Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Taiwan - Day 4 (20 Jul 07)

Breakfast was delivered to our room at 9am. On the first day, the guy waited at the door to hand deliver the breakfast but on the 2nd day, they were left on the floor outside the room although on both days, they called to inform prior to delivery. The milk tea was nice, not too sweet.

We head straight to guang hua shang chang (our sim lim square equivalent) near zhong xiao xin sheng station to get my SD card. We bought a made in Taiwan 2GB SD memory card for TWD$950 which is about SGD$50... I hope we got a good deal. Anyway, from now on... it's trigger happy!

Next stop - Tamshui. Turning left at the MRT station exit, we see Mister Donut facing Dunkin Donut. Tough decision but the answer is clear, we had to try the much talked about Mister Donut and they are not available here or even Malaysia (I think). They are so yummy!

We walked along Tamshui Lao Jie and tried several local delights under the ridiculously hot sun.

We couldn't bear the heat anymore and since there isn't much exciting stuff to see at Tamshui, we decided to head for the Fisherman's Wharf. We took the ferry and it was the most horrible ferry ride ever. The sea was very rough, water was splashing in, the door ledge became loose swinging open... madness!
It was calm and windy on land. Fisherman's Wharf is best known for the sunset view but we will not be staying until than... still got other places to explore!
The return ferry ride was cancelled due to the rough sea... thank god! We will have to take a bus back to Tamshui. This kind uncle lead us to the ticketing counter to have our ticket refund. Check out his stylo hairstyle.
Back to Taipei and we decided to have dinner at the famous Ding Tai Feng at Chung Hsiao East Rd., section 4. Not that easy to find this place cos it's not located near the MRT station and we had to take a bus there.

There was already a small crowd outside the restaurant waiting to be seated when we got there around 6pm. Our queue no was 93 and there was about 17 people ahead of us. Luckily we didn't have to wait for long cos we agreed to share table with 3 other couples at a large table. One of our lao long bao (小龙包) 'broke' and the waiter took the initiative to gave us another. 2 Japanese ladies sharing the same table each ordered a lao long bao. The waiter tried explaining and gesturing the proper method of eating to them and even came back with a card illustrating the steps to eat lao long bao... how thoughtful. Somehow, the food dun taste as good. We can see Taipei 101 outside the restaurant and decided to head down by bus. They are building the MRT Xin Yi Line just next to the building. We bought tickets (TWD$350 each) to have a bird's eye view of Tapei at the Observatory on the 89th floor.
At Taipei 101 food court. This stall is selling food from Singapore Sentosa??
Back to Xi Men Ding. We bought prata with spring onion from this street stall but before we could get our hands on it, the stall owner ran away with his cart after seeing 2 policemen on motorcyle. Luckily they came back and continue business after the police were gone.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Taiwan - Day 3 (19 Jul 07)

Sunrise will be at 5.23am today.

Woke up at 3am, had breakfast and waited for our pick up (arranged the day before) to drive us to Da Dong Shan base at 3.30am. We reached there about 4.30am and started the climb which I innocently thought would be paved and takes less than 15 minutes to reach the peak. I was sooo wrong.
It was pitch dark and luckily the driver lent us another torchlight. It was like climbing 1/3 of mount KK and we have less than an hour to reach the peak. We couldn't tell if we were heading the right way except to keep on moving according to the direction. Than the sky starts to brighten up and we knew we were going to miss the sunrise. We couldn't see the end ahead of us.

Since we were in the middle of nowhere, we had to continue moving forward. Than, we hear human voice.... it must be just round the corner.... soon... but after 10 minutes we could only see endless mountain trail. It's already 5.30am and we knew we have missed the sunrise. After climbling for another 5 minutes, we finally see the platform.

I think I must be climbing very slowly. Our driver keep telling us to take our time to climb the mountain which means all the other people managed to climb up Da Dong Shan in less than an hour. I like to think that I could have done it in half an hour if not for my Birkenstock lookalike sandals that I'm wearing.A group of mountain climbers (lookalike only) were already there enjoying the sunrise and drinking coffee. While on our way down, one of them took a second look at my scandals! He must be so ashamed of himself... tsk tsk tsk...

Too tired after climbing down and skip the 8.30am free tour. Bought train tickets to Chiayi.

Had to check out by 12 noon as they are expecting lots of guests today. Had our last railway lunch box. Hang around 7-11 until it's time to board the train.

The train ride was rather boring... not even scenic. Most of the time people are sleeping.

We reached Chiayi around 5pm. Wanted to take a bus to the HSR (to main station) but the road route seems complicated and the weather is so damn hot that we decided to take a cab instead.

When we were approching Taipei HSR station which is the last station, we saw people carrying bags standing neatly in rows at intervals on the platform. When all the passengers have alighted, they move in quickly but systematically to clean the train.

We bought the MRT store value card and check into our hotel - nei jiang hotel at Ximen. Went to Shilin Night Market. Not much people on a weekday unlike Sat when we re-visited again. Didn't take much pictures because I'm running out of space! Going to find an internet cafe or buy another SD card.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Taiwan - Day 2 (18 Jul 07)

Woke up around 7am to find the Fenchihu train station. Surprisingly, it's just round the corner, up a flight of stone steps and we are there. Bought the 11am plus round trip ticket to Alishan. The last train will leave Alishan at about 2pm leaving us only 1 hour to explore Alishan National Forest Recreation Area (minus 1 hour train ride). We decided to go ahead and see how best we can do within 1 hour.

Since it's still early, we joined the hotel free tour at 8.30am. Our tour guide look like the singer wu bai especially with his sunglass. We went round the train station, the forest and back to the hotel within an hour. Most of the trees were brought in by the Japanese during the WWII. We also saw the rare and unique square bamboo.

Finally our train to Alishan has arrived and the ticket counter staff double up as the train station captain announcing the arrival of the train. We had to quickly grab any seats available because we didn't reserve our tickets which are available 2 months ahead of the boarding time. So in the event that all seats are reserved for that ride, we will have to stand all the way unless someone gets off midway. Taiwan is having summer holiday beginning July to August and this is a good place to get away from the heat.

While waiting for the train to depart, someone came onboard selling bento or lunch boxes and local kuehs.

Sadly, there has been a landslide couple of weeks ago and portion of the Alishan railway track was damaged and thus closed. We had to alight at shi zi station and transfer by bus to Alishan National Forest Area. We had to walk down a flight of stone steps to the road where the bus is waiting and a aunty was complianing that she wouldn't have come if she had known. Probably she was pissed because she had to carry her luggage down the steps.

Since we have limited time, we chose the shortest and easiest path to explore Alishan forest area. The air is fresh and the weather cooling. I was expecting to be welcomed by the aboriginal or rather people dressed in traditional costumes singing and dancing to their Alishan tribal tune but nope, I see none. Now the best time to visit Alishan is in May where cherry blossom will be blooming and more fireflies can be seen.

3 cute black puppies came over to lick our legs and the mother which is not black came too. She was friendly at first but suddenly started to bite at James's shoelace, trousers and his butt! hahaha.... definitely a bitch! After the forest rail, we bought a bottle of local washabi and headed back to the hotel at Fenchihu. We are ready for our railway lunch box. Since our complimentary dinner is worth NT$250 each, the nice lady recommended that we a wooden lunch box worth NT$250, a stainless steel lunch box worth NT$200 and a choice of wooden chopstick & spoon or a bag with printing for the hotel; both worth NT $50. We chose the wooden chopstick and spoon set. It was yummy, delicious, unforgetable, must try!

After the lunch, we went back to our room for a rest before heading to lao jie which is just down the road to check out the local delights. Before we left, the reception delivered our dinner voucher for tonight and the dinner will be waiting for us at 7.30pm.

Bought some goodies and some expensive tea leaves.

Dinner. There were only 2 table full of people having dinner at the spacious restaurant downstairs. We spotted a card with our room number on a table. At the corner of the card, it indicates 2 person. Rice is free flow but we will be given a special bamboo rice each. We thought it would be a few simple dishes but to our horror, huge portion of different dishes keep coming and we almost died stuffing ourselves trying to finish them all.

We failed to finish all the food and we were also rushing to join the 8pm tour by the hotel. The tour was suppose to start but a few aunties decided to change into their track shoe after hearing that we will be heading into the forest to watch the fireflies. Took them forever to come back and the tour guide i.e. wu bai again decided to move on. It was almost pitch dark and lucky we bought our torchlight. We walked along the railway track and stopped after about 5 minutes. We have to turn off our torchlight and observe. There weren't many around but it's good enough. Now I can say I've watched fireflies.

Back to those aunties or rather ah soh. They managed to catch up and squeezed to the front when we were walking on the railway track. There was a section where we over take them and went infront because they were more engross in talking about themselves than about the fireflies. One ah soh even said that she is not interested to watch. Than the tour guide found a fallen firefly under a stone and was carefully flipping the stone to show us. This aunty suddenly flew pass me squeezing her way to see it. Bear in mind, we were on the railway track cover with small broken stones in the middle of the night.

While everyone was enjoying the peace and quiet looking at tiny shinning blinking spots flying around in the forest.... ah soh break the silence and say there is nothing to see and she wants to head back. Initially wu bai told them to head back first but later made us all go back as well. I guess he must be worried that he will be held responisble if anything were to happen to us. We might fell down the mountain or step into the drain that cuts across the track.

So, back to our room and we took the herbal bath before heading to bed. We have to wake up at 3am tomorrow to watch the sunrise at da dong shan.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Taiwan - Day 1 (17 Jul 07)

I had a hard time looking for the clear plastic bag that was given out freely previously; for my body lotion, lip balm, medication oil and eye mo. They must have realised that a lot of aunties have came to collect the zip lock plastic bag probably for their meat and vegetables. Travellors must now request for one at the information counter inside the check in area.

Met Nelson and his girlfriend at the boarding area. They will be in Taipei for 5 days.

I also saw this guy who sings in Channel U's variety programme 音乐格斗场. I watched this programme because I thought the 3 'beans' sang quite well.

Reached Changi airport T1 about 10am to catch our 1pm flight to Taipei - Chiang Kai Shek Terminal 1 via JetStar. Although it's a budget airline but our seats are being allocated.

We bought Pepsi and nasi lemak for SGD$3 and SGD$8 respectively on board of JetStar. The nasi lemak was frozen and requires 20 minutes waiting time to heat up. It tasted weird initially but it gets tastier as you eat more. Quite a big portion.
Finding our way around Taiwan was not difficult since everyone speaks Mandarin. Even those SAMs aka See Ang Mor we saw later speaks better Mandarin than I do. But reading the traditional chinese words is definitely a challenge. I had to stare hard to make sense the words and most of the time applying the technique of 'you bian du bian...'

Since we are heading straight to Alishan for 3 days before coming back to Taipei, we took the Ubus right outside the airport to catch the Taoyuan High Speed Railway (HSR) to Chiayi.

While waiting for the HSR, we went to 7-11 and we were highly impressed by the wide selection of food and drinks. Throughout the 6 days in Taiwan, we visited 7-11 everyday mostly for drinks.

On the HSR, there are vending machines and pretty lady pushing cart selling snacks and hot beverages. Than there is this lady carrying a huge sling bag walking around collecting rubbish. Overall experience was good, very clean and comfortable.

At Chiayi, Mr Xu the taxi driver is waiting for us. The contact of Mr Xu was provided by the Fenchihu Hotel when we called them for query. We could have taken the Chiayi --> Alishan train to Fenchihu but there no more train service available when we arrived which was about 7pm.

Mr Xu made a quick stop at shi zhou for us to buy their local snack - yan su ji. Basically it's like indian rojak where you pick the items you want and they will deep fry them for you. Not as fantastic as I had thought it would be. Mr Xu disappear to buy ji nuo wang, the local KFC equivalent for the youngsters at the hotel.
Fenchihu Hotel is the most authentic hotel that I've ever stayed. We got the japanese style room which is rather expensive for our standard. But it's worth it! We were given 7-11 breakfast vouchers (NT$50 each) which we think it's very smart of them to do so since 7-11 is right above the hotel. We were also given 2 herbal bath packs to soak in the wooden bathtub available in every room. The highlight was the complimentary dinner (NT$250 per night stay). Since we arrived late on the first day, we did not have our dinner but instead they replaced it with their famous railway bento for our lunch the next day. Apparently they are quite famous for it.

After check in, we took the herbal bath while there is still hot water supply. It was very relaxing and I even discussed with James on where we can get the same wooden bathtub and how it will fit into our bathroom at home. Probably because the floor was raised in the room, the door to the bathroom seems shorter. James keep knocking his head when he went in and out of the bathroom. He sticked the luggage label on the door frame to remind him to bend down... hahahaha...

Decided to check out the surrounding and 7-11. A dog decided to join us in 7-11 followed by a grasshopper.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Blog Created

Finally created a blog