Tuesday night was a lot more restful than our first night in Taiwan. I figured out Calvin slept a lot more comfortably if he had his light blanket I had brought from home rather than the down duvet. As a result, his thrashing was fairly minimal, except when he fell off the bed, which turned out to be an excellent time to take a potty break.
We woke up in time to make it to the hotel breakfast and then came back to plan our day. Jaeger’s original idea was to go to the zoo on Thursday but there was a 70% chance of rain for Thursday and only 20% for Wednesday. So, we changed plans and went to the zoo on Wednesday instead. The zoo is insanely cheap. Children under 6 are free and adults are only $2 US. One of the main attractions of this zoo is the pandas. Various reviewers imply the line to see the pandas can get very long. However, the zoo was almost deserted when we arrived so there was no line. One panda ambled a bit outside while one slept inside. They weren’t especially exciting but they were interesting to see.
Next, we decided to go to the children’s area which has more domestic-type animals. (Though, they also included camels and some monkeys in this exhibit.) On the way to that section we passed a Koala but it was sitting still so we had trouble getting Calvin interested in it.
After the children’s area, we looked for snacks at the in-zoo 7-Eleven. There were many interesting looking things but there was little English on the packaging so we played it safe and got a couple containers of chocolate milk and Jaeger got tea. I also bought what I thought was going to be a fruit snack but, if it was, it was very processed and more candy-like than fruit like.
Our last stop in the zoo was the animals native to Taiwan. Since we were in a Taiwan zoo, it seemed to make sense to see those animals rather than the ones imported from the Pacific Northwest The monkeys were particularly interesting but it was time to start looking for lunch.
There isn’t much around the zoo so the food choices in the zoo itself seemed like our best option. We went to a cafe above the Panda area and ordered spaghetti and risotto, both with creamy-vegetable sauce. It was fairly good, for zoo food, and we didn’t ask any questions about what was in the sauce. All identifiable bits were vegetarian though they seemed overly fond, from my point of view, of fungi (which seems to be a common failing with Asian cuisine).
After lunch we exited the zoo and took the nearby Maokong Gondola. The start is near the zoo and there are several stops till it finally ends at Maokong, which is known for it’s oolong teas. From beginning to end the Gondola goes a little over 4 kilometers, maybe a 20 minute ride, and it goes up and down several hills and ends up around 275 meters from the starting station. The ride provides some fantastic views. Taipei 101 coyly peaks over the hills.
At the top of the gondola there are oodles of tea houses. There’s a narrow rode that takes about 20 minutes to walk to its end. We thought we were going to go to a tea promotion center that sounded like it was a small museum. However, it did not appear open when we got there. We went looking for a teahouse to drink tea at. There were many to choose from but a lot of them appeared to be exclusively in Chinese, making it difficult to order. We found one place that look promising and received an English menu. To our surprise, there was almost no tea except for some Celestial Seasoning offerings. It was a little surreal to be on top of a hill in Taipei, known for tea, and be offered herbal tea from Boulder. We did eventually find a place to drink tea and had deep fried sweet potato for a snack. I ordered
without thinking and then was a little surprised when Calvin enthusiastically ate it as he claims to not like sweet potato.
We wandered back to the Gondola station and took it down to the bottom. Then we traversed the subway to the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. This would be the third place that Jaeger visit about Dr. Sun Yat-sen but only the second for us. I believe Jaeger was amused to get the Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China, and Taiwan view all in the same vacation. We hurried and got there just in time to see another changing of the guard ceremony. It was similar to the one we saw for Chiang Kai-Shek but it was apparently the last one of the day as all the guards marched out together.
The changing of the guards is a great photo opportunity for tourists and many tourists, most we think from mainland China, were gathered around and happily snapping pictures. Once the guards left, they turned their picture-taking attention to Calvin. I lost track of the number of Chinese women that took pictures of Calvin and tried to get him to pose with them. Calvin was not excited about this but played along better than I expected.
After we managed to extract ourselves from the picture taking Calvin and I wandered outside to watch the fountain, which seemed to be choreographed with classical music, while Jaeger continued wandering around the memorial. Just as we were getting ready to leave, we noticed that the guards were marching out to take down the flag. We stayed to watch and Calvin seemed to enjoy it.
After the flag ceremony, we wandered off to look for supper. Once again, Google led us astray but, with a bit of luck, we found our destination, PP 99 Cafe. They’re a vegetarian restaurant that serve burgers and other American-type fast food with an Asian twist. For instance, Jaeger got a Ma Po Tofu “Burger” while I got one that was suppose to be vegetarian duck. We got a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich for Calvin. It was really weird but the vegetarian duck sandwich tasted like Adventist food to me. Fake meat is really big in the vegetarian restaurants in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The duck fake meat tasted a lot like the Worthington Chicken Roll which made me wonder about the feasibility of setting up a fake meat store co-run by Buddhist and Adventists.
Our Hong Kong/Taiwan Trip: