Monday, April 6, 2009

Travel Log: 2nd day in taipei

I was 10yrs old when I had first visited Taiwan. My memories of the country are frankly vague and distant. Apart from various scenes and scenery, I couldnt recall many of the things I had seen or done at that tender age.

20years on, it was refreshing to be back in a familiar city. Disregarding the traffic and the increasingly drabby city buildings, there are many things I like about Taiwan. The varity of food and fruits for starter scored major in my book. Generally, the people are warm hearted, friendly and always eager to help. I like the way they talk to you in a very much familiar tone such as addressing one's mother as if it's theirs. It simply strike me as a very heart warming effort on one's part.

The thing about travelling, I love making my way on foot or on public transport to get the experience. I found it really easy in Taipei due to the common language and th fact that it's easy to ask anyone on the streets. Even the bus drivers are so friendly. After asking him for directions, I could simply relax and chill in my seat till the driver announced the designated stop. Afriad that I didnt hear him, he would repeat the stop repeatedly till he was sure I heard him or when I learnt to reply in acknowledgement. Even before I alight, without asking, the drivers never fail to give me further directional instructions to ensure I could get to my final destination on foot safely. Maybe apart from Japan, such perpetual unsolicited thoughtfulness and friendliness in public service, is something that I have yet to experience in many other countries including my own.

This trip, we made it to Gu Gong Museum via the Metro and bus easily. Following which, we took another bus to Shilin Night Market. It was a super long day for my mum to walk the whole day non stop.

The night market was as usual bustling with crowds, noise and a spectacular experience popping in and out of countless stalls from one to another. The best experience was when from those mobile stall. Lined with 2 clothes racks and amidst the jostling crowd, I got to pick randomly any 3 top and bottom within 5 mins for NT500. It was all about scanning and grabbing speed before the store close the sale and move off to the next location. It was really fun!

So what is shopping without food? Unfortunately being in spring, mum didnt get to taste her Mango ice dessert. So we settled for soya bean curd and tang yuan. It was again a unique taste for soya bean to be mixed with an assortment of base such as red bean, red dates etc. It was delicious! The handmade tang yuan in giner base was even better!!!
I finally got a chance to try the handmade shanghai pan friend bao... I could only wish I had 4 tummies to fit everything in, not to mentionextra strength to carry everything we bought! Currently, the wave of korean fashion is sweeping through the Taipei market. Almost every alternate shop is selling Korean style fashion. Mum couldnt get much top as the sizes are all pretty slim fit, stopping at size 38 as the biggest in stock. I had a better chance in that department though I didnt pick up much since I have a penchant of "quality" attire over "cheap quantity".

The thing I love about Taipei Metro is how everyone naturally and instinctively avoided sitting on the dark blue priority seats, aka 博爱位 reserved for the old, pregnant and needy. Seats are lesser in the metro but despite the priority seat being empty, the youngsters and professionals choose to stand than grab the priority seat!! It was a value that I was very very amazed and impressed with. In fact on the bus, several times I had heard young girls wanting to give up their own (non priority) seat to senior citizens voluntarily. They didnt have to be asked, told or faking sleep. It was almost their 2nd nature. I really like that. My mum was abit shy to take the priority seat and I had to nudge her over convincing her that while she may look young, fact is she is old enough to qualify for the seat since she is over 60. After much prodding, mum finally relented but partially she was dead tired after walking over 10 hours with me.

At the metro station, I spotted their "give seat campaign". Rather than just a very factual request to give up your seat to those who need it more, they have various story posters. I saw a poster of a pregnant woman narrating about her anticiaption of the impending birth of her 2nd baby and how she is thankful for the public is always sharing their seat with her. The whole campaign was done in a very gratuitous way, as how we would often impart chinese values to the younger generation through chinese fables. It wasnt naggy nor imperative tone, it was just in a very causal human manner.

As for the station broadcast, it was done in 5 languages from mandarin, english to their dialects. In Hk, we have english, mandarin and cantonese. In Japan, major metro stations have english and Japanese. Yet, I couldnt understand why Singapore who claim to be multilingual, multi-ethnic society, would opt to deprive its commuters of all other languages except English. Is it that difficult to have the station broadcast clearly both in English, Mandarin? I find it hard to comprehend the rationale of doing away with the Mandarin. Have we forgotten our older generations so quickly that our grannies may not have understood the names of English station? Even tourists from asia countries would have found it helpful I am sure.


The museum was a good trip learning about the old chinese treasures and culture. An ever enriching trip worthy of any visitors.

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