Day 2 in Taipei was quite an eventful one, filled with some good and some bad, but overall, not bad.
We started off the day pretty leisurely with a buffet style breakfast at our hotel. Then, since it looked miserable outside, we headed back to the room to chill for a couple of hours before looking for lunch. For lunch, we once again returned to 吉林路 (Jilin Road) and located this legit looking place called 鬍鬚張魯肉飯. There, we had 魯肉飯 (minced pork rice), 紅棗人參雞湯 (red date and ginseng chicken soup), 豬腳 (pig’s feet), and some veggies. The 魯肉飯 was so fatty, but so good. It’s not something that I would usually get, but seeing that we were at a place that is known for it, I had to try it, and I was not disappointed! The 豬腳 was also amazing, the soft layers pretty much melted off the bone with the lightest touch, so well done.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel lobby and were met by our tour guide for the afternoon’s tour to Taiwan’s Northeast Coast and 九份 (Jiufen). Our tour group was pleasantly small, and consisted of a couple from Italia, a couple from HK(?), and a dude from Nippon. We all boarded a small van and headed north on the highway along 基隆河 (Keelung River) to start our tour. Our first stop of the tour was 鼻頭角 (Bitou Cape, aka Nose-tip Cape), which is named so as it looks like the tip of the nose of a dog, and is apparently the northern-most tip of Taiwan. From there, we could see 基隆山 (which I will talk about more in my next post). Next, we visited 南雅風化石 (Nanya Rock Formations) a little bit south of Bitou Cape, where we mingled among interestingly shaped sandstone rocks that had been eroded over the years by the sea waves into shapes like a gigantic bamboo shoot. Our next short stop was just on the side of the road by the sea at what is called 陰陽海 (Yin Yang Sea), which is called so because this estuary contains distinctly “gold” tinted water juxtaposed against the clear blue of the sea.
It is thought that the gold colour from the river is from gold sand that is brought down from the town of 金瓜石, which used to be a prosperous gold and copper mining town.
Our final and longest stop was at the area of 九份 (Jiufen), at 500m above sea level (pretty much the same height as Taipei 101, 508m tall). The name Jiufen came from the fact that there used to be only 9 families who lived there (九份 is translated literally to “nine parts”). This area used to be very populated due to a gold rush, but since after WWII, it was almost forgotten until it became the setting of a movie called A City of Sadness. Since then, it has become a very popular tourist attraction. (I apologize that my history is probably very lacking and may have mistakes as I haven’t had a chance to do a detailed research yet, so I am just regurgitating what the tour guide told us! Please visit the wiki link above for more details). Downtown Jiufen is a very interesting place and is the home of many food stalls, souvenir shops, and random item stores. The setting of this long strip of stores reminded me of touristy street of Macau, and the whole setting of Jiufen (being on a hill and chock full of quirky, old buildings and cobblestone steps) reminded me of the town of Eze, France. I was very happy to have a hot bowl of 芋圓薑汁 (ginger tea with taro pearls) while admiring the nice view of the ocean from Jiufen. Those were the best taro pearls I have ever had. On our way back to meet with the tour group again, we also bought a few boxes of fresh pineapple cake to bring back as souvenirs. After that, it was time to head back to Taipei, and it was so wet and chilly that we looked forward to the warm ride back.
At dinner time, our second tour of the day began. This was quite a small tour group – it was basically my mother, myself, and a Shanghainese lady from New York. The tour guide first took us to dinner at this Mongolian grill, which was actually quite subpar and nothing noteworthy. Next, we went to one of Taipei’s many night markets, 華西街夜市 (Huaxi Street Night Market, aka Snake Alley). It is not the biggest one (Shilin is), but it is the only one with snakes! Other than that, I didn’t find anything too special with the night market – just a lot of food and random cheap things. The highlight of that visit was seeing a poster of Leehom on the window of a shop and then taking a photo with him. 🙂 Our next stop was 龍山寺 (Longshan Temple), which was extremely gorgeously decorated, and filled with devoted Buddhists and the warm aroma of incense. The final stop of the night was to Taipei 101, which was a bit of a disappointment, actually. I had been hoping we could go up to the top of 101 to view the whole city from 508m. Unfortunately, the weather continued to be a bitch, and the tour guide warned us that it probably wouldn’t be worth it because we wouldn’t be able to see anything. Despite this being a bit of a shame, it is definitely an excuse to come back to Taipei again another time to fulfill this wish!
On another note, my dSLR camera was dropped today. But thank goodness, I had put a lens filter on the lens, which served as a protection against water, dust, and trauma, the latter of which I learned today. The filter was to my camera as the Super Star is to Mario, and the way that I dropped the camera caused the acetate piece in the lens filter to shatter, but my actual lens and the camera body was unscathed, save a few scratches. I could not have been more relieved! It would have been most unfortunate if my dSLR became unusable this early in my trip – this was definitely a wake up call to be more careful with it.