I am back in Calgary now so one more post will finish off my Japan/Taiwan trip. Picking up from Ruifang, I had one last biking day. Ostensibly I would have a nice gentle ride down the Keelung River for about 50 km from Ruifang to Taipei mostly on bike trails. In reality the river is very serpentine, the bike trails don’t really start until Taipei and the road crosses over some significant ridges which means the climbing and traffic were by no means finished with me. I tried twice to connect onto bike trails, both resulted in nice rides along the river but both just stopped and I had to retrace back to the road again. When I finally did connect with the trails within the city it was indeed lovely, with no end of people out enjoying all sorts of activities in the broad river valley which has been converted into one park after another, many with playing fields. I had about 12 kms of this relaxed riding to get to my hotel and the stuff I had left behind. I returned my bike that afternoon, leaving 6 nights, 5 days to get to know Taipei.
The gal who checked out my bike on return worked with me for about a half-an-hour to connect to YouBike the Taiwan street bike rental network and then walked me a block to a rack of bikes to ensure that I could get a bike. You wave your cell phone, now loaded with the appropriate app, over the bike you want, recite some Buddhist incantations, the bike jumps out of the rack and off you go. When you get to your destination you find a rack, shove the bike into the dock and a charge appears in VISA. I only used it four times, the longest for about 30 minutes each way to the Palace Museum. My total charge was less than $2.
I went to two museums. The Museum of Modern Art was way too modern for me, but I enjoyed the Palace Museum. It is said that it has the largest collection of Chinese art in the world. Calligraphy, Jade and Wood Carving, Intricate wood boxes, are some of the things that I am interested in. One famous piece is the jade Meat-shaped Stone, which does look more like a piece of meat than stone. There was an exhibition from the Vatican Library which parallels in time collections from Chinese libraries, both numbering in the millions going back over 1000 years. I was amazed at the number of pieces (millions) of both and how far back in time some come from.
A high percentage of the museum’s collection came to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) government, army, and many people in the time around 1949. I will leave this history and the current situation to the readers who likely are better informed than I am. At no time in my brief visit to Taiwan did I get any indication that people are concerned about the big red cousin, but of course that means nothing.
One day, in part to try out the metro system, I went to Da’an Park with my big lens. It is one of the many good birding places around Taipei. Going early is always the thing to do when birding. Of course that is also when Chinese people hit the parks for their activities. I always enjoy checking out these activities but it does mean that there are fewer birds. The water birds do not seem to mind the crowds and so I got some good shots of herons and egrets. A first for me was seeing cattle egrets during breeding season. Normally they are a small completely white egret, but they have a lovely buff colour during breeding season. The fierce closeup is the egret concentrating on catching a fish.
But mainly I walked the streets of Taipei. I had hotels in two different parts of the city and I wandered each day looking for things to see. I was on the lookout for different foods to try or an interesting coffee shop. I found one good second hand book store with a few English language books. There are enough foreign people in Taipei that my different appearance didn’t draw much attention, and so I could enjoy the activity on the streets without disrupting things. A few days I carried a camera and I include a few shots from the streets.
It is hard doing interesting street photography; ideally it is planned out carefully and you take time to get the right action. I don’t think I am diligent enough to get good shots but Ill include a few anyway. I like the shot from inside a shrine looking out onto the street. It captures carvings from centuries ago when horses were king, contrasting with motorbikes the king of the streets today.
My favourite shot is the old man crossing a market street that I walked many times. This shot was done early, before the vendors flowed into the street leaving only a narrow people corridor. Black and white seemed to suit the scene by muting the cacophony that colour brings to these sorts of street scenes. Compare it to the night market scene, which seems frantic in comparison.
So that is it for another trip. My prime objective was to see cranes in Japan. I now have photos of seven of the world’s fifteen species of cranes.
Will I go to look for more? Possibly … Probably…
I particularly enjoyed spending some days with the cranes; observing them being fed, flying in and out, dancing, socializing, courting, squabbling. I would love to repeat this with other crane species. It would mean I would have to go back to Australia, South Africa, India or China. In visiting these places in the past I was often there at the wrong time, but most often did not make the effort to find the cranes that are there, largely because they were not of specific interest at the time. Or I might have to go to Bhutan or central Africa, where I haven’t been. Wouldn’t that be too bad. I have a little knowledge now of where to find these birds and I will be watching and waiting for the stars to line up.
I will certainly be looking for some sort of birding adventure soon, cranes or not. And I could also do some more biking. While I have lost some of my biking mojo, Taiwan has shown me that I can still get out there. But no decisions have yet been made on longer trips. Lots of short ones coming…