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Hong Kong - Japan - Taiwan - March 2014 - Page 6

Day 16 - Friday, 21 March 2014

I hate buses

The Taichung bus system turns any activity into an 8 hour journey.
I went to a big park on top of a hill, you would think it would be a popular spot, full of old people travelling there by bus. No. Theres no one there, and the bus doesnt even come once an hour as advertised.
Theres one main road through the city, which is never ending, as I found out today it goes all the way to the sea with multiple areas of new city along it.
However if you want a bus either side of here, it seems to be pot luck. Not just for me, every bus I get on has 10 people asking the driver if it goes anywhere near x, no.
Anyway, I get lots of walking done, another few hours to and from the park walking past bus stops that have been erected for no good reason.
The good news is the extended travel time meant I was late enough to have lunch in my favourite restaurant, I go to one of their stores on every trip. You cant go at a real meal time as you will be in line for hours, still. Din Tai Fung mass hype is still alive and well.

The local old fashion train station has a vending machine to rent library books, right on the platform. Unfortunately the only place this local train goes is to the high speed rail station. I will take it tomorrow. I might borrow a library book.

The first bus I got on diverted off the main road almost immediately, much to my surprise, and most of those people around me!
It then travelled about a mile before stopping with numerous old people yelling at the driver.
When I got off, there were squirrels.

There was also a giant family of goats.

And a butter willy. One of my favourite flavours of willy.

A new one for me, the footpath has been replaced with a goldfish pond.

To get back to the main road, I had to go through a local market.
Theres no need to get off your scooter to go shopping.

Anyway, after a 70 minute journey up the main road once I got on another bus, I got to this point, and no bus came so I walked, up a hill. It had a great view.
The hill is in no mans land between the main part of the city and the port part. You can see both sides from the hill.
There were a few farms up here, but more exciting, air force jets flying circuits to the nearby airport.
At one stage a formation of 4 flew over.

The park was huge, and all there just for me.
The water was not running, I thought maybe it was in a state of disrepair, but a sign tells me it only runs in summer, and its purpose is to run once every hour, and you then are supposed to walk over the stones.
This is like a foot massage, they run just enough water to cool the stones down. At least thats what I thought the sign said.

The park also featured an optomistic sun dial, theres rarely sun here.

You can also practice your dancing. I did.

Or perhaps catch a show at the amphiteater. The minimalist performance was very modern.

The view of the city in the distance.

And a lesser part of the city. If it were a clear day, this might be great.
The park could do a better job to create a view, a raised platform, saw down a few trees.

As I exited, 2 bridal parties showed up, and set up right by the entrance gate, no point in walking I guess.

More brides.

I waited for a bus for a good 30 minutes, no. So I walked back down the hill. When I was nearly at the bottom, 3 buses came nose to tail, all the same number!
Anyway, this is Taichung art street. Full of cafes and book stores and antiques. Its a nice street, with plants and whatever, and lots of dogs roaming about.

Honesty in advertising.

About half way back to my hotel I hopped off the main road bus for Din Tai Fung. Fantastic as always. The service is a little over the top.
They give you free tea, any time I so much as reached for it the girl would top up my cup. It got to the point where I would just sort of flinch towards the cup and she would be there with the teapot.
Also at one point I wiped chilli off my face and tears from my eyes (cause thats how I eat my soup), and as I opened my eyes there was another napkin on her hand 3 inches from my face.


My beef noodle soup and chilli overdose from lunch had left me with super powers.
This has happened before. They must put something in this soup. Its probably illegal in Australia. I want more of it.
This meant I didnt have time to take boring photos, I was too busy charging about like a lunatic.
Tomorrow I go to Taipei, I have been there twice before, which obviously means I must like it.
Taichung is not a top tourist destination. The ladder climbing was excellent, and I suspect theres plenty more hills to climb, but getting to them or anywhere is a struggle!
The city itself has no real centres, which is unusual. The photos below show an area which could be the new centre, but it was a ghost town, I am not sure if anyones moved in yet.
They are building a bus rapid transit system, which if it works as advertised should help things. It is unacceptable for it to take over an hour to travel 8km outside of peak hour.
The night market is what most people who come here rave about. The atmosphere is great but most of the food is deep fried, and finding somewhere to safely eat anything would be a challenge. But going just to people watch is fun.
I think the only other westerner I saw stood out even more than me. I saw him this evening in a fur coat, walking 6 matching tiny white dogs, singing loudly, that Katy Perry song where shes naked on the pink cloud and Snoop Dogg appears for no good reason.

I am a star.

This is the new centre of town, with all the lights off and no people.

My dinner came from a Japanese chain, yes Japanese again, called Ootoya. They have outlets all over the world.
I made an exception to my no more Japanese food on this trip rule because the sign showed this, and its vegetarian and looks great.
It was indeed, excellent. I want to have it again.

jenny on 2014-03-21 said:
Nice star with butterflies, but blind people trying to walk along the footpath might not be so happy.

David on 2014-03-21 said:
Sun is blocked by smog, although today it was cloudy and cold, 13 degrees. It was 30 the day before yesterday.
And of course I am still having fun, strange question to ask.

mother on 2014-03-21 said:
So no sun so far in Taiwan. What's the temp? are you still having fun?

Day 17 - Saturday, 22 March 2014

Trains are awesome

Today I went to Taipei by local train, connecting to high speed train, connecting to subway, transferring to subway.
To demonstrate how vastly superior trains are than buses, the time taken to travel half the distance of Taiwan was roughly the same as to travel across Taichung by bus, 75 minutes including the transfers.
Also there was 0 chance I would get on a train that would just go off in the wrong direction for no good reason.

So now I am back in Taipei, where I have been a few times before, I am even in the same hotel I have stayed in before because it is excellent, the Dong Wu Hotel.
They remember me, its the same girls on reception for at least 4 years now.
I dont think I have stayed on this side of the hotel before, or perhaps its not been this clear, but I can see the mountains, they are calling me....

The view from the high speed rail station, nothing much interestng to see.

99.56% of the more than 4000 bullet trains ran to within 5 minutes of schedule in February 2014.

This place is called carton king, I believe its a Taichung invention and much loved icon. Everything including the store is made of cardboard.
You can buy those funky cardboard handbags in there, as well as hats and clothes. They even have a large restaurant where you sit on tables and chairs made entirely of cardboard.
I presume they serve mcdonalds, since thats also made of cardboard.

Cardboard drinks machine.

Damn it, I have missed the chilled steak fair!
Also picture number 400, will we make it to 500?

The view from my hotel room window in Taipei. I have been lost up those mountains before in a dense fog which rolled in suddenly.

My hotel room so my mother doesnt have to ask.
It is huge, and very Chinese. Also cheap, and with a great breakfast (assuming it hasnt changed since my last stay).

Hotel room bathroom with full bath.

Taipei is human friendly

As soon as I set out from my hotel, I realised how much of a nicer city Taipei is to Taichung. I just offended 3 million people who dont read this.
The footpaths are much better, theres rubbish bins, most restaurants have their kitchens somewhere other than on the street, theres a subway system, buses have route maps, theres no smog at all, theres pedestrian only shopping and eating areas, public toilets, trees, parks, maps on street corners, the list is endless.
I have been here 3 times before, but I guess I kind of forgot. Much like going straight from Japan to Taichung and noticing differences, going straight from Taichung to Taipei gives an opporunity to directly compare. And piss off the citizens of the lesser place.
So at the risk of not being funny enough, again, better tell some funny stories with the limited photos.

Holy crap a rubbish bin. Taichung banned these so they dont have to empty them or something. Despite my commentary, there really isnt any rubbish on the streets there, so who knows where all the rubbish goes.

This photo taken to show the total lack of any discernable smog.

Ximen area. Its early and quiet, 2 hours later and I couldnt move here.

Its early but this chicken store has a huge line. Everyone is buying the same thing, a chicken schnitzel in a bag. Just chicken breast meat, hammered flat, coated in flour and bread crumbs, and deep fried. No sauces, nothing. Enjoy.

This rapper is being filmed and may even be live to air as theres a truck nearby with a satellite dish.
Now theres a few things to note, many wannabe rap stars exist in Asia, they all rap in English.
Chinese in particular, which only has 1 syllable words, is unsuitable for rap.
However I wonder if this guy really understands what hes rapping about, because its the most obscene lyrics I ever heard.
He is going into very specific detail about a very specific act he intends to perform on all the hoez and bitchez.
I will give you a hint, all the former prime ministers of Malaysia are in Jail for it.

Theres a huge crowd, except by this guy under the werewolf. He stands alone.

Nearby is a market for handicrafts selling the same crap the same sort of markets sell in Australia. Home made jewellery, honey in little jars, hand cream, t-shirts with some sort of ironic message.

Just over the road is what is labelled the Taipei archives. It appears to me to be a well. You keep your archives down the well.

There are also streets full of shops for kids that roll up on their scooters, carrying their skateboards, and put on their tough guy baseball hat, and hang out near the city commissioned graffiti.
There was even a skateboard park area, but unfortunately I think even I would be better at it.

For dinner, I ate like a poor person, in a local place, total cost $1. The grandma that served me was ridiculously excited to see me. She charged out with a fork.
I told her in Mandarin that I prefer chopsticks, and she was even more excited, and sat down at the table, and spoke for 30 seconds in extremely fast Chinese, of which I understood maybe 2 words....
So I told her I dont understand, I only speak a little Chinese, and she laughed and left.
My dinner is some kind of balls in soup. Possibly actual balls, I have no idea!

After grandma left, I was all alone, cutting a pathetic figure in the back area of the huge restaurant, seated on my own far from anyone I might offend.

Bonus photo due to lack of photos, my snack. Mochi from the Carrefour megamart. I dont like them much, never have, and these are mystery flavours, but a sash wearing helper lady talked me into them.
Her persistence paid off eventually. She worked hard to get that $1 out of me.

David on 2014-03-23 said:
I think Taipei is the equivalent in development to somewhere like Osaka outside of the Dotonbori area, or perhaps like say Ikebekuro in Tokyo. Taichung, is more like 3rd tier mainland Chinese cities, ones you see out the bullet train window. I guess the closest I have been to is Wuxi, which is 2 cities out of Shanghai, hence 3rd tier.
As for the weather, I read that Taipei being on the northern edge doesnt suffer from the same pollution. Its also too expensive for there to be big factories.

mummy on 2014-03-22 said:
Nice photos of Taipei. Easy to see from Taichung that Taiwan is still in the lesser stages of development than some of the other places you have been to. Question is, did the weather conditions change or have they managed to develop clean air in Taipei?

David on 2014-03-22 said:
Its a primary school

mother on 2014-03-22 said:
very nice hotel room. What is the building across from your hotel with the grass courtyard in the middle?

Day 18 - Sunday, 23 March 2014

Me vs the volcano

Today I went to Yangmingshan national park, just north of Taipei.
I have been there before and got lost, its huge, theres a lot of different peaks.
last time I think I walked from the MTR station up to somewhere in the Datong range, and the fog came.
This time the weather was great, and I took a bus up to the start of the proper hiking area, and made it properly over the top of several peaks around Mount Qixing.
It was fantastic. I took a lot of boring photos, so brace yourself for sameness.

Once you get off the bus its all a very nice looking garden area. Theres even a starbucks, and lots of people.
I think these people just go from spot to spot on one of 9000 mini buses, cause there were a lot less people on the climbs, and on the walk I took back around the base, no one.

I think I am going up there. It doesnt look very far.

After an hour or so, I got to the summit climb. I appreciate this kind of signage.

OMG squirrels, everywhere. People feed them by hand.

Most of the climb is steps like this. Very steep, quite slippery. I have shorts and a t-shirt. Lots of locals were quite concerned for me, but I estimate it was 15C.

About half way up, I thought I better take this in case it was cloudy up higher.

I have been going 2 hours and it doesnt look any closer than 5 photos ago from the car park. What kind of bullshit is this.

I think I am getting somewhere now.

First stop is the east peak. It would have a great view of the city, except I am in semi fog now. The top part of the climb is through a bamboo forest.
I dont like to brag (yeah I do), but I set a goal to make it to the top without stopping for a break, and other than 5 seconds for each of the photos, I did that. 2 hours and 5 minutes upstairs non stop.

I have aged badly due to the high altitude.

Every now and then the fog sort of blew away briefly for a view.

Now I am at the main peak, which is like 5 metres higher than the eastern peak.
Theres some sort of mountain climbing group up here going crazy with celebrations and holding a flag.
I got offered mini tomatoes to eat, and some tea. I politely declined. None the less I got a hug from a very excited woman.
Lots of people came up to me and asked if I was cold. No, I was sweating. In the wind it could be a bit chilly, but there was a thermometer up there nailed to a post that said it was still 10C.

I decided to walk down another route, about half way down here. It started to smell strongly of sulphur dioxide.

I took a panorama, its probably small cause I exported it at the same settings or something technical like that no one cares about. Maybe I will update it manually.

It was quite windy for all of my many selfies.

Then I came to the volcano. Gas was coming out of the ground everywhere.

There was a sign stating it was a cooling mountain that was once very angry. Good to know.

Nice view of the valley plus steam.

Looking back towards more mountains across the valley, maybe tomorrow!

More steam or gas or whatever it is.

Finally back to a car park area, looking back up the volcanic part. Only issue is I am far from the bus that goes back to town, and the various mini buses are all 150% full.

So I took a double chin selfie and set off. Walk around the base of the mountains back to the main bus station.

This provided some excellent views of valleys with farms and streams and stuff.

The path however was very mossy, which looks great but had me fall flat on my ass twice, so I took this photo whilst seated unexpectedly.

And after a 7km march around the base of the summit area (confused?), I was back, and still much higher up than I thought I would be.
A great day out for sure. Theres lots more to this massive park, so I might be back. However theres plenty of other parks too!


I often run into trouble with security guards or police or concerned citizens groups, so it came as no surprise that I might get lost and get followed out of a place by 3 security guards on radio.
I set out, and saw planes nearly landing on my head, and so headed towards the Songshan airport to take photos of that at dusk. It got dark too quickly.
So I headed north, finding my dinner at the old location of the flower expo (excellent spot see below), before heading towards where I thought the famous Shilin night market is.
Eventually I spotted the Grand Hotel, which is where a lot of foreigners stay as it looks like a Chinese temple, and I think was in fact the first foreigner hotel in Taiwan, whatever that means.
It is however terribly situated, seemingly the only way in or out is by taxi or their shuttle bus...unless you are me.
I wandered around it, and the only road pointed to some sort of club.
There were tennis courts and golf driving ranges and swimming pools and whatever, so like a country club.
A security guard challenged me where I was going, and I just pointed in the direction i was going, looking for a way out.
He said various things and then told me to get in a taxi, I said no, I walk, then I tried that in Chinese, I think I got it right! Zou Lu.
Anyway, hes on the radio now, and 2 more guys arrive on scooters, meanwhile I am just walking. They followed me for a good 5 minutes until I turned off down a set of stairs towards a road, at which point they stood at the top, on their radios, looking at me.
Job well done rent a cops, I did not blow up or steal anything, this time.

Best pic I could get of a plane descending into Songshan. Earlier I just about had to go back to my hotel and change my pants when a much larger plane flew between buildings right in front of me.
It was a trick of perspective, but looked amazing.

This is the cool food court, its actually kind of outdoors. I think the theme is its a farmers market food court, featuring only stuff grown locally.

So I had a mexican themed salad, because salad. It came with Chicken. I kind of wish the chicken was hotter. We will find out how that turns out a bit later.

This is the Grand Hotel, behind which I had my security guard slow speed chase scene.

20,000 ISO. Full Zoom.

The city, normal zoom, 800 ISO. Its amazing how much Taipei 101 stands out.

People just waiting to get into the hugely popular Shilin Night Market.

More of those things where you try and get something out of the cabinet with the grappling hook. The same stores are all over Taipei. This one even has a few people in it.

Just one of the many crowded streets of the market. I didnt spend much time here as I had eaten and I dont need to buy hello kitty panties.... or do I?

Years ago this market burnt down.
Last time I was here, post burn down and rebuild, I was fairly trapped in the basement food court eating a crushed cookie rolled in raw dough for some reason.
I see they now have this cool motion sensing system to work out how many people are in the basement at any one time.

The 1/3 full basement. I didnt have anything to eat this time, this is where many of the worlds foods are invented!

mother on 2014-03-23 said:
Actually lots of people do go up Fuji in the Morning. I remember all the people going up as I was stumbling my way down. Nice night shots. Do they sell anything interesting at the night market or is it like the crap they sell in HK?

David on 2014-03-23 said:
hmmm, not sure about tree line, this one was certainly different with the bamboo.
I would love to climb mount fuji, but id prefer to do it in a day from a nearby city, starting at first light, and back by dark, which isnt how its normally done.

adriana on 2014-03-23 said:
Is this the first time you have been higher than the tree line? Next time Mt Fuji so you can do rocks and gravel to the top.

bobule on 2014-03-23 said:
looks great! i would love to visit this place!

There is now a page 7, Which STILL wont be the last page, will it ever end?


Latest Update

Day 1 - Thursday, 6 March 2014
  Qantas did not go on strike
  Double decker metal tube
Day 2 - Friday, 7 March 2014
  Monkeys in the fog
  The island side
Day 3 - Saturday, 8 March 2014
  The Kowloon side
Day 4 - Sunday, 9 March 2014
  A lot less fog
  Clown vomit cliche
Day 5 - Monday, 10 March 2014
  Not so cold
Day 6 - Tuesday, 11 March 2014
  Dont pet the monkeys
  Kyoto is small
Day 7 - Wednesday, 12 March 2014
  Deer overload
  Night temple
Day 8 - Thursday, 13 March 2014
  The unrelenting downpour
  No more rain
Day 9 - Friday, 14 March 2014
  The tiniest place on earth
  Freezing walk
Day 10 - Saturday, 15 March 2014
  Dont forget your torch
  Another 4 hours walking
Day 11 - Sunday, 16 March 2014
  More mountains, Kobe
  Shinsekai deep fried world
Day 12 - Monday, 17 March 2014
  6km becomes 20km
  Recovery night
Day 13 - Tuesday, 18 March 2014
  Multiple modes of transport
  Further orientation required
Day 14 - Wednesday, 19 March 2014
  Newer Taichung
Day 15 - Thursday, 20 March 2014
  Still more mountains
  Rear of station
Day 16 - Friday, 21 March 2014
  I hate buses
Day 17 - Saturday, 22 March 2014
  Trains are awesome
  Taipei is human friendly
Day 18 - Sunday, 23 March 2014
  Me vs the volcano
Day 19 - Monday, 24 March 2014
  Goose stepping
  Dog clothes
Day 20 - Tuesday, 25 March 2014
  By the seaside
Day 21 - Wednesday, 26 March 2014
  Its the final mountain
  The new new
Day 22 - Thursday, 27 March 2014
  Homeless person