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Japan and Taiwan March 2012 - Tokyo - Osaka - Kyoto - Taipei - Keelung - Page 4

Day 10 - Thursday, 15 March 2012

National palace museum

When I woke up, it seemed to be still raining. Hence I planned to go to a museum.
But when I got outside it was more like fog or mist, the streets were actually dry.
Thats OK, I decided to still go to the museum as I had studied the map for a long walk to get there.
I wasnt quite prepared for it to take about 90 minutes each way, but it was kind of interesting. The road went up a valley between big hills on either side with rivers running everywhere and impressive gardens all over the place.

The actual museum is one of the best anywhere in the world. I dont think I am over estimating but there were probably 250 tour busses lining the roads to get there (which was reassurance I wasnt lost).
The museum houses all the stuff Taiwan 'stole' from the mainland.
What actually happened is when the civil war broke out the forbidden city packed everything and sent it to Taiwan for safe keeping. The commies then took over and soon after burnt everything left.
The ruling elite of China at the time, who prepared silk pyjamas and jade combs in their hair, fled to Taiwan, leaving Mao and his army chic outfits to rule over the mainland.
Hence this museum is now full of tour groups from the mainland (who I think need to be escorted on a proper tour still?). They have come to see what was stolen from them by capitalist pigs.
Thats my version of it anyway.

This is the market over the road from my hotel, when last I was here I saw a pig get disembowled. No such luck today. The banans are delicious though.

The pedestrian over passes are a great place to stand and watch chaos. They are yet to embrace the electric scooter here like they have on the mainland. Hence the sky that looks like pouring rain which actually isnt rain at all.

Just one of the many gardens on the long walk to the museum. The water looks dirty in the photo but it was pretty clear in person.

Look past the car being towed, I was amazed at some of the huge houses along here. I am pretty sure they are just private houses.

The steps to the palace. Normal people dont bother, theres a bus that takes you underground to an escalator.

Taking advantage of the hordes of mainlanders, Falun Gong has set up their best ever mass yoga demonstration next to the entrance. With all the regular blown up photos of people being tortured.

Its quite a modern building, but still pretty impressive

Once inside, I was warned repeatedly about no photos. Most people had to check their cameras in the cloakroom but they let me keep mine. the best I could do was a photo in the cafe.
This is a fancy museum, with a nice sit down cafe with table service, that made a decent coffee and the creme caramel was delicious. The charge for the coffee and cake was about $2.

I climbed up to the roof. The highlight in the museum was the jade cabbage. You had to line up for 30 minutes to get a glimpse. It was easily the busiest museum I have been in. The entire thing was comparable to the Mona Lisa area of the Louvre.

One last photo. Pretty boring photos today sorry!

I followed this river down. Flash floods would have to be a real problem here.

Ximending

I went for...a long walk. Heading to Ximending but also diverting along the way and along the way home.
I took a lot of photos of random stuff, so will just talk about them there rather than here, to limit confusion.

Amazingly, the sky cleared, and I could make out clouds at sunset and see blue sky.

A tiny BMW isetta.

Walk past all the cinemas in Ximending and you get to some abandoned buildings, skateboard ramps and actual graffiti. Sure its an approved area but I still find it unusual that the Taiwanese local government allows it.

Random neon street view

I took a photo from a similar spot last time. So I did it again. One day I might compare them to play spot the difference.

Police scooters as far as the eye can see. Imagine if our motorbike cops were given scooters. There would be a strike. Someone would get shot. They probably wouldnt fit on one anyway.

Lots of people enjoying themselves. Soooo many bubble tea shops.

One of these cats is not like the other. One is free to roam the other is chained up. Neither of them seem worried about the thousands of people wandering nearby.

I set myself a challenge, not to have beef noodle soup for dinner. I noticed a few risotto places. The next big fad from Taiwan is risotto, you heard it here first. I got soup which was nice, risotto in a heated bowl which was actually pretty delicious, mushroom and chicken flavoured, a pineapple soda and grass jelly with soy milk for dessert (not pictured). A pretty filling meal.

The outside of the risotto store, its called puppy risotto. I thought it was going to be Korean food.

Another overpass, another photo. This one has lots of blinking red lights for the road works. Being built here is the MRT station that will go to the airport. They really need that badly.

Despite my extensive multi course dinner, I couldnt resist Chatime. The symbol of Taiwanese cuisine in Australia. Logo is different here as indeed it is in the rest of the world, not sure why Australia has changed it as it is the same company.

Right near my hotel, a night market had sprung up, selling all manner of things on sticks. I am pretty sure it wasnt here last night, it must rotate around different locations each night of the week. Also there were fake dvd shops, fake handbags and a few sideshow amusement games....

I decided to play, paid my $2 and expected maybe 10 wooden hoops. No, you get the whole bucket!
It took me at least 10 minutes to throw them all. A crowd formed and was cheering me on, or mocking me. The stall owners confidence in giving me the entire bucket proved correct, I didnt win anything at all.

The further you go the narrower it gets, and the chances of getting covered in a vat of boiling oil being used to fry the guts of many creatures becomes higher.

Despite all the other crap I have eaten, I couldnt resist a black sesame obun. Maybe they are a Taiwan invention too?

Next up, I discovered a Carrefour supermarket under the road. I love going into each countries supermarkets. Taiwan is about mid level on the fancyness scale. They have a good fresh food area with live fish and lots of prepared foods etc.
However the line to get out is immense, I waited 30 minutes and people were getting mad. Theres some sort of collect all the angry birds coffee mug promotion going on and it takes ages to get your receipt, stickers, stamp on the stickers etc.

I bought these small rocks. Actually they are chocolate. I have seen them in the expensive chocolate shops at the airport, here they were much cheaper.

bobule on 2012-03-15 said:
epic food

Day 11 - Friday, 16 March 2012

Climbing the elephants back

Taiwan is surrounded by mountains. Not particularly high mountains but they are all accessible and have a great view, provided the city isnt completely blanketed in smog.
Today wasnt too bad smog wise, so I headed over to Elephant mountain, which is very near Taipei 101.
The actual climb isnt very long but it is very steep. Theres also quite a few people living up there in different 'artists communities', which I think is the polite term for homeless people.

On the way home, I got take away from my favourite restaurant.
Now onto the photos.

Its not that easy to find the start of the trail, first you wander up some roads with no rubbish bins which is an issue because I drank about 3 bottles of iced tea in preperation.

This is the start of the path, a stairway between old looking houses. Would be pretty easy to miss.

At first you end up in some government housing, complete with wild dogs going crazy. I decided to not get rabies and left them alone.

The stairs really are very steep, big steps. The path is well maintained and even lit so you can go up here at night, which would be fun. Except there were a million bugs during the day time, it must be unbearable at night.

The view is pretty good.

Taipei 101 is visible from pretty much everywhere.

Heres some people who seem to be using this as their lounge room. Theres a book shelf full of books and a little gas cooker. Theres also some people hanging out with them slapping themselves, as Asians climbing mountains tend to do.

Its me and some big rocks.

The far side of the view. I could keep walking across the top or head down on a different track. I heard a lot of fire crackers, drums, yelling etc. just below so decided to head down.

In the twisting streets at the bottom theres some sort of procession featuring giants.

I dont know what it was for, I dont think it was a funeral. Other people were taking photos and some of the people said hello to me. The costumes were impressive, but the noise was unbearable, they had fire crackers going off into megaphones. Multiple megaphones mounted on small cars pointing in all directions.

OK, this will be the last picture of my favourite building.

However under my favourite building is my favourite restaurant. At 11:45 AM the line is already long. So I would feel silly taking up a table just for myself. They do however have take away as an option

Its the best packed take away of all time, coming in a bag like you would get from chanel with rope handles.

Inside its all expertly packed with special designed boxes etc.
I like how the noodles come not already in the soup so they dont go gluggy.

Nearby my hotel is this river. Its somewhat alarming that it appears to be higher than the road running along side it.

No need for people standing with slow down signs here, a scarecrow waving a flag and a light will do.

The nearby temple has a lunch area with many stalls set up selling variations of pig face and tofu balls. Or pig balls and tofu face.

Shilin night market

Apparently, the biggest night market in the world. But any claim to something being the biggest is generally bullshit, as Taipei 101 is still making that claim despite burj khalfia.
It has been moved back into the original building since I was last here, as it burnt down at some point. Not sure what moved, it just seems bigger.
Theres too much to see here to take it all in, I dont know how you would find anything specific, your only option is to move with the tide of people and hope to grab something as you go past.

In a non neon shopping related story, I washed my hair with the hotel shampoo. I now smell strongly of bubble gum.

I walked north instead of taking the train all the way. And I came to this shop selling nothing but portugese egg tarts.
They looked great, so I wanted one. Thats a problem, they only sell them boxed with a minimum quantity of 6, which costs about $2.
I tried asking in Chinese thinking I might be getting white guyed.
Wo yao ee jer ge?
Of course the guy answered in excellent english, We only sell them by the box, but I will happily give you one to try.
Now I felt bad so I bought a box of 6! I cant eat all 6 and I was just setting off on a walk, so I ate 2 and gave the rest to some kids at a nearby bus stop.
They seemed grateful. I didnt take a photo of this, as it already seemed a bit too much like the free candy van.

The entrance to the clothing section of the market.

The old food street.

I got my dinner from the same place I did last time. I didnt need a full meal after my custard tarts. This place cooks little cakes as they call it, in 44 gallon drums with charcoal in them, giving them a smoky flavour.

I got one peppered pork and a black sesame for dessert. Fantastic, a bit like a pide but a smoky flavour with pastry like a pizza base out of a wood oven.

I assume this is the newly rebuilt area, not so crowded at ground level.

But head down into the food court and its ridiculous. Probably the most chaotic place I have been to in my life.
Theres tiny tables in amongst the people pushing past, I dont know how you could relax whilst sitting at one eating your pigs heart soup.

crabs seemed very popular. Its amusing to see small children who can barely talk sucking on various bits of crab.

Giant sausages as big as my arm.

Omelette world, generally made with oysters

This concept was popular and seemed so bizzarre I had to give it a go. Its called something like pastry package cookie crush.
They take some deep fried crunchy cookie dough, put it on some freshly rolled out uncooked dough, smash it into crumbs, and a sprinkle of something, and wrap it up like a burrito.
So its deep fried dough wrapped in uncooked dough.
It tasted like nothing much at all, I dont get it!

Heres what you end up with.

You know the drill by now.

On my way home I purchased a rocket launcher.

Day 12 - Saturday, 17 March 2012

Keelung

Getting to Keelung proved to be an adventure. Its a city on the coast not far from Taipei, so I decided to take the TRA train, which is the older system largely replaced by the high speed rail.
When I got to the station, I had no idea you could use smart cards instead of buying a ticket, so I went to the ticket machine. Chinese only. No problem, a homeless man hanging around for just such situations came over and asked where I want to go, I told him Keelung and he punched a lot of buttons and I inserted the equivalent of $3 and got a ticket. And gave him a $1 tip.
He seemed ecstatic over this.
So I go through the gate and try and work out what platform. I matched the symbols on my ticket and headed up there. Watching the scolling Chinese characters of the destinations, mine came after what I matched on the map to be the city of Hualien, which is a good 300 miles away!
The homeless guy had purchased me a ticket to a town of 500 people called Yilang or similar! This is why you are homeless, because you are useless.
I went to the ticket window and exchanged my ticket, which as it turns out cost $1 instead of $3.
The lady also told me platform tsuh, which is 4. Excellent, except theres 4a and 4b... read on for the rest of the adventure, now with the pictures.

The first train that came was some sort of communist era diesel locomotive. It stopped right down the far end of the platform, the opposite end to where all the people were waiting.

There was now a mad crush along the platform to get to the train, with furious whistle blowing and flag waving.

At least I got on, many people did not! But once onboard I kind of wished I had missed it because I had to stand up with nothing to hang onto.

Heres my ticket. Very helpful.

I had read it takes about 45 minutes to get to Keelung. After about an hour, I spotted the ocean out of the left window. Thats not right!
I had got on the wrong train, and was now destined for somewhere down the remote east coast of Taiwan, hence the ancient train I suspect.
I got off at the next station. I guess I was lucky that the train was stopping frequently.
I asked a few people how to get to Keelung, a police man laughed at me which was great. Turns out I was only 2 stations past the station I should have transferred at. Wait, transfer? No one said that.

The train to take me back to Badu to transfer was about 20 minutes away, there was nowhere on the platform to get a drink but there was a small convenience store outside. I asked the lady guarding the gate if I could just step out to buy a drink.
She spoke pretty good English, and answered in English, sure no problem!
30 seconds later I came back with my drink, and she said.... Ticket please! So I showed her my ticket, This ticket for Taipei, you in Badu....Just kidding hahahaha!

This is actually arriving in Keelung, it didnt look particularly inspiring.

They kind of think they are like hollywood.

Here I am standing in the port. Children are fleeing in terror.
Before this I went to starbucks, partially because I was amazed they had one. Before I could get served one woman who had one of those starbucks frequent drinker thermous things was having a big tantrum and had them make her coffee 3 times before she would let them serve me.
My coffee was fine, and the view was good too.

Wikitravel lists the statue of liberty on top of mcdonalds as a highlight. So I took a photo.
According to the info in the nearby tourist information building, all attractions are too far away to walk to. Must take tourist bus or taxi. Too far to walk? Sounds like a challenge to me.

The city does have some nicer areas, as you get away from the train station.

The streets are narrow and busy. Its still quite early too.

I followed some brown signs (universal color for tourist attraction) that said there was a park.
Apparently this stairway through someones house is the way to go. A girl was hanging out her laundry, she seemed embarassed that I was wandering through.

Looking back in the direction I had come from.

Halfway up was this temple looking thing but I think it is actually a karaoke bar. Whatever it is, its shut.

Once on the top you get to this giant shrine, which is actually a ghost museum. The museum was just one room, with some hello kitty merchandise?

The view however is pretty great.

I like a view, so get over it.

Off in the distance on top of this hill I could see some more interesting looking rooftops. Once I got there it turned out to be a temple and a small amusement park.

With more view.

But also a really giant buddha guarded by 2 lions.

Apparently this was the only port in Taiwan in ancient times. Hence theres a lot of forts around the hills. I like cranes.

Back down now, and I stood in the middle of the road to take a photo of people on scooters looking at me.

Theres a giant night market here, but since its day time, its not happening yet except for this bit.

Getting the train back was much easier, all trains stop at Taipei main station and thats where I wanted to go. I also now knew that you could just use the RFID card thing like you use on the metro.
Before getting on, I bought a green onion bread thing, and green tea and red bean something for dessert. Both were quite good!

Once back in Taipei, I was hungry again, so time for a beef wrap thing. These are fantastic! I expected it to be half the size, I couldnt eat it all.

Wufengpu

The internet told me Wengfupu was a happening place to go of an evening.
I guess it was if you want to buy something from a wholesale clothes market. Admittedly the place was huge, clean, filled with people and the clothing seemd to be of high quality.
Unfortunately I dont want to buy any clothes, also I never want to buy anything, but generally I like looking at things that I am not intending to buy, clothes do not fall into that category.
I walked west, and went through a market that was finishing up for the day, then found myself back amongst many tall buildings.
Time for dinner then, even though I wasnt hungry I couldnt resist.

On the train back, a group of 20 or so people from at least 5 generation of an extended family got on.
The young people tried to make sure all the old people got a seat. The old people stubbornly refused, telling the young children they were perfectly capable of standing.
Then they did a head count and were one short. Panic ensued. They had left a 125 year old woman at the station. Or so it would seem. After some time she stood up at the other end of the carriage laughing.
Part of me thinks she was planning a getaway but had second thoughts.

Clothes market shot 1 of 2. Lots of stuff laid out on the floor in plastic bags.

Shot 2 of 2. Apparently Monday is restocking day and the place is packed then.

This nearby food market was finishing up for the day. A lot of the food looked like it had been sitting out in the sun all day.

A new building in a non new style.

More new buildings. Not many photos tonight but then I took plenty this morning, so shut up.

Heres my dinner. I couldnt resist and it was fantastic. The lady warned me it was spicy. I just yelled HEN LA! And she got excited, and it was indeed made to be very spicy.
Afterwards I felt as though I had super powers. I could see and hear better. I wanted to strangle a whale or something.
I settled for running up the stairs to get out of the subway station, taking the stairs 3 at a time.

bobule on 2012-03-18 said:
awesome beef again! i wish my mother was as brutally honest as yours..

David Newton on 2012-03-18 said:
Exactly what am I a bullshit artist for? The soup and super powers? Theres no lies there!

mother on 2012-03-18 said:
what a bullshit artist

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Contents

Latest Update

Day 1 - Tuesday, 6 March 2012
  Adelaide to Sydney
  Sydney airport
Day 2 - Wednesday, 7 March 2012
  I made it here
  Around Shinjuku
Day 3 - Thursday, 8 March 2012
  Ginza and a garden
  Indian curry in Japan
Day 4 - Friday, 9 March 2012
  Bullet train to Osaka
  Shinsaibashi
Day 5 - Saturday, 10 March 2012
  Kyoto
  Umeda
Day 6 - Sunday, 11 March 2012
  Kobe
  Den Den Town
Day 7 - Monday, 12 March 2012
  Kaiyukan Aquarium
  Umeda Sky Building
Day 8 - Tuesday, 13 March 2012
  Osaka Castle
  Last night in Japan
Day 9 - Wednesday, 14 March 2012
  Travel day
  Food capital of the world
Day 10 - Thursday, 15 March 2012
  National palace museum
  Ximending
Day 11 - Friday, 16 March 2012
  Climbing the elephants back
  Shilin night market
Day 12 - Saturday, 17 March 2012
  Keelung
  Wufengpu
Day 13 - Sunday, 18 March 2012
  Bali
  American diner
Day 14 - Monday, 19 March 2012
  Yangmingshan national park
  Just one photo?
Day 15 - Tuesday, 20 March 2012
  Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall
  Yay, a ferris wheel!
Day 16 - Wednesday, 21 March 2012
  Leaving Taipei
  Hong Kong airport