Made in Taiwan

Trip Start Oct 30, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

After six weeks in Japan, I finally managed to leave and move on to my next destination: Taiwan. My first week here is already over, so again, I am a bit behind. Most of my time so far I spend in the capital, Taipei, and the surrounding cities.

The first thing I visited was a thing that the Taiwanese are rightfully proud of: the national palace museum. Let me clarify first, Taiwan does not have a royal family or a palace. During a war in China, the Chinese brought some of their precious artifacts to Taiwan to protect them from being destroyed. When Taiwan got independent the artifacts stayed here and they were put in the national palace museum. So now their collections consists of calligraphy, Chinese style paintings, jade artifacts, ivory statues and curio boxes. The last ones are boxes with many hidden drawers and compartments to store valuable small art, like miniature ming vases or small foreign items. For the rich people it was like a game to try to find all the artifacts hidden in a curio box and it was a way for the owner to store them safely. In the museum, the most famous item is a Chinese cabbage. It is made out of jade, which has the natural color of white and green. They carved it in such a way the the leaves are green and the stem is white. In the souvenir shop you could buy mugs, pens, key chains, t-shirts and necklaces all with a picture of the cabbage on. Pretty weird if you have not been inside the museum.

The next day I went to another iconic sight in Taipei, the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial hall. CKS was a Chinese military leader that fought in WWII against the Japanese and ended up in the Chinese government and then fighting against it. Finally he ended up in Taiwan and being the first president here and the founder of independent Taiwan. His memorial hall is big, with a large statue of him, two people guarding it and a museum dedicated to his life.

Because I did not want to spend too much time in museums and memorials, I also decide to get out of town. I took the Pingxi train. From one point it branches off from the round the island line. Most people don't take the train to go anywhere specific, but they take the train, just to experience the train ride. It is very scenic and goes through several small villages. Here it passes straight by the houses with just one to two meters to spare. In between the villages there is very nice nature with rivers and waterfalls. In a small village called Shifen I saw the widest waterfall in Taiwan, 40 meters wide. Another nice scenic area is in Yehliu. It is a limestone coastal area, where some part of the rocks were slowly washed away by the ocean. Now all the rocks have interesting shapes, and they were all given names. They had 'ice-cream' rock, 'candle' rock, 'tofu' rock and the most famous ' queen's head' rock. All the rocks were formed naturally. To conclude my time in Taipei, I went to the most iconic sight: taipei 101. At the moment it is the second highest building in the world, with the fastest elevator in the world, it goes a stunning 1000 meter/minute, or 60 kmh!!! Up there you usually have an amazing view of the entire city, but in my case it was so cloudy I could barely see the ground. It was still awesome to see how they make the tower earthquake- and typhoonproof. They installed a huge metal damper, that moves inside the building and thereby dampens the movement of the building.

My second destination in Taiwan was the highest lake, Sun Moon lake, in central Taiwan. The lake is not huge, but you can do some hiking and cycling around the lake, while at the same time seeing some temples that are up in the hills. Besides doing the hiking and the cycling, I took a trip to the biggest temple in Asia, the Chung Tai-Chan monastery, see pictures. It is a rather new temple, with quite some Buddhist statues and a Buddhist art museum on the grounds. They also give free guided tours on a part on the main building. It was pretty good, but really hard to get to.

To conclude my blog entry for this time, I want to mention the food in Taiwan. The food here is awesome. You can get a lot and pretty cheap. They even have quite a lot of vegetarian food, mostly in buffet-style restaurants. But the best part is the nightmarkets. They start at sunset and last until 1 am. They sell all kinds of things, from clothes, fruit to food. And the food can be oyster omelette, smelly tofu, a kind of pancake, deep fried chicken and vegetables or dried meat. But usually snacks. It is still really fun to walk around and buy some food and some fresh fruit juice. It is also something all locals do, so very Taiwanese!

Next time about my time on Alishan and my time in the former capital Tainan and some other places I have not been yet :D talk to you later!

P.s. if anyone has comments/questions, feel free to post below!
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bibhuti on

Cool. Loved it and really envy you. Have fun.

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