Sunday, 28 October 2012

Day Trip to Taichung

Mid-term tests are looming and the pressure is on, so it seemed to be a good time to take a short break. A friend was going to be in Taichung for the weekend, so we arranged to meet up with her and her family on Saturday.

My son has been friends with her two boys since we arrived a year ago, but now that they're in different schools we have to make an effort to get together so they can play.

This was outside the Botanical Gardens in the centre of Taichung.  Predictably, the boys were more interested in playing than looking at plants. The gardens were a quiet, lush oasis.

The large glasshouse contains a collection of native Taiwanese flora, and a small aquarium.

Outside, water plants form an interesting display. I'd never seen anything like some of the flowers I saw there.

These were blooming in one of the large bowls of aquatic plants that line the route into the glasshouse.

In a large pond outside, bigger water plants were growing. Unfortunately all the signage was in Chinese, apart from the botanical names, so I can't tell you anything about them other than the fact they were very pretty!

Another of the pleasures of the trip was the excuse it afforded to take the High Speed Rail. I love travelling this way. It's so futuristic. I feel as though I should be wearing a silver jumpsuit and eating tablets for lunch (boy, did the futurists of the '60s get that one wrong!).

It's so cheap too. Only roughly £45 for a return ticket for both of us.

The highlight of the day was the afternoon we spent at the National Museum of Natural Science. It was very easy to get there on the free shuttle bus from the HSR station into town, which stops at the museum.

The walkway that leads down to the museum is paved with images of animals in their evolutionary order, starting with the present and walking into the past. This was one of the leviathans depicted in the shallow water channel that runs alongside the path:

And this was at the base of a bubbling fountain at the very end:

Presumably one of the earliest forms of life
I think the walk is to scale as well, because the higher order animals are clustered together at the beginning, while towards the end there are long gaps between the various forms, all of which are in water.

At the entrance to the museum, someone had dressed up for the occasion.

Once there, we went straight into the Space Theatre, which had a beautiful display of the night sky followed by a film on the history of flight. Very impressive, it was projected onto the domed ceiling. We did have to close our eyes sometimes due to motion sickenss, though!

The museum layout also mimics evolutionary history, working its way through time to human origins and the human body at the very end of the tour. Dinosaurs were, as always, a big focus of attention. No holds were barred in making them as scary and exciting as possible. T. Rex and one her babies were animated by robotics.

We spent a long time in the section devoted to humans. There were lots of interactive displays, including one that measured your brain waves. After resting your forehead against a sensor, a screen displayed your brain activity. Yes, mine did show some! Interestingly, if you cleared your mind of thoughts, the waves flattened out considerably. I assume there was no lasting damage caused. I have too few brain cells left to risk losing any more.

More gruesome exhibits were a film about smoking cadavers in Papua New Guinea (to preserve them) and two human brains in formaldehyde: one normal brain and one damaged by drug addiction. There was also the obligatory Egyptian mummy to ogle.

I was surprised how big Taichung is, and flat. I'm so used to the beautiful mountains of Taipei that travelling out of the city feels like going to another land. There was so much more to explore. One day we'll go back.

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