Monday 19 March 2018
Arriving in Taipei early afternoon, Sylvia went straight into a meeting while I settled into the Sheraton Hotel. It had been 15-plus hours since we boarded in Copenhagen. Things sorted, I took a stroll east along Zhongxiai West Rd several blocks heading south, passing through Daan Forest Park with its large roller park and other entertainment including a small open air concert stage. Along the way I passed a very orderly protest with a bunch of oldies all seated on stools behind a barrier while a guy squawked into a megaphone while a similar number of security guards looked on.
Striking a built up motorway I took a while to find a bridge over it to reach the river. As suspected there is a footpath along the riverbank. Alongside it there is also a cycling track. The area is well kept and quite a pleasant place for a stroll. Following the river for several kms with light fading I cut back across town towards the hotel This route took me through a Youth Park with lots of tennis and squash courts alongside a baseball pitch and other sports grounds; all is tidy and well kept. Next I came across the Botanical Gardens which are well laid out and very tidy. By now it was way too dark to take photos.
Tuesday 20 March 2018
I spent most of the day writing about Denmark. As the evening arrived Stan, who runs Taiwan and Hong Kong for Royal Canin invited me to join the crew for dinner at a very nice local restaurant. The area had once been a brewery and had been turned into an entertainment area, which even included a famous Russian character which Svet and Tatyana from Russia were quick to point out.
Wednesday 21 March 2018
One of the team had recommended a visit to the National Palace Museum. Apparently many of the exhibits were brought here by Chiang Kai-shek and his crew, having being removed from Beijing prior to it being handed to the Japanese in 1937. The city was handed to the Japs to preserve it from being destroyed.
I decided to walk and have a further look at the city – this town has really wide streets. Lots of the main roads have had a motorway built in the middle above the existing road. Like most Asian cities motorbikes are at the front at the lights, roaring off in front of the rest of the traffic as the lights turn green – surprisingly very few are blowing smoke. There are lots of bike lanes here but like in Auckland few push bikes use them.
Reaching the river I find a continuation of the cycle and walking track alongside it. Next to the track is a 6m-plus flood wall with remotely operated gates on the drains, which close during flooding to stop the buildings on the other side from flooding. From here one gets a good view across the city with Tower 101 standing out in the distance. The suspension bridge along the river looks like a great piece of engineering.
A road tunnel took me under the hill to the palace museum. Its facade is impressive with large arch gates and a wide path leading up to the entrance.
The place inside is quite big, divided into many different galleries over four levels with a range of artifacts, some dating back over 5000 years. I always wonder when I come to a place like this whether these exhibits will still be around in another 5000 years or will they all be blown up by then. Furthermore, what will people be seeing of our footprint on the planet that far out.
Some items I found of real interest were some tiki-like objects around 3000 years old that are very similar to what the Maoris produced in NZ a hundred years ago. Also their stone axe heads were similar in shape to the Maori ones.
There is lots of Chinese art dating back 3 to 4 hundred years and lots of jewellery and ornaments, some dating back over 2000 years. One interesting piece was a banner or letter appointing a general to his command that had survived around 1700 years.
On the way home I walked across the suspension bridge, which from a distance had looked clean and neat but turned out to be a bit rough when one looked at the detail. Skirting around the west end of the local airport I came to a market street selling mainly produce. It was clean and tidy with people just packing up from their morning sales. Even places selling fish out of these crammed spaces didn’t smell of fish. I am always impressed how in many of the worlds big cities people seem to be able to operate out of much smaller spaces than we are used to.
I arrived back at the hotel to meet Sylvia and her management team, as Stan the General manager for Taiwan and Honk Kong had had invited me to join in their team building activity. We were driven by bus to a place, dropped off, led into a building up a few floors and, after a debrief, 6 of us were thrown into two jail cells and tasked with escaping within one hour. The place was well set up with the often not so obvious clues spread around the cells. Once out of the cells there was a holding area we had to escape from and that done then bugger there is another room with laser beams to avoid, then safes to crack, yes and some more too. We had to get an extension of 10+ mins to complete it.
We then swapped with the other group who had been trying to solve a crime in another part of the building, finding fingerprints and names and other stuff to open a secret door and then yes there was more, lots more. We just cracked that in under an hour. I can highly recommend the escape house if a group of you are in Taipei looking for some entertainment.
After that we headed to a nice restaurant with nice views and great food for an entertaining evening where at one point each of us had to sing. I’m not sure I will be invited back to sing again.
Thursday 22 March 2018
A few blocks down the road is Taipei Main Station. From there I caught the MRT out to Tamsui, a large inlet where the Tamsui river runs into the sea. I wasn’t expecting it to be such a nice area with clean streets, well presented shops and a relaxed feel about it.
Here I discovered another market street with vendors yelling to promote their products, produce well laid out and no fish smell from the fish stalls. Motorbikes wound their way through the pedestrians, not quite hitting people. Some pretty interesting stuff to eat too, lucky I wasn’t hungry.
Back down on the Main Street what looked like a float parade was heading my way – headed by four flower covered floats, a string of probably close to 100 black Mercedes, and little trucks with signage on them with a guy on the back playing a string or wind instrument. I found out later this was a funeral parade – people send a car or truck as a sign of respect to the deceased. This guy with his photo on one of the floats must have been very important as the procession went on for several hundred meters. Following that was another, much smaller funeral processionr.
I continued along the street as it brought me out to the shoreline. Lots of little cafe’s and eating places were scattered along the way. Several kms out towards the point I came across a resort area with a couple of large hotels, a marina and entertainment centre. This included the World of Chocolate. Sylvia, Victoria and Kirstie all have a liking for chocolate so I had to check it out. Yes – just about everything from a two ton cat to terracotta soldiers were made of chocolate.
I found a path along the coast heading back which lead me into some very derelict and rough looking houses. People tended to their small vegetable patches and smiled is I walked past using my one Chinese word “nihau”. Passing a military post with automatic 40 mil grenade launchers and .50 cal machine guns set up in the unattended pillboxes I asked the guard on the gate if they were waiting for the Chinese invasion – he smiled and nodded his head.
A thing that stands out in Taiwan apart from the thousands of stainless steel water tanks atop many buildings is the cages on many windows, particularly on older buildings. There must have been some really good sales people around a few years ago selling these things.
Getting closer to the station there were lots more people around enjoying the sunshine, shopping and generally hanging out in this lovely place with its views across the river mouth.
I dropped into a massage place and had a good hard leg and foot massage before heading back to the hotel for a quiet evening.
Friday 23 March 2018
Not far from the hotel is a large area containing the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial and two large concert halls on some manicured grounds.
As one enters the memorial there sits a large statue of the man, on each side a soldier stands stiffly at ease with his chromed M1 Garand with two bits of plastic tape holding the bayonet in place.
Heading down several flights of stairs there are three levels under the statue with galleries of various kinds. On the bottom floor is a huge hall telling the story of Chiang Kai-shek. Interestingly he did a lot of his military training in Japan and was exiled there early last century. Apparently in the early part of WWII the us were backing him in his fight against the Japanese but changed to back Mao Zedong who kept most of the major weapons supplied to fight Chiang in the cultural revolution. Interestingly there were a number of awards made to Chiang by central and south American countries such as Guatemala and Argentina.
In the afternoon we flew to Singapore for the weekend then on Sunday I headed to NZ and Sylvia to Japan. Our next trip is to the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane to watch daughter Kirstie race in the track cycling.