Visiting Taiwan, Part 1: Rain
When I arrived in Taipei, typhoon Mangkhut was passing Taiwan on its way from the Philippines to Hong Kong. Luckily, it was a near miss for northern Taiwan, where the capital Taipei lies. But it did bring us lots of rain and strong winds and, after that, left us with heat and merciless sunshine. The weather extremes made every minute a challenge, but I couldn’t have wished for any better company to get me through it than our Taiwanese colleagues! Here’s how you get through rainy days in Taiwan.
On my first day in Taiwan, I was picked up by Kyan, Janet, Ian, and Sophia, who are all part of the Metrohm team at our local distributor Hammer Trading. We managed to get a glimpse at the peculiar rock formations on the north coast of Taiwan just before the heavy rain started. The rock formations are the result of different kinds of erosion at this very exposed location. The most photogenic of them is probably the Elephant Trunk Rock (bottom picture in the gallery below). But we didn’t dare to climb up the popular photo spot because we felt like the wind might carry us away any second.
Jiufen: History, Kitsch, and Art
We had barely made it back to the car when the rain brought by Mangkhut started pouring down. So we decided to cancel our outdoors activities. Instead, we visited the small town of Jiufen very near Elephant Trunk Rock. The history of Jiufen is connected with the two occupying forces that have claimed Taiwan in the past: Japan and China.
Like so many Asian countries, Taiwan was under Japanese rule in the past, until the surrender of Japan in World War II. The Japanese influence is still strong: Japanese culture permeates many aspects of life and many older people still hold Japanese passports. Currently China claims Taiwan as part of its territory. But the Taiwanese don’t agree with this, and China in fact has no control of the country.
The Japanese era lasted from the late 19th century to 1945. It was during this time that the small village of Jiufen became the epicenter of the Taiwanese Gold Rush and grew into an important town. After the surrender of Japan, the Chinese government took control of Taiwan. The brutal suppression of uprisings in Jiufen against the government in 1947 claimed thousands of victims among Taiwanese civilians. This incident was officially taboo in Taiwan for a long time, until the 1989 movie «A City of Sadness» made the issue public. Jiufen, which had been forgotten after the exhaustion of its gold resources, went through a revival after that: the nostalgic movie scenes set in Jiufen has made the town a popular spot for Taiwanese weekend tourists.
With the tourism came souvenir shops, tea houses, cafes, and restaurants. But the tourists also keep local artists alive, like the owner of the creepy mask gallery in the pictures below. Supposedly, he sculpts these masks after creatures that appeared in his dreams. After seeing the cabinet of horrors that his gallery is, I’m surprised this guy still dares to fall asleep.
… Do as the Taiwanese Do
According to our Taiwanese colleagues, the locals’ favorite things to do when it rains are movies, karaoke, and eating. We ended up spending our afternoon with the latter two and headed to one of Taipei’s many night markets (for more food!) once the rain had stopped. Night markets have become one of my favorite places to visit in Asian countries. They’re always packed with locals, which is a good sign when it comes to food, and you can find an almost endless variety of authentic local foods.