2nd day …The National Palace Museum is the top of my list of places to visit in Taiwan. The splendid museum houses the largest collection of ancient Chinese artefacts and artworks in the world. The Kuomintang government carted away the treasures from the Beijing imperial palace when the Japan advanced into Beijing back in the 1930s. Towards the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi) fled to Taiwan and brought along these national treasures with him.
The museum is situated in an exclusive northern part of Taipei, with the back against a hill and surrounded by a lush green park. Chiang Kai-shek residence is also in the vicinity. We took the Metro to the Shilin station, and after a 10 minute cab ride we soon arrived at the museum. I planned to spend a couple of hours here admiring the artistic works and handicrafts created by ancient masters. But it was not meant to be, for the museum was brimming with mainland Chinese tourists having their golden holiday break. All of them have the same idea of visiting this museum. There was a huge crowd amidst the jostling and cacophony of voices. And more of the mainland tourists were lining up in the stairs and foyer, just waiting for signals from their tour leaders to charge in. I could not endure the situation for long, and had to cut short my museum visit to escape the crowd.
I went out of the museum feeling disappointed. While I was fidgeting with my phone’s camera in the square in front of the museum, a lone tourist came and requested me to take his photo. I did not oblige him. The guy probably felt a lost of face as he walked straight all the way to the museum without looking back.
Next, we headed for a restaurant that is famous for its dumplings, the Ding Tai Fung. There are a number of Ding Tai Fung branches in Taipei and even in several countries including Singapore, Australia, Malaysia etc. We visited the original restaurant. which is next to Dongmen station at Xinti Road and Yongkang Road junction. It was not even 12 noon, but there was already a crowd waiting outside to be seated. We were told to wait about 50 minutes for our turn. Thus we ate at a nearby less popular restaurant instead. But we did come back to this restaurant later in the afternoon at around 4 PM, and the foods, especially the Xiaolongbao, true enough were truly fabulous. What is more surprising from my point of view is that the waitresses were very polite and helpful. You could not have asked for better service from them.
The Taipei 101 building is new landmark for Taipei. It is currently the tallest building in East Asia at 508m high. We took the Metro to City Hall station from the Dong Men station and walked about 15 minutes. It was a pleasant walk along a new shopping area with wide pedestrian mall. Visitors can visit the observation deck on the 89 floor for a fee of NT$500. Other than that, there was little of interest to me. The lower floors are filled shops selling branded goods to cater for mainland visitors. Overall the atmosphere was subdued and there were not too many shoppers.
Next … Hualien