Monday, November 21, 2005

Taipei in a Day

First, the players.  I came here with my friends Peggy and Sabing, who each have family here.  Right now, in Taipei, Peg and Sabing are staying with Sabing's folks, and I'm in the (quite lovely) hotel down the street.

It was never entirely known (before we got here) how much time I'd be spending with Peg and Sabing.  One possible option was that they'd be with family all week, and I'd take day tours of the city.  It then turned out that one of Peggy's cousins offered to show us around the city.  (He actually picked us up at the airport when we got in last night, after 11:00 p.m.  Very generous, friendly people my friends are related to.)

Well.  Today the cousin was otherwise occupied, and to my delight, Peg and Sabing and Sabing's mom came by my hotel this morning and took me all around the city. 

We started at 11:00 or so -- Sabing's mom had to run an errand at the phone company.  After that, we were off, heading to the Chaing Kai-Shek Memorial.  Big huge bronze statue in an impressive looking structure at the top of some stairs.  (There will be photographs.)  Turns out, we hit the statue right at noon, when they were Changing The Guard.  Much pomp and circumstance.  A crowd of about 50 watching quietly, cameras aimed.

We left, after first walking through the museum.  From there, we walked a block or so, over to the Presidential Palace.  Didn't actually go in the palace, but snapped some pictures from a block away. 

We then grabbed a taxi to another part of town, and had dumplings for lunch.  I love dumplings.  We actually have a branch of this particular dumpling house about 15 minutes from my house, and I go there any chance I get.  Yummy juicy pork dumplings.  Sabing's mom also ordered us some Taiwanese beef soup.  There was some, er, tendon in it.  Sabing's mom said this was something of a delicacy -- being more expensive than actual meat.  I didn't eat mine.  I sorta figured that any offense that might be taken by my refusal to taste tendon was outweighed by the rather high risk that I'd retch while thinking, "Dude, I'm eating tendon."  Made mental note to find safer food to experiment with.

(Sabing's mom paid, and flat-out refused to let us pay.  The small box of chocolates I'd purchased for her was starting to look more and more inadequate.)

From there, we went over to the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial.  On our way walking, I noticed TONS of motor-scooters all parked up and down the sides of the street.  Looks like everyone has these scooters in Taipei.  And there's no prohibition against riding them on the sidewalk -- so motor scooters come up behind you while you're on the sidewalk -- just like bikes do in the US.

After the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial, we talked through a little park area (staying far away from the pigeons) and eventually walked to Taipei 101.

The 101 building is the world's tallest office building, and has various other world records -- including the fastest elevator -- as they pretty much rocket you up from the 5th floor to the 89th in about 37 seconds.  The views were pretty impressive, but it was an overcast day, so I didn't get a lot of photos of the whole of Taipei -- a hazy sort of fog limited visibility.  Taipei 101 also includes a shopping mall.  A hoity-toity shopping mall, in which all of the shops are labelled in English (and many are high-end designer names that you'd recognize).  It felt completely like a mall in America -- you could hardly tell you were in Taiwan.

THEN (man, I'm getting tired just talking about it) we can back for an hour or so of rest.  Then Peg and Sabing and Sabing's mom came back to the hotel for our evening activities.

One thing I'd really wanted to see here was one of the temples.  We took the subway (very clean, very inexpensive, easy-to-navigate) out to Lungshan Temple.  It is a beautifully ornate pagoda-style building.  I tried to take some pictures but people were praying there and I didn't want to be disrespectful.  There were several altars to different gods -- each in its own little room ... almost like storefronts in an open market.  Sabing's mom told us what each god was known for, and we saw people standing before each statue (often waving incense) and giving prayer.  One of the gods was for finding a good mate -- I saw lots of hopeful single people standing there praying.  I thought that this area of the temple itself might be a good place to meet eligible singles -- in which case, praying to this god probably does help people find the match they're looking for.  Sabing's mom sent me off in the general direction of this altar, while she marched Peg and Sabing over to the one to whom you pray if you want children.  :)

We then went to one of Taipei's many Night Markets, in which people set up small shops or stalls selling stuff to people.  This particular market is known for "snake alley," a place where you can see snakes on display and ... y'know, the less said about this the better.  Let's just say, I hope the cute little mouse beat the odds on this one.

From there, we tried to find a restaurant in a department store for dinner.  But the Department store was having an Anniversary Sale and the place was swarming with people.  I mean, the line for the elevator was 20 minutes long.  ("I think I've discovered Taiwan's national pastime," I said.)  We ultimately gave up and found a much quieter restaurant.  I had some fairly innocuous (and tendon-free!) food -- beef and mushrooms over rice.  It came with sesame-flavored ice cream, so I did get to fulfill my goal of being more adventurous with food.  And it tastes... oddly, it tastes exactly like sesame-flavored ice cream ought to.  It's weird taking a spoonful of ice cream and then tasting ... a bagel ... but it wasn't bad.

....11:30 now and I am ZONKED.  We're going to the National Palace Museum tomorrow, and I am gonna get me some serious sleep now.



mom23nca said...

Sounds like you have some great hosts.  Will you be in Taipei the whole time?  Go get a hotel foot massage if you have time, they are awesome.

rgwindland said...

Wow. You covered a lot of territory in a day, but it sounds fantastic. You are so lucky to be able to see the city with someone who knows it. Enjoy!! Rhonda

ravenlark2 said...

Very nice of your friends and their family to show you around. Sound s like some great friends there.

Just two questions....

1.) Did the prayer work? If so then you might very well have reason to return to Taipei in the future? *Grins* (Kidding)

2.) If the ice cream tastes like a bagel....what do the bagels taste like? lol

I hope the little mouse made it too but I somehow doubt it. :-(