Friday we made our first of two planned trips to the National Palace Museum. Our son had to work, but walked us to the Fuzhong MRT station near our hotel, bought us 2 EasyCards, and explained the system. We took the MRT to Shilin, at which point the guidebook advises transferring to a bus, but since I hadn’t done my bus research, and it looked like maybe 2 km on the map, we decided to walk.
It was more like 3.5 km, mostly uphill, with rain and driving wind. For most of the way we were able to stay on the sidewalk; the last half a kilometer was in the street. We knew we were getting closer as the taxi and tour bus density increased, and soon were greeted by the vista of hundreds of grand steps leading up the mountain through verdant foliage to the museum.
My husband inquired at the gift shop, and we were directed to a path along a raging stream that took us up the hill. More taxis and tour buses streamed past us. We paused in our uphill struggle for a couple of pictures:
Inside, there were an army of workers mopping up the rain water that all the visitors were tracking in, so I thought it might not be a good idea to wring my sopping wet gloves out and contented myself with stuffing them into a pocket in my backpack. We picked up an English language information brochure, and retired to the coffee shop on the first floor to fortify ourselves with tea and Monte Cristo sandwiches and plan our visit.
According to the brochure, “physically challenged visitors (+1 guest)” are admitted free, but maybe you need an identification card of some sort, because we paid full price. We picked up English audio guides, went through the metal detectors, and we were off. We decided to concentrate on the 3rd floor for this visit. The museum is arranged roughly chronologically from the top down, and the 3rd floor has exhibits of bronzes, jades and Neolithic antiquities. The 3rd floor also houses two of the museum’s most wildly popular exhibits (think trying to view the Mona Lisa at the Louvre), the Jadeite Cabbage and the Meat-Shaped Stone. Here I was assisted by a museum employee who used her fan (emblazened with a “no cameras” symbol) to force the crowds to allow me close enough to see.
Otherwise it was just a case of trying to work around huge tour groups, dashing over to see whatever exhibit they had just left. Signage was universally in Mandarin and English. We enjoyed an interactive display on various methods of casting bronze, and a number of extremely tiny intricate carvings that were set up with magnifying glasses (sometimes at an angle that didn’t work for me) so that visitors could see all the detail.
The rain had gotten worse by the time we left. On the basement level, the staff very efficiently called us a taxi, giving us a paper with the taxi number and the name of the Shilin MRT written out. The taxi arrived very quickly, and a kind stranger held an umbrella over me and then my husband as he loaded the wheelchair in the trunk.