[Fragriver in Taiwan] Something related to Museums, History and Bookstore

Instead of going to Yangmingshan National Park as planned, I decided to visit a couple of museums in Taipei last Sunday. If I have to say what has impressed me the most in Taiwan, it should be Taiwanese’s flair and enthusiasm for running museums. Taiwanese has museum for hot springs, museum for specific event, memorial museums for many famous people, museum for the old bank system, museum for the aborigines,miniatures museum, astronomical museum or even museum for post office. After two weeks staying Taiwan, I have been to a few of them, including National Palace Museum, National Taiwan Museum, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei 228 Memorial Museum, Beitou Museum of Hot Spring. Among the aforementioned, National Palace Museum should be the most famous one, often mentioned as the must-visit place in Taipei for its exhibition of nearly 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks. I spent more than three hours visiting National Palace Museum on the previous Sunday (4 September) and found that three-hour walk may not be enough to visit that place thoroughly. However, in this post, I want to tell about my recent “exposure” to the history of Taiwan last Sunday. As mentioned above, I decided to visit Taipei 228 Memorial Museum, National Taiwan Museum and attended two book introduction events in Eslite Bookstore, Xinyi Branch.

In my second day coming to Taiwan, I had a chance to come by Taipei 228 Memorial Museum and listened a little bit about 228 Incident. However, as this walking tour’s purpose is limited to helping you walking through the most typical places in Taipei only, we did not get into the Museum that time. After two weeks in Taipei, reading more about the history of Taiwan, I was a little bit curious about this incident so I thought that a visit to the 228 Memorial Museum may help. Information on the Internet related to this incident is abundant as well but a field trip left me with great impression on the event (of course), or Taiwanese views towards Japan and KMT, and Taiwanese struggle for democracy during the last century. It is just a pity that the exhibition is not fully translated into English, therefore, it is difficult for the foreigners to get full insights into the incident. I tried reading lots of information in Chinese, however, there were some parts I decided to leave for its complicating usage of Chinese that went beyond my current Chinese level.

The February 28 Incident (Chinese: 二二八事件) or February 28 Massacre, also known as 228 Incident, was an anti-government uprising in Taiwan. Taking its name from the date of the incident, it began on February 27, 1947, and was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang-led Republic of China government, which killed thousands of civilians beginning on February 28. Estimates of the number of deaths vary from 10,000 to 30,000 or more.[1] The massacre marked the beginning of the Kuomintang’s White Terror period in Taiwan, in which thousands more inhabitants vanished, died, or were imprisoned. This incident is one of the most important events in Taiwan’s modern history, and is a critical impetus for the Taiwan independence movement.

Source: Wikipedia 

Before coming to Taiwan, my understanding of Taiwan history or political situation was very limited. I just knew that Taiwan is not the same as China, knew about the 1949 event when KMT of Chiang Kai-shek lost control of the mainland China and withdrew to Taiwan. Two weeks in Taipei offered me more insights into the history of Taiwan. I knew about its period under the Japanese rule, the White Terror period following the release of Martial Law, the struggle of Taiwanese towards democracy, which in turn led to its very first presidential election in 1996. While visiting the Museum, I was really impressed about their exhibition of stories shared about the family members of the victims in the 228 Incident, which made me feel really sad on hearing about it. I also admired the Taiwanese for their efforts of establishing their own democracy and of course their efforts of bringing out the 228 Massacre into lights, forcing the government to take responsibilities for the Incident by making a formal apology annually on 28 February. The theme of human right was also emphasized and consistently presented throughout the exhibition.

Another interesting thing struck me during my visit is the story relating to the Change of Era, specifically, the change from the Japanese rule to KMT rule.

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In my first writing exercise in my Chinese Class in NCCU, there was a prompt that required students to briefly introduce history of Taiwan in Chinese. I chose this prompt for my impression on the complication of Taiwanese history then I found myself really interested in the period when Taiwan was colonized by the Japanese. It is a little bit interesting to hear that some Taiwanese prefer the Japanese colonization to the KMT’s leadership. In spite of its short period of Japanese ruling (1895 – 1945), Japanese left great impact on the Taiwanese life. During that period, Japanese even set up its Imperial educational system in Taiwan (National Taiwan University used to be the Taihoku Imperial University under the Japanese rule), many Taiwanese even participated in Japanese army in World War II. Under the Japanese rule, some Taiwanese political parties had already struggled for their autonomy and they already gained some significant progresses in becoming more autonomous. The loss of Japanese army in WWII suddenly brought about changes in Taiwan’s society. I was really moved when reading about the part Change of Era in the museum:

“During the 10 year of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and the 228 Incident 1947, Taiwanese people experienced critical historical changes. The intention of the Kominga Movement (Japanization) was to completely trying (sic) to uproot Han culture in Taiwan, while the “crackdown on traitors” by the National Government in 1946 was aimed at eliminating any remnant of Japanese culture and influence in Taiwan. Most people who experienced the 228 Incident lived through two different eras, learning two different languages, swearing loyalty to two different flags, and holding two different identities.

How were the Taiwanese people supposed to deal with the fast identity switch as they moved from one regime and culture to another, going from relative self government before the war, colonization during the war, and tyranny after? How to adjust themselves of (sic) successive regimes that were equally violent, my Taiwanese people?”

(The Change of Era)

Such an open question that stimulated the audience’s thoughts is really difficult to find in Vietnamese museum. The museum has done a good job in not only reminding people about the past but also raising a question or a discussion relating the impact of changes in regime as well as the identity of Taiwanese people. I read elsewhere that current Taiwanese government also tries its best to promote Taiwan as a metropolitan “nation” or promote its ethnicity diversification in an effort to distinguish Taiwan from the “Han” culture or Chinese Mainland. National Taiwan Museum is currently conducting an exhibition relating to the Taiwanese aborigine (原民住)(Actually it is a little bit boring to me) and there are more and more trips to discover the aborigine’s culture. Recently, Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen, even offered an official apology to Aborigines for Century of Injustice, making her the very first Taiwanese president officially apologizing Taiwanese aborigines (Link). I read some comments on Facebook that she just made a lip service and heard some Taiwanese people complaining about her recently but I thought such effort should be appreciated though.

National Taiwan Museum is also inside the 228 Peace Memorial Park. Actually, the exhibition theme is not really interesting but you may consider having a look at it. Remember to visit the Land Bank of Taiwan, which is opposite the National Taiwan Museum as well. The exhibition in the Land Bank of Taiwan is more about the old bank system in Taiwan. The topic may be a little bit boring but having a look at the old bank vault or the old bank uniform is not really bad, especially when the visit is free of charge.

After visiting National Taiwan Museum, I headed to Xinyi District to participating to a speaking event relating to Taiwanese citizens’ responsibilities towards the Sustainable Development Goals set by United Nation. My first intention was to improve my Chinese listening skill by not confining my learning environment within the class settings only. My second intention was to understand more about the life of the Taiwanese people. I hope that my three-month experience in Taiwan will not be limited to enjoying the Chou Doufu, visiting Taiwanese night markets or checking-in famous places like Jiufen, Kenting, Sun Moon Lake only but getting more insights about the local life, at least life of the young Taiwanese people like me. After arriving at the Taipei City Hall MRT, I got lost a little bit so I decided not to go to the Bookshop where the event took place but visited Eslite Xinyi Bookstore instead. It was not a bad decision indeed because I got the chance to participate in two book introduction events taking place in the 3th Floor of the bookstore. It was also interesting that the two books were also related to history of Taiwan. The first event’s name was 《日曜日式散步者——風車詩社及其年代》 (Le Moulin), relating to Taiwan’s first group of modern poets gather in the 1930s in a quiet protest against the cultural superiority of the colonial power. (Link) The second one was “百年歷史的千種變貌” (100-year history that underwent various changes) by Yang Zhao/ 楊照, which was to introduce his newly published book “《1981光陰賊》. For the first event, due to its more intensive use of language related to the arts and the presence of about five speakers, it was a little bit difficult for me to catch the ideas of the speaking event. However, it is still an insightful one for its mentioning of attitudes of Taiwanese people towards the Japanese colonization. The second event was much easier for me to catch the speaker’s speech (in comparison with the first one – I was not so confident about my listening ability). I was really impressed when the author mentioned about the relation between Taiwan and the US in the past, the year of 1966 when the US secretly established relations with the Chinese Mainland and how Taiwanese people felt about such “betrayal”. I, however, associated such incidence with the 1971 Incidence when Taiwan’s ROC was no longer considered as the representative of China in United Nations and expelled in almost every political playground since then. Even in the sport events like Olympic, Taiwan is not allowed to use its anthem and its national flag and even their name but it is forced to participate as Chinese Taipei. Admittedly, I was a little bit emotionally affected on hearing about that. From the view of an outsider, it should be difficult for Taiwanese to undergo such resolution, let alone ROC was among the founding members of UN. Such resolution then led to the termination of diplomatic relation between Taiwan with many countries in the world, turning it into one of the countries that don’t exist (Link). As one of the tour guides told me in my second day in Taiwan, the political status of Taiwan still remains controversial, however, given its possession of its own government, its own legal system, its own educational system, its own currencies, etc. should it be considered a legitimate nation? Of course, he also shared his own opinion, admitting that the Mainland China is too powerful, which makes it a little bit difficult to realize such independence idealism.

To end this post, some photos of the bookstore are offered here. This was the third time I visited Eslite bookstore during my two weeks staying there but I was still amazed by it. It is a must-visit place in Taipei for a book lover. Of course, you must expect that Chinese books are dominantly offered here but I think its offering of English books is also satisfactory as well. (But I do not feel as overwhelmed at its offering of English books as I was in Kinokuniya Bookstore in Bangkok last year).

 

[Fragriver in Taiwan] Tamsui & Beitou: A day trip for Taiwanese movie fans

Tamsui (淡水) and Beitou (北投)are surely among the top travel destinations that you may find in almost every travel guidebook for Taipei. However, the most important reason that makes me interested in these places should be these places’ appearance in my favorite Taiwanese movies. Therefore, last Friday, I decided to take a trip to both Tamsui and Beitou to find out the places where my favorite movies are filmed.

Tamsui and Beitou are both located at the end of the Tamsui – Xinyi MRT line (the red line). Therefore, it is quite easy to reach these places by transferring to the red line and waiting until the MRT notifies that you have already reached Beitou Station or Tamsui Station. Given that Tamsui is a little bit farther on the red line and it would be cooler to visit Tamsui at late afternoon, I decided to visit Beitou first.

On reaching Beitou MRT Station, I got on the train to Xinbeitou. Xinbeitou is famous for its hot spring. Around a hundred years ago, when the Japanese found out the source of hot spring here, they turned these places into a destination for public bath, tea houses, or other recreational activities. The train from Beitou MRT Station to Xinbeitou MRT Station is adorably painted with colorful cartoon characters. The train moved at a very slow pace and it took around 10-15 minutes to reach Xinbeitou MRT Station. On boarding the train to Xinbeitou, I was a little surprised to find out that there were a lot of young Taiwanese coming to Xinbeitou on Friday.

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I did not have to wait for long to find out the answer for my above concern. After taking a walk around the Xinbeitou area, I noted that there were a lot of young people and many elder ones as well focusing on their smartphones to catch Pokemon. I remembered reading somewhere recently about the crowd in Xinbeitou due to the hunt for Pokemon.

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Young people (and even some elder ones) are crazy hunting for Pokemon in Beitou.

I made a two-hour visit to the Taipei Public Library Beitou Branch (Beitou Library), Beitou Hot Spring Museum, Puji Temple and Plum Garden. It was at the fountain in front of Beitou Library that the two characters in the movie “Turn Left, Turn Right” (向右走,向左走) (2003)(Starring Takeshi Kaneshiro and Gigi Leung) met for the first time after 13 years losing touch with each other. And 13 years after the releasing date of the movie, I came there for the first time. There are some other bloggers claiming on their blogs that they get to the park where the two main characters met each other but it seemed to me that they have got the wrong place.

Here comes the movie scene:

And here comes the fountain’s photo taken by mine.

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Thing seems to remain unchanged since 2003. I guessed if Takeshi Kaneshiro and Gigi Leung sat here in 2016, they still look as fashionable as they were in 2003. “Turn Left, Turn Right” should be the first Taiwanese movie I saw and remembered about. (I have just found out that the movie was actually a joint effort of Hong Kong and Singapore but entirely filmed in Taipei). I remembered when I first saw the movie in 2009, I strongly believed that  even two parallel lines meet each other some day and I may run into my significant other some day but seven years have passed and such belief has been faded in vain (just kidding, though). But it was really cool to sit there for a while, listening and singing the theme song “Yu Jian” (遇见) of Stefanie Sun.

After getting around the Library, I took a stroll uphill to visit the Beitou Hot Spring Museum, Plum Garden and Puji Temple. One thing that I admire Taiwanese people is their high awareness of heritage conservation. Everytime when I visited some old places in Taipei like Bopiliao or Dadaocheng and then Beitou Hot Spring Museum, I often heard the same story that the authority somehow intended to destroy these places at the first place but the people then raised their voices and insisted on maintaining these places and they even made out a museum out of the topic of hot spring. Beitou Hot Spring Museum is more interesting than I expected before as it provided a lot of informative insights into the period of Japanese colonization of Taiwan. The topics of the museum are not limited to hot spring only but also expanded to even movie industry of Taiwan in the past as lots of old Taiwanese movies were filmed in Beitou.

Plum Garden, built in the late 1930s, was once the summer retreat of Mr Yu Youren, a famous politician and calligraphy master as well. The place is built in Japanese style and there is an exhibition of calligraphy masterpieces by Mr Yu Youren as well.

I intended to walk further uphill to reach Beitou Museum but after a long walk without finding the museum, I then gave up. On my way down the hill, I found lots of Taiwanese people running to chase for Pokemon uphill. They even asked me if there were any Pokemon up there. It was funny to see a bunch of people running together like that and it seemed the game did well in motivating people to do some physical exercises and connecting the players. Although I had not checked in all places in Beitou, it is quite comfortable to go sightseeing and feel the clean atmosphere there.

I left Xinbeitou MRT Station for Beitou MRT Station then caught the train to Tamsui. For such description of Tamsui on the Internet (e.g. on Guidetotaipei.com), I think that almost every foreign tourist may find that Tamsui is not a must-visit place. It may be a nice place to hang out for the locals but it seems not interesting for a foreigner. You may talk about the riverside. As Taipei is bound by two rivers, Tamsui and Keelung, it is quite easy to find a riverside park within Taipei without traveling that far for Tamsui. You may talk about Tamsui Old Street. However, there is an abundance of old streets around Taipei and New Taipei and I myself find Tamsui Old Street is not as old as other old streets in Taipei like Dadaocheng or Dalongtong. The main reason that made me go to Tamsui is that the movie “Secrets” (不能說的秘密)(Starring Jay Chou and Kwai Lun-mei) was mainly filmed here. The TV series “In time with you” (我可能不會愛你)(Starring Ariel Lin and Chen Bolin) was also filmed here. As I searched on the Internet, Cheng Youqing’s house is around the Wenhua Residential Area in Tamsui and they even said that this area should be among the most Taiwanese areas in Taiwan.

When I arrived at Tamsui MRT Station, it was not difficult to find out the riverside and the old streets of Tamsui with a lot of stores offering a great variety of souvenir, food and drink, etc. In this regard, I think Tamsui is a little bit more lively in comparison with other old streets in Taipei that I have been to (i.e. Dadaocheng, Datong or in Shenkeng in New Taipei City). I then immediately understood why this place is popular among the locals, especially among the young people. It was around 3pm so I decided to walk uphill first to reach Zhenli Street to visit the Aletheia University and Tamkang High School for fear that these places would be closed soon. Zhenli Street is more like a small lane than a street. After getting through the main street leading from Tamsui MRT Station, I turned left to reach an intersection, where I continued to climb up to Zhenli Street.

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There are four schools on Zhenli Street, namely, Wenhua Elementary School, Tamkang High School, Danshui Junior High School and Aletheia University. You may also visit Fort San Domingo and the Little White House here. Unlike the crowded street near Tamsui MRT Station, the atmosphere in Zhenli Street was quite peaceful with students wearing uniform walking around. When setting my first step here, I just felt like walking in the Taiwanese movies I have seen before.

Aletheia University and Tamkang Senior High School were among the filming locations of Secrets. Jay Chou used to be a student of Tamkang High School so he decided to choose these places for filming his directorial debut feature film. It is a pity that Tamkang Senior High School is not open to visitor due to some recent events taking place there. I then just took some pictures from the gate of the High School.

Aletheia University (“Aletheia” is a Greek name, which means “Truth” or Zhenli (真理)) is a private university, established in 1882 by George Leslie Mackay, a missionary from Canada. The school was initially named Oxford College. You can now still find the old Oxford College inside the campus of Aletheia University today. I was impressed with the school’s 3H motto: Humble, Humane and Humor.

Following the right hand side of the street, I continued to visit Fort San Domingo, an adjacent to the university. (Another part of Aletheia University’s campus is located on the opposite side of the street, however, for a special reason, I will tell about it in the next part of this post). For entry into Fort San Domingo, you must buy entrance ticket of 80 NTD, which allows you to visit Fort San Domingo, Little While House (The Former Residence of Danshui Tax Division Customs) and Hobe Fort. Fort San Domingo (its Chinese name: 紅毛城) was first built by the Spanish back in 1644 and it was consecutively used by the Spanish, the Dutch and Qing Dynasty until 1868. It used to be residence place for the foreign consulates in Taiwan. When I came here, I found a lot of Korean tourists taking photos here.

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Actually, I did not find the building interesting as I think it is just a red-brick building. It is helpful to take a look around to understand a little bit about the story behind the eight flags used to be raised on the roof of Fort San Domingo or be surprised at how the Taiwanese arranged this place as kind of exhibition of Happy Relationship (with tips on keeping up good marriage), however, I was not that impressed. Little White House is also nothing but a house painted in white where the former Customs and Tax Department of Taiwan used to be located.

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However, many thanks should come to the Little White House as I could not find a filming place in Secrets as on the way to Little White House from Fort San Domingo, I found out this special corner.

Do you find this corner familiar? Tada, it was the place where Lu Xiao Yu /路小雨 (Kwai Lun-mei、桂綸鎂) and Ye Xiang Lun/葉湘倫 (Jay Chou/周杰倫) sheltered from the rain.

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There were a lot of tourists coming to Tamsui this day but it seemed that I was the only one that identified this corner. And it was cool that there was a heavy rain when I stayed in this corner and took some photos. I felt so excited that I kept looking back at these photos during the next two or three days.

As mentioned above, I said about the opposite campus side of Aletheia Street. On my way back on Zhenli Street, I visited the campus on the left hand side of the Street and found out the other filming location of Secrets. You may remember this corner when Ye Xiang Lun was shown around the campus by Qing Yi/晴依 (played by Alice Tzeng/曾愷玹) on his first day at school.

I came back to Tamsui Riverside and enjoyed the late afternoon’s atmosphere there. I had a nice walk along the riverside, enjoying the fresh air and listening to Jay Chou’s music played by the riverside stalls. It was Jay Chou that first made me feel interested in Taiwan so having a walk to Tamsui was a really pleasant experience to me. The trip to Tamsui should be the one that I enjoy the most so far. Perhaps the reason is that this place helps remind me of my favorite Taiwanese movies, bringing out some senses of achievement in mine. (Yes, coming to Taiwan and getting to see the places I used to watch through the screen are surely great achievements). And I do think of coming back there in other days in the future.

 

[Fragriver in Taiwan] A day around the Eastern part of Taipei

I came to Dadaocheng on Tuesday morning. After finishing the placement test on Monday, we have a free week to do whatever we want before having the first class on the next Monday. Then I decided to take a bus (Bus 282) from the main entrance of NCCU to Yuan Huan (Chong Qing). Right when I first stepped down the bus at Yuan Huan (Chong Qing), I already felt the atmosphere of an old Taipei with the old brick houses faded by the passing of time. The building and the street here looked a bit different from other places I had been before in Taipei or the neighborhood around my university.

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I then turned left to Nanjing West Road to Dihua Street. Dihua Street was once an important commercial tea trading port of Taipei. It used to be among the first streets built in Western style (if my memories do not betray me), in contrast to the old Chinese style and it was said that the 1920s was the most glorious period of this place. There was also a book store named 1920s on Dihua Street. Now Dihua Street was turned into a shopping street. There is an abundance of shops that sell souvenir or some kind of specialties, coffee shops, bookshops, hand-made shops or creative centers for the young people.

I took a turn at the left hand side and reached Dadaocheng Wharf. Before getting to Taiwan, on knowing about Dadaocheng, I tried searching on Facebook to see if anyone posted photos at this place and found out that on the Chinese Valentine’s Day (Qixi – 7/7 by Lunar Calendar), there was a firework here in Dadaocheng Wharf. Dadaocheng Wharf on Tamsui River used to be a busy commercial port in the past where people traded tea, textile, etc. I came here by noon then there were few people taking a walk or biking around the Wharf. I thought that place should be a part of Taipei cultural life now but as I came here on a normal morning, it would be quite difficult to feel the vibe of this place.

I then came back to the street and stepped in Gui’de Street. It was noted on the guidebook that there are many places to visit for tourists on Gui’de Street. However, when I visited Gui’de Street, it appeared to be a normal residence place with small apartments and several small textile companies. I got to Chen Tian-lai Residence at 73 Gui’de Street. It is a three-story building which was built on 1923 and originally was a major Taiwan tea trading company. It is said on the guidebook that it used to be a meeting spot for Dadaocheng tea traders. However, when I came here, I found the doors closed and it seemed to be not open to the public.

Without tour guides, it seemed to be a little bit difficult to understand the places thoroughly. I took a walk back Dihua Street, lingering here a little bit before taking the 288 Shuttle Bus to Dalongtong.

Yep, and the most disappointing experience of mine took place there. I forgot the lovely pink umbrella on the bus, the first umbrella of mine bought in Taiwan. It is quite uneasy whenever I think about it.😦

Dalongdong, located at the confluence of Tamsui and Keelung rivers, was even settled earlier than Dadaocheng. It is noted on the guidebook that this place used to be home to the imperial scholars in the past. There are a few places worth visiting in Dalongdong like Baoan Temple and Taipei Confucius Temple. However, I visited Taipei Confucius Temple only.

The first fact I knew about Taipei Confucius Temple is that it is one of the filming locations of “In Time With You” (starred Ariel Lin, Chen Bo Lin)😛. If you have watched this TV series, you might realize that it was the place where Cheng Youqing and Ding Liwei (the sub-character) first met. I still remember the Bayiwu (八佾舞) (a kind of ritual dance in Confucius temple) of Cheng Youqing in the movie. However, it is a pity that there was no ritual taking place here on Tuesday so I could not see this dance directly. The temple is kind of small but Taiwanese government seems to know how to make a worthy trip by presenting with a lot of information relating to Confucius and Confucianism in the temple by introducing the biography of Confucius, the Six Arts (six ancient Chinese educational courses including Rites, Music, Archery, Chariot, Calligraphy and Mathematics), and other historical events. There is also a 4D theatre that helps present the history of Taipei Confucius Temple and Confucius. The movies, created as cartoon, are a little bit of boring. Some Japanese tourists even fell sleepy during watching the movies. I thought that they should try making the presentation more interesting. On the walk back to the entrance, you can also linger for some minutes to take a wish card written in traditional Chinese. The most awesome thing is that everything is free in this temple.

I then strolled along the area around Dalongdong and even walked to the area near Keelung River to reach Taipei Expo Park. What I really appreciate of Taipei is that there are a lot of public parks in the city, making it quite comfortable and easy to have a walk. I visited Taipei Fine Art Museum as well. However, things displayed here seemed to go beyond my limited scope of understanding.

 

On my way to the bus station to come back to NCCU, I went by Tatung University. I read somewhere before that Tatung University’s campus is beautiful too. It was so late that the guard did not allow me to walk in. The area around the campus was also really comfortable with many green old trees at both sides of the street.

 

[Fragriver in Taiwan] National Chengchi University

It’s time to write something about the university where I am about to learn Mandarin Chinese for the next three months. National Chengchi University (国立政治大學), as its name Chengchi (which means “politics”) may suggest, is among the most prestigious universities in Taiwan, specializing in arts and humanities, social sciences, management, politics, and international affairs. It was initially established by Chiang Kai-shek in 1927 as an incubator for senior civil services for the Nanjing Nationalist government of China. The last two presidents of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen and Ma Ying-jeou, were Associate Professors of Department of Law in NCCU. The school is located near Taipei Zoo and it is around 12 km from the Taipei Main Station and 7 km from Taipei 101. The distance seems to be insignificant, however, when it comes to traveling by bus, it may take me around 1 hour to get to Taipei Main Station and Taipei 101, taking into account the time to travel to the nearest bus/MRT station. When I first do some research on a school to study Mandarin Chinese, Taipei is always set as the top priority of mine. A neighbor of mine, who is currently studying in Kao Hsiung, felt so pity when she heard that I chose Taipei as a place for studying as she thought that the living cost in Taipei is quite high and people in Taipei are not as friendly as people in other places in Taiwan (which seems to be not right up to now), which may make it difficult for me to study Mandarin Chinese. However, as Taipei has stuck in my mind for such a long time (Many thanks should come to Taiwanese movies), I decided that I will stay in Taipei to learn Chinese. When it comes to school, I first considered between National Taiwan University and National Chengchi University. As the tuition of NCCU is less than it is in NTU and NCCU offered housing services to some of its Chinese language students, I then decided to apply for a course in NCCU. Many foreign language learners seem to complain about NCCU for its remote location from Taipei center or its limited accessibility by MRT, I found that 7 km is not a big deal and bus services in Taipei are quite convenient. I have not found any difficulty with the bus system by far and traveling by bus has gradually become a part of my student life.

In my arrival date at the school, I was strongly impressed by NCCU’s campus. The university is located on a mountain and beside Jingmei river. There were two campuses: uphill and downhill campus. When hearing about uphill and downhill campus, I just thought that it is just kind of gently rolling hill. It was not until the arrival date that I found out that it is not hill but mountain and I must take the school shuttle bus to go from the main gate to the dormitory as it is about 2 km from the main gate to the dorm and the distance becomes more significant when you have to travel up the “hill” with more than 20 kg of luggage. I even got lost in my first day of arrival. After checking in the dorm, I tried to find a way to come back to the main gate and I took the longer path (5 km) to reach the main gate. Then I found out that there are about 5 routes in the campus and there are some routes called “Healthy routes”, which are among the hiking trails of Mount Erge. Locals come here quite often for hiking and jogging. There are around 70 kinds of buildings/items in the campus and each building is quite big. For a former student of Foreign Trade University (with a small campus), NCCU’s campus is really impressive (and its size should be 40-50 times of FTU). The university campus is connected to Daonan Riverside Park (which is also really big) so the environment is quite open and fresh. After some days of living here, I have also found out the back entrance of the university and find a shorter way to take a bus to get to the city center.

As I am about to learn Chinese in NCCU, I should say something about my first impression of the Chinese Language Center of NCCU. The staff and the teachers are really friendly and helpful. The placement test is a little bit easy on the reading part. I also conversed comfortably with the teacher in Chinese. Perhaps my writing is the worst part because I forget a lot of Chinese characters when it comes to handwriting. I was placed at the Intermediate 3 class. I hope that it would be fun.

More about my life in dorm of NCCU. It is the first time that I stay away from home in such a long time. I have not experienced the student life far away from home before and such experience turns out to be quite interesting. It is just like getting out of my comfort zone. When in Vietnam with decent job, I hardly think about my current financial situation. It is not a big deal to have lunch or hang out with friends as I was financially secured and there was also family standing behind backing up for me. When it comes to studying in a foreign country and when the scholarship has not come yet, I have to live on my own budget, considering about the meals, the travel and spending money for some kinds of household utilities. It is quite a weird yet interesting experience to me. Maybe it is a trial test for me before considering taking a two-year course for graduate school later.

Then I have passed the first week in Taiwan up to now. The experience is so far really cool and interesting and I even think that I have felt the vibe of Taipei. The upcoming days may be challenging (the biggest challenge may be keeping up 80/100 in all the tests to eligible for the scholarship :P) but interesting as well.

 

[Fragriver in Taiwan] It’s you

My second day in Taiwan should be the most eventful day during my first week coming here. As written in the previous post, I took two walking tours in the morning and in the afternoon. However, the day has not ended yet. After finishing the afternoon tour, I took MRT from Taipei World Trade Center to Taipei Arena for Tanya Chua’s show. Though the distance between these places is not significant, it took me around 40 minutes to get there due to transferring the train or waiting for the train. When I got to Taipei Arena, there were lots of fans lining up to buy the gifts of the show. After helping a friend buy some souvenirs, I finally entered into the arena.

It was my first time coming to a concert ever. Yep I mean the first time. I have never been to a concert before and it was in Taiwan for Tanya Chua’s concert that I came for. It sounds weird, doesn’t it? I started listening to Tanya Chua’s song since 2012 after watching the movie “Fit Lovers” (爱情左灯右行), starring Karena Lam, Huang Xiao Ming, Deng Chao, Alec Su, Lu Yi, Nie Yuan, Tong Dawei, etc. (you cannot expect to see a movie starring so many handsome actors like it) and listening to its OST (红色高跟鞋). I liked this song so much that I started my search for other songs by Tanya and then found that most of her songs are very good. I was impressed at her composing ability as well as her guitar playing skill. Therefore, I started to be her fan since then. I can easily sing along her songs like 陌生人, 達爾文,多少,思念,無底洞,深信不疑,誰,若你碰到他,若你愛我,夜盲症,Easy Come Easy Go, etc. There was time that I only hear her songs and find it hard to find other singers. And participating in Tanya’s show has long been among my wishes and luckily, I had a chance to join her show during time in Taiwan. The whole story of getting her ticket is quite long but thanks to the help offered by a friend of mine living in Kao Hsiung, I finally got one to join the Lemuria show (蔡健雅2016巡迴演唱會列穆尼亞).

The show was really amazing. Even some of her fans on Facebook said that it was the best show ever of Tanya. The show is designed to bring about 4D sensation. The visual effect is aesthetic while the Arena is filled with the special fragrant. I sat right at the A2 Area. Though it is not as near the stage but I thought it is quite a good place. Tanya sang lots of my favorite songs like 紅色高跟鞋, 陌生人,無底洞,紀念 and especially 下一次愛情來的時候 and 踮起腳尖愛。When she said that she will sing 踮起腳尖愛, it seemed that the Arena was burst out into tears because it was a song composed by Tanya herself and was the OST of a very popular Taiwanese movie named In Time With You (我可能不會愛你) but she has never performed it yet. She somehow read the request of her fans on Facebook fan page and chose this. I did have a good time listening to the music and singing along with thousands of fans in Taipei Arena. If I hardly have any friend who learns Chinese in Vietnam, not mentioning one knowing Tanya, I have thousands of friends who share the same interest with me here and sang together Tanya’s song.

During the show, Tanya also shared lots of her thoughts to her fans. I was indeed moved a lot when she talked about the most important thing in life. She said that you have to frequently ask yourself if you are happy or not, you love yourself or not. She said that apart from thanking others for bringing about her a good life, she thought the most important one that thanks come to should be herself. There is no one for you to rely on but it’s you that bring about good life to yourself, have your own dream to pursue. I was moved by these words indeed as I shared with her the same ideas. It’s just like myself coming to Taiwan to realize my dream of living here, feeling the atmosphere here. learning the Chinese language once in my life (and I wish that there would come twice and three times, etc.), having my own idealism towards life, and having my own plan to be a better person day by day.

 

[Fragriver in Taiwan] The free walking tours

There comes a perk of traveling alone. You can go wherever you want and meet a bunch of new friends on the way. It does not mean that traveling with friends is boring at all but sometimes traveling on my own does bring about some amazing experiences.

In my second day in Taiwan, as it was Saturday, which means that no bank is working on this day, I decided to take free walking tours offered by Like it Formosa – an student-run organization that offers free walking tours around Taipei. (Actually they also offer tours to Beitou and Dadaocheng with fee charged). I thought that it would be better if I have local guide get me through several places in Taipei then I decided to register for the tour just one day before the tour. More about the free walking tour, they offer a Modern tour with four destinations, i.e. Songshan Cultural Park, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Eslite Book Store (Xinyi Store), Taipei 101, and Four Four South Village) and a Historical tour that walks you through Longshan Temple, Bopiliao Historical Block, Ximen Red House, Presidential Office, 228 Memorial Park, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. I recommend that you may arrange to participate the two tours within one day, In my case, I took the Historical tour on Saturday morning and the Modern tour on Sunday morning. The members of Like it Formosa told me that it would be a little bit tired to join the two tours in one day but I told that it was totally okay with me given that I have just come back from a difficult trekking tour the the easternmost of Vietnam. Therefore, getting around the city is not too much a big deal to me (And during my two first days in Taiwan, I do think that I am kind of city dweller for my tenacity when it came to city traveling.)

Firstly, for the historical tour, I came to the meeting point at 10 am at the MRT Longshan Temple Exit 1 and walked around with six other tourists. Of these six tourists, one came from Hong Kong, two came from Shanghai (the two are spouses, one is Canada-born Chinese and the other is Australian), two came from Taiwan and they came along with a Japanese friend. I was at first a little bit curious about what will take place when the Hong Kong, the mainland Chinese and the Taiwanese get together but it turned out that there was nothing special happening. Perhaps the mainland one was in fact a Chinese-related Canadian, the Hong Kong may be not much interested in saying something about the mainland. The tour guides of the historical tour were James and Amelia, students of National Taiwan University and National Chengchi University, respectively. During the historical tour, they provided with some cool facts about Taiwan history and culture. It really impresses me to listen about the democracy progress taking place in Taiwan during the last few years, the struggle of Taiwan against the power of China. It seems to me that Taiwanese young people are really confident about their democracy and they hold kind of objective political views. Regarding the places, I am truly interested in Bopiliao Historical Block for its historical dimension. Ximending is crowded but it is not as energetic or artistic as I expected. It is more like a place for the teenagers (and perhaps I am not so much into it as I am not teenager for more than five years).

For the modern tour, I showed up at 3pm at MRT Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall Exit 5 and found out that I was the only guest of the walking tour. However, the two guides of the tour, Evelyn and Crystal were so friendly and helpful. They walked me through Songshan Creative Park, which was used to be a tobacco factory and introduced me something related to the tobacco industry in the park. The tobacco factory now turns out to be a gathering place for young creative people to organize artistic performance or sales of handmade products. When I came here, there are lots of young Taiwanese lining up for tickets for S.H.E’s 15-year anniversary show. Crystal was excited to tell me that she was a big fan of S.H.E. We then went to Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall and we had a short cool talk about Sun Yat Sen and his wife Song Qing Ling. I was amazed to know that while Sun Yat Sen was considered the National Father of Republic of China, Song Qing Ling was considered the National Mother of People Republic of China (Please fix me if I get it wrong). I thought that I have heard about these facts before but it was not until that day that I started to realize how weird it was. Evelyn and Crystal also shared with me that in ROC, people are now considering not having Sun Yat-sen’s photo in the class for young students (as what was like in Vietnam with Ho Chi Minh’s photo or in China with Mao Zedong’s photo) due to some criticism towards such kind of idolism. I also shared with them my views towards Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek and Song’s sisters when I was a young girl. As a young girl, I was influenced by media that Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, Song Meiling were not good figures while Sun Yat-sen and especially Song Qingling are good ones due to Song Qingling’s connnection to Communist Party in China. We then shared a lot about Taiwan, Taiwanese’s views towards the mainland, the study of young Taiwanese and even some famous food in Vietnam. I then felt like taking a walk with my friends, not the tour guides any more. We did have some cheerful photos together during the tour. I did not expect the modern tour to be so much fun but it turned out to be quite cheerful and I started to make friends with the very first Taiwanese friends.

As the tours last for only 2.5 hours each, it would not cover everything in Taipei. However, for ones that want to catch an overview of Taipei or simply want to have a local buddy, I highly recommend the tour.

Here comes some pictures of mine during the walking tour and hope that you like it.

 

[Fragriver in Taiwan] The feel of Taiwan

I arrived in Taiwan in early Friday morning. It was about 5:50 am when I woke up and realised that the sun was about to rise. The scenery is totally amazing. It is always amazing to see sunrise in any place you go and the same thing happens when you saw the sunrise on the plane. After one day travelling and long time spent waiting at Tan Son Nhat Airport, I was so tired that I felt uncomfortable when reaching Taoyuan International Airport. I had a little trouble when doing some immigration procedures. The officer at the Immigration Desk said that it is recorded on the system that I am about to study here for six months (I do hope that I can) but I was granted with three-month visa only. After few minutes checking, I can enter into Taiwan eventually and my journey in Taiwan begins now.

As I expected, almost everything in Taiwan is well-organized and convenient, even for foreigners. I do not know if it is a little bit more difficult for ones without Chinese language background but I think it would be okay for foreigners to navigate the traffic or ticket systems here. As I have already studied a lot about Taiwan before coming, I found it not so difficult to travel by bus or MRT. Actually, I get used to it immediately and do enjoy the convenience here. I reached the hostel effortlessly and found my way to the National Immigration Agency to obtain the Uniform ID for foreigners. The whole procedure is quite simple to follow and the officers are friendly as well.

In the first day, I did not visit any special place in Taipei like any kind of tourist attraction but spent time wandering around some corners near my hostel and the National Immigration Agency Office. It is just like walking to feel like a local and to get the feel of Taiwan that I have expected before getting there.

Here comes some of my pictures for the first days in Taiwan.