Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Taiwan Trip (Part 1)

(extremely long post ahead!)

Had an insanely awesome trip to Taiwan the past weekend.  I am now absolutely in love with Taiwan and can't wait to go back!  Amazing food, beautiful breathtaking scenery, mountains, ocean, what more can you want?

My two friends Wendy, Soyeon and I went for 4 days on our own to Taipei and surrounding area.  We did some pretty intensive research before we left so we got to hit tons of places.  It'll take me too long to talk about everything we did and everything that happened, so I'll just share the main things that happened during the trip (and of course the food!!!).

Arrival at TPE


To make sure we had a full day on the first day, we arrived in Taipei Taoyuan airport at 2am.  Yup.  The subway (MRT) stops running at midnight and taxis are quite expensive from the airport, especially at that time (or so we figured), so we just bummed around for a few hours in the main arrivals area.  Funny enough there were a few people doing the same thing including a group from Hong Kong Polytechnic University.  It was fun experimenting different positions to sleep/nap comfortably (possible future blog post?).  The chairs were sooo small and the armrests were extra small so you can't even slip through to sleep!

 Yeliu Geopark


After napping at the hostel for 30 mins (best sleep I ever had) we set out to Yeliu (map) on the North coast of Taiwan, about 1 hour from Taipei.  Quite a challenge since none of us spoke fluent Mandarin, but we got by with some simple phrases :)  Spent 2 hours at the main terminal trying to figure out how to get there and running around to get a (free) youth travel pass for discounts on attractions.


Finally made it to Yeliu Geopark!!  Had to get off the bus at a random stop and then walk 10 mins towards the coast.  It was also freezing and super windy. :(


The park features tons of naturally formed hoodoo stones with the main attraction being a rock that is shaped like a queen's head. It was soooo cool and I loved the crashing waves!!  This was just the start of our epic jumping pictures... :D


Next destination was Jiufen (map), a mountain town south of Yeliu also near the coast of Taiwan.  Getting there was also a challenge; had to switch buses at Keelung and Jiufen was not the final destination so we had to figure out where we were supposed to get off.


Jiufen was really pretty, very Japanese influenced with tons stringed lanterns hanging over lots of little shops and stalls.  Apparently the town was used as a model for the movie Spirited Away!


There were also tons of teahouses there.  We went into one and the owner was super friendly, he even let us tour his house-turned-into-teahouse which was hundreds of years old (the stuff there seemed like it too).  Tried some fruit tea and Jasmine milk tea.  Really really good and authentic. :)

Xinbeitou Hot Springs


The next day we headed up to Xinbeitou for our first experience at a hot spring.  On the way there we passed by the Geothermal Valley, aka Hell Valley, which is a natural hot sulfur spring where the temperature can reach up to 100°C.  It looked sooo "cool" (pun intended), because steam was just floating over the water the whole time.  Oh yeah, and it smelled like eggs (coz of the sulfur).


We went to a "higher class" hot spring resort called Asia Pacific Resort, which we had to walk to the end of the street with all the hot springs (we passed by probably 10 or more) and up a slight mountain.  It was super duper nice; we paid about $16CAD for a private outdoor room for 1 hour which also includes 3 hours in the public spring.  They give you a robe, towels and slippers to change into.  The place was just really classy and clean.


Really glad that we got a private room because the public springs were so awkward.  Tons of old women just chilling there (naked of course).  We only stayed for the 1 hour in the private room and it was more than enough for me.  You get sooo tired because your body is so relaxed, you just want to sleep after you're done :P  It also made my skin super soft :) :)  Loved it!



After the hotsprings we headed to a town called Danshui which means "fresh water".  It's right by the sea and the waterfront was lined with little shops and tons of food stalls.  Soooo nice and it was the perfect place to catch the sunset!

Danshui Fisherman's Wharf


We caught a 15 minute ferry north to the Fisherman's Wharf to see the famous Lover's Bridge.  Unfortunately it was really cloudy so we couldn't see the sunset very well, but we still took some nice pictures and ate some food there :P

Sanxia Old Street (Minquan Old Street)



Sanxia is a small town about 1 hour south of Taipei (map).  The architecture on Minquan old street is well preserved from Japanese colonial times. A really commonly sold food there (like every other store) is "bull horn croissants" which is basically a small crunchy croissant.  Tons of food everywhere, with lots of vendors making the food on a cart on the street and selling it right there.

Sightseeing in Taipei

We actually didn't get to "see" Taipei until the last day, so on that one day we went around to quite a few of the famous landmarks of Taipei (and took epic pictures with all of them) 

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall (The symbol of Taipei)


Taipei 101 (Second tallest building in the world, lots of Chinese symbolism)


Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall (Founding Father of China)



Ximending (trendy shopping and entertainment pedestrian area)

I took about 1600 pictures during the trip.....yeah. I cut it down to 1400 ish though! View all 1400+ pictures here.

I'll talk about the food in Taiwan in part 2 since this post is getting too long!