Saturday, 4 October 2008

Typhoon In Taipei

I had thought of calling this entry the Jangmi Jinx as this was the name of the typhoon that followed us to Taipei just a few short hours after we had arrived.

Mercifully our flight from Singapore was only four and a half hours and we beat the storm to the island. Later, as can be seen from this news video above, things got decidely worse.

We had chosen to go to Taiwan for a short break between jobs and because we had never been there. For me the attraction was to get to visit the National Place Museum and view the greatest Chinese treasure that had been whisked across the Strait ahead of the advancing communists.

It was an hour's trip by minibus from the airport to our hotel - the Fortune Hiayat (note this is not the Hyatt). The transport smelt of second hand cigarette smoke and this proved to be a recurring prospect throughout our holiday. I won't dwell on the merits of the hotel but readers can see my online review - “Give The Fortune Haiyatt A Miss!” which I have placed on TripAdvisor.

I am not sure what it is about Taipei? It is a city that looks tired and listless with large swarths of grimy buildings reminiscent of Singapore's Chinatown of thirty to forty years ago. There are some bright patches with new building work, especially in the area near Taipei City Hall.

The much vaunted Taipei 101 Mall is no better or worse than the Singaporean malls whereas the New York, New York complex across the road is far from inspiring.

On the plus side, the Taiwanese are very friendly people always willing to assist a visitor if they they are able to. The green spaces are numerous and the MRT is efficient, providing you are staying close by to a station, which we were not.

Scooters are a very popular mode of transport as can be seen in this photograph. Don't be surprised that when the pedestrian sign goes green and you start to cross the road, a scooter of two weave their way around you.

The road rules seem quite flexible in this regard.

Another interesting fact is that the populace take a Typhoon Holiday not only during the storm but also on the following day.

We discovered this when we took a taxi to the National Palace Museum the day after the typhoon had moved through the capital. The weather was overcast but quite pleasant. Upon arrival at the Museum we discovered a sign that told us the place was closed due to the typhoon! I have never heard of a major museum being closed in such circumstances and they would have lost a lot of business and goodwill as a result.

Towards the end of our stay we returned to the museum and the collection is simply stunning in its artistry and breadth. My favourite was a small jade that was crafted to emulate a cube of stewed pork although a Jadeite Cabbage with Insects is the most famous.

A small album of images

Fishmonger - Taipei

More images can be viewed by clicking here .

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