Taiwan/China

Taiwan Travel Blog

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Statue at Chang Chia Sheks final resting place

Taiwan

 

Day1 Taiwan--

Day one may have been one of the longest days any of us have seen in a long time. A this is being written we have been moving for almost 36 hours and still haven’t reached our hotel yet. We saw a memorial to Chang Chia Shek that included at least 200 statues of the the “Father of Taiwan”. 

Three square meals of airline food was not fun, but the fishhead soup at dinner made up for it.

Erin and Michelle with the tea expert
The cuisine is interesting, and will provide many interesting stories throughout the trip. We eat at a round table with a giant lazy Susan in the center of it. Everyone shares all of the dishes and it’s like a mini buffet every time. Just when we’re feeling done, they bring out more food.

Through the traveling today, we learned about the terrain of Taiwan. It is 80% mountainous and is absolutely beautiful. The Reservoir/Dam was most beautiful. There we learned a brief history of China, Taiwan, and their political relationship with one another. This was very informative. Also, the different restaurants were very good, both the cuisine and the experience.

The number one attractions that has made a great impact on the group was the environmental beauty  that the nation provides.

Edgar and Rita with our guide in Taiwan Daniel
The geographical essence of such culture provides the opportunity for tourists to appreciate nature to its’ full potential. Taiwan is a nation of innovation and culture unmatched throughout the world.

Day 2

After a long refreshing sleep A-team woke to a new day and proceeded to get educated in the history of Taiwanese business. We made our way through the expansive campus of Chung Cheng University. Our walk just to the classroom was warm and humid but we were rewarded by views from a gorgeous bridge of a large man-made lake. The morning began with an overview of the changes in Taiwan business and economic environment since the end of the WWII.

Jason calling from Teipei 101
We overviewed the change from an agricultural society to the major electronic manufacturer that came to power in the ‘70s and 80’s. We touched briefly on the politics that assisted Taiwanese business to developed in the 50’s. An infusion of US government cash and economic theory bases of a four year plan patterned after the Soviet five year plan. We talked about what the government is currently doing in the current world economic downturn. The steps include lower taxes and a government stimulus package to every Taiwanese citizen. Sound familiar?

We found the lecture on Taiwan’s economy to be most informative. This, combined with the history overview provided by Dr. Lin,our professor and guide throughout the trip, helped form an understanding of the state of Taiwan’s economy from post-World War II times until now.

 Following the business lecture a full tea ceremony with step by step explanations was provided at the University.

Teipei 101
Tea in Taiwan and China is a fascinating and an integral part of the culture. Our professor in Asian Cultures and Tradition class touched on a few of the things I learned in this lecture, but to actually experience a real tea ceremony and taste the moon cake made everything come alive. Eating at a nice restaurant with the faculty of Chung Cheng University and doing karaoke was a fun experienc. Everyone had a blast!  

Day 3

For the morning of the third day we bid goodbye the University and headed North towards Taipei. On the way we made a stop at the Hsinchu Science Park

New Food-Taiwan food is served, from our experience family style, on a lazy Suzan.

Tiffany, our guide Roger and Bryan
One of the biggest differences between Western and Taiwan food is the lack of sweets at breakfast. The traditional stinky tofu makes its presence known with no question as the smell permeates the area 30 feet in all directions. We were told it tastes better than it smells. We took their word for it.

After breakfast we went to the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (tsmc, the lower case is intentional as it better fits with the fung-shui priciples in Taiwanese and Chinese culture) in the Hinschu Science Park. tsmc is a company that produces computer chips for other companies such as Intel and Sony. One of the points of tsmc's business plan is not selling directly tot the public so there is no competition with their clients. That tsmc is the first Taiwanese company on the New York Stock Exchange is indicative of their success.

Approaching Teipei Airport on the way to Shanghai

After this we went to the visitor’s center within the science park. We saw a presentation on the history and purpose of the park. We then were taken on a tour of the park. Over 400 tech companies make this park home and Taiwan has built more parks based on this idea to fill the need.

After this we went to National University Chiao Tong. The University boasts the Eco-home. The Eco-home included devices for better living through innovation in tech and computer science. Demonstrations included the systems of the Eco-home that use technology to facilitate communication between the occupants for more fluid living. An exercise bike that simulates real world experience with a real motion and virtual tours of various cities. The projected use for this technology is for elderly and poorer folks to be able to experience other places at less expense and expenditure of energy than real travel.

We then viewed a lecture on trading stock in a wise and productive way.

In the plane on the way to Shanghai
The USC educated Doctor at Chiao Tung university has developed a stock trading program that allows students to simulate real trading scenarios without having to risk real monies.

After this we went to eat at a Taiwanese restaurant. We then went to a fisherman’s wharf in Taipei. It is very beautiful place where many waterfront stores are. Instead of going back to the hotel on the bus, we went on the metro…what a day!   

Day 4

Museum- The Taiwan museum contained items mostly all collected from the dynasties of China. Most of the items on display when Chang Chi Shek come over from China to rule Taiwan in the 1950's. The museum spanned four floors and included displays ranging from bronze and jade from early China to more recent exhibitions of writings and art scrolls from some of the more recent dynasties.

The two most famous sculptures in the museum are the Jade Cabbage and a succulent piece of pork called the Meat-Shaped Stone. The cabbage is carved out of a solid piece of Jade and includes a katydid and locust carved onto the top. The meat stone is so realistic that we really wanted lunch after the museum visit. Other notable exhibits included some intricate and amazing pottery, and scrolls of beautiful ancient Chinese writing that stretched out the length of an entire room. The scrolls were stamped by the emperor and indicate the age of the scrolls. Stamps were also used to identify the artist or owner of various pieces of art.

Teipei 101--Freedom Square-In all of the governmental monuments and spectacles in the United States the Freedom square in Taipei ranks. The former Chang Chia Shek Memorial Hall were extremely expansive and beautiful. The change in name came about in 2008 with the change in the political landscape in Taiwan. Many Taiwanese feel the former name is more appropriate to the intended feel of the spacious gardens and temple shaped buildings. Possibly one of the last remaining states publically displayed statutes of Chang Chi Shek is in the East facing hall.

The statue stands more than 40 feet tall. The remaining statues of the former President have been relocated to his current burial grounds at Xiu-Jou. All other statues of the former leader were removed from public display and placed at his final resting place in the tranquil setting in the mountains that he had always enjoyed.   

Modern Toilet

The Modern Toilet is a wonder. It is located in Taipei near the Shinlin Nightmarket and is one of seven Modern Toilets in Taiwan. As the name indicates, it has a toilet theme all the way through. When customers arrives there, they are seated on toilets in front of bathtubs with a glass table top. Then they can order from a variety of food on the menu. The food is then served in a toilet bowl. With such a theme one might wonder how it can be so successful. Simply put, it is probably because the food is so good. If it wasn’t, it would definitely not have success it has had.

Also, by paying extra money, customers can have their drink served in a container that looks like a urinal

This was definitely an experience, a good one.

After eating at the Modern Toilet we went to the Shinlin Night Market. Some of us got a massage at the beginning while a few of us went into the market and started shopping. Eventually we all went into the market and shopped. The Night Market is a place with many streets with legitimate businesses along the sides and illegitimate vendors in the middle. One can buy all types of products including food, clothes, jewelry, and souvenirs. It’s different from regular department stores in that a person can bargain with the vendors a lot easier and get fairly good prices for many different items.

Day 5

Visiting the electronics swap meet is something not to be missed. Taiwan is famous for manufacturing all manner of electronic components. Even a brief visit can be very productive, but use caution. Although Erin was cautioned to buy name brand headphones, she decided to save a couple dollars by getting an off brand. The headphones lasted all of 1.5 hours.

 

 Shanghai

Some things about city life are the same no matter where you are. Traffic is one of those inevitable facts of life. After fighting rush hour traffic we finally made it to the hotel and then to dinner. The government requires foreigners to check in to the hotel with their passport within an hour of arriving in the country.

Day 6 Friday 9/11. Factory Tour and USST.

Coca cola factory tour the Coca Cola factory processing tour was very enlightening, since they provided information on the variation of the U.S cola and the Asia Cola. Apparently, the U.S version is manufactured with Corn Syrup ands the Asia version is made with Sugar Cane as a Sweetener, which clear explains the difference in taste. Then the Tour was guided to the display area, where we were able to take pictures of the coca cola bears, and were provided with little gifts from coca cola as a token of there appreciation.

Lunch, well lunch was semi-impressive. The food was typical Cantonese food, which was made of eggplant, chicken, tofu, and rice. We were accompanied by the USST students which we had met for the first time at the Coca cola plant. The USST students were slightly shy and slow to warm up. But after a bit of one on one chatting they began to open up.

USST  after a semi attractive meal and quick detour back to the Coca cola factory (for some misplaced sunglass), and about 35 minutes of commuting, we had arrive to the renowned USST campus. At the University we were personally guided by the students around the campus, and taken to the faculty room were our lecture on the subject Chinese economy. The lecture was related on the multi structural level that the Chinese economy and government abides by. Essentially the lecture material demonstrated how the economy is tightly run by the government and that the lives of its citizens are highly controlled and monitored by the socialist government. Well besides civil control, it was highly publicized that the government in order to increase in power and revenue, will essentially do anything in order to achieve super power status in the next 10 years. This is done by providing tax incentives and subsidies that would allure companies into coming to china for a low cost production of their product. 

Going to a club (M2 at Plaza 66)  well after an excruciating and long day, we all as a group decided on some R & R, by heading one the local clubs located at the Plaza 66 shopping complexes at Shanghai. The nightclub was packed to capacity, with lovely waitress and friendly bartenders. The refreshments were affordable and the music greatly entertaining to the diverse crowd in attendance that night.  

Day 7 Saturday 9/12.

Museum

The Chinese government has a policy that most of the nation’s museums should be free to the public. This is a great way to promote cultural education, and we only had to wait about 20 minutes to go inside.

The architecture of museum is arraigned like a department store with five floors. We started at the 5th floor. The floor had a currency display with the various types and shapes of coins used in the vast country over the centuries. We also seem the money of different dynasties. Each currency has different shape and reflects the culture and the way of life. It separate to different room and introduce the culture of ancient china. For example jade. There are many kinds of use for Jade. One is for protection of peoples’ health. The other is only for the emperor. If other people use it in certain designs, called Ei Pei, the punishment is death or worse. In addition, there are certain colors only for royalty for example, yellow and purple. We really enjoyed the museum, but the time was a little short and we couldn’t view all of the displays. The good thing is that they also have video to introduce all the process of making jade, coin and so on.

For lunch we had Dim Sum. We were told this was a little different than normal dim sum and was more local to Shanghai. Either way, the food was great. Dim sum is usually served with tea or later at night and is supposed to be several smaller appetizer-sized dishes. This made for a great lunch with lots of variety.

Yu Garden and bazaar " A traditional Chinese garden is so much more than just a garden. It should have buildings, rocks, animals, water, trees, couplets for decoration, and many other elements. They were places for rich politicians to escape from city life. Walls, doors, and winding paths make the garden feel even larger than it really is and the walls are one of the most important features of the garden. A few of the walls have dragon sculptures along the top, but they aren’t quite dragons. Having dragon sculptures would be a crime punishable by death since only the emperor could have them. Real dragons have 5 toes. These only had three toes.

There is a very beautiful garden there are a lot decoration by dragon but actually is not really dragon because dragon only own by emperor and the owner of garden design the animals only have four hand therefore it not dragon. Also the most important part of garden is the wall blocking views to the outside. Without the illusion created by the wall the garden would not appear to be so big.

After a wonderful lunch we went to shopping and we really enjoy bargaining that is so much fun. And we got a lot of tradition clothes which we also wear that to take an old picture. We wore the hats we bought. That was fun. The hat with the pony tail represents the fashion of the Ching dynasty.

We stopped at a recently revitalized arts community before heading to the French quarter for dinner. It used to be a blighted residential area but the government worked to bring new life to the area by turning it into a trendy hub for local artists. There were some cafes and pubs there too. It was the sort of trendy area you might expect to find near Los Angeles. Everyone was on their own for dinner in the French Quarter. We didn’t have much time to see the area because we had to get to the ERA show.

The Era show: The Intersection of Time was an amazing experience. It was an acrobatic show that also commented on much of Chinese culture and history. It included stilt walking, which is popular during the Lantern’s Day Festival, juggling ceramic pottery, and imitating a space walk on a giant spinning rig. The finale was when 7 motorcycles all rode around together in a large metal sphere.

At the end of the day most of us went out for massages. It was a nice end to a very long day.

Day 8 Sunday 9/13.

The water village was something different than what we have been used here in Shanghai. It is a rural town located about an hour from where we have been staying. It is less busy than the city life in Shanghai and very relaxing. We spent the day learning about village life and the customs of the local people. We also went throughout the market bargaining with the vendors and shop owners and came out with some extremely great deals on merchandise and souvenirs to bring back with us to the States.

After going through  the market place we ate at a local restaurant with some extremely good food while some local singers sang to us for ten yuan. A local fortune teller also wanted to tell our fortune, but none of us were interested.

We then rowed on a boat by a local gentleman through town and enjoyed the scenery…what a great time! After this we went to Nanjing road and did some more shopping.

Nanjing road was much different than the water village with a little more hustle and bustle. We split up into groups and went around shopping for more deals, and met in front of Kentucky Fried Chicken afterwards.

Japanese dinner

We had a little bit of a different dinner experience tonight by going to a Japanese restaurant. The first major difference was having to take off our shoes before entering into our enclosed booth-like room where we sat on something like a bench, only much softer. The food was splendid and many of us enjoyed some warm Saki…yum!   

Day 9

Today we went to a university and were taught about Chinese culture and holidays. Much of what was taught we had learned and experienced in Taiwan, such as the various festivals (e.g. the Dragon festival), food (e.g. moon cakes), and customs. This only served to reinforce it  One of the main point of emphasis was the need to learn Chinese characters to understand Chinese culture; it was very fascinating!

The afternoon was spent viewing the Shanghi Stock Exchange. The exchange was a vast room full of computers but very few people working on the floor. Our expectations were of a busy floor but the whole process is done through agents and computers.

Day 10

This morning we ate our last breakfast in Shanghai, checked out of our hotel, and went directly to the airport to go to Beijing. Shanghai was a great experience, but each of is looking forward to our adventures in Beijing

Beijing

After arriving in Beijing we went to our hotel, the Novotel, where we checked in and put our luggage in our rooms. We then went to The Peking Duck to enjoy our first meal in Beijing. It was great. The duck was roasted and then carved in front of us. It was served with the optional use of what seemed to be China's version of tortillas as well as vegetables to go on it and a plum sauce. The duck takes several days to prepare and the chef cuts the duck at the table. During dinner there was a mask show where the performer dons a mask and in full view changes the mask with no clear way for the audience to see how.           

After dinner, we went to the famous Silk Alley, where we were able to bargain for great deals on "name brand" items (at least they said they were), as well as other trinkets and items. Some of us bought things, while some of us just saw what thee was to buy for the next time we will come back before leaving for L. A. It was a lot of fun.

 

Day 11

Today we started off the day by eating breakfast the hotel. They have a very good buffet with a variety of food, traditional Chinese as well as European and American. This is due to the fact that it is European hotel with a predominantly European clientele.

After eating breakfast we went to the University of Science and Technology in Beijing and toured the campus as well as listen to a lecture on the current status of economic development in China. The speaker was very open and made her affiliation with the communist party known and made the objectives of the party for China evident as well. Very enlightening.

The campus is beautiful and spacious. There are plenty of dorms for the students as well as facilities for their learning and enjoyment. Portions of the 2008 Olympics were held at the campus as well.           

 Day 12 Thursday 9/17.

 The transformation from communism to an open country has been helped along by China Beijing Equity Exchange known as CBEX. Upon walking into this company the main ticker was lit up with a welcome message for the students from Cal State San Bernardino. Impressive. The exchange basically acts like a stock exchange for state owned companies. Assets and equity in these companies can be purchased on the exchange in a similar way as common or preferred stock is on a regular exchange. Other transactions are also conducted including gold exchanges, local government financing and environmental exchanges in relation to global warming. The CBEX people were extremely good to us and told us how their exchange worked in detail. Following the tour of the facilities the folks at CBEX treated us to a lunch at the Westin location next door. The best lunch of the entire tour of Asia by far

When we arrived at the Sinosteel Corporation, we were immediately greeted by their staff and taken to their offices on the 37th floor. There we were introduced to their company, their business model, and what they do. They are state-owned and one of the top steel companies in China. We were taken throught he various steps of steel making from the acquiring of the raw material to the final product. This was very fascinating. We also learned of the various accolades they received from various groups, including the Chinese government as well as the Communist Party of China. They have a great past, a very proactive present, and a promising future.

Also, the view from the top was spectacular. However, after our time on the 37th floor we went downstairs to a semi-garden in the SinoSteel grounds. Then we left for our next adventure...Tiananmen Square.  

 

Tiananmen Square

Being at Tiananmen Square was almost surreal. It is an internationally known place with a tremendous history, especially in recent times. Hoewever, we were there in a very special time in the history of China. During this time there were great preparations for the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China There were large red pillars, weighing many tons, lining both sides of the square with paintings on each one of them representing the various ethnicities present in mainland China. It was amagnificent thing to see. On the streets opposite the square there are government buildings, including one of the national museums of mainland China.

At the very front of Tiananmen Square is a large, imposing picture of Chairman Mao Tse Tung.  Past this is the Forbidden City with a much longer history than Tiananmen Square...this is the nexy phase of our journey.

After, led us through the first gate into the Forbidden City. This is where we learned that each gate at the front was meant for specific people. The very middle gate was for the Emperor. The outer gates were for other members of the royal government.

This led through a courtyard to another temple-like building, which we went through that also led to another courtyard more awesome than first. By the time we got to the third one we arrived at the "throne-room" of the Emperor and Emperess, who came in from the back gate. Since this building did not contain an opening in the back, it appeared this was the end...so we thought. By going around the "throne-room" we were led into another courtyard with more buildings. There are almost 9,000 rooms, this city had numerable palaces, and a population of 40,000 during its heyday! This was in fact a very huge city. Time did not allow us to see every part of this city; that would probably take a day or two. Nonetheless, what we saw was breath-taking, awe-inspiring, and full of history that would take years to learn and comprehend...what an experience!

Day 13 Fri

 About an hour outside of Beijing is a division of the Double Crane state run pharmaceutical company. This company manufactures and processes product and standards for both domestic and international markets. We entered through a clean room process intended to prevent any cross-contamination of the production facilities. The company even treated us to lunch at a local restaurant where many of their workers take lunch.    

A long ride back to Beijing brought us to the SGNEC foundry in the outside the fourth ring. Beijing is set up similar to a wagon wheel with the center ring holding Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden city and each ring outside getting farther in the outskirts. The area were SGNEC is located is a working class neighborhood. SGNEC is a joint venture company of the Japanese company NEC and manufactures and assembles parts and components. The corridors of the company have an institutional feel and are light green and brown throughout. SGNEC manufactures six inch silicon discs. This product is somewhat dated compared to the eight and 12 inch discs now being made at places like tsmc, but the vice-president of operations felt that there is still an area of the market they can hold and be competitive as the capital involved in making the larger discs is a limiting factor. Many of the workers at SGNEC are housed in dormitories on the grounds. They workforce consists of about 45% people 25 years of age and the turnover rate is relatively high.

We played a basketball game with executives of the China Steel company. No one in the group was ready for what we faced. Most of the players towered over us and clearly had played together quite a bit. Giving it the old college try Bryan and Edgar were out at the end of the game with minor injuries and CSUSB was downed by about 15 points.

After the game the CEO of China Steel, Dr Wei, invited us all to dinner. We were seated at one of the most impressive dinners of the trip. Never did any glass get empty long and everything was provided down to a small plate with some the finest cigarettes available. The Chinese have a wheat and rice alcohol that is over 100 proof and every few minutes someone would rise and propose a toast. Respect dictates that one must oblige. To toast the lower one can clink glasses indicates the amount of respect for the toaster. The dinner ended with gifts for the most impressive performers in the game and Michelle and Edgar were honored.

Day 14 Sat

 

Great Wall

Today we drove outside of Beijing to go climb, (not just see) the famed Great Wall of China. We had a choice to either go up one side that was less than a 45 degree angle, which is fairly easy to climb, or to go up the other side, which was close to 75 or 80 degrees...far harder. For those of us who elected to climb the latter, we can see why Chairman Mao said that those who stand on the Great Wall, they are the true heroes. By the time we got up there and started our trek down, our legs were tired and felt like jelly. It seemed scarier walking down it than actually climbing it. After doing so, there was a great sense of accomplishment. Thus, we purchased a "Hero Card" with our picture on it. Some of us even got a plaque with our name engraved on it certifying that we had indeed climbed the Great Wall and were thus heroes...what a tiring, yet thrilling day. After this we ate a very welcomed lunch.

 

Ming Tombs

After climbing the Great Wall and eating lunch, we went to the Ming Tombs. This is a very large, yet beautiful site containing the burial place of all those in the Ming dynasty minus three emperors. Though it did not have as an impressive looking appearance as the Forbidden City or Great Wall, it has a great history. Everywhere on the grounds is a lesson in history concerning this very important dynasty in Chinese history. It is worth the visit.

2008 Olympic Site

We then drove to the famed Olympic Village that housed the masses of people from all over the globe who came to Beijing to watch the Olympic Games of 2008 up close and personal...it is a village indeed!

Not very far from there are the renowned facilities, the Water Cube (where the swimming and diving exhibitions were held), the Bird's Nest (where the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games took place), as well as other Olympic buildings for other Olympic venues were held. While we did not go in to any of these facilities, just knowing we were in a place where a crucial part of Olympic history took place was inspiring in and of itself.

After this we did what we do best...eat and drink.

After this some of us went to Ho Hai to experience the nightlife while others of us were to tired to do anything but go back to the hotel, pack our suitcases in preparation for leaving, and go to bed

 

Day 15 Sun

Temple of Heaven. The last day started with a trip to the Temple of Heaven. This is the place where Emperors would go three times a year to pray for the prosperity of the empire. Today at the outer area surrounding the temple retirees exercise, play music, dance and a variety of other activities. The inner temple has a three tiered temple with surrounding halls. The structure is very similar to what is displayed at the Forbidden City.

Silk Alley. This last shopping opportunity in China was taken advantage of by the entire group. After 2 weeks in a society were the fixed prices aren’t, we used all of our newly acquired bargaining skills for what turned out to be some pretty good deals.

Local Family Lunch and Visit. We then were taken to a local families’ house to have lunch. There we were treated to lunch that regular people eat although it is doubtful that the locals drink ginger alcohol in the middle of the day, but who knows. The food was good and filling and we cleaned all the plates.

After lunch we entered rickshaws and traveled down the alleys of Beijing to a local home were we were given a tour and told the history of the family and the house. There is a courtyard and kitchen central to three or four families. The homes are modest but clean and for being in the center of the city spacious.

Pandas. No trip to China is complete without a visit to the Pandas at the Beijing zoo. We dropped in on the Pandas viewed them relatively quickly and made our way. The Pandas appear to be very playful creatures and we enjoyed watching them.

After a packed day we are ready to head for home the trip was mare packed than a day of work and classes and most of the crew is ready for a vacation from vacation. Almost every day we were involved in four or more activities and every meal, save one, was authentic food. Of the food we saw many similar dishes but no meal was prepared in quite the same way.

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Statue at Chang Chia Sheks final r…
Statue at Chang Chia Sheks final …
Erin and Michelle with the tea exp…
Erin and Michelle with the tea ex…
Edgar and Rita with our guide in T…
Edgar and Rita with our guide in …
Jason calling from Teipei 101
Jason calling from Teipei 101
Teipei 101
Teipei 101
Tiffany, our guide Roger and Bryan
Tiffany, our guide Roger and Bryan
Approaching Teipei Airport on the …
Approaching Teipei Airport on the…
In the plane on the way to Shanghai
In the plane on the way to Shanghai
2,907 km (1,806 miles) traveled
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