National Palace Museum & Elephant Mountain

I woke up at 9:00 am and couldn’t believe that it was already time to start the day. I was so groggy and tired from the past day’s adventures that the idea of more sleep was extremely appealing. Nevertheless, with only 2 more full days left in Taiwan, it was time to rally and explore more of Taipei.

National Palace Museum

After fueling up at breakfast, mom and I headed to the National Palace Museum to escape the drizzling rain and experience its large collection of Asian artwork. We meandered through many of the different exhibitions, most notably the painting, ceramic, media and technology, and jade-themed rooms. There were many inspiring ceramic pieces, and I wondered how the tiny and intricate paintings that adorned them were created. Seeing these pieces gave me ideas for incorporating new techniques into my own jewelry line and reminded me of my desire to return to a ceramic studio.

The media and technology section was neat since it showed technology being used to create interesting, new interactions with art. One installation featured the projection of a beautiful horse painting on the wall with a large touchscreen panel in front of it. The same image was displayed on the touch screen except the horses were outlined shapes that users could color in. Once someone doodled their design on the tablet, the projected picture on the wall would be updated to include the newly drawn art.

The most prized artifact- a jade cabbage. Image courtesy of The Japan Times

The most interesting section of the museum was the jade collection, and it housed the most prized artifact in the entire museum – a small green and white piece carved into the shape of bok choy (a Chinese vegetable) with a praying mantis on top. About the size of a hand, this piece showed off the carving expertise of the artist and the incredible way they were able to transform the stone into a stunning piece to be marveled at. In the other parts of the exhibit, I enjoyed learning about how string and hard rock tools were all that was used to shape and smooth the jade. It still blows my mind how the pieces I saw were made using these simple and effective, yet extremely time-consuming methods.

Beef stew noodle soup in a yin-yang bowl

Once we had made our way through most of the museum, we walked over to lunch at the nearby Silks Palace restaurant. I ordered their award-winning beef soup that came with two different broths in a fancy yin-yang bowl. One of the soups was dark and had a strong five-spice flavor. I didn’t like it too much, but thought the included veggies, noodles, and beef were good. The second, lighter brother was tastier, but still neither tasted as good as the soup I had ordered our first day in Taiwan. We also snacked on a plate of fresh BBQ pork buns. These had a very sweet glaze on top and a delightfully crispy outside. It was excellent- the perfect combination of sweet and salty, soft and crispy.

Museum garden stroll

After finishing lunch, we walked around the palace garden for a bit. Since I had been spoiled by the ornate tea gardens in Japan, I wasn’t too wowed by this one’s greenery and water. However, I still found it relaxing to stroll through and a nice way to walk off lunch.

About to climb the stairs to Elephant Mountain!

We headed back to the hotel after our afternoon museum trip where I took a well-needed nap. In the early evening, it was time to go back out, this time to a place called Elephant Mountain; a mountain near the heart of Taipei that offers beautiful panoramic sunset and night views of the city. After quickly looking up photography tips on taking sunset pictures, we took the bus to the center of Taipei, and then walked to the steps of the mountain. With 20 minutes left until sunset, I had to hustle up the mountain in order to get the best view and pictures.

Taipei 101 as the sun is starting to set
Sun + City

I scrambled up the 1,054 steps, coming to the top drenched in sweat and with tired legs. Mom took the mountain at a more reasonable pace, but I had no time to lose with the setting sun. Right away I whipped out my camera and began testing out the lighting and different settings. So many other people were with us on the mountain that it was hard to get an unobscured view. However, there was one giant rock that you could climb on to get incredible views. I waited in line behind couples posing and groups of girls taking selfies before I finally getting my chance on “the rock”. From this vantage point, I could see the towering silhouette of Taipei 101 and the plethora of buildings around it.

Standing on the “rock”- conquered Elephant Mountain 🙂

What I loved seeing most was the color of the sky, changing from reds and oranges to deep blues to eventual darkness. When night came, the city below us lit up until there was a rainbow of building lights below. It was incredible to watch, and I was ecstatic for the view and my first set of successful sunset pictures. Once I had gotten enough photos (well over 100), we made our way back down the mountain. I was starving and ready for dinner.

Incredible colors in the sky
Taipei at night

We ate at a Taiwanese restaurant called Shin Yeh, a place I had read that served authentic Taiwanese dishes and a favorite among locals. Though it was on the more fancy and expensive side (compared to some of the hole-in-the-walls we had eaten at earlier), we had just worked up an appetite and were ready to indulge. The dishes we chose were: three cup chicken, cuttlefish and salted egg balls with bak choy, and fried, glazed, date pork spareribs. The spareribs were the best of the bunch, with a great crispiness and sweet glaze. I liked the flavor of the three cup chicken, but found that some pieces were a little dry. The seafood dish had a great sauce that came with it that I used all over my rice, but all in all the dish could have had more flavor. By the end of the meal, I was stuffed to the brim. There was a small included dessert, warm mochi covered in a sweet crushed peanut mixture. It was amazing, I wished I could have had the room to eat another plate of them!

Once we finished dinner, mom filled her ice cream craving at an outdoor food space nearby, and then we headed home. Only one more full-day left in Taiwan!

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