The port of Keelung isn’t the prettiest of places and it was just as I’d remembered it from a couple of years ago.
Though the Captain smiled and said that, though he’d been here countless times previously, this was the first time the sun had shone.
Indeed, we remembered getting wet here before and had chosen how to spend our day with care, in the hope of avoiding going over old ground.
So, as we drove around Taipei this morning, there was a kind of familiarity as I recalled those little things I rather liked; such as the detail in the road signs – I mean, this graphic clearly shows a motorcyclist wearing a helmet, just as he ought to be.
The graphic of the pedestrian is similarly detailed too.
Anyway, though we’d chosen our tour itinerary carefully to avoid going to the same old places as possible, it was inevitable that there’d be an overlap. Our first stop was at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, which was exactly the same as last time.
Except that, last time the gateway was the highlight and the memorial hall was under wraps for renovation, whereas this time it was exactly vice versa.
Though the light made it almost impossible to capture the fresh blue and white of the Memorial Hall this morning.
The two performance venues were exactly as I’d remembered, lavishly decorated and a perfect pairing across a wide open centre space.
We climbed the stairs to the memorial hall – all 89 of them, each one representing a year of Chiang Kai Shek’s life.
Once inside, we joined a mass of other tourists, all here to see the same thing; The large bronze of the man himself sitting in an armchair looking suitably statesmanlike.
Even if he did have a rather benign expression on his face.
The honour guard was there attracting almost as much attention as the man himself. We had just missed the changing of the guard, sadly, but our guide reassured us we’d see it later in the day.
Whilst in the hall, there were other things to see.
There appeared to be a kind of village show going on, with a series of flower arrangements lining the walls of the central atrium. I know nothing about flower arranging but I think these would be considered a very high standard in the UK.
We bought a few small souvenirs and journal fodder whilst there before returning to our coach which was waiting for us through the other gateway. At least we were able to record one set of white plaster and blue tile. Such an attractive colour scheme.
Our next stop was the National Museum which was another place we’d been before. On that occasion, the crowds had prevented us from seeing the treasures of he collection, but this time, our guide was determined and equipped with headsets so we could hear his commentary, we simply followed in his slipstream.
We had good advice from him to manage the large groups of mainland Chinese people here. They had been taught to “swim” through a crowd, using their hands and elbows as required and Jun didn’t want any of us to be pushed aside and fall or stumble. So, if we encountered a few swimming Chinese people, we should yield to them. Let them through. I know, it goes against the grain, doesn’t it? But we followed his advice and thankfully, no one came a cropper!
No photos allowed in there but we got a great look at he Jade Cabbage and the ancient cauldron by following Jun closely. After that we met in the gift shop, somewhere which always did have good tasteful objects on sale but where today, they seemed to have excelled themselves in sorting out a rich assortment of desirable gifts and the kind of small stationery items for which I have a weakness. So, with a bag of washi tape, stickers and pretty notepads we met up again to go for some lunch at one of the Shin Yeh restaurants.
An assortment of Taiwanese dishes appeared and really, we did our best to finish them all, but no way could we manage that. Every time we cleared on or other on one of the plates it would be refilled.
After lunch we paid homage to Dr Sun Yat Sen. We’d not been to his Memorial Hall previously, so were especially glad to be here. By now it was getting pretty warm and our first aim was to find some shade.
The Hall itself is quite a landmark and Jun suggested we hurry along because at 2pm they’d be changing the guard. Thankfully, it didn’t seem too busy, so we stepped on it a little and made our way to the entrance.
Ha! that was because everyone – not quite the whole population of China but at times, it felt like the vast majority (!) were in there watching the changing of the guard.
Thankfully, we had a small advantage. Being slightly taller than most of those in front, we could stand on tiptoe, raise our cameras just that wee bit higher and get those pictures. No, we couldn’t outdo the selfie sticks but I was ok with this.
My wonderful zoom lens proved useful too.
Though the changing of the guard was interesting and something I’d not pass by, here there wasn’t quite the same show as we saw at the Martyr’s Shrine last time.
The little exhibition to one side of the hall proved interesting too though ten minutes was more than adequate to get the picture
From the terrace of the hall, we were able to get a great view of Taipei 101, now the fourth highest building in the world. That was going to be our next stop.
Jun gave us a little background information abut the tower, including the fact that the record breaking, super fast lift cables are replaced regularly. Well yes, but what’s different is that the used cable is given to an artist to create something with it and one of them wound it into the shape of a baby. I know… I’m only passing on information shared with us!!
There came the first hint of mutiny from the group. Why were were stopping here when there wasn’t time to go up to the top? (Long queues make it impossible for groups to do that) Why couldn’t we go right back to the ship? I sat quietly with my fingers crossed, for I really wanted to step inside and take a look. Jun compromised and instead of an hour, we’d have 45 minutes here,ok?
So I ran. Really in search of a particular place I had spotted in a magazine (for which I’ll add a link later, when the internet is more stable), I settled for a bookshop and a few minutes browsing before heading back downstairs to investigate what Jun had told us was currently Taiwan’s main export.
I didn’t have time to investigate enough to make a purchase but I did snag a free sample!
As I left the building, I spotted what looked like a small protest and took a photo thinking I’d investigate later.
Walking past, I noticed the police moving in to ask a few questions. I thought perhaps I’d better keep moving right along!
The drive back was a quiet one. Jun answered any questions we had and as we sat in the warm afternoon sunshine, the comfortable seats got the better of most of us and there was just the sound of a peaceful nap time.
Taipei is a really interesting city and a great port of call. There’s plenty to see were and if the sun is shining, then all the better! I’m glad we made a second visit here and look forward to seeing another Taiwanese city tomorrow.