Thursday, February 02, 2012

Museums, Shopping And Bad Weather (Could've Stayed In London?)

My mountain escapades got me some way to filling my time, but not all the way. Another project was the tying up of some administrative loose ends. Whilst at home going to the bank, shopping for sundries on the weekend, sorting correspondence, or just simply going down to the bank to give your accounts the once over are things that we don't really give much thought to and generally do them as and when we get round to them. But when on the road not only do you rarely have time to do these simple house-keeping tasks, sometimes it's hard to know how to do them at all. In the UK I know exactly where to go to buy myself an annual diary, but where do I do that in Hong Kong? or where do I get a new pair of hiking shoes in Taipei.

After 2 years on the road my shoes were beginning to show the strains of continuous use and hiking up various mountains. They can retire with dignity as I have managed to find a reasonable replacement pair. RIP shoes.

Such small, mundane worries occupied some of my time whilst in Taipei, but what about the rest? Lots of people have been to Beijing. Its Forbidden City regularly creeps into innumerable lists of Things To See Before You Die. Naturally I have also seen it and can therefore die with a clean conscience, however I wasn't that bowled over by it. It seemed rather empty to me - just a series of large, stately halls succeeding one after another with Roger Moore droning on (the Chinese authorities spared no expense and hired the erstwhile 007 to narrate the audioguide commentary in English) about the various banquets that were held there and other imperial court intrigue. It felt rather sterile; as if it was missing something. And missing something it decidedly was. As the KMT nationalists were losing out to Mao and his band in their battle to control China back in 1949 they decided to cart off the best bits from the imperial collection and ship it over to Taiwan rather than let the pesky Commies get their hands on it. And so if you really want to see the Forbidden City in all its glory, you have to visit both Beijing and Taipei, for the latter is home to the National Palace Museum, probably the best museum of Chinese artifacts in the world.

The National Palace Museum (unfortunately you can't take pictures inside, even without flash).

Other than the National Palace museum there was a very good museum on the aboriginals of Taiwan. All these indoor activities were very much necessary as the weather in Taipei has been reminiscent of a Scottish pop band: wet, wet, wet. Leaden skies have dulled my enthusiasm for outdoors excursions and I'm avidly looking forward to the 30 degrees and balmy sunshine that Manila is purportedly basking in. But before that two last excursions here in Taiwan are marked in my calendar...

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