Archive for December, 2010

Yangmingshan & 101

December 31, 2010

Day 8, Taipei
11th December 2010, Saturday

Withered tree… what a waste!

We woke up a little earlier to make our way to Yangmingshan. We got down at Jiantan Station, took exit 1 and turn left to go to the bus stop, for bus heading to Yangmingshan. As we waited for Bus R5 (R stands for red), we spoke to a stranger asking if this is the right bus stop. To our delight, he offered to be a tour guide to the 10 of us! We encountered many good people during our trip to Taiwan but this one takes the cake!

Super granny!

The bus took about 30 minutes to reach Yangmingshan. I think we stopped at Yangmingshan’s park bus stop. At first, we wanted to take a bus to go around the area because it’s simply too huge to explore on foot. But the gentleman told us, if we explore by bus, we would have missed a number of stops, so he suggested to us to explore on foot. As I was grumbling about having to hike – I saw an old auntie, probably in her 70s walking even faster than me! And she climbed the staircases without a problem and stopped to look at me with smirk on her face! Cis! I was being mocked by a hunchback ah ma! Haha! Hats off to her!

For those who ask.. no, I didn’t climb this!

Here, we walked up the hill for a little for about 20 minutes before we reach the flower clock. Along the way, we saw many withered sakura trees. This made me want to return to Taiwan during spring time just to see the flowers!

Maple leaves!

It was a rather boring outing, considering there weren’t many flowers to see because of winter, we decided to have something to eat before going to our next stop. The Gentleman suggested that we go to Yangmingshanwu – a summer villa for the late Chiang Khai Shek. Mr Chiang, being rather sickly towards the end of his life, preferred to spend his last few years here during the summer to avoid the heat. When he was still alive, the place was heavily guarded. This place kinda reminds me of Vinmannek Mansion in Bangkok. It was still beautifully preserved. We had an hour guided tour here – costing only NT50. You can choose your choice of language – English or Mandarin.

Mei hua

After an hour walkabout Chiang Khai Shek’s old summer home, we boarded a bus back to Taipei. It was already almost 4 pm. We visited the 101 briefly and went back to Ximending for a short walkabout.

Christmasy 101

The next day, before flying home to Kuala Lumpur, I went out for a walkabout at Ximending. Ximending in the morning is totally different from night! There’s hardly anybody around, except for cleaners and a handful of commuters going to work. Shops were not opened at all.

The many graffiti decorating Ximending walls

Well, this post sums up my trip to Taiwan and also last post for the year 2010. Looks like I bore some of you to death. Haha! My apologies.

Happy New Year 2011, everyone! Wishing all of you much happiness, love and laughter!

Danshui, Beitou & Beef Noodles

December 29, 2010

Day 7, Taipei
10th December 2010, Friday

Danshui Old Street

We took the red line towards Danshui for a walkabout. As soon as we got to the station, there is a tourist booth there, offering guides in English as well as Chinese and Japanese. We took a brochure from the booth and were pleased to find that, there are so many things to do here! For adventures seekers, this place offers mountain climbing at Bali (Yes! they have a place named Bali here!) and mangrove swamp educational tour as well. Also very friendly for cycling enthusiasts. I think we ought to spend one whole day here, but given our lack of time, we decided to venture here for a half day trip.

Agei – Stuffed tofu with tong fun

First thing, we gotta get fed! So, we went on to find the famous Agei – tofu stuffed with tong fun, to be eaten with nam yue sauce. It was a delight as the nam yue sauce was not too salty! A friend commented that the tong fun inside was too soggy for her liking. I am not sure which store she went to, but the one I got from the Old Street is quite good. I can’t remember the name of the shop though coz I don’t read Chinese! Other things not to be missed – the fishballs, pork chop rice, just to name a few.

Ferry ride at Bali pier

Danshui is famous for its pineapple tarts. Many friends asked us to buy them some pineapple tarts from here. We didn’t know which brand is the best, there were many around. We chanced upon a shop selling handmade pineapple tarts. It’s not cheap, going for NT200 per box of 10. It’s about RM2 per piece! However it was quite worth it because the pineapple tarts are delicious and thick! It weighs about 50g per piece! If you go for the generic brands – I think they are selling for NT200 for 3 boxes, if not mistaken. Indeed, the pineapple tart is lighter and texture is not as solid as the handmade ones. We chose the latter for our family.

Danshui Chapel

We walked about Danshui while eating along the way. Then, we chanced upon the Chapel. There were two couples taking wedding photos. I guess if you want to take wedding photos, Taiwan could be a good choice to take photos. We would love to explore more but then, due to unlimited time, we made our way to Xinbeitou.

Mistletoe

We took the red line back to Beitou, at the interchange, hop onto train towards Xinbeitou. Once you reach the train station, take the exit towards the hot spring. We walked approximately 850 m to reach this place. There’s an old shop for hot spring bath offering service for as cheap as NT200 per person for 30 minutes. I guess we should have gone to the hotel ones. At least, they looked more comfortable. I didn’t try because I have high blood pressure. So I didn’t want to risk it! And also, because Selayang has a hot spring pond as well, some 10 minutes away from my house and I didn’t even bother to go! Haha!

“Natural” Hot Spring

After waiting for others to have their hotspring bath, we had our late lunch. I was famished! After the meal, and the other girls were ready, we parted ways with the rest and went back to Ximending because we bought far too many pineapple tarts! Haha!

I guess, for Danshui – Beitou route, it’s best to go to Beitou first in early mornings, then go to Danshui for lunch and loiter around the area till night time because I understand that, Danshui looks absolutely lovely and lively at night! I bought some stuffs here – a pair of wooly gloves goes for only NT80 each! That’s damn cheap!

At Ximending, we took a real leisurely walk and ended up going for the 4D movie. It was something like Motion Master in Genting Highlands. For NT100, we screamed like some crazy bitches! Haha! It was hilarious! We wanted to watch a movie but it costs NT280 per person – ticket, popcorn and a drink! So expensive!

Some of us went to Momo to shop and guess what? They keep having sales every other day! My cousin sister bought 1L Vaseline lotion for NT239 on Friday but on Saturday, when we visited Momo again, the same lotion only costs NT179! We stock up on masks too and it’s only NT499 for two boxes of 25 pieces! (50 masks for Rm50??? Rm1 per mask?!) Haha! No wonder we buy like crazy!

Yummilicious beef noodles

One thing I need to highlight though is the dinner that we had. We had beef noodles, somewhere along Kunming road that we stay, and it was simply superb. The beef is chunky and the noodles are home made. The size of the bowls of noodles ranges from small to large. I can’t even finish one small bowl so I dare not think how big is large! But I saw a lot of people having medium bowls! Taiwanese surely can eat a lot!

Pingxi, Shifen & Raohe

December 27, 2010

Day 6, Taipei
9th December 2010, Thursday

Some friends commented the sky lanterns here look like rubbish bins! Haha!

When arrived at Pingxi, we got smart and checked what time the next train would be here. It’s only for another 30 minutes! That’s too fast! Unless, we want to stay here for another 1 hour and a half for the next train. We ran out of time because we started the day late, so we decided to do a whirlwind visit at Pingxi town. It felt like we were participating in Amazing Race Asia! Clue – Go find the Bell of Peace and ring 3x for the next clue! Haha! For the life of me, I really didn’t know what has gotten into me that I actually hiked up the steep staircases to get to the Bell of Peace! We visited the temple as well.

Staircases to the Bell of Peace

On our way back to the station, we saw some sky lanterns on sale and decided to buy them instantly. As we were considering which color to choose, green is for money, yellow is for health, pink is for friendship, etc. We were bickering what to choose then the nice uncle manning the shop suddenly interrupted – “Well, I have a rainbow colored one!”

Nice uncle helping out with our sky lantern

“Say earlier mah!” we all shouted in unison. It was damn funny.

Sky Rocket Lantern!

We quickly wrote our wishes on the paper lantern. The uncle, being a little long winded, kept telling us that, if this is our first time flying a sky lantern, if we were not careful, we would burn it, so he decided to help us. We rushed him up the slope to fly the lantern. Tips of flying a sky lantern, ensure the sky lantern is well spread out before lighting it up and secure the  steel structure at the bottom firmly. Wait till hot air filled up the sky lantern before letting go. Since we were in a hurry, the sky lantern cooperated too! It flew up to the sky like a hydrogen infused rocket! We raced to the station and manage to catch the train in time!

Shifen

Our next stop is Shifen. I was joking with my friends – if Jiufen (9 points) is already so beautiful, I can’t wait to check out Shifen (10 points!). Shifen is indeed a pretty township. Here, we had 1 hour and 15 minutes to spare, so we decided to take it easy. As we walked towards the insides of the town, we were annoyed to find that, there were also sky lanterns here! So, I thought of our mindless rush towards setting up the sky lantern back in Pingxi, it was just ridiculous! So people, you can also set your sky lanterns here!

Shifen town

We were walking looking for the Shifen waterfall but it was some 30 minutes walk away from the town. So we decided not to go and loiter a bit at this small town. We tried some of their biscuits – curry paos, green bean and lotus and they were delicious! Or perhaps, we were too hungry.

Quiet, quaint town

We walked about this small town and found a quiet museum there. There was nobody except for an old lady manning the place. She asked us if we would want to take a ride at the oldest coal mining train or not. Since we didn’t have much time left, we declined. For a small fee of NT 200 per person, we can get a ride on the coal mining trains – minimum 2 pax. They will send a van to come get you for the ride. I think it’s open daily – but be there before 4 pm. The train ride duration is from 9.30 am to 5 pm only.

Dilapidated front door

After visiting Shifen, I was famished! This pleasant little trip took almost an entire day. We were heading back to Ruifang and found out that, we actually could board a bus to Jiufen from here! After getting off the Pingshi line, we went to buy our train tickets back to Taipei. We couldn’t get the ticket right from the ticketing counter (the counter only sells train tickets to Pingshi line), so we need to go down the stairs to a vending machine. So if you don’t have small change, you have to turn left and right again, go up the stairs and look for ticketing counter. It’s really silly! It was a lucky thing that we have almost 15 minutes’ time frame to do all these ridiculous things!

Raohe night market

We got on the train and decided to check out Raohe Night market. When we got town at the MRT station towards Wufenpu, then to Raohe, we walked by the TRA line and was cursing! We should have gotten down at Songshan’s station and walk to Raohe, instead of going downtown to Taipei, change train to the MRT stop towards Wufenpu! Haha! Last minute planning definitely does not have good consequences!

After dinner and a short walkabout Raohe and Wufenpu, we went back to our service apartment, feeling contented with the events of the day.

Jingtong, Oldest Coal Mining Town

December 24, 2010

Day 6, Taipei
9th December 2010, Thursday

Jingtong station – you won’t miss this colorful train!

Since there were 10 of us, it’s rather difficult to coordinate going to some places due to too many preferences. So, we decided to go on our own today. I didn’t know where to go but it was a lucky thing that I printed some blogs to follow. Also, thanks to AJ for giving me the Taipei map. As I was waiting for my turn in the shower, I read the itinerary in the blogs and decided to take train to Jingtong to check out the oldest coal mining town in Taiwan!

Cock-a-doodle-do!

Little did we know that, we were actually heading back to Keelung! We were there yesterday and somehow didn’t manage to come here! It’s really frustrating to be traveling to the same side of the country and yet, miss out all these goodies! That’s the downside of not doing your homework properly before a trip.

Deco on the door at one of the old houses

We went to Taipei Main station and asked how to go about the place and somewhat got mixed response. The blog didn’t exactly tell you where to get the train tickets so, we asked around. It was a good thing that we bumped into a fellow Malaysian while lining up for tickets to Ruifang at the TRA (Taipei Railway) line. Going to Ruifang only costs NT50 for a 40-minute journey. So, for record purposes, I wrote down the number of stops from Taipei main station to Ruifang.

Taipei – Songshan – Nangang – Xike – Zizhi – Wudu – Baifu – Qidu – Badu – Nuannuan – Sijiaoting – Ruifang

We got down at Ruifang and went to the ticketing counter (they called it fare adjustment booth) at the same platform (Platform 2) to get our unlimited day pass to Jingtong (Pingshi line). It cost only NT54. We were lucky because we managed to board the train as soon as we purchased the tickets!

Again, for record purposes, here are the stops along the Pingshi line, right to Jingtong, the last station.

Houtong – Sandioling – Dahua – Shifen – Wanggu – Lingjiao – Pingxi – Jingtong

The scenery along Pingshi line is simply breathtaking. Both sides of the railway line are flanked by lush greenery and crystal clear river in  cobalt blue, basically left untouched! There were some little wooden and brick houses dotted the landscape as well.

Manually operated

The train is not fully automatic. They have station masters manning the trains. When the train reached a stop, the station master would whip out his keys to open the door. It was really quaint.

Jingtong station

The blog suggested that we stop at Jingtong first, so we did. Anyway, we being smart alecs, didn’t check the train schedule when we got off the train and ended having to wait 1 hour and 30 minutes for the next train!! It was a good thing that Jingtong, despite being almost deserted, the quiet town also has eateries – otherwise we would be starving to death! So people, first thing first – please check the train schedule as soon as you got off the train for the next ride.

Jingtong town

We went along to the opposite side of the railway to check out the old headquarters. This place is basically in ruins. Even some of the information tablets are dilapidated by time and at the point of collapsing. It’s pretty scary if you were to come here on your own! We discovered a pipe of spring water too!

Wishes on Bamboo

Since there were so much time to kill, we decided to buy a bamboo to write our wishes and hang them on the old train for good luck! So here’s my wish to you, my fellow blog readers:-

Hope that tonnes of blessings, love, good health, safety, prosperity, warmth and peace be upon my family and friends and readers of this blog!

Eh? I forgot happiness? Haha!

After some shopping for souvenirs and walk about the museum, the train arrived. Time flies rather quickly. We boarded the train to get to the next stop, Pingxi. The blog mentioned that, we should fly a sky lantern here, so we looked forward to it.

PS. Since the post is rather long winded, I decided to split it into two.

And… I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2011!

Yehliu, Jiufen and Shilin

December 22, 2010

Day 5, Taipei
8th December 2010, Wednesday

Since Keelung is situated rather far from the city, we decided to continue hiring our drivers. They have sent us all the way from Taichung to Taipei too. So, it’s good to give them another day of business – since they are away from their families for so long 4-5 days already out with us.

The waves were very strong!

Our first stop was to Yehliu, an ocean geo park. We paid NT50 to get inside. Here, we see weird rock formations. It was a hot day, it was a lucky thing I have my hooded jacket. Otherwise, I guess I’ll be fried! It was indeed a good day out – with strong winds blowing at you, risk takers fishing at the dangerous zones surrounding the area and watching tourists’ antics; fighting for a spot to take photo with the famous Queen’s head – two of them were Lian and Amy. Haha! I didn’t bother because I really don’t see what’s the fuss is all about! Sea food and sea produce are rather popular here – so, people, be sure to order some fresh seafood here and if you like, I saw many people buying fish candy.

Along the way to Jinguashi’s Gold Eco Park

After lunch, we made our way towards Jiufen. However, the drivers sort of lost their way, so we wasted a considerable amount of time here. Along the way, we stopped by a scenic spot for photo. Here, it was said to be an old gold mining area. After the gold depleted, the place was beautified as a tourist attraction place. A quick search on the internet, I just found out that the water is actually toxic due to its high metal content!! Haha!

Bay of two colors

The highly acidic water flow to the nearby sea and the clash of freshwater laden with metal and sea water formed dual colors, and hence, the area is named Bay of Two Colors. Our drivers made a stop here as well for us to snap some photos.

Crowned Prince chalet

Next, we dropped by Jinguashi’s Gold Ecological Park. Entrance is free! So, we venture around this area for awhile. The museum was not open, I didn’t know why, since I think it’s only closed on Mondays. So, we just mopped around the area, had some hot ginger drink, visited the Crowned Prince Chalet and walked about. By the time we finished, it’s already 5 pm.

Jiufen

We eventually arrived at Jiufen, but were only given an hour to look around. It’s because, the drivers said it’s really jam all the way back to Taipei, so he asked us to hurry up. I guess they were in a haste to go back to Taichung. So people, it’s better to hire a local driver, or even better, take public transport to come to Jiufen!

Ice cream popiah

I love Jiufen! It’s a really nice, quaint place with Japanese-styled shops, inns and eateries – given that the Japanese once settled at this place during the gold rush and set up their homes. We tried the popiah wrapped ice cream. It was really delicious. We dropped by a shop selling all sorts of ocarinas. The shop owner is really, really cute! He charmed his way through us by blowing the ocarinas effortlessly. Throw him any shapes of ocarina – tortoise, planes, owls, rabbits, he would blow them all! I ended buying two ocarinas from this very handsome man. Haha. Too bad I didn’t take his photo!

Shilin Night Market

The drivers offered to drop us at Shilin Night market on our way back. So, we took the opportunity. The first night in Fengjia Night market sort of gave us some preparation of what to expect. However, since it was a weekday, Shilin Night market was not very packed. Thank goodness we managed to maneuver around without much jostling and pushing!


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