Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I've had so much fun in Taipei, Taiwan. The people here are so nice and friendly. I've had an entire family stop what they were doing and walk me over to the place I was trying to find. People here are generally out late, it's common to see elderly people out and about in the city even at night. Taipei is a pretty safe city, though you still need to watch out for pick pockets at night markets.

Mountains in Wulai
Much of the area around Taipei is mountainous so it doesn't take much time to get to do some hiking. The vegetation around Taipei is beautiful and it's easy to see why Taiwan was called beautiful Island by the Portuguese. There are hot springs near by that you can visit, the most well known in Taipei is in Beitou, a quick MRT ride away. I've already blogged about the Maokong Gondola ride, and you've seen wacky things like the Modern Toilet restaurant.

The only down fall has been the weather. It's so hot and humid, although it's probably because I'm used to southern California weather. It also has scattered rain which sucks, and I got stuck for a few days due to a typhoon which was thought to be bad. In reality it was a really weak typhoon but most of the city shut down because of the fear that it would be strong. A lot of my pictures didn't turn out very good because it was quite cloudy while I was in Taipei, hence the scattered showers.

Snake Alley - not many snakes now. Snake Alley used to be the smut area of Taipei but it has been cleaned up a lot and now mainly a tourist attraction. Stay in the area with lights, the area beyond the lights is filthy.

The only live snake I saw... and they did not kill it. In the old days snakes would be slit down the middle and their blood drained for a drink. You could even get a shot of alcohol with a beating snake heart. Today Taiwanese people believe the traditional snake alley treatment is inhumane and do not approve of it. Mainly tourism keeps snake alley alive because foreigners are looking for the old snake alley... they'll just have a really hard time finding it.

Santa?!?!?!? What are you doing in Snake Alley????? Not only that, but in the filthy part of snake alley!

Taipei 101 - currently the tallest building in the world. Not for long though....

Longshan Temple

Li An-Tai Historic Home - a typical home built in the Qing Dynasty Style

Taipei Story House - you can get lots of expensive tea here.

Peace Park - a tribute to the 228 tragedy (not my pic - mine did not turn out well).

On 2/27/1947 an old Taiwanese woman was caught selling black market cigarettes. According to witnesses she resisted and was pistol whipped. After World War 2 the Kuomintang (KMT) lost the war for China to the communists and took control of Taiwan. The Kuomintang treated the Taiwanese people very poorly and the pistol whipping of the old Taiwanese Woman finally put the Taiwanese people over the edge. The following day, 2/28/1947 unarmed Taiwanese people protested this and were violently put down with machine guns by the Kuomintang. The period following this incident is known as the White Terror (white is the color of death in Chinese culture) in which thousands of Taiwanese people (identified as people against the Kuomintang government) mysteriously disappeared or were imprisoned. Some until the 1980s! Taiwanese students in the United States against the KMT were spyed on by students with the KMT. These students family's would find themselves harassed. For decades the 228 incident was taboo to speak about by order of the KMT. Today the topic is talked about openly and President Lee (the first elected president) pardoned the family of the crime. There are 2 parks dedicated to the incident, the other in Kaoshong.

Chaing Kai Shek Memorial (KMT) - generally thought of as a tribute to his ego more than anything else.

Sun Yat-Sen Memorial

Dr Sun Yat-Sen - the man regarded as responsible for bringing down the dynasties and modern China.

This water treatment plant was built in 1908 by the Japanese. It was the first European style building built in Taiwan. Eventually it was converted to a museum and that is how it stands today. When the Japanese colonized Taiwan they realized that to govern it they must modernize it. This water treatment facility they built was once of those modernization projects. Others included building railroads and schools. The foundation laid by the Japanese is what has allowed Taiwan to be the modern country it is today.

The view from Danshui fisherman's warf at sunset.

Valentine's Bridge at Danshui

Fort Santa Domingo at Danshui. A link to Taiwan's colonial past.

Jioufen Gold Ecological Park
Jioufen was once a gold mining city. It's now a sleepy town with a beautiful view. During World War 2 the Japanese would send British POWs here to mine gold. They were forced to live in poor conditions and beaten with gold mining hammers if they did not met their quotas. The Japanese also forced the into propaganda to show the rest of the world the POWs were being treated well when they were not. Today Jioufen's revitalization is due to a movie that used Jioufen to depict old Taipei. People were struck by it's beauty. Many artists come to Jioufen for inspiration.

To see these in real life go to the rear entrance of the Gold Ecological Park. A special thanks to my uncle for taking me there. If I had not gone with him I probably would have missed the mountains and coastal views below.

Cloudy Mountain
Dreamy no?
Coastal View from Jioufen

Tea Kettle Mountain at Jioufen

Coastal View from Jioufen.

Also at Jioufen is a home where the Japanese Crown Prince would stay. My picture of it sucks. You can take a tour of the inside. There is also a beautiful Japanese Garden there.
The Japanese Crown Prince Stayed here.
Japanese style garden.

Eat a bian-dang at Jioufen Gold Ecological Park. Japanese style wrapping.


Wulai, I loved this palce, beautiful and with a free oderless hot spring.

The water at Wulai, look how blue it is!

Wulai Falls, I was told this wasn't considered a lot of water.
Falls from the sky tram.

You can take an old light tram to see the waterfalls and the aboriginal culural center. From there you can take a quick sky tram to Wulai Park; an outdated amusement park but closely integrated with nature. I recommend the park for the nature part only. Originally I was going to go hiking around the park but I saw a huge snake while I was walking around. There are venomous snakes in the area and unlike Southern California they don't rattle when you get near. I have a huge deductible so I told myself to forget about it and besides, it started to rain.

Wulai Park
You can pay to row boats in this pond and there are thousands of koi.Water Plants Exhibit
Starting to rain.

A rice peanut treat from the Wulai aboriginal cultural center.
Aboriginal Dancers... they wouldn't stop moving for a clear shot.

The aboriginals in Taiwan have a history much like our own Native Americans. They were the original inhabitants of Taiwan, and over the centuries have had skirmishes with the Han Chinese that migrated to Taiwan an the Europeans that came to Taiwan. Originally most tribes were not located in the mountains but were forced there due to the immigration of Han Chinese people. Today aboriginals are recognized by the Taiwan Government and land is being given back to them. Some aboriginals are giving up their Han Chinese names and reverting to their traditional names.

This paticular tribe would earn facial tattos that meant a lot in their society. For a man he must be able to hunt. For a woman she must be able to sew. Earning the facial tattoo meant one was ready for marriage. When the Japanese colonized Taiwan the facial tattoos were outlawed. The people working at the aboriginal center were really nice and helpful and eager to answer my questions. The negative was that they were a little pushy in the gift shop area. However I think I can understand why. Aboriginals in Taiwan generally lag behind the Taiwanese in education and wealth leading to social problems. The dancers in the picture are quite young, they work during hte day and school at night. They work during the day so that they can pay for their schooling. Even though it's dancing, it cannot be easy, especially when you are trying to earn your degree... some were not in college yet.

Computer Shopping
Of course I must also talk about shopping for computers in Taipei. Take the MRT to the Zhongxio Xinsheng. Look for the signs to Digital Plaza. It's not as big as the one in Hong Kong but it's simliar. Computer stores line the street and you can barter. Buying a computer feels a lot like buying a car in the states. You gotta sit down at the table and the sales guy starts to work his end while you try and lower the price. It seems like a hassle to me. Prices are lower than in the states but not by much. To get a really good deal you must look hard, but they do exist, and of course you must be good at bartering.

I'll try to get to posting some funny signs and of course the food later... this entry took way too long to write.

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