summer travels part 2

Day 1: Taipei west side – ? hangdoufu, Longshan temple, Botanical Garden, CKS memorial, DTF, 3 Brothers shaved snow, dinner
Day 2: Taipei east side – Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain), TP101, Duxiaoyue, SYS memorial
Day 3: Northern Taiwan – Jiufen, beef stew, shrimp fishing

Day 4: Yangmingshan Nat’l park, Xinbeitou, Danshui
Day 5: Foot massages, Ximending, flight to Bangkok

On Sunday, we left the hotel around 8am and headed to Xinyi district. The plan for the day was to beat the TP101 crowds in the morning, then go hiking, followed by a late lunch with some friends. When we got out of the subway though, we realized it was way too hot to be hiking around noon, and we flipped our plans to go hiking first. Slightly southeast of TP101 is a small group of mountains called the Four Beasts Mountains – Tiger, Elephant, Leopard and Lion. The closest to the city is Elephant Mountain, our destination for the morning. To get there from TP101 area, we took a bus two large blocks south (saving energy/being lazy!) then walked about the same distance east until we saw signs for the hiking trail. It was surprisingly easy to find, and there were a few locals already heading up when we got there.

After the first few steps, we were already exhausted by the humidity. We consulted the maps and decided to make our way ~30 minutes to the first vista point and then head back. In hindsight, it was pretty much as much we could have handled anyway. It was humid and hot, being surrounded by nature the entire hike, and there were mosquitoes everywhere landing on and biting us every few seconds. I wasn’t expecting so serious of a hike, so I was totally not prepared and got a lot of bites :( The view of the top was really amazing, but we were probably too pooped to enjoy it. I read later that this group of mountains is a really popular photographer destination during day and night time. I think if I ever come back, hiking the (paved) trail at night (when it’s cooler and I can stand being clothed to protect from bugs) would be pretty cool.

After our short hike, we headed to TP101. (It was our most expensive activity in Taiwan, 450NT/person. If you bring your student ID, it’s discounted to 400NT but I didn’t think of it.) It was my second time here, so it wasn’t too exciting but it was nice to rest for awhile after the hike. When we finished at TP101, we went to the nearby malls to look around and get some Tenren. I was happy to find that a regular iced jasmine tea was 30NT, 45 with boba :) Afterwards, we met up with my friends Calvin and Kailey from RISD 2008 and took a taxi to Duxiaoyue on Zhongxiao district. We got a bunch of yummy things (Layla loved the noodles and wanted them every day after that) and then headed to Ice Monster for shaved ice. There was a CRAZY line maybe 100 meters long out the door to eat-in, so we did the American thing to do and got our shaved ices to-go. We brought them to Sun Yat-sen memorial nearby to enjoy. (It was just ok, I don’t know why there was such a crazy line…) We chilled awhile there and then parted ways.

Layla and I went back to Zhongxiao Rd to check out the local shops – I bought a sheer teal button up for 100 or 150 NT, and then we headed back to the hotel via MRT.

My parents had planned a fancy catered dinner on one of the top floors of the Sheraton we were staying at. Ironically, although probably our most expensive meal in Taipei, it was the least tasty. Lots of so-so dishes and nothing that made me want more. Dinner was fun because I got to re-meet a good handful of extended family members that live in Taiwan. I was surprised to find that my level of Chinese was enough to socialize and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. Including paternal grandfather who kept trying to make people drink. (“You’re a graduate student now? Cheers!”) After dinner I was too pooped to go out to the night markets, so we just knocked out.

On Monday, the group headed to northern Taiwan for a day trip. Our main destination was Jiufen, an area known for 9 old buildings/homes/temples? We wandered around the market and ate legitimate Taiwanese food. I had the best grass jelly I’ve ever eaten (probably because it was freshly made) and wanted to buy freshly made taro chewy ball things that I love but didn’t know about bringing them home :(. We had lunch at a teahouse, where my dad taught us the steps to brewing Chinese tea.

After lunch, we went to an old gold mining village, saw a waterfall, saw a view, and then headed back to the city. By the time we got home around 5pm we were hungry and since I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied if I didn’t have beef stew and noodles in Taiwan, we headed to my parents’ old favorite place. I don’t remember what it’s called or where it was (I’ll find out and update later) but it was amazing and exactly what I wanted. NOM.

We left the restaurant to wander and get shaved ice on the street (traditional style, with red beens, barley, boba, taro balls) before heading home around 8. After resting for about an hour, Layla and I headed out to go SHRIMP FISHING with Maggie and Derek. Shrimp fishing was hands down the best thing we did in Taiwan during our five days. I was so excited when I caught my first shrimp that I jumped up and down and screamed and all the locals thought I was crazy. But it was amazing! Layla and I caught four shrimp in about an hour :) We fished from the mixed male/female pond which costs 500NT for 2 hours per fishing rod. Bait and stuff is provided, but you are also allowed to bring your own.

After you catch your shrimp, there’s a kitchen area where you wash your shrimp, salt them, then put them in a giant toaster. It only took a few minutes (10 ish?) to cook them all the way, then we sat in the dining area to EAT! They had wasabi and soy sauce, but I chose to go plain for the freshest shrimp I’ve probably ever eaten in my life. Amazing. I’d love to do it again, or bring this recreational activity to the US, haha. SO FUN SO AWESOME.

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