Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Taipei

The final stop on my trip was Taipei. I reversed my trip from Lugang to Chunghua, which was a little confusing due to the lack of any noticeable bus station in Lugang. After finding my disembarkment point, I waited for a bus and fortunately it looped back around to Chunghua. From there, it was back onto the train for another couple of hours.

Taipei has a few interesting sights, but not quite the range of attractions that a city like Beijing has. There are the standard array of temples. The National Palace Museum houses a lot of Chinese art, which includes plates, bowls, vases, some jade carvings, bronze casts, and the occasional scroll. The best thing on display was a half room exhibit of ancient texts. The Chinese actually invented movable type in the 11th century, over 400 years before Gutenberg, who is given western credit for the invention.

Shopping is plentiful, with numerous malls and underground shopping centers. One of the most interesting markets is actually outdoors. That is the Dihau market, which is a suitable replacement to the Lugang experience. You can buy pretty much anything you've never wanted to buy there. Big bags of dried flowers, herbs, roots, spices, and whatever else goes into the traditional Chinese medicine doctor's bag. I couldn't even recognize most of the stuff they were selling, which makes for quality cultural enrichment.

Probably the most interesting thing are the night markets. Considering the daytime heat, it's easy to see why night markets would be so popular. And the night markets in Taipei can approach a carnival like atmosphere. And the most carnivalistic, or carnivoristic one, as the case may be, is Snake Alley. There, you can find almost anything your heart desires. Of course there are snakes, which are charmed in front of restaurants as an attention getter. Handlers poke and prod the snakes to perform, and hopefully consume a rabbit or rat for the crowd. The snakes, for their part, seem to be content to rest. You can also find the expected rows of food carts and vendors hawking everything imaginable. As a bonus, they do in fact have carnival games available. Shooting games, throwing games, some mah jong based game that I couldn't figure out, fortune tellers, and a quite a few arcades that are filled with the everything from crane games, pop-a-shots, drumming games, to the latest Mortal Combat type games.

The last, and most modern of Taipei's experiences is Taipei 101. For now, at least, it is the world's tallest building. The draw is enhanced by the haute couture mall, an impressive food court, and a small, foreign goods filled grocery store that would be a welcomed addition to Korea. Going to the top costs NT350, which is about US$11. Which is the same amount as I was paying for my hostel room. Since I was trying to budget my expenses, I passed on the venture up. Instead, I had to content myself with making a small purchase to take home - tortilla shells and some pesto sauce packets. Besides, Taipei doesn't exactly have an impressive skyline to ogle. Taipei 101 is the only building that stands out from more than a few blocks away.

On Sunday, I caught the bus to the airport and made the 2 1/2 flight back to Incheon. And then spent 3 hours getting back to my apartment in Incheon. Let's just say I, and probably everyone in town, except the bus companies and taxi drivers, look forward to the extension of the subway out to the airport.

Overall, I found Taiwan a nice diversion from Korea. It, along with Korea and Japan, are considered the high pay teaching opportunities. So I'm keeping it as a possibility for sometime in the future. I'd prefer going to Japan, but I fear my expenses there would overwhelm me. At least for now, I'm happy with my situation in Korea. There are some aspects which are more enticing, and some that are less enticing. Chinese food a little more varied and palatable to me than Korean food (please, no more kimchi!), but I was sorely disappointed by their inability to make Kung Pao chicken (no pow to the Kung Pao). The language and characters are a definite downer, but I've discovered how quickly you can pick up the characters that you need. By the end of my trip, I was able to recognize the Chinese characters for Kung Pao chicken as well as fried rice.

This will probably, actually hopefully, be my last trip for a while. At least until winter break. In the meantime, I'll try to gather some interesting stories and pictures here in Korea.

Another view of Taipei 101.

1 comment:

guapa said...

don't eat those herbs that contain chemicals, chinese food is notorius for that like doggy meat in Korea..