Taiwan – Day One(ish)

The Adventure Begins

The following begins a record by John McCullough with some of the highlights from HTC’s trip to Taiwan to participate in the Second International Cheng Ming Martial Arts Championships in Taichung, Taiwan.

For a 30-hour travel ordeal everything actually went pretty smoothly. I drove up to Reagan National on Saturday morning for a mid-afternoon flight, arrived in LA at 8pm, and had a 6-hour layover before flight to Taipei. That was the easy part. The flight to Taipei takes about 12 hours and you lose 24 hours crossing the dateline so I got in at 6am this (Monday) morning Taipei time. At least I think that’s what happened.

It was fairly easy to get a bus to the main Taipei bus station and the hotel that we are all staying at is only about a 10 minute walk from there. Martin and Hiromi have been here since Saturday evening and I rang their room, met up with them, and then we all went out for breakfast at one of Taipei’s many cafes.

I wanted to do my best not to sleep until Monday evening and as Confucius probably said, with enough oolong tea anything is possible. So the three of us embarked on a day of sightseeing starting at the Peace Park, which is a memorial for a massacre that occured in 1947. The park is beautiful and is one of the places where people in Taipei gather to practice T’ai Chi en masse. Martin and Hiromi saw a number of different styles and forms being done here yesterday, from Ch’i Kung to push hands. We’re going to try to join in tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.

Next we spent a whopping 95 New Taiwan Dollars for a cab ride to Longshan temple (which set us back 3 US Dollars), the first of three temples that we saw. The temples are beautiful and usually honor a local god or a great past public benefactor whose status has been elevated. People come to light incense and ask for help, healing and or good luck.

In some ways Taipei is like a much cleaner New York with shorter buildings which means that more light gets to the street level, and when it gets there it has less trash to illuminate. For me, Taipei really shines in the smaller alleys and side streets that are lined with vendors and booths hawking all kinds of wares. This is not a conducive environment for a Walmart. Ma and pop (and grandma and grandpop) shops still thrive here, especially along the smaller backstreets, several of which we were able to enjoy.

The people here are extremely nice, polite and helpful. The heat is fairly constant and intense and many people deal with it by sitting outside on sidewalk restaurants, sweating, eating, talking and not moving much. There is a lot of English here, at least on the street signs and on restaurant menus. Numbers are often indicated with our arabic numerals which makes a huge difference when trying to navigate streets or prices. Many Taiwanese speak very good English and many more speak enough to be very helpful to U.S. travelers. This politeness even extends to the signage in the hotel room, which does not fail to warn you that turning on the shower will involve water on your head.

We finished up the day with an evening stroll to an area a bit similar to the Cville Downtown Mall on concentrated ginseng — bigger, brighter, with a lot more neon and dim sum. Had an authentic meal off the beaten path at a place where the cook smoked a Marlboro non-filter while cooking. But whatever he was doing, it was working as the food was delicious.

Looking forward to the arrival of 2 more of our team tomorrow. Signing off to rout the rest of my jet lag.

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