What a day!
I started Sunday off, as usual, getting up extremely early. I don't know if it's jet lag or not but I've been waking up at 5:30 AM everyday, and it's not like I'm getting more than 6 hours of sleep... Regardless, I was on the train for Shilin (pronounced "Shur-lin") within a couple of hours. There I visited the National Palace Museum. This is one of the nicest and biggest collections of art I've ever seen. It has 650,000 pieces of Chinese art ranging from the early Han Dynasty (200's BC) to the late Ching Dynasty (early 1900's AD). The work had all originally been in the Forbidden City in Beijing, but in 1949 with the Communist victory over the KMT (Nationalists), the works were smuggled out of China and into Taiwan. If this hadn't been done, the Red Guards would have most likely destroyed it all during the violently orgiastic Cultural Revolution. To me, the most impressive exhibits were the giant Buddha statues and the 19th Century "concentric ivory balls". This latter display was created from one giant slab of ivory and yet has moving parts and a chain. I had lunch in the NPM restaurant housed in an adjacent building. My meal of chicken corn egg drop soup and tofu with brown sauce was surpisingly fulfilling and after finishing my tea, I braved the rain and walked to the Chih-shan Garden.
This was an unbelievable site. As Lonely Planet describes, "...is a stroll garden in the literary style of the Sung and Ming dynasties; it's likened to a landscape painting that gradually reveals itself as you walk through it." There were 3 pagodas, a covered walkway, and a couple of ponds connected by streams and filled with koi. There was also a cave with a behind-the-scenes view of a waterfall. This at first seemed to be a very relaxing spot, so when the 50 mph winds and torrential rain really picked up, I retreated to it, however not for long. As I was sitting there staring out through the waterfall, I noticed a strange brown patch on the ground and, for some reason, decided to poke it with my umbrella.
It was feces.
Of human or dog or whatever I cannot say, but it smelled nonetheless. And so, utterly disgusted, I abandoned my umbrella and trotted through the rain and out of the park. In hopes of catching a taxi to the nearest train, I instead stumbled unexpectedly onto the Shilin Temple dedicated to Matsu god of the sea!
The temple was decorated with elaborate green dragons, and red and gold carvings. It's entranced was approaced by twin lines of traditional lanterns and no one was inside. So, taking advantage of the opportunity I walked toawrds the entrance and...tripped. I looked down in search of whatever crack the pavement should have been there but, instead to my absolute shock found- get this- a LOBSTER! It was a tiny lobster, perhaps only deserving of the title "crawfish" but nontheless it was there. As it wiggled on the ground to right itself, I gawked. Eventually getting back onto its legs it stood motionless, staring out towards the road. The little guy very much resembled a guard.
Confused but amused (heh heh) I entered the temple...more on this later!
Sorry so long everyone- I'm trying to make sure nothing is forgotton!