Saturday, December 29, 2007

Taipei Trip Day 2 - Yangmingshan, Shilin Night Market and more

As I finished blogging about the details of day 1 of the trip, Mike looked over my shoulder and asked me "You know that no one is going to read such a long entry, right?"

I know I know, it's probably true that with such a long entry, tons of pictures and so many words, most people would just scroll through the images instead of reading it word by word. (well... may be except my lovely silly dad!! ^o^) But does it matter?! I asked myself.

I am writing all these for myself. There are so many moments in my life that is worth remembering, happy ones, sad ones, em brassing ones, mad ones, crazy ones... In the case of the Taipei trip, it definitely belongs to the happy and crazy camp!! =) So.... let's continue!!!!!!!!! ^o^

YangMingShan (陽明山)

Hiking has become my hobby in the past few years. Whether we were in the States, in Japan or in HK!! So of coz, we won't miss the chance to hike in the famous beautiful Yangmingshan when we were in Taipei !!

We took a convenient bus ride from the Taipei Main Station for about 45 minutes to get to the entrance of the Yangmingshan National Park.

LA LA LA LA LA LA - hiking makes me happy and energetic!!

Since neither of us have been to Yangmingshan before, a sensible thing to do will be to go to the visitor center first, gather some info and decide which trail we should go on. Well.... at least that's what we thought before we found out that the way to the visitor center is actually a mini hike itself!!! (I kid you not!~)

"It says the visitor center is that way...."

Which led us to a long wooden stairs uphill...

Are we on a trail already?

Well... I guess we were still on track to the visitor center, according to this sign...

After walking for another 15 minutes on the trail-looking road, we reached this white building.

Is this the visitor center building? Seriously, I have no idea!!!

The sign pointed up, so we walked up about 3 floors of stairs. Each turning corner had this net-looking thing, which was nothing but weird...

There was nobody around. We became more and more skeptical... (though at the same time it also felt kinda fun, u know, like those adventure trip that you don't know what's ahead of you or if there is any trip being set up to catch you, haha... sorry, reading too many adventure novels lately~)

Somehow we exited the white building from the other side (as guided by the signs) and then saw another trail-looking road which "claimed" will bring us to the visitor center...

After another 5 min of hiking...

Oh my gosh... there is ACTUALLY a visitor center THERE for real!!! =) hahaha~

After gathering the info that we needed - let's the fun (hike) begin!!!

Yangmingshan is huge. It has probably 7 or 8 different main trails, and within each you can branch out to smaller scenic points.

You can oversee a good part of Taipei proper, even though the weather was cloudy and even a bit rainy that day.

Taipei is a beautiful city!!

We discovered this weird plants all over Yangmingshan . The middle pointed-out part looked like something a child horror story would invent to scary the little kids ;)
(haha.. yea, sometimes my imagination can go pretty wild...)

Some of the main trails on Yangmingshan overlap with the main road for cars. So you'll have to watch out for cars while hiking.

We decided to go to the bamboo lake, because I LOVE bamboo!! =)

Along the trail, we saw a bunch of different vegetation and farmlands.

Ain't the little green plants cute?

It was approaching mid-winter, so some of the trees had all their leaves fallen off already.

Device to bring natural hotspring water to domestic use.

My favorite plant : wild ferns

One of the many mountains on Yangmingshan.

Wow... how many taro gardens are there???!

Look, it's the bamboo lake!!!

Bamboo strikes me as one of the "purest" plants, so thin, so tall, so straight, so green... so simple and clean!

Silly goofy couple!! Yep, that's us, hehe!!

There's even terrace at the distant mountain foot!! I don't think I've ever seen any terrace except in my primary school science textbook.

Line of stones along the trail.

More fields and crops.

Funny wavy small trees, like those Japanese garden plants.

Endless mountains composes this pretty national park.

We even passed by some natural hotsprings.

Look at the white steam coming out from the high temperature hotspring water. Made me want to just jump in and enjoy the hotspring, hah!!

I am more of a "ocean" person than a "mountain" person, but still I was truly impressed by the amazing sea of mountains at Yangmingshan. Just wished that we would have more time next time to explore more wonderful trails and mountains...

Due to the vastness of Yangmingshan, it's probably a good idea for first-timers to rent a car to tour around the different parts of the park first and then go to the areas that you want to see more!!

Shilin Night Snack Market (士林夜市)

With our awe and tired body, we said goodbye to the wonderful Yangmingshan national park and took bus back to the city. Our stomaches complained about its empty room by making all kinds of weird noises, so we decided that it's time to visit the most well-known night market at Taipei, the Shilin Night Market.

Taipei snack night markets are truly paradises for yummy snacks!!

A snack night market is basically a sheltered place of rows of rows of different snack stalls. The convenience that you can try many different kinds of food, and the cheapness and yummy-ness of food attract lots of tourists and locals alike every night.

You can tell just by looking at me - I, immediately became the little kid in a wonderland~ ^_^ Eager hunting for satisfaction for my hungry tummy!

You can find all sorts of food here!!

Things that you might have before or at least know what they are (you think).

Or things that you have never seen or even imagined before~

For example, I have never had or known of this fruity-looking dessert called "Love Pearl" before.

My curiosity and adventurous nature urged me to order a bowl and it's....... DELICIOUS!!! Light and sweet and fresh!!

Some of the stalls are only for to-go, while some other ones offer seats for you to sit and enjoy plates of plates of hot snacks.

One of the must-try specialties is oyster omelet (蚵仔煎) and oyster vermicelli (蚵仔麵線).

Prices are ridiculously cheap. One order usually costs around 7 HK dollars (not even 1 US dollar)!!

Mike and I immediately dived in.

Yummy scallion pancake, yeah!!

BBQ meat on a stick!!

My all-time favorite : stinky tofu!!

Mike got adventurous and bought this so-called "Big pastry wraps small pastry" thing.

Look at his skeptical and suspicious look of this unknown snack!!

Meat meat meat!!! Juicy and filling~

We were eating non-stop (well.... mostly me, haha). Eating while standing up, walking, or sitting down! (But eyes were already searching for the next thing to try!!)

And I found my favorite dessert: sweet tofu!! The big bucket only costs 3 HK dollars!! Crazy!!!!!!!

Wow... what attracted this gigantic queue??!?! Have to find out...

Oh... I see.... the infamous fried boneless chicken steak. Look how huge and crunchy they looked!!!

And this is where they came from! (yea, kid you not!!) Boxes of boxes of raw chicken steak from a truck we spotted earlier. (Though I was a bit skeptical about that red-colored water.... hmm.....)

And also curious about these non-refrigerated eggs sitting in baskets on the floor... hmm......

Well.... apparently that doesn't put a stop to my eagerness to eat. Look what I found in the next minute!!

Sugar coated fruit!! They had baby tomatoes, strawberries, berries, etc.

I chose the cutest-looking one : baby tomatoes. The icy, cruncy outer sugar layer gave the fresh, juicy tomatoes a new texture and flavor. Yum yum!!

Besides food stalls, there were also a bunch of game-based vendors for entertainment after filling a warm, full tummy!! Look how concentrated this little girl was trying to catch the tiny gold fish with the little net and her little hand~ Soooooo cute!!!!

Taipei snack night market is AWESOME!!!!!!!! I gave it ten thumbs up!! (Wait, but ... isn't three the highest score??!?)

Besides the awesome snack night market, the Shilin MRT station looks spectacular and unique as well!! Kinda reminded me of a dragon boat ride in an amusement park!

Next: The Grand Hotel

After the exhausting day hike and an early dinner, we decided to take a peek of the supposedly gorgeous Grand Hotel, which was a 20 minute walk from Shinlin station.

The Grand Hotel from a distant.

The night walk towards the Grand Hotel was fine except the very last part where it led to the actual hotel (which was slightly elevated on a small hill.)

As you can see.... it was..... almost pitch black going uphill with the stairs. Our best guess was that people probably just drive or take hotel shuttle and thus no one actually walks on this path at all... (Guess at least it's saving electricity energy...)

Surprisingly the hotel looked much grander from far-away than from a close-up distance.

The front gate though looked very impressive still.

The Grand Hotel has a very long history and has been the longest time a super five star hotel for conferences or diplomats until recent years where their quality has declined, probably due to old age...

The gigantic, grand ancient-Chinese style lobby.

The palace-like, richly-decorated ceiling.

Even though the Grant Hotel was no longer the highest rated hotel in Taipei, lots of people still like to stay here. Guess its past fame and impressive outlook still has its attraction. If you ask me thou I'd definitely choose somewhere more convenient and has better/cleaner rooms, instead of just a royal-looking lobby with degraded room facilities.

Taipei 101 (臺北 101)

We wanted to see the night view of Taipei from the tallest Taipei 101 building. So we slowly headed that direction after leaving the Grand Hotel.

A nice surprise was that we also got to see the newest and largest shopping and leisure extravaganza next to the Taipei 101 building, the Taipei 101 Shopping Area. (dah!!!)

Isn't the blue light wickedly cool? It totally drew my full attention. Guess that's how they attracted people to shop there, hehe...

The Taipei 101 Shopping Area is huge and consists of so many large-scale big shopping malls.

Each shopping mall within the area is well-connected inside and outside. We chose the outdoor overpass leisurly passing through the malls and appreciating the outdoor plaza as well.

The plaza offers a nice chilling place for shoppers to rest after exhaustive shopping.

There was even a shinny purple x'mas tree!! Can you tell it's made of crystal?

The outdoor of the malls was so brightly-led and pretty that not only us but many locals as well chose to walk outside instead of being trapped in the indoor malls.

"Hey what's over there???" the curious girl asked.

To satisfy my (always) curiosity, we of course ran quickly to check out the crowd.
"Doggies?!" we were wondering what's going on...

And a few seconds later we saw a bunch of flying frisbees followed by the running dogs and realized what the deal was.

It's a doggie street performance. The male trainer threw frisbees either one at a time or a whole bunch and the dogs would run very quickly to catch them. The dogs were very well-trained and almost caught them all the time. Amazing free street show!!! =)

Besides shops there were also many restaurants offering various types of cuisines in that area. Among those, I especially liked outdoor cafes.

Ohohoh... and look what else the silly girl found - a CANDY STORE!!! Seriously, it's like wonderlands after wonderlands for her~!!

Look how happy she was~ For those who don't know might actually think that she is powered by sweets!! (Isn't she?!) hahaha ^_^

I usually go to shopping malls just to shop, but this Taipei 101 shopping mall area is indeed full of wonders that I enjoyed every second I was in it, even without shopping!!! =)

The outdoor plaza area was so wonderful that we spend almost an hour just wondering around. Finally we reached the actual Taipei 101 building, our original targeted destination.

Taipei 101 is the tallest building in Asia, with its 101 floors; however, most Taiwanese people consider it an "eye-sore" due to its far-from-pretty outlook, which sadly, I have to agree.... I think the Bank of China building in Hong Kong is far more awesome-looking.

Unfortunately, the top floor opened for viewers was already closed for the day when we got there~ Guess we spent too much time browsing at the plaza, haha... But I definitely didn't regret doing that thou~ Such nice plaza and area!

Well... since we couldn't get to its top floor and take a look of the city night view, I guess at least I could take a picture with the night view poster~ (And don't ask me what was I doing or THINKING when I put on that pose!!!)

Taipei Main Station and.... FOOD (again!!!!)

We were hungry already (somehow) so we went back to the Taipei Main station, thinking to search for some food there.

Taipei Main Station is probably one of the most heavily-traveled station all year long.

We were totally blessed by our hotel location that we could easily find yummy food within a couple blocks radius.

Oh... we finally got a chance to buy some of those popular pepper pork buns. They had a super long line all day long which got a bit shorter after dark. So we could get some without waiting for a half hour~

Ohhhhh.... so juicy and fresh and .... HOT!!!!! Why don't they have some of these in HK?!?!

Mike had his eyes on some Taiwanese-style seaweed rice rolls with dry pork. He never had such thing before~

And it WAS absolutely DELICIOUS~

Then I got my daily fruit servings as well, hehe~ I had the BEST kiwi there!!!

Of course, can't miss the huge and cheap Taiwanese milk tea~ Mike got a simple iced honey black tea, whereas as I ordered my all-time favorite - honey green milk tea with lychee jelly!! Yumyumyum...

Somehow we were still hungry (or I think we just couldn't stop eating!!), so we ordered a Korean-style bimbinbo (hot clay-pot rice with assorted veggies and eggs)

You have to mix the content of the bowl well before eating.

The clay pot was still steamingly hot, but apparently somebody couldn't wait already!!

It took us less than 10 minutes to "inhale" the whole bowl!! haha~ Helpw... EATING MONSTERS!!!!

We then went in the food mall in ShinKong Mitsukoshi mall and shopped for more food~

Oh wow... they even had the Japan specialty drink - "cow piss" ^_^ (don't worry... it's not actually cow piss. It's a Japanese soda drink whose name unfortunately sounds very similar to "cow piss". Mike and I made jokes about this all the time when we were working in Tokyo.)

And I got a little sweet dessert for myself - it's a strawberry crystal jelly pudding!! "Sugar girl" got her fuel refilled, once again!! hehe~ =)

(西門町) Ximending @ Saturday Midnight

We already went to Ximending last night; however, it was mostly closed down when we went last night. We wanted to find out if this so-called youth center of Taipei really closes down this early, even on a weekend night.

So we gave ourselves a mission - to re-explore and debunk the early-closing myth of Ximending!!

It turned out that Ximending has a lot more energy and closes much later on a weekend night, even after midnight.

It's around 12:30am Saturday when we got there, and the streets were still crowded with youngsters.

Mission accomplished!! Yay!!!

What are these??! Buns?

You'll never guess - they are actually scallion pancakes!!

More fruit for me!! So colorful !!

And meat grill on a stick was also very popular!

Lots of street vendors selling all kinds of hip, trendy stuff.

Everywhere was still full of people~ Cars had a hard time passing through the street~

All shops are still open.

And there was a ridiculously number of scallion pancake stalls!! I guess Taiwanese people really love their scallion pancakes~ ^_^

Even the bar and pub area behind the Red Brick Church was more lively than last night!! Yeah, weekend power!!

Brightly-led Ximending was soooo cool-looking!!

This time we really could feel the "shibuya-ness" in Ximending, instead of just a crappy, dump-down version of the famous youth center of Tokyo!!

Mike was content, because he loves city crowds~!!! Especially Asian city crowds!! ^_^

End of Our Second Day in Taipei

Wandering through Ximending was fun, but it's finally time for our tired body to rest, after a full day of exciting activities non-stop...

We walked back towards our hotel, where the streets became more and more empty as we got farther away from Ximending...

Oh... the hotel bed looked even more comfy after a whole day of active running around....
ZZZzzzzzZZZZZZz...... Sweet dreams to end our second fun day in Taipei!!


Anonymous said...

To: Google blogger admins.
From: concerned Mike.

Please don't accidentally delete Carol's blog before she finally makes time to create a back up copy. She put a lot of time into this!

Thank you.

Ju said...

Could you pls give the name of hotel that you stayed while you in Taipei?

Caroline said...

It's called One Star Hotel.

Ju said...

Thank you,

Ju said...

Thank you for you reply, this hotel is close to Ximending and not far from Shilin Night Market, right? do you have any more recommend about where is the good place to eat, and shopping? I read in yr blog but some place you didnt mention the name of that place, every where you gone, very interested.