A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world.
~ Leo Buscaglia
TAIPEI, 1:30pm, 30 Sept: I gave myself a relaxing break Sunday by going to the Taipei Zoo. I like zoos. Not only for the chance to see indigenous animals, but as a point of comparison. Taipei has an excellent zoo. Like most zoos around the world, elephants pose a challenge – big animals in too small enclosures. Otherwise, enclosures were very spacious and well designed. Thousands brought their children for a visit yet there was always room at the rail. And being a senior, I got to see the zoo, and camel fornication, all for free.
Currently there is a zoo controversy. The giant pandas and baby Yuanzai are getting too much press. Opinion is the Formosan black bear, far more threatened than pandas, are ignored. Thus, it was my first stop. Like the bear, I felt the heat but enjoyed meandering up the hill viewing animals and people. The only wait was for the pandas (and a fast moving line past an utterly bored fellow with his back to the crowd), and for the shuttle train around the park. Like all Taipei, the zoo was squeaky clean and well managed. One hint – there is a definite direction of travel. You will recognize it because you alone are facing hoards of Chinese coming from the opposite direction.
After leaving the zoo, I walked to the Maokong Gondola, opened in ’07 and runs between Taipei Zoo and the village of Maokong. The gondola soars high above the hills and forests for 2.7 miles giving fantastic views of Taipei’s surrounding hills. Lines were long and confusing and then I met Rose. Rose was in line behind me and explained that my first ticket assigns a time when I can enter another area to buy the actual gondola ticket, specifically on the Crystal car with a glass floor. Looking at my time, I saw I had almost an hour wait. Rose then told me to follow her. That was just the beginning of her kindness. Rose spoke her magic and insisted I stay with her.
Rose not only spoke the language, Rose knew how to cut to the chase. Born and raised in Taiwan, Rose lives part of the year in San Francisco and is in the pharmaceutical business in China along with Rocho her Bulgarian business partner. They were going to Maokong and doing some hiking. The ride to the top is awesome with views for miles. (Fortunately I read all the safety concerns after the ride.) The forest below is thick and verdant. Once at the top, we hiked the Camphor Trail as far as the Zhangshan Temple. Along the way were gardens of fruit and tea plants, tea rooms, rural vistas, and friendly locals. Rocho picked a type of grapefruit and a local pealed it for us. So sweet I could eat it like an apple. Just delicious.
We continued along the trail and I learned more about my guardian angel for the day. Her parents fled to Taiwan in 1949 as part of Chiang’s government. Even though she remembers when Kissinger visited and restrictions were relaxed as per visitations to mainland China, her parents could never return because of their involvement in the KMT government. I was able to pick up some further history of the time and got many questions answered.
At ZhangshanTemple, Rose gave me incense sticks and instructed me what to do. The views over Taipei were spectacular. We sat and split a Belgium beer then continued down the mountain to the university below. By this time my GPS was telling me it was an 11-mile day, but then almost three miles were on the gondola.
At the bottom of the mountain, Rose called a cab and she took me to a restaurant Rocho had read about in the airline magazine. The Ducky Restaurant is a new attempt by locals, trained in Paris, to establish a French eatery in Taipei. The food proved excellent as did the wine and conversation. As if this was not enough, on our way to the MRT, Rose purchased some fruit (wax apples, grapefruit, oranges and a couple mystery items) and loaded me down with food for the night and breakfast.
What a great day and what a wonderful person. Thanks to Rose.