Scooter Diary: Everything is art

Juming museum and art gallery, Taiwan - Outdoor taichi sculptureSeptember 4th, 2012: I got up very early. The bright sun light shining through the guest house window woke me before 7am, even though that cup of fresh coffee I had yesterday kept me awake till very late.

Mr Chow gave us two free tickets for Juming Museum and Art Gallery, with free lunch in the restaurant, because we decided to stayed with him for two nights. The museum displays the remarkable sculpture and art of Mr Juming. Our plan for today was to have lunch in the Museum restaurant, then enjoy the art.

Lunch at the museum

People will laugh at me for saying this, but the restaurant in this museum is one of the things that attracts us to come to Jinshan. That's not because the food is amazing, although it is quite good, but because it's a really nice, peaceful dining location, which gives you a chance to take a rest and see all of the museum without getting exhausted and hungry.

We spend about 20 minutes driving in the countryside and up to the mountain. The museum has a large parking space, unlike museums in the city. Actually, we arrived a bit early for lunch, the lunch started at 11:30am. Juming is primarily about sculpture, so about 75% of the museum's exhibits are outside in a beautiful park. We spent 30 minutes walking about the garden but we kept paying attention to the time. That probably sounds like we are greedy, but we just wanted to have lunch first so we can enjoy the art happily (we also wanted to be in the restaurant early, before it got crowded, because it is popular).

Umbrella crowd on a rainy day at Juming Museum, Taipei - Photo by Joyce TayThe museum ticket costs NT$200. If you want to have the set lunch it cost another NT$150. It is even possible to visit the restaurant without entering the museum, though that would be very sad, especially if you haven't seen it before.

We were the first few customers entering the restaurant, like most of the budget buffet restaurants, with the set meal we got stewed chicken, sausage, and meat ball, served with coffee, tea or soft drinks. This is a very pleasant dining room in a glass room with the view of the garden, eating here, we are happy with the meals and the price for it.

This is Tuesday, the restaurant is full by 12:30, we are glad that we got here an hour ago. On this heavily-populated island, we learn to avoid crowds, not using any public service during the rush hours, not even staying in hotels on holidays and weekends.

The restaurant is getting busier, and nosier, most of the customers are middle aged, in their late fifties. I think they are mostly retired people who can visit during the week. So it's time for us to head to the garden, time to have some fresh air and stroll around.

Juming becomes his artEverything is art

The wooden or stone statues in the Museum garden look quite friendly and playful, not simply serious like some art. Walking through this open gallery, it's a great joy to see the scenery of Yangmingshan mountain and the Pacific ocean,

I used an umbrella strolling around the gallery garden like most Taiwanese women would do. Not because I want to have pale skin, but because the sun was really bright, and very likely to cause sunburn.

There are plenty of sitting places in this garden. There are even shiny stainless steel statues sitting on the benches waiting for the visitors to join them. With all its open space and gardens, Juming Museum is a great place for children. There is also a special child-friendly section of the museum in its own building, with a restaurant designed especially for kids: Big Mouth Children's Restaurant.

Walking under the hot sun, we got tired again not long after our lunch, it's sitting time again. The Museum Teahouse is a glass house with the sun shining gently through trees above. It's bright, but cool. Sitting in the glass house, I began to appreciate that the designers of this museum turned the whole experience into art. The sculptures were sitting and standing around the cafe. After sitting down and relaxing a while, even the mountains surrounding us are becoming part of the museum, like the even bigger pieces of art.

Juming museum is sponsored by Farglory group. Our neighbor, Mr. Zhow is the founder of the Farglory group, one of the richest people in Taiwan, we sometimes see him in the morning when we go hiking on the mountain at home. Mr. Zhow greets everyone he meets, but doesn't chat with people much. I wonder why Mr. Zhow supports such an artistic organization. We think that our neighbor did a great thing supporting such an artist, and this welcoming museum.

The TV in the indoor gallery was playing an interview with Mr. Juming about his art. He actually looks very similar to my neighbor Mr. Zhow. The way they they speak Chinese tells that they came from a Taiwanese farming family background. I saw Mr. Juming laughing as he said he was only a wood-working guy in a construction company. Mr. Juming left school at 13. They are both very typical strong men of Taiwanese culture, they started low and poor, and worked hard. They look slim and lightly-built, but actually they are tough and strong-willed dealing with their big artworks, enormous sculptures, and construction.

We spent the whole day in the museum and didn't leave until 5pm. The museum was just like a park with all the good services: art, restaurants, cafe, clean washrooms, gallery, scenery and so on.

New Old Street

Driving down from the mountains again, we are soon back in Jinshan. We spend a little time finding the Jinshan old street which is next to a big temple. This street is famous for duck restaurants, with a self service style. People buy the duck or other side dishes in the out door kitchen, then find themselves a table in the indoor restaurant. Apart from providing really delicious food, there is not really much service in this restaurant. That's like most Taiwanese restaurants. People don't see the point of paying extra for good service – it's only a waste, they think.

We are not too impressed by the shops and restaurants in the old street. The government is organizing and promoting this “old street” culture in many townships, but actually they all look the same and are selling the same things, and same food, in the end.

So, for dinner, we drove back to the harbor and went to a small seafood restaurant. They have seats on the second floor balcony, we thought we would get the best view from this location. We ordered stir-fried sweet potato leaves, stir-fried noodles, bamboo with mayonnaise, iron pan fried tofu and a bottle of Taiwan beer. The owner and chef told us we can go upstairs after taking the order from us.

There are tales and stools, but no tableware, no waiter or waitress. Very quickly, we realized that this is another self service restaurant again. I found the plates, glasses and chopsticks and so on.

Our food quickly arrived ten minutes after we order it, but the waitress seemed to forget about our beer, so we reminded her. She speaks Chinese OK, though she is Vietnamese. I think she is the wife of the chef, not just an employee. She came back with an unopened bottle of Taiwan beer, and left it one table and went back down stairs. We look at the beer, and wonder how to open it. I went back to the tableware basket, and didn't see a opener. But I finally saw an opener on the table next to us, I borrowed it from the guests.

The food was good, hot and fresh, Taiwanese people wouldn't want cold food with great table service. And the food was cheap, the total cost was less than NT$600, and we had so much that we couldn't eat any more.

Some photos by Joyce Tay


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