summer travels part 3

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

I had planned another excursion away from Taipei city for Tuesday, and found that it was a popular day trip to hit up a number of the places I was interested in one day. Early morning (around 8am) we left our hotel and went to Taipei Main Station. From there, we took bus 260 which brought us all the way to Yangmingshan, which took about 40 minutes. We were hungry from not having breakfast, so we took advantage of the 7-11 near YMS and had us some 30NT steamed buns :)

I’m pretty sure the park is free, but you have to pay to use the shuttle service that makes rounds around the park. It’s 15NT for one ride (no matter the distance) or 60NT for unlimited on/off. Since we didn’t really have a plan, we just all got the 60NT pass for the park shuttle. The shuttle was super ridiculously cramped all the time, and the drivers drive FAST when turning sharp and steep corners. It was a major arm/core workout to stay standing on the minibusses.

We started our self guided park tour by walking the distance from the main entrance to the Visitor Center. There was a huge line at the main entrance to get on the shuttles, which is why we chose to walk instead of shuttle there. But turns out, the short walk was more like a serious trek, and we were already pooped by the time we got to the Visitor Center, which was only about .6 km away. The Visitor Center wasn’t amazing, there were some historical facts and displays inside, and a slightly better map than the one on the shuttle bus ticket, but not really recommended to stop there. (Although I guess we did bypass the long shuttle line, so, maybe…) We perused the map(s) and decided to hit up Mt Qixing (Seven Stars) and the Lengshuikeng (Cold Hot Springs). There were maybe 10-15 points of interest that the shuttle stopped at, but after realizing that the shuttles were mostly always all full, we decided just to hit a few of them. We weren’t planning on spending the entire day there, anyway.

We went to the Xiaoyoukeng bus stop and headed up the trail to reach the peaks of Mt Qixing. It was 1.8 km up to the first peak, then 2.1 km to Lengshuikeng, passing through the second peak. We covered a total of 400 meters of elevation up and down. It was a ridiculous hike that took us ___ hours. And afterwards, our feet were totally dead. But it was still pretty amazing and I don’t regret it. My favorite part about hiking up the mountain was that the atmosphere changed so drastically from where we first started to the peak. About 1/3 the way up, our surroundings got way greener and we could start to feel the fog and mist in the air. At the top, you could no longer see down the mountain anymore! Super awesome.

After we headed down, we took a short break at the cold hot springs. They’re called cold because the’re only 40 deg C instead of the usual 90 deg C… but that’s plenty hot if you ask me, haha. Layla and I rested our feet in the sulfuric water for awhile and then took the shuttle back down to the main entrance. By then we were starving, having exhausted all our energy on the mountain, so we took a long lunch break back at the same 7-11. :)

After our “lunch,” we took the minibus (from the bus stop across the street) S9 (or A330) to Xinbeitou. Beitou is an area famous for its hotsprings, so after getting off at the wrong stop and unnecessary walking for which we were saddened by, we went to the Hot Springs Museum in a big park thing. The museum was just ok, and I wouldn’t really recommend it if you’re already pooped. The park was surrounded by a number of hotels and hot spring resorts, so after the museum we made our way down the hill/park and inquired with the hot spring resorts as to their prices and such. The first few we saw had deals for public baths (150 NT/2hrs) and private (300 NT/room/2hrs), but some were fancier with only in-room hot springs. We continued our way down to find a hot-spring-front which was just a straight up old style hot spring resort. It cost 50NT per person to enter. Since we weren’t prepared with any towels or anything, we each bought a small towel for 40NT. For 3USD, we went to a hot spring much like I had expected/wanted to experience.

First, take off your shoes in the dry area, and walk through to put your stuff in the cubbies behind the bath. Strip down (including jewelry, which gets really hot) and rinse with cold water from the taps available. Once rinsed, head to the hot hot hot bath. At first, I sat at the edge of the pool and just put my feet in. It was scary to feel like you might just fall in by accident, but the water was just too hot. The ladies at the hot spring told us that if you leave just your feet in for too long, it’ll actually be more difficult to completely submerge later. This makes sense to me, because if you let your legs acclimate but not your upper body, there’s a bigger temperature difference in your entire body and you’re more sensitive to the changes. Their tip was to straight up go all in and sit on the jacuzzi-bench-rock, and stop moving. When you struggle and move around, it feels more hot. So after a re-rinse, I did what they suggested, and the temperature was surprisingly bearable. I stayed in the pool for about 5 minutes before getting out. Apparently, the right way to do it is to go in for about 10 minutes, come out and rinse with cold and rest, then repeat a few times. Too bad though, I decided once was enough for my first hot spring experience. (The water was 42 deg C.)

We all felt refreshed after our hot spring excursion (but our feet still hurt) so we decided to head to Danshui. We took the MRT to the Danshui station (easy) but promptly got confused as to where to go. The plan was to go to Danshui old street, a famous area for food and tea shops, but instead we wandered the wrong way and headed to a mini night market. I blame the confusion on the construction happening at the station, but possibly we were just too brainfried to figure out where to go. Since it was around dinner time by then, we decided to just shop and eat at the night market. Happily, we found a cart that sold Shuijianbao (water-fried buns, I think 10NT each) right next to a boba cart and made a dinner of it. Perrrfect. By then we were so pooped from the day’s activities that we decided to bypass the original plan to stop by Shilin night market and just head home to knock out. Which we did.

The next day, Layla and I had just half a day before having to head to the airport to go to Bangkok. We spent our last day wandering around Ximending. First stop: a necessary foot massage. We found a place recommended by the Internet and got one hour shoulder + leg massages costing 300NT/person. Those massages hurt SO BAD! It was amazing how much pain I felt in my muscles just from pressing, but I suppose we were quite tight from all the walking. Are there people who get massages so frequently that their muscles are crazy flexible and aren’t tight at all? Is that a bad thing?

After our massage we wandered around to check out shops, get boba, and eat. I finally found a fried chicken chop and we also got some of that brown intestine noodle stuff. After lunch, we just headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready to head to the airport. Then, Bangkok!

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