Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall and Taipei 101 (Taipei Trip Day 3)

Our third day in Taipei. Coming back from Yehliu Geopark in Manli District, we got off the bus at Taipei Tourism Bureau bus stop. The whole trip from Yehliu Geopark back to Taipei City took us around 1 hour. We took a short break at Burger King and continued our way to Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall (or referred as National Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall). 

Sun Yat-Sen is a well-known Chinese revolutionist. He played the key role in overthrowing Qing Dynasty and founded the Republic of China. Died in 1925, he was respected by the people in China and Taiwan. Three memorial halls had been built to commemorate his contribution, one in Taipei, one in Guangzhou China, and one more in Singapore.

To go to the memorial hall from Taipei Tourism Bureau bus stop, walk along the main road towards Taipei 101 direction. The memorial is located around 300 meters away, on the same side with the tourism bureau. The entrance is free, and the opening hours are from 9 am to 6 pm. 

The biggest attraction of the memorial hall is the hourly guard exchange ceremony. During our visit, the ceremony started at 3:55 pm. The 10-minute ceremony was performed by the guards of honour. The best place to see the whole ceremony is at front of the statue. However, we need to make sure that we are standing behind the restriction line (the red line). What is the area that will be covered by the red line? We got the information from the staff stationed in the hall, and stood at the "hot spot"- in front of the statue, just behind the red line, some 15 minutes before the ceremony started. The ceremony was interesting but not impressive (we found that the ceremony at Zhongzhen Memorial was better).

The memorial hall is a big building, with a big center hall houses a gigantic bronze statue of Sun Yat-Sen. Flanking on both sides are two smaller exhibition halls, souvenir shops, and function rooms. The compound of the memorial hall itself is a beautiful garden in the city. It is a good location to see Taipei 101 from a distance. In our opinion, unless you are a big fan of Sun Yat-Sen, the memorial hall should be visited together with other place of interest, or else could be quite boring there. We stayed there for 40 minutes. Taipei 101 was our next destination.

Taipei 101 Tower can be seen on our way to Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall (upper left). Both landmarks are close to each other. Along the walkway, we saw rows of motorbikes (upper right) and bicycles (lower right). Some part of the walkway were covered and nicely decorated.

We entered Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall's compund through the side entrance (upper left). The compound is well decorated with stele (upper right), statues (lower right), and a lake.

We took a short stroll around the compound and reached the main entrance of the hall.

The statue of Sun Yat-Sen, guarded by two guards of honour from Taiwan Air Force. We over heard a tourist claimed that the guards must be wax-made statues.

A closer look on the guard. He didn't move a single muscle for one solid hour.

When the time came, the "wax statues" suddenly moved and marched around. All the visitors were required to stand behind the red line.

After the ceremony, we took a quick tour through the exhibition halls and went out to take photos of Taipei 101 Tower.

Another view of Taipei 101 from the memorial hall.

Then, we took a 10-minute walk to Taipei 101 Tower. Basically, we won't get lost in between as the tower is just nearby, and it is too tall to be hidden from our view.

At the top floor of the shopping mall, a long queue of visitors were waiting to go up to the observatory of Taipei 101 Tower. The entrance fee was NTD 500. We planned to go up initially, but didn't make it due to the hazy weather.

Taipei 101 is the tallest building in Taiwan, 438 meters tall, with sophisticated engineering work. For us, the mall is a nice place to chill down and take a break from the hot weather outside. There is a food court at the lowest level of the shopping mall serving various types of food, while the shopping area is basically resided by branded outlets. Unless you like branded products, or else it is not more than a tall buiding with a shopping mall in it like KLCC.

From Taipei 101 Station, we took MRT to Ximending and reached there at around 6 pm. We spend a few hours there and took a nice buffet dinner there. Follow us to Ximending now.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Yehliu Geopark (Taipei Trip Day 3)

Third day in Taipei, we visited Yehliu Geopark, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial, Taipei 101, and Ximending. You might be interested to read our experiences in Taipei Zoo, Maokong Mountain, and Raohe Night Market for our second day in Taipei.

Yehliu is located in Wanli District, around 40 km away from Taipei City. Going to Yehliu by bus is convenient. We reached ZhongXiao DunHua MRT Station at 9:15 am to catch the connecting bus (no 1815) to Yehliu.The bus stop is located a few steps away from exit 4. Well, with less than 5 minutes of waiting time plus 1 hour of road trip, we reached Yehliu bus stop. Pedestrian lane was prepared so it took us 10 minutes to get to the ticket counter of Yehliu Geopark.

Yehliu Geopark is well-known with strange-looking rocks formed by marine erosion. The special thing is, over millions of years, some of the rocks were actually shaped in the way that they resembled some objects, such as the queen rock, sandal rock (which is called as the fairy's shoe by locals), candle rock, ginger rock, dragon rock, and marine bird rock. Some of the rocks can be easily recognized by the distinct shapes, while others, strong imagination required.

The park entrance fee was NTD 80, opens from 8 am - 5 pm. Unlinke Yuntai Mountain Geopark in China with a lot of stairs to climb, it is easier to move around relatively flat Yehliu Geopark. The park is clean with clear signage, the wind was strong, and the view around the park is stunning. Restrooms and a food shack are available beside marine bird rock. 

Our advices, be early. The place can be very warm under blazing sun. There might be a long queue to take photo with the queen rock. Want to beat the queue? We can take photo at the other side of the rock, which looks about the same. Can't find the special rock? We can always ask the guard there (the guys with whistles with them), and they are more than happy to show us the location of the rock. The higher ground offers stunning view around the area, so do take some effort to climb up to the observatory platforms there. We strolled around the park from 11 am until 12:45 pm. We were lucky that day as the weather was not too warm.
Zhongxiao Dunhua Bus Stop is located a few steps away from gate 4 of the MRT station (upper left). The bus no. 1815 brought us from Taipei City (upper right) to sub-urban area (lower right). The bus was air-conditioned with LCD flatscreens providing entertainment to passengers.  The programme however was in Mandarin only.

Once get off the bus, what we need to do is to look for the signages and follow the pedestrian lane to Yehliu Geopark.

To return to Taipei City, we need to wait for the bus at the bus stop opposite of the road (upper left). The pedestrian walkway was painted in green (upper right). We passed by the harbor stuffed with fishing boats (lower right) before we reached the ticketing counter.

Souvenir shop, food corner, and restrooms are available in the visitor center (upper left). We can get a free copy of geopark map there. The walkway in front of the the visitor center leads to the park (upper right), and we can see the crowd moving around the cape (lower right). There is a stone garden on the right side of the entrance. All the stones exhibit are replicas. One of them is the replica of the panther rock, which was damaged by waves. Our advice, go straight to see the authentic stones first. Leave the replicas to the last as we are going to walk pass the garden on our way out of the park.

The mushroom stones from the observatory platform.

Most of the 1.7 km long cape of Yehliu is flat except a hill at the tip of the cape.

There were many visitors roaming around the area (upper left). The information about some special stones are provided in the park (upper right). Visitors are not supposed to go beyond the red line (lower left). Lifebuoy is prepared, just in case someone steps too far beyond the red line.

The layers of limestone can be clearly seen.

Candle rock (upper left), queen rock (upper right), ginger rock (lower right), and elephant rock are several famous rocks there.

Sandal rock or fairy's shoe rock (upper left), dragon rock (upper right), and bird rock (lower right) can be easily identified. Fossils are not difficult to be found on the ground.

The food shack marks the end of the flat land (upper left). Then, we need to climb stairs (upper and lower right) to the hill.

The tip of the cape can be clearly seen from the hill.

Town view from the hill. 

There is a hawker center beside the park (upper left and right). We bought some dried fish (lower right) and took our lunch at one of the eatery there. The price was reasonable.

After lunch with pork rice, unagi soup (eel), and fried oyster with egg, we went back to Taipei by bus. Again, we waited for 5 minutes only to get onto the right bus. Yehliu Geopark is a must visit place if you ever visit Taipei. You can find more information about Yeliu Geopark at the official website of the park. Next, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall and Taipei 101

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Raohe Night Market (Taipei Trip Day 2)

After visiting Taipei Zoo and Maokong Mountain, we continued our trip to Raohe Night Market. Raohe Night Market (饶河夜市) is one of the oldest night market in Taipei. It is located at Raohe Street in Songshan District, spreading 600 meters along Keelung River. How to go to Rauhe Night Market? Take MRT to Songshan Station, exit through gate 5,  and you will see the entrance of the night market at your right, on the other side of the road. It is just beside a beautiful temple- Songshan Ciyou Temple.

Raohe Night Market opens from 5 pm till midnight. Easy to reach, organized, clean, and not too big to get lost. Recommended by our friend, the pork rib herbal soup and black pepper bun are the must-try-food there. He actually mentioned another one- the stinky tofu, which we dared not try. Of course, we tried many other food and drinks along the street, including the grilled scallops, meat roll with spring onion and tofu fa. We reached the market at around 7 pm and stayed there for almost 2 hours.

Raohe Night Market is different from Huaxi Night Market- more stalls selling IT gadgets, handphone accessories, branded attires, beautifully packed local delicacies to trap tourists, souvenirs like key chains and fridge magnets, and more variety of food and drinks. Most importantly, it consists of one single street only, with the hawker stalls line up at the middle of the street, very organized in the way that we can see everything in a round trip, and it is almost impossible for visitors to get lost there. It is indeed a must visit night market in Taipei!

From Songshan MRT Station (upper left) we need to cross the road to Raohe Night Market. The entrance of the night market is located beside Ciyou Temple (upper right). The entrance was full of visitors upon our arrival around 7 pm (lower right). The entrance near the MRT station is the eastern entrance. There is another entrance on the western side.

Raohe Night Market is really crowdy. We need to squeeze through some chocking points due to the queueing people in front of the stalls.

Limited by space, there were just a few tables and chairs prepared for the customers to sit down and enjoy their food.

Food- we tried grilled scallops (upper row) and pork with onion roll (lower row). The grilled scallops tasted good. The pork with onion roll was special and the portioin was big, but tasted average.

Winter melon drink with brown sugar (upper left) and "ai-yu" jelly or can be translated as vegetarian gelatin (upper right) tasted good. Tofu fa tasted a bit different from our country style (lower right), and we didn't really like it. But there were many people waiting in front of the tofu fa stall, awaiting to be served.

The famous stall selling pork rib herbal soup was jammed with queueing visitors, and same thing happened to the most famous stall selling black pepper bun. We decided to make our life easier by visiting the stalls with shorter queueing line. Shorter queue is not an indication that they are not good. The pork rib herbal soup (upper row) and the black pepper bun (lower row) served by them tasted good as well!

Statue of owls- Mascot of Raohe Night Market, is erected at the western entrance.

We left the market at 9 pm with some fruits and black pepper buns packed back for supper. An advice from our friend- Raohe Night Market is a very very crowdy market. It will be good if we and keep our belongs safe from pick pockets. Although he couldn't recall when was the last case reported (rarely happened), but it's always better to be careful than sorry.

For our second day, the weather was good- sunny in the morning, a bit hazzy in the afternoon, and cooling at night. We would visit Yehliu Geological Park in Wanli District, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, Taipei 101, and Ximen Ding on our third day in Taipei. Let us bring you to Yehliu Geopark now.

More about our experience in Taipei:

Taipei Zoo and Maokong Mountain (Taipei Trip Day 2)

First day in Taipei, we visited Huaxi Night Market and Mengxia Night Market. Second day, Tapei Zoo, Maokong Mountain, Elim Bookstore, and Rauhe Night Market were in our itinerary. We left our hotel early at 8:30 am. Our first breakfast in Taipei- some sandwiches and wheat drink from Seven-Eleven in Longshan Temple MRT Station. 

Taipei Zoo can be accessed easily through MRT brown line. We took MRT from LongShan Temple Station to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, then from there to Taipei Zoo Station. The zoo was just about 100 meters from the Taipei Zoo Station. The MRT was very congested during rush hours, but we still managed to stand in front of the zoo's main gate at 9:40 am.

The entrance fee for Taipei Zoo was NTD 60 per adult. Unbelievably cheap for a zoo that maintains a large diversity of animals, including giant panda and koala bear. The zoo opens from 9 am to 5 pm (ticket counter closes at 4 pm).

Well, we were early. Not many were queueing at the ticketing counter and at the entrance. We entered the zoo smoothly using the easy card. Taipei Zoo was built along a slope, so the best strategy is to take the zoo's shuttle train to the highest point of the zoo, then walk the way down back to the entrance. We need to pay NTD 5 exact change for the shuttle train at the station.

Taipei Zoo was very organized, and we had no problem to see all our favourites- aviary, penguins, grey wolf, red panda, panda, and koala. It was a great experience for us to walk through the best reptile house ever, to see African elephants in close distance, and watching a pod of hippos munching their breakfast as well. A few exhibits were empty (or maybe we could’t find the animals), but overall experience was great! By the way, the zoo was clean, with vendor machines selling snacks and drinks with fair price scattered around. Umbrella and good walking shoes are required for the best visiting experience. We stayed in the zoo till 1:15 pm, well, we never expected to stay there that long. We didn't manage to see all animals in the zoo, as that required one whole day.
Taipei Zoo entrance can be easily recognized (upper left), with a huge artwork placed in front of it (upper right). From the MRT gate, the foot prints of different animals (lower left) will lead us right to the entrance of the zoo.

From the entrance, we can see the visitor information center on our right, the food court and the souvenir shop on our left. The train station is nearby the souvenir shop. Click on the photo for a bigger panoramic view.

Shutter train with wheels on road (upper left). We need to pay NTD 5 exact change for the train service. Our first stop, the aviary (upper right), followed by the penguin house (lower left) and the reptile house. The reptile house was clean, organized, with amazingly beautiful exhibits.

The zoo was filled with greenery (upper left), with some beautiful items as decoration.

Panda house was located near the entrance, but we saved the best for last. The panda house is big and fully air-conditioned (upper left). One of the panda was very active during our visit (upper right). We took our lunch at the nicely decorated cafe located on the upper level of the panda house (lower row).

The koala exhibits are located beside the shutter train station. These cute doll-looking critters could hang on trees without a single move for a long period of time, to an extend that we thought the animals inside were just toys. The favourite eucalyptus of the koalas were stated beside the exhibits (right).

The souvenir shop in the zoo with cute animal dolls.

We stayed in the zoo for about 4 hours, twice longer than our initial plan. But couldn't help, the zoo was like a big magnet for us. For us, it was easy to navigate through the zoo. The visitor's map was clear, and we could see most of the animals by following the main walkway down the hill. Comfortable footwear and umbrella are important. Sufficient drinking water is required as well. Of course, we can always get our drinks from the vending machines. For all animal lovers, Taipei Zoo is a big YES for us!

Our next destination- Maokong Mountain via Maokong Gondola (猫空缆车). The "gondala" is the glamour name given to the "cable car". The gondola station is 350 meters from Taipei Zoo MRT Station. We paid NTD 100 for one trip to Maokong Station (one stop). The original fare was NTD 120 per adult per trip. But we got NTD 20 discount because we paid with the easy card for the entrance of the zoo before paying for gondola with the same card,in a same day. More information about Maokong Gondola is available at its official website.

Maokong Gondola Station can be seen from the Taipei Zoo MRT Station (the building with blue signage). There is no covered pedestrian walkway connecting these two stations.

There are two types of gondolas- crystal cabin and normal cabin. While caught by long queue waiting for crystal cabin, there was nobody queueing at normal cabin line (upper left). The gondola travels 4 km in 25 minutes to Maokong Station (upper right). For crystal cabin, we could see through the glass at the bottom of the cabin (lower right). To compare the experience, we took our return trip in normal cabin, and well, not much difference. In fact, the bottom view was not that great after all.

The window view is much better than the bottom view. In a sunny and hazeless day, we could see the 101 tower far behind the hills (right side).

The view from the Maokong Station. Green, peaceful, but not beautiful.

Once out of Maokong Station, we need to make decision- turn right or left (upper left). We started with turning right. The small road led us to the tung tree walkways. Unlucky for us, we found no tung tree flower there (although the season should be April - May). We missed the yellow lupin flower blossom as well, and what left for us was a boring garden with green flower trees (upper right and lower right). Another dissapointment, the maple pavillion had a total of 4 maple trees only.

This little pond ease a bit of our dissapointment.
Well, we took the same way back to Maokong Station, then to the left we turned (upper left). We walked by several eateries (upper right). These eateries should provide good view over Taipei city, but we couldn't see much that afternoon due to the heavy haze far below the mountain. It took us around 25 minutes to reach the Tea Research and Promotion Center of Taipei (lower left). Visitor should not travel beyond the center as there was nothing interesting for tourists anymore beyond that building.

Tea Research and Promotion Center of Taipei is not a big building, with a small receiption (upper left) area that leads to a room displaying a few tea processing machines (upper right) and a corner for the selected tea planting companies to promote their products (lower right). We bought some "pao-zhong" and "tieh kuang-yin" tea leaves from the centre, and thanks God, following the instruction given by the promoter, we finally found a small patch of tea farm on Maokong Mountain (lower left).

Maokong Mountain was far below our expectation- weather was not cooling, no flower blooming, haze blocked the nice view, some unmanaged and dirty sites... it would be a total dissapointment if we didn't bought the tea leaves there. We would advise to visit the place only if you are a big fan of tieh kuan-yin and pao zhong tea leaves, or you are 100% sure that the flowers are blooming along the mountain paths. By the way, there will be a lot of foot workout up there, so wearing comfortable walking shoes is very important (unless you wish to rent a bike), umbrella and drinking water are essential as well. 

The tea plantations there were operated in small scales, so the stunning view like the plantations in Cameron Highlands should not be expected. By the way, there are plenty of eateries and food stalls up there, and you might wish to try the tea ice cream there. The taste, just average. 

This is the tea and choc ice cream at Maokong, speacial with a cat wafer on it but tasted average.

We took off from Maokong Station at around 4:30 pm and reached Taipei city center at around 6 pm. We stopped at Elim Bookstore, bought some books, and continued our trip to Raohe Night Market. Follow us now!

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Taipei Huaxi Night Market- Our First Stop in Taipei (Taipei Trip Day 1)

It was our first visit to Taipei together. We arrived at 2:25 pm at Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 1 (台湾桃园国际机场), with approximately 120 visitors already queuing at the immigration counters. We took around 1 hour to get the clearance. Tao Yuan International Airport is not Taipei City Airport. It is located 40 km away from Taipei Main Station at Zhongzheng District.

We decided to travel by mass transport to our hotel. First, we went to B1 level and redeemed our free tickets from Kuo-Kuang Motor Transport (国光客运) counter, then took a bus to Taipei Main Station (special thank to Taiwan Tourism Bureau MOTC, normal fee was NTD125 per person per trip). Bus no. 1819 to the main station was scheduled with 10 minutes interval. We reached Taipei Main Station at 5 pm, registered for free wifi at the tourism information counter, and roamed around for a while. We took MRT (Taipei Metro) to our hotel at Long Shan Temple (龙山寺). Our hotel- Long Shan Hotel was just 5 minutes walk from the MRT station (we will share more about the hotel in our upcoming post).

People queueing for immigration clearance (upper left). One hour of queue time was a bit long. The staff at the information counter at the arrival hall was helpful (upper right). She showed us the way to the airport bus station (lower left). The buses parked near to the ticketing counter. 1819 was the bus that we were waiting for. With the interval of 10 - 15 minutes to get the next bus, waiting is not an issue there.

Taipei Main Station is big, but not big enough for us to get lost (upper left). The the main station ticketing counters is the place where people purchase tickets for the trains to other cities (upper right). Visitor Information Center is located just beside the ticketing counters (lower right). We obtained our free wifi access at the information center. The application required our passports and took around 5 minutes to be completed. The wifi could be accessed in the government buildings, metro stations, and some city bus lines. The free wifi access was very useful to get us connected with our family and friends. Please visit the official website of free Taipei wifi for more information.

By far, we had no problem travelling around. All the signages at the airport, the main station, and the metro stations were clearly stated in traditional Chinese and English. Well, we could understand both. After a short rest, we decided to take our dinner at Mengxia Night Market (艋夜市). Later we realized that Mengxia Night Market was actually connected to Huaxi Night Market. Both night markets open from 4 pm till late night.

How to go to Huaxi Night Market (华西夜市) and Mengxia Night Market (艋舺夜市)? From Longshan Temple Station, exit through gate 1, turn right and walk through Mengxia Park until you are right in front of Longshan Temple. The entrance of Mengxia Night Market is on your left, on the other side of the road. Walk along Mengxia Night Market and you will find Huaxia Night Market on your right. Well, it should be a 2 - 3 minutes walk from the metro station. Staying at Long Shan Hotel, Mengxia Night Market was just 3 minutes away from our hotel by foot.

The entrance of Mengxia Night Market (艋夜市) that marks the beginning of a 400 meters night market spanning along Guangzhou Street (广州街), intersects with Wuzhou Street (梧州街) and Huaxi Street (华西街).

When we walked down Guangzhou Street, the entrance of Huaxi Night market could be seen on our right, some 50 meters away from the entrance of Mengxia Night Market.

Mengxia Night Market is more like a traditional Asian market. Most of the food stalls are gathered at the first stretch of the street, from the entrance till Wuzhou Street intersection (upper row). Clothes, games, shoes, bags, wallets, purses, and pirated VCDs are available after the intersection till the end of Guangzhou Street (lower row).

We tried grilled squid (upper left), sausage and meat on sticks (upper right), fried oyster with egg (lower right), and juice from fresh fruits and vegetables. All of them tasted good.

Red bean pancake (upper row) and sticky rice ball (lower row) attracted our attention, but not our taste bud.

Huaxi Night Market is covered (upper left). The street is around 400 meters long. North entrance is a bit quiet (upper right), and the south entrance which connects to Mengxia Night Market at Guangzhou Street is busier. The shops along the street offer different types of food and drinks. There are shops selling exotic food such as snakes and turtles, massage and nail polishing services, and a few shops selling adult-only toys (lower left)

We found a very crowded eatery (upper left), and tried the pork rice, spiced duck egg (upper right), and winter melon-pork soup (lower right). For us, the taste was just average. There were other dishes offered there, but we wish to spare ourselves for other food.

By the way, Guangzhou Street can be accessed through Wuzhou Street. Huaxi Street lays parallel on the right side of Wuzhou Street.

As described by a few locals, Mengxia Night Market is a traditional night market without much tourist attracting elements. Many stalls set up tables and chairs to serve their customers. We could find more old people here, strolling in a relaxing manner along the streets. These two night markets were less busy compare to Raohe or Shilin. We like the market in the way that we can enjoy our time without squeezing our way down the alley.

We stayed in the night markets for about one hour. After dinner, we rested early. We have Taipei Zoo, Maokong Mountain, and Rauhe Night Market in our 2nd day itinerary. Follow us go to Taipei Zoo and Maokong Mountain now!

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