FOURTH MOVEMENT: TAIWAN
I woke up early today to make sure I had enough time to check in at the airport and board my flight to Taipei. I took the subway to Hong Kong International Airport, checked in my baggage, and, much to my surprise, was upgraded to Business Class; previously before today, I have always flown Economy, so having my own personal space, leg room, and reclining chair with a built in massaging function was great. As the plane ascended, I bade farewell to Hong Kong and Tai O, which I saw from above before the plane turned to the west, out to the ocean. During the flight I watched Woody Allen’s latest film, ‘Blue Jasmine’, which was well done like most of his movies and Cate Blanchett’s performance was top-notch. Shortly after viewing the Penghu Islands outside of my window, we began our descent into Taipei. The plane landed, I made it through immigration, picked up my checked-in baggage, grabbed cash at an ATM, quickly found the bus to Taipei Main Station, and was soon heading down the freeway to the capital city. These events all played out smoothly and quickly, easily making this my best entrance into a foreign country yet; I do believe the experiences I’ve gained are beginning to assist me on my journey.
The bus ride took about an hour before we reached the station, from there I took the subway to nearby Ximen Station, got off there, wandered around trying to find my hostel and finally did – it ended up being right by the subway exit I used, though hidden down an alley; I did not see it at first – I obviously still have more to learn, through experience of course. After checking in, I immediately jumped back on the subway to see the National Palace Museum. Most of the museum’s collection consists of artifacts shipped to Taiwan by the Republic of China in 1949 during the civil war between the Nationalist government and the Communists. These precious artifacts aren’t the only items that fled China to come to Taiwan, I’ve been told all the best cooks came here too (which means I’ll have to be sure to taste a variety of food while I’m here), as well as many of China’s great artists – also, based on what I’ve witnessed today, I think a lot of China’s best DNA came to Taiwan as well, “Helloooo Nurse! Hubba hubba!”. Anyway . . . the museum exhibits many fine collections of pottery, paintings, calligraphy, jade carvings, bronze works, snuff boxes and bottles, and a very extensive collection rare books and documents from the Qing Dynasty. The best exhibit I saw was a collection of very detailed carvings done on ivory, rhinoceros horns, and wood; many carvings were miniature in scale, but still showed incredible detail in regards to human bodies, animals, trees, and leaves. One item, had several concentric ivory spheres in layers, so that you could rotate them inside each other. Very impressive! Unfortunately no pictures were allowed inside the museum, so all I have to show for my visit are pictures of the outside of the museum.
After spending a good portion of time inside, I went outside to walk around the Zhishan Garden. The garden itself wasn’t all well done, and I fount the most beautiful parts to be the animals within: the hungry fish surfacing above the water hoping for free handouts (as if they were New Deal babies), a white goose cleaning itself, and two black geese swimming around. After that short walkabout, I talked to a taxi driver who recommended that I visit the night market in Shilin; since it was getting dark already, this sounded like a splendid plan.
I headed over there and walked the crowded alleyways, enjoying all the sights, sounds, and smell emanating from various food stalls and people. I also checked out the Cixian Temple, which was located in the market area. It was a very nice temple with intricate designs, sculptures, and reliefs on the outside and within. During my walk around the market, I ate a sausage on a stick with a spicy and sour sauce, some thick pastry with meat inside it, strawberry snow ice, and Wuhe milk tea (earlier I had Assam milk tea and both were delicious). I then went to an underground portion of the night market that had various stalls all serving food and tables for the patrons to dine on. It also worth noting, that two stalls I saw on my walk were selling penis-shaped deserts (there was no mistaking it for anything else), which I found out of place since none of the other items on sale were really of a sexual nature – it would be more fitting to see such cock-confectionaries in Hong Kong near Temple Street than here. Eventually, I decided to head back to the hostel since it was getting late, so I got back on the subway and was soon back inside my room. I listened to some music, caught up on journal entries, and had two locally brewed beers (a Weissbier I had was particularly well crafted) before finally going to bed.