Saturday, 21 January 2012

Occupy Taipei

What a perfect afternoon!  Sally and her sister Emily didn't know me at all before today but everything they showed me, I loved!  It was drizzly this morning so we drove by some sights- Ximengding teenage hangout-and-Japanese-culture-appreciate area, the Presidential Office Building and the City Gate.  
The first stop was Chiang Kai-shek Shilin Residence, a home for a past president built around 1950.  And apparently, my rain dance was successful because the weather cleared up and held out all afternoon.  I learned that Dwight Eisenhower and Roosevelt visited here at some point! Anyway, it didn't look like much from the outside, and the main house was closed for the holiday but there was free admission to the sprawling grounds, probably some of the most gorgeous gardens I have ever visited.  Chinese gardens like this one, Western gardens, fish pond (I found a turtle), with an interesting insect decor theme throughout.
Reminds me of Alice in Wonderland- caterpillar with bunny ears!
I could have stayed there for hours but these ladies were on a mission to show me everything awesome!  So their legs may be little but they sure could move (Sally's going to send me some pictures with them in it to share) and on to the next place!  But not before Emily's son called wanting to speak to me so that was adorable.  He was only fourteen but his English was really good- Emily sends her kids to Australia in the summers to practice and it paid off.
Next stop was the National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.  This is a national level auditorium, symposium site with 20 exhibition halls.  We timed it perfectly to see the changing of the guard in front of the famous Dr. Sun.  My pictures came out terrible but I almost laughed out loud when the new guards settled frozen in place.  They have men who adjust the uniforms on the newly frozen soldiers to make sure they are presentable for the hour they'll be standing guard.
Apparently the random dancing and singing isn't restricted to Chiaya.  The first video is a dizzying take and goofy narration of people who weren't that impressive on camera.  And the second video is a group that's a little more coordinated.  Outside the memorial hall were all these teenagers doing hip hop, next to old people practicing Tai Chi next to middle age people doing martial arts.  Crazy country but I love it!

After that, we went to a Cantonese restaurant for Dim Sum for lunch near the City Center where there's 7 huge department stores and all the fanciest shop.  Lunch was absolutely delicious- everything in the US that claims to be Dim Sum pales in comparison!  I enjoyed chatting with them- they wanted to gossip about boys and they said with my slim figure and beautiful blue eyes, I must have many boyfriends!  They told me stories about their honeymoons and their silly teenagers (their daughters love reading Twilight- I wasn't sure how to describe the book series but as soon as I mimed vampire teeth, they knew exactly what I was talking about).
Then, we explored the Xinyi District, by the City Hall.  It was amazing just to see all the New Year decorations and variety of top shops.  We went to the Taipei 101 building, didn't go up because I'll be there tonight but it was still something to see.  All the malls were connected by above-road walkways and on one, I found "Occupy Wallstreet" has spread to Taipei!
Occupy Taipei
Another one of my favorite stops was Taiwan's largest book store- almost 25,000 square meters and six stories!  Eslite is open twenty-four hours a day and apparently people flock from all countries to see its over a million books, published in Mandarin, English, Japanese and European languages.  They had themed areas throughout and they had a whole floor for children.  On that floor, children could play with clay, paint pots, there were people taking painting classes... I could easily live there!
After some scenic walking on the way back to the MRT station, they delivered me back to my hotel so I have time to relax before my night tour this evening.  I'm just so thankful to all the Taiwanese friends I made for speaking English for me, giving me great tours and general generosity in sharing wisdom and meals.  I'm going to miss all these people but I'm still trying to convince them to come to the US so I can return the favor!