Friday, 20 January 2012

Taipei, ni hao!

Time to travel! Kan picked Penny and I up to travel to the high speed train station.  It was a nice drive, past rice patties, pineapple and sugarcane farms and a “banana hamburger” store.  Upon arrival to the station, I had my first hamburger for breakfast!
MOS hamburger for breakfast!
 MOS burger is a Japanese chain that is one of Penny’s favorites.  I tried what she called the “hamburger” and it was on a bun with lettuce but there wasn’t any meat- I think it was an egg and pepper mixture.  They also call the beef patties on a bun hamburgers but she said people don’t eat those for breakfast- that’s more of a lunch and dinner food.  She also brought me some New Years Taro treats to follow up the burgers.  Yum.
Taipei train station- HUGE!
After a surprisingly uncrowded train ride, we were in Taipei before I knew it.  And we arrived in the biggest train station I've ever been in- three layers for subway, high speed rail and regular rail.  But then food court, several underground malls, post office, grocery stores, tourist office... and it goes on and on.  We went to drop my luggage off at my hotel which is centrally located and very close to the metro station.  Sally called (related to my old boss) and she became available tomorrow so I look forward to sightseeing and having lunch with her husband tomorrow.  

Penny and I at the National Palace Museum
Then Penny and I went to the National Palace Museum, which filled with the most beautiful Asian Art.  Calligraphy, long scrolls of Chinese painting pottery, carved rhino horns, teensy scenes carved in ivory, painted fans... Many amazing pieces that I've never seen in the US.  One of my favorite things was "curio boxes" which were boxes filled with ivory trinkets, poetry and random stuff but the boxes unfolded in special ways with multiple secret compartments.  I also was entertained to find several "cricket boxes" because the ancient Chinese engaged in cricket fighting apparently!
I was amused that one of the most famous attractions in the whole museum was a jade piece of cabbage and a jade rock that looked like meat.  We couldn't bring cameras inside but here's a photo just so you can experience the magic of edible things in semi-precious stone:


So that was excellent and there was a whole second exhibition hall, legends of Western mythology, selected works from the Louvre, but we felt cultured enough for the day.  We did some complicated language exchanging- trying to explain "cursive" and "nymph" were pretty epic challenges.  I don't think I ever succeeded with nymph- using "playful" and "otter" to describe the more carefree type goddess just opened up such a can of worms, she's going to ask google about that one.
Temple decked out for the New Year
We walked around a bit and went to get lunch at one of the many Night Markets.  Even though it was daytime and most things weren't open, it was still crazy- people flying down the small streets on their motorcycles, bikes, people cooking, people eating, people trying to get you to try things.  We had noodles for lunch and of course we had to have one last tea together on the way back to my hotel before she had to go back to campus so she can join her family for the holidays.  Random aside about Penny- I asked her where she got her American name and I guess her elementary school teacher just picked it for all the children and they just keep those names!  Forgot being a college physics professors- apparently Taiwanese primary school teachers have all the power!  I can't imagine choosing a permanent name for several dozen students each year.
Anyway, we said our goodbyes and she left me with an awesome Beauty and the Beast thank you note.  Now she's on the train and I'm watching Taiwanese karaoke as I update y'all.  Hmmm... not sure what I'm going to do next- postcard hunt in the underground mall?  I don't want to make the same mistake as India and leave without them.  Bye bye!