Olympic Marathon, Taipei Touring Style

I finished out my Taiwan trip with a bang. Or at least the bang of the gun that begins a marathon.

Once again I was up a little later than planned, and I forgot to turn on my alarm (I could have sworn I set that thing last night). The damage wasn't too bad - I only slept in until a little after eight when I planned on being up at seven.

I took a shower and cleaned myself up before heading into the oppressive heat that is the Taiwan summer. It's been nearing (and probably breaking) 100 Fahrenheit here every day. And it's no LA dry heat, either. This is Georgia/Florida style, high humidity, rain shower style heat that only seems to get hotter after the rain. And it's rained nearly every day too.

But into the heat I did embark today. Today's plan included eight stops, scattered around the west side of Taipei. My first stop was the Lin Family Mansion and Garden, a nice complex located out towards the western edge of Taipei. It had several outbuildings I could explore, similar to yesterday's homestead, though this time the tones were darker and the gardens a little more compact and scenic. I didn't get into the house (because I was late I was unable to take the house tour). But I get the feeling it might have been underwhelming. Perhaps I can find out for myself on a future trip.

From there I headed clear across town to the northern hills, where the National Palace Museum is located. Spread across three expansive floors are some very impressive works spanning most of China's history. The building itself, like most national buildings, was attractive just to look at. I enjoyed the snuff boxes, curio boxes, and examples of early calligraphy the most.

But time was short, and soon enough I took a bus and a long walk to the National Taiwan Science Center. Another museum with three floors of exhibits, this one focuses on providing hands-on science education in all the major physical and life sciences. The most popular were the physics displays, where children could play with toys and learn about physics (which is probably the same way I first became interested in physics and science in general). I thought some areas could have done a bit more to be more entertaining - there was a lot of missed opportunities in the body exhibits - but overall it was a fun place to explore. There was a special exhibition on fear that turned out to be just a haunted house, which was kind of disappointing as well. One day, perhaps I'll be asked or able to create a real quality set of exhibits.

By now it was about 3 pm. Yes, three locations, almost six hours. I had five more to see and the shadows were warning me that I needed to pick up the pace.

Stop four was on the south side of town, but along the same metro line as the previous two museums, so I got there in about 30 minutes. This and my remaining locations were all in the same basic area, and all relatively quick locations. But being in the same area meant walking, and lots of it.

My hike started at the 228 Peace Park. The park is a place of remembrance of a massacre that occurred on February 28 (hence the 228). But among all the monuments and such it's a nice park to visit. There must have been a rare bird nesting in a tree because a lot of people had their cameras pointing at a hole in the wood. I haven't really examined the photos I took with my big camera to see if I can even identify that there is a bird in the hole.

One full metro stop away is the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. I have no idea who he is (I never got a pamphlet to figure it out and it's been a long time since I read about him) but his monument is really impressive and has two armed guards watching over it.

From there I walked another kilometer or two to the botanical gardens. Smaller than the imperial gardens in Tokyo but perhaps larger than SF's botanical gardens, they have a decidedly tropical feel. That's to be expected given the climate.

It was early into my visit at the gardens that I was approached by a junior high student who wanted to talk to practice get English. It turns out she's a real good speaker (though with a British accent because her English teacher was British) and she even told me I talk a little slow. I guess that comes from choosing my words more carefully and changing my speed for my students in Japan. She was a real nice young lady and I enjoyed the conversation! She said her name is Annie if I heard pronunciation right, though I'm guessing it's spelled with Chinese characters and in English might be spelled more like Ani. Anyway, we took some quick pictures and parted ways, since I still had two more stops!

My last photo stop of the day was a somewhat-large temple called Longshan. I didn't plan it this way, but my timing was perfect to see the after-work crowd come to pray.

My day wasn't over yet. I had to return to Ximending, where I saw all the fashionistas and ate on the toilet. This time, my target was a building I must have walked past but didn't know about, supposedly selling all kinds of novelties. Well, this was no Akihabara, but there was a large number of geek-type shops on the fourth floor. Many of them carried models to be assembled, or other imported products from Japan and Korea. I didn't see anything Chinese or Taiwanese to add to my collections, though I found a couple (most likely unlicensed) posters for under a buck each to keep as souvenirs.

With the sun gone and the evening to kill, I wanted to get one more try at a Taiwanese baseball card store. I was able to find the location I missed yesterday but they were closed. I grabbed dinner in the nearby mall and here I am, almost home. Or, back at the hostel.

Tomorrow, a morning flight back to Tokyo and I'm home for real. Until then...

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