Monthly Archives: August 2012

Taiwan Trip – Time to Bid Farewell to Taiwan

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Day 11 – July 17th, 2012

For our last meal in Taiwan, we decided to have lunch at Sushi Express. We were attracted by the promotion – NT$30 per plate! We had our fill of salmon – my favourite! I found out that my brother loves salmon sushi too. Kiate doesn’t really fancy salmon though. And of all things, he ordered a piece of cheese cake.

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At 12.30pm on the dot, Mr Orange Lai arrived to fetch us to the airport. On the way, he did a detour to show us the popular 檳榔西施betel nut beauties, i.e. scantily dressed girls who sell betel nuts and cigarettes from brightly lit booths. We only managed to catch a glimpse of one betel nut girl though; the rest must have gone out for lunch. Anyway, we only drove past and did not take any pictures.

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And soon, it was time to bid farewell. Goodbye, Taiwan! Thanks for your hospitality and all the beautiful memories~

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Taiwan Trip – “Sky Lantern” @ Shifen

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Day 10 – July 16th, 2012

The final destination for Day 10 was 十分老街 Shifen Old Street. By the time we arrived, it was almost 6pm and a crowd had begun to form. We were rather surprised to see so many tourists coming all the way to Shifen simply to release ‘sky lanterns’ (天燈).  The atmosphere was one of great enthusiasm and good cheer. Some even attached fire crackers to their sky lanterns. Soon, we were drawn into the excitement. We got ourselves a sky lantern for NT$150, wrote our messages on the lantern and released it into the dusking sky. It was great fun indeed! Releasing sky lantern at Shifen brought our Taiwan adventure to a grand finale. 

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Taiwan Trip – Yin-Yang Sea, Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park and Golden Waterfall

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Day 10 – July 16th, 2012

After we left Jiufen, we slowly made our way to 金瓜石黄金博物园区 Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park. Along the way, Orange (our driver cum tour guide) stopped the car to show us this amazing sight – 阴阳海 Yin-yang sea.

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 “It was initially believed that the sea color was the result of pollution from Taiwan Metal Mining Corp’s smelting activities but, over 10 years after the company stopped its activities, Yin-yang Sea still exists. Scholars say that the Jinguashi geology has a large amount of pyrite that, after millions of years has formed Fe3+ which does no dissolve easily in water. This forms iron ion floating particles when it flows into the sea, resulting in the strange sight of the Yin-yang Sea.”  -Wiki Travel-

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From the same spot, we could see Mt. Keelung behind us. According to Orange, the mountain resembled a pregnant woman lying flat on her back. Do you see it? Use your imagination…

And while you’re at it, try the following… the Teapot Mountain!

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At Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park,  we had the opportunity to try our hand at gold panning. For a fee of NT$100 each, we were given a pan of sand and a corked bottle. An instructor guided us through the process step-by-step. It was quite an experience!

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The Gold Building, which bears my surname – 黄.

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The main attraction at the Gold Building was none other than this gold bar which weighed 220k.

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Am I worth my weight in gold?

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On our way to the next destination, Orange showed us another wonder of Jinguashi – 黄金瀑布 the Golden Waterfall.

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“The substantial Jinguashi rainfall seeps into the mine shafts through cracks in the surface rock, becoming acidulous water after interacting with the pyrite and energite underground and undergoing oxidation reduction. A natural wonder “Gold Waterfall” has formed where the terrain drops sharply. This is one of the sources of the Yin-yang Sea.” –Wiki Travel- 

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Taiwan Trip – Jiufen

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Day 10 – July 16th, 2012

The second destination of Day 10 was 九份 Jiufen. Our driver cum tour guide related to us the origin of the name – Jiufen. In the early years, there were only nine families residing in Jiufen. Before there were roads, the villagers relied on ships to transport goods to them. For each shipment, the village would order nine portions of every item that they needed and thus the village became known as Jiufen (which literally means ‘nine portions’ in Chinese).

To our delight, the weather here was nice and cool. We had a great time shopping and tasting local delicacies here. It was very relaxing indeed.

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This was my favourite – 花生捲冰淇淋 Peanut Ice-Cream Roll. It was basically shaved peanut and two scoops of ice cream wrapped in popiah skin. I simply loved it! Besides peanut ice-cream roll, we also had meat/squid/fish-ball soup,  九份阿柑姨芋圓 Ah Gan Yee Taro Balls,  drunken chicken, mango ice and so much more.

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Taiwan Trip – Xin Beitou and Yehliu

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Day 10 – July 16th, 2012

The night before, we stayed at 山樂溫泉 Shan-Yue Hot Spring Hotel. We decided to splurge on accommodation at Xin Beitou so that we could have a room with attached private hot spring bath, and thus avoided the hassle of going to a public bath. We paid NT$1980 per room and it was really worth it. We indulged a hot spring bath that night itself after we had checked in. We
woke up early the next morning for another round of hot spring bath in the privacy and comfort of our hotel room before we went for breakfast.

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Our driver cum tour guide for the day, Mr Orange Lai, arrived promptly as 8.30am. After checking out, we set out for our first destination – Yehliu Geopark.

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At Yehliu Geopark, one could see the statue of Lin Tianzhen (as shown above). In 1964, a student who was visiting Yehliu with a group of friends accidentally fell into the sea. Lin, a local fisherman, jumped into the sea in an attempt to save the student. Sadly, both drowned. The statue was set up in memory of Lin’s heroic act.

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“The Queen’s Head” (女王頭) is perhaps the most famous rock at Yehliu Geopark. We had to wait in a long queue for our turns to take picture with it. Kiate decided to give it a pass, though, as he couldn’t stand the heat anymore.

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While we were there, it was too HOT for us to really enjoy the scenery. Furthermore, the place was too crowded for my liking. Ironically, it was only when I looked at the photos taken at Yehliu that I realised the captivating beauty of Yehliu. If we had gone in spring or autumn when it wasn’t scorching hot, perhaps we would have enjoyed the visit more.

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Taiwan Trip – Driver Cum Tour Guide (Orange Lai)

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Day 10 – July 16th, 2012

Mr Orange Lai (our driver cum tour guide for Day 10) was recommended to us by a friend who engaged his service sometime in March this year. We booked Orange for a one-day tour of Yehliu – Jioufen – Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park – Golden Waterfall – Ying Yang Sea – Shifen (Day 10) and also for airport transfer the next day. He charged us NT$4000 for the tour and NT$1000 for airport transfer.

All three drivers that we engaged were excellent but Orange turned out to be our favourite. We found him very kind and affable (i.e. friendly, good natured and easy to talk to), informative and down-to-earth.  When we were shopping at Jioufen, he tagged along to point out the attractions and even went the extra mile by offering to carry our purchases for us. We felt at ease in his presence, largely due to his sincerity and also the fact that he seemed to enjoy his job.  He reminded me of Kiate’s father. My family and I were very pleased with his service. When we offered to tip him for his excellent service, he politely declined.

If you are interested to hire his service, you can either contact him via email, Facebook, SMS or whatsapp. His details are as follows:

Profile PictureTW Orange Tour taxi
Name: Orange Lai
H/p No.: +886-932-348-424 (sms, whatsapp & viber)
Email Add.:
clip1688@hotmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/taiwan999

Routes:
Yehliu – Jioufen – Jinguashi – Golden Waterfall – Ying Yang Sea – Keelung night market (1 day return)
Taipei – Sun Moon Lake – Cingjing – Taipei  (2D1N or 3D2N)
Taipei – Taroko – Hualien – Taipei (2D1N or 3D2N)
Airport transfer

Toyota WISH
1~6 passengers one day return tour without luggage
1~4 passengers overnight tour with 4~6 luggage
5 passengers with 2~3 luggage; OR
Volkswagen
7~8 passengers with or without luggage

 

Taiwan Trip – Fisherman’s Wharf, Danshui Old St., and Xin Beitou Hot Spring

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Day 9 – July 15th, 2012

After almost getting “fried” at 自由廣場 Liberty Square (Freedom Square), we retreated to Taipei Main Station Underground Mall to escape the sun. We had lunch at the food court. It was so crowded that we had to hang around for at least 15 minutes before we spotted a recently vacated table.

After lunch, we decided to stay underground because we were not ready to venture out into the heat. We didn’t stay long at Taipei Main Station Underground Mall though, as we certainly couldn’t afford the high-end merchandise there. After asking around, we discovered that there were several other underground malls. We spent a good few hours shopping at 中山地下街 Zhongshan Metro Shopping Mall. This was where I found my current favourite bag.

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By late afternoon, we decided to head to our next destination 漁人碼頭 Fisherman’s Wharf . We took the MRT (red line) and alighted at 淡水Danshui station. From there we walked to the pier to take a ferry. Along the way, we walked past 淡水老街 Danshui Old Street, but we didn’t linger as we were hoping to catch the sunset from Fisherman’s Wharf.

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While waiting for the sun to set, we shared three Subway sandwiches (Meatball Marinara, Cold Cut Combo and Grilled Chicken) to appease our growling tummies. Yummy~

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Coming back from Fisherman’s Wharf, we scoured Danshui Old Street for local delicacies. After we had our fill, we took the MRT (pink line) to Xin Beitou, where we stayed the night at San Yue Hotspring Hotel. Xin Beitou is famous for its hot springs.

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Taiwan Trip – CKS Memorial Hall

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Day 9 – July 15th, 2012

 The first destination of Day 9 was Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. From King’s International Hotel, where we stayed the night before, we walked to Xi Men station. We then took the MRT (light green line) to CKS Memorial Station. It was only one station away.

The moment we stepped out of the station, we were overwhelmed by the scorching heat of a summer’s day. The glaring sun beat down on us mercilessly, forcing us to seek refuge in the shade. Kiate and my brother were sweating by the buckets. We did not linger for long here as we could not bear the oppressive heat.

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National Concert Hall

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CKS Memorial Hall

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National Theatre

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Taiwan Trip – Coin Laundry @ XMD

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Taiwan Trip – Cing Jing & Puli Half-Day-Tour

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Day 8 – July 14th, 2012

After a leisurely breakfast, we spent some time to explore the ‘minsu’ while waiting for 大熊 (the same driver that we engaged for Day 6) to arrive. All the following pictures were taken around the compound of Bokelai ‘minsu.’ Credits to Kiate and my brother for the awesome photography.

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Actually, the initial plan was to take public bus to Taichung HSR station and then take the bullet train back to Taipei. That would have cost us around NT$4800. 大熊 offered to take us on a 4-hour tour of Cing Jing and Puli and then drop us off at Puli bus station for NT$2800. He even agreed to help us purchase Puli-Taipei express bus tickets. The tickets cost us a total of NT$1925 (i.e. NT$385 each).

Since there were five of us with our luggage in tow, we decided to take him up on his offer and save us the hassle. It was a good deal, I suppose – for roughly  the same amount of money, we could travel in comfort and visit several tourist destinations in Cing Jing and Puli along the way.

We left Bokelai ‘minsu’ at a quarter to nine. On the way down, 大熊 showed us a number of posh hotels and ‘minsu’ in Cing Jing. We were in awe of the European-style architecture and picturesque mountain view, but when 大熊 quoted the room rates, we were immediately brought back to reality. It would cost a bomb to stay in one of these!

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The next destination was 廣興紙寮  Guang Xing Paper Mill in Puli. Visitors can tour the factory for free and observe every step of the paper-making process. In addition, they also offer various DIY projects for a fee. If you have one or two hours to spare, you might want to try your hand at it. While we were there, we saw quite a number of the visitors totally engrossed in making paper fans.

Although, I’d have to admit that it was quite fascinating to see how they turned yucky, slimy pulp into beautiful handmade paper, I didn’t enjoy this visit. The factory was too hot and chaotic for my liking. We felt rather ‘lost’ there as the place was crowded with visitors and we were confused about which direction we were supposed to follow. Needless to say, we didn’t linger long at this location.

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My father was actually more attracted to the ‘bonsai’ trees in the garden opposite the paper mill. Unfortunately, we could not enter because it was a private property and the owner was nowhere in sight. In the end, we could only take pictures from the other side of the fence.

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Kiate, on the other hand, was fascinated by this tiny li’l shop. He said it was very “fairytale-like.” Hmm.. do you think so?

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After the paper mill, we moved on to the next destination – 埔里酒廠 Puli Brewery. The moment we turned into the parking lot, we saw MANY tour buses lined in neat rows. Local and foreign tourists swarmed the building – translated ‘not a good place to shop’.

On the ground floor, there were counters selling alcohol and local food products (many of which were “alcohol-flavoured”). Just in case we did not have time to go souvenir shopping later on, we decided to buy some food products here as gifts for friends and relatives despite the nagging feeling that we could most probably find similar products at a much cheaper price elsewhere.

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There was an escalator leading to the first floor, where the exhibition hall was located. There were a number of wine-related exhibits and a wine-tasting counter, but other than that, there wasn’t much to see.  We were fascinated, though, by the creative DIY soft-toy postcards and paper models at one of the souvenir shops. I bought two for a close friend and my father bought three – one each for his three precious grandchildren.

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We had stir-fried vermicelli at  振松記米粉 Zheng-Song’s Rice Vermicelli, which was merely a two-minute walk from Puli Brewery. It was highly recommended by 大熊. He claimed that it was a must-try local delicacy. We were not let down this time. We absolutely enjoyed it. Besides the stir-fried vermicelli, the vegetable dish (shown in the picture below) also tasted delicious  I forgot what it was called but it looked somewhat like our ‘paku’.

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When we order food in Malaysia, we usually use numbers, ticks or ‘straw bundles’ ( i.e. draw four vertical strokes, followed by a horizontal stroke) to indicate the quantity that we want for each item. In Taiwan, however, it is more common to use the Chinese character “正”. We discovered this after several encounters with Taiwanese waiters who were confused by our ‘straw bundles’ and ‘ticks’ when we placed our orders.

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After lunch, 大熊 dropped us off at Puli bus terminal where we took an express bus (国光客运) to Taipei. We left Puli at 1.30pm and only arrived at Taipei around 6.30pm due to detours and heavy traffic. Although we had to spend 5 hours on the road, the ride was comfortable enough and it gave us an opportunity to rest a bit after all the walking and hiking in Alishan and Cing Jing.

Taking the bullet train would be the faster option (only 1 hour to travel from Taichung to Taipei) but it would cost you almost twice as much (NT$385 vs NT$700). Basically, it all boils down to a ‘time vs money’ decision – the choice is yours~

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