Taiwan: Museums + culture

No trip of mine would be complete without plenty of museums and other cultural sites.

Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall

This was a bit of a disappointment. The hall itself was mostly empty, and the exhibit was snoresville and propaganda-ish. I just kept thinking about how corrupt the guy was, and the fact that he ruled with martial law and loved the Japanese so much despite the atrocities on the mainland.

The changing of the guard at least was interesting. They do it every hour on the hour, and I had just missed the two o’clock. However, I decided to wait and read. After all, when was the next time I’d be able to see it?

It was worth it although I did find myself thinking, God, hurry up. And the whole concept is bizarre if you think about it.

MOCA Taipei

I enjoyed my visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art. It was just the right size and nice and low key.

The first exhibit was the work of photographer Steve McCurry, whose most famous photo is arguably “Afghan Girl.” At the front was the cool, sort of optical illusion.

This photo was another one of my favorites:

Tee hee.

The other exhibition was The Rebellion of the Moving Image, several short films. They were all very interesting. The one I stayed in the longest was Ten Thousand Waves, which played on multiple screens and had Maggie Cheung as Mazu, the goddess of fishermen. The images were so striking, I stayed for a long time trying to get good pictures.

National Palace Museum

I really loved this museum, although the sheer number of items was overwhelming.

Getting there from my hotel was very easy. I confirmed the bus number and fare with the hotel folks, who were also kind of enough to give me exact change. The bus stop was right outside the hotel, and happened to arrive minutes after I got there. The ride was supposed to take 45 minutes but it felt faster than that.

The museum wasn’t as crowded as I expected. There were some annoying tour groups, but there were also times when I was totally by myself.

At first I was determined to listen to all the audios, but there were just too many. The room I absorbed the most was about ceramics from Emperor Yongle’s time period. It was divided into sections depending on the type of glaze: sweet white (named so because of its resemblance to sugar), red, blue and white, and bamboo green.

Of course I saw the Jadeite Cabbage and Meat-Shaped Stone (so fitting that Taiwan’s most famous and beloved pieces of art are food). As with Din Tai Fung, I expected a long line or at least crowds. There was neither, and I was able to get close enough to take a couple of pictures.

Each was much smaller than I expected, but also far more intricate and detailed.

After I finished, I found out why the museum wasn’t crowded. The Zhishan Garden was closed that day. I was so bummed. I just assumed that if the museum was open, the adjacent garden would be open too (it’s closed on Mondays).

I made do by eating at one of the museum restaurants. I got a tiny bowl of rice noodle soup and a tofu “pudding” dessert with tapioca balls. I enjoyed both, and the whole thing cost only $5 American.

I made do by eating at one of the museum restaurants. I got a tiny bowl of rice noodle soup and a tofu “pudding” dessert with tapioca balls. I enjoyed both, and the whole thing cost only $5 American.

Longshan Temple

Taiwan is a very Buddhist country so there were tons of temples everywhere. One day I was close to one called Longshan so I decided to check it out.

It was PACKED with people singing and praying.

Turns out I was there on day that’s special for Buddhists: April 15, which is celebrated as the day the Buddha achieved enlightenment. Or at least I’m guessing that’s what was going on.

National Taiwan University

I went here at the request of my dad, since it’s his alma mater. While the campus wasn’t exactly pretty (it reminded me of ones in China, very plain and utilitarian) and probably very different from when my father went there, it was still interesting to visit a Taiwan college, check out student life, and spend some time in a place from my father’s youth.

They had a pretty extensive food hall with a large variety of Asian and, to a lesser extent, Western foods. There was a small museum about a Japanese anthropologist (maybe this guy?) who studied Taiwan aboriginal people and their culture. I mostly went to charge my phone, which the student who was minding the museum kindly let me. Then she offered to give me a little tour and explain the photos. She was so nice and cute, but I understood maybe five percent of what she was saying. I just smiled and nodded.

Next! Parks and gardens.

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