure to take a look. 🙂