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Monday, December 20, 2010

We're going to the zoo

It's less than a week until Christmas, and the shopping isn't finished, so in order to give my wife time to hit the stores today, Amber and I took up my friend Thoth's offer to visit him in Hsinchu 新竹. It took about an hour and a quarter on the local train from Fengyuan 豐原 to Hsinchu Station 新竹車站, where we were met by Thoth:

From the station, Thoth took us to Hsinchu Park, where Amber checked out an old cannon battery...

...before heading over to what was undoubtedly the highlight of my daughter's day, the Zoological Gardens 新竹動物公園. Though I had been warned that the zoo wasn't much of an attraction, it turned out to be far more interesting than I'd thought, and the admission fee was a bargain at only NT10 (33¢/¥28). Amber enjoyed seeing monkeys, tigers, and, bless her heart, reptiles (especially the swimming python). Getting to feed a baby Sika Deer was especially enjoyable:

Leaving the zoo, we walked back towards the train station in search of a place to have lunch. Following a leisurely meal at a cafe just a stone's throw from the train tracks, Thoth took us to one of the best-preserved Japanese-era 台灣日治時期 houses I've seen so far in Taiwan. Officially called "The Residence of Hsin Chih-Ping", and dating from 1922, the building has been carefully preserved in its original condition, and walking around inside, it's easy to forget its location near the center of a bustling Taiwanese city. Unfortunately, interior photography was forbidden, but some nice photographs of the tatami mat 畳 rooms could be seen on the free pamphlets available inside. The English captions describing the various rooms were also well done. In addition to the house, an equally well-maintained wooden lecture hall could be visited just behind the residence:

If you're wondering just who Hsin Chih-ping was, he was an educator from China who came to Taiwan after the Second World War to become the principal of the Japanese-built Hsinchu High School. Apparently, Hsin didn't let any resentment he may have felt from fighting the Japanese (he served in the Nationalist Chinese military during the war) stop him from appreciating the aesthetic beauty of a well-designed traditional Japanese wooden home.

By now, it was getting late in the afternoon, so we returned to the train station, thanked Thoth for taking the time to show us around and caught an express train back to Fengyuan. Amber couldn't wait to show her mother the gifts we had picked up for her in Hsinchu, namely the packages of Hairei Meatballs and Hsinchu Rice Noodles. Yes, when in Rome...:

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