The next nice day, we went to Jardin des Plantes to see the multiple museums there, but first I wanted to stop by les Arènes de Lutéce, which I found out about after watching a documentary on how Paris came to be what it is today over the last 800 years or so.
As the name implies, they are left over Roman Arenas, which weren't destroyed by urbanization. There are also thermes that can be seen by special appointment (by orangerie) which I hope to see another time. To be honest, it doesn't look like much, but it's a cool part of history left in Paris:
We also had a quick look at the Mosque next door which is more visitable than the one in Jakarta we weren't able to enter. They had a few displays to try and fix the very bad PR their religion has been getting due to their extremist followers:
Next, we went to Jardin des Plantes which was of course a bit devoid of plants outside during the winter season. The indoor plants were nice to see though:
these were actually artificial art
Then, we saw displays on plants, animals, and evolution:
they have an impressive compact collection
[rigimg:1024:266*|"No, I didn't come from monkeys" always amuses me]
There was much to see, it was a packed visit. The last nice day of sun in the forecast, I planned a boat ride on the seine leaving by the Effeil Tower:
this put a lock on the bridge fad is getting out of hand...
Paris is running out of bridges to put locks on now...
locks, locks, and more locks...
Musée d'Orsay is one place I yet have to go to
Next, we went to see the little houses selling overpriced Xmas stuff:
very very overpriced foie gras
after which, we walked towards the small copy of the statue of liberty on a very small island in the middle of the seine:
this one is in French :)
From there, we took a cab to Arc the Triomphe and went to the top:
can't beat the view
winters are cold, but have cleaner and clearer air, that's a win for pictures
We then proceeded towards place de l'Etoile while looking at things on the way
Car manufacturers had new cars on display which I like to see each year:
The last outing we did was a half day to see the Chateau de Vincennes which had been totally renovated after years of me going to the school next door. The visit was quite nice what seems to be one of the oldest castles in that shape you can visit in France today.
Since we had to fly through Taipei to get back to San Francisco, we added a couple of days to our trip to indonesia and spent them looking around in Taipei. We arrived late at night from Jakarta, got some much needed rest, and went out the next morning to explore the precise list of things she had planned for us.
We stayed at the YCMA hotel, mostly due its convenient location metro-wise, and while it didn't have breakfast, there was plenty of food to be had outside:
We were very close to the Taipei Main Station
We started by going to the Confucius Temple, which was both pretty and very informative on the interesting life and teachings of Confucius:
Next, we went to the Bao-an Temple next door. Magnific rooms, and structures on the roofs:
After that, we went to 2/28 Peace Park and its museum that describes the so called 228 Incident where Taiwan massacred 10 to 30 thousand of its civilians starting Feb 28th 1947 to stop an uprising. We only went through the museum very quickly due to lack of time, but went through its park while we were there. I'll note that Taiwan is honest with talking about its past and doesn't try to hide it like China does:
I guess this summarizes what happened :-/
Next, we went to the very impressive National Ciang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and Plaza:
nice socks :)
lots of people exercising and dancing around the plaza
we went inside the museum
We did a quick stop at the Red House which was on Jennifer's list, but turns out it wasn't what she hoped it would be, so we decided to quickly go to the Taipei 101 tower and got to the top just a bit before sunset:
the elevator reaches a super fast speed of 1000 meters/mn and gets you to the top in 37 seconds
The building has an impressive and visible damper to reduce building sway under the wind:
On the way out, we took some night pictures around:
To end the evening, we went to a night food market Jennifer wanted to see, unfortunately under some rain:
We had much fun trying to fish shrimp and the ones you could get out of the water, they would grill for you. The catch was the rope you had was very fragile and the shrimp would typically break it when fighting after you hooked them. We still managed to get 3 out of 7 hooks, not bad, and much fun:
And this was good for one long Day #1, and time to go to bed.
Day #2, we started by going to the President's Palace. Unfortunately pictures were not allowed in most of it inside, which is surprising and disappointing considering the very informative museums inside on the first floor. Among other things, it had a good
Next we went to see the Yat-Sen Memorial. Unfortunately the main hall was under renovation, so we saw a few rooms and headed out:
that's the best shot I could get inside sideways since it was being renovated
good shot from taipei 101 from there:
From there, we went to Dihua Street, known for its many food stores and street food vendors:
shark fins, shame shame shame...
bird nests, really?
and after the food, we saw a few nearby temples before another early sunset around 17:00:
some folks were doing some bingo like looking gambling
lots of offerings
more food in the streets for Jennifer
After sunset, we spent a bit more time around the Red House to see the streets full of stores:
I got some nice shaved ice with ice cream and strawberries :)
And before we knew it, we were back at the airport for our night flight back to SFO with Eva Air (another good plane with nice seats):
While it's true that we were coming from Jarkata which wasn't overwhelming, I was pretty impressed with Taipei. I feel bad for Taiwan now that they have lost a lot of tech revenue to China, and the impact this has on their economy now. In the meantime, I found the parts of the main city we visited quite clean, modern, pretty, and easy to visit. I realize that visiting Taipei in 48H is a bit short, but with Jennifer's advance planning work, I feel like we actually got quite a good overview, and the weather in December was quite pleasant, if we forget the short days sun-wise.
The subway was efficient and clean, part of it is that all food is forbidden in it:
sexual harassment makes sexual harassment panda sad
On top of good subways, they also had rental bikes by the hour like many bigger cities do:
They had old style crouch toilets and new ones. Also, they had clear signs of where things were :)
They are very careful about not spreading viruses. The west could learn from that:
don't spread your cold, good call
H1N1 is passé, don't get H7N9!
It was just a quick stop on our way back home, but I much enjoyed it and was happy to learn more about Taipei and a bit about Taiwan's history.
This page is a wrapup of our trip in indonesia, go to main page to see the other posts.
First, we our time in Bali was great thanks to our guide and driver, Tawan. If you need someone to help you in Bali, contact him at email@example.com.
While we didn't get to see a lot of Indonesia (mostly Bali), we still got to see Bali, Makassar, Sorong for long enough to know that there isn't much to see, and Jakarta. Clearly, there is a big contrast between Islands that are more Muslim than others, although Indonesia allows all religions. Ok, the religion part became a longer rant, so I'll leave it at the end.
What to visit
We didn't get see a lot of Indonesia, but from what I've seen and read about, Bali is most likely the one place in Indonesia where you can spend the most time to see and experience different things. It's also more liberal (i.e. less Muslim) and therefore less likely to have rules or restrictions that would be offensive or needlessly restrictive for most foreigners.
People were super nice everywhere. Obviously we mostly dealt with people in the service industry, people in Bali, and people in hotels elsewhere, but they really all were great.
We spent most of our time in Bali and we were mostly inland where the roads were much worse than down south. It was all 2 lane roads, with often one lane being blocked by someone drying their rice on it, or someone parked because there is no parking. As a result, short distances take a long time, and we were happy to have a patient driver. I'm however not optimistic about the future because unless they're willing to tear down rows of houses that are smack in front of the two lane road, there is no way to widen the road to allow for more capacity. When you see bigger tour busses on them, it gets scary.
In Jakarta, it was not unusual to stay blocked in one spot for 10 or 15mn, while vendors walk from car to car to sell you food or other things.. Before long, they should sell you gas for your car :)
Crossing the street in Jakarta without getting killed took all my skills as a seasoned jaywalker, while Jennifer said she wouldn't walk in the street anymore and take a cab to cross the road if need be.
Depending on where you are, sidewalks have huge holes where you can not only trip, but even break your ankle. I was happy to have a flashlight with me when walking on the street in Ubud at night, because with dark streets and random holes or very uneven pavement, you had to pay attention.
Some road were pretty narrow and still had rice drying on them
In places where muslims get to dictate their dietary restrictions and impose it onto others, the food was fairly poor (or maybe ok if you're a vegetarian). They do pig very well in Bali, and fish is hit or miss, but all the other meat I tried was disappointing to doubtful. Other foods, including croupouc, a favourite of mine, was tasty. The Hindu influence is likely responsible for not many cows being eaten, and the ones that are, not being the best beef around. For comedy relief, a funny video about Indonesian cooking, which is obviously an exaggeration, but funny nonetheless :)
Ok, this video is more funny than fair or accurate, most toilets we used were western style, but all of them I used had a flush that was so low that you had to bend over with your head almost over the bowl you just sat on, to reach and use it. Why, oh why?
Ok, like many countries that only got their independence recently, their past has colorful and not so great pieces history. I recently happened to watch The Act of Killing a documentary I heard about on the Daily Show of all things, and portrays the mass killings of about 1 million indonesian by death squad leaders who were there to remove all traces of communism (the goal is understandable, but killing tens or hundreds of thousands poor villagers who happened to be associated with communists without really knowing any better, is harder to understand). The group responsible is currently still in power as far as I know, and also wrote their own version of "history is written by the winners" that we got to read in the diorama under a couple of national monuments we visited in Bali and Jakarta.
A fine example of impartial story telling :)
Religion clashes and influences
Buddhism and Hinduism were not an issue at all, and on the contrary responsible for most of the nice temples and historical places we went to visit. Christianism and other non Muslim faiths also existed but were more limited. I believe the most widespread religion across all of Indonesia is Islam though.
Like Malaysia (which unfortunately did host some of the 9-11 hijackers and their planning meetings), Indonesia also welcomes many religions. To me, this is great as long as they are all accepting of one another and don't try to push their views onto others. Obviously, I'm biased, but nowadays Islam has a track record of heavily pushing their views onto others, and setting/changing local laws to match their religion (a bit like if there was a law preventing alcohol or pork in a random country). While it was thankfully possible to get tasty pig in Bali, that's not true of many of the others Indonesian islands. Similarly, the food in local flights that doesn't offend anyone was the worst food I had ever eaten, and I'm not that difficult with food.
Similarly, they have the same problem in schools where kids have to wear uniforms so that they can all be treated alike (while I didn't grow up with this, sounds like a reasonable idea to me). However, Muslim girls had their own uniform to allow for their religion mandated hide your face veil. To me, that defeats the purpose of an "everyone is the same" school uniform:
Yes, Islam is supposed to be peaceful religion of course, except that it contains easily manipulated followers, some are turned into extremists and around the world they sure have given the entire religion a very bad name in the eyes of most.
I was not very surprised to learn that Islamists have also done bad things in Indonesia, namely bombing the Borobudur Buddhist temple in Indonesia, the largest one in the world, or more recently bombing Bali which pays less attention to sharia law (Islamic law for all, even non islamists) and over 200 people got killed for the islamic crime of drinking alcohol at a pub.
On the plus side, outside of bombing a major Hindu temple, muslims in Indonesia haven't started eradicating all the christians like they have done in Egypt, so I suppose it could be worse...
Again, I know that most Muslims are peaceful and nice people, but I'll be happier when make a serious world wide effort to curtail their own extremists, treat their women better and stop pushing their values and religious laws onto non willing others.
Yeah, sorry, this was too long, but to end the topic on Indonesia, all the people we interacted with were fantastic, it's only in the airports on crappy cheap flights that were glorified bus with wings that we had to fight line cutters and people trying to push their way through. While Jennifer was frazzled by this, it was not a problem for me, I know how to handle that and make sure not to get pushed around.
We had a great time, and we've already made plans to go back and trying a new diving cruise on the Banda Sea out of Maumere and ending up in Ambon.
We arrived in Jakarta the previous evening, but with a delayed flight, heavy rain, and a 2H time difference, we forgoed our plans to look around, had dinner in the hotel and went to bed.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel, and we went out to spend 5 hours looking around before heading for the airport for our flight to Taipei.
We first went to the nearby mosque with hopes to have a quick look inside, but we likely arrived at the wrong time. Someone who didn't speak much English told me we couldn't really enter and look without him to escort us, and only 40mn later. Since it wasn't clear and we didn't have time to wait in our short morning, we just left to meet arturo at Monas were we had planned to meet around 08:00.
Across, there was a church across the street. It wasn't the best one ever, but probably nice for there:
Walking around town was not worth it, and crossing each street could take minutes before I could find a break in traffic to run across (no lights or crosswalks in many places). I've never been to india, but from what I've heard so far, it seems similar. For next time: use cabs to go everywhere, even for a 5mn walk.
We eventually made it to Monas, the national monument to meet Arturo. They were supposed to have an elevator to go to the top, but it was broken. We took the stairs, and those were also closed 1/5th of the way up, so we ended up just a bit higher for a quick view which wasn't fantastic anyway, so no big loss.
They had a diorama downstairs, with interesting history (as written by the winners :D )
view from the level slightly higher up.
Next, we went ot the Museum Nasional which had decent collections to look at:
nice piggy bank
We got to see places in Indonesia we didn't go to:
When traffic isn't moving at all (which is often apparently), street vendors walk up to the cars:
And that was it, we had to go to the airport. There were a few more things to see in Jakarta, but they were farther away, so we wouldn't have made it there in the limited time we had.