Sunday, January 23, 2011

Taipei Taiwan - Museums, Temples, and expanding waistlines...

23 January 2011 – Taipei Taiwan – Tourist Weekend Three

You know, there are a number of things in my life that I’m eternally grateful and thankful for.  My daughter, my family, the love and companionship of my girlfriend, my personal successes and accomplishments, my time served in the Navy.  All of these things and so much more have made my life a blessed event.

Another thing that I’m extremely grateful for is the strength of American Capitalism, and the power of “The Brand”.  Now, you’re probably wondering what the hell that has to do with a travel blog, but I can assure you, it has direct impact on me and my travels.  You see, I’m currently on day 16 of a 23 day trip to Asia.  Having spent 20 years traveling the world with the US Navy, one thing I pride myself for is my flexibility, and my willingness to try new things, and immerse myself within the current cultural experiences I’m exposed to.  In other words, when in China, eat like the Chinese. (Especially when taken out to eat by Chinese colleagues.) But today, I’m on my own.  And I didn’t feel much like having steamed dumplings for breakfast, or rice and fish for lunch.  As a  matter of fact, I had a Cinnamon Roll at Dunkin’ Doughnuts this morning, and in lieu of a lunch, I purchased a can of Pringle Potato Chips from the local 7-Eleven store next to my hotel.  And I’m here to tell you, that while the coffee at Dunkin’ Doughnuts was a tad bit stronger than at home, the Cinnamon Roll was EXACTLY like the one I get at Dunkin’ Doughnuts at the corner of 47th and Cicero in Chicago.  And while the Pringles can had Chinese characters all over the can, the contents of the can were EXACTLY like a can of Pringles I can buy at my local Jewel.  This "sameness" is something I'm very grateful for.

National Palace Museum
So… Yesterday I wound up doing two major tourist things. One was visit the National Palace Museum here in Taipei, and the other was to roam around the Shilin Night Market just a couple of train stops down from my hotel.  You can view pictures of my day at mine and Becky’s SmugMug site.  A word of warning. The pictures at this site are the accumulation of ALL of my Asia trip pictures.  So if you’re interested in seeing the Taipei pictures only, you may want to consider starting from the end and working you’re way back.

Today was spent in only one tourist pursuit.  I took the train to the Taipei Zoo where I took a gondola ride up into the local mountain side to Moakong Station.  

Sanxuan Temple - Moakong Taiwan

From the station, it was a 20 or 30 minute walk to the Sanxuan Temple.  Not to be glib, but this temple didn’t stand out in any particular way to me.  I thought the Po Lin Monastery temple in Hong Kong was much grander to view.  I don’t regret the trip though.  Taiwan this time of year is wet but mild.  From what I’ve read, coming here in the Spring or Summer can be a brutally hot experience, so I’m thankful for being here in January.

After I got to the temple and finished looking around, I started to head back to the Gondola station, when the clouds rolled in, and a dense fog pretty much covered the area.  Consequently the ride back down the mountain was pretty gray.  All in all though, I enjoyed the two day tourist visit immensely.  Now I’m preparing to go into the office tomorrow to meet and network with more of my business and IT colleagues from the Taipei office.

From a professional point of view, this trip has been absolutely marvelous.  I’ve gained such a better understanding of the point of view of our Asian counterparts.  I’ve experienced firsthand the frustration they go through when trying to access databases that reside back in Northbrook.  I’ve also had an opportunity to talk with many of them, and they have been surprisingly upfront about how they feel.  I’m going to go back to my job in the states armed with lots of ideas about how we can do some fundamental things differently that in the long run will benefit our business and IT colleagues from the Asian regions.

On a more general note, I have some observations from Taiwan.  There are a LOT more American companies that have a presence here.  The number of 7-Elevens alone is pretty surprising.  ColdStone, Dunkin’ Doughnuts, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds all have a presence here.  (BTW… A double cheeseburger from McDonalds in Taipei is EXACTLY like a double cheeseburger from Chicago.)  I’m not sure if there’s a correlation here or not, but I’ve also noticed that there are a significantly larger number of overweight people here than any other Asian location I’ve visited so far.  By no means do they come close to the weight problems we have in the US, but there are more overweight folks walking around here than in Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Hong Kong.  I can’t help but wonder…

Enough for now… I’m here in Taipei till Wednesday, and then it’s off to Tokyo for the last stop of this trip.  Next Sunday I’ll be heading back home.  My last tourist visit will be either in Tokyo or something nearby next Saturday.  I’m looking forward to that, but I’m especially looking forward to getting home.

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