Dad in the East 4: A Grand Tour

Hi All,

(Sunset from the top of 101)

On the third day after their arrival, we took Dad and Yvonne on the usual tourist circuit. We started out at the Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall, headed out to Yong Kang street to eat sushi, went across to Sun Yat Sen Memorial, walked through Hsin Yi district, went to the top of 101 and finished the day off with a steak in our favorite steak restaurant.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall

(Chiang Kai Shek Memorial)

On the bus to Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall an old Chinese lady got on board. She was incredibly friendly and very excited to meet some foreigners. She couldn’t speak any English, and since Queenie was in the back of the bus, I (Paul) turned into the official translator. The lady was a Christian and very excited to learn that we too are Christians. In the end all she wanted to do was hug Yvonne and she felt they were sisters.

Chiang Kai Shek memorial is grand. Two identical buildings, the National Theater on the right and the National concert hall on the left, flank the memorial. The wide-open space in the front of the hall is also impressive. There were the students practicing their mass dance maneuvers, and the sun was really bright. We watched the students for a long while, walked through the gardens and the parks and went to the museum at the bottom of the memorial.

(Dad and Chiang Kai Shek's Car)

Sadly the memorial hall was being renovated so we could not go up the steps or inside and we could not watch the changing of the guards. Dad and Yvonne enjoyed walking through the museum, which outlines Chiang Kai Shek’s life and contribution to Taiwan. Unfortunately his name is becoming a divisive figure in the Taiwan political landscape and there are moves afoot to change the name of the memorial to Freedom Hall.

The Sushi Express

After spending some time in the museum, we walked up Hsin Yi road to Yong Kang Street where we stopped off in the Sushi Express for lunch. Now although Dad and Yvonne had been real troopers about the food, I think they were starting to long for some good old western fair. Dad’s theory about sushi is that it is a small piece of fish on a big portion of rice only and that when you have a drink, the liquid swells up the rice to make you feel full. But after an hour and a bathroom break you will feel hungry again! We had a good debate about sushi and the need to try different foods but in the end we promised them steak for dinner.

During the meal Yvonne decided to walk around outside and to look at the neighborhood. Unfortunately, as she was doing this she slipped and fell and grazed herself quite badly. She was surprised at how quickly people around her came to her aid. Taiwanese people are like that. Whenever we are in distress they help.

I (Paul) remember the first day I came to Taiwan. I was still trying to find my hostel. I walked into the train station to get directions. The lady I asked couldn’t speak English but I did have the address in Chinese. Within the blink of an eye she grabbed one of my bags, indicated I should follow her, and was gone. She walked me, and my bag all the way to the hostel.

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall

(Sun Yat Sen Memorial)

So after we patched up Yvonne’s knee we jumped into the taxi and headed off to Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. Once again there is a big garden outside the hall and we spent a considerable time walking around there. Dad of course found a bunch of people to talk to. In this case it was a group of teenage girls. I (Paul) wasn’t with them so I couldn’t translate and Dad said they couldn’t speak English. No matter, Dad still felt great that they tried to communicate with him.

(Dad and his new friends)

(Dad and the Philosopher)

I managed to get a good rest on the island in the middle of the lake. I just lay down on one of the benches and waited for Dad and Yvonne to finish their meanderings through the garden. The gardens are big and they both love the vegetation. It was good for me to relax there. Our lives are always busy and to find moments in time when there is nothing to do is like finding the only pearl in a million oysters.

We finally went into the hall and quite coincidentally ran into the changing of the guards. As it is in most countries the changing of the guards is an impressive routine. This one lasted for ten minutes (approximately) and I am always amazed when I see how they twirl those heavy rifles with one hand. I often think the guards’ wrists will snap off, but of course they never do.

We then meandered across the Hsin Yi district, through the department stores, to 101. On the way we stopped to price some of the clothes and a golf shirt for a man in one shop cost around NTD15,000 (USD500). Fairly expensive but that is the Hsin Yi district for you. Actually I am always amazed at the number of such high-end department stores in Taipei and by the fact that they can survive since they are all so expensive.


(101 Reaching for the Sky)

The top of 101 is always exciting. I love going up there and just sitting down and watching the city below. It makes me feel quite at home and reminds me of my first night in Taipei (December 22, 1998) when I went to the top of the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi building, which was then the tallest building in town. The views from 101 are spectacular. The sky was clear enough that we could see the ocean near Tamsui.

(Looking out to Tamsui)

(View from the top of 101)

We also decided to pay the extra money to go onto the outdoor viewing deck. The first time we went there was with Luis, a friend we knew from China. On that occasion there was quite a wind. On the other occasions we have been on the viewing deck the wind was not nearly as strong. Of course there are long, narrow bars with narrow gaps dissuading people from suicide attempts and security guards walking around to make sure no one is trying to jump.

After walking around for some time, we went to watch the movie that shows the building of 101 and then returned to the indoor viewing deck to watch the sunset and the night-lights. Being summer we had to wait quite a long time but eventually the sun did go down and we got to see the spectacle that is Taipei by night.

A Final Culture Shock

We ended the day by shopping in Jason’s, a western specialty store and then going over to the Red Kitchen for a good steak. This was the final cultural adjustment my poor father had to make. They served warm beer in small glasses with ice-cubes. I think I have never seen Dad so shocked at the desecration of beer…The perils of travel I tell you!That’s it folks,

Until the next time,

Queenie and Paul

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