Exploring Taipei & Serendipity — Days 4 & 5

Monday in Taipei was a great travel day.

I started the day with few expectations, hoping the museums would be open on a Monday unlike most large cities. But yes, they were open. As Steve left for his meetings, the hotel staff walked me through the steps to get there:  taxi to high-speed train station, fast train to Taipei Main Station, change to subway, finally bus or taxi to museum.

At the train station, I was waiting at the Information Desk to buy a ticket. I couldn’t read a single sign, so it seemed like the logical thing to do. A young woman approached me and asked if she could help. “It’s a long time, you wait too long, let me help you.”

She took me in hand to a computerized screen, punched a pile of buttons, showed me where to put my money ($10), guided me to the correct waiting room, and suggested we sit together since she was going to Main Station herself, and she could point me to the subway transfer.

So I met Miko, a smiling, friendly Taiwanese with good English. The high-speed train turned out to be a bullet train, ultra-modern, sparkling clean, flying along at 210 kilometers. By the time we reached the main station, Miko volunteered to accompany me to the museum and show me her Taipei. OK then! We zoomed through the station to the MRT subway’s dazzling technology and efficiency, out into street drizzle, then taxi-ed to the museum.

The Palace National Museum was as splendid as its name, packed with busloads of Asian tourists. We browsed four floors of the museum’s treasures and the current Hong Dynasty Exhibition. Tea time, so we headed to the museum cafe. She ignored the hostess who wanted to seat us at an ordinary table, no we would sit in a traditional tea house setting, enjoying the view, aged wood and the comfort of cushions.

I ordered an herbal tea of pine nut, citron and delicate mushrooms. The tea arrived in a clear glass pot engraved with flowers, and eventually steeped into the palest shade of yellow in the universe. It tasted…like hot water with a hint of mushroom…more appealing to the eye than the tongue. The brown sugar and taro cakes were another story, quite yummy.

As we ate and drank, Miko asked about America and how did I like President Obama. She admired his bravery but feared he would not fulfill his social change dreams because of politics. We talked about our families, Taiwan, her medical studies, my writing, our hopes and dreams.

At 3:45 we hopped up and out; Miko needed to go to work. She advised me to skip the subway due to rush hour. We hailed a taxi back to Main Station. “Hello, pretty professor! Ahh, not professor. Hmm, you artist yes?” Our driver was “Crazy Taxi Guy.” He kept up a running spiel about his 10 years with a taxi, his wife wanted for nothing, Taipei’s 21 million population and 10 million scooters. As I paid him, I complimented his efficient, smooth driving but “you are crazy man!” He laughed. “But I am crazy lady, so it’s OK.” He laughed harder. As we entered the station, I turned to wave goodbye and he was still laughing.

Miko helped me buy my return ticket, guided me to the waiting room, and we clasped hands, smiling big and promising to stay in touch by email, Facebook and blog. I gave her a standing invitation to visit us in Tucson.

I sat happily. I didn’t see all of the museum and didn’t care. Serendipity is the perfect word for the day. I made a friend in Taipei today.

The day ended just as nicely. We had dinner in a landmark building, full of history and custom-carved furniture. Private dining rooms were arranged around a pond full of colorful fish, landscaped to the n’th degree, red lanterns casting a magical glow.  After dinner, we wandered our hotel neighborhood. All those shops closed Sunday were buzzing with action and lights. One of Steve’s colleagues told him over lunch that day that this area was grasslands only 20 years ago, the growth had come because of the Science Park/Silicon Valley of Taiwan, and the shops would serve night shift workers until 2:00am.

Today, Day 5 and Tuesday here:

We walked through the 18 Peaks Mountain Park, wonderfully quiet and beautiful. I picked up a perfect maroon and pink orchid after it floated to the path. Later we paused to see the East Gate and Moat, the last standing vestige of Taiwan’s royal castle.

Now, late afternoon, we’re headed to the airport through the beginning of rush hour to catch our plane to Hong Kong, then connect to our flight for Bangalore, India. The airline is Dragon Air, and I can’t wait to see if it fits its name.

Life is good, this travel oh so wonderfully good.

Bye, aloha, ciao, so long,
Globetrotting Donna

One Response to “Exploring Taipei & Serendipity — Days 4 & 5”

  1. Jackie Evangelista says:

    Hi Donna and Steve, Enjoying vicarious travel via your travelogue as usual. Enjoy! Love, Jackie

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