We had lots planned for day 4, so it was good news when we started off with sunny weather. Our first stop was over the the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial, which was a short walk from our hotel. Here was our first glimpse, as we entered through a side entrance. I really loved the white with deep blue tiles, which reminded me of Europe.
Here is the memorial hall in the distance. We had a nice park area to walk through on the way over.
Here is one of the bigger entrances, closer to the large square found in the middle of the park area.
Chiang Kai-Shek ruled in China and Taiwan for a good bit of it's recent history (1928-1975) and is very important in their history, especially as he wanted to have a country not run by the communist party. I am not an expert on the history of the country or Chaing Kai-Shek as their leader, but he seems to be one of the most influential figures in their development as the country that we know today.
Inside is a museum with many things related to his military and political career. This includes some of the automobiles he used, medals he was awarded, and furniture from his home.
Signed letter from Harry Truman with the awarding of a medal.
These were some food models from his favorite foods.
This was a replica of his office.
We managed to catch a little of this changing of the guard ceremony (or what resembled a changing of the guard ceremony).
Here are some pictures from the outside park area, as we made our way around to the other side of the building.
Looking back up at the building.
Here I am over at the main entrance side, with the square directly behind me. One of our tour guides had told us this square is still used regularly for events, social and political.
The entrance into the hall where the memorial statue sits.
Inside with the memorial statue of Chaing Kai-Shek.
Then we walked to the front of the memorial. There were buildings on each side of the square. I really liked the architecture and vibrant colors used.
We also had some fun watching people trying to get the perfect selfie of themselves.
Looking back over the memorial hall from the front entrance of the memorial. You can see the full size a lot better from this angle.
Loved all of the fun birds we saw around.
One last shot of the beautiful main entrance gate.
From there we boarded the MRT and headed towards Danshui, AKA Tamsui (yeah, it's confusing!). I found a walking tour online, so we had a guide meeting us there. Tamsui is a town about 45 minutes by MRT outside of downtown Taipei, just at the end of the river, so it was a major port city in the past, held at different periods of time by different countries. This gives it a lot of influence from may different places, mostly European.
For lunch we ate at a Thai restaurant in a mall just outside the Tamsui MRT station.
Ryan had Pad Thai.
I had pineapple shrimp fried rice (the second time around minus the pork...the menu didn't indicate that!)
After lunch we went back to the station to meet up with our guide. The first place we headed was to a converted old stable area.
Interestingly there was an art show going on. The artist's subject matter was horses. She had some really nice pieces.
Our next stop was the former Shell Gasoline warehouse. It is now a museum.
Fun benches outside.
Right next to the museum we got a glimpse of the old life here. This location was inhabited by veterans that didn't have any other place to live and were poorly cared for/didn't have a lot of money. The last resident recently passed away but our guide told us they are unsure if it will be town down or what will happen to it.
This residence area was also hidden along the water here.
Next we walked across a waterfront park to get to the shopping streets.
Almost as soon as we stepped into the shopping area, it started to pour! Our first stop was into one of the shops to buy some umbrellas.
While we were doing that I smelled something sweet. I turned around to find that sugar cane was being "juiced".
There were tons of fun street foods to look at, like these giant fried squid.
Stinky tofu, I think! It looks like cheese oozing out, but I am pretty sure this was a version of stinky tofu, which by the way, has a very distinct smell and there is no mistaking it!
Some sort of beverage.
Looks like maybe tofu.
Eggs soaked in something, most likely tea.
Guava, the pink kind, which is the less common version since the white guava is what you most commonly find in Taiwan.
Our first stop, after passing though the food, was to a temple. Since it started to pour rain at an insane rate, we were happy to duck inside.
Here we discovered what the ovens were used for. We thought they looked like wood burning ovens for cooking, but these people were throwing fake money inside. We learned they were burning it, like a sacrifice, because people need money in heaven as well. It is done as an offering, sort of like bringing a good omen or good luck to yourself because you gave this to your ancestors.
Because it was pouring so much we decided to duck into a tea shop and have some tea and a little cake. We knew this would impact being able to see some things, but this worked nicely as 'plan B' given the circumstances (the rain was insane). We both picked our own tea, making sure the kind we picked did not have mint in it (because I am allergic to this and it burns my eyes and my lips puff up even when I am just near it).
This was some sort of more traditional sweet, make with some sort of seed that gelled when wet. It was interesting, but definitely worth trying.
Here was the first we saw of Dr. Mackay, who is very famous in this town. He was a missionary and a dentist. In addition to setting up medical facilities, he also established an education system here, including the college.
We went inside a little museum dedicated to Dr. Mackay so we could learn a little more about him.
The town of Tamsui was really cute and had a lot of fun artistic touches. Certainly more trendy, or European, than I would have expected for a Taiwanese town.
Here is the church, which is also associated with Dr. Mackay.
You can see as we are walking that it was really wet out, but at least by this time it wasn't raining as hard.
Like I said, it was definitely more cute/artsy/trendy that I would have expected. This is a fun looking ice cream shop.
Our next stop was up hill a little bit, up to Fort San Domingo. Unfortunately it closed by the time we got there because we had to hold off on the tour due to rain.
There was a nice view from up here, except it was a bit grey from all the rain.
Next to the fort was the old consulate office/house. That was closed also, but we went over to peek into the windows.
Here we are with our fun (and very cheap) umbrellas.
Fun art in the courtyard area.
After that headed over to the University started by Dr. Mackay. This is known as Oxford College.
To get to our next location we walked along a narrow street leading into a more residential area. The street was lined with paintings, which our guide said were made by middle school students, although we suspect the teachers helped.
I definitely thought this was cute on the side of the fire station.
Our final stop with the guide was to find some fish ball soup. We made sure to pick something authentic. Actually, it was so busy at the time that we ate at that I couldn't even get a picture of the place, so later on it was easier, but less crowded in the picture.
Taiwan is known for fish balls, but I didn't realize (until after I ordered and saw a guy near me bite into one) that they were filled with pork. I had already ordered them, so I made Ryan try them. He was really unsure about this (way outside is comfort zone...he is not a fan of gefilte fish, so being similar, fish ball did not sound good to him) but he was a good sport about it! It was definitely an experience and we have a good story to go along with it. They were rather slippery and he lost one, which landed on the table (we were dining at a long table with multiple people around), so we went with the 10 second rule and he definitely picked it up and tried again (with the chopsticks, which didn't make it easy!).
Once we parted ways with our guide we decided to go out for a real dinner. We looked at a few places but ultimately decided on Alleycats, which served pizza and more American style food.
After the fish ball soup, Ryan really just wanted something simple, like a margarita pizza.
I had a panini loaded with cheese and smoked salmon. It was super tasty!
Walking back to the MRT station we spotted the church, now lit up because it was dark outside.
On the way back from Danshui we stopped off at the Shilin Night Market, one of the more popular night markets, but also one of the more touristy markets. What I liked was that the vendors were not pushy. They didn't follow us around or hover. They didn't shove calculators in our face trying to show us a price and ask us to counter their offer. It was busy, but not pushy, trying to walk around. It was a much more pleasant experience than the markets in China.
You can see there are tons of street food vendors, some foods identifiable, like the fruit before, and others that leave you scratching your head. But I will say this was a pretty cool market and I could have spent hours looking at everything.
Amazing fruit. While I didn't buy anything this particular night, I did go back again on another night and we bought tons of fruit from this lady. It was also nice to be able to eat the fresh fruit, raw, without a huge concern for food safety (I had a little concern but because I had been eating raw produce and drinking tap water, I felt comfortable at the end of 10 days doing this...my advice is research well and do what you feel comfortable with...I did not get sick, but I can't guarantee all water in all places is safe. I could have just gotten lucky!).
Shrimp fishing...yes, shrimp fishing exists! After you catch one they can grill it for you.
People out shopping and looking around.
These were really neat crackers that were made in a machine that cooked each one individually and then shot them out into the case shown at the bottom of this picture. You can see the little machine just behind the counter.
I love dragons so I pretty much stop and take pictures of them whenever I can. Good thing I live in Asia where dragons are abundant!
Crabs! I'm from Maryland so crabs always catch my attention.
Looks like they have a lot on their menu.
For traditional desserts
Bitter melon, but not as green as the stuff we have in Japan.
More strange stuff! I really enjoyed walking around and seeing what was being sold and what people were eating.
QUESTIONS: Have you ever tried stinky tofu? Would you? What is the strangest street food you have tried? Have you ever tried fish ball soup?