Sunday, May 24, 2009

23 May 09 –Day 7 (Taipei)

Last day of our trip so we slept till 8+am and only took breakfast at 9.30am. Walked around the hotel area and went to Carrefour coz SWT needed to get luggage belts for her luggage. After that, we went to Ximen Station to get our Easycard refunded before going to Cold Stone to get ice cream. Walked around XMD while eating and then headed back to the hotel to do our final packing and check out at 1pm. SWT asked the receptionist for direction to Taipei Intercity Bus Terminal and she asked what bus we would be taking to TTIA. Told her we would be taking Kuokuang and she said she could help us call for the Kuokuang shuttle bus to pick us up at the hotel to the Bus Terminal.

Front view of our hotel

Fa Hua Temple

Mascot of XMD

Cold Stone Signature ice cream - very berries

Cold Stone Dark chocolate ice cream with almond

So the arrangement was to take the 3.30pm shuttle bus. Since we had time to spare, we left our luggage under the staircase and headed out to XMD again. Bought KFC egg tarts for myself, SWT bought peach pie from MacDonald and we bought ice tea from a shop and we ate in the hotel while waiting for the bus. Reached the Bus Terminal close to 4pm and boarded the airport bus to TTIA. Got to TTIA close to 5pm and did our check in. Walked around TTIA and then ate dinner at Mr Brown Coffee before going into the boarding gate. Flight took off at 7.10pm sharp and we reached Changi Airport about 11.35pm.

KFC Egg Tarts

MacDonald's Peach Pie

Dinner at the Airport - Soup Bread with Tea for SWT

And Baked Spinach Lasagna with Orange Juice for me

Friday, May 22, 2009

22 May 09 – Day 6 (Taipei)

Left for Longshan Temple at 8am. There were many people there and they were chanting away. There was a corner where people can take the books and scriptures back for reading. As SWT is a Buddhist, so she was very interested in those books and hence spent quite a while in that corner. We then went to walk around the area to experience the wet market before taking the MRT to Zhong Xiao Dunhua Station. Went to look for Jay Chou’s Omni Shop but failed so we headed to the Eslite Bookshop instead. Again I had estimated the time wrongly coz SWT was really into books and we overstayed again.

Water feature in Longshan Temple

Front view of the temple

Lots of people praying

The books corner

Another water feature

Left for Taipei 101 about 1+pm. Bought our tickets on level 5 and then proceeded to take the lift. Was told that haversack was not allowed and hence I was told to deposit my bag in the locker before taking the lift up. Got up and spent a couple of hours there before leaving. As we needed to collect our orders from Lee Yi at the Main Station branch by 9pm so we decided to back track to the Main Station to collect our orders and headed back the hotel to deposit our stuff. Told SWT to ask the hotel staff about the closing time for the shops in Wufenpu and was told that they closed about 8+pm. So we dropped Wufenpu and Raohe NM and went to eat dinner at a Japanese fast food restaurant in XMD before going to Shida NM for a walk. SWT managed to buy a top coz her size doesn’t require trying on. Left for the hotel around 9+pm.

Some pictures from Taipei 101 :

Place where I sent my postcards

The Wind Damper

Taipei 101

My dinner

Thoughts: Longshan Temple is worth a visit, especially if you are a Buddhist. I didn’t get to see much of the temple that day coz there was a ritual going on. Taipei 101 is a must visit to everyone who visit Taipei. But of course weather plays a big part. The weather wasn’t good when I went and so didn’t get to see very far. Nevertheless, it was still worth visiting to experience the fastest lift. I actually posted out postcards to myself and my other family members while on the 89th floor. Shida NM is by far the best NM of all during my visit coz the things and food was cheap. A note for people going to Shida NM, the nearest MRT station is Taipower Building Station and need not transit at the Main Station.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

21 May 09 – Day 5 (Taipei)

Got up around 7am, ate breakfast and off to the Main Station to buy train ticket to Ruifang. Paid NT$52 for the 8.25am train to Ruifang and then crossed the road to take bus to Gold Ecological Park. There was a promotion going on where one would be granted free entrance upon producing any receipt dated between March and June. Walked to go up to the temple but we gave up half way but we saw the Teapot Mountain. Went to the Museum and again there were many tourists and they swamped to the 220kg gold bar and SWT kena pushed again. After the museum, I wanted to try the Benshan 5th tunnel and also the Gold Panning Experience but SWT didn’t want to coz she didn’t want to get push by the tourists again. As it was already 12+pm, we took the bus to Jiufen. It started raining but fortunately it stopped when we reached Jiufen.

Entrance to Gold Ecological Park

Old track in Gold Ecological Park

View of Teapot Mountain

The 220kg Gold Bar

Alighted and saw Lee Yi 饼家 so we went to place our orders with them and requested to collect at the Main Station branch the next day. They told us it was better this way coz the Main Station branch’s stock came from them and if we get from the Main Station branch, we might run into “out-of-stock” problem. Walked the Old Street, ate yam ball with dou hua in ginger soup, the three balls (fish, fuzhou, squid), grilled unagi and ink squid sausage. Lots of interesting things to see and buy but couldn't buy due to luggage space constrain.

Lee Yi Bing Dian

Jiufen Old Street

Yam, Tapioca & Pumpkin Balls

Fish, Squid & Meat Balls

View from top of Jiufen Old Street

Sausage Stall in Jiufen Old Street

Left for Keelung around 4+pm via bus. The bus driver forgot to inform us when we reached獅子橋 so we alighted at the last stop and walked back. Rested at a café to eat a Black Forest Cake and drank Ice Kiwi Green Tea before making our way to Miao Kow NM. There were lots of food to eat but SWT stomach was ultra small and hence we didn’t get to eat a lot. Bought 三姐妹水煎包 for myself though and ate 天妇罗 before taking the 7.20pm Tze Chang train from Keelung to Taipei. Reached the station at 8pm, took MRT to Ximen Station and walked back to the hotel.

My Black Forest Cake

SWT's Fruit Cake

Our Kiwi & Apple Drinks

Tempura in Miaokow NM which was actually fried fish paste

Shui Jian Bao from Miaokow NM

Thoughts: The Gold Ecological Museum is a nice place to visit and I would want to go back to try Benshan 5th tunnel and the Gold Panning Experience. There are also actually other interesting spots in there to explore so I would want to do that too. Jiufen is actually a street with lots of alleys. Many shops selling food and stuff. A few selling clogs and I mean nice looking, light clogs but in my humble opinion, I didn’t find them practical to wear. Many shops selling tealeaves, nuts, preserved small fishes, prawns, bags, etc, etc. Whether I would want to go back again, I can't say for sure right now. As for Keelung, I didn’t find it interesting or maybe I didn’t explore it properly. Miao Kow NM sells mainly food, lots of stalls selling thick soup with ingredients such as bean sprout, squid, etc. Personally I won't go back to that NM again.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

20 May 09 – Day 4 (Hualian)

Woke up around 6+am to take the doughnut as breakfast and was out of the hotel by 7.30am to get to the Main Station to take the 8am Tze Chang train to Hualien. The train left exactly at 8am and reached Hualien exactly at 10.08am. Quickly made our way to 后车站 via the underpass and met up with the couple who was supposed to share the cab. Mr Hu De Song came to pick us up and he was our cabbie for the day. He brought us to get 便当 and in that shop, we saw Mr Lu Lai Fu with the group that he was taking. We then headed to Cingshui Cliff to take some photos. The view was great but Mr Hu said it wasn’t the best due to the plankton. The sky darkened as we reached Taroko Gorge and as it was already 12+pm, so we ate our便当 at the place outside the tourist service center. The 便当 was very delicious and I finished the whole thing together with the soup.

Cingshui Cliff

Blue blue sea near Cingshui Cliff

SWT's lunch - Grilled Meat Bian Dang

My lunch - Fish Fillet Bian Dang

We started the Taroko Gorge tour proper around 1+pm. We were given time to take photos, walked the trail and the last stop was the highlight of the tour, a visit to the 水帘洞. We had to walk through dark caves before reaching水帘洞 and fortunately Mr Hu lent us torches. The caves had bats and dripped water. By the time we reached水帘洞, Mr Lu and his group were just done. Mr Hu helped us into the ponchos and he stayed back to look after our stuff while Mr Lu led us into the水帘洞 and helped us took photos. We walked barefooted into the cave, the water was cool and the ground was very rocky but not pointy.

Some pictures of Taroko Gorge :

Unique rock formations

Can you see a bear head?

Can you see the head of an indian chief?

Guess what animal? This rock resembles an elephant.

Tourists who walk this stretch of the Taroko Gorge were required to wear helmets coz there have been cases of fallen rocks injuring people

This is supposed to resemble a carp jumping through the dragon gate

Inside the tunnel, the walls were wet

Bats hanging on top

The hanging bridge that we were supposed to cross to get to Water Curtain Cave

The couple who travelled with us crossing the bridge

Water Curtain

The couple outside the Water Curtain Cave

Everyone had great fun and when we were out, we saw a few people wanted to go in but without any preparations. So Mr Hu gave the ponchos to them so that they could go into 水帘洞. We ended our Taroko Gorge tour around 5.35pm and Mr Hu ordered the 炸蛋葱油饼 for each of us. We took about 1 hour to go to the city and we ate the炸蛋葱油饼 while it was hot. Then he brought us to a shop to get muah chee before sending us to the train station to take the 7.30pm Tze Chang train back to Taipei. Thanked Mr Hu, boarded the train and bought cheese cake from Café 85 and a cup of ice plum tea on the way back to the hotel.

Cong You Bing Stall in Hualien

Cafe 85 Cheese Cake

Thoughts: The day was great coz I didn’t have to do any planning. I left it all in the good hands of Mr Hu and just enjoy myself totally.