During my time in Taipei, I saw Taiwan’s honor guard at both the Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial and the Sun-Yat Sen Memorial, guarding the two statues of CKS and SYS respectively. Kind of like the guards at London’s Birmingham Palace, but without those silly hats.
There are three branches of the Taiwan’s army – the army, navy, and air force. And each branch has its own honor guard – white for the air force, dark blue for the air force, and camouflage greens for the army.
For the most part, the honor guard does not do much – stand to attention, look handsome, and pose for the cameras. But every hour on the dot, there’s a changing of the guard, as two guards come to replace the two previous guards. And when that happens, there’s a nice 5-10 minutes ceremony, as the current guards stand down and the replacement guards stand to attention. It reminded me of the nutcracker.
Supposedly the army has the best changing of the guard ceremony, and the air force has the worst. So of course, every time I show up at either of the memorials (5+ times), it’s always the air force on duty…
Quite a crowd gathers to watch the changing of the guard – especially tourists from mainland China. There are like, a billion mainland Chinese tourists that flock to Chiang-Kai Shek’s and Sun-Yat Sen’s memorials to watch the changing of the guard.
Jiufen (九份) is another old mountain town in Taiwan turned into a tourist destination, similar to Pingxi (平溪) and Shifen (十分).
Continue reading Travelogue: Jiufen
I’ve been to a baseball game before, and I know (roughly) how baseball works, but I’ve never actually played baseball. And so, I didn’t think that batting would be particularly hard. You see a ball coming towards you, hit the ball, and then run in a circle. Simple enough. I might even have a hidden talent, like that Japanese guy who can repeatedly slice baseballs in half. So with one of my cousins, I visited a batting cage. And thoroughly dashed my hopes of having a hidden talent for baseball.
It’s kind of like Schrödinger’s cat. Before going to a batting cage, I exist in a quantum state where I am both good at baseball and bad at baseball. But then, when I open the box and actually try batting, my quantum state collapses and I’m either good or bad, but not both. And I’m bad. Really, really bad at batting.
Continue reading Interlude: Baseball Batting Cages
There’s this thing in Taiwan, called Shen Zhu (神豬). Literally, Divine Pig:
Continue reading Interlude: Divine Pig
While I was staying near Taipei, Red Bull hosted the first Red Bull Soapbox Race in Taiwan, so I dropped everything and headed on over to watch. Even though I grew up in the states, I have never seen a soapbox race before (*cough* deprived childhood *cough*), so my first race was in Taiwan – not exactly known for its soapbox racing. Results… were decidedly mixed. But I got on national television! Of Taiwan!
Continue reading Interlude: Red Bull Soapbox Race, Taipei 2013
While staying with relatives in the Taipei area, I had the fortune of attending a college-level lion dance competition, and it was a pretty cool experience. For the uninitiated, the lion dance is the great Chinese cultural dance, representing…. something. I’m not sure. But in Chinatowns all around the world, there is certain to be a lion dance display for (Lunar) New Years. Basically, you’ve got two+ people in a lion costume, jumping around. It looks more impressive than it sounds.
Continue reading Interlude: Lion Dance
When I think about Taiwan’s railways, I immediately think of the Taiwan Railway bento box / boxed lunch (台灣鐵路便當). There’s nothing particularly special about these boxed lunches – no special ingredients, no special preparation, no special packaging. But yet, they are surprisingly popular, and surprisingly delicious. It tastes like comfort food.
Inside, you’ve got some basic pork chops, pickled and boiled vegetables, and a broiled egg. This basic lunch (or dinner) is very simple, and very cheap – just $2! And for the fancy pants, there are also fancier boxed lunches, costing $3 for slightly more food.
During lunchtime, massive crowds form to buy these boxed lunches.
I found that they weren’t big enough to be a full lunch or dinner, but were quite nice as a snack to take the edge off my hunger for a couple of hours. They’re especially convenient since you can not only buy the boxed lunches from onboard the trains, but also in most train stations, including Taipei Main Station.
While waiting for buses and trains at Taipei Main Station, I ate a great number of these delicious boxed lunches!
One of the reasons why I stopped in Taiwan, was to attend the wedding of one of my (countless) cousins. I had expected a traditional Chinese wedding (lots of ceremony, lots of relatives, lots of drinking), but it turned out to be a mass wedding! Mass wedding, meaning that 85 couples got married in one giant ceremony. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Continue reading Interlude: Mass Wedding in Taipei
Taiwan’s night markets are world famous – there are many night markets and bazaars around the world, but as famous as in Taiwan. Just as how France equates wine and England equates crappy weather, Taiwan equates night markets. So I had to visit two of the most famous of Taipei – Shilin (士林) night market and Miaokou (廟口) night market located at Keelung (基隆).
Continue reading Travelogue: Night Markets of Taiwan
The Taipei 101 is a one of a kind building. For a couple of years, it was the tallest building in the world – until Dubai finished the Burj Khalifa in 2010. But it’s not really special for its height, but for its design – like the nodes of a bamboo pole. Or, for the more crude, Chinese takeout containers stacked on top of each other.
It took me quite some time visit the Taipei 101, since I waited for the perfect weather, so I could see far into the distance from the observation tower. But it was totally worth it.
Continue reading Travelogue: Taipei 101