Saturday, May 19, 2007

Day 3 - Can You Tell I'm a Tourist?

Today was our day to be full-fledged tourists. We started with a cab ride to the National Palace Museum. Let me say something first about the driving in Taiwan. It is no exaggeration to tell you that driving here is a contact sport. Imagine my embarrassment today when I grabbed the knee of one of my colleagues (male, mind you) in a moment of sheer panic. Generally we pile 4 into a cab and pray to make it safely to our destination. In addition to the usual aggressive driving that cabbies do, factor in hundreds upon hundreds of scooters and motorcycles that weave in and out of and between cars. They even have their own special area for stopping at intersections. Here are some pictures to give you a sense of what this is like.
Even though the cab rides are a bit scary, they are very cheap. We generally spend between 100 and 200 Taiwan dollars, with every 100 Taiwan dollars converting to about $3.20 in U.S. dollars.

At the National Palace Museum we had the most energetic tour guide I have ever seen. She talked fast, walked fast and often disappeared before we could catch up. We wore headphones with receivers to hear her voice, so we didn't need to be near her to listen to the presentation. I must admit that I found the museum a bit disappointing, largely because it was incredibly crowded. It was hard to see many of the artifacts, and even when you could see them, there really was no time to read the information. I did see some amazing pieces, however, and had a chance to tour the grounds and visit the Tranquility Garden. Here are some photos of the museum.
The area around the Palace Museum was incredible. Here is one view from the museum.
After our rather breathless visit here, we hopped in a cab and headed for the National Museum of History to see artifacts from the Terracotta Army of Qin Shihuangdi. We saw several life size terracotta figures of warriors and horses from Xian. I particularly wanted to see this exhibit since we won't be getting to Xian while in China.
After the National Museum, our small group took a walk through the adjacent botanical gardens. I don't need to tell you how lovely it was, just take a look at these pictures.
After the Botanical Gardens we headed back to the hotel to freshen up, and then went back out again for the evening. That tale must, however, wait another day. We just found out we must be packed and ready to go by 6:00 am. Even though I started writing at 9 pm, it is now almost 11 o'clock and I must pack and get some sleep. Tomorrow is a travel day, so when we arrive I will share the rest of my Saturday sightseeing tour with you. I'll catch up with you in Beijing. Goodnight!

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