Thursday, December 2, 2010


Trying to pack as much as you can see and do into a short family vacation involves making choices - and sacrifices. Today, for instance, I wanted to visit the National Palace Musuem. It had come highly recommended as it houses the world's largest collection (more than 670,000 pieces) of Chinese artifacts and works of art. But I knew it would be boring for my granddaughters. Fortunately, we found out there was a children's gallery within the museum complex. So we split up and everyone was happy doing their own thing.

I managed to take a shot of this prized 500 B.C. bronze wine vessel in the shape of a mythical bird-headed animal. Amazing design - the head could be removed to fill the vessel with wine, and the beak lifted to pour out the wine. But imagine the weight! Visitors were not allowed to photograph any of the artifacts, as I later found out.

Meanwhile, the girls were kept busy with interactive educational activities like assembling broken pieces of ceramics to form a vase (above), and trying their hands at printing and book-binding the traditional way (below).
After the museum, it was the famous Beitou hot springs for the family while I opted for the International Floral Expo, another must-see in Taipei.

The queue was so long that it was dark by the time the family finally had their dip in the Beitou hot spring pool! Night falls early at 5.00pm in the winter months.

Meanwhile, I made my way alone to the International Flora Expo on the outskirts of the city.

Orchids of every species and colour, including some I've never seen before - and I come from the Land of Orchids!

The expo wasn't only about flowers. There was a section on fruit and vegetable carving (above) and mini-inscriptions (below).

At the Folk Arts Pavilion, traditional arts and crafts were recreated and exhibited. (Above): The Chinese character for 'egg' was inscribed inside this empty egg shell. It was so miniscule that one could only discern it through the magnifying eye-piece in the glass casing.

I had time to cover only one of the four parks at the Flora Expo before night fell. The long queues at most of the pavilions were a huge deterrent. But it was worth the 20-minute wait to view the EcoArk. It's the world's first LEED-certified building (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design). The entire facade as well as the interior ceiling and lighting system was constructed from 1.5 million recycled plastic bottles. The structural framework was built with bamboo and beams made from recycled steel. The EcoArk was engineered to withstand large earthquakes and typhoons. Incredible!

Time to bid "Zai Jian", that's "See you again" to Taipei. It's been a hectic four days in the city sampling the food and getting to know more of the people and the culture.

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