Taipei, Taiwan part 2: Beitou hot springs and Taipei 101

When I arrived in the centre of Taipei, I hopped on the subway to my hostel. It was difficult to find but it was hard to find the entrance as the front had been closed off with no sign. Wandering around the building, I eventually found the reception area, where I could check in straight away.

I walked to my dorm room to find the beds had their own sections like capsules and I had been given a top one. My stomach was feeling hungry so I found the nearest food establishment, which happened to be Maccies.img_20161211_120707

For the rest of the afternoon, I took advantage of the massage chairs in the common area and the free washing machines and dryer. In the evening, I didn’t do much more except find some dinner, where there was limit choice around and also it was raining so I didn’t want to go far. I ended up having an early night, which was what I needed.

Waking up at a reasonable time, I did all the normal morning shenanigans and lugged my bag to the reception area for safe keeping. Then I walked to the subway to ride for about 30 minutes to Xinbeitou startion, changing a couple of times.img_20161207_142733

As I took off from the subway, it felt calm and no longer in a busy city. I could see a lot of tourists around but mostly Asian travellers. Beitou is a natural hot spring recreation area on the outskirts of the city.

There were plenty of map around the station to find the way around the town plus also the most popular attractions. The first place I wanted past was Taipei Public Library, which is located in a beautiful setting and has eco-friendly architecture. I didn’t go in as it was packed full of people and wanted to carry on. Across the road is the Ketagalan Culture Centre, a museuem about the local Taiwanese culture.img_20161211_115840

A little further one is Beitou Hot Springs Museum, placed in a English looking cottage. Inside is the history of the hot springs plus the original bath in Beitou. As you enter, you have to take off your shoes and they give you slippers to wear around. It was a little strange but also free of charge so I can’t complain.

Walking up the street a little more, I was welcomed with the Millennium Hot spring Public bath. It is technically open and used for everyone but when I went in there were only locals. There were signs everywhere which told the public the type of swimming stuff which was allowed: no long, pocket swimming shorts or bikinis. I only had my bikini with me but I was also wearing a thin dress that day. I wanted to be respectful so I paid to get in, which was a lot cheaper than any surround hotel with hot springs,  then changed into my swimsuit with my dress over the top. I felt a little intimidated with all these Taiwanese people staring at the only white, blonde, young girl in the hot spring. It was jammed packed with little space to move in the pools.img_20161211_104230

One older guys started to talk to me and showed me the ropes about how it worked. There were about 6 different pools on different levels at different temperature. He encouraged me to go in the 35 degree one first, where I had to wash my feet before immersing myself. Also I had to make sure that my hair was completely out of the water.

People made a space for me to sit and relax. I couldn’t be in this one too long as it was extremely hot so I transported myself into the coldest one as this is how you’re meant to do it. I felt a little light headed for a bit but soon got use to the coldness. For the rest of my time in the Hot Spring, I went from hot – cold –hot and repeated this process.

After a while, some female westerners came in in their bikinis but didn’t get shooed away so I guess it might have been okay.img_20161211_125628

When I felt ready to leave after a relaxing time, I got changed and squeeze out my dress as I still needed to wear it. Luckily it dried in no time, which wasn’t a problem as it wasn’t cold.

Adjacent to the Public Hot springs is the Plum Garden, which is another small museum. Then I carried on until I came to the entrance of the Thermal Valley. It is a landmark sight, which everyone wants to see.

The Thermal Valley is a jade coloured pool of water sunken into a crater that constantly stays boiling hot at a temperature of about 80 – 100 degrees Celsius. You can’t swim or even touch the water: just look at take some photos,

As you approach the pool, you can feel the steam rising from the surface, giving a sulfuric aroma of eggs, which is not appealing but I was pretty cool to see.

After, I slowly dawdled back to the station, stopping to buy some juice and sitting in the park, admiring the view.DCIM119GOPRO

I was thinking about going to the National Palace Museum but read that it is massive and would need plenty of time to make the most of it. Instead I went back to the hostel to chill and wash my hair.

Later on in the afternoon, I caught the red line subway to Taipei 101, which was the tallest building in the world from 2004-2009. On several floors from the bottom, there are many shops appealing to those who have money to spend on clothes from Prada or Gucci. I went down to the basement, where I searched for food in the food court. I ordered some udon noodle, which were tasty.

As I had quite a bit of Taiwanese money spare, I decided to pay to go up the top of Taipei 101. Normally, I wouldn’t have as I’ve been up in high towers and seen views of different cities. The queue was quite big for the elevator up. Apparently, it’s the fastest lift in the world going up about 82 levels in 45 seconds. I could feel my ears pop as we rocketed to the top. I had gone the perfect time where it was turning to night but unfortunately it started to rain slightly so the view wasn’t the best. It was awesome seeing the view of the city.  Inside is the largest tuned mass damper so is designed to withstand typoons and earthquakes.img_20161211_155611

There was a sort of route that had to be followed to find the elevator back down, going through souvenir shops and ornament shops. Once I was back on ground level, I went back to my hostel to change my clothes before going to the main bus station to get a bus to the airport.

My flight was early in the morning so I though the best thing to do was to sleep there. Well, it wasn’t one of my best decisions. I was in terminal 2, which might have been the least popular terminal but also under construction. When I arrived, I bought myself a maccies meal before trying to find a place to sleep for the night. I literally looked everywhere. There were no comfy seats, only hard, slate blocks on one level. I did eventual find a row of chairs outside the luggage packing shop, which I perched on especially once everything was closed in the airport. There were no passengers around from about midnight to 3am but there were construction workers making noise until about 1am. Somehow I did manage to get about three and a half hours sleep on the chairs with my towel on top of me and several layers of clothes.img_20161211_164426

I nearly killed a particular woman at 3.30am, who thought talking in an extremely loud voice would be appropriate while I was trying to sleep. I gave up around 4.30am, where I put my stuff back in my bag and cleaned my teeth. When I got back, my seat had been completely taken. I wandered around the airport again until I was able to check in my baggage.

Then I went through immigration and security easily and with a lot of people around before buying a coffee and croissant from Starbucks. I waited at the gate until I had to board the plane. On the plane, I found my seat and discovered there were television screens. This is a first for a long time. I was meant to sleep as I was exhausted but instead I watched a film, which I had just read the book version. Unfortunately, as the flight was so short, I missed the last 30 minutes so I will have to wait for the ending. Due to the film, the flight went extremely quickly and soon enough I was in Hong Kong.

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Taichung, Taiwan:and The Sun, Moon Lake

img_20161209_114205Waking up early than others in my room, I had a shower and packed my bag. I walked to the main station and caught a train to Taichung. I had to wait an hour at the station as I just missed a train but that was no big deal.

The train I took was comfortable with plenty of leg room in a spotless carriage. They assign you seats so that there is no fuss. img_20161208_130716Originally I was sitting next to a Taiwanese lady but she moved to an empty seat to give me more room. The scenery on the way down was nice with mountains and going through different towns. It took just over two hours with the train making several stops.

Once I arrived in Taichung, I walked to my hostel about ten minutes away, where I was too early to check in. I found some maps but they were all in Chinese so I asked the receptionist what to do. She gave me a few hints but there wasn’t actually much to do except shopping.img_20161208_154034

As I was feeling hungry, I found a kiosk type place, which made me noodles with a sort of tomato sauce. There weren’t any chairs so I looked for a place to eat in the sun. In the end I perched on wall outside the train station. While I was eating, a Taiwanese guy, who was about 40, sat next to me and started up a conversation. He wanted to take me to the science museum for free but I kindly declined. He asked if I had a boyfriend, which I lied about as I wanted him to go away as he seemed a bit strange. Then carried on chatting asking me a weird question: ‘Was I a virgin?’. Who asks this to a stranger? Then told me he was a Christian telling me the story of Adam and Eve. As soon as I finished my food, I bid him farewell, where he wanted to get my contact details to speak to me again. This was a strange encounter.

After, I thought I would try to find the bus stop for the Sun Moon Lake, which I had planned to go to the next day. It took me ages to find it and I had to console many people who just pointed me in the direction but not telling me how far away. Eventually I found it, where I took a photo of the timetable and found the price. I’m glad I did it then than the following morning, where I would have got frustrated. img_20161208_143337

Then I wandered around the city, finding a famous building with huge Christmas decorations. Inside, the shop assistants were dressed up as elves and there were several counters selling cakes, biscuits and tea. It all looked delicious but was on the pricey side. I did, however, treated myself to an ice-cream at a famous shop just round the corner. The queue was massive and loads of people outside were enjoying their ice-creams. There were so many different flavours including about 10  types of chocolate, fruit and tea varieties. You could sample as many as you wanted but I didn’t want to take the piss. I tried a chocolate, mango, passionfruit and yoghurt and a earl gray tea. I decided to get a scoop of the passionfruit and yoghurt in a wafer that came with a choice of topping: I got a slice of cheesecake. It was extremely tasty but cost about 8AUD.img_20161208_153145

From here, I went to the Taichung Park to lie on the grass and chill. In the park were many people just sitting, a few little temples, a huge statue of a dog and some lovely flowers. After a bit of a break, I moseyed through a huge market with vans selling different foods and stalls with clothes, watches, bags and gift for sale. There were a lot of young people around the area buying allsorts. I bought a chocolate doughy cake with a chocolate truffle inside. It was nice.

I was feeling tired so I walked back to the hostel to chill. In the evening, I really didn’t do much before heading to bed.img_20161208_142017

I rose early to make the most out of my day.  Once I was sorted, I walked to the bus station to purchase my ticket for the Sun Moon Lake. It took about 2 hours to get there, riding through towns and the mountainous areas. I got dropped off at one of the tourist information, where I had to figure out what to do here and how to get around. There were many different modes of transports to choice from: bus, boat, bike, motorbike, cable car, all at different prices as well as combinational prices. I decided to stick with the cheapest and get the hop on, hop off bus that takes you most of the way around the lake, stopping at the tourist attractions.img_20161209_133003

As I was waiting for the bus to arrive, I grabbed latte and sat on the chairs outside. I thought the best way would be to go to the furthest place first then slowly work my way back.  Taking around 30 minutes to drive through windy roads on the edge of the lake, I disembarked at Xuanguang Temple.img_20161209_140633

I looked around the temple, taking some snaps and finding out about the Buddhist culture. Then I sat and chilled, gazing at the scenic view of the lake. I wandered around not really getting anyway as there were road works blocking off my path. I wanted to go to the other temple, which I couldn’t as the walking route had been blocked off and the only other way was to walk the long way round, where I didn’t have enough time before the next bus would come.img_20161209_150148

I caught the bus to the previous stop: Ita Thao, which was a small town. I wandered through the shops and markets with many tourists trying different food and purchasing souvenirs. I was feeling a little bit peckish but I had no idea what I fancied. After browsing, I choose a kimchee in tofu sandwich. It looked a bit odd with the outside of the tofu being dark brown but it tasted amazing. I definitely could have eaten another one. As tofu comes in different varieties, I always have to take a risk whether to get it: sometime it’s really good and other times I regret my decision. This time though, it was definitely the right choice.img_20161209_150838

I ate it down on the lakeside, where there were piles of boats and a little temple out on the lake. With the sun shining, it was an incredible view. I looked up the times of the buses and there wasn’t another one for over an hour so I decided to walk along a path on the side of the lake. It was only about a fifteen minute walk to the cable way location. I looked up the prices of the cable car but didn’t think it would be worth it as I would have to come straight back down. I wasn’t even sure what was at the top; maybe just the view of the lake.img_20161209_152457

I sat just mesmerised by my surroundings before getting the bus to Wenwu Temple. As it was nearing the end of the day, the sun was starting to set in the west. There were still many people at the temple but most of them just outside the entrance. I wandered around the temple, studying the shape and colours. There were steps on either side of the wishing well up to the huge, grey gate. I took a few pictures but due to the position of the sun, they didn’t come out too well.

After being here for an hour, I took the bus back to tourist information to get a different bus to Taichung. The queue for the bus was huge so I waited in line for about 40 minutes to mount the next available free bus. While waiting, I consumed a spring onion pastry in the shape of a doughnut. It was so good.img_20161209_151712

The journey back to Taichung was uneventful; just going through the mountains then the main road. By the time I got back, it was late so I just relaxed before going to sleep.

The next day was a relaxed day of not doing much.  Leisurely, I got out of bed, had a shower and packed my bag. I went to the common area to make myself some tea before walking to the bus station. I decided to take a different mode of transport back to Taipei to experience the bus.img_20161209_151425

With people bussing around the station, I managed to purchase a ticket, which was cheaper than the train. I waited for my bus to come then found myself a seat but it quickly got packed with all the chairs being taken. The journey went fast with not much different scenery than the train.

Taipei, Taiwan: temples, palaces and the city

img_20161207_131226Like most other flights, the time flew by with only 2 hours of being in the air. As soon as we landed, I easily went through immigration, where they added a stamp in my passport to my collection, then I collected my bag from the luggage conveyor belt. I headed outside to find a the bus station, where I sued the machine to purchase a ticket and mounted the bus to Taipei main station.

The drive took about an hour, where the bus was full of people, stopping several times once we were in the city. After, I got lost around the train station trying to find the subway in the huge station. Eventually I found it, where I went one stop to where my hostel was situated. It was inside a sort of mall on the first floor. It was easy to find as I had instructions as well as the address of the property.img_20161207_124012

I couldn’t check in until later on in the afternoon so instead I put my essential in my handbag and place my other bags in the luggage storage room. I took a map from the front desk and started scanning my eyes across it. I had no idea what I was going to do in this country let alone this city. I wanted to plan my time here so I could make the most of my days. As I was looking at the map, an American, older guy started talking to me, telling me his life story. We spoke for a bit before the conversation closed and I went to the reception area to ask about what to do and see.

A Taiwanese man, not sure if he worked at the hostel, explained places to go in the country what to do in each area as well as what to do in Taipei, the city I was currently in. I knew I wouldn’t have time to travel the whole country even though it is a small one due to the fact that I didn’t book enough days here. img_20161207_122732I had to decide whether to do a couple of cities properly of scan through the country quickly. I decided to do the former.

Now to make a decision about what I was going to do for the rest of the day. As the hostel was quite central, I wandered around the surrounding area. I walked past the enormous Presidential Offices with guards standing outside, to a park with several statuses, on to the huge garden with the National Theatre, National Concert Hall and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.img_20161207_124934

The temple like gate stood at the entrance of the place, where a long, straight aisle took you to the steps of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall on either side were the other two buildings reflecting each other as they looked exactly the same with red walls and golden roofs. Here and at the park, women stopped to ask if I needed any help or to take a photo of me on my camera. This was incredibly kind and just showed how friendly the Taiwanese people were.

Once up the stairs, inside Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, I stood in front of a huge marble-looking statue. I arrived at the exact time when the guards were about to change. With red rope sectioning us of the central floor, I stood at the edge waiting for what was about to come. Three guards came out of the side door, marching a particular routine to the front where the current guards joined them. They then did a kind of dance or maybe more of a sequence of marching, spinning and throwing their guns to each other and swapping position before the new guard stood in the front of the statue and the other three left the building. It was cool seeing this happening.img_20161207_123217

My stomach by this time was flipping with the lack of food so I was in search of some kind of cheap nourishment. Unfortunately, there was no-where close by so I had to walk a while past the National Museum of History and the Botanical Garden to find somewhere. I found a mall with a Spar, McDonalds and some other restaurant that weren’t exactly in my budget. In the end, even with seeing if anything in Spar took my fancy, I went to Maccas, which was 5 AUD for a meal.

I carried on walking west to Longshan Temple, where I could look around for free. The temple had an incredible statue with a waterfall just outside in front of a main road. Many Buddhist people showed their respects by buying incense and praying in from of the Buddhist statues. These were very different from the Thai Temple Buddhist statues.img_20161207_124715

I strolled along the streets full of little food shops back to my hostel. I checked into the hostel, where I found I was in a female dorm with three tiered bunk bags. And guess what… I was on the top one. It was first time sleeping on the top of one of these but it wasn’t scary as there were stairs around the back to the beds instead of a ladder. I napped for a couple of hours as I was feeling tired.

When I woke up, I had a bit of a headache and didn’t feel too well. I was debating whether to go back to sleep but wanted to make the most of my time in Taipei and thought food might help.img_20161207_142733

I walked about 20 minutes along roads with bright-light signs to Huaxi Street night market. It was a standard kind of market with loads of food stalls and gist that could be purchased. I ordered some noodles and tofu from a small stall with tables. The food was cooked fresh and bought to my table. It wasn’t tasteful food as it was bland but it filled a hole but didn’t make me feel any better. I didn’t want to stay at the market much longer so I just re-traced my steps back to the hostel, where I changed into my pyjamas and curled up in bed.

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