After Ulaan Batar and Beijing, Taipei was the 3rd capital (we didn’t go to Moscow) we visited on our trip. It was definitely the warmest out of the three, both in temperature as in people. The title of this post has nothing to do with the sexual orientation of these people, but purely that we felt happy (gay) there and that it kind of rhymed (plus it’ll be interesting to to see how many more clicks we get on this post compared to others :-)).
An example of this warmness is what we experienced with Couchsurfing. After we had posted on their site that we would be visiting Taipei, we were surprised by the amount of people responding, offering a place to stay or just wanting to meet up. This is how we met Jamie and Colton, an American couple from Seattle (Jamie’s mum is Taiwanese) that decided two years ago to leave their jobs and life in the US to start a new chapter as teachers in Taiwan. They were the first to contact us, had an interesting profile and in the end we really enjoyed our stay with them. They live in a nice flat (with kitchen which apparently is not a standard in Taipei: everyone just eats out) and had a very cool Japanese-style room for us complete with sliding door and comfy almost-double mattress. In addition to enjoying our time with Jamie and Colton, our stay in Taipei became quite a cultural learning for several reasons:
On the first morning in Taipei we had an important history lesson about Taiwan. We arrived to Taipei’s main train station and after storing our backpacks in a locker we walked down to the 228 Peace Memorial park nearby. On February 28th (228) 1947 an ‘incident’ took place that defined the rest of the century for Taiwan. A disagreement between a cigarette vendor and a government official set in motion nationwide demonstrations against the new government after the surrender of Japan in 1945. Japan had ruled Taiwan for 50 years and after the initial joy of being liberated, people soon started to be unhappy with the new Chinese rulers which came to a boiling point with the cigarette-incident. The uprising across the country cost thousands of peoples’ lives and was the start of the so-called White Terror which was a period of martial law that lasted for nearly 40 years. Over 100,000 people were imprisoned and a few thousands – mainly intellectuals and social elite – were executed. ‘228’ was a taboo until the 90ies when the then president reformed the country and made February 28th a national day of Peace Memorial. The ‘Tapei New Park’ was then renamed ‘228 Peace Memorial Park’ and besides the National Museum (temporary exhibition on tradional ladies’ fashion) now also houses the National 228 Memorial Museum. You can read more about this on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/228_Incident or watch the film (we recommend): Formosa Betrayed
Another thing we weren’t fully aware of is that Taiwan is still not an independent and internationally recognised country. China claims it to be part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). However, Taiwan (also called Republic of China – ROC) has it’s own president, elections, army and constitution. Only 21 UN member states currently (officially) recognise Taiwan as a separate country which is mainly due to political pressure put by China: ‘if you want to deal with us, you better accept our view of the world’.
Worth visiting is the Ximending district which is full of anything teens and tweens are looking for: lots of funky fashion, food, music and mainly: other teens and tweens. Lucia felt comfortable, Mark a bit old. We stopped at a food place that had a big queue in front of it, usually a sign of good food. Not in this case: think mushy noodles with some undefined intestine-looking meat in it.
The National Palace Museum that we visited the next day contains a large amount of artefacts from Beijing’s Forbidden City and is described as a must-see in Taipei. Because of the Chinese civil war after WWII, the Nationalists decided to ship many of the treasures to Taiwan to make sure the Communists wouldn’t seize these. Only nearly 3000 thousand crates were shipped to Taiwan (which represented just over 20% of the intended amount) before the Communists took over the Palace Museum in Beijing. Some of the greatest pieces however made it. After having spent most of the morning/early afternoon here we got on the (very efficient) metro-line (MRT) and made our way to the new Xiangshian station at the foot of Elephant mountain. We were rewarded for the climb up the many stairs with a beautiful view of Taipei and an even more impressive sunset. If you like a view the ‘natural’ way, don’t want to queue up and pay an entrance fee (which you would do by going up the 101 tower) then this is a great way of doing it. In the evening we enjoyed some Irish culture by joining our hosts and their Irish friends for a few pints in the ‘Fucking Place‘, a small bar filled with Taiwanese hipsters, a few expats and draught beer. Good fun watching the cool kids and enjoying the music and drinks!
We stayed in on day 3… for the next cultural event, an American one this time: we were going to participate in our first Thanksgiving celebration. Jamie and Colton had invited us to join them and their (big) group of friends to celebrate at the communal entertainment area in their building. Everyone that came brought food and drinks (Lucia made a delicious Slovak potato salad) and at around 4pm it was time to cut the turkey. So much good food (especially the sweet potatoes, ham and filling), good company and ‘beer-pong’ to finish the event (Each player on the ping-pong table gets a can of beer in front of him. If it gets hit you drink. If you hit your own you down the beer). The karaoke-set went on for one or two songs, but based on the quality of singing, I believe we were all happy it remained at that.
The day before we left Taipei we managed to add even more cultural activities to our list: After a quick walk through the zoo where we especially enjoyed the reptile/amphibian part, we took a gondola from the Taipei Zoo South station up to the last stop: Maokong. There are crystal cabins available with transparent bottoms, but you can only get these from the first station at Taipei Zoo. Maokong is a good area for tasting and learning more about tea and has some nice hiking trails. After having lunch with a view, we stopped at the Tea Promotion Centre where were poured green tea by a local farmer the traditional way. As the weather was good we walked down the hill and got back on the MRT line again to make our final cultural stop: the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial . As previously written this man has a dubious story, but the memorial grounds are spacious and pleasant. We were there just in time to see the changing of the guards (we were there on a Sunday at 4pm). Definitely worth a visit, just stick around for a while and watch people doing their exercises, dance-routines, picture-taking and more.
On the last evening we had dinner with our lovely hosts at a 100-dollar place, which you could say is the Taiwanese version of tapas: you order several dishes that cost around NTD 100 (2.5 euro) and have a few drinks to go with it. The main difference with tapas (apart from not getting Spanish dishes) is that the portions are massive!
The next morning we got up early and made our way to the train station for our mountain and nature adventures
Po Ulaanbaatore a Pekingu, Taipei bol tretim hlavnym mestom, ktore sme na nasom vylete navstivili. Zo vsetkych troch, Taipei bol najprijemnejsi z hladiska teploty i ludi. Titulok tohoto postu nema nic spolocne so sexualnou orientaciou miestnych obyvatelov. Rozhodli sme sa pren, pretoze sme sa tu citili stastni (v anglictine ‘gay’), radi rymujeme nase nazvy a tiez preto, aby sme zistili, ci na tento clanok preto klikne viac ludi :).
Prikladom vrucnosti ludi v Taipei (ale i v Taiwane vseobecne) je nasa tunajsia skusesnost s Couchsurfingom. Potom, co sme vyvesili na stranku nas plan navstivit mesto, prekvapili nas mnozstva ludi, ktori nam ponukali svoj gauc alebo sa chceli aspon stretnut a pokecat. Takto sme spoznali Jamie a Coltona, parik Americanov zo Seattlu (Jamie ma tajwansku mamu), ktori sa pred dvoma rokmi rozhodli opustit ich pracu a zivot a zacat novu kapitolu ako ucitelia v Taiwane. Kontaktovali nas prvi a kedze sa nam ich profil pozdaval, rozhodli sme sa ich pozvanie prijat. Byvaju v prijemnom bytiku (s kuchynou, co tu nie je standardne pre nove byty, kedze vsetci jedia v restauraciach alebo na ulici). My sme mali svoju vlastnu izbu v ‘japonskom’ style: posuvne dvere a takmer dvojlozkovy matrac na zemi. Nas pobyt v Taipei bol velmi prijemny a navyse i edukativny z mnohych dovodov:
Prvy den sa nam dostalo dolezitej lekcie o historii krajiny. Nechali sme si ruksaky na vlakovej stanici a peso sa vydali do Parku Mieru, v ktorom okrem Narodneho Muzea (s docasnou vystavou tradicneho zenskeho oblecenia) najdete aj 228 Memorial Muzeum. 28.2.1947 Taiwan zazil incident, ktory sformoval jeho dianie na takmer cely zbytok storocia. Nedorozumenie medzi predavackou cigariet a statnym uradnikom dalo do pochodu seriu demonstracii proti novej vlade. Japonsko vladlo Taiwanu takmer 50 rokov a i ked obcania boli najprv radi, ze sa ich v 1945 zbavili, coskoro ich radost vystriedala nespokojnost s novou, tentokrat cinskou vladou. Povstanie, ktore zacalo 228 incidentom, sa rozsirilo po celej krajine, no bolo brutalne potlacene a stanne pravo (vojnovy stav), ktore trvalo 40 rokov, bolo nastolene. Toto obdobie sa nazyva ‘White Terror’ a predstavovalo obdobie represii vratane ohromnych cistiek, pri ktorych statisice lokalnej socialnej a intelektualnej elity bolo uvaznenych ci popravenych v snahe eliminovat kohokolvek, kto by predstavoval vlade hrozbu. Hovorit o 228 bolo az do devatdesiatych rokov tabu, no dnes je 28. februar statnym sviatkom a incidentu je venovane muzeum v Parku Mieru. Viac o tejto casti taiwanskej historie najdete na anglickej Wikipedii alebo vo filme Formosa Betrayed, ktory velmi doporucujeme.
Dalsia vec, o ktorej sme toho vedeli predtym malo, bola, ze Taiwan je dnes krajinou, ktoru oficialne neuznava velka vacsina medzinarodnej komunity. Cina Taiwan povazuje za sucast CLR a to iste pozaduje od svojich diplomatickych partnerov. Napriek tomu, Taiwan ma vlastnu vladu, prezidenta, volby, armadu i ustavu. Len 21 statov sveta Taiwan oficialne uznalo (tento zaujimavy zoznam najdete tu).
Za navstevu stoji stvrt Ximending, ktora je plna vsetkeho, co potesi oko ci jazyk tinegera: vela funky mody, moderneho jedla, hudby a hlavne vela dalsich tinegerov. Lucia sa citila vo svojej kozi, Mark trochu mimo :) Zastavili sme sa pri preplnenom stanku s dlhym radom pred nim, co je vacsinou znamka dobreho (alebo popularneho) jedla. Podlahli sme volaniu davu tentokrat a jedlo sme si moc neuzili: predstavte si rozvarene rezance s neidentifikovatelnymi kuskami masa, ktore vyzerali ako nejaka z vnutornosti osipanej.
National Palace Museum, ktore sme navstivili druhy den, obsahuje obrovsku kolekciu artefaktov z pekingskeho Zakazaneho Mesta a je na vrchole rebricka atrakcii Taipeia. Pocas cinskej obcianskej vojny, ked sa Komunisti pokusali o moc, Nacionalisti v snahe zachovat historicke pamiatky poslali niekolko lodi s tymto nakladom na Taiwan. Len okolo 3000 bedni sa dostalo na ostrov (co predstavuje len 20% ‘pokladu’) predtym, nez sa Komunisti dostali k moci.
Po pol dni stravenom v muzeu sme sa metrom vydali na novootvorenu stanicu Xiangshian, ktora sa nachadza na upati Slonieho vrchu (Elephant Mountain). Na konci strmeho vystupu po schodoch nas cakal krasny vyhlad na mesto a zapad slnka. Ak podobne ako my, preferujete ‘prirodzene’ vyhlady, odporucujeme tento pred vystupom na Taipei 101 (pred 2012 najvyssia veza sveta). Vecer sme stravili na irsky sposob v malom lokalnom bare menom ‘Fucking Place’ s miestnymi hipstermi a capovanym pivom.
Treti den sme ostali ‘doma’, kedze nas cakala dalsia kulturna akcia – tento krat americka: Vdakyvzdanie. Jamie a Colton nas pozvali, aby sme sa k nim a ich pocetnym kamaratom pridali na obedoveceru, ktoru usporiadali v spolocenskej miestnosti ich apartmanoveho komplexu. Vsetci ucastnici priniesli nejake jedlo a pitie (za nasu vypravu bol na stole slovensky zemiakovy salat) a okolo 4 sa krajal moriak. Jedla bolo dost a chutilo (hlavne sladke zemiaky, sunka ci plnka do morky), spolocnost bola zabavna a vecer sme zakoncili ‘beer-pongom’ – pivnym pingpongom, kde cielom hry je trafit superovu plechovku, aby sa musel napit. Na dve-tri pesnicky sa zapol i popularny karaoke set, no nastastie, utrpenie netrvalo dlho.
Posledny den v Taipei sme pridali este niekolko kulturne-naucnych aktivit. Po kratkej prechadzke peknou taipeiskou zoo sme sa lanovkou nechali vyviezt na vrchol hory Maokong. Na lanovke premavaju aj kabinky so sklenenou podlahou, tie ale su k dispozicii len z prvej zastavky a tak sme nemali na ne stastie. Maokong je dobrym cielom pre milovnikov caju ci vikendovych turistov. My sme poobedovali s vyhladom na mesto a zastavili sa v centre propagacie caju, kde nam lokalny farmar nalial niekolko salok caju na ochutnavku. Peso sme zisli dole na metro, ktore nas priviezlo na nasu poslednu zastavku: Chiang Kai-Shek memorial. Ako sme uz spomenuli, tento pan nemal uplne cisty stit, ale jeho pamatnik je peknym miestom na oddych. Mali sme stastie vzhliadnut vymenu strazi (nedela, 16:00). Priestranstvo okolo pamatnika je vyuzivane miestnymi na pravidelne cvicenie, hromadne tanceky ci fotografovanie. Doporucujeme navstivit.
Na nasu poslednu veceru nas hostia vzali do 100-dolarovej restauracie, ktora je akousi verziou tapas: objednava sa naraz az niekolko jedal, krore vacsinou stoja okolo 100 dolarov (2,5 Eur). Hlavnym rozdielom od originalneho tapas je (okrem toho, ze jedla nie su spanielske), ze porcie su o dost vacsie!
Rano sme vstavali skoro a vlakom sa vydali smerom: priroda a hory.