A park by the entrance of the window of China
This is our second trip to Taiwan. Since we have visited north Taiwan on the first trip this March, we were planning to see southern part of Taiwan in August. After we had decided the date to visit, (very last minute) we were working on Kaoshiung and Alishan
. 2 days after that, a bad news forced us to change our plan. Southern part of Taiwan was badly hit by Typhoon Morakot! The town we were planning to visit - Chihpen is famous for hot Spring. We watch the news on TV and saw a hotel in Chihpen collapsed into the river! Then we thought of visiting the mountain, Alishan. After a few emails to the travel agent in Taiwan, we were told that the rail road up to Alishan is damaged and no way can we get up there.
We have bought 2 High Speed Rail ticket from Taipei
to Kaoshiung! Luckily the rail company allowed us to refund the tickets without any extra fees. We decided not to book anything or any tour this time, just the first 2 night stay when we arrive, at Holiday Inn Express. We selected this hotel because it is the closest to the airport, only 18km from Tao Yuan airport and is brand new. It would be convenient for our late arrival.
Since we had nothing planned, we decided to get some books about Taipei and Yangmingshan, which were recommended in our Lonely Planet Taiwan book. The book said we can get those books in Cave Book Store and Eslite Book Store down town Taipei. We asked for a cab at the front desk to go to Taipei.
It was so nice of the hotel staff to tell us that we could take a bus all the way down to Taipei and she even explained how we should do that and to get off at which stop. The bus stop is just right opposite the Holiday Inn Express. We saw a few betel nut beauties who dressed in bikini selling betel nuts. Usually these kinds of betel nut stores located along the high way (we saw them on our way from Taoyuan
Upon arriving at one of the closer bus stop in Taipei, we got into a cab and to show the driver where we want to go. We arrived as according to the address mentioned in Lonely Planet but the shop is closed. There was a noticed stated that they had moved! We got off the cab thinking that the book store has just moved to the back of the original store however we couldn’t find anything that looks like a book store! It was nice that one of the guy we met told us that the store had move several streets down.
We then decided to go to another book store, The Eslite Book Store. It was quite convenient with the metro and we arrived at the stop that closes to Eslite Book Store. It was a huge book store! We found a book about Yangmingshan. A guide book about the mountain and the jungle trails we can go on; the information about how to get there came in handy when we needed to visit in later days. However we couldn’t find the other book about Taipei Day trips. The staff of the book store told us that they have sold out but she found another store where they still had one left. It was nice of her to take down our name and told the other store to keep the book so that when we arrived, they would know we are the one who wanted it. It took about half an hour to go to the other store.
The staff didn’t even ask for our name and knew that we were there for the book. It took us almost a whole day to get those books and we had our dinner at one of the popular night market.
Next day, we decided to visit somewhere closer to Taoyuan (where we stayed) instead of going all the way down to Taipei. It was between Hsinchu
the wind city or the Window of China, the theme park. The hotel staff was telling us it was not worth to go on a high speed rail to Hsinchu from Taoyuan because of the cab fare to the High Speed Rail Station is more then the trip all the way to Window of China by regular train. We adopted his advice and begun our adventure! The train station is located in Taoyuan down town.
A town we haven’t explored and thinking that we will come back this town. We bought 2 tickets to get off at Jhongli as according to the hotel staff. It was only 2 stations from Taoyuan. We got off from the train station and walked across the road. The bus station is located at the right side of KFC. It was quite easy to find the bus station. There are 2 services from that station. One is to Window of China and the other one is to Liuhe theme park. We explore a little in Jhongli town and were surprise to see a lot of Thai restaurants, shops and people from Thailand. We had fun shopping in a store that equals to Home Depot in Houston. Charlie bought a Betel nut knife. He was so excited about it.
We stood in the line waiting for the bus and suddenly we heard someone yelled “Hello, Hello” I thought it was someone on the phone but apparently he is calling Charlie.
He could not speak English but told me he is very appreciative about the American sending aid to Southern Taiwan for the typhoon victims. He said thanks many times and make sure I expressed his appreciation to Charlie. We thought he was in the same line with us but after a big thank you, he walked away. It was so nice of him to stop by just to say thanks to an American.
The bus was full of passengers and we had to stand in the bus for an hour’s ride! We were so worn out by the time we arrived Window of China. It was so crowded! Perhaps it was because of Sunday. We got some information and maps at the information counter before we bought the tickets.
There are many miniatures of world’s renowned architectures in the park, divided in regions.
The first part was Taiwan and China’s architectures, for example Tiananmen Square, the great wall etc. Then there is a big water park when we walked further. We took a little train from the water park into the middle part of the park where there are some more scary rides. Then we took a little boat that reminded me of “Little World” in Disney World. So we got to see some dolls dressed in different kind of costume according to individual country. I was so excited when I saw Merry-Go- Round. It was a shame that I had never rode on Merry-Go-Round and I am 34 this year..I was too shy to ride on the lovely horse at this age but Charlie insisted I tried. I was so touched….Although it was extremely hot that day, we waited patiently in line. I was excited like a little kid visiting Disneyland when riding on Merry-Go- Round for the first time in my life.
Charlie thought me how to pick the one that moves up and down. It was fun and I will never forget this day. We then moved on to see the Asian, European and American miniature architectures. It was almost 4pm and we were worn out, just when we decided to go home, a down pour ease up the heat of that day. Although we brought our rain coat but it was locked in a locker by the entrance of the park. We were soak but happy that the rain cooled our almost over heated, unpleasant body..We were lucky to have a seat on the bus back to Jhongli train station.
We checked out from Holiday Inn Express on day 3 and took a bus all the way to down town Taipei. Taipei Main Station is huge; is a station for regular trains, High Speed Rail, metros and buses. There is a food court on 2nd floor consist of numerous stores and restaurants.
Miniature Great Wall
We craved for Malaysian food so much and were happy to fine a Malaysian Restaurant - Little Penang. It was good.
We took cab to Grandee Taipei Hotel because it would be incontinent with all the bags we had. It was easy to find the hotel; it located in the middle of the famous Shilin night market. We decided to take it easy for the day and had lunch at a nice restaurant where the staff were so friendly that gave us a lot of information about night markets.
Next day is jungle trekking day! The book about Yangmingshan helps a lot. We are now very clear about which trial to go on and how to get there. We walk to Jiantan metro station which is about 3 minutes walk from our hotel. We took Red 5 bus all the way up to the main station at Yangmingshan.
Like last time, we stocked up some snacks and drinks from the one an only 7-11 store near by (next to Starbucks) and stood in line for bus 108, a shuttle bus that goes around Yangmingshan. We were surprised about the frequency of this bus; we had to wait about 20-25minutes, unlike the Red 5 that leaves every 5 minutes. We got off at Cising Mountain (Seven Star Mountain) and started climbing!What so special about this mountain is: this is the highest extinct volcano in Taiwan. The main peak is 1120meters high and there are a number of fumaroles along that mountain. It was funny to smell sulfur all the time however I it smell like bad eggs to me! The largest fumarole is located in the middle of the mountain. It was amazing to walk by some of the smaller fumaroles watching the steam coming out of the rocks and ground and smelled like bad eggs.
Miniature Taj Mahal
We place our hands near to the rocks and it was hot! Although it was a little difficult at the beginning of the hike due to the heat but it was getting more pleasant the higher we climbed. We were told that the locals would place eggs on top of the fumerole to let them cook and eat them! Too bad we were there at the wrong season, according to the book; the silver grass is one of the selling points of this mountain. We may want to go back to Cising Mountain at the right season.
We had a quick lunch at a tiny hut that sells snacks like pumpkin fried, stinky tofu, turnip cakes and some noodle soups. This is the only hut near the main station in Yangmingshan, although we saw a really nice big restaurant further down the road. We bought some passion fruits from a granny street vendor.
Little Leaning Tower
Charlie love passion fruit!
We arrived at the main bus/train station in Taipei and spent some time exploring this area before we went home.
The hardest trail we went on is probably trying to find Hell Valley and Battleship rock. We took metro and got off at Shipai station. We walked for about 10 minutes and finally saw the sign of National Yang Ming University. According to the book, the entrance for the trail is located in the university and we had to walk on a steep hill to get to the entrance. Perhaps it was 35C that day; we were so worn out just to get to the entrance! Then, are lots of steps! I could not remember how many rest we have taken before the trail and on the way to Battleship Rock. All I could see ware countless steps! I had to roll up my pants and Charlie had to take off his clothes because it was so damn hot! I think it took us 1-1.
My first Marry-Go Round!
5 hours to arrive Battleship Rock. It has a good view on the top of the rock. We might have stayed there for 20mintues but have to quit, forget about Hell Valley since we were feeling like hell finding this rock! Once we got out of the university, all we could think of was a glass of cool drink in an air-conditioned café! Luckily there was one opposite the metro station. Those cool drinks saved our life! We wandered around that area and walked into some of the air-conditioned shop just to cool off our body. I did find some cool silver necklace and ring in one of the shop though.
After 2 days of juggle trekking, we decided to take a day rest. We went to the Taipei Main Station Area looking for the outdoor sport shops that Charlie has been wanted to see. Since we failed to find them on the other day, we were thinking to give it a try.
We finally found Teng Shan Iou! This is a huge outdoor sport store selling outdoor gear like mountain climbing gears, shoes, camping gears, tents, outdoor clothes etc. I bought a nice UV protective hat and Charlie got a tiny pouch for his phone that can be hanged on his backpack. After we done with this store, we found that there are all outdoor sport store at the same row! I found another hat that is even better then the first one! Damn it! Charlie knows me so well, he just brought me out of the store to let me think about it because he knew I will go back to get it! He knew if he insisted me to get it on the spot, I would say no but if he gave me some time to “cook” about the idea, I will finally get it just like what he had wanted me to do! The day ended with another night market dinner.
We went to the one we haven’t been. The Taiwanese are extremely friendly! We were on the metro figuring out how to get to this night market, a woman stood next to us asked if she could help. She told us to get off at the right station and the other woman who sat next to us offered to lead us there! We followed this kind stranger until she told us “this is it”. According to the book, if Shilin night market is the King of night market and Shida will be the Queen of night market! There were a lot of clothing, shoe stores but not much street food which what we were really looking for in night market. I bought a gorgeous and cheap purse in that night market from the young man owner who was very friendly and even recommended us where to find traditional street foods.
Little Statue of Liberty
When we decided to move on, he gave me a necklace because he likes talking to me! We went back to our favorite night market, Shilin for our roasted sugar cane, stinky tofu and Taiwanese Crepes! The Taiwanese Crepes owner knows us so well, all we needed to do was just stood in front of him, he would say : as usual?
After one day of rest, we decided to go up to the mountain to do some hike. We picked Yangmingshan’s Silk waterfall walk. Since we had some bus riding experience going to Yangmingshan National Park, it was a piece of cake for us this time. There is a “scene” when we finally sat down in the Red 5 bus. 2 Taiwanese women yelled at each other in the bus. One of them sat 2 seats next to us - pretty scary though, when she raised her voice. It was something about the older woman cut in line and the younger one pointed out her misbehavior.
The fumarole at Cising Mountain
The older one keep babbling and the younger couldn’t stand it and came near to her to “counter attack” I was so afraid that we were going to witness women fights in a bus! Anyway, it ended when the younger woman’ daughter interrupted and the woman sat next to Charlie told her to shut up. When we reached the bus station, we went to the 7-11 again. After about 20minutes, bus 108 arrived and it was full, we had to wait for the next one which took about 15minutes! There was a kid that makes so much noise and non stop, it was like chanting and it was so loud. I looked back at him 2 times but he ignored my unfriendly “shut up” look. It was so annoying and we decided to just get off. We didn’t even care which stop it was, just got off! So we were at LengShuiKeng stop.
On the way up to the peak of Cising Mountain, the biggest fumarole at the right side of the trail
As we were studying the map and the sign board, one man approached us to ask if he could help. Man, these Taiwanese are so friendly! We wanted to walk through a hanging bridge. That so called hanging bridge was not scary at all. We took a snack rest after the bridge and kept walking. It was pleasant up in the mountain compared to the over heated Taipei city. We walked up to the tourist center and got some information from them. The officer suggested us to walk to Qingtiangang, about 40minutes walk. We kept walking and walking, still no sign of Qingtiangang. We stopped at a junction that said Qintiangang tourist center on the left and Qingtiangang on the right. We were so tired and decided to turn left, heading to tourist center. It was nice to have a break, cool drinks and snacks.
The Steam has covered up the mountain opposite!
We walked to the bus station and waited for a short while, our bus arrived. We got off at the main station and went back to the hut again for food. Charlie loves the pumpkin fried whereas I love the stinky tofu. This time, we took bus 260 back, thought of making a stop at the Taipei main station. When we saw the bus getting nearer to our hotel, we decided to get off. It was so convenient; we got off at the back of our hotel! We just chilled for the rest day. I got a foot massage at that afternoon which is about 2 minutes walk from our hotel - what a relaxing treat.
We had a mission the next day: To find the popular Hello Kitty café restaurant! Before doing that, we had to find out how should we travel to airport for our flights tomorrow. The main station was so huge; it took us about half an hour to find the right window.
steam coming up from the rocks
At first we thought we can take the High Speed Rail but the officer told us we will have to take a cab to airport from the rail station, He suggested us to take airport bus. We walked out heading to the bus station as directed but with our great sense of direction, we walked the wrong way. We were at the wrong part of the stations where the airport busses were not operating from that area. After steps up and steps down, couldn’t deal with the heat, we decided to walk into the main station for some air-conditioned treatment! Ok, let’s move on, got to the right part of station (finally) took us a while to find the entrance. The lady said they won’t sell advance bus ticket! We had to go back to buy he bus ticket on the day of departure! This little adventure took us a whole morning! We had lunch back in the Taipei main station at our favorite Little Penang Restaurant.
fumarole by the side of the trail
After Lunch, we took the metro heading to my beloved Hello Kitty Café! Instead of getting off at the nearer metro station, we got off at the further one. Therefore, instead of a 5 minutes walk, it took us about half an hour to get there, of course, the friendly Taiwanese had help us when we looked a little puzzled consulting the map. Finally, the pink pillars! I was so excited! Great decorations and cakes! The price is a little too high but the Tiramisu was actually really good! Nothing much to do on that day and we just headed back to our favorite night market for snacks!
We spent the whole morning in the hotel room packing our bags and watched some TV then we had to check out. Our flight was in the evening. Our plan was to take a cab to Taipei main station then take the airport bus from the station.
When we arrived at the bus station, one cab driver approached us. He told us he would charge TWD200 per person to the airport. The bus was not going to leave for another 20minutes. It was a good deal and we agreed with him. I noticed there was one man in the cab. Apparently he was the cab passenger. The cab driver wanted to take 4 persons in his cab before he could leave. I was not feeling good about. I didn’t like the fact that we still had to wait and traveled with some strangers in a cab. It wouldn’t serve the purpose if the cab departed the same time as the bus. The reason we wanted cab was to get to the airport faster. Luckily he found another one and off we go after 15minutes of waiting.
We had a smooth flight home.