Taiwan: Is that a cab?

Day 4 highlights: sunshine and nice people

Long post!

Thank you, Mother Nature, for the beautiful weather today:

I originally planned to check out a dance studio and possibly take a class today, but the sun rays and the clear skies were calling me to stay outside with them.  So with just a camera and some shades (shocking after the cloudiness this whole week), I returned to Chiang Kai-Shek Square for a real walk-around.

I left around noon and decided to walk instead of taking the metro because it was just too pretty of a day.  I grabbed a random pastry from Bread Societe for some fuel, and it turned out to be a yummy moist coconut bread:

After 20 minutes of strolling down Taipei, I arrived at Chiang Kai-Shek having no idea where to begin.  The park is huge with so many different paths, I felt like I would miss out on one scenic route if I took the other!  I was particularly fascinated by everyday life in Taipei today, so I took quite a few not-so-obvious photos of strangers and things I wouldn’t see in the U.S., so this post will probably be all over the place.  First off, I thought it was interesting that the Taiwanese vending machines show samples of their drinks in the front:

I started walking to the right of Memorial Hall, not exactly sure of where it would take me.  The numerous trails basically wrap around the hall with scenic park areas on the way.

A man and his best friend, aww:

Like Dr. Liu said, recycling is huge here in Taiwan, even in fast food restaurants as I later figured out.  Garbage cans are rare to find on the streets because residents are more inclined to put their personal trash bags there, but most public trash cans have four disposals for paper, plastics, metals, and other wastes.  They also have signs here and there to remind Taiwanese to take care of their own belongings, such as this one on a trail at Chiang Kai-Shek:

I climbed up some tree stumps to a more shady area to walk under:

There are many elderly who run or take walks around the memorial, but you can also see people doing all sorts of activities, such as practicing Tai Chi or the flute:

I took a break from the sun and went inside Memorial Hall, which has many museum shops and exhibition halls.  I found some interesting mugs at one of the museum stores:

My first exhibition visit was the Art Gallery on the third floor:

Then I toured the main exhibition hall which highlights Chiang Kai-Shek’s history and reign.  The exhibit entrance:

Chiang’s diary:

His wedding tuxedo haha:

There were little red footprints that guided you through the halls in case you were lost.  One room included Chiang’s sweet rides during his ruling and the sedan chairs he sat in for his travels.

Oh hey Chiang, that’s a pretty sweet looking desk there:

The last exhibit I visited was an art gallery showing famous works from calligrapher, Jan Hsiu-Jung, known for her thin stroke and hollow-out techniques.  There were about four or five rooms that highlighted works she completed for ceremonies and special events:

I continued my round outside again, and the first thing I saw was a group of elementary students asking each other how to find this and that in the square.  I think they were on a field trip for school and hunting for certain landmarks for one of their class assignments.  They were so cute!

There were two beautiful white bridges and ponds each in front of the National Concert Hall and Theater:

I thought these fish were so random and out-of-place, but I later found out that they were fish food vendors for the ponds.  That makes so much more sense.

There is an open area in between the two buildings, which I assume is where the dancers practice at night.  I’m hoping to take the MRT over here next week and catch the evening scene.  I came to this area just in time for the guards’ regular performance.  This is the first drill routine:

After two songs, the drill team marched off in a perfect right angle:

and the marching band moved forward for their own show.  This is a segment of their second song:

There were so many cute kids around today such as this little one chasing a flock of birds:

I climbed up exactly 83 steps to the top of Memorial Hall where I had a gorgeous view of the entire square.  To ensure security, there were fake guards:

and some real ones:

I was quite surprised at how few people were walking around the top, but I guess most people just climb up and down for photos.  I was still shocked at how big the memorial is:

My last stop was inside the National Theater, which had a bookstore with complete sections of music, fine arts, and dance, and then I decided it was time to head back to sit down after my three-hour expedition.  I got another bian dan (boxed lunch) on my way back, this time with swordfish, seaweed, eggplant, and some sort of fish-ball, similar to what we had last night:

I was happily surprised to find that Bix, another Cat’s PJs host, could sing and play the guitar.  I requested him to cover Adele, so he, Jeremy, and Lucas (all hosts at the hostel) sang “Rolling in the Deep”:

Did I mention how nice and welcoming all the hosts at the hostel are?  They are all either students or have graduated, and they all know how to speak English.  They really go the extra mile of helping us find places we need to go, suggesting foods we should try, etc.  Jing-Jing and Lucas take turns for the night shift, and this week Lucas had off so he was ready to go anywhere all the time.  He found another karaoke place right near Shida night market that was about 1/4 the price of what we paid for last night, so he booked a room for us to check it out later tonight.

First, Marisa and I tried to find two dance studios, HRC Dance Academy and Lumi Dance School, near Zhongxiao Dunhua…literally TRYING to find them because it took about two hours to do so.  (Explanation of my title today – I had a completely DUH moment where a yellow Hummer-type car drove past us, and my instinct was to think it was a taxi because it was yellow.  Yeah, we were laughing for at least two minutes straight.)

Let’s just say it was complicated getting to the studios…I was so set on the fact that these studios were located between two metro stations so I didn’t worry about the addresses.  Well, that was a problem because we got off the wrong bus station which completely threw us off, and then we walked past the street we were supposed to cross at, and not completely sure of which streets we were on.

We met Cindy on the way:

Luckily, we received help from the locals who were kind enough to patiently draw us maps and tell us landmarks to look for when crossing streets.  One guy even invited us to search on his office computer and print the walking directions from his company’s building.  Marisa and I always rave about how Taiwanese people are so open to helping strangers and how considerate they are of others around them.  Even though I feel out of place and still struggle with some of the Taiwanese slang here, I am completely comfortable with asking directions and taking photos of random things that local Taiwanese people would find no big deal in.

Finding HRC and Lumi was like seeing a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Marisa and I got the basic information from these two studios and I will probably start taking classes from them next week.  I’ll go into more detail about them when I go back.

We went back to the Shida night market to meet Lucas, Arnold, and Jacqueline for karaoke.  It was in an apartment complex in some back alley but totally worth it, because they had many more English songs than the one we went to last night.  For some reason, though, all the buttons on the machine and remote control were in Japanese, so it was a little hard to figure out what everything meant.  Unfortunately, I had to leave early but we will definitely go back to that place again.

I met up with Amy and her friend Ling Yu, a student and dancer at NTNU, at a McDonald’s near Guting Station.  This Mickey D’s was totally different from what you would find in the U.S.  It had two floors, the first one where you order your food, and the second floor with the sit-down area.  The setup was like a large cafe, where students can come and hang out, study, whatever.  Amy said that it gets really busy during finals because everyone brings their work here to study.  The trash cans are also quite advanced with different sections of waste and a spot to throw away paper cups:

Ling Yu told me of True Dance, another studio near Mei Dance that I might want to check out at Ximen.  My face lit up when she said that there are many students who practice in the cafeteria of NTNU around lunch time, so I planned to visit there the next day with Amy.  We came back to the Cat’s PJs to organize for our busy day ahead, and I turned in a little earlier than usual to catch some shut-eye.

Thoughts? Please share!

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