Day 10 – Taipei

I got up, and when Ola got up we both set off. Although she was taking the bus, and I had decided to walk the city. So we split off, and I walked. I walked and walked and walked. Started out heading west to get to the Forest Garden, but when I came across Daan Street I saw that there was a path through this small section of trees headed up through the middle of the street. I figured that Taiwanese may just have a weird concept of what a park is, and started walking up that. After a while I realized that I was just on a side street and I actually needed to walk another two or so blocks more West for the park. I caught this by the time I was North enough to the top of the park, and so I walked West again and took a short detour through the park. I found a large building, the CKS Memorial Hall, which was kind of excessively gigantic. Reminded me a bit of Paris, with huge buildings somewhat in walking distance of each other, and urban sprawl filling in the between sections.

The main museum wasn’t yet open, but I didn’t feel like waiting 2 minutes, so I walked around and up this large stairway. That was lucky because they opened up the section on top and there were some guards there doing some choreographed marching. They were impressively good with twirling around their guns. They were standing in front of this large brass guy sitting on a throne, much like the Lincoln memorial. I assume that guy was CKS.

From there I walked to the National Theater, another large building, but couldn’t go in. And then walked up to the Peace Park, which was a small walk. They had a small section with these stones sticking up out of the ground, this was for walking over for foot therapy. I decided I didn’t really need to. The National Museum at the top of the park was closed until 10, so I skipped that. Walked to the area with the Red Theater, which was the Ximen area, although I didn’t go through the major section of Ximen. Instead I found some Pearl milk tea and continued walking.

Got to the Longshan Temple, which was a huge temple and it was very very crowded. I still don’t understand what exactly is going on with Asian religion, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out along the way. As it has been explained to me, I’m under the impression that praying is much more about asking for good fortune, as opposed to a way of giving thanks (which seems to be more of a Judeo-Christian thing).

So I walked around a bit more, but decided to go to the Snake alley a bit later, since it was the morning and surely nothing would really be happening. I took the MTR (the subway) up to the northern area of Taipei. From there I visited the Confucious Temple and the Taoist Temple. I couldn’t really tell any difference between the two, which confused me. I also didn’t really find anything relating to the Tao Te Ching which I read in high school. A little disappointed, I decided to continue walking. I wanted to get up to the riverside so I could take a picture of the Grand Hotel, but it was just a huge failure. No matter where I walked, it seemed to be either blocked off or under construction, or just some sort of dead end. Walked past the art museum but had no interesting in going in. Somehow I even passed a taxi resting station, which must be where all the taxis go when they sleep. The park was under construction too, so I couldn’t walk through it.

Eventually I found myself on the map and I headed east to where a Tourism Beauro was on the map. I went in and talked to this guy about where the typhoon hit, and about how to get to the various places I was taking day trips too, and how I would go about renting a scooter to get to Hualien. He suggested I take the bus or train down to Hualien and rent the scooter there, and that seemed like a much better plan. And because the typhoon had hit only below Taitung, I wasn’t going to drive further south than there. He gave me a million maps, which was nice but added a lot of weight to my pack. Then I decided to take the station over to the Shilin night market area. I wanted to try to get to the Grand Hotel again, so went up a secret pathway with signs to the hotel. I think it was the servants’ pathway because I ended up in some back area of the hotel. Walked around front and inside and took a bunch of pictures. From what I hear this place is actually restricted and unless you have a reservation you are not supposed to be there, and the only people who can get reservations are either rich, politicians, celebrities or all of the above. But I looked like I knew what I was doing and no one stopped me.

Headed back down and went to the food square of the night market. Walked around for a while because I was undecided on where to eat, but finally stopped somewhere. Got some kind of “BBQ” beef with some other stuff grilled on a huge flat grill in front of me, very much like Benihanas. It was alright. And Taiwan beer doesn’t have much to be said for.

I Headed back. It was dusk, so I wanted to go to Taiwan 101, the very large building. While on the way, I was walking behind this modest looking girl with plain glasses and a nice blue dress with a simple floral pattern on it. Suddenly there was a large gust of wind and it blew up her dress to reveal some very sexy black underwear. That was a bit interesting.

Anyhow, I got to the building, and though it was a bit pricey I went up anyway. I had missed the sunset but got some dusk photos, and stayed up there until there were lots of lights and I took some great long exposure shots using my camera and the small tripod gizmo I had with me. I spent a long time doing this, and noticed that actually in some of the shots it was blurry because the actual building moved slightly.

After I was satisfied I saw the big counterbalance, and then walked back to the apartment. On the way back, I started to notice people either moving away from me or holding their hand up to their nose. Maybe I was paranoid and just noticing this, or maybe people were concerned about catching H1N1 from foreigners, but I started to think I smelled pretty bad, which was probably true but I couldn’t really tell. Anyhow, went back and took a shower.

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