Monday, December 22, 2008

Day 9: Toddling Along in Taipei City

We had a day to go before our big trip to Taroko Gorge but we were already itching to get out of the city. I had waxed lyrical about the Ju Ming Museum and my North Coast trip the day before, so we thought why not head out thataway again. We had read somewhere that a shuttle bus ran from the Taipei Fine Arts Musuem to the Ju Ming Museum so it was to the Fine Arts Museum that we first went.

Taiwan Fine Arts Museum, looking like apartments!

Sadly, the shuttle no longer ran. The staff at the Fine Arts Museum were very helpful, looking up information on public bus services to the Ju Ming Museum. We waited for a while for the bus, but in the end, we figured that we had spent enough time going nowhere, so we decided to stay put and make the best of the situation.

The Fine Arts Museum was hosting the Taipei Biennial, so there were many avant garde works on display, alongside that of masters in ink and oil. And then there was an exhibition of the surrealist photographs of American Jerry Uelsmann, created entirely by old school techniques such as multiple exposure rather than with today's digital techniques. All in all, it was a pleasant visit, if not exactly memorable.

Next door was the rather more unique Taipei Story House.

the view from the Fine Arts Museum


Once the home of a tea merchant with Western pretensions, the pseudo-Tudor building had been lovingly restored and, as with most conserved buildings all over the world, been at some point an art gallery and an arts centre. Inside, it was all fireplaces and cast iron. Despite the attention to detail, the place was more twee than educational in any historical sense. The exhibition on popular advertisement campaigns from the past was fun, although there were a number of brands and products we did not recognise.

old time ads

We took the opportunity to patronise one of Taipei's favourite coffee houses. Run by the Landis group, the coffee house at Taipei Story House had a reputation for good food and, on a Sunday afternoon, was clearly a popular choice for trendy Taipei residents.

And so it was that we had a late lunch at Taipei Story House...


chicken and cheese ciabatta

tea set – mini sandwiches and pastries

... while listening to this young man belt out cheery foot-tapping songs. The loudest applause was for Mayday's 戀愛ing which he reluctantly sang three times in the course of an hour.


We then headed back to Yuanshan Station.

Taipei Fine Arts Museum again

Walking through the nearby park, we saw lots of Taipei-ans taking their leisure seriously.

roller-blading class

serious business

From Zhongshan station, we made our way to a cluster of minor attractions. On our way we saw...

a shopping frenzy

shops dealing in the esoteric

shoes for drag queens - it wasn't advertised as such but...

We passed by a traditional craftsman, Lin Tian Barrel Store, where everything is still made painstakingly by hand.

handmade tubs, pails and barrels

handmade box - tempting

The barrels were nice but we couldn't see how we could possibly lug one home.

We arrived at the Sun Yat Sen Historic Events Memorial Hall.

formerly a high-class Japanese inn - obviously!

Sun Yat Sen had stayed here previously. It was now a small museum displaying memorabilia from his life. By the time we arrived though, it was closed for the day. We walked around, peeping into the windows.

late, like us

how odd - a deep pond

We weren't the only ones enjoying the garden.

a doll photoshoot - creepy neh

Following that, we walked through the Civic District in Zhongzheng

and this was the...?

Monuments do indeed look better at night.

2-28 Memorial

the Presidential Office Building aka Ma Ying Jeou's office

We walked from the Presidential Office Building to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Plaza, in effect, walking in reverse the route taken by most protestors. Indeed, there were police on standby that night.

entrance to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Plaza

And no wonder too, since a protest by, as far as we could tell, a student movement, had just ended.

a celebration of the movement's achievements

Coaches were apparently on standby to bus undergraduates from other parts of Taiwan home that very night. We noted with interest the itinerant hawkers that had appeared and set up shop right where the gathering was. They were nothing if not enterprising.

The youth of Taiwan were out, loud and proud. Elsewhere in the Plaza, groups of teenage girls were rehearsing mass dance moves.

the National Concert Hall or the National Theatre? Er....

the Plaza

the East Gate

And thus ended our little tour of the Civic District.

This was our last night in Ximending. When we returned from Taroko Gorge, we would be staying in the Zhongshan area, near Taipei 101. So where would we be having dinner?

Ya Rou Bian, right round the corner from its competitor

At Ya Rou Bian, the other duck stall, for the comparison with Shi Zi Ting of course.

two bowls of this

1/4 of a duck

At 400NT (S$20) for the meal, it was slightly more expensive than Shi Zi Ting. The duck was certainly of a higher quality than Shi Zi Ting's and more attractively presented. Judging from the crowds, most people prefer Ya Rou Bian. Still, we couldn't help but feel that Shi Zi Ting, with its tasty soup stock, served a meaner bowl of noodles.

Bubble tea seemed to be in order, so for a nightcap, we had ourselves some.

Ting Cha

“Hokkaido milk tea” – had coffee essence in it, weird

After dinner, we strolled around Ximending.

we said hello to doggie

we paused for a shot of the Red Theatre

It was HM who first remarked on the number of fire engines and ambulances that were zooming past. Was it our imagination or were they heading in the direction of our hotel? Nervously, we thought we'd better check this out.

It turned out that a building in the lane behind TS Hotel was on fire. The crowd gathered. From the neighbouring buildings, pyjama-clad residents tumbled out. From Ximending central came curious tourists. Out came the digital cameras, video cameras, mobile phone cameras.

We heard that the fire had started from the flower shop downstairs. We heard that someone, an old man, could be trapped in an apartment upstairs. We watched as the firemen searched apartment after apartment.

In the end, our tired feet could bear no more, and our eyes stung from the smoke. 'Sides which we needed to pack our bags. After an hour of gawking, we retreated to TS Hotel for the night.

P.S. No one was hurt in the fire.

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