Monday, November 4, 2013

Weekend Getaway: Taipei, Taiwan (October 2013)

I was in Taipei for 2 weeks for work last month.  This is only my second time to Taiwan and I finally had the chance to check off a lot of the restaurants on my bucket list.  (I will do separate posts on those I felt are worth mentioning.)  You just need to be more patient with me now since my current job demands a lot more of my time and attention.

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my first attempt on "light" photos
This post is going to be a short (?) summary on what I managed to do with the very limited amount of free time I had so it might useful for anyone who is planning a short trip or business travelers who is clueless on what they can do in Taipei over the weekend.

Lung Shan Temple (龍山寺)

Lungshan Temple is located in the district Manka of Taipei. I wanted to check out the area because of the movie "Monga" (a Taiwanese gangster movie).  It's a crowded place!  I wonder if it was crowded because there's a special ceremony going on or if it is always busy like that.

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Amazing detail
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So crowded!!!
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Everyone was chanting along

Huaxi Street Night Market (華西街夜市)

If you are into the exotic (i.e. snakes), you might want to check out this night market.  It's close to Lungshan Temple so I would group them together.  I went with my instinct and tried some snacks.  The fish cakes turned out to be one of the most famous in the Night Market.  It's quite good so if you happened to come here, save room and try this!

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where you will find restaurants that sell snakes on their menu...
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very chewy... pretty tasty...
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If you don't eat anything else, you must try the fruit.
Taiwanese fruits are the best and the stuffed cherry tomatoes are by far my favorite!!!
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the wax apple of Taiwan is an absolute must eat
I have never had a better wax apple anywhere else other than Taiwan!

Xinbeitou (新北投)

The closest place from Taipei if you are into hot springs!  Unfortunately I can't try the private houses since I was alone but I am definitely going to check this one out the next time I go to Taipei!  (Here is another good one!)  Other than hot springs, there are a few places worthy for a visit too.  It's the perfect place to group with Tamsui (淡水) and Shilin Night Market (士林夜市).

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This is a library.
If this is close to my house, I will go there every day.
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This used to be a public bath house.
I will definitely take showers here...
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even Dr. Sun Yet-Sen bathed here!

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Beitou Thermal Valley
the water here is at least 90 degrees Celcius
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one of the very first hot springs
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pork blood pudding - a local snack

Tamsui (淡水)

My favorite place in Taipei - it's a must-visit if you ask me.  The best time to come is in the afternoon.  Make sure you watch the sunset from the Fishermen Wharf's.  I also highly recommend the ferry ride from the broadwalk to the wharf - it's only NT$60 and totally worth it.

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you can bike along the broadwalk
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remember to take the ferry from the Broadwalk to the Fishermen's Wharf!
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@ Tamsui Fishermen's Wharf
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Beautiful sunset from here
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Just breathtaking!
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it will be lovely to enjoy a beer here with friends
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the lovers' bridge
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more night markets!
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The signature snack of Tamsui
it's just tofu wrapped vermicelli in hot sauce
nothing too special but "when in Rome..."

Pingxi Line (平溪線)

Houtong (猴硐)

Another popular weekend destination for locals and tourists alike.  The train gets extremely busy in the weekend.  It's where they shot some scenes in the movie "You Are the Apple of My Eye" (那些年,我們一起追的女孩).  My biggest advise if you are doing this is to come on a weekday if you can avoid the weekend and make sure you have a copy of the train schedule on hand!  The train comes once every hour and time is of the essence here!

As a cat lover, I am in love with the town of Houtong (猴硐).  I am pretty sure I took more pictures here than the rest of the day combined!

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Taipei's Grumpy Cat?
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"I want attention!!!"
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"...but don't bother me when I am taking a nap!"
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Apparently, I am not the only cat fanatic here.
He's been taking pictures of the same cat for the past 3 years!!!
I wish you saw this cat through his lens, it was awesome!
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Like a boss!
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Shifeng (十分)

The sky lanterns are the biggest draw in this town (there is also a waterfall nearby) and you will see groups after groups setting off their sky lanterns (天燈) here.  I didn't do it and I discourage you from doing so because the lanterns pollute the environment and may cause forest fire.

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You write your wishes on the colored papers and set them off to the sky
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The mochi made by this lady was so delicious!
I recommend the sweet ones and I regret I didn't buy more
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Lots of snacks for you to try~
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This is an active railroad but since the train only comes once an hour,
people like to enjoy their lunch on the tracks...
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Encountered a playful kitty who is amusing itself over a nut.
It sure did amuse me too!
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Not much across the bridge but the view from the bridge is nice.
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Kids playing on tracks...
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... where there should be "No Entry"
oh well...

Pingxi (平溪)

This is the stop we made that day but you could also visit Jingtong (菁桐), the final stop of the Pingxi line.  A lot of people (i.e. us) actually get on the train from Pingxi to ensure a seat on the return trip.  Otherwise, you might have to stand hours before you arrive in Taipei...  Pingxi is very much like Shifeng except the shops are more spread out.  There are a lot of places that sells postcards and it will be nice to send some postcards back to your loved ones.  Most of the stores will help you mail the postcards...

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Sausage with stories...
oh myyyyy....
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found an oasis off the beaten track
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a local shop selling traditional Chinese desserts 
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Loved the almond milk!
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The almond milk itself is pretty bland so you could add a donut in it...
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If you don't like almond milk, you could have peanuts instead.
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braised tofu
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It will be nice to return for the Pingxi Lantern Festival (happens every January/February).  I am just not sure if I want to be in the middle of another crowd... Here's a YouTube clip:

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