Thursday, January 03, 2008

Taipei Trip Day 3 - Protest, Taiko, Kids skating, and Temple Festival

Everyone who has been to Taipei would probably agree with me on this one thing - you can't stop eating when you are in Taipei - there is just so much yummy, cheap food you can eat anywhere in Taipei!

Breakfast Time !!!
So as expected, we began our third day with lots of delicious food =)

Our favorite - freshly-made scallion pancakes!!

This weird but yummy fruit mix - pineapples + plum embedded in baby tomatoes

Guess what I was holding? This was a bag of lemon green tea. You basically poke a hole into the bag and drink out from it! I have never drank anything from a tiny bag like this before. No wonder they say you learn something new everyday!! ;)

Taiwanese veggies.

And of coz - the must-have - breakfast milk tea, hahaha!! Whenever Mike asked me to hold his cup for awhile, somehow the content of the cup would empty itself.... Not sure why, haha ;)

Mike had to get his new favorite Taiwanese food too - the Taiwanese seaweed rice wrap!

Our stomachs might be full, but we just couldn't help lining up for more food!!~

How can Taiwanese people stay so thin with this much yummy food surrounding them?!

In the underground plaza...

We discovered an underground route from our hotel to the MRT station. It was an underground plaza with a long passage and opened space on both ends with shops lining up in the middle. We were pleasantly surprised by the energy of the Taiwanese young people on a 10am Sunday morning!!

We saw groups of young teenagers doing hip hop dancing...

Young girls gathered in a small close circle chi-chatting...

And young guys doing yo-yo. One of them said hi to us and performed a few neat tricks as we walked by.

Thoughts went through my mind...

I was impressed because first it was an early Sunday morning, while most young people in HK or in the US would probably choose sleeping over getting up. Second, they were gathering for such healthy social activities. Sure I've seen HK kids talk and laugh really loud on the streets, but hip hop dancing? Playing yo-yo??!

The only other place that I could recall seeing similarly healthy cultural, social activities was in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, where people also gathered to play drums, dance and skateboard...

I know I am weird for caring about these little details, but these little things are (to me at least) what makes a place cultural, diverse, and special!! I want my kids to grow up in an healthy atmosphere like this, instead of just caring about shopping for the most expensive name brands, playing the latest video games, etc...

MRT (Taipei Railway Transit) Revisit

We took the lovely MRT to our destination station. I think the Taipei's MRT and Hong Kong's MTR are a close tie as my favorite public transportation. Hong Kong's MTR won by a "tiny house nose" just because you can conveniently use the same Octopus card to buy stuff at supermarkets, 7-eleven, bakery, etc.

Whereas the Taipei "smart card" you can only use it for the MRT service (at least as of now). But the train system, overall is of almost equal quality of that of the HK's MTR.

I have one stupid question though - Did somebody figure out why they flip the letter - MRT v.s. MTR - to make it so confusing???! Just wondering....

On MRT they have convenient time boards and LCD TVs telling people at what exact time the next train will arrive, whereas the HK's MTR only tells people after how many minutes the next train will come. I guess it doesn't matter that much as long as the trains are frequent, right?! ^_^ (And fortunately, they both ARE!!! AMAZING!!!)

First Destination : Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is probably "China's Great Wall" of Taipei, the symbol of Taipei, a place that if you haven't visited, you can't tell others that you have really been to Taipei!

At the Memorial Hall MRT station exit, there was still long hallway with many artistic pictures framed nicely hanging on the wall, kinda like an art gallery.

I especially like this kitten cats one ^_^

Oh, and and and ..... the PANDA too!!! =)

Taipei is really a city of rich culture!! I wish there is an art gallery-like display in any of the HK MTR stations or US's bart stations, but instead, they were heavily-corrupted with the numerous weight-loss advertisements, luxurious jewelery commercials or the latest Hollywood trashy movie ads, catering to the mainstream materialism. (long sigh.....)

Surprise at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

One characteristic of the Memorial Hall is its huge court yard in the front, which serves very frequently as a place for voicing disapproval of the government, and we witnessed that firsthand that day.

After we exited the MRT station, we were immediately surrounded by a big group of people wearing white caps. We didn't know what's going on, but since they were heading the same direction to the main gate of the Memorial Hall, we just tagged along the line of people.

We then saw this sea of protesters wearing the same kind of white caps when we got to the front gate.

It turned out the people were mostly parents or teachers of small kids. They were protesting for better quality and more funding from the government for kindergarten education in Taiwan.

The protesters repeated out loud the slogans that their leader shouted with loud microphones from the mini bus upfront.

This is THE place to protest because this "Gate of Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness" (literal translation of the four Chinese characters on the sign of the gate) represents democracy and virtue in Taipei people's mind.

The ironic thing was that those representative four characters on the gate were recently replaced due to some stupid political parties' conflicts in the Taiwanese Congress, which even caused many violence episodes and injuries of innocent people.

I personally think that the stupidity of the politicians in Taiwan, in addition to its everlasting conflicts with mainland-China, are the two main reasons why Taipei could never become an international city even though it has all the infrastructure to be one. (Sad....)

The protesters saw Mike (the only white guy in the crowd, and probably also one of the only few in Taipei's city), thought he was joining the protest too, and thus was ecstatic of his involvement. Some leader guy of the protest even greeted Mike dearly, shake his hands, and asked him to take pictures together. It was hilarious!!

"Better kindergarten education!! Don't ignore our kids!! Better kindergarten education!! Don't ignore our kids!!"
We shouted the slogans together with the other protesters.

Yap, that's our first "in-person democracy experience" in Taiwan!! =) Totally unexpected but pleasant and hilarious!!

Well.... Rest of the Memorial Hall

After being dragged in the unexpected protest and injected ourselves into the crowd for 15 minutes, we sneaked out from the sea of protesters and continued with our original goal, touring the rest of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.

The first thing that captured our attention were its beautiful gardens and flowers.

Unfortunately, both the Memorial Hall and the National Opera House were being renovated when we visited, so we could only look from a distance without entering.

The huge grounds of the memorial is a favorite place for locals to gather. We saw a big group of people doing modern dance in front of the opera house.

Even the little kid danced~

Bad habit - following the cute little dancing kid with my camera~ ^_^

Yea, I wanta dance too!! hohohoho~

There is a flag raising ceremony in the middle of the ground everyday.

We spent quite a long time wandering and appreciating the beauty of the Memorial Hall surrounding. Such an amazing place for people of all ages and also serves an important social function at the same time!!

Another nice surprise : Children's Street Taiko

After leaving the Memorial Hall, I decided to switch gear and do something that was not as touristy - going to a local outdoor art park. It's not a main tourist attraction on any of the travel guide but I saw a poster about it in one of the MRT stations, so...... here we go~

This quieter station was a pretty strong contrast and nice switch from the huge crowd in Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial station =)

Let's get some drink to replenish our energy! Mike randomly picked out this delicious barley black tea from just a 7-Eleven near the station. It tastes so good that we had to take a picture to document it!! haha~

And then we heard this familiar drum sound from afar. And guess what!!?

A group of about 20 kids were performing Taiko (Japanese drums) in front of the art museum across from the art park that we were going to go.

Mike and I both LOVE Taiko. We saw a couple of professional Taiko performances by people from Japan at Berkeley before we moved to Tokyo.

Who would expect to see a bunch of little kids dressing in yellow uniform playing Taiko (pretty professionally) at the street of Taipei?!! It's really a city full of wonders!!

We later found out that they were from a children Taiko school and were doing outdoor performances that day. After the kids' performance, their teachers performed for the watching crowd as well.

I love the energy of Taiko !! The energy from the drums, and so as the energy from the motion!! Genki desu ne~

The students sat down and listened with all their attention, while the passers-by all got attracted to this lively mesmerizing performance as well !

I couldn't believe how LUCKY we were to get to watch this free, amazing Taiko street performance!!

Kids Roller-Skating Ring

Leaving the Taiko kids, on our way to the art park that is a few blocks away, we passed by another crowd of children, at an outdoor children roller-skating arena.

View of the skating arena from a distance. Some families with children who were too little to skate just camped out on the grass.

Kids preparing their skating shoes, getting ready to "go out there"!!!

Kids learning how to skate together. (Oh no!! The one at the end fell !!)

Wow... this one could fly on his own!

Teachers giving skating lessons, teaching the kids how to balance themselves.

I have seen many roller-skating places but never been to an outdoor, geared towards kids-learning roller-skating ring. Consistent with the impression that I got from Taipei so far from this trip - very energetic and cultural-oriented! See... you don't always have to bring your kids to a gigantic 27 screens theater with your oily popcorn to make them happy!!

Outdoor Art Park

As much as I like to watch kids, we couldn't just stay at the skating ring all day long. (Well... I meant I certainly could, but Mike would probably be bored to hell) So.... we resumed the walk to our targeted destination (again)~

On the way to the park, we could see the Grand Hotel from a long distance. I still think that it looks much more grand from a distance then close-up.

After a 10 min walk, we finally reached the art park, which (supposedly) features a bunch of art statues and a "blue glass pyramid". What? A "blue glass pyramid"?! Couldn't wait to see one!!

The park was really pretty and peaceful.

We saw family and friends just sitting together and chatting leisurely.

Cool-looking giant trees...

The happy couple under the happy sunlight =)

I found one of the huge stone statues!!!! (hmm... my hand..... hmm...... and my look....... hmm......) Hahaha~

Oh my gosh.... we found the blue glass pyramid as well!!

People put messages on the bottom of the pyramid. It was graffiti for sure, but somehow it looked sort of "artistic".

And the ground as well~

You can just walk around leisurely...

Or you can do what I do - poke at the top of the pyramid ;) heh~

A very funny episode that we saw while we were walking around - we saw this middle age men crowd with cameras all taking pictures of this not-so-good looking young girl. How weird!!

I wanted to capture the strangeness of the situation, so I asked Mike to casually pose in front of them, haha~ What an interesting contrast!! =)

A guy was playing with his little dog sitting on the slope in front of the blue pyramid. So cute and comfortable!!

I climbed up the slope and said hi to them as well!!

Sun was slowly setting in this peaceful park

A couple watching sunset that we passed by.

We stayed a bit and watched the sunset too... Very pretty!

LongShan Temple

Time for a drastic turn - Jumping from the local, quiet, romantic art park to a touristy, (probably) crowded, traditional Buddhist temple, Longshan Temple.

View after we exited the Longshan Temple MRT station. You could already sense the crowd from here!! And very strangely, the sun has not set here!! How weird!! I guess this was more West from the art park.

This was probably the most mainland-China-like place we have been to on this trip so far in Taipei!! Old people, bad traffic, bad air quality!!

While we were walking around the area, we saw this funny-looking scene - an auction for all kinds of ancient chinas and furniture. The participants of the auction (mostly male elders) sat on both sides of this long wooden table where the chinas and furniture were being passed along for examination. Crazy, huh?!

The temple itself was crowded with waves of waves of people.

It was apparently some sort of special ceremony for the temple that day. They had these human-sized black faced (monster-like) "gods" marching on the street. People all came out to watch.

Can't miss the red dragon, of course!!

Inside the temple, people were burning incense and worshipping.

We got a quick peek at the night celebration of the temple festival that day.

Next: Snake Alley Street Market

We didn't like the Longshan Temple area too much, probably because it felt too much like the SF Chinatown (i.e. dirty and full of old people and smelly), so we moved on to our next destination fairly quickly, the Snake Alley.

Snake Alley is actually just a sheltered street market. Differ from a snack market, it is not occupied by stalls after stalls of snack vendor, it is mostly restaurants or shops.

Snake Alley - you can tell by its name that there are snakes here. Indeed, the night market has become famous for the few snake restaurants. For example, this is one of the biggest one I saw there, and they named the restaurant "Asia Poisonous Snake Research Lab"!! (yea, it sounded equally cheesy in Chinese!!)

In addition to offering snake cuisines, the snake restaurants also showed off the various valuable poisonous snakes that they have in the front counter to attract more customers.

This one was long and huge!!! Scary, isn't it?!

"How about other more EDIBLE stuff?"

Surprisingly, we got hungry watching those horrifying poisonous snakes at the Snake Alley; however, neither Mike nor I was a big fan of snake meat or snake blood. We decided to go back to our favorite restaurant in Taipei, Dan Tai Fong!!!!

I know I know, we've already eaten there the first night we arrived Taipei. But...... the steamed dumplings are just so pretty and yummy and juicy!!! Look!!!! How can you resist from them?

I just went to the bathroom for a short while, and when I came back to the table, it was down to the last dumpling already!!!!! Geeze!!! Some ppl really couldn't wait!!!!

Since I am an extremely "nice" person, and I know how much Mike LOVES those little dumpling guys, so... I let him have the last one nonetheless. Look at his "satisfied" face that showed how much he likes that yummy little thing.

The food at Dan Tai Fong was soooo delicious. We ordered their special fried rice, more beef stew noodles and some soy sauce wantons. What a treat!!!

And of course, I couldn't miss my dessert after dinner, my favorite honey green milk tea with lychee jelly!! (This was probably my sixth or seventh cup from this trip already!!)

Memorial Hall Night View

Mike really wanted to see the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall at night, so....

It was as impressive as you could imagine, even at night!! (Though thinking that they already took down those four characters on the gate by the time I wrote this entry made me sad...... very sad.....) Those stupid Taiwanese politicians and their stupid political games, destroying one of the most representative symbol of Taiwan!!

It was pretty late at night, but there were still people gathering doing group social dances, and kids running around the water fountains. It made me smile watching all these...

Last stop of the Day: Eslite

Leaving the Memorial Hall, I somehow successfully dragged Mike to the Eslite Bookstore with me again that night after we walked everywhere during the day.

And more Japanese books for me!!! ^_^ Yay!!!

With a little bit of book shopping, day 3 of our Taipei trip came to an end.

Our Day 3 in Taipei was truly filled with pleasant surprises (the protest) and wonders (the Taiko street performance and the kids skating ring)!!! As much as we love this city, tomorrow we'll have to end this wonderful short Taipei trip!! -__-

1 comment:

Jen said...

Wow, Taiwan sounds exciting. Maybe I'll go there one day.