A Charming Place

Our dessert and tea at the National Palace Museum, Taipei. I am reluctant to include pictures of food, but this was so beautifully presented that I couldn’t resist!

It’s now Sunday May 14th, 2023. Kia ora!

This morning we went to the Taipei Palace Museum.  Although we could have taken public transport, it seemed much easier to take a taxi, and accordingly we asked at the lobby for one to be ordered. Although I had printouts for this museum, I didn’t have the name in Chinese characters, so I asked the man at the lobby to write it down for us. I wondered if we were going the wrong way, as we seemed to head towards the hills after driving through the city, but then we were there.

On the way, we drove through some really interesting areas – a few new buildings, but many old ones all with air-conditioning units on the outside. We passed a small group of private houses near the museum, but they didn’t seem to have large gardens. There were several parks along the way, however, and lots of green trees.

The Palace Museum is en enormous complex, and it made me think pf other large museums I had been in before. On entry, we purchased tickets at a vending machine, and JD paid with a credit card.  We certainly didn’t cover all there was to offer; we marvelled at the intricacy of the artifacts we saw. Sandalwood is prevalent.  The objects are well curated, with labels in front of them and often demonstrations of the actual tiny writing or drawing therein.

We went through the jade exhibitions, and also some seriously old stuff in the antiquities section. We both found it all very interesting.

There was a restaurant upstairs, where we went to have lunch. They did have a European option of quiche and salad; on this occasion, it seemed much easier to opt for that. JD had tea to drink (it came with a tiny tea bowl), and I ordered a coffee latte, which came in a mug-sized cup!  I haven’t really figured out how to drink enough here, but the tap water seems fine.

Afterwards, I used the ladies’ rest room: tiny cubicles. But touch-free soap and warm water, with paper towels for drying ones’ hands. Then, of course, we went to one of the shops, where we bought book marks and a tote bag.

Then we made our way downstairs, and caught a taxi back to the hotel. There were lots of people at the museum, and many of them were wearing masks. There’s no stigma here to wearing a mask.  At lunch we sat next to a very annoying, entitled American young woman. Dick Cheney asked, Why do other people dislike us so? Well, apart from the accent, and leaving food uneaten – a grave sin where there may be food anxiety – the sense of entitlement and exceptionalism are just plain annoying.

We went to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant nearby.  JD ordered a beef stew with French bread; I ordered a fried noodle dish, but they didn’t have it tonight, so we both had the beef stew with French bread. It was advertised as Banh Mi, but it wasn’t Banh Mi as I’d understand it. It was quite nice, though, and we navigated using chopsticks to eat it. I did miss having a napkin, though, although I appreciated a wrapped wet wipe to use before eating. To be honest, there wasn’t a great deal on the menu. I ordered guava juice to drink; JD wanted wine, but they only had red wine; the Californian pinot noir looked acceptable, but cost about $NZD40, and you couldn’t buy it by the glass, so we shared a large bottle of Sunkist orange drink (not juice), bringing the rest back to our hotel.  After we had eaten we went for a walk, and found a convenience store where we bought a can of beer for JD (our hotel does not have a bar!), two Haagen Das ice creams, and some mango pieces.  We did pass a bar, but it was closed. Well, it’s no harm to me, but it might cause some visitors some difficulty!

Last night our eldest son called in to see us. He had just flown back from the US, doing the long haul flight across the Pacific Ocean. It’s a very big ocean, and can be quite turbulent.  It seemed that he’d been flying all day, while we’d been doing other things. He looks well, though!  After that, some friends of our son and his wife sent more packages to us, after dropping them off at hotel reception.  There is some fruit, a selection of cakes (the pineapple cake is delicious), and two perhaps savoury baked goods – a bit like small pies. Our eldest son will have to translate.  As if we need to eat any more!  We won’t require dinners! 

I have found that I can get Netflix on my computer here, but not Neon, so I won’t be able to watch Succession, I fear – they’re dropping a new episode each Monday night in New Zealand, perhaps Sunday evening in other places. It’s weird: New Zealand sees the sun first, but we’re often the last to get new things released.  I can also log into TVNZ On Demand, but when I tried to watch the last episode of a series, I couldn’t do so.  Of course, it seems silly to have enough time to watch something on television, but there is a surprising amount of down time when one is on holiday. On the television set in our room we can only get BBC News, or local sports programmes.

I have reset my FB password, so now I can log into Messenger and hence get my photos transferred. There was probably an easier way to do this!

It’s now Monday May 15th.

This morning it is still overcast, but we can see the hills surrounding Taipai! It is drizzling, and warm.

The weekly Covid 19 report has been released in New Zealand. It is as follows: there were 11,739​ cases of Covid-19 reported across the country in the past week. The Ministry of Health released its latest weekly update – covering the period from Monday, May 8 to Sunday, May 14.

The number of reported cases was down slightly compared to 12,277​ the week prior.

As of midnight on Sunday, 247​ people were in hospital with Covid-19, compared to 249 at the same time last week. Six​ were in an intensive care or high dependency care unit.

The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases was 1672​, down from 1746​ last week.

The Ministry of Health reported 66 deaths in the past seven days. Of the 66 deaths, one was aged in their 20s, two were in their 50s, eight in their 60s, 20 in their 70s, 21 were in their 80s, and 14 were aged over 90. Of these people, 40 were women and 26 were men.

The number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 increased by 58​ in the past week: 40​ where the virus was the underlying cause of death, and 18​ where Covid-19 was a contributory factor. So it’s still very much around, as it is here in Taipei. There are a great many people wearing masks here.

It’s now Tuesday May 16th.

Yesterday our son took us to another vegan restaurant, what he called a “Mom and Pop” operation. Small and cramped it may have been, but the food was delicious! I had noodles with mushroom sauce (which I ate with a fork, thankfully!), which came on a tray with some soup, and three small dishes of vegetables: some greens, a mixture of mushrooms, carrots, and something like turnip, with a slice of ginger; there was another small dish containing edamame beans, corn, and something pink which my son told me was tofu. There was a napkin, but no drinks were offered!

Afterwards we caught a bus back to a main road near our hotel.  It was very like the Metlink system back in Wellington: you tag on and off with a pre-loaded card; there are frequent Stop buttons, and there’s a sign to indicate that the bus is due to stop at the next stop.  On our way back, our son pointed out Da’an Park, which is near our hotel, but in an area we hadn’t explored yet. He also took us to a supermarket, where we went downstairs, and bought some lovely soap – a thing I had meant to bring more of but had forgotten. JD had not brought soap.

Afterwards, I needed to have a cup of coffee. We chose the café at the hotel. We ordered two espressos, and they were perfect. Small, but not too small. We shared a slice of delicious cage from the cabinet – a mocha flavoured cake.

Later on our grandson came back to our hotel for a bit after his pre-school finished, and he ate lots of fruit – only vegan food!  Our son had translated the lovely foods his friends had sent us, but most of them weren’t vegan. The ones that were, he’d taken with him!

In the late afternoon we walked our grandson back to his apartment. It seems that there are main roads here, criss-crossed with narrow lanes, many of them one-way. There aren’t raised footpaths, but areas marked for walking, and plenty of pedestrian crossings. After that we went to the Grand Courtyard – presumably at one time a private dwelling, now a picture gallery. One artist’s paintings were displayed there, and they were truly amazing. In another building nearby, there was a restaurant. There was already a group there. JD wanted to eat there, but there was no English menu, and no translation – there was no way of knowing what the food was, and I was reluctant to eat unknown food. Also, I needed to use the restroom!

We walked back to the hotel, and ended up eating there. I thought there would be a Western menu, but no; but the menu we were given had English translations of the Chinese dishes. JD ordered Beef Fried Rice, and I ordered Pork Meat Balls with Vegetables. Both were absolutely delicious, and far too much: we could have shared either dish and had some left over. I combined his fried rice with my yummy meatballs, but I was given my own serving of rice as well. I had an orange drink and JD a Taiwan beer (they didn’t have Heineken).

This morning we had our usual breakfast of fruit, toast and coffee, and then went for a walk in Da’an Park before it got too hot. It’s fine and sunny today, and already very warm!  I saw one pet, a medium-sized dog on a leash!  There is absolutely no smoking here. Everything is very clean, and cleaned, although buildings tend to be grimy. In the Park, we saw a woman sweeping up leaves – no annoying leaf-blowers here! The plants are watered regularly. The hotel outside areas are cleaned regularly. Everyone is very well behaved. I’ve seen one police car, but I have yet to see a policeman.

The park is a lovely flat, restful area with lots of seats, lots of birds, and a running track. We made our way to a stream where you could ride exercise bikes to power the water wheels. There were beautiful lilies in the water. Later we came across the Pond, where several well-fed fish swim in the rather murky waters.  While you can hear the traffic noise all around, it is peaceful and there’s no litter!  Taipei is very environmentally conscious, with rubbish and recycling bins around, also helpful signs and maps. What a lovely place!

At Da’an Park – exercycles that turn the water wheels

We met our son and his wife for lunch, and went to a different, more modern, busy vegan restaurant.  I ordered ramen noodles with black garlic; what came was a kind of soup with noodles in it and some strange vegetables. I also had plum juice to drink, with ice. It was all delicious. The menu had English translations, and you could have Italian pasta with sauce.

After that we caught a metro train to a huge department store, which had an amazing supermarket underneath.  Then we caught another train, and went to another café where I had an espresso and JD had a glass of chardonnay and affogato. Then we went to a fruit market, and caught a bus back to our hotel. JD picked up our grandson from his pre-school nearby, and they came back to the hotel room for a bit. After a rest, we went for a walk and watched our grandchildren roller-blading – very impressive!

On the way back to our hotel, we bought some more fruit, not really fancying dinner.

Taipei seems to me to be a very egalitarian place. People are tidily dressed, usually in long trousers and t-shirts; they don’t wear bling or makeup. There are very few overweight people; and people seem uniformly pleasant, polite and unselfconscious. They’re not obsessed with their appearance, which I find very refreshing.  It seems to be a pretty egalitarian society; I guess there are seriously rich people, and according to my son there are dispossessed and homeless people, but I haven’t seem anyone begging.  I don’t know what kind of social welfare network there is, or what agencies and church organisations help poor people, but there seems to be serious awareness of disabled people, with lift controls at armchair level in some lifts; some ramps around; although I don’t know how a disabled person would use a tiny toilet cubicle!  Still, we feel very comfortable here, and I can see why my son likes it here. It’s very handy to have a Chinese speaker around, too!  Many signs and menus are not in English.

That’s it for now.  It’s nice to be away from everyday concerns, although there’s been a dreadful fire in a hostel in Newtown, one of the older suburbs in Wellington; six deaths have been confirmed, so far.  By the way, NZ Herald, it’s Newtown, not Newton, which is in Auckland. The war in Ukraine grinds on, sadly; Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

The Pond at Da’an Park

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s