Touring Taipei – the Flora Expo and the National Palace Museum


My first day in Taipei was scheduled with tourism events arranged by the meeting hosts and attended by several early-arriving attendees.

The site was mostly former public parkland that will return to such after the expo.

We began the day visiting the 2010 Taipei International Flora Exposition (aka “the flower show”), which ran for nearly 6 months.  I was actually there on the last day, and they were preparing for a major closing ceremony and fireworks show for that night.  The expo was part flora expo and part general fair, with some exhibits on history as well as a variety of fairly standard fair features.

These small booths reminded me of typical "fair" components...

...while this fair fare also seemed pretty standard, at least in overall appearance.

Some of the food stalls, which were just starting up for the day when we walked through, were quite interesting…

Given the time (mid-morning), we didn't get a chance to stop for any snacks (oh darn!)

...although some sounded ok

while others just sounded weird

Despite the mid-morning time, the temperature and humidity were raging, and there wasn’t much relief, except for small walkways connecting different parts of the park.  Overall ,the  expo hosted almost 9 million visitors, with a single-day record of 150,000.

Not much shade or cooling occurring here, sad to say

Frankly, as we walked around in the heat through these semi-floral sections and past all the food vendors, I started to wonder where the flora was.  And while we did see several of the some of the pavilions and the global garden areas, it still seemed a little weak on flowers for its name.

Our hosts made sure to take us past Thailand, as some members of the group are from Bangkok.

At the back of the Thailand area this elephant was probably the coolest thing I saw there.

To be honest, I didn’t get too much out of the visit, but of course I had just arrived the night before after about 24 hours travelling through 7 time zones (to be fair).

Afterwards they put us on a bus over to the National Palace Museum, where we had a traditional lunch and then got a tour of the museum.

The museum is well-sighted on a hillside - look at how green and lush everything is!

The museum's imposing front entrance

The 100 on the front steps celebrates the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of China (which is now Taiwan), when the Xinhai Revolution overthrew the Qing Dynasty and ended over two thousand years of imperial rule in China.  This museum, which I understand to have one of the most famous and largest collections in the world, has the treasures of ancient China – all the stuff the emperors collected over all those years.

The museum started  as the Palace Museum inside the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1925, but was largely moved to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek during the Chinese Civil War.  Naturally, the fact that much of the ancient history of China is here (and not in the People’s Republic) is part of Taiwan’s claim to be the “real” China.  This is of course a very complicated matter, which I certainly don’t fully understand, but find quite interesting .  The museum’s wikipedia page has some of these details.

Anyway, the people of Taiwan are naturally quite proud of this world-class museum and the treasures it holds.  Our volunteer museum tour guide apparently had an MBA from the Wharton School, so that perhaps speaks a bit about the stature of the museum.  Interestingly, they explained to us that since a new agreement allowing much more open travel between Taiwan and the mainland a couple of years ago, the museum is just flooded with Chinese tourists, coming to see their own history that they (you could argue) haven’t had access to for about 60 years.  The tour guide and our hosts were clearly quite annoyed by these masses. The Chinese penchant for pushing by grabbing your arm and shoving it (that I discovered in Shanghai) is clearly alive and well in Chinese tourists!

Anyway, pictures are forbidden inside the museum, but I will put a couple here of the museum’s most famous items, which I’ve taked from Wikipedia and the Museum’s website.

The Jade Cabbage is about the size of a human hand, which I understand is key to the marvel - that it was carved out of a single piece of jade (Wikipedia notes that controversy broke out in 2009 when the gift shop's replicas were found to be made in China!)

The other most famous item in the collection, the quite aptly named "Meat-Shaped Stone", made from naturally occuring banded jasper (don't ask me what that is)

If you can’t tell from my post here, I found talking with our hosts and hearing the museum tour guide’s social comments a bit more interesting than the actual collection items, although I feel bad for saying that.

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Posted on 23/05/2011, in travel, Travel to Asia and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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