It's a strange moment when you realise you have explored various areas of the country you're living in without having explored all (in even a great deal of) the city in which you live. I had a similar experience when I visited China in December-January of 2003-2004. Travelling with a friend and based in Shanghai, though we travelled all over, Shanghai was the last place we properly looked around.
My girlfriend and I have decided to rectify this situation. Occasionally, usually Saturdays, we travel around a new part of the city. Here's the map of the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport, or something).
Despite living near the south end of the brown line, I had never travelled to its northern and eastern extremities. Where the blue and brown lines meet in the middle of the map is roughly the city's centre, with Taipei 101 being a little east of that. The south ends of the green and blue lines are their own mini-cities which have grown into Taibei.
By contrast the top arc of the brown line is fairly new to development. It looks like it's being developed into a new commercial hub, but what struck us was how empty the streets were.
Full of brand new commercial buildings (maybe still going up) and elite residential blocks, the place feels deserted. The Taiwanese tradition of building convenience stores periodically a stone's throw from the next one seems to have been overlooked here, too.
We did come across one interesting building. At first we thought it was a building dedicated to the arts, expecting to find it full of studios and galleries, but on closer inspection (from the roadside, peering through windows) we saw the interior set up with many tables and chairs in the manner of a restaurant.
We are still unsure as to what the building is.
As always, I made a concerted effort to track down public artworks scattered around the district, almost reminiscent of a scavenger hunt. Here are what I saw.
A head postured for thought while a branch protrudes from one ear with a bird sitting on it.
A rather odd bear with tiny wings who appears to be accepting a hug.
A letter box trying desperately to appear old-fashioned.
This rather garish row of statues cluttering up the pavement outside some shop or other in the vain hope of drawing customers.
Some satyrs and the artist's name.
A self-titled woman on a horse.
This was a delightful find. The jury of my mind is still out on whether words are missing from the sign or whether there has been a communication error.
(That or the society's name is really written like that.)
They are attached to quite a fancy new residential building. It's possible (though unlikely) that it's simply the name of the block of flats.
One new discovery for me was this sport. I do not know it's name, but it appears to be a combination of golf and croquet. The participants hold what appear to be croquet mallets, but swing them in a decidedly golf manner. It was quite unusual.
Across the grassy stretch on which they played was another group hitting in the opposite direction. Perhaps there is an aspect of bowls in this game as well.
Our trip culminated in an escape from towering buildings of glass and steel, and the enjoying of Da Hu Park. The MRT leaves the city area to skirt the outside of the park, giving passengers a calm and pleasing view. We alighted and took a stroll.
As I am me, I couldn't help but climb a tree.
What I discovered is that some spiders coat the surface of branches with their webbing. It's not a practice I was previously familiar with, but whole branches are covered. It may also have been only this particular species of tree.
Many people in Taibei enjoy taking time off in parks. Something about looking at the greenery present in a park brings a calm that nothing else in the city can synthesize.
This bridge separates the park with a small area of land at the base of a small mountain. There are often hiking trails going up into the mountains around Taibei, and it's most likely that this one does, too.
View from the bridge
On the far side of the bridge were people fishing. There were also a number of these birds (herons?) which allowed us to get quite close for wild animals. Obviously they're used to being fed tidbits by the fishermen.
All in all, a pleasant Sunday afternoon's walk.