Endearing legacy

Modern impressions

Endearing legacy

Full bloom: The Taipei International Flora Exposition in Taiwan. photo by  Authors

Taipei stands out distinctly as a shimmering metropolis waiting to reach the skies. As we drove into the flyover-crossed city of smooth roads and flower-decked islands, modern edifices struck their towering tops into a stray spray of cumulus cloud formations. Steel, chrome, glass and neon dazzle our eyes with oomph and alacrity.

The fairest of these modern temples to architecture technology is the imposing Taipei 101, famous as the world’s second tallest landmark, spotted for its pagoda-esque design in the centre of the Taiwanese capital. Modern Taiwan’s show window to the world in the swish Xinyi district dazzles millions the world over on New Year’s eve with stunning fireworks and nocturnal oomph.

Night life

The split-second zippy, record breaking, hyper velocity elevator at 1,010 meters per minute, is a record breaker and the rooftop destination it touches is a mesmerising and spectacular wide screen to the languorous, seductive Taipei, that is forever awake. Near Taipei 101 are the other impressive landmarks of the Shi-Yi shopping area and beyond that glow and flow with the calibrated neon tide, washing the streets with make-believe imagination, only veiled by fleeting rain.

We walked into an ancient and highly revered Chinese Taiwanese temple encapsulated with scores of incense aromas, piety and prayer dominating the ambience. The red, gold and yellow filigreed portals, columns and sloping rooftops redolent with artistry few can match, created an aura of awe and silent admiration. As we cruised along Tian Mu Main Street and further on, the blaze of orchestrated neon signages winked naughty at us, their boutiques, plush designer brand lounges and jewellery galleries alive and awash with brilliance that would put the night to shame.

In the distant Kang Qing Long Northern area, we visited the Formosa Vintage Museum nestled in sylvan surroundings and Japanese landscaped gardens. The visit was intriguing and fascinating, a window to early life in the island inhabited by many cultures and tribes, the practical art forms in wood, teak, silk, tapestry, porcelain and natural substances given great interpretation and identity.

Interesting collectibles, Japanese and Taiwanese calligraphed drawings and paintings, a typical Japanese tea house and the ubiquitously laid out entertainment hall with rows of floor desks and lavish seating, brought back forgettable memories of Japanese Kamikaze pilots pampered and spoilt with drink and damsels the night before their fatal aerial assault on World War II American warships in the Pacific.   

Taipei’s brash and brazen open-minded warmth and amiable character is reflected in its many colourful streets and shopping precincts. The city’s heartbeat pounds with decibel excitement in the unstoppable pace of the buzzing Shilin Night Market and nearby food courts, Taipei’s largest and most satiating gastronomic destination. Acres of fluorescent neon messages blind our eyes as we follow single-filed, trotting from boutique to shop, offering the snazziest garment and accessory bargains. The whistling whirl of frenzied food courts offering local Taiwanese fast food and grab-a-grub dishes with fruit punches knocked us down to a bench chewing on smelly tofu in aromatic soy-garlic sauce!

Walk the alleyways of Taipei with unplanned abandon. Discover antique sheds, yards, curio shops, wholesale tea merchants, grumpy, old grandmas thrashing unrelenting brats and tea houses. Grab cupfuls of that irresistible Oolong liquor, mild and aromatic, watch avant garde art on café walls, ivy creeping on window sills, seductive teen vixens in lavender make-up and micro minis swaying to metallic Taiwanese-rock numbers. Taipei reaches out to your keenly whacky quest.

A musical dance eye opener to Taipei’s endearing cultural legacy is the much acclaimed and applauded Taipei Eye, their Chinese and Taiwanese Performing Arts Theatre on Zhongshan N Road. Centuries-old performing art shows perfected with rhythmic drummers and fairy tale sets lit up enthusiasm among a keen audience. Taiwanese and Chinese (Beijing) opera skits, dialogues and monologues in animated exaggeration, delightful folklore and music followed our tete-a-tete with the performers busy at their own stunning make-up styles. A mirthful two-man Lion’s natty trapeze thrills on fearful iron props in front of the stage captured our imagination vividly, as traditional Chinese percussionists whipped up a startling crescendo in variegated wavelengths. Cheeky humour sashayed with gaudily decked belles pouting mischief and amorous intent.

Iridescence and seamless mood lighting techniques wowed us till the conclusion of our Taipei Eye show.

Taipei classics

Two mind-provoking visits had us enthralled further in Taipei, the first was a full morning sojourn at the sprawling National Palace Museum with its largest collection of artefacts and priceless treasures in the Far East. Nothing came close to the unusual natural white-and-green Jadeite stone creation of a fully bloomed cabbage from the Ch’ing Dynasty, intricately perfected down to the last whorl and nerve ending. The other was a piece of almost real, freshly cooked meat-shaped stone with hair follicles enlivened in remarkable detail.

Uncanny similarities in ancient Mandarin calligraphy uncovered millennia-old Indian symbols of aum, forms of the Tripunda and Sivalinga, Lakshmi on the lotus, and bewilderingly clear Devanagari alphabets. A cherry welcome awaited us at the sprawling, street-skirted Taipei International Flora Exposition that brings the world to the city’s floral doorsteps. A zillion blooms and flower acres open out mind-calming vistas as we strolled flower beds, theme pavilions, fruit and vegetable lounges depicting the serious environmental concern in agri-horticultural accents and production.

The floral expo found us in an unhurried gait, the fleeting rain creating a psychedelic aura around hedges, flower-bejeweled  walls, landscaped meadows and valleys and fluorescent patches of brilliance that was a sight to behold with bated breath.  

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