Finally, Im back in Italy! And what's the first thing I said... Daijoubu.....No, Im OK, IN JAPANESE. Its clear I havent been to Italy for some time. I no longer seem Italian to Italians. They know Im foreign right away because Im a bit rusty on how Italian culture works. I find myself doing the Japanese manners and motions instictively... and it's not working as it does in Japan... I better re-learn the Italian was fast. I do remember them as soon as I see them or hear them though, theyre just not fresh in my mind. The coolest thing is being able to go ANYWHERE and being able to read ANYTHING, speak to ANYONE.... it's an awesome feeling that Im not used to.
Yesterday I spent the day in Taiwan. I arrived at noon and found a free half-day tour into the city provided by the tourism board. Major points for the Taiwanese government, I was impressed they would provide such services. Moreover, it got me into the city (and techniquely out of it) without the complications of figuring it out on my own or having any stress of not getting back to the airport in time for my flight. Our guide was Great, a cute, old, rather informed Taiwanese guy. The guys along with me on the tour were also really nice, we all got a long very well and spent the day together even after the tour was over. An older gentleman from Vienna named Richard (dont know what he did, but for some reason he had recently had dinner with the young Japanese princess so that was an interesting story), and two younger guys from Rimini , Italy- Daniele and Luigi, all very friendly and kind to me. We first went to a Taoist-Buddhist temple, a rather particular, old temple from the 1700s. Its a very popular temple in Taiwan and there were many worshippers there praying with lots of incense and offerings. It was nice to see.
Next we passed the Presidential Palace, a very western looking building which the guide joked was the Red and White House rather than just the White House. Next we stopped and the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial next to the Opera House and Concert Hall with a nice Garden/park in the middle. We arrived just in time for the changing of the guards. They were very, very impressive and talented. Very stern and serious of course, with meticulous moves, and they were able to twirl the rifles non-stop at least 10 times in a row.... they were good. After we went to the museum with the guide and he told us all about it. You could tell he was very, very proud of Chiang Kai-Shek, it was cute.
Finally we went to the Martyrs Shrine which honored heros who had died in war against communism. We were able to get good shots of the guards on duty, and as we were leaving new guards were coming for the changing of the guard there.
After we went to city Hall where we could get a good shot of Taipei 101, currently the tallest building in the world. We decided to stay in the city on our own but Scott dropped us off right where we had to take the bus from coming back so we would know how to get back. He was really nice. So we headed inside and took the fastest elevator in the world to the 89th observation floor (89 represents the age at which CKS died) of the 101floor building. 45 seconds to reach the top... it was amazing.. and the cool lighting effectes kind of like a disneyland ride helped too.
Finally back to the airport... got my flight at 1130pm, changed in Bangkok at 3am, and finally Rome.
Off to Paris tonight. I'll meet Allan in Tours tomorrow at noon.