Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Taiwan, Day Two

On Day Two of my Taiwan adventure, my friend had classes in the morning so I was on my own for the morning. I went to the National Palace Museum, which houses all the great treasures of China that were brought over by the Nationalists when they fled from the Communists in 1948. You can read more about that whole history on the Wikipedia article (click HERE).
Already a bit pathetic about trying to ask what things were on the menu, I resorted to a Starbucks breakfast set. It was delightfully cheap compared to here in Japan, and I got this huge crusty bread thing filled with cheese and chicken and egg and potatoes- unlike anything I've ever had at a Starbucks! Really a good way to start the day :)
I was proud that I managed to get myself all the way to the National Museum by myself. I saw these somewhat strange but also a bit posh-looking houses from the bus on the way.
Main gate of the National Palace Museum
Proof that I was there, though please disregard how sweaty I am. It was probably around 37-38 degrees C that day, so in the upper upper 90's F O_o
View from the entrance to the museum. Swanky apartment buildings and beautiful green hills right over there!
The main entrance. The museum is kind of nestled in a hill, and does in fact look somewhat like a palace. When I got there it was about 10:30am on a Friday morning, and I didn't expect it to be too crowded, but BOY WAS I MISTAKEN. There were so many tour groups I had to fight to see certain famous pieces ("Jadeite Cabbage" anyone?), and spent half of my time fleeing from the really monster groups. I also attached myself to several of the many Japanese tour groups and listened to the Taiwanese tour guides explain Chinese history and art in really fabulous Japanese. Then I got exhausted of battling my way through the museum and returned to my hostel to meet up with my friend.
In the afternoon we caught a train out of Taipei Main Station to this city east of Taipei called Ruifeng, from which we took a bus to the cities of Jiufen and Jinguanshi.
Street view of Ruifeng, which you can tell is not as urban as Taipei (it was about 30 min. away by train).
Some gorgeous mountain in Jiufen, overlooking the sea.
Oooooooh the sea. I totally understand why the Portuguese called Taiwan "Ilha Formosa."
Ooooh, a perfect (hot) summer's day. That's looking west-ish, so Taipei is somewhere beyond those mountains.
Jiufen was fascinating because its hills were covered in what looked like these adorable San Francisco houses. Turns out they are family graves. I'm still trying to figure out if this occurs in China too, or if it is a native Taiwanese tradition to build these cheerful mausoleums.
Proof I was in Jiufen.
The Old Street of Jiufen. The city is famous for its teahouses overlooking the mountains and ocean, and supposedly was the inspiration for the spirit bathhouse city in the Hayao Miyazaki film "Spirited Away." We were there during the day so we didn't see the lanterns illuminated at night, but I didn't really sense the resemblance. This street was lined with vendors selling food, gifts, knick-knacks, etc. I drank almond milk (SO SWEEEEEEEEEEET) and was nearly overcome by all the various delicious and displeasing smells.
That mountain again, with hillside teahouses and such along the Old Street.
Then we went to Jinguanshi, which is over the previous hill with all the ancestral tombs. There were even more tombs on the other side! Jinguanshi is perhaps less traveled, but has a pretty interesting mining history. And it was breathtaking! Well, the nature was, at least. The city itself seemed like a relatively quiet and not-quite-countryside-but-certainly-not-urban-or-even-suburban place.
Proof that Joe, my friend, was in Taiwan. This temple was at the end of the bus route. Note the huge gold statue of a sage chilling and reading.
He found a nice place to crack his book.
Uggghh I am sooo bad at hiking, stairs or no stairs.
But the view from above the city was breathtaking.
Look at those green hills!
Apparently the mountain we were climbing was called "Teapot Mountain," though we were skeptical of the name until the very end of the day when we finally saw its teapot resemblance.
The hiiiillls are aliiiiiiive...
Joe took that one because I was too pooped to make it to the very very top. I did pretty damn well though and got to the penultimate resting area.
We returned to Taipei and went to Din Tai Fung, perhaps the city's most popular and touristy dumpling restaurant. I'm sorry I don't have any dumpling photos, but I was too busy having a religious eating experience to get out my camera.
We ended the day with "Fruits Ice Magic," which was DEFINITELY magical. This bowl was bigger than my head and full of shaved ice topped with sweetened condensed milk, mango, strawberries, kiwi, and panna cotta-like pudding. Joe and I shared it, and agreed it could definitely become a staple of our diets if only it were available in Japan and New York.


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