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.