Friday, December 28, 2007

Taipei Trip Day 1

I know I know, the Taipei trip was actually from 3+ weeks ago, but I didn't have time until now to post about it~ But posting late is better then posting NIL, right? ;) So... here we go~

I went to Taiwan once when I was about 13 or 14 with my family. Same as all my other trips that I took as a little kid with my family (joining travel tours), my memory of those places was just a big blur. Taiwan was no exception, so I was very excited going on this "in-depth" Taipei tour~

Pre-trip Preparation

Look how "excited" we were~ heh~

And the careful planning and notes-taking that I did ahead for the trip!! ^_^ I like planning for a full action-packed vacation~ Made me eager to learn about the history and uniqueness of the country!!

We took EVA Airline, which I'd recommend to anybody due to their good service, food quality, and most importantly, many pretty and hot flight attendants! Always good to have "eye-candy" when you are on a plane, you know... hahaha~

After an hour-long short flight, we landed at the Taipei airport.

Look how "resourceful" I got immediately!!! haha~

There was no train going directly from the airport to downtown Taipei just yet. But the bus services are conveniently enough, as long as you don't have to take the bus during rush hours ;)

Hotel and Its Surrounding

Our hotel is a few minutes walk from the main Taipei MRT station, which turned out to be a very good location - not only traffic-wise, but also food-wise - there are more than enough yummy food/drink places nearby.

We were very satisfied with the hotel, its nicely-decorated room, comfy bed, huge LCD TV, super-clean bathroom, and gigantic hotspring-like bathtub!!!

This is probably the 2nd best hotel I have stayed at in Asia besides the Hyatt in Kyoto!!

Busy intersection across from the hotel. Keep walking this direction we discovered a bunch of yummy Taiwanese restaurants.

For example, onion pancakes and juicy pork and beef buns!!

Pepper pork buns~ Made fresh everyday. You can see a long line at this store anytime of the day from store open to close. Crazy!!

"Hell, YEAH!!! " said the two foodies!! =)

Then there was the "hot-pot must-have" - meat balls / fish balls of all varieties!!

Even simple plain fried rice noodles looked soooo delicious!! (does anybody know why the food in Taipei look SO MUCH cleaner than the food in HK, including food from just a street vendor?!!?!)

Began Taipei Exploration

After a short discovery tour of the neighbor near our hotel, we started our real journey to explore Taipei!!

First thing we noticed was - how long and endless each zebra-crossing looked!!! Seemed like it's gonna take 3 years to actually cross over to the other side!!!

Next thing we realized was the abundance of motorbikes!!

Regardless it's during the day~

Or at night~ Impressive looking, huh?! (Well... the air quality certainly isn't....)

Another weird scene that we found in the city center of Taipei : ash-and-rock-covered garage~ (with a normal-looking car parked in it!!)

This building we passed by reminded me of Tokyo JR station. Sometimes random snapshots of Tokyo would pop up in my mind for no apparent reason... I wonder if I started missing Tokyo already.... (though I can guarantee definitely NOT including the work life there)

More motorcycles?!?! Look more carefully - they are for the POLICE!!!

The pedestrian sidewalks are a lot wider than that in HK. Shops are more spread out too. We wandered through streets after streets to get a feel what a peaceful Taipei night walk would feel like.

Then you discover the weirdest thing in those random walks - for example, this gigantic advertisement about hemorrhage treatment at the back of a bus post on the street!! And guess what, there were MANY of them, from different doctors!!! Seriously, is there such high demand of this sort in Taipei??!?! Hmm....

Our First Meal in Taipei

Exciting moment - Our first dinner in Taipei~ The decision of the restaurant was easily made - the infamous Din Tai Fung and its equally infamous steamed dumpling.

Look how steamy and juicy each of them was!!

We also ordered some other veggie steamed dumpling.

Can't miss ordering some greens and the Taipei specialty, beef noodles soup.

Somebody loved the dumpling!!!!

Eat Eat Eat !!!

Somebody didn't even miss a drop of beef noodles soup~ =)

We got a peek into the kitchen through its glass windows. It's like a dumpling factory!!

The chef were all so efficient and skillful.

They all wore very clean white apron, mask and hat, giving such professional image!

Look at those stacks of bamboo baskets!! They were all emptied in a few minutes, all used up to house the yummy dumpling in the steamer...

After Dinner Wandering...

With our full and satisfied tummies, we "rolled out" of Dan Tai Fong restaurant and resumed our random exploration of the Taipei city. We saw so many interesting things...

Two middle age guys were playing some chess game on a paper box-made up table next to their vegetable and fruit stalls~

A bun factory - the open, street version

Unknown organs of some unknown animals in an unknown fridge thing on the street...?

A close up of that unknown organ.... (kinda reminded me of my science experiments done in primary school lab...)

(My favorite) Two little kids reading books with each other next to their parents' clothes stall on the sidewalk. Super super cute!!!

The Yellow Explosion : the quiet orange street vendor at the corner of a side street, in contrast to the long, busy line of yellow taxis on the main road...

A guy and his two resting dogs chilling in a repair shop at 9:30pm on a peaceful Taipei side street...

Taiwanese youngsters hanging out as a big group after work...

People selling handmade crafts out in the open on the side of a pedestrian walk under dim yellow street light...

Somehow we were led by a strong bakery aroma and wandered into a warm bakery nearby...

The girl who stood in front of the sweets & treats and didn't know which to pick....
It's not my fault - they all smelled too good !!

From the bakery to a trendy boutique...
The girl was checking out the cool-looking blue orange strip pants.... or the butt of the model... Not sure which one, actually~ ;)

Next stop: Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

We strolled along streets after streets and finally reached our first targeted destination causally - the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.

It looked very peaceful and serene at night.

The high front entrance.

I especially liked the tree surroundings.

And particularly this stunning-looking tall tree!!!

You can see Taipei 101 from there!

The most amazing thing was that there were a few groups of adults and even elderly people doing exercises and social dances together as a huge group. This city is so full of energy!!

Next Stop: Eslite Bookstore

One of the main goals of coming to Taipei this time for me was to witness the 24 hour restless Eslite Bookstore.

As a die-hard bookworm, I really wish that such bookstores exist in Hong Kong or in the States!

I'll never picture a construction site right in front of a bookstore building. What a strange scene!!

Luckily the construction site noise didn't penetrate through the building nor affected the readers.

Somebody couldn't wait and immediately "dived in"...

Look what she found!! Japanese folklore.

"Hey don't follow me around!!"

This is definitely the coolest bookstore I've ever been to~ Such diversity, such facility, such atmosphere, such quality!!

I especially love seeing young people my age show such passion reading and looking for books, instead of just flipping through comics or playing their NDS!!

See how crowded it still was even though it's way passed midnight already!!

I can just spend days and nights here!!!!

Taking MRT

Regardless how much I love staying at Eslite, we had to leave to catch the last train back to hotel. We decided to take the MRT (the public railway transit in Taipei) to Ximending, supposedly the "Shibuya" of Taipei, wandered a bit there and then walked back to the neighboring Taipei Main station on foot. (Yea, we love exploring a new city by walking, if possible!!)

The ticket machines for MRT, very clear instructions and easy to use.

The interior of MRT is wider than the MTR in HK. Probably because Taipei has more space.

Even though Hong Kong's MTR is our favorite, we like the Taipei MRT a lot too! It is clean, spacious, frequent and convenient.

Thumbs up from me!

It is one of the most commonly-used public transportation among the locals as well~

The inside of the train is as clean, spacious and bright as the station.

Look, there is a silly goofy passenger !!

Ximending and Walking back to Hotel

With MRT, we arrived Ximending, the youth center area of Taipei in just a short train ride.

Ximending is supposed to be the Shibuya (in Tokyo) of Taipei - the "hang out place" for the young people.

Though one huge difference is Ximending apparently shuts down after mid-night, whereas Shibuya doesn't shut down until way later... When we arrived Ximending, most of the shops have closed down, and restaurants were in the process of closing.

Except the bar area behind the Red Church building (one of the touristy spot in Ximending mentioned in all travel guide books). A few people were still hanging out drinking, mostly men.

After exploring the few remaining opened places in Ximending, we walked back to the hotel with our tired bodies. Had been a busy afternoon and evening since we arrived!!

We concluded that Taipei pretty much closed down after mid-night on a normal weekday night. Empty and quiet streets/roads.

Hong Kong closes down after mid-night too, but not THIS empty!!! It's almost a bit scary considering the entirety things shut down!!

Mike was scratching his head wondering "Why do Taiwanese people sleep so early?!!!"

The quietness and emptiness of the streets made this normal temple that we passed by on our way back look frightening, especially with all those red lanterns!! It made me think of those ancient Chinese ghost stories where some fox spirits trapped in the old lantern for years can come out and jump at people who pass by!!!!!! hahaha~ (Apparently I am NOT buying that story at all!!!) ^o^

Our late night snack from one of the 7-Eleven nearby. We couldn't get anything fresh since all stores were closed down; however, this veggie-flavor crackers is surprisingly yummy, especially after a full night of walking and exploring!!! ^_^

No comments: