Yingge redux

One of my favorite little towns near Taipei City is the pottery town, Yingge. This time, instead of meeting up with friends at Taipei Main Station (it’s always a bit nervewracking to figure out where to go – there are at least 4 different levels with crowds of people scurrying to and fro on each), we decided to meet at Songshan TRA (train) station and ride the express train to Yingge. Ahhhh, so much easier. I took a taxi to the station and when I told the driver “Wo qu Songshan huochizhan” (I go Songshan train station) he just looked at me. I repeated the phrase several times, adding in the name of the street. Apparently my “accent” was off but eventually, after getting out Google maps he understood. Songshan wasn’t crowded on a Sunday morning. I bought my ticket, asked an attendant which track goes to Yingge and soon we had a nice seat and a quick, pleasant journey. At Yingge station, there are two exits, each leading to a different street. This time we took the street we thought lead to the Pottery Museum and after a few turns down narrow lanes, found ourselves in the middle of a field of giant pottery pieces that looked as if it had been dropped from the sky and had become embedded in the ground.

Look out for falling plates!

Look out for falling plates!

What a cool concept!

What a cool concept!

Yingge take 2

I met up with 3 friends at Taipei Main train station, headed to Yingge. I have been wanting to see the Ceramics Museum; Yingge is famous for it’s pottery. One 30 minutes train ride later, we were walking with our hostess (my Melaleuca upline) to the museum. NOTE: despite the fact that rain was predicted, it was a balmy day. Not a cloud in sight, slight breeze, mildly warm. The museum is a gorgeous, modern glass-and-cement building housing a beautiful display of Asian celedon ware.

Admission is FREE, as are the guided tour headsets. We started on the top (3rd) floor and made our way down the sloping ramp, looking at gorgeous and amazing anatique vessels in every shape and size glazed in colors ranging from a delicate robin’s egg blue to a deep jade green.

Old Street map painted on ceramic

No trip to Yingge would be complete without a visit to Old Street, a pottery buyer’s dream come true! On the way from the museum to Old Street, we passed a street merchant selling his paintings. (Hadn’t we seen the old white man with the long beard on the train from Taipei?)  After looking through his art work, I selected three modern-style paintings – and began bargaining! I ended up with all three  for 1500NT (50USD). I asked to have them signed by the artist (who had gone walkabout) and was asked to come back for the signed paintings “later”. Okay, so here’s one big difference between Taiwan and the US: in the States, the artist and his helper would have been long gone (with the art AND my money) by the time I returned a few hours later. Not here. My art was signed and rolled up, ready for me to take home, have framed, and hang!

The hills of Taichung, part 1

I took a taxi to Taipei Main Station, loaded with the honey liqueur I’d purchased for my hosts. Inside the station, I followed the TRA signs thinking I’d find a manned ticket booth; the last time I was here there was a manned ticket booth. This time, I must have entered on a different floor (there are at least 3). The only ticket booths I saw were for the HSR. Maybe they would have sold me a train ticket but I didn’t want to wait in line and ask. Finally I did ask – an entrance attendant. I said the word “Yingge” and she pointed towards a set of escalators and, after swiping my Easy Card, down I went. I know Yingge is south of Taipei so, just to be sure, I asked a lady standing on the platform. She asked someone else, who asked someone else, who….you get the picture. Soon, there was a crowd gathered around trying to *help*! Luckily, this time, I did select the right escalators (out of hundreds) and got on the train. 30 minutes later my friends picked me up in Yingge and we headed, by van, to Taichung.

Art is everywhere!

I began noticing it when I went to Yingge several months ago: someone had painted the utility boxes to look like a bucolic mountain scene.

Check out the cherry blossoms...

This is common; I haven’t seen a single utility cabinet that wasn’t painted. The construction barricades have cheerful messages and bright colors painted on them. The freeway buttresses are adorned with all sorts of ocean creatures in little vignettes. Taiwan is, after all, surrounded by oceans!

Then I noticed the sculpture – it’s EVERYWHERE! Strange and wonderful shapes in the most unlikely of places. People just walk past them without a sideward glance. Although you’d assume that space is limited it’s because we’re on an island, there seems to be space enough for surprising reminders of an artistic nature. They even transform walls into vertical gardens!

Living Wall

Day 25 pm Everything Yingge

Sunday morning at breakfast, the hotel’s restaurant was crowded. I was sitting alone in a 4-spot when a nice young woman asked politely if she and her companion could sit with me. Certainly I said. When I heard her companion speak, I asked if he was German (he is). We had the nicest conversation and I invited them to go to Yingge today and they agreed to go! While waiting at the Taipei main station to meet my co-worker and his girlfriend, I watched a group of “oldsters” in matching uniforms doing TaiChi in unison. Suddenly we could hear a raised voice: a man was upset, saying (in Chinese) that he’d waited too long in the ticket line. Talk about both ends of the “peaceful” spectrum!  Next, we took a 30-minute TRA train ride to Yinnge. Total cost of trip: 14 + 31 = 45NT (1.50 US) one-way.

In Yingge, the section of town where most of the pottery shops are located is a 15 (steamy) minute walk from the railway station.

Walking to Yingge

On the way we passed little stores, fruit stands, and the ever-present parked scooters. Mostly we walked like locals (on the street vs. the sidewalk) mainly because there are no sidewalks! The pottery area is like a Disneyland for art lovers! Tea shops with pots and cups in every shape, size, and color, shops with all sorts of plants and the pots to put them in, pottery flutes, plates and bowls of every type, mass-produced items from Japan and items created by well-known local artists.

Everything pottery related can be found in Yingge!

Yingge Pottery

I managed to find some plates, bowls, and cups in one shop, and a wonderful large pottery bowl I’ll use to hold fruit, in another. Our last stop of the day was a lovely shop selling both higher end pottery pieces and coffee, tea, and cheesecake. Soothing music, interesting discussion, with two delightful couples, on all sorts of topics, and then…sigh, back to the hotel on public transportation. NOTE: At the MRT station I noticed that there were all sorts of live plants adjacent to the escalator, with 3 employees literally washing each leaf on every plant! Amazing!

Day 21

I’ve been in-country for three weeks and it should only be another few weeks before I get my ARC (Taiwan version of a green card).  It’s amazing how quickly the government entities here respond! It’s also amazing how I haven’t missed not having a phone (go Skype). lol

At breakfast today I talked with a friendly native who is in Taipei with his wife and daughter on business, looking to buy some property here. I gave him the business card of my real estate broker and raved about my experience at the National Art Museum. Turns out he’s the CEO of a high tech company based in Taichung (the city I visited last weekend).  We discuss art for a while and he invited me to stay with them the next time I’m in Taichung! Nice, huh?

At lunch time today I had my first scheduled Chinese lesson. The  teacher started off with pages xeroxed from a children’s book! Hah! It’s humbling being considered an expert in one language only to be a rank beginner in another – and the one I can’t speak is the one I need most for everyday life! I am starting to put some sounds and words together. I think the spoken language will come long before the written one.

This weekend I’m doing some final comparison shopping (for household items) at Costco (go figure) and on Sunday I’m heading to Yingge (ing-guh) just outside Taipei to see the Ceramics Museum and to find some unique plates. Next week: moving day!

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As for me, I will take the road less travelled…