A Travellerspoint blog

Taiwan

Maokong Mountain

Taipei, Taiwan

It's a holiday weekend. The guys at work warned me that I might not make it to Taroko Gorge, and they were right. I got up for the first train from Hsinchu to Taipei, and then tried to get the train to Hualien, but there were no seats at any point today, or even tomorrow morning. On to Plan B.

I took the metro to the Maokong area of Taipei. This is where the zoo is. It is also the beginning of the Meokong mountains.

I took a cable-car gondola up the mountain. I had a choice between a glass-bottom car and a regular car. If there is a line for the glass-bottom cars, they're not worth the wait. But, since there was no line, I took one. Through the bottom of the car, you can see how lush and green the mountains are, but really, you can see that from the regular windows as well. We didn't have great visibility due to the rain, but we could still tell that we were passing over a very verdant forest as well as some successful farming areas. Specifically, these mountains are known for growing tea.
Cable Cars

Cable Cars


Cable Car View

Cable Car View


When you get to the top of the mountain, the last cable car station, it's obvious that this is a tea area- every other building is a tea house. Even though it was a holiday weekend, it was a rainy morning, so there weren't a lot of people around and most of the tea houses weren't open yet.

I took a short walk to the Tea Promotion Center, hoping to learn something about Taipei's tea production. The views along the walk were incredible- I could see the city off in the distance, and even Taipei 101 tower sitcking up through the mist. I took the walk slow because I didn't want ot slip and fall in the rain, I didn't want to get my feet too wet, and I dind't want to be too stinky to go up into Taipei 101 later today. Still, it wasn't that long to the center.

Unfortunately, the center was a let-down. There was only one room dedicated to showing how they dry tea leaves, and nothing on growing the plants or any other part of the process. They did offer a free cup of tea and a nice place to sit and drink it.
Tea Center

Tea Center


On the way, I also passed a small temple. It wasn't as big as some of the ones we looked at the other day, but it was still incredibly decorated. It seemed pretty new, or at least recently refurbished because all of the paint seemed pretty fresh. If I hadn't seen the others, I would have been in awe, but at this point, I'm starting to get "temple-jaded."
growing area

growing area


I walked back to the cable car station, and noticed that the food vendors were setting up and starting to sell brunch to the small crowd that had grown.

The weather was getting clearer, but I was still walking with my umbrella up. I went down another marked path for tourists, hoping to see some more temples, as well as a really old tree and some special grove. All of these items were marked on the map.
View in the rain

View in the rain


I walked in the rain. I walked by the forests. I walked and walked. It was downhill, so I didn't mind too much. I decided that I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere because I walked way more than I should have based on the map. But, I was not about to turn around and walk back up that steep mountain. I figured that I'd keep walking all the way down into the city below, and I'd catch some sort of bus from there.

Then, I saw signs for the things I thought I was walking towards. I hadn't taken a wrong turn after all, the map was just not capturing the distance very well.
View of Taipei

View of Taipei


Jiuquian Temple is not worth the walk. I saw a sign that pointed the way. It took me onto a side path and off the street. From the path, I missed the temple and walked right by it the first time. Then, I saw a sign pointing me back where I came from. I realized that the run-down building that is barely decorated and mostly just has trash piles that make it look like a construction site was the temple. What a waste.
Crappy Temple

Crappy Temple


I was not about to walk all the way back up the hill, and the next temple over required a walk through some trails. Given the drizzle keeping the roads a bit slick, and that I was still trying not to get too gross, I decided that I would wait for the next bus. The sign at the entrance to the temple clearly said that it was a bus stop. It had the route times listed, and the route ended at a metro station, so I could continue exploring from there. The bus was due in 10 minutes, which was perfect timing.

I waited.

And waited.

A half hour after the bus was supposed to arrive, I gave up.

Now, my choice was pretty much to walk down hill and hope for another bus from somewhere else, or continue on my way to Zangshan temple, another one of the temples on the tourist map. I had seen a sign for it a bit up the road, and so I headed that way to see how far it was, the whole time, still hoping that I'd be able to catch the bus I'd been waiting for.
Hiking Trail

Hiking Trail


The sign said that the temple was pretty close, and google agreed, so I took off in that direction. Unfortunately, the path splits around a bunch of small farming plots, crosses a controlled river, and gets confusing in several places. I didn't go more than a few meters out of my way, but I certainly took an alternate path until I was able to find another sign saying that it was only 0.6 more km to the temple. Great.
Farm area

Farm area


In that 0.6 km, there were 383 stairs.

I got to the temple, but I was soaked by the time I got there, both from the remains of drizzle, the mist, and my own sweat. Lovely.

Panting, I took in the temple, but it wasn't that different than any other temple. It was new, and it was smaller and less decorated that some of the others. It did, however, have a great view of Taipei.
Zangshan Temple

Zangshan Temple


The best part is that there was a working bus stop out front of the temple. I waited with a little old lady with a cane until the bus arrived to take us back to the Maokong cable car station.

What a difference!

The morning ride up had no line and almost nobody around. The food court was packed with tourists eating their lunches now. Tourists wandered all of the streets. Taxi drivers touted rides down the mountain. The cable car line snaked down the stairs and to another floor.
By the cable car station

By the cable car station


I grabbed some lunch at the station convenience store and sat inside at the tables, enjoying the view. It may seem odd to eat at a convenience store, but that's the culture here. I was only one of dozens of people eating there. This is why they have their own tables and chairs set up.

Due to the long line, I made sure to get in the line that was NOT for the glass-bottomed cars. Only about every fourth car is glass-bottomed, so that line was taking way too long.

I got off at the next stop- the temple stop.

Throughout the day, whenever I had a good view, I saw this huge temple in the distance. Well, now I was there.

It's actually not one building, it's a complex of buildings. Zhinan temple is quite exquisite. The ceilings are painted with beatiful pictures. The walls and posts are all painted. Carvings and statues abound. This was a temple worth seeing, even though it was undergoing a lot of construction work.
Zhinan Temple

Zhinan Temple


"Dice" to throw to get answers from the gods

"Dice" to throw to get answers from the gods

Zhinan Temple

Zhinan Temple

Zhinan Temple

Zhinan Temple

Zhinan Temple

Zhinan Temple


Despite being gross and knowing it, I went to Taipei 101 next anyway. This was pretty much my last chance to see it, and I was pretty desperate to see the tuned mass damper.

The entrance itself is just a regular mall- nothing special. But then there's the observation deck...
Mall

Mall


The line to get int was pretty quick when I got there, but when I left, it was out the door and around the corner. I guess afternoon is a better time to visit than close to dark. I got a discount on the admission because I had purchased a Taipei Metro day pass, which was cool.

And then, we got moved from room to room to elevator, and finally the "top." There's actually one more floor up that they open on calm weather days, but it wasn't open today. So, I stayed inside and learned all about the tower. They have interesting short videos on loop- about 2 minutes each- that show different information about the tower. One talked about the design elements- good luck symbols, money symbols, and the pagoda shape. Another talked about the techology behind the elevator and how the pressurization works. Yet another compared it to other tall towers in the rest of the world. Of course, the the tunable mass damper one was my favorite.
View from Taipei 101

View from Taipei 101


Also, at each window area, signage helped me to understand what exactly I was looking at. They labeled the important buildings, mountains, and landmarks.

In the middle, the floor opened up to the tunable mass damper, but really, the good view was the floor below. For those who don't know what a TMD is/does- basically it's a huge steel ball that prevents the building from swaying too much in the case of high winds, an earthquake, or any other event that might cause the top to sway. I didn't happen to notice any movement when I was up there.
TMD

TMD


When I descended, it had started to rain again. I had noticed from the top that I was super-close to a few other sites, and figured that I'd at least stop by, despite the wet.

The Sun Yat Sen memorial was only a few blocks. The building itself was closed, but the park around it was open. Actually, the outside part of the memorial building itself was pretty hopping. Groups of dancers practiced their routines, others seemed to be in some sort of lessons. People were just enjoying the evening there.
Sun Yat Sen Memorial

Sun Yat Sen Memorial


Fortunately, I was able to get a train back to Hsinchu. I was so tired and my feet so worn out that I got a cab back to the hotel and wasn't even really able to go out for dinner. Fortunately, I have Sheraton lounge access. This enabled me to go grab a light dinner made up of salad and appetizers just one floor above. Normally, that wouldn't be enough of an eating adventure for me, but tonight, I was thankful for it.

Posted by spsadventures 10:00 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Hsinchu Night Market

Hsinchu, Taiwan

For tonight's adventure, a bunch of work colleagues and I headed out to the Hsinchu night market.

The market we went to is walking distance to the train station, and seems to take place in a big empty parking lot. Of course, half of hte lot is used for parking for the market, and like the rest of Taiwan, it's over 50% motorcycles and scooters.

We entered the market and immedately were assaulted with the smells and sounds of cooking. Fryers bubbled, cauldrons of soups boiled, and knifes chopped away. As we wandered, we saw a wide variety of foods, many on sticks.
Night Market

Night Market


One stand had ears of corn that had been coated ins a spicy sweet sauce and roasted over a fire. (But the corn was not nearly as juicy as AwShucks.) Another stand had a large variety of meats on a stick. You were supposed to pick which sticks you wanted, put them in a bowl, and they would grill them for you. the variety included all sorts of interesting items from chicken skins to blood sausage.
Food

Food


I saw odd foods like whole duck heads, pork knuckles, and stinky tofu. I saw somewhat more "normal" foods like corn dogs and crepes.

One of the more interesting processes to watch was how to make these octopus balls. the guy poured excessive batter into a mold for tiny round balls. As the mold cooked parts of the batter, he rotated it so that the mold would then cook another part. Somewhere in there, throw some octopus pieces in. Keep rotating the batter, and you end up with a ball. Of course, you have ot put them on a stick to serve them.

One of the foods that I found interesting and very enjoyable was this eggy-latke dish (not on a stick). They make the large potato and onion "pancake" part with extra egg in the middle. Then, they top it with herbs, a thick soy-based sauce, pineapple, corn, and some other sauce. I had no clue what that one was. I enjoyed it enough that I want to make it at home now.
Eggy thing

Eggy thing


After that, eggs on a stick, corn on a stick, tapioca balls on a stick, and juice squeezed out of a sugar cane stick, I was quite full. Fortunately, there is more to the market than just food.
Food

Food

Food

Food


Every few feet, somebody is running a carnival game. The most popular one seems to be one where the players throw darts at balloons. The balloons aren't set up in a tricky way, just in a specific pattern on the wall. If you pop enough, you get a prize. I wanted to see somebody play and my colleagues didn't want to play, so I coughed up the dollar and took a stab.

My first dart didn't even hit the board. Another grazed a balloon, but lodged in the foam next to it. Then, I was on a roll. I hit the required number of balloons, plus one more, to win my first-ever carnival prize. I didn't really want one of the stuffed animals, but I saw one that looked pretty bad- it had one eye and crooked teeth, and I thought I'd get the ugly monster. Turns out, when you unsquish it, it's a dinosaur! Double win!
I win!

I win!


There were several other carnival games that I couldn't quite figure out how to play- one with Mahjong tiles and either bingo or matching, another with some sort of pinball launch and some holes. There were a lot of jewelry and clothing vendors. We continued walking around for a while, until we had seen all of the stands and taken in as much of the excitement as we wanted.
Gaming Table

Gaming Table


We headed back to the hotel with full bellies and a stuffed dinosaur.

Posted by spsadventures 05:12 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Hsinchu Temples

Hsinchu, Taiwan

So, work is taking up a lot of the day, as it's supposed to. The factory is similar to others in concept, but there are a few neat things about this location.

First, the buildings are very modern and clean. At least one is LEED gold rated, so you know that they're taking care of the environment. You can also see that in the way they have recycling everywhere. Even in the bathrooms they put educational signage for people to read while they're doing their business. While I can't tell exactly what it says, the basic idea is about how much CO2 is released by food traveling from afar.

Second, the buildings are very pleasant and calming. The art on the wall ranges from photography to landscape paintings, "shapes and colors" to horticulture. European classical music plays in the background. (So far, I've recognized some Beethoven, Mozart, and Handel.)

Lastly, the cafeterias are interesting. There are several different kitchens that each produce one type of food- the soup kitchen, the beef kitchen, the vegetarian kitchen, the rice kitchen. Some charge by weight from a buffet. Others involve some sort of ticket program that I haven't quite figured out yet. But both cafeterias also have a 7 eleven.

Outside, there is a 7 eleven almost on every corner. It's a bit ridiculous how many there are. Because we've been eating later when some of the other kitchens are closed, we've been eating a lot of 7 eleven. Sometimes, they give you little stickers with your receipt. I haven't figured out whether they hand out stickers based on spending a certain amount of money or buying certain products. In any case, the stickers are worth points.

I asked one of the guys what I could get with all of these stickers I'm "earning." We picked up a 7 eleven prize booklet to see. The prizes change every month, but this month, there are mostly discounts like buy 8 donuts, get 4 free. I don't know what I'd do with 12 donuts. But also, I don't want a coupon, I wanted something for free.

On the extensive prize list, there is only one item for free- a bottle of oil for 45 points. So tonight's activity was to go get my free bottle of oil.
tickets and oil

tickets and oil


I was so proud. I walked in to the 7 eleven. Wordlessly, I plopped down the prize booklet, pointed to the bottle of oil, and then poured out my points onto the counter. The guy behind the counter checked my points, sighed, and then went to go find me my bottle of oil It's a bit of a letdown that it's canola and not something unique to Taiwan, but I'm still proud of my 7 eleven trophy. I'm not sure one should be proud to announce that "I eat so much 7 eleven that I got a free bottle of oil." But that's ok.

While I was out, I also had dinner at some random Chinese place. I adore google translate not only for the assistance in times like these, but also for the errors. According to my app, this restaurant served a lot of "surface." They had beef surface, chicken surface, all sorts of surface. I'm still not totally sure what that is, but I got something else that was mostly noodles. My colleague was supposed to be getting something with shrimp and spinach (per google), but ended up with a plate of sauced spinach ith no shrimp in sight. In any case, it was an adventure.

Afterwards, we finished filling up on appetizers from the lounge at the hotel. Apparently, a lot of the guys from work go there and make a dinner out of it. It's not bad at all, but I would get bored quickly with the hotel canapes.

Today after work, we ended up getting a cab to downtown Hsinchu, where there is much more activity than over here by the Sheraton. Tons of stuff was open and there were plenty of places to eat or shop.

Also, because it is the Autum Harvest festival, which celebrates something related to the full moon, plenty of people had set up family barbecues outside their house. Of course, this just so happened to be in the middle of the sidewalk where people need to walk.
Family BBQ in the Street

Family BBQ in the Street


We started at the train station because we thought we might pick up an English map of the area. Nope, just Chinese. We got it anyway, but it didn't really help us determine where to go. We relied on good old google to tell us where points of interest were. We couldn't necessarily read the names of all of them and didn't entirely know what we'd see, but we walked towards them anyway.

Our first sight was the old city gate. This piece of very traditional architecture sits in the middle of a traffic circle just over the river. You can't see anythign left of the city walls, but the little house above the gate is intact. I'm not exactly sure that you're supposed to go up to it. Nobody was in the middle of the traffic circle at all, and there were no crosswalks. But, it was lit up nicely, and the trees nearby were lit with colored lights, so it was quite pretty.
City Gate

City Gate


Nearby, a street vendor sold something that smelled really sweet and delicious. We determined that they were some sort of pastry that he made in an egg-shaped mold. His sign explained that you could get 10 for 30NTD or 17 for 50 NTD, which isn't really a sale. Maybe the number 17 has some sort of significance. We split a bag of 10, which was plenty. They were sort of like pancakes, but drier- not bad, but not great either.
Street Food

Street Food


We moved on to the Sea Goddess temple, on the way peeking through store and restaurant windows to see what was happening. We tried to get seated at a small bar, but apparently they were closed for a private event tonight, concerning me about our ability to get a table for the holidays. We did eventually find a table at a restaurant in the Carlton hotel. It had an English menu and Italian-style choices. The food wasn't great, but the price was pretty decent for a hotel restaurant. It was more expensive than other food here, but it was definitely not breaking the budget.

Also, we stopped in a small temple on the way. We somehow communicated to the guy at the front that we wanted to buy an origami lotus flower. He said that it was 2 for 50 (about a dollar). We only wanted one, but he insisted on 2. So, we spent the rest of the night carrying around these delicate paper lotus flowers.
Paper Lotuses at Temple

Paper Lotuses at Temple


The Sea Goddess temple is visible from the corner of the restaurant property. Unfortunately it was night, so the colors of the temple didn't have a chance to pop out. But the delicate detail work is clearly there, and quite impressive. Because this temple is dedicated to the sea godess, the motifs were more fish and ocean related, although there were still plenty of dragons.

Per the sign out front, Hsinchu used to be a gateway to mainland China, and people came here right before going on sea voyages. So, they built this temple to pray for a safe journey.

Even today, the temple is full of people at prayer, burning incense and moving from room to room.
Temple

Temple


The next temple on our "Google-guided tour" was the Hsinchu City God Temple. This was a Taoist temple, hidden a bit by the market surrounding it. Inside, people threw crescent-moon-shaped dice as they prayed. Apparently, the gods were somehow answering their questions based on how the crescents landed.

Like the other temple I've seen, this one was absolutely covered in art. Every square inche that they could fill with something, they did. Just look at the pictures- it's pretty amazing.
Temple

Temple


We wandered toward the next spot on the map, a Buddhist temple. I'm not good enough to know the difference between the different types of temples, but they are all beautiful.
Offerings

Offerings

Praying at the Central City Temple

Praying at the Central City Temple

Throwing "Dice" to hear from the Gods

Throwing "Dice" to hear from the Gods


We also passed a lot of shopping streets. One had some amazing pottery shops. Another had a vegan restaurant offering "Vegan Eel Burgers." I had no idea what on earth that is, and needed to find out (in the name of science). Unfortunately, they were closed, so I still haven't figured that one out.

We crossed the railroad tracks to the Chulien Temple. Again, pictures are worth more than words. These temples are so full of amazing decorations, you just have to see.

We finally walked back to the train station to get a cab back to the hotel. It was late, but the town still felt pretty safe.

Posted by spsadventures 04:48 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Temples and poop

Taipei, Taiwan

We may or may not have almost broken something very important at work today. Having decided that we finished what we could do, we got done early.

I took this opportunity to go to Taipei!

I'm noticing that the high speed trains have lots of leg room, but not lots of hip room. In any case, it's a short enough ride- about 30 minutes. This time, they only had unreserved seats, but I still got a good one and didn't even have to start by standing.
High Speed Train

High Speed Train


I metroed to the Longan Temple station and exited in a nice park. Several men sat on benches and played some sort of board game while crowds of other guys watched.
Gaming in the Park

Gaming in the Park


The temple is at the other side of the park. Its colors weren't as bright and vivid as the temples I saw yesterday, but it was still amazing. I loved the koi pond and waterfalls, although they made one section of the courtyard so humid that I was sweating standing in the shade- in the evening.
Temple Falls

Temple Falls


The temple is active, and many people had come to pray and make offerings. Offerings ranged from the more traditional flowers and fruit to the more modern packaged cookies and doritos. Of course, if you forgot to bring yours, the temple would happily sell you something. Same with incense. Many people burnt incense or candles.
Temple

Temple


The temple bustled with supplicants moving from one shrine to the next, bowing and nodding and praying. It was quite the scene.
Temple

Temple


I took the scenic route to dinner, passing several more interesting sights. I mosied through what I thought was going to be another night market, but there wasn't really food. It seemed to be mostly clothing at first. Then, it quickly turned into a flea market where you could buy all of the used watches and tchotchkes that your heart desires.
Flea Market

Flea Market


I passed by the Presidential Palace, which is visible from blocks away.

I passed another temple, although this one was much simpler and more plain. If the other temples were the Buddhist equivalent of Catholic cathedrals, this was the Lutheran equivalent.
Shrine

Shrine


I wandered into a back alley by the Red House, where a bunch of artists sold their wares at a small market. Most of it was jewelry, soaps, or clothing. Much looked somewhat traditional and handmade, but a lot of it was very modern and clearly computerized.
Artist Area

Artist Area


Finally, I reached my dinner destination- Modern Toilet Restaurant. I know it's gimmiky. I don't care. The chairs are all toilet seats (lids down). The tables are a piece of glass, supported by a porcelain bowl that has a large cartoon poop inside. The lampshades are shaped like a poop emoji. The wall art is a mosaic of poop. The menu is cut in the shape of a toilet. Some of the menu items are poop-themed, and all are served on toilet dishes- throne style for soups, lid-shaped for plates, squat style for thicker meals, and drinks come in ceramic urinals. Some food items are shaped into cartoon poop shape- like the chocolate ice cream. You're not eating there for the food, you're paying for the laughs.
Modern Toilet Dinner

Modern Toilet Dinner


After dinner, I took a brief walk towards the river, but it appeared blocked off and hard to get to. Instead, I walked to the train station and headed back to Hsinchu. This time, I got the right train to the right station. I still took a cab back because of the heat though.

Posted by spsadventures 04:31 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Hitting a gold mine

Jioufen, Taiwan

This morning, I got out early in an attempt to have time to see things. The taxicab caller said that the walk to the high speed rail station was a 20 minute walk up the road, so I walked it.

This was my first chance to see Hsinchu during the daytime. Even around 7am, the heat was oppressive. There was no speed comfortable for a walk. The buildings come in dull browns and greys, adding nothing for the eyes. Even the greenery, which was clearly manicured, was dull and boring.
Hsinchu

Hsinchu


Finally, I made it to the (fortunately air conditioned) train station. I bought my ticket to Taipei, and scrambled to catch the train. The conductors were blowing their whistles as the last few passengers, including myself, clambered aboard. A non-reserved ticket, while cheaper, does not guarantee a seat. However, if you are lucky enough to be standing near the people who get off at a station, you can grab their seats when they get off.

I transferred to metro, which uses some sort of chipped plastic coin as a single-ride ticket. I then transferred to the bus. Most people used transport cards, but you can pay on the bus with exact change. The driver gave me a laminated ticket as evidence I paid, but I had to give it back when I got off.
Bus ticket

Bus ticket


The bus passed through various parts of the city, some more modern and some a bit shabbier. Then, we started passing through the countryside. We'd see trees and forest, periodically interrupted by a shabby little town that had clearly seen better days. And the mountains! Eventually the green mountains took over the scenery, although they too were dotted with little towns.
Little Town

Little Town

Little Town

Little Town


Jiufen is one such town. It is almost as if Pittsburgh was in China, and stopped growing quite a while back. Unlike in San Marino, where the bus drops you at the bottom and you have to climb, climb, climb, the bus here dropped us more conveniently midtown, pretty much right in front of the old market.
View from Jiufen

View from Jiufen


The old market runs through a back alleyway, but is very clean, despite the lack of public trashcans. Vendors mostly sell processed goods- tea, crafts, souvenirs, and processed foods. There weren't really any fresh ingredient foods other than the juice stands and the one pickup truck with raw meat hanging from the back. But, the food was still interesting- mochi, taro balls, century eggs, fish cakes, ice cream wraps, dried fruit, veggie chips, and of course, tons of teas. My favorites were the stands where you could watch the people actively make the food. This is not a street to do when you're hungry.
Jiufen Food

Jiufen Food

Jiufen Food

Jiufen Food


Meat Truck

Meat Truck


Outside the old Jiufen street, the town is pretty quiet. It would have been a beautifully picturesque town to walk around, except for the haze in the air and the dirt covering the buildings. Still, it was worth the visit to the old street and for the quaintness.

I stopped by the Gold Museum in town, mostly because it was there. It looked pretty shady and rundown from the outside, and it wasn't any better on the inside. Nothing was in any language other than Chinese.
Gold Museum

Gold Museum


The first floor of the museum is a rock collection. I suppose if you can understand the Chinese tour or are familiar enough with rocks to already know what's different and special about various types of mined rocks, it might be worth it. The second floor had some bad reprints of old black and white photos of the town, as well as some equipment that (I assume) was used for mining. For me, the free take-home map of the city was the most useful part of the museum.

From there, I made my way to the visitors' center. The visitor's center had air conditioning! Given how hot and muggy it was outside, this was a huge bonus. They also had English maps and bus schedules, even if the lady running it didn't speak so much English. I sat in the pleasant air and planned.

When I had cooled down, I headed to the nearby temple. It's beautiful. Some artists spent a lot of time carving the stones and wood, and painting everything in beautiful, vivid colors. I have to say, it's as covered as a Catholic cathedral, but I like the art style and themes here better- dragons , peacocks, fish, and wise men instead of all of those martyrs in their sorry poses.
Temple

Temple


Temple Statue

Temple Statue

Temple Ceiling

Temple Ceiling


Next, I caught the tourist bus to the Golden Waterfall that I had read so much about. It's supposed to glitter with all of the gold and minerals swept down river from the mining. But mostly, it's a coppery color that makes is look dirty instead of sparkling. Also, the falls themselves are tiny. This isn't worth coming all the way out for, although if you got a daypass for the tourist bus, and are passing it anyway, you might as well stop.
Golden Waterfall

Golden Waterfall


The bus runs every half hour or so, so I had plenty of extra time in that area. I wandered a bit and got some good views of the ocean, where the river turns the seawater yellow. Next, I took the bus back to a stop with another temple. Again, the temple was covered in bright, beautiful art. The carvings were incredibly detailed. The temple was worth the visit.
Another Temple

Another Temple

Part of the Temple

Part of the Temple


Of course, it didn't take a half hour, and I was tired of waiting for the bus to come by. I brilliantly decided to just hike to the next sight I wanted to see. Google said it would be only a 16 minute walk, so no big deal.

Haha. The next sight is up. And up. And some more up. And while it was breezier here than some of the other places, it was still HOT. By the time I got to the Gold Museum, I was pretty sweaty and gross.

This Gold Museum is supported by the tourism board. It is much bigger and better than the one in Jiufen, and has plenty of English for foreigners. It contains several buildings that were part of a mining operation during the Japanese occupation. One building is restored in Japanese style, and they make you take off your shoes and use their slippers to walk on the delicate bamboo mat floors. My feet were so gross that I felt bad doing that, but that's the rule.
Inside Japanese House

Inside Japanese House


Other buildings contain metal art by present-day artists. I paid the extra to go walk through one of the mining tunnels. They make you wear a helmet, but at least they give you a disposable helmet liner so you don't share grossness with other people.

The tunnel is slippery and wet, but somewhat educational. They scattered mannequin miners about so that you could get a feel for what the work would look like. On occasion, walking past certain points triggered an audio recording. It added atmosphere, even though I couldn't understand what they were saying.

Steps that lead up to ruins of a Shinto shrine are located at the far side of the mining village. You can actually see parts of the shrine from the village, and it's clearly quite a hike. By now, I had recovered from my hike to the museum, and brilliantly thought that I could totally handle the hike to the shrine.

The flowers on the sides of the path up attracted some beautiful butterflies, bees, and I even saw a tiny hummingbird. I think chasing them down for photos helped me distract myself from the hike. It also caused me to lose count on the way up, but there were 360 stairs (plus a bunch of ramps) on the way down. (Just to the village, here were several sets of stairs within the village, but those aren't so noticable.) By the time I arrived at the top, my clothes were soaked. I could smell myself.

Despite not having much to see at the top, I spent a lot of time there in the nice breeze, attempting to somewhat dry off. I got a good look at all of the pillars left over from the temple. I got a good look at the piles of toys and coins left as offerings. I took in the view of the ocean, although it was a bit hazy. I contemplated whether the stones people left at the entrance monuments had the same meaning as stones in a Jewish cemetery. After all, there are a couple of people buried here. I breathed in and out. I drank some much-needed water, lightening my load in the process. And my clothes were still wet. I smell like a gym with no circulation. I feel bad for anybody who has to sit next to me on public transport on my return journey.

I descended back into the mining village, but my legs felt like jelly. Fortunately, the same bus that I took out to Jiufen, also stops here, and it goes back to a station where I can catch the high speed train directly to Hsinchu, so I won't have to do so much walking and transferring. I collapsed onto the bus and promptly fell asleep.

Fortunately, I woke long before my stop and was able to see the scenery again. Just before the bus stop at Shongsan station, we passed a really cool-looking temple. So, even though I was worn out, weary, and reeked, I decided to take a quick peek at the temple.

Like the others, the art is bright, lively, and full of excitement. The stories depicted in the paintings and carvings are active and exciting. One of the creatures depicted looked somewhat like a cross between a devil and Fiona from Shrek. If I had to choose a religion based solely on their architecture, I'd pick whatever this is (Buddhism, I think).

Of course, right next to the temple, I saw a big sign that said "Night Market." It wasn't quite night, so vendors were just getting set up, but I figured that was a reasonable place to check out. My stench was hopefully not strong enough to overpower the aromas of cooking food.

This is where you can buy all sorts of "made in Taiwan" junk. They had lots of clothing, toys, and shoes on display. It's not uncommon for people to wear surgeons' face masks here to protect from germs, and I even saw non-disposable ones for sale at the market. But they also had all sorts of foods on a stick.

Everything tastes better on a stick! Every few feet, somebody sold fried sweet potato balls- filled with a variety of sweet fillings, and eaten off of a stick. I saw grilled squid- on a stick. Fish balls- on and off sticks. Grilled meats- on and off sticks. Fried and grilled, they also had whole mussels and other seafood in the shell, mushrooms the size of a hotdog bun, tofu, pork knuckles, and several things I couldn't recognize. I saw stews and noodles, fresh fruit, and even fresh sugar cane. One lady was selling stinky tofu fries. I've heard about stinky tofu and how it's a Taiwanese delicacy, so I just had to try them. She coated them in spicy Thai chili sauce, and I have to say that while there was a slight fermentation taste, it really wasn't that strong or that bad.

On my way out, I saw durian popsicles. This isn't a Taiwanese food, but I just wanted to smell one. After Andrew Zimmern, of eating EVERYTHING fame, lost his lunch to a durian, I've been nervous to try it, but also really wanting to. The sales guy convinced me to get one because you can't smell the durian in the popsicle. It's not a pleasant taste, but it's also not as bad as I tbought. I didn't finish the popsicle, but I also didn't stop at just one or two bites. It's hard to describe. Maybe I'd call it a sort of non-sour fermented/rotten melon-like taste. It wasn't the last thing I wanted in my mouth, so I grabbed a chive dumpling on my way into the train station.

One cool thing about the train station bathrooms is that they have a signboard outside with green lights to indicate open stalls, and red to indicate occupied. Before you even go in, you can tell how full the are. On both the signboard and the doors to the bathrooms themselves, they indicate whether it is a squat or throne. So, if you have a preference, you can make sure to go only into the stalls you want, without having to open the door to check. At work, they have the same markings, so maybe it's a normal thing here.
Bathroom Signs

Bathroom Signs


Another cool thing that they have in the train station is a late-night safety standing area. It's marked with a pink box and blantantly has cameras pointing directly at it.

The train seemed to take much longer to get back to Hsinchu and make many more stops than the train I took out in the morning. Turns out, I got on the regular train, and not the high-speed rail. As a result, I ended up at the station in downtown Hsinchu, far from my hotel, instead of the walking distance one. My feet were dead, so this was a blessing in disguise, as it forced me to take a cab back to the hotel.

Posted by spsadventures 23:42 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

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