Thursday, July 29, 2010

One Day in Taipei

What can you do in one day in Taipei? A whole heck of a lot, as it happens, especially if you arrive at 6am and don't get on a plane until 11:30pm...

All the tourist-type buses (the ones to and from the airport, for example) have lovely frilly curtains on the windows and antimacassars on the seats. It was about an hour from the airport with lots of stops (shorter on the way back because it as an express) but it only cost us $90 each, which is $2.91 Canadian. Considering it takes $18 to get from the Brisbane airport back into the city, this was a welcome change!

When we got off at the bus station in Taipei, we walked around for a bit, marveling at the architecture, crazy signage and swarms of people on scooters. It was blistering hot, 28 degrees and very humid - definitely summer there!

We headed over to the National Concert Hall, National Theatre and Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, which are all in the same general area.

The entranceway:

Pat in front of the entranceway:

The entranceway as seen from the steps of the National Concert Hall.

The National Concert Hall:

Pat catching some snaps from the top of the steps of the National Concert Hall.

The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, from the steps of the Concert Hall.

The National Theatre:

The Concert Hall on the right, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial in the middle and the Theatre on the right. My panorama feature isn't great when you're not dead centre, but you get the idea of the scope of it.

There were two beautiful garden areas on either side of the grounds, with tons of huge fish in the ponds. Pat fed them (see his blog for a picture of his with the fish vending machine).

The view of the Theatre, entranceway and Concert Hall from the top of the Chiang Kai-shek memorial. It 28 degree heat it was a long walk!!

We were constantly parched and took this as an opportunity to sample a variety of Asian soft drinks from one of the many Hey Song vending machines.

I don't quite know what the cat is drinking, but he sure is enjoying himself. For the equivalent of 65 cents Canadian, you can't afford not to!

A stone dog suckling her stone puppy!

Everywhere in Taiwan, between the buildings were skinny little alleyways absolutely full of stuff - shops, food stands, cars, scooters, people, plants. This is one of many:

Another cool building, not sure what it is.

I very much wanted to see the Longshan Temple. They say it's one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in the city. It was the only one we saw, but I bet they're right.

The entrance:

Inside that part of three huge statues, Kuan Yin in the middle, flanked by her two warrior guardians - the one who can hear for a thousand miles and the one who can see for a thousand miles. Though others were, it didn't feel appropriate to take pictures of them.

(Click to make it bigger and you can see the detail on the four dragons)

So incredibly ornate! Photos really cannot capture the intricacy and detail.

Next, we headed to the National Palace Museum, to check out 2 exhibits. Sadly, we couldn't take pictures of the exhibits themselves, so this is just the outside of the museum.

The surrounding area.

Outside Gallery 2, a man riding a fish:

It was surprisingly easy to get around the city. Everything is clearly marked in English as well as Mandarin, and the rapid transit system is also colour-coded for anyone who doesn't speak either language. Most of the bus drivers we ran into spoke English as well, but it's very much "transit for dummies". Very tourist-friendly, not to mention cheap! 50 cents Canadian for a bus ride, at most $1.13 Canadian for the furthest you could go on the "skytrain".

Submitted for your approval: a very warm dog in a bandana and glasses.

An Irish fries place. Yep.

Next, it was on to the Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world!

The view of Taipei and beyond from the 89th floor.

The super big wind damper that keeps the building from tipping over.

There was some sort of Pets Show going on downtown. Not quite sure what it meant, but there were adorable cartoons everywhere.

Taipei got pretty beautiful as the sun was setting. Not to mention it started cooling down a bit. So neon and bright and full of life.

We were sweaty and filthy by the time we got back to the airport - we had planned for this, though, and both had a change of clothes. Well, I bought a dress in the city. It was only $280 Taiwanese dollars ($9 Canadian). How could I not?

Pat and I both want to go back again, when we can stay a night or two and enjoy the night markets and buy lots of cheap wares and just generally take in the city a little more. Now I've had a real taste of Asia, I want to see Hong Kong, Japan, Korea... exploring the world with my love is pretty much the best thing ever.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

Even though this is my "Brisbane" blog, we had such a great time on vacation in British Columbia and in Taiwan that we just had to share! Here are so pics from Vancouver, Brown's Bay and Long Beach.

Our view from the RV at Ripple Rock resort. We went "glamping" (glamour camping) with Pat's parents. It was pretty sweet. Running water, a stove, a real bed, a hot tub, a pool table and quite a view.

This was the view the next morning - a little mistier!

They have all sorts of animals in Brown's Bay:

Jellyfish (non-poisonous, hurray!)



Wooden orcas, wooden mermaids and Bens

Occasionally, cruise ships go by, which is really the most exciting thing that happens at Ripple Rock.

We went for a boat ride in the zodiac, it was quite spectacular, if a little cold and cloudy.

We had a great hike up to a lookout, where we met an Australian family (true story!) who'd been on an Alaskan cruise. Here is Pat, Ben and I, feeling very accomplished.

You can actually get a proper view without our faces in the way. Look at the whirlpools! Ooo... whirpools...

Mum threw us a nice party when we got back, down at Jericho Beach. Behold, the splendour of my favourite duck pond... note the heron.

We spent Canada Day on Granville Island. Here is the Maple Leaf Oracle. She knighted people when they put money in the hat.

And a nice view from under the bridge...

Oh, the crows! I'd forgotten about the crows, migrating from West Van to Burnaby every night. Here in Queensland we have bats that do the same thing, flying from one city to the next in search of fruit. Did you know a group of bats is called a colony, a camp or a cloud? Anyway, these are crows.

Loved living on Commercial Drive for 6 days. Thanks Rob for making that happen! One of my favourite places in Vancouver, even if it is becoming seriously gentrified. What will it be like in another 2 1/2 years?

Next, it was off to beautiful Long Beach and Tofino.

Pat and Antonio successfully built a fire the first night. Good job!

Pat, roasting his weiner.

Obligatory Long Beach sunset shot.

Pat bathed in the morning light.

A nurse log in Cathedral Grove - my first time hiking through there, by the way. It was so majestic and beautiful, such a British Columbian experience!

Back in Vancouver, with only a few days left (after making tons of wedding plans and a super Littlejohn family BBQ) I hit up English Bay and took a pic of those crazy laughing guys.

And Cambie Street, with the mountains in the background - s'why they call it Fairview, I guess.

I love the new Canada Line. Made Richmond more accessible (love those Richmond malls!) and made getting back and forth from Mum and Dad's easy enough (if only the stupid #49 bus ran past midnight... wtf #49 bus... seriously).

Other thoughts on Vancouver after being away for 8 months - a lot of places I remember are now gone, or have changed, or are 'For Lease'. There are so many homeless people. Being in Brisbane where it is not such a huge problem kind of took my blinders off when visiting Van. They are everywhere and I know it's a big city and it's one of the mildest weather-wise in Canada, but it's still jarring.

It was so great to see all my Canada friends. I can't believe how much I fit in one month! Not to mention all the shows I saw - Titania, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, Anthony & Cleopatra, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Singin' In The Rain (wow, lots of shows with long titles!) and a sneak peek of Hair. Not to mention two little play-readings of my own!

Next post will be our one-day stopover in Taiwan! Stay tuned!