Before I tell you about Taipei I want to report that the five-course dinner was superb – five small courses with matching wine. The boss matched his course with Coke Zero! We were at a table for two beside a table for two and there was loud chatter going on beside us. The loud chatter was coming from the lady who was planning all the future cruises she wanted to do – my goodness they covered half of Europe and New Zealand even got a smidgeon of a mention! At one stage she said to her partner that he might want to go some other place – “yes I do” he said. “Well tell me – tell me now!” Nup – he was definitely going to put thought into this if she hadn’t emptied the bank account first so he sipped on his wine quietly while she told him he was definitely no wine connoisseur! I have wondered if he maybe finished ze wine and went to the Guest Services to book another stateroom for the night! Now if I had started this exact same conversation with my buddy, I can tell you for sure it would have been over in five minutes because the one in charge of the B’s would have told me to b………… off!
On to the port of Keelung and our visit to Taipei where, we had been told many times, “do not take any item of food or drink ashore other than the bottled water the ship handed out.” Right – we got the memo! We proceed ashore through Emigration after passing a line of small Chinese men and women holding large signs with images of an apple, a banana and an orange. Every single one of them said to us as we passed by “no banana, no apple” and we nod to confirm we haven’t dared let anything slip into the bag which is confirmed by the X-ray machine. Whew! The fine is $US6000 and we do not want to spend the day in a cell! We make our way out of the terminal but not before every single person is photographed by a guy sitting in a chair at the exit! Oh well – we are in Taiwan which is part of China so I guess our photo is stored away in some data bank for ever!
We hop on the bus and I must say that there are many people with mobility and health challenges on this trip. We admire their determination to explore the world and make the most of every day and we are full of praise for their travelling partners who support them to do so. It is inspirational to witness.
On we go to do the 40 minute drive to Taipei City where we watch a sea of motorcycles moving like colonies of ants to get to work – it is rush hour and there are thousands and thousands of motorbikes due to the fact that the Government has imposed a huge tax on imported cars. Taiwan stretches only 180 km from east to west and has a population of 23 million people. We pass very old run down apartment blocks and basic residential shacks raised on spindly stilts. Many of the residential blocks look neglected and grubby from the smog. They are so very basic and it is sad to see the conditions that some people live in. On the opposite side of the motorway there are substantial commercial buildings of some global companies and, in complete contrast, some very old rusty looking factories that I do not think would get one tick on a building inspection checklist back home. Many of the commercial buildings are built with Feng Shui principles in their design which is extremely important for health and prosperity. There are dozens and dozens of cranes on the horizon and many workers laboring away. It is a bustling place for sure. Apartments are horrendously expensive at $US10,000 per square foot – you heard me right! We are told that the main languages are Mandarin and Taiwanese of which there are 16 dialects. English is widely spoken but we are told to use simple words and actions if we need help – should be interesting. Buddhism is the main religion.
We proceed on to the National Palace Museum with 700,000 priceless artifacts ranging from the Neolithic Age to modern times. There are exquisite pieces carved out of jade dating back to the 10th century Qing dynasty, bronze pieces dating back to the 9th century and porcelain crafted with glossy glazes and some have very fine shallow crab claw crackle patterns and date back to the Northern and Southern Seng Dynasty and the Ming Dynasty from the 13th-16th centuries. There are some priceless treasures here.
On we go past some very large military bases all lined up beside each other – Army, Air Force and Navy. It is mandatory for every male to do military training. We witness the changing of the guard at the Martyr’s Shrine overlooking Keelung River. Here 330,000 spirit tablets commemorating soldiers who died defending their country.
Lunch is at The Grand Hotel – a buffet the likes of which we have never seen with offerings we have never heard of so we walk around in circles trying to choose what we might like to have. The boss sights the Hagen Daas ice cream section so he is ‘appy! However, he arrives to the table telling me he has chosen wasabi as a vegetable so I sit and wait for him to take a mouthful and leap up and dance around and scream for a drink – but he doesn’t. It is mild and tasty he tells me! Great – what a relief because there are about 1000 people here at this Grand ‘Otel eating ze lunch and the staff are too busy to cope with an emergency. This hotel is famous having welcomed world leaders and dignatories over the years. Also, we are told that there are 220,000 dragons carved into this magnificent building representing Chinese classical architecture so we feel well protected. These dragons represent different eras of Chinese dynasty.
Taipei is a walled city, the walls having been built a long time ago to protect the city from the rivers which used to flood the city. That problem has been fixed thankfully. We ride on to the Lungshan Temple, home of the Goddess of Mercy, and we are guided around areas of this peaceful place – except it isn’t today because there are many people visiting here in the 31 degree heat. We are told there are academic exams coming up next week and the students come here to make their offerings and prayers. By this stage I am starting to wilt – the boss is engrossed in what is happening but I am feeling like I will be down on the ground in a minute beside those that are fervently praying so I go to sit on a ledge that runs beside the back part of where everyone is standing facing the various sections – one is for medicine (might need it), one is for literature, and there are others. But one of the tour group whispers to me to get up quickly because a guard is approaching and he had already told her off! Heaven forbid – they are watching everything we do!
Our final stop is at the blue roofed Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall dedicated to the late president and surrounded by lovely landscaped gardens. We then make our way back to the ship which is now sailing the South China Sea on its way to Nagasaki where we arrive tomorrow morning. We go to the upper level to watch the ship navigate its way out of Keelung Port and suddenly a drone appears above us at the bow of the ship – are we being monitored we wonder? Anyway, this drone disappears mysteriously after a little while leaving us wondering what that was about. After we departed Hong Kong we had dolphins happily swimming along beside us for some time which was lovely to watch.
We are hoping to feel the zen of Japan so the stress remedy can stay in ze bag! I can tell you we need the zen – I did the laundry this morning and was ironing when a lady came in and emptied the drier onto the ironing board where I was busy pressing a shirt! Am I missing something here? She then announced to me that she was possibly in my way as I slid the iron near to her bundle! But I am in charge of the P’s so patience is on the list!
We have just been to an interesting lecture on “Japan Behind the Mask” exploring some of the cultural foundations of Japan and now we have a date in the diary to go to High Tea in the Wintergarden – because it is three hours since we had lunch and we have to wait another three-four hours for dinner because we are going to a concert. Life is busy as we sail along inching closer to Nagasaki.
3 thoughts on “Taipei, Taiwan”
Wasabi and Hagan Daas what more does one need on a lunch buffet!
Loving your updates.
Happy travels xxx
Do hope you got to put your feet up when you got back to your ship Shannon!! Even there on the Grand ship Viking Orion, it sounds mighty busy!
Fascinating report. Thanks for sharing.
Smiles from Granny Chris xo
Some great pics, Shannon. Looks like you are having a ball. Grand opening here tonight so everyone is getting their glad rags on! Hope I can find something.🤣xx