Monday, September 27, 2010

Taipei to Taichung

9/26/2010:  I had the best night’s sleep of my trip last night, and woke up feeling great at about 8 AM.  I took off for the 228 Peace Memorial Park and had a fruit pack for breakfast there.IMG_8422

National Taiwan Museum, near the 228 Peace Park

IMG_8423228 Peace Park

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228 Peace Monument, with the Presidential Office Building on the right

I returned to the hostel, showered, checked out, then walked to the Taipei bus station.  I bought a ticket to Taichung for only 210 Taiwan dollars, or about 6.5 USD.  It was a comfortable 2 hour drive, with air conditioning and a showing of Night at the Museum.  The scenery on the way down consisted mainly of hills, factories, and a couple of very wide and stony river beds. There was also a nice Chinese cemetery, consisting of what looked like ether large gravestones or small mausoleums.

I arrived in Taichung and walked about 30 minutes to my hostel, which I surprisingly found with a single wrong turn.  I settled in then walked to a busy section of town.  I managed to walk through an area with hundreds of people out with their dogs, which I guess is the thing to do on Sunday evenings.  There are some very wealthy areas in the city, with high end restaurants and stores, but that wasn’t what I came here for.  I eventually found a roadside stand with a bunch of different items a guy will fry for you.  I chose my foods, paid the guy 90 TWD, and he gave me the fried food in a plastic bag along with a paper plate and a couple pairs of chopsticks.  I was ready to eat, so I started to make my way back to the hostel.  Two hours late, I finally made it!  I was seriously disorientated, without the sun or Taipei 101 to use as a reference.  I also never picked up a decent map of the city, but now I know the area well enough not to get that lost again.

IMG_8431TaichungIMG_8433TaichungIMG_8437Dinner in my room.  I only finished half of it!  It wasn’t that bad, but I couldn’t have finished it unless I went out and bought some more tea.

Taipei, Day 5

9/25/2010:  Today was an unplanned day, so not surprisingly, I did a lot of walking (about 22 miles) and didn’t really stop anywhere.  I wanted to walk south, but I ended up going west to Longshan Temple.  I didn’t go inside last time, so I walked around for awhile and watched people burn incense.  Then I kept going west until I hit the river, so I followed it south until I took a bridge over to Yonghe City.  Having no idea where I was going, I managed to make a 45 minute loop and ended back at the same bridge.  I headed east from there, and eventually made it to another bridge to Taipei.

Here I am about to cross over the bridge from Jhonghe City back into Taipei.

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IMG_8415The river between Jhonghe and Taipei.IMG_8416Almost at the end of the bridge, looking towards Taipei 101.

 IMG_8417I had to walk across this basketball court to get under another bridge.

IMG_8419I ended my walk at Ximending, which was much busier than my last visit.  This was taken from the metro station entrance.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Taipei, Day 4

9/24/2010:  I remember reading this article in the New York Times in May about the Beitou hot springs, so I really wanted to explore this area.  This district of Taipei was my favorite, with its mix of urban and natural environments.  The park goes right up to the metro station, so within minutes of arriving at Beitou, you are walking alongside a green sulfuric stream.  I wore my bathing suit for this trip, for I was to make a stop at the location below.

IMG_8385Beitou Hot spring baths

I paid the lady at the entrance 40 Taiwan dollars and went to the showers to rinse off before going in the bath.  It was pretty hot, but I only went in the lower section.  The upper baths are where the hot water comes in, but I was not that brave today.  So after about 10 minutes in the bath, I rinsed of again in the shower and dried my bathing suit as well I could, then got dressed and make my way upstream.

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Here I am walking upstream.  As you can see, my clothes are still a bit wet.

Further upstream was the “Thermal Valley”.  The water in this area looked incredibly hot and it had a very strong sulfuric odor.

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I have a terrible sense of smell, but the smell of sulfur at location of the above photo was pretty strong.

I walked around the neighborhood after that, up and down and hill, which was mostly filled with hotels.  I also walked around a busier section of Beitou for a while, and stopped by a 7-11 for some lunch.

IMG_8393Beitou

I then took the metro to the end of the line at Danshui, where I walked 3 miles to the Taiwan Strait.

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There were busloads upon busloads of high school kids at the bridge area near the sea, so I grabbed a bite to eat then caught a bus back to Danshui station.

IMG_8406Bridge by the Taiwan Strait

After a very long subway ride down from Danshui, I decided it was too early to go back to the hostel, so I continued south down to Yonghe and Zhonghe cities, just south of Taipei proper.  I went to a great night market, where I had some type of diced green vegetable encloed in bread for dinner.  25 TWD and very delicious.  This was also the first time I recognized the price told to me.  “Er shi wu”.  Often, I think I hear the “shi” without the “h”, which throws me off, but I could be just imagining it.

IMG_8408Night market in Zhonghe

Friday, September 24, 2010

Taipei, Day 3

9/23/2010:  In the morning I checked out Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall.  In the afternoon I walked in the area around Longshan Temple and Ximending.

IMG_8364Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

IMG_8370Sun Yat-Sen

IMG_8374Longshan Temple

IMG_8379Ximending

I return to the hostel at 3:30 PM due to being quite tired.  After a half hour on the computer, the owner of the hostel says he has to move me to the other building because another group was coming in for a night.  So I follow him to the other building, and it is starting to rain.  I get settled down in my very tiny room, top bed bunk, and spend another 3 or 4 hours on the computer.  Then I took a three hour nap!  What a waste of a day!  Then my roommate from the other building moved over to my room, an American from Idaho teaching in Seoul.  The room had a ventilation system, but it was still quite hot, and I failed to get even another half hour of sleep that night.  Thankfully, that didn’t slow me down at all the next day.

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My original room, which I did move back to for another two nights after the third night in the tiny room.  My lunch is on my bunk.  Green tea and something wrapped in seaweed and rice from 7-11.  The guy from Idaho was in the bottom bunk, and a guy from Osaka was in the other top bunk.

Taipei, Day 2

9/22/2010:  After sleeping in and taking a shower, I took a walk over to Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world.  As you can see below, it is hard to miss.

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I walked around the mall attached to the building for awhile, then eventually found where you can buy tickets for the elevator to one of the top floors of Taipei 101.  The elevator ride was incredibly smooth as it reached a speed of 55 feet per second.  After reaching the 89th floor, I walked around the building and looked out of the windows at the urban landscape, surrounded by mountains and the ocean in the distance.  On the 88th and 89th floors, I got a close look at the mass damper.

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After Taipei 101, I followed some people into a very large bookstore, supposedly the largest in Taiwan.  I then took the metro to Shilin Station, where I walked around the night market area.  It was not busy yet, but it would be when I returned that night.  From Shilin Station, I took a 30 minute bus ride to the National Palace Museum, which holds some of the best items from Beijing’s Palace Museum, which were moved out of Beijing due to the Japanese invasion and out of the mainland due to the Communist takeover.  I only had about 1.5 hours there before it closed at 6:30, but I think I made it to every exhibit.

Back at Shilin, the night market was in full swing.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Getting to Taipei, and the first day here

9/19/2010:  After taking the 9 AM train from Absecon and arriving at 10:30 in Philly, I stood in line for the 10:30 AM Megabus to New York.  I was not allowed to get on the bus, since I bought my ticket for 11:30, so I had to wait another hour in 30th St Station, followed by another 30 minute wait for the late bus.  I arrived in New York at around 27th and 7th and walked to Penn Station, where I caught the 2:40 PM Long Island Rail Road to Jamaica, Queens.  After that and an AirTrain ride, I arrived at JFK at around 3:30 PM.  Now, my flight was not supposed to leave until 11:55 PM, so I had a lot of waiting to do.  During this time I watched Not One Less, a film by one of my favorite directors, Zhang Yimou.  It was excellent, as expected!  At around 7 PM, the check-in booth opened and while standing in line, the man in front of me was talking to a China Airlines rep, and then told me that our flight was delayed until tomorrow!  Okay, I thought.  The flight was for 5 minutes before midnight, so maybe it was just delayed for an hour or so.  Nope, it was not until 9 AM!  I was given my boarding pass, and the airline gave everyone free hotel rooms at the JFK International Airport Hotel.

9/20/2010:  I woke up to my alarm at 6 AM, and was out of the room by 6:45.  After a half hour of waiting in line to be picked up by the hotel van, we drove to our terminal and I was through security and at my gate before 8 AM.  China Airlines gave us a free sandwich and water for breakfast, and we eventually took off at about 9:20.  During the flight I got to see a Great Lake by Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and some huge mountains (with plenty of glaciers) in the Yukon.  We arrived in Anchorage, Alaska 7 hours later, where we spent 2 hours in the airport terminal, with not much to see except some distant mountains and the Anchorage skyline.

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Taken right before boarding at JFK

9/21/2010:  Switching to Taipei time.  On the way to Taiwan, I got to see some rural parts of Japan from a few miles up.  Other than that, it was all ocean, with an exception for the Kamchatka peninsula, which I missed.  Arrival at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport was at 3:08 PM.  Disembarking, customs, currency exchange, an hour long bus ride to downtown Taipei, and a subway (MRT) ride to my hostel followed.  Arrival at Taiwanmex hostel:  5:45 PM.  Since I was later than expected and the hostel manager never received my update, my bed had been given away.  No worries though, there was another building with beds, and that turned out to be fine.  The next hour was reserved for drinking water (I was incredibly thirsty) and relaxing on the couch.  By the time I left the hostel, it was already dark out (which is why I have no photos here yet).  But I still got to walk a good 10 miles in Taipei, according to my GPS.  This is the night before the Mid Autumn Festival, a major Chinese holiday.  People were outside barbequing on the street with their family, friends and neighbors.  There were also long lines for mooncakes, the traditional dish for the holiday.  My first impression of Taipei is very positive.  It is a very clean and safe city, with a nice subway system.  The main problem was that the subway stations were almost impossible to find.  It took about 3 hours to eventually find one!  This was after asking a couple of people for directions, until I finally lucked out on my third try when asking two Americans.  The Americans had a map, but as they were about to tell me where to go, a Taiwanese guy got out of a cab (not the driver) and gave me perfect directions!  Less than 10 minutes later, I am in the station, and two stops later I am at my hostel area.  While I was lost, I bought some unsweetened green tea(?) and garlic bread (had no idea before I tasted it), and this was my dinner.  Also, during this entire walk, I had a GPS logger on me, tracking my every move!  But it was no help to me at the time, because I didn’t have my netbook to view the log file.  Looking at it now, I seemed have backtracked and made many loops, which confirms the suspicions I had while I was lost.  Okay, it’s 2:30 AM.  Off to bed.

Note:  I can be reached on my cell here in Taiwan by dialing 609-568-0461.  This is an Atlantic City area number, so it is a local call if that’s local for you.  It is my Google Voice number, which will forward calls to Localphone, an international forwarding service that forwards to my Taiwan cell.  Please remember that I am 12 hours ahead of New Jersey time, so an afternoon call in the US will be a middle-of-the-night call in Taiwan.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

China Route (tentative)

China Route

My China Air flight leaves on 9/19/2010 at 11:55 PM from New York (JFK), and after a quick layover in Anchorage, arrives in Taipei on 9/21 at 6:15 AM.  After 30 days in Taiwan, I will fly from Taipei to Shenzhen on China Southern Airlines.  Everything after that is much less certain.