Saturday, 21 February 2015

Taipei Day Trip - Yehliu and Jiufen

Our last day in Taipei, we hired a cab driver to take us to the northern coast of the island to see the Yehliu Geopark with its strange eroded rock formations and to old town Jiufen, both worthwhile places to visit.  We found our cab driver on Tripadvisor - he was very prompt, friendly and charged a very reasonable rate.  Visiting the two places on the same day would have been impossible without a car and having a driver meant we didn't have to worry about parking at the very crowded Jiufen.  It was the most efficient way of touring these out of the way places.

We spent a few hours at Yehliu Geopark - there were lots to see but there were also lots of people. Considerable time was spent waiting for people to finish their various poses with each of the rock formations.  At the most famous one, the "Queen" (looked like the bust of Queen Nefertiti), there were long line ups to pose with it.  It was next to impossible to get a clean Queen profile.

Wind and water erosion created the strange formations at Yehliu.  The waves on this side of the Pacific were fierce and very impressive.

Perfect for Halloween!

The "Queen" 

I called this "the Hare and the Tortoise"

Two Hippos

Our driver took a detour to showed us these other strange rock formations at Nanya 

The Face

These are actually cemeteries on the hillside beside the highway - nice houses!

Golden Falls on the way to Jiufen

View of the Jiufen temple rooftop

This is an impressive "double-decker" temple 

Jiufen was a preserved old town built on a hill - somewhat like the old European hilltowns, but with a temple instead of a church on top.  The narrow streets were picturesque and packed with street food.  You could eat as you walk or you could take a break and sit down at one of these places.  It's dessert heaven.

One of my childhood favourites was peanuts in rice paper pancakes.  I've never tried it with ice cream before.  It was out-of-this world delicious.

Grilled squid

Soy/tea egss

Shark fish balls??

Carmen in Jiufen??

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Taipei - in the city

Public transit took us everywhere in the city when we visited Taipei in March, 2014.  It was so convenient and easy to use that we actually enjoyed travelling on it - it also gave us a better sense of the city and the people living there.  Apart from the trains being clean, the people on it were polite and respectful of people with grey hair.  Almost invariably, we were offered seats, even during the rush hour commute.  

We visited some of the touristy sights, including the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, watching the changing of the guards there and enjoying a beautiful calligraphy exhibit in the second floor gallery  - an unexpected treat, especially when one of the works was a treatise on Beethoven's 9th symphony, an unusual subject for Chinese calligraphy.  We visited a couple of temples, including the Confucian Temple and the adjacent Bao An Temple; strolled down ancient streets full of herbal stores in Dihua, a part of town that was undergoing restoration.  We had an opportunity to visit one of Asia's largest book stores, and took advantage of the cheap Taiwan postage to send home two boxes of books. That was a real treat! 

But the real purpose of our trip to Taiwan was to see the treasures of the National Palace Museum - treasures spanning 10,000 years of Chinese history, an important part of the imperial collection that had been transported to Taiwan with the Nationalist Government when they retreated from the Communist Army in China.  We had been warned about long lineups to see the famous jade cabbage and other noted treasures - we strategized and took advantage of a lunchtime break in the lineups to see the important pieces.  It was worth the trip.

National Palace Museum - a pilgrimage
Jadeite Cabbage (photo from Wikipedia) - one of the centrepieces of the collection in the National Palace Museum

The metro was above ground in some spots - a really nice way to travel across town.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall with 101 Taipei Financial Centre in the background.  We didn't visit the famous 101 which was apparently at one time the world's tallest.  It seemed quite ugly from a distance so there was no enticement to join the crowds.
Changing of the guards at the Memorial Hall
Dramatic entrance to the second floor art gallery

Calligraphy on Beethoven's 9th Symphony

Confucian Temple, supposedly modelled on the original Confucian Temple in Shangdong Province in China.

We were impressed by the students doing homework on the grounds

The main temple

Long corridors and roof tops with beautiful ceramic decorations

Carved stone pillar

Close to the Confucian Temple is another elaborately decorated temple, the Bao An Temple, founded in 1760 and underwent extensive restoration in the 1990's.  But I preferred the peace and quiet at the Confucian Temple...

Roof decorations on the Bao An Temple, founded in 1760

Dihua district with many restoration projects and as you can see, condos too
A street in Dihua full of herbal and dried goods stores - names that have been around for generations 

City God Temple on the same street - this one reminded me of a store more than a temple!

We found the flagship store of the famous Eslite Bookstore - miles and miles of books - reminded me of the former World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto, which unfortunately is no more.  Eslite, though, is thriving with 48 branches in Taiwan and Hong Kong - likely due to the much lower cost of publishing and printing in this part of the world, not to mention cheap postage - a strong incentive for overseas orders. Browsing through the miles of books was restorative at the end of a long day of sightseeing.  We had to force ourselves to get up, finalize our purchases and have them sent home, making our way back to the hotel, dead tired but content.

Next post - Outside Taipei
and please checkout Foodsparks for Food in Taipei