I'm blogging with a computer with no spell-check abilities, so forgive me for the typos. Took a lot of photos to go with this post, but I'm not blogging from my own computer, so it's quite inconvenient.
After leaving Hualien on Monday afternoon, sweating profusely and cursing silently because I'm in the same train compartment with half a dozen hyperactive children and parents who don't care, I arrived in Taipei. Over the course of the 2-hour to Taipei the kids played Uno (and argued why you couldn't use multiple 'Draw Two' at one time), discussed who should be Dad and Grandpa in masak-masak (House), and even turned the seats 180 degrees so they could face each other (and blast away with their conversation).
Evening came, and I was strolling along the streets of XiMenDing praying that Typhoon Fengshen who capsized Metro Manila would not destroy my plans for the following week. The evening breeze in central Taipei is thick with traffic rushing back home. Couples just after work strolled along, so as homeless folks and gym people (coincidentally there's a gym nearby).
The following morning I planned to buy an additional memory card for my camera, and also a suitable casing to go with it. Off I set at 10am to GuangHwa market district famous for computer and electronic accessories. Being the newbie, and without a map, I crossed the same path 4 times before actually finding the correct area. Skipping breakfast, I felt lightheaded and hazy, and the heat didn't help much.
Nevertheless, by 11.20am I bargained a Panasonic casing and a 2GB SD card down to NT$1000. I could go lower but I yearned for lunch. Quicking paying and leaping into the metro, I headed to Ikea.
Ikea is not solely a furniture company, but they also operates an excellent restaurant and cafe. For NT$150 (RM15) you get bottomless coffee, a set of chicken, fish or sausage, and two side dishes. The exorbitant prices of Taipei made the NT$150 deal looked dead attractive, though I noticed they've downgraded the portions and ingredients significantly - cafe latte, mocha and cappucino is now replaced with 'regular' or 'thick coffee', while the potatoes no longer come with butter.
Since Ikea is just next door to Malaysia Airlines Taipei office, I hopped in after lunch to reconfirm my ticket (and also asking for complimentary upgrades). The lady patiently told me they don't do upgrades anymore nowadays, and she whispered "you know we're cutting back on flights to Los Angeles very soon?" That's good and bad news for me - cutting the LA route means they might withdraw the Boeing 747 from Taipei and replace it with a smaller aircraft, say, a 737, which is not cool (no PTVs). On the other hand, this might mean MAS will reschedule their flights to depart later. Their current 7.45am departure means I have to wake up at 5 in the morning in order to catch heir flight.
On my way back a questionnaire personnel managed to convince me to help her complete this 200-question know-what-you-are test. She brought me to her office, about 2 blocks away, and analyzed my results for me instantly. She said my mental health is on the brink of collapse - I am too insistant on certain things without knowing why, and my emotions are very unstable. I was half-expecting her to go on "however, don't worry Mr. Sim, we have just the right thing for you. 'How to be Happy' by Prof. Whoever will help you out of your maze."
No, she ended with a finale. "That's all for my analysis. You have any questions?"
Still expecting her to sell me something, my mind went blank. I'm on the brink of a collapse? I'm screwing up myself very soon?
5 minutes later I'm on the metro laughing this over. It seems surreal but if I am collapsing I'd collapsed last week during the peak of the exams. How would I collapse just days before I leave for France? Hello? I'm living the prime of my life this summer!
The following morning I had an early taste of Paris. The art works of Millet, a French painter, was on exhibition in the National Museum of History, and it seem like a must-go for Taiwanese. I queued up and forked out NT$220 for a ticket, only having to wait another 30 minutes in the queue to enter the overcrowded exhibiton hall.
It was total chaos - old ladies babbling away about the use of colors and why European painters love using dark shades, schoolchildren shouting to each other, and teachers shouting back to subside the group, only managing to add to the noise. Seems more like a wet market than an exhibition of art. I finally had to conclude that though the Taipei City Council has good intentions of bringing up Taipei as the cultural hub of North Asia, the people of Taipei still have a long way to go. Nevertheless, the act to bring in style and substance with good intentions is much appreciated. You'd just have to take a look at our Malaysian National Gallery and what's on exhibiton all the time to know how they fared better.
I hope I'd be able to upload some great pictures soon. Or else it'll be right after I come home from France, in August.
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