Friday 5 July 2013

Taiwan: Taipei (part 2)

After a good breakfast, we headed off to Yang Ming Shan (陽明山) via a mini van from exit 1 of Shilin MRT station. I had a hard time deciding between this and Yeh Liu Geopark (野柳地質公園). It was really nice to be with nature again. Our first stop was Leng Shui Keng (冷水坑) where it contains Taiwan's sole bed of precipitated sulfur. Sulfurous fumes vented in the bed of this marshy lake turn the water murky. After gradually precipitating, the sulfur forms whitish-yellow or pale gray layers in the lake bed. Popularly known as Milk Lake (牛奶湖), the lake is only approximately 40°C (104°F) in temperature, and not the 90°C (194°F) or more found in some hot springs (Taken from Wiki). There's a hot spring right across from the Milk Lake and a free foot-soak pool outside. It was such a treat for our feet after completing one of the walking trails.

Then we went to Xiao Yu Keng (小油坑) which is located at an elevation of 800 meters (2,624 ft) and contains a host of volcanically-created fumaroles, sulfur crystals, hot springs, and landslides. Sulfur vents noisily spew forth gases, and hot springs discharge endless streams of boiling water (again, from Wiki). The smell of sulphur was overwhelming but it was quite fascinating at the same time. Mother nature never cease to amaze me.

After dinner we headed to enjoy the night view of Taipei from Chinese Culture University (文化大學) which is just a few stops away from Yang Ming Shan. It must be quite a famous place for night view of Taipei because it was quite crowded! The wind was super strong though and I couldn't get a good night shot because my hand kept shaking due to the wind. Then this really nice student(?) from the university offered me his tripod because I was trying to balance my camera dangerously on a rock. So I managed to get a good shot of nightview. So touched :')

Pingxi line (平溪線) runs through the Ruifang and Pingxi Districts and was originally built to transport coal. There are several stations along the line Sandiaoling (三貂嶺), Dahua (大華), Shifen (十分), Wanggu (望古), Lingjiao (嶺腳), Pingxi (平溪) and Jingtong (菁桐). Some of the stations are mainly residential, the ones that tourists frequent are Shifen, Pingxi and Jingtong. We took a train to Ruifang and bought an unlimited Pingxi train pass for NT52. Our first stop was Shifen and we headed straight for the waterfall which is 15 minutes walk away. The entrance fee was NT70 for students. I thought you could wade in the pool below the waterfall and er swim or something but nah. It's all fenced up. But it was a good thing we arrived before the flock of tourist buses so we managed to take photos of the unblocked waterfall. We also went to Pingxi and Jingtong stations. By now, all the old streets start looking identical. We decided to do the one thing most people come to Pingxi to do - release a sky lantern! I wish we could have gathered all the tourists there and release the sky lanterns together. It would be such a sight to see the night sky sparkling with them.

Monday 1 July 2013

Taiwan: Taipei (part 1)

Oh wow. I thought I'd never finish writing about Taiwan. So yes, finally, the last stop of the trip - Taipei.

Tamsui district (淡水區) was quite a disappointment for me. There wasn't really much to see/do. However, it turned out to be one of the most memorable days because we rented electric scooters and rode along the water until Fisherman's Wharf (渔人码头). We were so eye catching in our bright pink and yellow scooters, complete with matching helmets and colourful dresses that everyone stared when we zoomed past, some even took photos of us. We didn't go up the bridge at Fisherman's Wharf because it was going to rain, so we hurried back to the central. The scooter ride was extremely fun though I fell and scraped my knee. My poor knees! They are forever getting scraped or bruised, even now they are both bruised from I-don't-know-what. I love you, knees! Will show you more love and care from now on. *pats* The nice uncle who gave us lots of advice about riding the scooter was so worried that he sent the owner of the scooter rental shop off to buy some ointments for me. He waved us off after giving us a lunch place recommendation, d'aww. Ok fine, Tamsui district isn't all that bad. There are rows of shops selling local products and street food but I've had enough of those. And the Fisherman's Wharf is beautifully lit up at night from the photos that I've seen. You can get to Tamsui district easily by subway.

Jiufen old street (九份) is another must-go place in Taipei. You have to hop on a train to Ruifang (瑞芳) which takes about 45 minutes then change to a bus to Jiufen from the bus stop right outside the train station. There will probably be a lot of people crowded there. I don't know what bus we took because as soon as the bus came, the bus driver shouted 'Jiufen! Jiufen!' so we just followed the crowd and got on. Jiufen old street also has lots of souvenirs, local goods and street snacks on sale. I don't see why this is called an 'old street' but I do like the wooden architecture and narrow walkways. The view from Jiufen was pretty lovely though since it's located up a mountain/hill (I can't tell). Oh and the whole area has free WiFi, not that it was particularly important to me but fyi. We took a bus down to the Gold Ecological Park but it was quite boring. You can touch a piece of gold block there, if you're keen. We waited quite a while for the bus down to Huang Jing Pu Bu (Gold Waterfall/黄金瀑布) and while waiting, we were preyed upon by a dozen taxi drivers who tried their best to convince us that we would be better off taking a cab down. The waterfall was quite a sight! It wasn't very big but quite spectacular - being golden/copper and everything. The gold was carried down the river by the current and the villages traced the river upstream and viola! It led to the start of the gold mining craze. We had an hour to kill before the last bus back to Jiufen so we walked further down and reached an expressway beside the sea. This scene felt so music video-ish (S.H.E.'s 沿海公路的出口 comes to mind) so we took lots of photos here - yes, RIGHT BESIDE THE EXPRESSWAY. Dangerous much. Luck was with us because we spotted a mini bus heading straight for Ruifang! Anddd it drove down the expressway so we got to enjoy the view.