Monday, February 7, 2011

Adventures in Taipei: Part I

I'm back from the Lunar New Year break and couldn't be happier with my vacation. Taiwan was wonderful. Taipei is a cool, beautiful city and I really enjoyed spending a few days exploring it.

Heather, Jim, and I left just after noon on Wednesday and headed to Incheon International Airport. I didn't get to see much of it when I first arrived here but it really is an awesome airport. I can see why it's consistently named the best airport in the world. 
After checking in we waited in the first class lounge which was wicked nice. There was another lounge that was for like, super first class people, but this one was still great. Mini sandwiches, soups, salad, candies, croissants, pasta, and a little bar area to mix your own drinks. They also had a section with private showers and those leather vibrating massage chairs. Swanky. 
Obviously the best part about flying first class though is actually flying first class. 
Look at all that leg room! I can't even imagine how amazing it would have been to do the long flight from Boston to Incheon with that kind of personal space. The seats looked like spaceship pods or something and with all the purple and pink I felt like I was in Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. It was so nice to be able to fully recline and adjust my seat every which way. They served a three course meal and lounging with noise canceling headphones on and a book in hand it was easily the most comfortable flight I've experienced. Hey I'm new to this whole first class thing and doubt it will become a habit, indulge my geek out. 
There was a very pretty sun to see us off but mostly I posted this because I just realized that that Korean Air plane has an ad for StarCraft (a video game) on the side. StarCraft is hugely popular in Korea. I mean huge. Korea has professional StarCraft players. No wonder they put it on the side of their airplanes.

So after an extremely comfortable flight we touched down at Taoyuan Airport and took a cab to our hostel in Taipei. This was my first hostel stay and it definitely assured me that it'll be a good way to do travel on the cheap again. 
If you're ever staying in Taipei I recommend JV's. It was bright and friendly and an easy 10-15 minute walk from the subway. There were only the three of us but we stayed in a four bed room (we bought out the fourth bed) which came with bunk beds and clean sheets and comforters. The shared bathrooms were clean and for the most part we had hot shower water. On the top floor there was a public lounge with a couch and bean bag chairs and two public computers hooked up to the internet which came in handy. We had a key to our room as well as to the front door of the hostel so it felt pretty secure. Overall a good place to rest your bones. 

Wednesday night after we were settled we went poking around the closest night market which was just up the street. Basically it was crowds of people sandwiched between stores and booths running up the middle of the street selling everything from slippers to foods. 
We didn't stay out too late since we wanted to have an early start so on Thursday we got up and out and made our way to the nearby subway station, Luizhangli Station. The Taipei metro is really nice. Like I said, I'm pretty much in love with the Korean subway but Taipei's is right up there too. Trains arrive within minutes of each other and the single journey tokens are convenient. 
We ended up at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, the monument honoring the former president. Unfortunately because of the holiday the hall itself was closed which was too bad because there's a big statue of Chiang Kai-Shek inside that would have been cool to see. It was a gorgeous day though and the outside was eye candy plenty. 
From there we walked for a bit while trying to track down a particular park. The city pretty much empties for New Year as everyone goes back home so it was very quiet in some areas.
We came across this park and popped in to take a look around. At the time I couldn't find any signs in English to indicate who this statue is of but after some googling it seems to be of Lin Sen,who was the president of the Republic of China (Taiwan) when it still controlled what is today the People's Republic of China (my understanding of the political history between Taiwan and China is pretty hazy but I think that much is right). 
Though you may desperately want to, in Taipei you just cannot get your launder on in public parks. Don't get caught carrying a stick of Tide to Go or a portable clothesline, the results could be dire!  
The 228 Peace Park was actually the park we'd been looking for and is right across the street from Jieshou Park. The park's name comes from the 228 Incident:
Also known as the 228 Massacre, the 228 Incident was an anti-government uprising in Taiwan that began on February 27, 1947, and was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang government. Estimates of the number of deaths vary from 10,000 to 30,000 or more. The Incident marked the beginning of the Kuomintang's White Terror period in Taiwan, in which thousands more Taiwanese vanished, died, or were imprisoned. The number "228" refers to the day the massacre began: February 28, or 02-28.
The park was really beautiful. Not too many people were around and there was a lot to see.
The Taipei 228 Monument.

I'm really grossed out by fish (and most sea creatures for that matter) but this blue fish was just the coolest. I love the colors. It looks like a piece of China, you know those blue and white ones which Wikipedia is helpfully telling me are called "Blue and White wares". Unlike fish, I love pieces of dish ware and such made in that style. I like to think that if the fish in this pond were a mafia, China Blue here would be their Don.

I took over 800 pictures on this trip and have a lot more to share and say about Taipei but for now I think this should suffice. This doesn't even cover our entire first day and maybe I'm in the habit of being too excessive in terms of sharing pictures and information but if you're still hanging around to read this I'm sure you know that by now.

If this blog were a network television show this would be the part where you'd get a vague and dramatic sneak peek at the upcoming episode. So to wet your whistle:
A real cliffhanger, I know. 

Trivia of the Day: Formosa or Ilha Formosa is a Portuguese historical name for Taiwan, literally meaning, beautiful island. The name Formosa was given to Taiwan by the Portuguese when their explorers sailed past in the 16th century. In the early 17th century, when the Dutch East India Company came to build a commercial post at Fort Zeelandia (today's Tainan City), they allegedly adopted the name of an aboriginal tribe transliterated as "Tayouan" or "Teyowan" in their records. 

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