Robert L. Peters

19 October 2010

谢谢 | Thank you!

Taipei, Taiwan

Two weeks ago today, Evelin and I returned from a ten-day trip that took us (for a few days) to Macau and Hong Kong, en route to nearly a week in Taiwan. I’d been invited to serve as a juror of the 2010 Taiwan International Student Design Competition and to provide a presentation as a part of the International Design Masters Lecture Series—and it was Ev’s first chance to visit these non-mainland-Chinese lands. Needless to say, we had a fantastic time… a huge 谢谢 (Thanks!) goes out to our hosts and organizers: Apex Lin, Pang-Soon; Melvyn Liao, Wei-Ming; and Alice Chen of the Cultural & Creative Industries Center, National Taiwan Normal University; as well of course to Lilin Hsu of the Xue Xue Institute (for providing her amazing venue).

After a 13-hour night-flight from Vancouver we landed on Chek Lap Kok island in the Pearl River Delta (the new Hong Kong International Airport), from where we boarded a speedy Turbo-jet hydrofoil ferry across the South China Sea to the ancient, former-Portuguese-colony, and now Special Administrative Region of Macau. Once there, we spent the next 24 hours of jet-lagged time adjusting to (or attempting to) the 13-hour time difference—primarily by wandering the chaotic streets of what is, statistically, the most densely populated city-nation on earth (18,534 persons per km², compared to the meager 3.38 persons per km² that we enjoy here in Canada). As both glittery casinos and shopping are of little interest to either Ev or myself, we enjoyed our brief time in Macau wandering the undulating streets and alleyways (replete with period architecture and Portuguese patterned cobble-stones) and, of course, people-watching.

The next day we boarded another speedy Turbo-jet to Hong Kong Island (about 40 minutes, navigating between ocean-going container ships, deluxe cabin cruisers, and ancient Chinese fishing junks and trawlers). After a refreshing snooze in our west-end hotel, we availed ourselves of what is indubitably HK’s best-value passive entertainment—an island-wide traverse (and back) atop a double-deck streetcar (for a mere 30 cents per person). The following day, we took the metro to Kowloon, spent a few obligatory hours in the deep-discount “Mongkok Ladies’ Market” (boasting the highest population density in the world, according to the Guinness World Records, with 130,000 persons per km²) as well as the adjacent tech-district (hard as this may be to grasp, neither of us spent a penny—go figure), before enjoying several delightful hours in the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Scorching temperatures in the high 30s (C°, with almost 100% humidity) along with lingering jet-lag left us understandably less than super-energetic… so we did, admittedly, spend a fair bit of time in oblivious R&R.

Taipei is less than a two-hour flight from Hong Kong, and we were delighted to be picked up at the airport by the lovely Enrica, the very helpful interpreter and guide who had been assigned to me for the week. We’d been booked into luxurious boutique accommodations at the Hotel Éclat which featured original art by the likes of Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Yin Jun, and Gao Xiao Wu, to name a few. Design jury activities were at the exquisite Xue Xue Institute (with a great view of the Taipei 101 tower [the world’s tallest, until earlier this year] just across the river)—we greatly enjoyed fellowship with our hosts, fellow jurors, and some old friends from my previous visits to Taiwan, as well as the variety of delicious dinner outings arranged as part of our week’s activities (honestly, I have not eaten so much since my last visit to Taiwan late in 2009). Official tours included the amazing National Palace Museum (home to an enormous treasure trove of cultural artifacts from the Sung, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties) as well as visits to several contemporary art exhibitions.

On Sunday, the day before we departed Taipei, Enrica (along with her father’s chauffeur, in a shiny new Mercedes) accompanied us on a day-long sortie to various obscure flea markets, and then south to Yingge Township, famous for its ceramic production and home to the Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum (undoubtedly the trip highlight for Ev). Our final evening in Taipei we met up with Enrica and Alice Chen again for an enjoyable amble through the Shilin Night Market.

Images, from top to bottom: A departing Turbo-jet ferry; densely-packed housing in Macau (photo from our hotel window); one of dozens of traditional apothecaries we encountered (I love the absence of unnecessary packaging); graffiti on a Macau wall; a double-deck tram-ride in Hong Kong; the Star Ferry crossing Victoria Harbour to Kowloon; art by Gao Xiao Wu in our hotel lobby; the Taipei 101 tower (photo from the Xue Xue Institute); jury selection; with fellow jurors in the Visual Design category, from L to R, Qing-Yang Xiao, moi, Richard Henderson, Kyoji Kotani, and Ching-wen Chen; Ev at the ceramics museum in Yingge; and, our lovely and ever-enthusiastic guide/interpreter Enrica with project manager Alice Chen “shilling shoes” at the night market.

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