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Taipei Trip Part 3 – Taipei 101, Mao Kong, & Beitou

Saturday October 24th, 2015 at 4:11 am

Taipei 101

Taipei 101, named so for its 101 floors, is probably one of the most iconic things about Taipei. Built in 2004, this building was the tallest until it was surpassed by the Burj Kalifa in Dubai in 2010. The tower is specially designed to withstand both typhoons and earthquakes. Inside, visitors can find a wide assortment of restaurants, shops, and clubs. Taipei 101 also has the world’s fastest elevator. On New Years Eve, fireworks are launched from the tower, making it one of the best places to be for New Year’s Eve.

Inside Taipei 101, you can find one of the world’s best dim sum restaurants, Din Tai Fung. 2 restaurants in Hong Kong have also been awarded one Michelin Star. Sadly, I was too hungry and impatient to eat to remember to take any photos.

You can watch the cooks as they prepare food such as the famous xiao long bao. Each cook works with crazy precision and speed…cutting just the exact amount of dough, scooping the exact amount of meat, and making the same exact folds in each one…all without measuring.

Found my first one in Shinjuku when I visited Japan a few years back, it was nice seeing one in Taipei as well!

There are many pieces inside the tower made from various precious gem stone, coral, and other materials costing up to millions of NT dollars.

Hazy day but the view from up top is amazing.

National Palace Museum

Next up was the National Palace Museum. Unfortunately, they don’t allow any pictures inside. This museum has one of the world’s largest collections of Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks covering over 10,000 years of Chinese history.

The original museum in Beijing, which was set up in 1925 after Emperor Puyi’s expulsion, was split into 2 as a result of the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950). In 1935, Chiang Kai-Shek ordered the museum to move its most valuable pieces out of the city to prevent it from falling in to the hands of the Japanese. The items were moved around China a few times as Japan advanced further and further into China. After the war, Chiang Kai-Shek decided to move the artifacts to Taiwan as fighting between the Communists and the Nationalists worsened. Before all of the crates were moved, the Communists seized control of the National Museum so the remaining items could not be moved. Throughout the years, the People’s Republic of China has accused Taiwan of stealing the artifacts. Taiwan in return, defends its act as a necessary action to protect the price pieces from destruction…especially that of during the Cultural Revolution. Nowadays, there isn’t as much tension and Beijing has also agreed to lend artifacts to Taiwan for exhibitions.

I’ve always been interested in Chinese history so walking through this museum was an amazing experience for me. We went on a weekend so it was rather packed. The museum has 4 floors, however, not all of the exhibition halls are open at a given time to prevent wear. It was also freezing cold inside and I didn’t bring a thick enough jacket. Inside temperature is set low to help preserve the antiques and artifacts. I do have to say though, the museum has so many artifacts that after a while it does get a bit repetitive and tiring. However, I highly recommend this museum for anyone that’s interested in Chinese history, or even just history.

Mao Kong

One of my favorite places in Taipei was Mao Kong (meaning “cat sky”). Besides the fact that I love cats, this place is great for sightseeing, walking, and getting out of the city a little bit. The area used to be the biggest tea growing area of Taipei. Nowadays, its just a popular place for tea houses and enjoying a nice view of the city.

To get to the top of the mountain, visitors can ride a gondola. It’s only a few stops to the top and very affordable. There are two types of gondola’s you can take, the regular one and one with a clear floor called the “Eyes of Maokong Gondola”. The price to ride in one the special gondolas is the same price as the regular. The only catch is that there is a separate line and the waiting time is longer than that of the regular gondolas.

View from the Gondola

Looking through the clear glass. The color of the glass really makes the trees and bushes pop. Of course the higher you go, the better the view.

Of course, you can’t have a place called Cat Sky and not have cats everywhere.

Delicious parfait and fruit tea

I just love the name of this tea shop. It’s set up like a food truck and customers can sit, drink tea, and enjoy an amazing view.

View of a temple, Taipei 101, and the city from the top…it’s even more beautiful at night.

Beitou

So, this is the reason why planning out trips ahead of time is important. I originally planned to visit Beitou on Monday since the weather forecasted rain without realizing (or remembering…) that pretty much everything in Beitou is closed on Monday. I still went to go check out the city but there wasn’t much to do. I was pretty disappointed since there were a few things here I really wanted to see. Next time for sure….

Beitou is located in north Taipei and is famous for its hot springs. During Japanese occupation, many hot spring facilities and baths were set up around the city.

The Beitou Hot Spring museum was one place I really wanted to visit. Built in 1913 by the Japanese, this bath house was at one time the largest bath house in East Asia. After 1945, the bath house was used for several different purposes until eventually re-opening as a museum. Visitors can take a tour of the large bath house, still retaining the look and feel from the early 1900s.

Entrance to the Hot Spring museum

Beitou also has rivers running through it, making it a great place for a walk. Because the area is so rich in sulfur, you can smell it everywhere.

I really enjoyed the short trip to Taipei. It’s a beautiful country with lots to see and do and not to mention the food is amazing. I will definitely be back to visit in the future :)

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Taipei Trip Part 2 – Jiufen (Real Life Spirited Away Town)

Sunday October 11th, 2015 at 7:00 am

This was one place that I HAD to visit. Jiufen is the town that inspired the main setting of Spirited Away, my favorite Miyazaki film. Walking through the streets, it’s easy to see where he got inspiration from, but first…let’s start with a little bit of history.

The name Jiufen is kind of peculiar and interesting. It means “nine portions”. During the Qing Dynasty, the isolated village housed nine families. Every time shipments arrived, the village would need to request nine portions, hence the name. Before Miyazaki’s film, the town gained popularity after the discovery of gold. The gold rush sped up the development of the small town. Soon, there were houses and businesses everywhere. The gold rush reached its peak during the Japanese colonization but declined after WWII and eventually shut down in 1971. For a while, the city was forgotten until a movie released in 1989 brought attention to town and in 2001, with the release of Spirited Away. Many buildings in Jiufen remain unchanged and still reflect the Japanese influence on architecture and culture.

Nowadays, the streets Jiufen are lined with shops, tea houses, cafes, food vendors, and amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. The town attracts both locals and tourists daily and can get really packed on the weekends. If you plan on visiting, I strongly suggest going on a weekday.

GETTING THERE

Getting to Jiufen is pretty easy. You can get there a few ways, but I took the MRT to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station (Exit 1) and boarded bus #1062. The bus takes about 1 hour and costs around NT$90 (less than $3 USD). Along the way, you can get some pretty nice views of the city as well as the countryside. Be careful of the taxi drivers around the area. Since the town is a huge tourist attraction, there are many drivers hanging around Zhongxiao Fuxing Station. They’ll try to charge around NT$400-500 (about $12-$15 USD) and tell you that the bus won’t take you to the entrance but they will. Unless you want a private ride, there’s no need. The bus drops you right at the entrance to Jiufen for a fraction of the price. I also recommend getting there early. When we got back to Taipei around 4 PM, there was a HUGE line waiting for the bus.

Let’s take a look at some of the similarities.

GOLD/MINING

Gold plays a pretty big part in the movie. Remember how much havoc the river God and No Face caused with the “gold rush”? Jiufen’s gold rush is long over but signs that it was once a popular mining town still run throughout the place.

DRAGONS

You won’t find dragons everywhere in Jiufen but there’s a temple right outside the bus area with dragons all over the roof. With a little bit of imagination, you can see the resemblance to Haku from the movie.

FOOD

You can’t think about Spirited Away and not think about food. Food had a major role in the movie. Chihiro’s parents were turned into pigs from eating the spirit’s food. Every night the bath house was bustling with cooks and workers bringing dishes and dishes of food to guests. No Face enjoyed quite a feast himself. One great thing about Jiufen is that there is food everywhere! From sausages, to chicken, to pork, to candy, to drinks, to soup, to noodles, to pork buns, to sweets, and more.

THE OCEAN

Jiufen has some really amazing and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. There are no train tracks underneath the waters here but you can still definitely appreciate and enjoy the view from the top. For people that love hiking, there’s a mountain nearby where you can hike to the top for even more breathtaking views.

TUNNELS, STAIRS, AND RED LANTERNS

One really cool thing about Jiufen is the narrow alleyways with stairs and small tunnels that run through the town. The tunnels won’t take you to a bathhouse (or anywhere really) but they’re really neat to check out.

AND MORE

As you walk through the streets of Jiufen, it’s easy to see where Miyazaki drew his inspiration from for his movie for both setting and characters. There’s definitely more than enough share of quirky, interesting art and items. In addition, Jiufen is a great way to get a feel for a more traditional Taiwan that you might not find in the city.

Jiufen has a lot to offer and there’s definitely more than enough to do there for a day trip. I would love to go back one day and check out more of the town. Since, we wanted to head back to Taipei for some more sightseeing and the fact that it was just too crowded when we went, we headed back after a few hours. However, it was definitely a dream come true to visit Jiufen!

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Taiwan Trip Part 1 – Shilin Night Market & Raohe St. Night Market

Friday October 9th, 2015 at 3:32 am

There’s so much cleanup/updates I need to do to the blog that I don’t even know where to start. For some reason, Tumblr changed the URL on all of my images so now I’m slowly having to move everything over to Google Photos and fix the images, not the biggest deal in the world but some of the posts (for example: Japan trip) are loaded with photos. Slow and steady wins the race I suppose.

I’m so backlogged on everything as well. This has kind of been a rocky year for me, but even so, it has just flown by. At the same time, I’ve done a lot yet not as much as I would have liked to. I suppose I need to start somewhere so I’ll just backtrack the year starting with my trip to Taiwan during Silver Week :)

The main reason why I went to Taiwan was for the food. Japanese food is great and all but I get a bit tired of eating the same things. Tokyo has a great mix of (expensive) international foods but I really miss authentic Chinese food :(

I’ll start with the night markets as they are a big part of Taiwanese culture. I went to Shilin night market almost every night! It’s a little bit touristy but it’s easy to see why. Shilin is Taipei’s largest and most well known night market. Simply hop on the MRT to Jiantan Station and it’s only a short walk away. Either follow the crowd or follow your nose as you can easily smell the food from the station! Not only is Shilin Night market filled with some of the most popular Taiwanese foods such as stinky tofu, deep fried chicken breasts, spring onion pancakes with pork, grilled Taiwanese sausage, lamb skewers, etc…it’s also filled with tons of clothing, shoes, and accessories shops. Some of the food vendors start setting up as early as 4 PM, but the majority open around 5-7 PM. It’s a good idea to get there early to avoid the crowd but you’ll have to hang around a bit to sample a little bit of everything.

4-5 PM is when most of the food vendors start setting up and getting ready for business. If you want to avoid big crowds or long lines, I recommend checking out the night market around 5-6 PM.

This was one of my favorites! It’s a deep fried potato with smoked chicken and smothered in cheddar cheese. You can choose from many other toppings as well. I can’t describe how delicious this was. Someone please bring good cheese to Japan :(

One of the most popular street foods in Taiwan, the deep fried chicken breast.

I love temples and much like Japan, you can find temples in various places all around Taipei, including inside the night market.

Shops line the streets of the night market.

Giant fried squid

Just a few more things you can find around the street market: fried seafood, giant sausages, spring onion rolls with pork, and some kind of stir fried chicken.

You can also fish for your own shrimp and the shop owner will grill it right there. It looked quite fun and difficult but I don’t think I have the heart to catch my own food and eat it x_x

Games also line the streets. For a small fee, try your luck and win one of the many cute prizes. Most of the games involve throwing darts at balloons, get a certain number and you can snag a prize. My favorite was the mahjong bingo, but I had no luck :(

This was the absolute cutest! This dad was driving his daughter around in this remote controlled car.

Next up is Raohe St. night market. Located in the Songshan district, Raohe Street night market is one of the oldest night markets in this area. It’s not super popular with tourists as it is a bit out of the way compared to other night markets. It’s much smaller than Shilin night market but definitely worth checking out as there are quite a few street vendors and shops here and you can also find a few dishes that aren’t available in Shilin.

Spring onion pancakes

My favorite at Raohe Street, lemon grilled pork? Not sure what it’s called but it was so delicious.

One of my favorite things about Taiwan is that there are dogs everywhere. People just bring them to work!

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