Sunday, April 05, 2009

Travellogue Taiwan: Back in Taipei

This corridor between the two blocks of buildings may not look like much but walk through and you'd find a treasure trove of food!

We walked quite deep in before we found what we were looking for:

Grandma Lai's Taro Balls!

They came in an assortment of colours and flavours! Personally, I thought they looked very much like our tangyuan.

There was also a funny and definitely memorable character at Jiufen - this funny-looking aunty:

Apparently, she dresses differently in exaggerated costumes to attract customers. She even sings songs! Dui mian de nan hai kan guo lai....

There were ocarinas for sale as well!

I couldn't help but buy myself one. Don't be fooled by it's attractive appearance and deceptive melodies. I mean, of course the people at the shop could play it with ease - they sell the thing! When I tried to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, gosh, I found out the reason I played the piano better than the flute...

We collected our things from a dessert shop (I bought over a hundred ringgit worth of dessert!) and headed back for Taipei city. We had to rush to catch the change of guards at erm, I don't even know what that place is...

Of course, a must-see in Taipei would be their world-famous museum. It houses the most valuable artifacts from China. Artifacts, which we may not see today if not for some visionary men who sacrificed their own lives to protect the Chinese heritage and history. And then it was makan time again. On our final night in Taiwan, we were brought to the largest night market in Taiwan - Shilin.

Just look at all the foodstalls! This is what you'd call a gigantic hawker centre!

Originally, we were supposed to spend out last night in the same hotel we did on our first night. However, there were some plumbing problems so we were switched to a 5-star hotel called Brother Hotel. And my, 5-star it was! Blessing in disguise, I'd say.

After putting down our luggage in our rooms, we headed out again to experience their MTRs. It was pretty straight-forward getting from our hotel to Shilin. Why did we head back to Shilin? Well, all we saw was the food centre. We did not get to see the shopping district. I ended up with two souvenirs for myself - a pair of Adidas and an ODM watch. Muahahahaha....

All in all, I'd have to say, it was a fun trip. I was lucky to have had that particular group of people on the trip. I am particularly thankful for the friendly tour guide. Although it was tiring due to the long rides on the bus, the sights and sounds made up for all of it.

Taiwan, I will be back and this time, I'll concentrate on just Taipei and perhaps I'd head up to Alishan!

Travellogue Taiwan: Hualien and Yilan

From Hualien, we made our way to Yilan, the state just northwards. We visited Taroko National Park, famous for its marble.

Upon alighting the bus, I noticed swifts up in the clouds yonder.

The river had crystal clear water flowing towards the sea beyond. Having tried the coffee (supposedly brewed using water from the river itself), we climbed up to Eternal Spring Shrine atop the hill.

We continued our journey towards Taipei along super narrow roads. It was just wide enough for a bus. The linzi centre we stopped at was very expensive and despite their enthusiastic marketing and persistent persuasion, we all came out of the place empty-handed.

The next stop was yet another money-spending place - the marble factory. After having our lunch at their restaurant, we were brought on a tour of the factory, introduced to the different kinds of stones in production.

I have to admit that the stones they sold were cheap but I did not buy any as they were set in stainless steel, not in sterling silver or white gold.

Suhua National Highway was like a roller-coaster ride but the view was superb. While everyone else was taking a nap, I was busy shutter-bugging.

The batteries to my camera were drained due to my enthusiasm in getting good shots. Along the way, we stopped to buy steamed sweet potatoes from the local roadside vendors.

Despite feeling slightly dizzy, I found Nanfangau and Nantien Temple interesting. No, this temple isn't like the one in Wollongong, silly. This one worships Ma Zhu for the peace and safety of the fisherfolk.

Dusk fell and it was time for as to arrive at our final destination for the day: Shangrila Leisure Farm. At first, we were thinking: wow, Reliance actually arranged for us to spend a night at Shangrila? Cool! How wrong were we! It was of a different concept altogether but we were not let down. It turned out to be the BEST of all the places we've stayed at so far! We had no complains for the food and rooms. The view was breath-taking. Here are some shots taken the morning after:

After dinner, the hotel had activities lined up for us. We made glutinous rice ball and wrote wishes on a wish lantern.

There was also a top-spinning competition. After all the hype, Shek Mei, Xue Er, Alicia, Miss Lee and I sat outside and had a long chat about their babies, their husbands, and the economy.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Travellogue Taiwan: Kaohsiung

Brekkie was porridge and veg. It was like being vegetarian for breakfast. Pretty helpful in keeping myself awake on the bus actually. First stop for the day was Foguang Shan.

Our local guide made it sound like it was a tough climb up the hill when it really was not at all. When we arrived at the Main Shrine, I was totally taken aback at its grandeur. I thought they have made the place feel majestic and utterly impressive, with the walls lined with small timber Buddha statues right up to the ceiling.

We walked around the gardens and even in the museum, which was partly underground. We only realised that the museum ran under most parts of the monastery upon exit! We did not have sufficient time to climb up to the golden statue:

Xue Er showed us some photographs she took of the place, as she managed to climb to the top while we were underground.

Lunch was early but we were not complaining. There was all sorts served - mushroom, ostrich, fish, abalone, crab, prawn, lobster and even shark. We were saying that it was the best meal so far during the trip. After lunch, we stopped along the roadside to buy some fat, juicy and sweet rose apples.

And then it was the dreaded journey towards the north again. This time, instead of comfortable freeways, we travelled the South Swerve National Road. Gosh, it was not only narrow, it was high up as well! It was a cliffhanger, literally! It was comparable to the Great Ocean Road, just minus the sun and apostles. Oh, and the sand here was black...

The bus was going fast on a very windy road so imagine how insecure most of us felt! Luckily, most of us slept throughout most of the journey.

Just when I thought I've seen most of the paddy fields, I saw even MORE along this route. We were more than relieved when we arrived at Hualien. However, the excitement quickly disappeared as we entered the restaurant where dinner was served. The place was unsightly and crowded. The service was slow and rude. The food was not presentable and not to mention tasteless. Even Alicia could not hide her dissatisfaction!

Redemption: Ami Aboriginal Cultural Show.

Enjoyed it heaps especially the part where Alicia and I joined in the last dance.

We checked into room 6009 of Gold Coast Union Hotel. This time, I shared the room with her. The room I initially had gave me the creeps and yikes, shivers.......

As dinner was bad, all of us (including the local guide) ended up walking to 7-11 to buy supper.