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Hong Kong - Japan - Taiwan - March 2014 - Page 7

Day 19 - Monday, 24 March 2014

Goose stepping

So, today I didnt climb any big mountain, just a hill.
Tomorrow will probably be a different story.
As a result there are not that many photos today, none the less I walked from 8AM until after 2PM stopping only for lunch.
Hopefully some strength will return to my legs for tomorrow!

In culinary news, I have discovered that I really like barley milk tea, whatever that is, and the red fleshed dragonfruit with the black bits, which you seemingly cant get in Australia.
I also discovered that old people that hang out on the nice hill like their music really loud, and they each have their own designated areas where their gang congregates, and that there may even be warring factions of old folks.
I saw a bunch of old men giving each other the evil eye across a disused badmington court. It was covered in leaves and overgrown weeds.
All the other courts, and there must have been 20, had nice nets, people playing, or people sitting on the court preparing food.
So I have come to the conclusion that this unused court is the DMZ between north and south senior Taiwanese citizens who come to the hill park each day to hang out and listen to music.

Those are the mountains I was up yesterday, I think only the one on the right. So lots more to go.

Heres that hotel again, behind which I aroused the suspicion of security yesterday.

This is the view from the old persons hill top retreat. If you enlarge and look at the hills in the background, about 3/4 of the way along you can see very big buildings on the top of the ridge.
I am intriuged by this.

After coming down from the hill, I came upon this place by accident, right at the changing of the guard.

If you look past the goose stepping guys with pretty yet fake guns, you can see tough guys in black suits.
Presumably these are the Taiwanese secret service, and they look like they mean business.
Some of them are carrying black padded bags, which I presume hold machine guns.

The whole procedure took about 20 minutes. Once 2 new guys were stood to attention on the wooden boxes, someone came along and rearranged them whilst they stood as statues.
Adjusting their gun, pants, belt, helmet, stance etc.

After another hours walk past a navy base in the middle of town that had a small duck pond, I arrived here, and realised I had been there before on my last trip.
No ferris wheel ride today though.

The basement had 20 good places to eat. I choose a simple soup. The beef was good, or whatever meat it was, but the noodles were too thin and too chewy.
I also ordered some different style dumplings, which came about 10 minutes after I had finished my soup.
And now it occurs me I have not even been into whats referred to as the city yet, so thats probably where I will walk to tonight.

Dog clothes

So I walked into the first part of the city. That didnt take long, you walk half the journey in a 3 mile long mall under the metro so avoiding all the traffic lights.
In there are restaurants, blind massage ladies, manga and anime shops, school kids sitting on the ground playing card games, more of them dancing about in front of big mirrors, and of course people getting their dogs groomed in one of hundreds of salons.

I chose dinner badly, as you will see, mainly cause of availability of seating, but even then there were other options.
Not to worry, this left room for snacks from Family Mart that consisted of almonds with dried chilli and szechuan peppercorns. Upon later removing my contact lenses I regretted this.

I then thought I would walk towards Taipei 101, its quite a way and I didnt make it, too many diversions and distractions along the way.
Theres too much to see and not enough time left, might have to extend my holiday.

In the underground mall, there is an actual shrine to hello kitty, for all the retail opportunities the brand brings.

My rather uninspiring dinner. Its chicken, and either octopus or squid or probably cuttlefish, with a heap of onion, and an egg thats stuck to the metal grill thing its served on, which makes eating with chopsticks fun.

This is a newly opened area in Central Taipei that was just in the Wall Street Journal this week. Its a heap of restored warehouses for activities people pretend to enjoy.
Theres a French film festival, hot yoga, lots of art studios selling screen printed crap, restaurants selling qinoa and picking fresh herbs out of a plant pot, little bars that specialize in craft beer with Taiwanese people sitting there drinking bubble tea.

Thats not to say it isnt a nice area! Its unique in Taipei thats for sure, and located on land that must be worth many millions.

Next up is the huge computer market area. The actual market building is in the next photo, its all indoors and massive.

I will probably come back for a better look if I get time. Not sure why. People in Taiwan still have brand loyalty to specific motherboard and RAM companies.
The rest of the world has an ipad.

This is looking towards Taipei 101 along one of the wider main roads, under the metro which is raised in this section.
On one corner I spotted a SOGO department store, 15 floors, with a big glass atrium on the top floor, I thought this might make for a good photo....

Half way up the SOGO, and look closely, this isnt for childrens clothing and accessories, its for poodles and assorted other small dogs.

Eventually I made it to the top floor, only to find they have completely blocked their glass atrium which would have an awesome view with an enormous plastic Japanese garden.
Bizzarre! Theres three levels of restaurants looking out into this area, and instead of a view of the city and mountains, they get to see a plastic re creation of a tea house.

David on 2014-03-24 said:
The student uprising currently occupying the parliament could always extend to the airport. That happened in Thailand when they had a similar situation a couple of years ago.

jenny on 2014-03-24 said:
Not much chance you getting a snow storm in Taiwan to be able to prolong your holiday.

mummy on 2014-03-24 said:
I definitely think those buildings on the hill need checking out.

Day 20 - Tuesday, 25 March 2014

By the seaside

Another great day in Taiwan, apart from the smog.
I headed North in the clear blue sky by train then bus to a place called Jiufen. A former gold mining place abandoned in the 60's which then became a top tourist location.
As the hours went by, it got visibly more and more smoggy, quite amazing, out my hotel window now I cannot even see the mountains, the sun is a dark red color.

Anyway, that didnt ruin the fun, you get a local train to a place called Ruifeng, pay attention as theres no English announcements, signs, and most people shut the curtains on the train so you cant see station sign posts!
This train continues on all the way around Taiwan, and next time I come here I want to go down the eastern coast.
On board this train were a lot of people busy attempting to eject a lung from themselves, so I suspect I will now develop some kind of horrendous flu just in time for the flight home.

Tomorrow may be the last mountain opportunity! Today was a mountain, but nothing too strenuous. Thats it for todays issue of mountain news, enjoy the mountain photos.

The local train, some people have been on here all night I think, its an echo chamber of cacophonous snoring.

Once you get to Ruifeng, you see lots of shops for people going onto other tourist areas such as me. Ruifeng is kind of the centre point for 3 such areas, today I am only visiting 1. Again I have to say it, next time!
Theres a steam train or similar that goes between Shifen and Pinxi which sounds good, but not today.

The ride on the bus was short, slightly worrying due to scooters passing on the inside around corners, and the bus would occasionally slam on the brakes when another bus was coming in the opposite direction.
Excellent view though.

Once you get to Jiufen its already quite high up, and the smog is starting to appear. Great view of numerous cities and ports and cool looking roads and hiking trails everywhere.

My goal, once I have explored the old streets of the town.

This is the old street, goes for about a mile in all kinds of directions. I got lost and confused, because I thought we were heading into the hill behind the town for most of the way.
These were very good quality shops selling lots of locally produced food and leather goods and jewellery and whatever else I cant be bothered carrying home.

So now to climb the hill, and post a heap of photos that look more or less the same. The far side of the hill shows more interesting towns. I believe the next town over is just as impressive as this one.

This is Jiufen as seen from half way up the mountain thing. The tiny houses in the centre are the old style miners houses, I think a sign told me that.

Poorly sized panorama.

Higher, more view.

Even higher, better view, including cool road.

Now at the top, looking out to sea, next stop is Okinawa Japan. Im keeping a close eye on Shinzo Abe and his newly refound imperialistic expansion plans.

View back towards Keelung

Me, trying to get in the view, ok no more view.

There are at least 20 temples within walking distance of this town. Each one more ridiculously colored than the last.

Building a town on a steep hill makes for interesting streets.

This is the original theater, built in the 1930's. It appears to still be in use but its free to go in and look around.

And to reward myself for my efforts, my new favourite, barley milk tea.
Didnt get a coffee this morning, I havent gone into a semi paralytic or psychopathic state as a result of caffeine withdrawls, yet.

Protestations

I went to see my favourite building, Taipei 101.
Theres a new subway line extension that takes you right into its basement, so that was exciting. Even though it looks exactly like all the other subway stations, the fact that its new and not yet on google maps makes it exciting!
Once you come up to the surface, theres a large area for tour buses, and warring protestors. As best as I could tell there were 3 groups, Falun Gong who get fully in the face of arriving mainlanders literally screaming at them through loudspeakers.
A small contingent of the sunflower anti Chinese trade agreement student uprising, the main part is at the parliament building.
And then finally, to combat this, some guys who I think are pro reformation with mainland China, waving Chinese flags.
They like to shout and scream at each other, its a great spectacle to watch, especially when a tour bus arrives and they jostle for position.

Tomorrow may be the last mountain climb day, now I am forced to choose, to assist in that, Im having an ice cream.

The protestors.

Nice building. I didnt pay to go to the top, I have been before in the day, and it was too smoggy to spend the $8 to go and see nothing out the window.
Next time!

Dont ever bother trying to go to Din Tai Fung in Taipei 101, its a minimum 2 hour wait.
I knew this, and had no intention of going.

Instead, I had Korean food in Taiwan. Cook your own hotpot. It was delicious, especially as you get to pick 3 side dishes so I could avoid anything fish flavoured.

This photo taken for future reference and past comparison. Theres actually quite a few new big buildings just starting construction in this area.
I guess it is the new city centre, a good 5km east of the old city centre.

Theres a heap of stores and buildings linked by elevated walkways, all competing to have the most bling. I like to wander through fully knowing that I will not buy a thing.

OK, one more.

David on 2014-03-25 said:
After multiple visits to Taipei, theres still lots of places I could visit before getting bored.
So for that reason, and the fact its 1/2 the price of Japan, it has to be my favourite place.
If they could only swap to simplified chinese characters and fix their signage so that it all uses the proper version of pinyin

adriana on 2014-03-25 said:
looks like an interesting place. I like the stair street. so Is Taiwan your favourite place or what?

Day 21 - Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Its the final mountain

It was with a deep sadness that today I ascended my final mountain of this trip.
Tomorrow I fly out of Taipei at 19:30, connection in Hong Kong at 23:45 to return to Adelaide.
This means about 36 hours in the same sweaty clothing, so with that in mind, despite having all day in Taipei tomorrow, I probably wouldnt risk going out of town to climb a mountain.
But you never know....

Todays route was across the river from the other mountain area of Taipei. I have been across the river by ferry before to the seaside area called Bali, but this time I would climb up over the mountain and then descend down into Bali.
The descent sure did take a lot longer than I thought, a good 2 hours longer!
Onto more boring photos of the smog filled view.

The Guanmingshan visitor centre elected against a map, instead a papier mache representation of the mountain with some shoe laces draped over it will do.
This was not at all helpful.

The visitor centre is already half way up, the bus ride from the subway to here was very convenient, with bus 20 waiting outside subway exit 1 clearly marked as Guanmingshan hiking trail visitor centre shuttle bus.
The actual bus ride was somewhat terrifying. I noted that when we stopped at the visitor centre the driver immediately went and opened all the engine access panels to let the heat out.

The poor maps and 3d shoe lace models meant I spent about 30 minutes deciding which way to go. In the end I decided based on quality of path.
This path had the best steps, and lights, suggesting it was the main route over the mountain and down to Bali.

Now we start the view. This is the port area looking towards the Chinese mainland.

This is a view of the smog.

And heres looking back from whence I came. I used the word whence on the internet. Thats pretty rare!

And this is photo number 500, if you made it this far you must be REALLY bored.

Its me.

Again with the poorly sized panorama.
Todays pollution update was opposite to yesterday, it started out terrible then started getting better.
Right now back in my hotel its nearly as clear as 3 days ago.

Some time after commencing my descent, and interupting lots of suspicious old men hanging out at the various pavlillions on the down track, I got a view of DanShui/TamSui.
This is old streets and a seaside fair type thing, the end of another subway line and one of the most popular areas of northern Taipei.

The rest of the walk, and it was still a long way, was through a graveyard. Some of the tombs are huge and elaborate. A bunch of guys that seriously looked like Mexicans were busy gardening!

Once in Bali, I was starving, so it was time to board the ferry immediately. In Taiwan bringing your little dogs everywhere is expected.

The not so little dogs just swim across.

I stood at the front of the boat to guide the captain. Note how clear its getting. That mountain is the other mountain I climbed 5 or so days ago.

Tamsui is full of fried seafood. Fancy a whole battered fried squid? I didnt.

One of the many old streets. By old they mean lined with shops selling mainly food. The later into the day it gets the busier it gets, 10pm is probably peak time for all these places.

I bought some nougat. It was delicious!
My girly hands are awesome.

Final photo from this morning, waiting for the subway, looking back across the river, up the mountain I had just ascended and descended.

The new new

West of Taipei, is New Taipei. This is a different new Taipei to the new Taipei which is east of Taipei where Taipei 101 is.
So its the new new Taipei, also called Banqiao, and its actually where the New Taipei city hall is.
Taipei is a circular area in the centre, and new Taipei is a donut shaped thing around it, I think, its all quite confusing.
Banqiao has obviously stolen lots of tax payers dollars, as the roads, parks, buildings, gardens are all of a high quality, lots of open space, kind of reminds me of the New Shanghai area Pudong.
Apparently if you go a few streets away from the centre of New Taipei its a very old part of of Taipei, so old that until recently it wasnt even officially part of Taipei.
Once they built a high speed rail stop there, one of only 2 in all the various new and old Taipei's, population growth and investment exploded.
So there you go. Now you know stuff about geography. Theres no mountains there at all that I could see.

On my way to the subway, I took a different street.
A night market was setting up. These things multiply. At 5pm its only just starting, no stinky tofu being cooked yet, lots of hungry school kids wandering about waiting.

Banqiao, site of many new buildings.

Obviously mega city was my first stop, because its mega.

On basement level 3 I found a place called super spicy noodle. So my choice was made for me.
This isnt beef noodle, its wonton noodle in chilli broth, lots of vegetables. It was great, and cheap!

Then I explored the FE21 store, the basement of which connected back to the subway via a series of tunnels full of school kids practicing their pop star idol dancing moves.
They werent very good.
Short update tonight, I have dark chocolate.

David on 2014-03-26 said:
Sunday I have to go to Melbourne, so probably Saturday instead

mother on 2014-03-26 said:
see you Sunday?

There is now a page 8, it WILL be the last page.

Contents

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
  Superfog
  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
  Snowstorm
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
  Tea
Day 15 - Thursday, 20 March 2014
  Still more mountains
  Rear of station
Day 16 - Friday, 21 March 2014
  I hate buses
  Superpowers
Day 17 - Saturday, 22 March 2014
  Trains are awesome
  Taipei is human friendly
Day 18 - Sunday, 23 March 2014
  Me vs the volcano
  Security
Day 19 - Monday, 24 March 2014
  Goose stepping
  Dog clothes
Day 20 - Tuesday, 25 March 2014
  By the seaside
  Protestations
Day 21 - Wednesday, 26 March 2014
  Its the final mountain
  The new new
Day 22 - Thursday, 27 March 2014
  Homeless person